Category Archives: Christmas Gifts

Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

Anyone familiar with the Shaheen family knows that it is a male dominated clan.  My dad is one of five brothers.  My parents had five sons.  I have three sons.   Four of my brothers all have at least one or two sons.  One of my brothers married a man!  Gee whiz!

Females are a rarity.   And we stick together.

We are not the perfect family by any stretch of the imagination.  We’ve been through some tough things and have come out on the other side, strong in the broken places.  Each of us has a story to tell about the Shaheen men we have lived with, supported, nurtured and loved unconditionally.

I have learned so much about life from these brave women.  They have inspired me.  They have taken me shopping.  They have given me wardrobe and home decorating advice.  They have buoyed me up in times of despair and sadness.   They are the bonuses of my life.

Katie, Mojgan, Susan, Catherine, Christine, Adrienne, Adele, Aimee and Elizabeth.  We are missing Charise, Annamarie, Katy, Sarah, Jessica and my new daughter-in-law Brianna.  God willing, next year we will all be together for this picture.  It will be the best Christmas ever.

I am very grateful for these women.  They bring so many unique gifts and charisms to the Shaheen family.  My life would be very one dimensional without their strength and femininity, compassion and nurturing.  Not to mention our  collective cooking skills!

We no doubt have challenges ahead as every family does.  But we will navigate both the good times and the difficult times as they come.  We are sisters and friends.  We are united by our shared history.

We are strong together.



Putting away Christmas…

Putting away Christmas…

Ok.. on to the next thing.

My niece and future daughter in law are including me in a group text about wedding showers, having babies and when’s the next party.  My cup runneth over but my energy runneth low. Even though I deeply admire their youthful enthusiasm and love for each other and for me,  I want to text back “Ladies!  Let me get Christmas put away first!”

So many things to look forward to in the new year.  But before I go there I want to be here. I want to be here to put Christmas away.  I want to look at all the ornaments I threw on the tree in such a rush between working, traveling and meal preparing.  It all happened so fast and now it’s over.

I want to be in the kitchen once more with my three sons and my future daughter in law cooking Christmas dinner and laughing about nonsense while the two Goldens, Lua and Willow, gaze at the oven door with the 25 lb. bird inside, hoping to get a quick lick when Patrick opens it to baste.

I want to see Gramma Louise ask for refills on the Vodka Punch, all the while relaxing and enjoying the hustle bustle of her family.

I want to hear once again all the various conversations at the Christmas dinner table with all the guest glowing from the warmth of good food and wine.  I want to reveal the secret ingredient in the stuffing and listen for the pregnant pause.  (ok.. no more secret ingredients in the stuffing- I promise.)  BTW Who guessed the baby Jesus?

I think this was the best Christmas ever.

Years ago, when I was in my early 20’s, I never bought Christmas paper on sale after Christmas.  I didn’t anticipate there being another Christmas.  You know.. it was the ’80s and everyone was talking about Jesus coming again and Revelations in the bible.  Good Catholic that I was (still am but not as good) I took it all to heart.   Existential angst had me wondering about the meaning of life and how my life was going to pan out. It became somewhat of a joke among my family and friends.  After Christmas sales?  You won’t see Rosemarie there!

Now I find myself looking forward to many Christmases to come.  And to wedding, babies, celebrations and most of all to a life filled with love and belonging.  I consider that progress.

But today I am content to take down the ornaments and unstring the lights.  Open empty boxes.  Nativity scene goes in this bag.  Delicate ornaments go in the tins.  Stocking folded with the little white hooks inside for easy hanging next year.  One last deep inhale of the still fragrant tree.



Can you see me now?

Can you see me now?

When I lived in Portland, Oregon one of my favorite things to do in the evening with my neighbor Clara was walk around the neighborhood and just catch up on the day, build our friendship, and look into peoples’ windows.

From the sidewalk of course!

Homes at night, illuminated from within, reveal so much more than the typical daytime drive-by viewing.  There’s often an interesting lamp or a curious seating arrangement. There is the lighting and the color and the architecture and the moisture on the windows that speaks of warmth and conversations and relationships within.

Clara and I would muse about the decorating but also about the family dwelling inside.  What were they like?  Most houses kept their draperies open in the evening as if to invite such speculation.

As if to say “see me”.

See what I’m like inside.  I may be awkward and not good at conversation.  I may be boorish or abrupt or seemingly uncaring or selfish or grouchy or cross.  I might appear unkempt and desperately in need of a hot meal and some sound sleep!   But look inside me.  See the me illuminated from within. See my intentions and my efforts. See my brokenness and my longings, my fears and insecurities.

In this season of light as we are hurrying to make some magic for our families, as we cook and bake in between 9-5 jobs,  as we volunteer at soup kitchens or church pantries or reach to give a dollar or two to a person with a sign on the corner outside the Safeway (after purchasing $200 worth of groceries how can you not?)…

Stop for a minute and look inside where the lights illuminate who we truly are.  Who the stranger is.  Who my neighbor is.  Who the homeless woman is.  Who I am.

Can you see me now?

All Is Calm.. All Is Bright

All Is Calm.. All Is Bright

This is my next door neighbor’s house.  They are the first house on our street to have their lights up and their tree decorated.  I noticed this Sunday evening as I was walking to my mail box across the street. (I hadn’t had time to get my mail for a few days.)

I said to myself  Jeez!  A bit anxious aren’t we?  I then heard a voice in my ear saying “bah humbug..”.

I looked a little closer and noticed through the window people eating and laughing.  My neighbors were having a holiday party and the guests looked cozy and warm inside- the windows somewhat fogged from the heavy breathing, fun laughter, and everyone talking at the same time.

I was transfixed.

It was a rainy night yet I felt compelled to walk by their house again later that evening just to take it all in.  It was like a Norman Rockwell painting and it stirred within me a nostalgia for days less busy, less hurried and less hectic.  Days filled with the care and feeding of three little boys, putting together puzzles with them, dancing to wild music on the turntable and baking Christmas cookies.  Days when the mail man at the door was one of the most exciting events of the afternoon!

I have to admit, I’ve been a little bit of a Scrooge lately.  With a full time job, preparing for Christmas often feels like taking on an additional part time job!  It always has a lovely ending though the beginning can be rough, plagued by my bad attitude and feelings of impending doom.

Sunday night changed all that.  Something wrenched itself loose in me and I wanted what I saw inside my neighbor’s cheery and festive home.  Love and Joy.  Friendship and laughter.

All things calm and bright…

Let the wild rumpus begin!



Wishing on a Star…

Wishing on a Star…

that 2012 brings to you and yours

joy that keeps you jumping

hope that helps you hang in there

fortitude to sustain you

prevailing peace

trust that is true

a year full of graced moments

and a sweet lingering legacy of love

Happy New Year

Christmas Gifts… A Legacy of Love

Christmas Gifts… A Legacy of Love

I love the beautiful Christmas song “Mary Did You Know?”  It talks about how Mary came to discover that she had birthed the savior of the world.  Despite her elite appointment as the mother of Jesus, she had to go through what every mother has had to go through.  The months of carrying a child.  The pain of labor.  The miracle of birth.  The daily care and feeding of an infant.  The watching and the worrying and wondering if she’d done this whole parenting thing right or if she could have done it differently or better.

I never quite experienced what love was until I had my first born son.  I remember feeling like a co-creator with God.  I thought I had earned an academy award or at least a thunderous round of applause.  It was such a magnificent feat yet so ordinary really.  Women do it every day.

But the miracle for me was how my life changed in every facet.  I lived each subsequent day in love with this little infant.  I had become a conduit of love.  The love I received from my own mother who labored to deliver me.  The love of both my parents. The love of my siblings and my extended family.   The love I’ve received from friends and people who have touched my life in a significant way.  The love and blessings and forgiveness I have received from my God.

All this love infused into my first born son.

To love is to take on a huge responsibility.  It is a promise to be true and to stand by and watch from a safe distance sometimes rather than rush in and fix.  Love can be fierce and protective or it can be consistent and dependable.  When we take on the challenge of loving someone we open the floodgates of all the love we’ve received into our lives and allow it to flow freely into our new found love.

I am so thankful for this legacy of love that I have been gifted.  Perhaps it is the most precious Christmas gift I have ever received.  And the most invaluable gift that I can give.




Christmas Gifts… Graced Moments

Christmas Gifts… Graced Moments










On Christmas morning my sons and Brianna wrenched me out of the kitchen in order to take a walk with the pups.  I was torn- feeling like I had so much to do before the 16 guests came for Christmas dinner at 4pm.  Then I stopped and asked myself.  What is the important thing right now?

It was a beautiful crisp morning and we went to the corner park so that Willow and Lua could get their wiggles out and Robert and Peter could play on the equipment.
























I couldn’t have planned it better myself.  No Christmas card picture would have come out better than this one.  Perhaps the unstaged is the most representative.  If this is true, I feel especially blessed.

It was a graced moment.  An unplanned trip to the park with cups of coffee and a chill in the air and the people who mean everything to me.  Much more than a perfectly cooked and served turkey.

Patrick, Peter, Robert, Brianna, Lua and Willow

Christmas Gifts… Try Trust

Christmas Gifts… Try Trust

Madeleine and Isabella

These are my two beautiful great nieces at our annual Shaheen family Christmas party.  Can you see the anticipation in their eyes as they wait for one of the grown ups to holler “Time to open presents!”

Do you remember those days?   You know… when Christmas was all done for you and all you had to do was wake up and be surprised?  And you knew that your mom and dad would get you dressed and make sure you had good healthy food to eat.  They protected you and nurtured you and if life rolled out the way it was supposed to and you were very lucky you developed this thing called TRUST.

We trust the mailman to come.  We trust that Nob Hill will have fresh turkeys the day before Christmas.  We trust that a good friend will be there for us.

But sometimes things don’t go the way we plan and our trust wavers.  We worry about our kids having jobs after we’ve paid for the exorbitant cost of their college.  We worry about how long an aging parent will be able to live alone in their own home.  We worry about our health care or whether the plumber is going to overcharge us or if that mole on our back is going to pass inspection with the dermatologist.

As we get older we find more things to not trust and then we become mistrustful.

Try taking a break from worry today.

Try trust.

Rest in the Grace of the World

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

~Wendall Berry


Christmas Gifts… Let Peace Prevail

Christmas Gifts… Let Peace Prevail

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me

Do you remember this song?  I sang it quite a bit when I was a teenager; however I didn’t really think much about what it meant back then.  But as I think about the words today a light bulb goes on for me.

We seem to project into the world whatever is going on inside of us.  If we feel disorganized, the world is chaotic.  If we feel anxious, the world is a scary place.  How can we have peace on earth if we do not have our own personal peace of mind?

When I was in high school I attended a YMCA camp every summer called Camp Fox.  Those were formative years for me and my experiences at this camp made a deep impact on my life.  It’s been more than 30 years and I still remember the following campfire story.

It was about a father and his son. The father wanted to get some paperwork done before he took his son to the park. To keep his son occupied until he finished his work, he cut a picture of the world out of a magazine, and then tore it into twenty pieces.  He told his son when he had finished putting the puzzle together, they would go to the park.  He was quite surprised when his son returned after just a few minutes with the completed puzzle.

The father asked his son, “how were you able to finish the puzzle so quickly?”  His son answered  “There’s a picture of a man on the other side.  When I put the man together, the pieces of the world just fell into place.”

Michael Jackson echos the same sentiment in his song Man in the Mirror.

I’m Starting With The Man In
The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change
His Ways
And No Message Could Have
Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change

We may not be able to establish world peace before the New Year but if we look in the mirror and make a positive change in ourselves  perhaps we can come one step closer.

Let peace prevail in your hearts this Christmas.

Give the gift of your peaceful self to someone you love.




Christmas Gifts… Foster Fortitude

Christmas Gifts… Foster Fortitude


When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

Fortitude is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage. defines it as guts.

Backbone, boldness, bravery, courage, determination, endurance, fearlessness, grit, perseverance, pluck, pith, spunk, stamina, tenacity…   (Don’t you love that word, pluck!  It makes you want to have it!)

When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Oh Lordy…

The experiences that build fortitude are not always the most pleasant.  Who would choose them?  However, if you look at the woman or man you have become due to some formidable and unpleasant challenges, what do you see? Who do you see?

Harold Kushner, a rabbi and inspirational author, wrote the book When Bad Things Happen to Good People following the death of his son, Aaron, from the premature aging disease “progeria”.   Kushner acknowledges in the Introduction that this life changing and painful experience made him a more understanding and compassionate rabbi for his congregation.    He also admits that he would give it all up to have his son back.

Unfortunately for us, we have no choice but to go forward with life.   We are forced to make sense of accidents, unnecessary deaths, traumatic experiences and misfortune.   But we do have the choice of how we digest and assimilate these experiences.  And this process fosters fortitude.

No matter how you’ve acquired it, you’ve earned it.

Embrace the gift of fortitude.