Time Out

I think I’m taking a break, here. Although I’m doing short reflections daily for Advent on the church site blog, I’ve been less than active here.

Today, at least I think it was today, maybe yesterday, that shows how far I’m behind on email too, Michelle W. who’s part of the WordPress staff, posted Lights Out: How to Take a Holiday Hiatus (sort of an onomatopoeia Christmassy sound to that). The most important part for me is the permission to say I’m taking a break.

I’m taking a break.

Life, oddly enough, is sort of slowing down. Son-Who-Lives-With-Us left to visit his father and brother in Florida. We are home alone. Shopping, although not wrapping, is done; mailing is done (okay, there’s still a family email to do); baking for “my boys” is done and either on the way to San Diego or in above son’s suitcase heading to Florida. The calendar is emptying. So why the break?

Well, Christmas isn’t just the tree and lights and presents, although we dearly love those, but a more reflective, and I’ll venture to add, spiritual time for us. We talk story and remember our families and childhood; we sit and watch the sparkle on the tree; Cliff builds fires and we listen to Christmas music. But the most important thing we do is reflect on our journeys this past year: what we’ve learned; what we choose not to bring into the new year; what we want to develop.

Although I don’t write much about our religious life on this blog (that URL is above if you’re interested), you’ve probably heard a tone of it in my writing. That’s my focus at this time of year. Peace. Justice. Kindness. Joy. Reflection. With the spirit that is part of us all and called by many names.

It’s Hanukkah, the festival of lights; Solstice, the return of light; and Christmas, the rebirth of light. There’s Kwanzaa, the celebration of culture and the wisdom of elders (that’s it’s own kind of light). The Buddhists get left out of December holy days, and the Islamic new year was in the western month of October this year. But I expect we can all celebrate spirit and light at any time of year.

Celebrate. Rejoice in your light; your heritage; your life. And the most important resolution any of us can make for the New Year is to be kind. That’s all. Kind.

I may not be back until the second week of January. It takes a while for this old bear to roll out of hibernation; and we may be going up to the farm the first full week of January. I’ll return, I promise. In the meantime:

Peace be with you. And you. And you…….All are Welcome

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Daily Prompt: The Best Day Ever

Really, I think I have to say the Best Day Ever, at least for this week, was Christmas Eve. I have a lot of “best days.” Walking in Paris – that was a best day, several best days; blood-red sunset at the farm – that was pretty best; walking in a Hawaiian rain forest with my sisters – pretty incredible. As I said, I’ve had a lot of them, too many to enumerate and that’s lucky. But yesterday? Pretty best.

In general, our Christmas was fairly low-key. Like many of you, life was over-the-top busy this fall. We were too tired to have a Christmas party or attend ones we were invited to. I managed to keep up fairly well with the Advent posts at the church site. We were even too tired to shop which meant Amazon.com came through to the rescue. But last night, as Christmas Eve tends to be, was magical.

For starters, here’s our living room with presents under the tree and lights:

A cozy fire, candlelight, a tree, and twinkles.
A cozy fire, candlelight, a tree, and twinkles.

These are the decorations we use most years (the tiny, twinkling rice lights look like fairies let loose in the branches) but last night the light and the fire and the presents under the tree (plus Santa and a rocking horse) and filled stockings waiting to be plundered looked pretty festive.

We stood under the mistletoe as we do every year – usually several times every year – but this year I decided to try for a selfie. Now. Grandmas and selfies aren’t quite the same as, say, a twenty-eight year old and selfie, but we managed even if a little blurred.

Old People under the mistletoe taking a selfie.
Old People under the mistletoe taking a selfie.

Outside was amazing too. We had a layer of snow plus an overcast sky so the two reflecting off each other made the light soft and hazy. Cliff called me outside to see a shimmering night. He was grilling his favorite Christmas Eve dinner: surf and turf.

Cliff, happily grilling in the snow.
Cliff, happily grilling in the snow.

We turned on the outside garage light for the shot, so all the light isn’t just snow/clouds. But it was fire and good smells and magical.

And then we had dinner: steaks and crab cakes and grilled oysters and large shrimp and small lobster tails. And a lot of butter. And wine. You’ll notice there’s nothing green on the table: baked potato, steak, and seafood.

A Christmas Eve Feast
A Christmas Eve Feast

We had fun. Excessive? Yep. You could say that. Indulgent? Yes, that too.

As an addendum for those of you who like oysters: Cliff learned to grill oysters rather than fight to get the raw ones open. A couple of minutes on each side and they pop right open. And with a dribble of champagne vinegar (which is the bottle in front of the empty bowl set there to gather fragments and shells) are quite lovely.

Merry Christmas one and all and thank you all for the gifts of friendship and family and love you bring to my life.

Okay. I’ll end here. I’m getting to sound like Tiny Tim.

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dpchallenge: Moved by Music

My mother listened to the Nutcracker Suite/but she wanted to be a flapper.

That’s how one of my poems begins. The Nutcracker Suite was a part of our Christmases for as far back as I can remember. Unfortunately, since it was an every-year thing and a part of our life, I never thought to ask here why. Why did a Kansas small town girl learn to love that particular piece of music? We forget to ask our elders a lot of things and then suddenly, or not suddenly, it’s too late to ask.

Of course, the Nutcracker Suite also means ballet. I began ballet lessons when I was in my mid-thirties so it goes without saying it wasn’t a career move for me, but I did love dancing.

My mom and dad married because of music and dancing. A year after my father died, Mom went with friends to the Cahon Ballroom in Marysville, Kansas (no doubt I’ve misspelled Cahon), a place all of us of a certain age frequented at one time or another although now it’s gone. They’d dated many years earlier, before she married my father, and so when he walked in the door, she recognized him immediately. They danced once, talked the rest of the time, and married six weeks later.

Except for my early teen years, music, itself, was never central to my life although dance is central and it’s hard to dance without music. In my teen years it was Doo Wop and Elvis and Frankie Avalon. I had the room in the attic peak of the house after my sister went to college and I can’t remember that room without seeing a can-can in the corner. I learned to starch them with strong sugar water and stand them in the bathtub to drain. There was no hanging them up. Sticky though on a hot summer evening.

This photo is thanks to Living-Fifties-Fashions. That site brought back weekend nights when I had no date and morosely stared out the bedroom window to avoid seeing it in the corner, as lonely as I was. And no doubt listening to Elvis.Pink_Crinoline_CanCan

But the site also reminded me of “poodle skirts.” My sister and I both had one of those. We sewed them in 4-H from pre-printed fabric. Now that was something to dance in.

My husband dances too–he grew up on the polka as well as dancing to rock ‘n roll. We have a dance floor here in the living room at one end, an open space just big enough to do several polka turns or a line of “The Slide.” I’ve tried to teach him the grapevine but he’s better at the polka. And as long as he doesn’t let me fall over, I can keep up with him. He hasn’t let me fall yet.

So there’s my moves to music: jitterbug and swing and ballet and polka. And The Slide. And every Christmas we listen to the Nutcracker Suite.

If you want to write your own “Moved by Music” click on the link below.

Let there be light….

Let there be light...
Let there be light…

My dear friends, thank you so much for following me, even when I’ve been absent so much this fall. Thanks for coming back and for hanging in. As I am hanging in! Not completely lost just yet.

And so I send you light – light for your spirits and your homes, light to enter the darkness, light to bring warmth and peace.

May your winter holiday, by whatever name you call it, bring you lightness of spirit in this time of changing lives, changing times, changing landscapes.

And that, dear readers, is my wish for you…that you also be a light in the darkness for others.

I’m reminded of a children’s song we sang in Bible School, oh so many years ago: “This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine….”

May your light so shine that others may see your good works, to paraphrase another favorite song.

And may your holiday bring you and those with you a measure of peace and joy.

From my family in the house, Cliff, Janet, Stephen, Nathan, Kyong, and the many family members not here, Michael and Kristina, my sisters, brother, nieces and nephews, in-laws and outlaws, Merry Christmas.

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The Trees Dance

The world is whirling past as I sit here in my upper room, a square of window my companion. For the past several months, it’s been me whirling and I’ve not had much time for this companionable time just watching. This morning, conscious of having time to stop and sit, I looked out to see silver-white clouds dashing northward across a fresh blue sky and an airplane flying southward like a silver arrow through clouds to some target I can only surmise. A stray browned oak leaf whirls past in a wind-gust. And tree tops, light and feathery and freed of their burden, dance like a troupe of upside down ballerina legs on the sky, swaying to a song I cannot hear.

I am gifted by beauty, by quiet, by time.

A little booklet, “Advent Meditations from the Works of Henri J.M. Nouwen” sits by my side. From Monday, First Week of Advent, he writes about a meeting an old professor at Notre Dame who said, “I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.”

Each year when I read this meditation, I am reminded again of my own need to learn how complaints are my work. This fall, I’ve complained of being too busy, of being too tired, usually adding that life has also been filled with all kinds of gifts during this busy time – a book contract, working on a film, travel. And yet, the complaining, even if silent and to myself, seems to come more often than recognizing I had something to learn from the experience of weariness.

Nouwen goes on, “when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then fate can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace of joy.”

Last evening I read a Facebook post from a poet-friend, Judith Bader Jones. She said she was clearing her calendar for the season to write poetry and bake cookies. Sounds like a plan.

Our tree is up, lights on the windows, and the semester coming to an end. If I grow tired in the coming weeks, I’ll practice understanding instead of impatience. I’ll practice watching and waiting for the rebirth of light.

The Creator of the Universe comes to us in these small ways – a dancing tree, a swaying leaf, a moment for reflection.

I offer those same small gifts to you.

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