Top 60 Gifts of 2014...They're All People. How is YOUR Support Network?

It’s been hard to move into 2015, and partly because I had not closed up 2014. Here’s to looking back (kindly) so as to look forward (hopefully and hope-filled-ly).

My greatest profits from 2014 result from investing in relationships:  personal, professional, communal, and spiritual.  Sometimes it"s one individual; other times it's a group.  High returns?  Totally!...even when sometimes there are yeeeeeaaaaaarrrrrs of dedicating loving before the returns flow back in abundance.  Still worth it.


N° 1
My Husband. He makes me feel beautiful. When I moan, “Aghh! Cellulite...” He responds, “Yum, _______(wink)!” He reminds me that we find what we look for. Ugliness is all around. So is beauty.

Beauty is indeed in the eyes of the beholder. My husband teaches me to behold my own ravishingness. Thank you for such a precious gift.


+ 4 Sons = 5 Top Gifts

My sons stretch me out of my comfort zone. You might think the generation gap does this. That counts (they offered me the Adolescent Dictionary to keep me abreast of their times).

My boys also help me reach out within my own peer and professional groups. This happens because I make myself vulnerable to them. I share my dread of X presentation, my lack of hesitation in Y domain, or my reticence regarding Z.

Their loving response sounds like: “GO!” or “NOW!” and “Just do it, Mom.” And when I return home enthused over my success, they simply grin a knowing “We thought you could.” As if they are reading the Little Engine That Could story back to me.  Boys, what wisdom!  How you have grown!

+ 1 Life Sparring Partner = 6 Top Gifts

The photo below finds my life Sparring Partner and I hard at work in our Power Positions. Amy Cuddy, Professor at the Harvard Business School, teaches that certain body postures generate greater amounts of testosterone, the hormone which stimulates assertiveness, while others stimulate serotonin, the hormone which builds fear. Yes, you guessed it: Feet up, chest out, and wide smile all boost confidence.

That’s what my Sparring Partner does for me. We meet regularly to review our professional and personal life goals, how we’re doing and to tweak next steps. Alone, I could reach for a star.  Together, we aim for galaxies.


+ 3 Siblings = 9 Top Gifts

My brothers and sister have been friends for years (all our life, smile), despite distance, distractions, and differences. Yet this year, something special happened: we experienced a family CHALLENGE. Exchanges were not always pretty. Possibly because an incident disturbed that family dirt we had so consciously swept in a corner for years. No, it’s not the breathing dust that I cherish; it’s the cleaning up we have done TOGETHER.

We all live fully; life in vivid colors. After this challenge, it seems that we blend our colors together better. We are learning to need each other. Step. By. Step.

+ 1 Spiritual Director = 10 Top Gifts

Do you know that psychology professionals go through counseling too? There is a similar practice among Christian leaders and while I taught a Bible study, I met regularly with a Spiritual Director. Through her guidance, I explored dark corners of my soul that I hoped would never be discovered...least of all by me. The big hurt we explored from multiple angles is healing well-ish. In 2014, she sent me on my way. I am so thankful for her prayers, love, acceptance, hilarious sense of humor, and unwavering focus on Jesus.

I loved exploring faith in Christ with a woman who wears The Robe and loves outrageous shoes. 

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" Isaiah 52:7


+ 5 Positive Discipline Regulars = 15 Top Gifts

As an certified Positive Discipline Educator, I lead workshops in this approach to building respect and collaboration based relationships between adults and kids. Our group this fall brought together mothers of different aged kids, various nationalities, unique family situations, and diverse faiths. We shared our motherhood and our neediness. We were all seeking answers to the same questions for our families: How can we grow in love? In joy? In hope? What needs to change to add fun to home? 

It was a thrill to witness us all grow...which we did through trial, error, games, and role play.  :-)

  Positive Discipline

+ 12 Fellow Bible Studiers = 27 Top Gifts

Years ago, during my MBA years, a fellow student spoke about loving the Bible. “Whatever,” thought I.

And then I started reading it and discovered how radical it is. Who can love his neighbor as himself...when many days just loving oneself seems unpalatable? What does the face of forgiveness look like? Mine?!

This 2014 group grappled more with the meaning of these Holy Writs by exploring the political and social context of the day. We debated...and regularly disagreed with each other. But isn’t that love? To care without requiring capitulation.

Our hosts greeted us with coffee and croissants every week. French food for the body; universal nourishment for the soul.

+ 1 Tutoring Student = 28 Top Gifts

My Tutoring Student. He’s my practice-what-I-preach. At an annual Family Feedback, the boys said, “You do things for Christians. How do you love non-Christians?” Goooood point. So, I’m tutoring Mohammed (name changed). He’s an eye-opener. He skipped tutoring class ‘coz he was getting stitched up after punching his fist through the window.

And underneath that uncouth shell, there is a man-of-valor-in-the-making. And amazingly, this person came to the surface through (kind) firmness. I told him, “No.” Not in terms of what he might do, but in how I would react. “You skip. We stop. No problem for me.” He skipped. I officially stopped. “Oops,” he realized and (probably for the first time ever) submitted a written request to the organizer to resume our sessions. His text message read, “I like learning with Denise. I want to continue. I will come. Please let me try again.” He’s a heart-opener!

His grade point went from 2/20 (F-) to 9.5/20 (C-). His smile and posture quintupled too.

And yet, he started skipping again and decided not to return for tutoring...for now. I cannot change him. (I can’t even change myself. Think missed diet again and again...)

Bye bye "M". Hello a new student, another blessing in disguise.

Photo of French teens in the movie LOL.

+ 31 Home Is Fun Beta Testers = 59 Top Gifts

You amazing Beta Testers have enabled Lean Innovation chez Home Is Fun!

Every year the Home Is Fun site gains in readership, almost despite myself (lack of consistency, which many of you noted on the survey). Well, I finally came up with a business idea and thirty-one of you signed up to help transform product prototypes into market-ready renditions.

Your involvement varies in intensity: from subtle to immediate responsiveness. Regularly oh-so-helpful feedback comes my way from among you. This flow of response is priceless. Milles merci (1000 thanks).

Thanks to you, I led my first Webinar on January 4: Family Feedback—when kids help Mom and Dad be the best they can be. It still needs tweaking, but we’re moving forward faster together. Dix milles merci. (10 000 thanks!)

We are DELIGHTED to have more of you join this group.  Please let me know here.

And voilà a few slides from the webinar:

+ Mary, the mother of Jesus = 60 Top Gifts

How about Jesus himself, you may wonder?  Protestants don't often focus on Mary, but this year, I especially appreciate his mother.  Here's why....

Every December our church celebrates Christmas with a Pageant. Jesus was played by a live baby. Just as actress Mary launched into her solo, “Jesus” decided to join in song...somewhat off key. Adult Angel (the real-life mother) deftly swept the tot into her soothing arms.

This Pageant blooper got me thinking about Mary...and about the birth of children, a first-time mother’s inexperience, and the disorientation of being a mom in a foreign land (Mary was from Nazareth and Jesus was born in Bethlehem. This was no swift car ride away).

When did she shower after that sweating and bloody birthing? The stories tell of shepherds who came that same night to worship the baby king. Theirs was a long trek into town from the country hills. Did they stay during breast-feeding time? How did Mary feel being sooooo exposed in a culture where women are barely seen and definitely not heard?

We see paintings of Mary adorned in silk, relaxing with a snuggling infant. Like Jesus came to decorate our churches or for those who have it all together. What a farce! Jesus came to smelly society rejects in a stable with a discarded placenta hidden in the straw.

We all know days when life seems out of kilter and stinking. Thanks, Mary, for not putting on airs...’coz that means I don’t have to either. Phew!


Thank YOU for your readership.  Be encouraged.  YOU rank on someone's Top Gift List too :-)

Photo credits: click on each visual. For the photos of Mary, Top Left, Top Right, Bottom Left, Bottom Right.
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1. On Thursday, January 15 2015, 16:15 by Suzie

Comments on investing in relationships and the importance of a support
network are especially important in this time-pressured world.

Quality of photos, outstanding.

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