And Here’s To …

A toast! A toast!

Fill a glass and raise it high! Farewell 2011!   Welcome 2012!

The Old Year lays behind us. Full, tattered, worn around the edges. Take a moment to reflect on the highlights. Can you find a sad event? A happy event? A humous event? A sweet/sad meeting or parting? Regrets? Accomplishments?

Yes, raise your glass high – it doesn’t matter the liquid inside. Farewell 2011!

Farewell and Welcome

The New Year waits shiny and clean. It’s full – not with deeds but possibilities. Will you make a resolution? Try to start a good habit? Attempt to rid yourself of a bad one? Will you smile more? Complain less? Work harder at either your profession or your passion? (Lucky you if they are the same.)

Raise your glass high. Welcome 2012!


Picking Up

Weeks, perhaps even months, of planning is past.

Hours of shopping, wrapping and baking are history.

The candles have dripped. The baby has burped. The dog has rolled in the middle of it all.

What are the most dreaded words at your house?  “Batteries not included?”  “Some assembly required?”

What have you lost? I learned very quick to check and shake and check again the torn mound of gift wrap and ribbons that filled the living room. Tiny things – small cars, action figure accessories, decals waiting for application – they find a way to cling and hide and want to go out in the trash.

Enjoy the moment. Only once did we wonder if we were assembing a “toy box” or a “boy box”.  Only once did the dog allow a ribbon “hat”. And only once will this exact moment be yours.

Enjoy!    Give Thanks! 


Time to Pause

Once upon a time…..

Do you remember stories that opened with that line?

This was the moment to take a breath, stare at the picture in the book, or adjust your position on Daddy’s knee. Something good was sure to follow.

Once upon a time…..Christmas started with a gift.

Not a gift purchased at the market, or wrapped in tinsel and bows… no, this gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manager. Take a moment away from the songs of Santa, the baking still to be done, the present to be wrapped, the card to send or call to make. Remember the anticipation you had as a child and pause to remember the gift that started it all.

And tell it.  Once upon a time…when Cyrenius was governor of Syria…a baby was born in a barn…

Silent Night, Holy Night

Blessed Christmas!


Sad Christmas Tale

Let me tell you a story. Sad for our family. Tragic for another.

Look in photo albums of my generation, and perhaps the generation on either side, and you will find lots of Christmas photos. Decorated trees, children getting larger – or are the trees getting smaller – as the dates change below the trees. Children posed with packages or new toys and big smiles.

We had a Christmas without pictures. Our children were small, they ripped open packages, hammed it up for the camera with bows, surprised faces, and new toys. This was before digital and yes, we did have film in the camera. (That error came later.)

The day after Christmas we put the holiday film into the envelope for transport to the developer of our choice via US Postal Service.  The substitue carrier picked it up, put it with her other recieved items, and continued on her route.

Then tragedy — high on alcohol and bad intentions the carrier was stopped, dragged from her vehicle. By the end of the day she was dead – her husband and two children left with a bottomless hole in their lives.  A fire started in her car destroyed our film and much of the other mail – for the remainder of her route and intended for out of the city.

Do I miss the photos – yes, I think about them, especially at this time of year.

But my loss was small.  Their loss – the substitute mail carrier and her family – they lost more than colored paper. Children grew up without their mother.

Yes, the men were arrested, confessed and served their sentences.

Yet the fact remains. Children grew up without their mother.

Give thanks this season for the mother that raised you.


Green Centerpiece

O Christmas Tree!

It’s that time again.  It’s the portion of the year when a Northern European tradition, imported to America long ago, becomes prominate in living rooms throughout the United States.

Be they green, flocked in white, or pink shiny aluminum it’s time for the Christmas tree.

I’m a traditional person. I like my trees green. Real is my first preference, complete with the pine or fir scent and a few needles dropping before the tree exits. But plastic in various forms has advantages. You can display it longer, not worry about the dog or cat drinking the water, and lessen the fire hazard.

Decorating is best a joint project, as many household members as possible participating in testing and stringing the lights. One by one the baubles, bells, and balls get pulled from their boxes. Do you remember this one? We’ve had that forever. This was a gift from _____.   This one came home from first grade, Cub Scouts, or office party. Find a branch – larger and heavier close to the trunk and low on the tree. Tiny bits of glass and painted wood on the edges and top. Don’t forget the star!

Are we done? Clear the boxes away, step back, and turn on the lights.

What could be finer than a cup of tea and a carol or two next to a fresh decorated tree?      Let’s get started!

Dress me!!!

Gifts…Small and Large

Has the dust settled?

Have enough of the dedicated December shoppers tired to free up a space for me in the parking lot?

Off I go with a list in my purse and ideas in my head on an annual search for gifts that suit the receipent and my budget. So many things to consider:

Size matters if you’re going to ship it across country. Weight also, but not so much since the debut of flat-rate shipping boxes.

Color and taste – will it be a duplicate? Does she already have a red scarf? What if they went on a serious diet?

Don’t forget the accessories – paper, bows, tape, gift tags (I’ve lost more of these than I’ve used in my lifetime – where do they skip off to at the end of December?)

With my hands on the cart, my purse on my shoulder and eyes alert for traffic I move through the store. One by one items go from shelf and rack into my mobil platform. Wait at check-out. Complete transaction. Load into car. Drive to next store and repeat until finished.

Then I’m off to home, wrapping and a quick – or at least focused – trip to the post office before sitting back to relax and imagine the gifts under other trees while looking at the collection under my own.

Succesful shopping to all!!!


Busy Oven

She’s making a list and checking it thrice.

No – this isn’t Santa checking to see how large a lump of coal a wayward child has earned.

This is Mrs. America completing her Christmas baking shopping list.

It helps to know which cookies you’ll be baking this year. And check the spice cabinet – in the middle of Gingerbread dough is a poor time to be out of ginger. Eggs, butter, sugar – brown and white and powdered – flour, soda, nutmeats….the list grows as recipes are consulted and cupboards opened.

Are we going to make fruit cake? Is it too late? What do you mean it’s a expensive doorstop. It’s delicious. My favorite was my mother’s, but I’ve managed a few that could compete. Find a good recipe with a balance of fruits and nuts with dough. Bake until done but not hard. Now comes the special part. When it it cool soak a clean cloth in sweet, dark wine and wrap it secure. Then pull out the aluminum foil and wrap it again.  Store in a cool place – an enclosed but not heated porch works well in temperate climates. Let age several weeks then slice, serve, and enjoy.

Do the children want to help with the cookies? They can stir, drop, roll, and decorate. How wild do you want them? Did a pan burn? When all is done the kitchen will need to be put to rights and the children into the bathtub. Give thanks they are washable!

Then settle back with several of your favorite kind – or one each of all of them – pour a beverage and enjoy to your selection of Christmas music



Seasonal Music

Joy!      Love!       Peace!      Fun!

Christmas is coming!

I’m so happy I could sing.

Should I try to compete with the bells? We have silver bells, jingle bells, caroling bells and deep toned church bells on Christmas Day.

Or a really quick elderly man in a red suit? We have Saint Nick on a housetop, dancing around a tree, checking the habits of children and flying through the air behind a small herd of reindeer – some plain, one red-nosed.

Is the weather a safe topic? We can walk in a winter wonderland, watch it snow, and slid across the field in a horse drawn sleigh.

While all of the above are fun and pleasant. Why, you can even learn to count to twelve if you’re not careful – I think I’ll sing another theme.

I’ll sing about a baby boy in a manager. A holy night. A silent night. And add a prayer for peace – within my heart and spilling over into the world.

Sing out!!!!



Advent candles

Christmas is coming!

Advent is here!

Advent, a time of preparation and anticipation, occupies the four weeks prior to Christmas on the calendar. It can be a time of reflection. A time of joy. A time to wait.

In ancient times, before Christianity reached Northern Europe, they had a custom of putting candles on a wreath or a wheel. Some say this symbolized the anticipation of sunlight to return and days to grow longer again.

The modern Advent Wreath really is only a century old. You find them in homes and churches with purple or blue candles – often with one pink or rose – and increasingly with a central white candle.

During each of the four Sundays of the Advent season an additional candle is lit – demonstrating the approach of Christmas.  Themes or names may be attached to them as aspects of the season to emphasize that week. Two of the most common series are:

Hope     Love        Joy       Peace

Prophecy     Bethlehem    Shepherds    Angels

So take a moment to light a candle, read a devotion, and ponder the Greatest Gift.