My favorite time of the year is back-to-school. The newness of it all. Who would my teachers be? Which of my friends would be in my classes? But the best part of it all, for me, is the new school supplies. There is nothing quite like the smell of a fresh box of Crayolas. And, if by some stroke of luck, I could score the box of 64, with the sharpener, it was as if Heaven itself shone down upon me. When Mr. Sketch smelly markers came out, it was mind-blowing! And yes, I did taste them to see if they were as good as they smelled! (I highly recommend the Light Blue-Blue Raspberry Slushie!)

The newness of it all: unmarked notebooks, perfectly "spirally" spirals, and the topper of it all: the Chandler's Assignment Notebook. Now, if you don't know about Chandler's, here is a bit of history, courtesy of The Chicago Tribune: "And probably few patrons aren't familiar with the Chandler's Assignment Notebook, the famous August-to-August activity planner that has been a bible, companion and repository for decidedly ‘unacademic' jottings to millions of area students since the mid-1940s." Chandler's, Inc. closed its doors in 1995, and I have yet to find something as wonderful to record my homework, hopes and happenings. (Side note: Chandler's were banned at Queen of All Saints School for being too "social slam-bookish and too much of a distraction." I kept a secret one anyway. The priest suppressed a laugh when I confessed this sin.)

Now why, you ask, am I talking about school supplies in the dead of Winter? As a grown-up, well, as an adult, my back to school is January 1st. The clean slate of it all. The perfect search for the perfect calendar, as close to the original Chandler's as possible. It brings me a sense of hope for the upcoming year.

We celebrated December staff birthdays recently with two cakes made by our Parish Secretary, Laurel O'Donnell. She is an amazingly talented baker, but an even better friend. Heath asked each of the celebrants what was something from the last year we wished to let go of, and something we wished to embrace for the new one. For once, I had no answer. It's kept me awake on several nights.

This is what I've come up with. Spiritually, my new back-to-school will be much like the one from my childhood. To see the new year through the eyes of a child. A chance for everything new, fresh, sharpened and organized. The grace and humility to let go of past hurts and the bravery to risk my heart and soul to allow change. To try something new. To be a better person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and employee. To love God more deeply and accept His love with greater abandon.

I am certain that in order to accomplish some of these things I am going to need not only a really cute "replacement Chandler's," but a new set of supplies: the human kind. Friends and family, co-workers and parishioners alike.

This January 1st, let's get out the Pink Pearl Erasers, and wipe out last year's yucky stuff, sharpen our pencils, (Ticonderoga makes the best!) and jot down how to make this the best year, not only in our own homes, but at the spiritual home we call Church of the Holy Comforter. There is great work to be done!

May the Chandler's be with you! (I just ordered a Moleskine, not exactly the same thing, but it did come in pink!)