Monday, December 31, 2007

Farewell 2007!

Welcome to Monday and the last day of 2007.

While most people are taking their Christmas decorations down, I am sprucing mine up. I love to celebrate with a last hurrah to ring in the New Year before we put everything away until the next holiday season.

It just tickles me to hang twirly streamers and metallic curling ribbon all over the house. We have several lighted table-top decorations and a big "Happy New Year" banner, that makes the house look extra special. Finally, I add sparkly curls, New Year party hats, and horns to our already beautiful Christmas tree.

Dave and I have plans to go out for dinner and then dancing. So even though we will not be having a party at home, Mason and Melody (his sitter) will be here having pizza, snacks, and sparkling cider in glass champagne flutes. Yes, Real glass! He is so excited to be having a party that is just for him, and decorating the house, makes it that much more meaningful.

Let me wish you a Happy New year and leave you with a beautiful writing from a beautiful book, Simple Abundance:

Chill something bubbly. Honor the Old Year with a farewell toast, welcome the New Year within. Offer thanks. Celebrate how far you've come, how much you've learned, and the glorious person you really are.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Christmas Miracle

It is not very often an individual can claim they experienced a true Christmas miracle. Dave did this Christmas.

If you recall my December 12 entry, The Meaning of the Ornament, I told you the story of Dave's lost box of ornaments. The box contained ornaments dating all the way back to his first Christmas. Interestingly, on December 23rd, the box was found and returned to Dave.

Does this qualify as a true miracle? Maybe not in the sense of life and death, but certainly in the sense of regaining a piece of personal history. I believe another factor that makes this so meaningful, is that Dave is adopted. As an adoptee, there is already an innate sense of missing pieces to your life's puzzle. To lose the pieces you once possessed, it is just a little more difficult to accept.

So as we head toward the start of a new year, we will move forward with the belief that things are exactly as they are supposed to be, and that Christmas miracles are real.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Countdown to the New Year!

Is there a night more filled with sparkle and promise than New Years Eve? I don't think so.

I love looking forward to December 31st. As of this writing, I don't have any plans, but I have called a sitter, and have made arrangements to be out celebrating the promise of all the coming new year holds with my handsome husband.

New Year's Eve celebrations bow to both the sacred and the secular. The holiday has evolved into a rather elegant, if not indulgent evening for grown-ups. Ladies can wear their fanciest dresses, and men can turn out in their tuxes. The night is dressed in glitter and glitz; everything sparkles, from bubbles in a fluted glass, to the famous ball that falls on Times Square. Even without plans, I am excited by what we will wear, where we will go, and how sweet our kiss will be at midnight.

Now, keep in mind, I am 41 years old. I am well aware that things may not turn out the way I fantasize they will. It could be that we have no firm plans, end up having dinner that is ordinary, and ring in the new year in a dive bar. Even if that winds up being the case, I am going to hold on to my high hopes until the time I crawl into bed for the first time in 2008!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

This Christmas

This Christmas mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgive an enemy. Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Think first of someone else. Be kind and gentle. Laugh a little. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Riley's Christmas

My Riley is as much a member of our family as any of us people. Dave bought Riley for me for my birthday in 2002 and from that day forward, Riley has been my "first best boy."

There are lots of things I love about my Riley, but one of the things I love the most is how he loves Christmas as much as we do. You might be wondering how I know he loves Christmas. I know because of the way he stares at the lights on the tree, and the way he will position himself in my photos vying for that oh-so-important place on the family Christmas card. But the thing that makes me the most sure of myself is the way he checks his stocking each and every day before Christmas morning.

Everyone in the family has a Christmas stocking, including Riley. His hangs on a support beam that you see as soon as you walk in the front door. It is all white and he knows it is his. He gets up on his hind legs every day to see if it has been filled. On Christmas morning, as we all follow Mason out to the living room to see what Santa has left under the tree, Riley is jumping up and down, pawing at this stocking. When I take it down for him, we sit on the step and he pulls each item out, one by one. After everything has been opened and he has checked out what other gifts have been received, he will sit with his pile of toys, playing with each one. Yes, without a doubt, Riley is as much my child, anticipating and loving Christmas as Mason is. This I know.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Pictures

We are less than a week away from Christmas and cameras are snapping, flashing, and popping everywhere. From trying to get the perfect Christmas card, to the annual family Christmas portrait, we are smiling left and right.

In our family, not all of our pictures show happy, smiling faces. In fact, we enjoy expressing ourselves no matter how we feel, and if it gets caught on film, all the better. With the full range of emotions that we as humans feel, why not use them all more often.

This year, we have a beautiful picture of Mason hugging Santa on our Christmas card (I'll show you that one in the next few weeks), but in the album, we have all kinds of other faces. This one is the picture of Mason telling me he did not want to smile anymore while decorating the tree. Okay. What can I say? I can't make the kid smile just because I want an angelic picture. Not to mention, he is far from an Angel. In reality, the rebellious pictures tell the truer story. They tell the story of the whole human, not just the happy human. Have a great day, and feel whatever you feel like feeling!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Today is my birthday and I must be growing up. Having a December birthday is great, but unless it is set up properly from the very beginning, it can be a bummer (I've been told). I am very lucky in this regard as my mom made it a point to differentiate my birthday from Christmas. I never get a combination gift and my birthday presents are never wrapped in Christmas paper.

In years past, my birthday was a month-long event. I would start counting down the days the first of December, and I celebrated everyday as if it were the 17th. My coworkers, business associates, friends, relatives and even total strangers were informed that I was celebrating my birthday-month. Of course, there would be a party. It might be dinner with friends, or a full blown, "all hours of the night" bash to bring everyone together, sometimes both! Whatever the case may have been, it was a pretty self-indulgent time.

The last several years have been quite the opposite. My birthdays have become a day in a month. I think about my birthday in terms of my past accomplishments and how much more I still have to do. I look in the mirror and see a woman who cares so much more for others than she does for herself, and I like that. This is just to say I have a life that is stimulating and full with the love of a husband and child, our animals, great friends, and all the opportunity in the world. I have realized that I am the least interesting, and life is so much better lived being interested.

I'm not sorry I spent so much time being into me. I think it lends my best years to giving to others, and that feels great. Today is my birthday and I will celebrate being older without being old. Now I have to get Mason off to school, meet with the trainer to run in the rain, finish my Christmas cookie gifts, volunteer at Mason's school for two hours, and Dave said I have to pick up the dog poop in the back yard. Yep, it's my birthday! Laughing!

"Youth is a circumstance you can't do anything about. The trick is to grow up without getting old." Frank Lloyd Wright

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Cards

I love to get Christmas cards!

For some of my friends and family, it is the only time of year we reconnect. At first blush that sounds sad, but in reality, it is just fine. As I get older, I can appreciate that we don't need to be everything to everybody. This just means it's okay to have a festive communication with people you don't speak with the other eleven months out of the year.

I used to feel that if we thought enough of each other to send a Christmas card, why didn't we think enough of each other to pick up the phone in February, June, or October? I have come to realize that relationships can best be defined by a reason, a season or a lifetime.

There are people who come into our lives for a specific reason. Maybe it is a work project, a volunteer situation, or simply a transaction of some kind. These people come along, we do what we need to do, and we go about our lives going our separate ways.

Then there are the people who come along in the form of a new friend or coworker. There is something in common that creates the relationship however, it is not to be for the long run. Keep in mind, a season can be a month, a year, or many years. A season can also be the annual note in a Christmas card.

Finally, we have the people who are with us for the time of our lives. All through the year, and all through the years. These people for me are my husband (and friend) Dave, my family, and my best friends.

It makes life so much easier when you can just let be what is. As I learn it is not necessary to compartmentalize every aspect of my life, and define all the parameters, life is so much more fun. I love to get Christmas cards, and sending them is as much fun!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Meaning of the Ornament

In my family, as with many other families I am sure, the ornaments on the tree tell the story of our family.

When Dave and I got married in 2001, it came to light that his ornaments had been lost in one of his many moves. He felt certain he knew where they were, but sadly, they were never recovered. This was a box of ornaments that had been his dating back to his very first Christmas. Though he is not one to let one thing ruin the whole holiday, it was as if part of him were missing.

With only a few days left until Christmas, I headed to the local craft store and bought a dozen plain ornaments, a medium sized storage box, some stickers, trim, ribbon, glue, and mod-podge craft sealer. I got right to work making him a set of ornaments that would delight him, and fill the void of his lost Christmas history. After all, I thought, we were newly married and we could start our own family history in ornaments. I made one with the radio station logo on it where we met. I made another that commemorated an annual camping trip that helped to facilitate our destined union, and I made one that reminds us of September 11, 2001. There are eight or ten in total and I could not wait for him to open this gift. I even decorated the box to store them in.

When Christmas arrived, I handed him the gift, and much to my dismay, he was not as excited as I had hoped. This was a big let down for both of us. I thought the least he could do was acknowledge that I had hand made him these meaningful ornaments, and be happy about that. What I was missing was that the ornaments he had lost were so meaningful because of how many years they had been with him. It was not that they were anything extraordinary at all. It was simply the time, and the history of Christmas's past that they represented.

Here we are six years later, with a four year old son who now has his own box of ornaments. Decorating our tree this year made up for the letdown of Christmas 2001. Dave opened the box of handmade ornaments and showed them to Mason. He told him about how we met, our camping trip, our trip to Yosemite, and why we need to remember September 11. Every year that passes, those ornaments mean more and more.

It is not the ornament, it is what it represents, and how long it has reminded you who you are.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Cookies

Merry Christmas!

This weekend Mason and I made Christmas cookies. It is really a task with a 4 year old, but as much work as it is, it is worth every moment of the 15 minutes he spends decorating a dozen cookies.

I remember when I was growing up, my mom did lots and lots of baking. She must have started right after Thanksgiving and made every kind of Christmas cookie in the book. I helped with some, but decorating the cut-out cookies was the best. When I was little, the frosting we used was homemade butter cream. It was thick and sweet, and never got hard. That meant that we had to lay the cookies out one by one, and you couldn't stack them up without smearing and messing them up. We had to decorate them using a butter knife, so the detail was not that good. We used sprinkles and shiny gold and silver balls, so even with the butter knife spreading, they were the prettiest cookies of the season.

Mason has a few advantages. Being a former professional cake decorator, I have bags and tips. We mix our icing using meringue powder so it dries hard thus, not messing up your work of art. We don't have the gold and silver balls anymore because they are no longer for sale in California, but we have ways around that. We have a ball talking about the kind of cookies we are making, happy, mad, wacky, and even "the one-eyed guy." Pretty much anything goes, and isn't that how you want to remember it when you are all grown up? "I got to decorate the cookies any way I wanted to." That is how I remember my mom facilitating my creativity, and that is the same gift I want to give to Mason.

Think about what your holiday traditions are. Do you have a favorite Christmas memory? Share those memories with someone you love today. I bet they would love to hear it, and it will make you feel wonderful sharing it. Enjoy the picture of our Christmas cookies and this wonderful quote on tradition.

"What an enormous magnifier is tradition! How a thing grows in the human memory and in the human imagination, when love, worship, and all that lies in the human heart, is there to encourage it." Thomas Carlyle

Friday, December 7, 2007

Remembering Pearl Harbor

I am not the history buff in my family, but I am of a long line of family who have years of military service.

There are only 23 remaining survivors linked to the ship that now rests in the waters of Pearl Harbor. Two of them live in Northern California. Louis Conter, 86, who lives in Grass Valley speaks to schools about his experience. He says the USS Arizona went to sea November 26, the same day the Japanese fleets left their country headed for the U.S. "We came back the fifth, Friday. We shouldn't have come in until Monday." he said. That Sunday morning, the USS Arizona band was getting ready to play when the Japanese first fired, shortly before 8 a.m., and within a few minutes the ship had been hit with a number of bombs.

Conter followed his lieutenant commander's orders to help keep calm, by whatever means necessary, those who had been injured or burned. Conter said he had to prevent crew members who had been burned or those trying to escape fire or explosion from jumping off the ship and into the oil-clogged water."

"It was burning all around us." he said. "We grabbed them, and laid them down on deck. The ship was settling in the muck. We picked up bodies and body parts and people for a couple of hours."

The work didn't stop after Conter abandoned ship. He was among those fighting fire from Sunday until Tuesday, December 9. "We got our first sleep Tuesday night after Sunday morning." he said. You can read the full interview at written by Loryll Nicolaisen.

I think it is people like Louis Conter who are our real heroes. The men and women sent into combat, no matter how they personally feel about the conflict, who do the best they can to fight for freedom with the least loss of life.

Today, let's honor all of our Veterans and the families that support them.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Welcome to December!

It seems that winter is here! It blew in with a fierce, cold wind. I am gald. I like the seasons as they come, and it is hard to get in the Christmas spirit when it is warm outside.

This last weekend Dave, Mason, and I visited historic Columbia, CA. What fun! For me, the best part was being in Nelson's Candy Store watching them make giant candy canes, and seeing Mason's eyes light up as they took form. Dave enjoyed the stagecoach ride and the hold-up by the bandit with the gun! That was certainly not Mason's favorite part of the day. For Mason, it was time with his dad. Dave and Mason played for a good long time in the rocks. These are very large rock formations that we can all climb on and through. Dave followed Mason, and then Mason followed Dave. They ended up on top of the tallest rocks in the park. I hope Mason is not so young that he doesn't remember this. It was one of those days that we are glad we took the time to just play.

I have said it again, and again, it is not "things" our children want, they want to spend time with us. And isn't it true for all of us, young and old? We cherish the time we have with each other so much more than any "thing" we could ever own. Give the gift of you this Christmas. Have lunch with your girlfriends, and tea with your mom. Make the time, afterall, it is all any of us really have.