Friday, December 21, 2012

'tis the season indeed!

hello, wanderers!

We did some dashing through the snow tonight, dropping off wine and Christmas cards for friends and neighbors. The kids are tossing and turning in bed, and I am considering the Big Event next week. Christmas cards finally in the mail today, and everything!!

Jon and I have done little of our holiday preparations 'together', except the tree and the house decor. So, tonight was a great prelude for tomorrow night's wine-swilling-present-wrapping 'extravaganza.' We have one kid with the sniffles, one fighting a fever of 102, and some serious baking, cooking, and gingerbread-house construction still to come. Sounds like....quite the weekend, doesn't it?

Most people I've been speaking with have been trying extra hard to 'find' their Christmas Spirit this year. We saw the Nutcracker Ballet (absolutely Brilliant!), went to the Christmas concert at our church (it's a big ol' church. and the music was Sublime!!!) and set up the house. Seriously, it sounds laughably simple, but up until tonight when I was actually hugging and shaking hands with our friends, I have only had a, thin, thin sense of the holiday. Buying gifts for people Almost got me there. It usually only takes a peppermint mocha to hear my own chorus of 'Jingle Bells'. My kids excitement does help a bit, too. But between the snow drought we lived through up until a few weeks ago, and the angst we have all been trying to either work with or slough off, my spirit has really struggled, and I don't think I am alone.

Christmas can be an almost mystical event, for some. My father and his wife have more of a secular approach. My in-laws are enthusiastic and joyful when we get together Christmas eve.  I've loved decorating the tree with both religious and whimsical ornaments, and I do some good toe-tapping to the 'Jackson Five' Christmas Album. I played the Celtic Woman Christmas album last night, and that has helped pull it 'together' a bit more. When the music inspires you toward more of a 'giving' heart, that seems to put me on track. Isn't that the whole point of St. Nicholas, after all?

Tomorrow, my mother-in-law, my daughter and I (and maybe I will get lucky and my mom will come with?) are going to a Christmas 'recreation' at Murphy's Landing. I am excited to see what the earlier settlers did to make the holiday special, on a limited means. Normally, my husband and I budget away and save throughout the year for Christmas. This year, caution and planning went....completely awry, so I am thinking that a solid lesson in 'pre-commercial Christmas' is timely indeed!!

It's so much more fun to be generous at Christmas. It's so much more fun to have lists and budgets prepared, and know what you can do to make someone smile, and have it wrapped and at hand by Christmas Eve. Frankly, that's a luxury few can afford - it takes, what, one car repair? One unforeseen medical bill? One freak natural occurance - that can burn through that holiday budget. And the best, tightest planning might not be enough. Does that - Should that - diminish Christmas?

I hope not. I hope that if life is handing people lemons, they have a killer recipe for lemonaid in their back pocket (or a handy bottle of tequila and some salt!!). I hope that families facing horrible financial luck, or repeated strikeouts in the job market can still see Christmas. For family facing grief and loss, I hope they can face it hand in hand, and don't have to cope with it alone.  Christmas 'promise' can feel like a burden, if it's the wrong promise.

But if we carry the message of hope, of redemption, Christmas can bring strength. My first Christmas without my brother is something....I can't even remember. I don't know how I spent it, but I doubt I would have made it without friends and family. Looking back, that's the greatest gift I could have been given at the time. It didn't make the pain worthwhile, but it made it easier to carry. Looking at my life now, with the terrible emptiness I fought against, my sense of blessing, my sense of hope, has more ground.

I wish that for everyone.

My ice candles (a Martha Stewart project, if you must know) made it, more or less. I'll try to post one 'good' picture of their light, before the big day. And if you wander by, I hope their light brings a small spark to you, of what the holiday can be about. And.....if the picture totally sucks, and they look, erm, um.....cheesy, may you have a huge laugh at my expense. :-)

happy Christmas!!


Sunday, December 16, 2012


If you are like me, you have spent the weekend in various states of discomfort.

You've wept at the news, or maybe dove straight into facebook arguements - probably with complete strangers. You've shed tears at the sound of 'Silent Night', or just been consumed by unease.

I can't imagine facing this type of tragedy without hitting the above notes, although I do know there are scads of people better at handling grief and pain. I am certainly not proud of my soapbox-jumping, although I give myself points for honest passion, rather than a dispassionate consideration. No real reason for that stance. Maybe I am trying to check my honesty?

I cannot type further without laying at least one thought out, to whomever may read this - i haven't the years, or wisdom, or eloquence, to write about what happened.

I can write about reaction.  I can write about intentions.

I want to be comforted so badly right now.  Being a believer, I want to feel the Divine hand on my shoulder, reminding me that we won't walk through this alone. Also being a believer, I have Not Yet stopped with the eternal 'Why'. That's my spiritual side.

My inner child is going about this a little differently. She wants her warm cozy slippers, her glass of ice-cold baileys irish cream, an ice-water chaser, and the cozy blanket. She wants her husband's shoulder to cry on, a ride in a carriage through the sparkly park in St. Paul behind a pristine white pony, driven by a smiley guy in a top hat who doesn't smell even a little teensy bit like rum. The horse, by the way - obviously - doesn't smell either. And the snow is falling, there are no homeless people screwing up her little escape, and no one in Minnesota is wearing wet cold shoes tonight. My inner child wants to curl up in a ball and nap all afternoon tomorrow until she stops feeling blue.

Clearly, no one has told my inner child that tomorrow is Monday.

But you know what? My inner child is the one that can Demand that we don't treat it like a Monday. My inner child is often the one that gets my a$$ in gear to make the day just an itty bitty bit better. For someone. And while the gameplan would be that my husband, kids, mother, and even pets are the first people that I step it up for, I want the attitude to go with me everywhere. I want to remember this at the intersection, on the road, and in the waiting room at the dr. office. I want to remember to treat everyone - even at the gas station - like it's a holiday For Them. I might annoy people (er, ok, that's probably not a might. It's probably a Fact.) but I am hoping that I will mostly be extending - genuine - courtesy and kindness.

Courtesy and kindness, here in the midwest, changes nothing for any family connected to the tragedy. Courtesy and kindness don't make one minute of grief go away. They don't pay a hospital bill, they don't erase a cold and hideous truth. But the time we have on earth together is the only time we are guaranteed. And I can guarantee that this wallowing in discomfort may have a long-term good - change is usually uncomfortable, and a whole lot of people feel the need for something in our world to change. But I also think that living with courtesy and genuine concern for those we touch is not minor. Somedays it can change the whole picture. Not every day. But I do know the Opposite - rudeness, sarcasm, self-interest - can turn a good day pretty flat for me. And it's happened to me on days that were already really, really bad.

It's quite the opposite of comfort.

I'm going to treat my spoiled inner child right tonight. I'm going to get my ice-water chaser for my Bailey's, make coffee for the morning, and tidy the kitchen. Then I'm going to sleep - a little more easily - with at least one gameplan for tomorrow. Even if I screw up other things, forget to make a phone call, miss the post office stop, I resolve to do it - at the very least - with courtesy.

And kindness.

Goodnight :-)


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mood Swings

The current mood is fluttering more erratically than usual - no help for it, time to explore it.

I have several events coalescing this month, some expected, some.... a bit less so. The upshot is that normal mechanisms (whining to friends, making moody art, grumping around silently) don't apply - this is December! Even if I felt being grumpy was productive (it's not) or entertaining (it isn't. Much.) there isn't any time for it. So, I have some moods, images, and art moments that are intersecting oddly - creative reflexes that don't, say, get the house cleaned. Or put dinner on the table. But, make me feel absurdly better just the same.

At left, the latest - admittedly simplistic project. A somewhat early shot of the sky at sun-up, through my garlanded window. Snowflakes of pearly vellum (the wasted, expensive vellum left over from screwing up the invites for Siena's party) hung from a wide burlap ribbon, with pinecones sprinkled with blue/green/white iridescent glitter. Hung with sheer white organza ribbon. No, I didn't get this from pinterest (am I pinning it? You damn betcha!) I came up with it all by myself. It needs some tweaking though, so I don't expect it to hit the hot one hundred pins or so :-)

What else has been percolating, you ask?

(ok, that resounding silence is a bit much. Even for me, the Queen of Awkward Moments. Just play along, okay?)

Right now I am musing on owls, monks, and the excellence of Sean Connery in both "the Name of the Rose" and "The Hunt for Red October". I've read them both excessively. Just ask me to explain how the Politovskiy sank. I'll even diagram the butterfly valve that fouled the reactive system and caused the cold-water accident ;-) I am currently sipping port, peeking at the first mentioned movie, and thinking I need the soundtrack! I tend towards more serious religious contemplation this time of year anyway (have I mentioned I am Catholic?), but even for me, the monk musings are ramping up. I am still intrigued by "Into Great Silence", and this fiction by Eco (t.N.O.T.R.) seems just as strong to me as it was when released (a very long time ago).

Owls? I found myself promising to paint some for my son - but the 'why' is still mysterious. Maybe my inspirations and his are just coming together right now. He checked out a book from school on snowy owls and perhaps that was the tipping point. I also am on a major 'white craze'. Our home has a lot of deeper beige tones that white looks so pretty against. So, I experimented with a Real pinterest project - trying to make sheet-music printed candles. Inspired by Pottery Barn (and therefore, not in my budget). See that little candle? Right to the left of the nest? I did that. What I will say about the process is that printing sheet music onto tissue paper took a very, very long time. Mainly because I kept screwing it up.

Clamor enough in the comments and I will share the step-by-step. Next post, in fact. I did not make the cute little nest. My mother found that and it looks as adorable as it does cozy!

There are a few people who were not too pleased with winter storm Ceasar. I have nothing but gratitude - something you can only say if you didn't get into a car accident this past weekend!! I was in such a funk for the last two days, but I think I am now ready to finish christmasing-up the house, my mood, and our day-to-day.

I hope you aren't fighting the holiday blah's - or blues. They tend to sting like a bastard this time of year, and if I can succumb a little, there are folks that aren't as fortunate, and they can use a boost.

I am trying to remember that - when I am impatient at the grocery store, when I am listening to exhausted sounding complaints, when people are stressed-out and barking demands. There has to be a way to turn things around, even slightly, with kindness. Time to hit the hay myself, to gear up to share some - liberally, and as needed - tomorrow. Whether my mood is ready, or not.

Have a lovely weekend!!!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Goodness, it's been a while...

Well, snow is finally flying around the Orchid House, the kids are sleeping - hell, the entire HOUSE is sleeping, save me and the .....hmm.

Looks like the cats are out too.

There's a lot of backstory to my lull in posting here.

I don't care to drag out the details, so we will sum up.

Got your coffee now? Maybe tea? :-)

Back in July, we were coming to terms with the loss of my dear cousin Tina. That really is something we are not at terms with, so we concentrate on the hurt she is no longer in. It doesn't make things better, but it helps me make sense, I guess....

We were also experiencing major problems working with the builder of our home, as cracks kept erupting in our basement walls, doors and windows were sticking, and the house seemed to be having trouble...coping.
Realizing we were inflicting a no-yard,  no-fun summer on the kids, we scrapped our plans to take them out west for fossil-hunting (those pesky wildfires - from our standpoint. For those affected, think 'blazing infernoes from hell') and went to Chicago. We stayed three days (tall ships, Shedd Aquarium, the Natural History Museum, the tower, you know, tourist traps) and then went to Wisconsin Dells for some more kid-friendly fun. Upon our return, grass was finally in the back yard and watered long enough to actually play on, and we approached the builder about the cracking basement. And garage floor. And driveway. And paid the water bill.

Fast-forward to September, with core-fills throughout the entire basement that didn't stop any movement in the walls, and a new finish-the-basement scheme we hatched, so that my mother could move in with us. By the end of September, we had EIGHT pilings driven TWENTY-EIGHT FEET under our house, to keep it from tipping into the front yard any further. New sod to water Again (hello, new Giant Water Bill) And our own version of 'basement crashers' as we finished the basement - from framing to plumbing, electricity, drywall, flooring, tiling, paint, and trim - in three weeks.

My daughter had a tonsil surgery in there, somewhere. And, to keep my weeks interesting (or something. Maybe I've just never been able to resist a genuine plea for help that involves my children) I am now - lord help me - volunteering twice a week with a classroom reading program, and Once each month to present an artist to 4 sections in one grade.

Since we've clearly segued straight to the pathetic pity party zone - I am going to point out that this whole thing has gone on it's way with NO SNOW until two days ago. I am CERTAIN i am in the minority on this one, but I have a horrible time focusing and functioning when the seasons do NOT do what they are supposed to. I am adrift, people, and it makes me (and thereby those around me) NUTS.


So, let's leave that pity party in the past, shall we? (Good, it wasn't much fun for me either. But I feel better now. Oh, LOok, SNOW!)

Friday night, we endured the usual crappy traffic that comes with heavy wet snow, and went to see the Twin Cities Ballet's lovely production of "The Nutcracker". (That wasn't the Royal We, this post - my brave mother, and my 5 yr. old Siena were on board.) Speaking of parties, Siena finally got to have a buddy party at our house for her birthday (our townhome was WAYY too small for such things), and she asked for a 'nutcracker' theme.  For the invites,  I used a vintage-looking nutcracker scrapbook-page for the card back, then printed the details on vellum (carefully, what a pain in the neck!). Each card was different, and I threaded a sheer pink ribbon through a hole punch on each, and tied the ribbon to a pine sprig and a peppermint stick. I should have thought that through further, as each candy cane was smashed to bits by the post office! I heard they smelled nice, anyway!!

Yesterday, we went Christmas tree hunting in the scant snow, found a nice looking frazier fir, went grocery shopping (food for today) and picked up chinese food (for that night). The kids got most of the tree decorated for me, all I have left today is hanging icicles and a few round colored ornaments left.  I am dressing up the house today too. Remember me mentioning the vellum printing was a pain? I saved the screwed up, pearlized, invitation sheets and cut them into snowflakes (taking advantage of that 'crafty-printed-word ' look). I am going to hang them with pinecones over the bathroom window (still no curtain. Thank goodness it's a high window!!) The rest of the day is for snowballs, making soup, and baking more cookies.

And for counting some serious blessings.

A fixed house, one that has room to take others in.

Healthy children

A yard to play in

Time with family and friends

And a snow day, where we have to stay home. Together.

I hope your day has even more blessings than mine. Thanks so much for stopping by :-)

(Now, go play in the snow....)