Sunday, December 31, 2006

The last page...

2006 will come to a close in soon. How crazy is that? December 31 always feels to me like the last page of a book. For two years in a row now, I've finished a journal right at the end of the year and started my new one at the beginning of the next. That seems so fitting.

Every year I also think that something really notable should happen as the year passes from one to another...some sort of sonic boom or something...because it is a monumental thing! (I guess my neighbors shooting off shotguns at midnight will have to suffice!)

In the absence of sonic booms, I am sitting here trying to think of something noteworthy to say to bring my blog year to a close. I don't really have anything profound to say about the year that is about to begin, as I haven't finished formulating my thoughts about the New Year (other than my reading list). But I can reflect on this year.

2006 has been a good year. A truly good year. After three years for storms and challenges, it was a year of relative calm and joy and peace. It had its bumps, but they did not outweigh the good this year held.

I didn't set lofty goals or resolutions last year, but last January I laid out a set of overall intentions to guide how I lived my life. And unlike the goals and resolutions of the past -- the ones I'd look at in December and feel angst and a sense of failure -- I feel like I did a good job of living according to my intentions this year.

I tried to live gently.

I tried to be genuine.

I tried to live creatively.

I tried to let go
of anger and frustration.

I tried to be flexible.

I tried to be who I am, to live my life and my art without apology, to quit hiding behind myself.

I tried to look at things from new perspectives, to find beauty and goodness in unexpected places.

I tried not to be judgmental.

I tried to be present to my life and to those in it.

I tried to remember to breathe and to be.

These were my intentions, in a nutshell. I imagine they'll be somewhat similar for 2007, because they all still apply.

I am so thankful and happy to be at this place in my life right be (mostly) content, to not feel the urgency of wanting what I can't have or the restlessness of something missing in my life. It may not be perfect or easy all the time, but I can honestly say that I have a good life, and I am so thankful for that, and most especially for the people with whom I share it.

May you all experience your own sense of contentment with your life in 2007. Peace.

Friday, December 22, 2006


On the third day before Christmas,

my true love sent to me...
two dozen beautiful red and white roses!

They were to be accompanied by reservations for dinner and the kids spending the night at his parents' house (all planned by him without my knowledge!), but the boy child woke up today with a fever and sore throat, so this part of the surprise has been postponed until another time. But still. Dude. We've been married over 13 years now, and this is the first time ever the hubby has gone to this kind of trouble to surprise me with anything. Guess he still likes me. :)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The shortest day...

I felt compelled, for the first time ever, to do something more than give the first day of winter a passing nod. I wanted to celebrate it somehow. So I spent a good bit of time today collecting information about the winter solstice -- astronomical, social, religious -- and compiling it into something of a dissertation I planned to share with the kids this evening during our Advent devotional -- which we did tonight, at precisely 7:22 p.m., the official time of the winter solstice here on the east coast.

"I didn't know we'd become pagan," was my husband's wisecrack when I told him of my plans to celebrate the solstice. I let the comment go. I knew he'd find interesting some of the information I'd learned, so I'd let that speak for itself. And it did. He was duly intrigued.

I'd spent a bit of time late this afternoon constructing a centerpiece for our with a lot of candles and fresh pine and tiny pine cones...because our simple, one candle Advent candle just wasn't going to suffice tonight. Midwinter festivals have traditionally been celebrations full of light...candlelight, firelight. Light to ward off the darkness of winter. Light that will take you toward spring, toward new life, rebirth. And isn't that what Advent is also about?

For a half an hour, the kids and my husband sat with me around our table, illuminated by candlelight, my Celtic Christmas CD playing soft in the background as I told them of the traditions...the Chinese celebration of Dong Zhi, when the yin qualities of darkness were at their greatest but the hope of the light and warmth of yang were just around the corner. I told them about the Germanic pagan yule festivals and the Roman celebration of Saturnalia. I shared with them why we eat ham at Christmas (thank you, Scandinavians) and why mistletoe is hung in doorways (thank you, Druids). For half an hour, they listened and watched the candlelight flicker, a slim yet palpable connection to pagan ancestors of the past.

What fascinates me about all of these things, aside from the history itself, is how it all comes full circle for my family today. While the pagans celebrated the birth of the sun god, we now celebrate the birth of the Son of God. And whereas these other cultures celebrate the beauty and power of nature which they believe to control light and darkness, we celebrate the One who we believe is the Light in the darkness, the One who created all that is created.

It's an incredible circle, and as much as many people I know and love would probably be hesitant (if not outrightly aghast) at the notion of having common ground with those who are not of the same Christian beliefs as they are, I think it only makes us small and powerless to be unwilling to learn what others believe, both today and with regard to where various beliefs and practices came from in the past. After all, we are all the product of that one, same Creator. I think we owe each other that amount of courtesy. And I want my children to know that.

After finishing our devotions, I decided to bake. This is what happens when I am caught up with must-do's and have time on my hands. I bake at night. I had a banana that was dying to be made into bread, and so that's what I did. But I decided to make it special and added dried cranberries and almonds and pecans and walnuts to it, in honor of this special day. A bread full of goodies to give hope for brighter, warmer days ahead. I'm the only person in my house who likes banana bread to begin with, so perhaps it will become my own little tradition, my own special Midwinter Bread.

And somewhat the picture above, though you can't see it well, is a stuffed pillow with a simple Christmas tree painted on it. I got this decoration years ago from someone who turned out to not be a very good friend. We are no longer in touch because of that. But the pillow makes me happy nonetheless. It is a reminder to me that good can come from bad things if we let it.

May you find light in the darkness tonight and in the coming year.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


The girlie and I spent today baking Christmas cookies. Mmm. The house smelled so good.

Growing up, my mom would bake for what seemed like kind of cookie each day until she had an impressive variety with which to fill the cookie trays she made to give away to friends and family. When I got married, that's how I did it too. That's how it had always been done, and I knew nothing else. I did this for years, dutifully making a cookie list, checking it twice to make sure I had all ingredients on hand, and then I baked for days on end until all of my cookies were checked off the list.

Some time over the past few years, I finally came to the realization that: this is a pain in the ass. With all of the rest of the things going on in December, who in the heck wants their kitchen looking like a wreck for days on end? So, one year, quite by accident, I discovered the joy of getting the majority of my baking done in one day. One messy day. For whatever reason, I'd been behind the eight ball that year and was thinking of skipping baking all together because I didn't have days to spend on it. But then, despite how daunting the thought was, I decided to do it all at once. And it was great. And so a new tradition was born.

The kids and I made our cookie list the other day when we were eating dinner at Denny's in the midst of their Christmas shopping trip. We decided on sugar cookies (a Christmas cookie staple), peanut butter cookies, peanut butter blossoms (can never have too much peanut butter), M&M cookies, spritz cookies, shortbread cookies, noodle cookies and cheesecake squares. After a late start to the baking (dubbed by my daughter as "Major Cookie Mayhem"), we managed to get six of the eight varieties done today. We'll do the remaining two tomorrow afternoon. And come Monday, I'll be able to have a nice cookie tray ready to send to work with my husband for his office.

Some friends of mine think I'm crazy for putting myself through this self-imposed baking exercise each year. But really, after cutting back and not baking as much for a few years, I realize how much a part of the holiday experience this is for me, and I love doing it. (If you need proof of how important Christmas baking is to me, consider the fact that three days after I came home from giving birth to my middle son, via c-section, I was up baking Christmas cookies. That's dedication!) And I love that my daughter loves doing it with me, knowing that someday she will likely make it a tradition of her own.