Little Gifts, Big Heart

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This Christmas was the first I’ve ever spent without my Grandma, but in keeping my promise to her, I celebrated with a lot of love and laughter. It was a beautiful Christmas filled with family, friends, and wonderful gifts.

One of my favorite things about my family is how we all put so much thought into the gifts we give one another. I don’t recall ever receiving a gift I felt was haphazardly chosen or thoughtlessly wrapped. No matter how small, they all mean something and are personal, which makes them that much more special.

My husband in particular puts an incredible amount of thought into the gifts he gives. Not only does he always find the perfect thing, but he is also creative in how he presents his gifts. I never know what to expect and this year was no different.

For a few years now, I’ve been an avid fan of Simon’s Cat. I’ve posted videos here on my blog and shared links on Facebook for this adorable cartoon cat. He cracks me up and I think he’s just the cutest thing! Little did I know, he’s even cuter in person. When I came home from a little Christmas Eve get-together, this is what I saw when I turned on the lights:

Meow! Is there food in here?

Meow! Is there food in here?

Hee hee! Simon’s Cat was on my table and causing mischief in my stocking! Now I know why my husband had to run back into the house before we left for the party. He set the whole thing up because he knew it would make me laugh. The gift itself was wonderful ( I really wanted a plush Simon’s Cat!), but the fact that he went to all the trouble to make it funny means the world to me.

Simon’s Cat is already getting into trouble. By Christmas evening, he found my knitting. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this little guy!

Bad Kitty!

Bad Kitty!

If you’ve never “met” Simon’s Cat, here is one of my favorite videos:

Humor aside, my husband also thought to give me something very meaningful. I once wrote about a compass necklace I wear every day (See Finding True North) as it is something that holds some deep significance to me as a traveler, explorer, artist, and human being. In addition, the pendant now has further meaning as it now holds a special memory of my Grandma that was made shortly before she passed away.

After more than a year of daily wear, the chain has weakened and the finish is quite worn. I still love everything about it, but I’ve become increasingly worried about losing it due to snapped chain or jump ring. It was definitely time for a new one and apparently my husband agreed.

During the week leading up to Christmas, he joked that the present I was shaking was something that “sometimes knots together,” so I walked around thinking it was yarn (Ha! I really have knitting on the brain!). When I opened it, I realized he was referring to a chain just like the one he’s had to untangle countless times. My new compass necklace is very similar to the original, but also very different.

A new compass for a new year.

A new compass for a new year.

As I embark on a new year and a new phase of my life, I leave the old compass behind and embrace the new. A thoughtful gift, indeed.

My heartfelt thanks to a man who knows me better than anyone and never ceases to amaze me. I love you.

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c.b.w. 2012

Finding True North

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On more than one occasion, I’ve uttered the words, “Oh, great.  I have no idea where I am.”  For a directionally challenged person such as myself, this is a common phrase! Back in 2005, I added Beijing to my list of international cities where I’ve been completely lost.* In a place where English makes a rare appearance and tourists from the West stick out like a sore thumb, it becomes vitally important to find the way back to home base as soon as possible, (nothing attracts a pickpocket or worse than a confused looking tourist!). What set this event apart from all the rest was the fact that I had a compass keychain dangling from my belt loop.  Between a city bus map display, my street map, and the needle of a compass, I was able to find my way back to the hotel by matching up Chinese characters and traveling North and then East. My compass saved me that day by showing me where I needed to go and I’ve never forgotten that gift.  Seven years later, it’s still my lifeline.

I’ve often referred to my recent journey to London as a life-altering experience, despite my struggle to understand the full impact it has had on my life.  Some changes are obvious, but the deeper meaning dangles in front of me like a clue in a mystery waiting to be solved.  I am different in a place so hidden and so deep I can’t see it or even begin to comprehend it’s significance. All I have is the unrelenting sense of a huge shift towards something.  It’s a lot like standing at a fork in the road without knowing what the choices are or why they exist.

Essentially, I am lost all over again without knowing the language. Being lost in this way is both wondrous and frustrating.  Sometimes I revel in the confusion and the inspiration it brings, but there are times I wish I had a road map that at least reveals the basic layout of my new landscape.

Upon returning from London, the feeling of disorientation was overwhelming.  I couldn’t shake the duality of being excited to go home, while at the same time feeling as though I was leaving home. Torn in two, I oscillated between a life I loved and a life I didn’t know was possible, (and loved just as much). Nothing seemed real. In the months that followed, that surreality never left and I grew increasingly restless.  My perspective had changed so drastically, it effected every element of my life and made even the most the familiar things seem foreign.

I remain directionally challenged and my reliance on a compass has manifested itself in an entirely new way. About a month after my return, I was out shopping with family when I spotted a necklace with a compass pendant.  It was beautiful, not only in terms of design, but for the fact that it represented something very special to me.  With every spin of the needle, I am reminded that as lost as I sometimes feel, I will find my way to true north.

My compass necklace wrapped around the place that changed everything.

I wear my compass necklace almost every day so I don’t forget to follow my instincts and listen for hints that will eventually lead to the answer I seek.  All I know for certain is London taught me I am a lot stronger than I ever believed and that serves as my anchor.  At the moment, I walk this path with a smile on my face and growing curiosity of what lies ahead.  Just as it always has, my compass will point me in the right direction.

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*Oh, the stories I have from London, Paris, Rome, Prague, and Dublin!  I suppose that’s another post for another day.

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c.b. 2012