I hid an Elf before it was cool.

DISCLAIMER:I don't normally do this, but I'm about to don my wayfarers and a slouch beanie paired with a checked scarf and go all Hipster on you all. There, I've said it, so that automatically makes me NOT a hipster. Right?

In any case, I have a story that involves Elves. More particularly the little red kind that sits hugging its knees and grinning impishly as it hides around the house. Today's kids (and parents) know him as the Elf on the Shelf, found in a gift box set along with a book at your local Hallmark gift store. These days he is used as a behavioral control tool, watching the kids in his house and reporting back to Santa every night, showing up in a new location every morning. Parents have come up with some pretty creative and cute scenarios for the Elf to be found in each day as a quick search on the internet (Pinterest!) will show you. I'm not trying to take away from the traditions built and memories made by these young families.
But... once upon a time, my family hid an elf before it was cool to do so.
My grandmother (on my mom's side) had a little red felt, knee-hugging elf ornament--a remnant from the 50's I believe--that she would hide in the house during the Christmas season before any grandchildren came over, but when we arrived it was an ongoing game of Huckle-Buckle-Beanstalk (is my mother the only one who ever called it that?) till it was found. The lucky kid who found it got to hide it again. Sometimes he was on top of the set of Encyclopaedia Britannica that lived on the bookshelves over the fireplace, others he might be on the knick knack shelf, or perched atop the barometer (or at least that's what I remember.) He might have become a point of contention among the cousins sometimes, disputing who got to hide him next, but there's nothing like a little healthy fighting to forge cousinly affections. 

Slowly, we all began to grow up. My family moved away from the family stomping grounds of upstate New York to north Florida. Then my grandparents moved to South Carolina, where there was no need to snow blow a driveway. When the old colonial on Buttercup Lane was packed up and broken down, grandma did some down-sizing. With no grandchildren coming over all the time at Christmas, the Elf needed to find a new home where he would be used. My mother is the youngest of three. Her brother lives in Ohio, her sister in New York. Her siblings have all older children now, not much older than myself, but we have the most, and the youngest age range of kids--the youngest being four this year--thus, WE got the Elf. Since moving to our house the jolly little tyke has taken on a new vitality. I came home from school on break to spy him perched in the curve of a wreath in the dining room, and only this morning as I was curling my hair for church, fifth-brother Michael ran past proclaiming that he had found him from his last hiding spot. I've yet to find him again, as the boys forget that it's necessary to make him somewhat visible when hiding him. They'll catch on eventually. 

A couple of years ago, when Elf on the Shelf first came out, my grandmother saw him in the store and recognized him as our little tradition. She bought the set for our family and so there's a fresh, shiny elf hidden somewhere in the house along with the vintage one. I was aghast when I first saw him, feeling a little hurt that someone had stolen and capitalized upon OUR family tradition. But we'll leave the naughty or nice decision to Santa this Christmas season, the marketers meant well, I suppose, and I'm glad to see so many of my young family friends create such a fun tradition with their kids. My childhood shouldn't be the only one that was happy. 
But still. 
I hid an Elf before it was cool.

Thoughts From Reading: Newness and Repetition

"Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory." 

Betty Smith

I ran away to Starbucks today to have a coffee date with my books and papers... wrote promised letters to friends, and was able to really sink my teeth into the first of my winter-reading books. 
I like marking down snippets and quotes that spark my imagination or feed the soul. This is one that stuck with me today, from Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse.
"Repetition had taken the place of newness"
It brought to mind one of my favorite authors, Ann Voskamp,  who wrote a book called  One Thousand Gifts as well as a daily blog. The theme she so often looks at is immeasurable grace of God as shown to us in the little everyday things. Her practice, which has been picked up by many--including myself, is to record the gifts that each day brings her. When I read her book, I was amazed with the way she looks at the world. Her method of seeing the beautiful in the ordinary was beautiful in the most simple manner. It challenged me to open my eyes to see the same. I've found that the key is to look at everything as if seeing it for the very first time. As if it was brand new. As if I were brand new. The days I roll out of bed, glorying in the cold air that wakes me up, the pink sky over the dorm parking lot, the rain that soaks me to the skin--even in the very normalness that defines my student life-- and then recognize the One behind those things that make up and surround my being; those are the days that are joy-filled. However, when I neglect to look for the God-gifts, my days become dull and  routine. Newness and beauty are replaced with repetition and an ugly spirit. As a Christian, I am called to Newness, entitled to it even!

2 Corinthians 5:17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Marking Time

I like to remember important dates. Not just birthdays and wedding anniversaries, oh no. My brain latches on to what might seem to the casual observer as the oddest, most random dates, and remembers them as they pass each year. Its not that the events of every day of my life are ingrained forever in my mind, but there are life changing moments that I seem to know will be important enough to remember.

For the past five years I have marked the passing of December 18th because it counts the years lived in Tennessee. December 16th 2007 was the day we arrived, 17th the day we closed on the house and slept in empty rooms on bare floors with nothing but out sleeping bags and the clothes in our backpacks, but the 18th was the day the truck came and we actually started our lives here.

I was sixteen going on seventeen, and within the first year of living here, I experienced real heartbreak and loneliness for the first time. In the second year I graduated from high school and started community college . In the third year, I finally found a place to call my own at the library where I worked. The fourth year brought     more change, in that I moved away to school in East Tennessee, but it was a change I was ready for--and needed. Now the fifth year has passed, making me twenty-one. It has brought me many adventures, some of the closest friends I've ever had, and hindsight to see that with out the past five years, I wouldn't quite be the same person you see today. I like the "me" those years have shaped.

As I have taken to saying to people who inquire about where I've liked living the best, New York birthed me, and I am proud to be a Yank, (though people question me when they hear my patchwork accent). Florida grew me, and though I may not like sweet tea, I'm glad to be at least southern in spirit. But Tennessee has matured me, and while I will NEVER like country music, I sure owe Nashville a lot. 

An Inventory...

...of my purse. Taken while Christmas shopping with ma mere. 
   --in no particular order--

Empty Cd case; mini stapler, grey;
four bags of assorted blends of Twinings tea for the event of a tea-emergency.
a packet of honey, see previous item.
one checkbook, blue leatherette; a handful of receipts, more for scrap note paper than for keeping accounts.
one coupon for a free Wendy's frosty--complements of my roommate.
Two dollars.
Bank Card.
Credit Card--blue with a daisy, never used.
School I.d.--outdated picture.
driver's license.
insurance card.
Triple A card--it covers me, not just my car.
Library card. of course.
One small tub of Carmex.
Three pieces of candy--a KitKat, a caramel, and a fun-sized Butterfingers.
A deck of cards (blue) to prevent death-by-boredom. useful in many occasions.
a recipe for blueberry scones.
rewards cards to three separate yarn stores.
A Starbucks gift card, probably empty.
voting card... completely useless when I'm at school.
ticket stub from "You Can't Take it With You"
Gas rewards card, 3 cents of per gallon.
two pens, a pencil and a purple Sharpie
a blue button, a length of ribbon and a length of lace.

Everything but the kitchen sink, but give me an undetectable extension charm and I could get that too.

Endings and Beginnings

Never have I appreciated the end of a semester as I have this one. It wasn't till I was almost back in my dorm after my last exam that I realized that I was burden-free. When that finally hit me, I wanted to go stand on one of the picnic tables in the Triangle and shout my excitement to the campus--and the world.
It was a good semester for growing--as a writer, a girl, a Christian, a human-being. I come out of it feeling Named... A little bit more the particular me I am meant to be.

I finished a journal on the last day of finals as well. I always seem to wrap up a journal at an odd time--the middle of a semester, a month in to summer, halfway through Christmas break--but this time it was perfect, inscribing the last pages that night before bed. It just feels right that the endings coincided like that.

I began a new journal the next day. I also began a new book, from a new friend. And today I begin this new thread of my Scribblings blog. Its... less polished. 

Ending rolls into Beginning rolls into Ending, constantly being renewed. I like that.