Christmas Feed

The Gift of Putzing Around

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Like so many of us, I'm rethinking Christmas a bit, trying to figure out the parts I really love and want to keep, and then tossing the ones that no longer really appeal. Some got tossed since the only reason they existed were someone else's expectation of the "shoulds" of Christmas.

I'm not a mall person, and big box stores overwhelm me. I walk out of both with a headache. So, Amazon and I continue to strengthen our relationship! The buying of gifts focused on my beloved twits.

In between bouts of household members with the flu, I spent time this week in my studio creating what I hope are gifts that will be treasured. Photographs I've taken become books of the year's memories. One special photo got sent off to be framed and then given to people I love.

Over the summer, Phil grew and dried herbs, along with creating herb infused olive oils. I recycled glass jars with wonderful shapes, sterilized them, spray painted the lids gold, and filled them with those oils. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! They smell and taste wonderful.

Earlier this week, I packed them into the baskets you see here, deciding yesterday that the baskets were missing something.

Back into the studio, digging through my stash, and pulling out old ledger paper, stencils, paint, and just a bit of glitter. I happily putzed the day away, creating the stars in snatches of time, doing other things as the various stages dried before I could take the next step.

I smiled as I inserted the center "jewels." I have some of my mom's old jewelry - costume jewelry gleaned at thrift shops and yard sales. No monetary value, but memories ...oh, yes. So many memories. Most of the earrings, I'd never wear. They're clips, not pierced, and most are dated as far as style goes. But, I never could toss them, knowing that at some point, I'd use them in some way.

Yesterday, two pairs got taken apart and became part of the stars. The recipients of the baskets knew and loved my mom dearly, and I think they will treasure the stars for years to come.

The making of these gifts have given me hours of pleasure; creating always does.

And, I hope and think, the gifts will carry joy to their recipients.

All made slowly over time in bits and pieces; all of them made with a great deal of love.

 


I Wish You Joy

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"What's joy?" I asked.

Immediately 26 hands shot up, all of them waving wildly.

One young person, unable to resist, called out, "Joy is being happy!"

"Nope, not quite," I replied. And, immediately 26 hands dropped, and 26 thoroughly baffled faces looked back at me.

After some prodding, some nudges, lots of talking, I began to help them see the difference.

Happy, we decided is temporary. It's great while it lasts, and things can make us happy. A really good piece of chocolate, a great cup of coffee for me. For them, winning their football game, getting the newest electronic toy might do the trick.

But, joy, well, to me, joy is something else. Joy lasts, even when everything around you is, to quote my mom, "going to hell in a hand basket."

After a bit more prodding, questioning, and still some baffled faces, we added to it.

Joy is that feeling you get when you've done something for some one. It's active, and it's in the doing. You don't sit around and have it happen to you.

Happy doesn't take much, if any, effort on our part. If someone hands me a cookie, I'm happy. Nothing needs done on my part, except to eat it.

If we can let go of our anxieties and worries a bit, really understand that no matter how hard we try that we never are completely in charge of our lives and how they unfold, then joy can blossom. Joy happens when we trust in something, or someone, greater than ourselves.

Joy happens when we can move beyond our own immediate wants and needs, when we put others first.

So, I don't know that this is completely theologically correct. I also don't know that those baffled but loving young folks really, really got the difference. They did walk out knowing, I think,  that the two - joy and happiness - aren't quite the same thing.

They know that we need to move beyond ourselves.

And, to me, Christmas is a season of joy, of giving. For some of us, it's all too temporary a thing, but I hope it's a start, at least a tiny reflection in the bigger scheme called life. I hope that joy helps us to reach out to the people we meet each and every day - at least offering a hello and a smile. A genuine asking of how it's going, and even more so, a genuine reaction of wanting to help.

So, for Christmas, I wish you happiness. But, even more so, I wish you joy.

Most of all, I wish you a Christmas that lasts all year long.

Note: These are the cards I'm sending out this year. I took the photo last year at Longwood Gardens in PA.


Great Expectations - Christmas Style

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For so many years, at about this time, my inner Martha Steward would surface.

She couldn't help herself, really. Christmas lurked everywhere. In fact it had been lurking since early fall, if not sooner, in a few places.

Magazine articles promised magic, as did Pinterest. They both made it look so easy.

And, in addition, I inherited my mom's great expectations as well. Christmas meant production time, including an immaculate house (no easy feat with 4 children), an elaborate meal to be eaten early (Said children had no desire to eat - c'mon, new toys beckoned!), and relatives to visit afterward, while dressed in our very best. (Which meant, of course, we had to leave those toys behind.) Looking back, I wonder how much my mom enjoyed Christmas. Part of me suspects not much, and that she was glad to see it over and done with.

So, I don't have sugar plums dancing through my head. Instead, I have expectations. Or, at least I did.

Because you see, I am questioning most of them - questioning how much joy they bring, because for me, Christmas should bring joy.

I began shedding these expectations when my now adult kids were small. To my mother's horror, out went the blankety blank huge meal, which like me, my kids just wanted over and done with as well. We treated ourselves to steaks on the grill (Yes, even during a blizzard.) Raising 3 kids on an enlisted guy's salary very rarely included steaks, so yeah, dinner became a treat. I didn't have a planned time; when the kids began making hungry noises, Phil commenced grilling.

So, I  began to think about exactly what did bring joy; what is it about Christmas that makes me smile, and so far, I've come up with this:

  • the smell of a fresh tree
  • twinkling lights
  • candlelight
  • carols - but not too early!
  • child made decorations
  • spice drops in a candy dish
  • chilling out with family
  • decorating the dining room table
  • collections of santas and penguins
  • cookies, especially sugar cookies, pitzelles, and Italian filled cookies
  • eating when we feel like it
  • beautiful wrapping
  • manger scense
  • an amaryllis coming into bloom
  • giving the twits money to drop in the Salvation Army bucket
  • creating family photo albums with the year's memories

So much of the list appeals to the artist in me - the colors, the textures, and the smells of the season, and some of it just doesn't get done. Especially those beautifully wrapped gifts. Those wrappings are lost on 5 and 7 year old boys. They would never dream of stopping to oooh and ahhh over how I wrapped their gifts. Nope, they simply want to know the fastest way to get the paper off the presents. So, I choose a few people who I know will love it as much as I do, and their presents get the 5 Star treatment.

My husband, thank the good Lord, takes care of the cookies. Cooking and baking are his thing, his claim to fame. I just eat them. (I eat a lot of them!)

My twits (grandsons) will help to decorate the tree, and we'll make chains and snow globes this weekend, none of it up to Martha's standards, but far more precious to me than what Martha creates.

I'm beginning to downsize the decorations; each year some get given away. I don't want the trappings of Christmas to consume my life; I need time to make the memories.

Memory making commences this weekend; it will be messy.

It will be glorious!

 


Currently...

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Outside my window, cars whiz by under bare brances and a cloud dotted blue sky.

I am thinking about the year to come, my creative goals, and so much more.

I am thankful for a quiet relaxed Christmas with family and for an abundance of delcicous food and men that cook!

From the kitchen, cookies whisper sweet nothings.

I am wearing jeans and a soft blue/gray sweatshirt, nothing grand, simple comfort clothes to be sure.

I am creating quite the mess in my studio as I ponder the makings of a documented life.

I am going out later in search of calendar planner pages.

I am reading Storycatcher by Christina Baldwin, underlining words that catch me and scribbling in the margins.

I am hoping to order a few things from Amazon, work on my planner, and do a bit of journaling.

I am hearing a "Superheroes" video...Dom is in the house.

Around the house boxes wait to be recycled, toys are scattered here and there, and I'm ignoring it all.

A few plans for the week...simply to savor Christmas for a few days until I get serious about some destashing, correcting papers, and cleaning.


Here

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here

drinking in Liz's words

wanting to create magic of my own

here

listening to sounds of traffic outside my window

loath to put Christmas away

and thinking of my childhood when we celebrated

two Christmases

our own and the Russian Orthodox Christmas

in honor of my gigi

here

we leave our tree up until at least the Epihany

here

tired from my first day back to school

although it was a good day...no, an awesome day

full of Eristhanes Seive, primes, composites, and divisilbiltiy rules

it seriously did me in

here

enjoying the last few sips of a cinnamon dolce

and nibbling on an almond Christmas cookie or two

here

thinking about what I need to wear tomorrow

to stay warm

as I help to move 700 plus kids

7 blocks

to and from First Friday Mass

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enjoying flickering candle light

dancing inside the mercury glass

 


Brown Paper Packages

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Well, not quite brown paper packages - more like clear cellophane tied with a glittery ribbon. I had a great deal of fun playing with it in photoshop, and it will be finding its way into my journal as a background....ideas swirling in this head of mine! I'm rather liking the "abstaction" part of it!

 

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The New Normal

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I love this angel; she graces my dining room table during the Christmas season, and she makes me smile each time I look at her.

We're settling in for a new "normal," one where there's no dog to greet us as we approach our door. Tuxie, our cat, seems to be taking over this duty, but truth be told, it's for want of dinner, not sheer joy to see us! Cats are such practical creatures.

What has been beautiful through all of this is the support of friends, and one very special sister. In some senses, I've held back talking about this; it seems almost not right to do so in the face of what happened in Connecticut. Yet, the pain has been very real.

And, my sixth graders? So beautifully awesome...leaving notes of sympathy and offering prayers. One young man baked a loaf of pumpkin bread to help me feel better. So many folks wince in pity when I tell them "I teach Middle School." But, oh do I love these kids. Just love them.

And, so we move forward. Eventually, I'm sure, we'll end up owning yet one more canine critter, but time is needed right now to mourn our WhoDey. I'm past the hard crying now, but I'm still figuring out how to balance the mourning with this beautiful season of joy.

A half day of school left...no instruction in the formal sense tomorrow, but rather just some time to celebrate the love of Christmas.


Advice for Today, Part 2

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Look closely at what surrounds you and lose yourself in its mystery.

 

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Take delight in the simplest of things.

 

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Indulge yourself in nature's gifts of magic.

 

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Remember to add that splash of color...you'll feel better! I promise.

The above magic courtesy of Longwood Gardens.