Family Christmas

The holidays are all about family. I tried to outrun that last year, to no avail.  But this year it is my decision to embrace it fully.  This will be the best year of my family – the family I have chosen.  My friends are my family of choice and as such they are the cream of the crop.

There will be dinners and gatherings, wine and laughter.  There will be sharing and loving and toasts and meals and good food and conversations.  The Christmas tree is only half decorated, to make sure that ornaments are hung with those who mean the most. Company is coming and I am excited. And this Christmas will be the first of many happy ones.

There will be no more grief. Because the fact is, even though there has been so much loss, I am not alone. I am surrounded by everything and everyone that I want. The foundation on which my life is built is fertile ground. And it is within my reach to have the life of my dreams, full of love, happiness fulfillment.

Life is short. And it’s what we make it.  We can decide to drown in all the negative that happens, or we can rise above and soar. I will always soar. The view is so much better from up high.

The Busy Time

It is that time of year where everything gets cray busy. Between work, friends, decorating, shopping, planning tips, catching up, and everyday business, it is hard to cach your breath.  Add to that the craziness that has been getting ready for the closing, doing voice work, dealing with crazy family drama and moving things up from point A to point B…and Life has been going at break neck speed. I need to double my vitamins just to keep up.

I am very much looking forward to the day when things slow down.  When I can breath and when all of everything is handled. But even in the most hectic of times, we must take a breath and let go.  I have been praying that it all comes together and works out, letting God work His magic through my life. After you have done everything you can do, it is what ever it will be.

And isn’t that the case with life?  We cannot force it, and if we do, things usually end up worse how they started. Maybe we try to force it because we are afraid of it not working out the way we envisioned. Or maybe we, as humans, are just stubborn to give up control.

When this week has been overwhelming, I go to where all the heirlooms are in my house.  Those wonderful things that have been passed down to me.  And I am instantly at peace with the world.  I am not a materialist person, but these items, cherished my my parents, are now cherished by me.  There is comfort and belonging with them.

Yes, in this busy time, we can all take a moment to observe what gives us peace, purpose and fulfillment.  Because on the busiest or hardest of days, that is what will get us through. And now, all before this chapter is closed and other is spectacularly opened, I cherish those quiet seconds, as I am comfortable with my place in this world.

The Happy Christmas Tree

There are times in life when we look up and realize that things have all worked out, that we are good, that life is good.  This realization can happen in the grocery store, at home, at work, in the car, or just about anywhere. And many times it is not one huge moment either. Many times it is a quiet moment, a small stitch in time, when it happens. And when it does, you the reaction isn’t always big, but many times small as well.  Subtle, maybe even unnoticeable to those who are not observant.  But you smile and feel warm all over.

It is the holiday season, one of the hardest seasons of the year for many people. Those who are alone, who have lost loved ones or who are away from home. Last Christmas was terrible difficult for me. And throughout the year, there have been some very hard moments.  There has been some very deep healing. And many times, you do not even realize that the healing is happening, because you are simply going through your day and your life, getting things done.

Last night I was putting up the Christmas tree. I decided that this year, Christmas was going to be celebrated. The tree, the ornaments, the decorations, the lights, they were all going up.  This year, life and all it’s trappings will be celebrated. And I put the lights on the tree, quietly humming and smiling. And then it was all the ornaments, placed carefully, finding the perfect place for each of them.

And there in my living room, I had a wonderful, small, quiet moment. I looked up from the tree and felt a warmth in my heart. There I was in my little house, decorating the tree, celebrating the holidays and my little life. And it occurred to me that I am happy.  Blissfully happy.  In this moment,  everything for which I have prayed: A life full of love, wonderful friends, a great job, a wonderful career, I am no longer alone and everything is falling into place.

And maybe that is how it is in life…slowly, surely, as we are busy taking all of those baby steps, we travel thousands of miles to where we are happy. And so seamless is the transition, we don’t even feel it until we are fully in its embrace.

Then when we get to that happy place, we get to decorate our life however we want.  Because we feel joy borne from tragedy. And that kind of joy bubbling up from the deepest places is so true, so distinct, so strong, that it can make any life beautiful.

And so it goes.



The Joy of Grief

We all have times in our lives that are tranistional. The thing about transitions is that they are often uncomfortable, and lonely, and weird.  No one promised that life would always be easy or happy.

This Christmas is such a transition for me. Because I am not sure where life is heading yet, but I have an idea.  This is the holiday that I will experience the joy and heartache of grief. The last several holidays were spent taking care of Mom and Dad, and making sure they had everything they needed for the best holidays they could have. I have always been taking care of someone at Christmas. Or had a huge family celebration to get ready for and attend. But this year, I am not. And from now on the holidays are whatever I want them to be, with whomever I choose.

This year there will be no big fan fare, no big dinners or baking desserts. There will be no big traditions on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It makes sense that this would be the quiet year, the introspective holiday, the Christmas of quiet. It’s almost like having to clean your palate after one course of a nice dinner, and before the next.

At first I was terrified of this first Christmas and holiday season alone.  But now I have settled into the acceptance of it.  You cannot outrun grief, or what it brings with it.  So I will face it head on, I will embrace it, invite it in for dinner and drinks and we will have a long conversation. It will be hard this Christmas, and that is OK.  It is the exquisite pain from having loved and been loved. It means that I had my parents for 43 years. Celebrate the love that leads to the grief.

It is a bittersweet right of passage, your first holidays without both of your parents.  You are supposed to miss them, and it is not supposed to be easy.  We were not promised a life that was always easy or happy.  Life happens, and we must experience it all, the good, the bad, the sad and the happy.

And so many people want to skip this part of it, because it’s not pleasant. But it’s just part of the whole process. And if we accept the fact that new, good and wonderful things are coming, that it doesn’t get easier from here, then we must also take time for the transition of grief. It’s the other side of the same coin called life.

It seems to me that this season is the space in between the heartbeats, In Between The Raindrops, in between breaths. It is normal to miss your loved ones who are no longer here at Christmas, it is normal to experience that grief. There is a natural order in nature and this is one of them. I will never have another Christmas like this one (thank God), because after this year, life is going to explode with joy. This holiday season makes the end of an era, and emotionally the end of the grieving period. I live my life for me now.

Many memories this Christmas, as I observe this beautiful holiday.  There will be much love, and friends and faith and prayers.  I will go to Midnight Mass.  I will curl up in a wonderful warm blanket and sleep cozy underneath.  There will be joy as well, as I experience and plan for new love. I will laugh and enjoy times with friends and feel the love they send me.

So let this holiday season wash over me, all of it, all the emotion, all the stillness, sadness, and grief. Because it makes way for all of the joy and happiness and goodness.  I love life, and that means experiencing heartbreak too. You cannot get around it. So experience all of it, and live life out loud to the fullest.  That is more than just the good and wonderful, because life is multilayered and multi faceted.

I will honor my wonderful parents by letting myself feel the grief that comes with this first holiday without them and I will write about it. If you are honest in what you write, you must be willing to spill your guts with purpose. Not only to be cathartic for yourself, but for others who might be going through the same.

Grief is a not a place to live for a long time, it is a place to visit.  But to get through those visits, you must be willing to joyfully feel all the heartache of it, of this part of life. Cry when you need to cry, scream, be mad, be sad, be whatever you need to be…and then you will have that part of it out of you system. And when you go back into the world you will be lighter, happier, better for the experience.

Oh Christmas Tree

In life there are many firsts.  Some of them good, some of them bad, some fall smack dab in the middle.  This first is bittersweet.  It is the first Christmas without my Mom.  Which means many other firsts too – the first Christmas tree without her, the first gift wrapping without her, the first year of my life that I will not be buying Christmas gifts for her.  You never realize just how many gifts that a person would enjoy until you lose them….and you still see gifts around the holidays that they would love. But somewhere along the way, you have to find more sweet than bitter if you are going to survive the holiday season.

This past weekend was time for another first. We went to pick it out, and Dad searched and found just the right tone.  I admit, I have never had a real one.  Growing up we always had an artificial Christmas tree.  This dates back to, what I have been told, the first Christmas that Mom and Dad were married.  They got a real tree, and loved it.  And then the holidays were over, and it was time to take the ornaments off and put the tree, well, whereever real trees go after Christmas.

This is where there was an impasse.  Dad firmly believed that it was the woman’s job to handle the Christmas decorations, including the disposal of the tree.  Mom felt that it was the man’s job to carry the large Christmas tree out the curb.  Both my parents are very stubborn.  Neither one was willing to budge.  And so there the Christmas tree sat, needles brown and falling off- through New Years, past Valentine’s day, and St. Patrick’s Day.  It was the Easter tree, the Maudi Grad tree…

I have been told that late in the spring, when they moved from that house, the movers finally took the tree and put in on the curb.  Thus there were no more live Christmas trees.

Until now.

So we went to the nursery and  found the perfect 8ft Christmas tree. And it does indeed smell wonderful.  And we have been decorating it a little each night.  And that is the hard part.  Because my mother collected Christmas ornaments for over 40 years.   And now I have them.  And they are wonderful and beautiful and amazing and make me feel close to her….but they also make me aware that she is not here. She Loved Christmas

I sobbed while hanging the first few ornaments on the tree. It was surprising how hard it was to see these glistening ornaments, some I remember as a child and was not allowed to touch (Small klutzy child + delicate ornaments = disaster). There were all the angels, and animals and Christmas mice, and even the cute little Christmas Octopus ornament (I bought that one for her).  There was the little sequin drum that she made with my sister and cousin.  There was the ball with the cork oriental building inside. There was the Christmas Skunk ornament (it sounds weird, but is really cute).

And there was putting up her absolute favorite Christmas display – the nativity.  It is a sight to see.  While it is not an ornament on the tree, it is a display that was very close to her heart.

Slowly, as each ornament is hung, and each display or decoration is arranged, and the tree  glistens with its lights, it gets just a tiny bit easier.  Because I do feel like she is near.  And because she did love Christmas.

And so as I smell the scent of the tree, and see her ornaments hanging, I find the sweet in the bitter. I find the comfort in the quiet glow of the lights and the soft sound of Christmas carols…I miss her so very much, but know somehow, someway, she and Santa are having a great conversation. I hope she puts in a good word for me.

And a Merry Christmas to All

It is Christmas Eve, and I have to think back on the past year as I get ready to see my family.  It has been a long hard year, one that has seen unprecedented struggles within my family and friends.  I am so very blessed to have another Christmas with my wonderful father, and for that I am very thankful. But this year has also seen the struggle to purchase the House of Mold, discovering the mold and now the process of getting the house mold free and dealing with the legalities of being a victim of mortgage fraud.

And I am so very thankful to have my little house now, comfy, cozy, and warm. It is much smaller than what I am used to, but it is mold free, safe, and a great place to start over.

And with this year coming to a close, that it what the new year represents; starting over. And as my friends post the pictures of their year in that cute little book, I have no desire to post mine.  I remember this year well and have no desire to revisit in pictures. I am just happy I lived through it all!

But then there have been the wonderful moments too. Like purchasing my own home, finding out it really wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.  Swimming my in pool and watching fireflies dance in the evening sky in the back yard.  Taking another chance and believing in someone.  No matter how many times I get hurt, I just cannot believe that taking a chance and opening your heart to someone new is a bad thing.  Maybe it is the hopeless, eternally optimistic person in me that believes that eventually – if nothing else than by the sacred geometry of chance, it will work out.

I have met wonderful new friends that have shown me so much love and support, even when they did not know me that well. They unknowing renewed my faith in humanity with their compassion, empathy, support, and kindness to someone they barely knew, and was not in a position to repay them. It was a beautiful and humbling experience.

And so I welcome this holiday season as the last part of the year.  And it will end well, I have decided, and hopefully the Grace of God will see that it is so.

To end this year with smiles and laughter, the quiet moments of love and family and thoughtful conversations that make memories that last a lifetime.  Preparing for the next year of my life, as I close the chapter on another.  For this year has been tumultuous and long. But that is no reason not to keep my chin up and stay always hopeful for the future.


The Oposite of Seasons

This is the season for parties, festivities, socializing, seeing old friends, making new friends and just a lot of hustle and bustle. It is a season of extraverts. But this season I am feeling anything but extravert.

This year I am feeling very be cozy and warm mama bearish. I just want to be home, or with a close circle of friends. Yes, the invites have been pouring in for this and that.  And surely these are people whose company I have enjoyed in the past. But my couch is so very comfortable and the fire is warm.

This year, after being terrible displaced from my home due to toxic mold, I am more appreciative of e safe place to hang my hat.  I want to make this space warm and welcoming to all those whom I love and care.

And as the pictures of festive parties, pretty dresses, fixed hair, perfect make up and lots of drinks are posted on Facebook and other social media outlets, I smile and click like from the comfort and warmth of my own hearth, on my flannel PJ’s and fuzzy socks (yes, super sexy, I know).

I sip wine and listen to my favorite music, unpacking, organizing, arranging furniture and getting settled.  And who says you have to be and about on the town seeing and being seen to be social? I have my friends close by, still meeting for dinners and drinks.  I run to theirs or they come to mine. It is nice and quiet and small and quaint.

There is home cooking – soups and sauces, new recipes and old favorite, smells and fragrances filling the house. Putting up and decorating the Christmas tree, with all the old ornaments from childhood that make me smile and love my parents. There is eggnog and mistletoe and kisses and laughter. There is the gentleness of starting over.

And sometimes, in the big world, it is good to be small and close.  It is good to make sure that all of our fingers and toes and accounted for and painted pretty colors, enjoying the small comforts that build the foundation of a good and happy life. Sometimes the small celebrations are even more meaningful than the big ones.

And sometimes, when it is all said and done, it is the building of many of those small moments that make a life worth living and loving. Sometimes being the opposite of the season is what gives it it’s meaning.

Christmas Angels

Christmas time is always special, but this year, it is just extra special. Maybe it is because my Father is alive, maybe it is the love my parents share, maybe it is because we are all together, maybe it is because I am alive and not married to a monster, maybe it is because we truly love each other and enjoy each others company. I don’t know, but this has been the most wonderful and happiest Christmas we have ever had. No one has taken anything for granted.

The sweetest thing has been watching my father’s delight in spoiling my mother. He absolutely showered my mother with gifts. Now, Christmas is not about gifts, it is about love and the birth of Jesus, but it is been wonderful to watch my fathers expression of delight as my mother opened everything from him. My mother is the least materialistic person on the planet. She appreciates and loves my father no matter what. Their love for each other serves as example to me, and the kind of love I want to have when I get married, and nothing less is acceptable. Because I know true love really exists. Not only because I have felt it, but because I have lived with it as an example all my life.

I watched and took pictures and videos of my father while Mom was opening up her gifts. He was glowing. He just delights in pleasing her and making her happy. They not only teach love to their children and grandchildren, they live it. They have not only taught us how to treat our loved ones, they have lead by example. I know how a man is, and is not, supposed to treat me, by watching how my father treats my mother. He has never raised his voice or his hand to her. He cherishes and loves her her above everyone else, and would never do anything the hurt her, physically or emotionally. And that is one of the many reasons he is and always will be one of my hero.

My nephews had a great Christmas as well, and they felt very loved. As I walked around taking pictures of everyone, I heard the very happy contentment of conversation. The oldest and youngest nephews looking at the latest electronic gadget, and the middle working with his grandfather putting another together. My Mom looking after everyone like she does, the pets playing and running around exited by the wrapping and happiness in the air. And somehow, The Man has made me feel very wanted, appreciated and needed from many miles away.

There was a flurry of activity as we ran in between family houses to wrap all the gifts…where we the scissors? Who was the last person to have that particular paper, and where is the tape?  We ran out of boxes, a first for our family, so gifts became strange lumpy wrapped shapes. At some point bows and ribbon we just abondonned, as the hour was getting late. We are usually very creative with gift wrapping – even making one gift with antlers called it Rudolf a few years ago. But after the boxes ran out, creativity took on a new meaning. I did have the honor of recieving the worst wrapper of the year.

And then there is the food. Oh, the food, food, food. My mother knows how to feed an army. She is an amazing cook and baker. We have been stuffed with homemade candied peanuts (a favorite of all who have tried them), turkey, and lots of tasty treats. There have also been a lot of phone conversations with loved ones far away. There was one strange phone call from a man whose voice Mom did not recognize at 3301 Glenwood Circle, holiday, Fl and he hung up before speaking to my father, but outside of that, the conversations have been good and the laughter free flowing.

Last night we stayed up wrapping gifts…then the boys (my nephews) wanted to stay with the tradition of everyone unwrapping one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest Christmas morning. However, once they started they could not stop. It was a joy to watch, as I tried to keep up with taking pictures of everyone. Today there was breakfast, then we all perfected the art of lounging. Do not be fooled by it’s seeming easiness. You must work very hard to truly master the art of lounging. And we all worked very hard and worked up an hearty appetite for our delicious Christmas Dinner.

Yes, this is the kind of Christmas we will always cherish, because of the amount of love in our house. I have to thank my parents for this. It is their love for each other that truly sets the tone for the holidays. So much laughter, kindness, quirkyness and fun. I love my family and am blessed to have them around me. It has been said that angels are among us, and looking at my family I know it is surely true.  🙂

Sitcom Moment #37…Oh Christmas Tree

Written a few years ago and thought I would share. Enjoy!

This year I could not wait to put up my Christmas tree, so last night I broke out the new artificial one (the cat peed on the one last year, so had to throw it away).  As I weaved the lights in and out of the limbs on the tree, my heart filling with the joy and excitement that only the season can provide, I noticed the light strand was a bit tangled.

Now, if you find yourself in this situation, please, unplug the lights before untangling.  I did not do this and found myself temporarily blinded when finished and looked back up at the tree.  Well, in the true spirit of a Pinktank (my nickname), I tripped over where the lights were plugged into the wall – falling, blindly, flailing, into the Christmas tree.

As the tree and I not so gracefully fell to the floor, I could hear “Chestnuts Roasting…” playing in the background.  When the fall had been completed, I was tangled in a combination of lights, light chords and Christmas tree limbs.  Surely anyone watching would have died laughing, as I clumsily tried to stand up, still attached to the tree; it jerking and moving in ways that are completely unnatural for an artificial tree, and I spitting out plastic needles.  The cats had run into the corner, shaking in fear that this Christmas tree monster might come and eat them (maybe this will be enough to keep them out of it).

I did finish decorating the tree and no ornaments were harmed…can’t say the same for the tree. It is now a little lopsided and leans a bit to the left.

Maybe Santa will put some Grace in my stocking…

A Museum, a Birthday and a Visit

This weekend has been wonderful, full of ripe moments of family, friends, love, laughter and warmth. My Mother, Father, Sister and Nephew all here to visit. My father has his )hopefully last) treatment for liver cancer, my nephew is turning 21 today, and my sis is up to help celebrate. And this entire weekend has been a celebration.

It started Friday as The Man and I spent great time together.Easy, fun and we discussed all that was ahead. This experience has been delicious. We went to dinner and had a good time laughing and listening to live music. When back at my place I cleaned the house getting ready for my family’s visit, as he relaxed and kept me entertained. Time snuggling on the couch after housework was a great reward for everything being done.

The Man on Dad's Boat, Thanksgiving

I find I truly enjoy “playing house” so to speak. It may sound very 1950’s, but I do enjoy cooking, and even cleaning, when someone else is around the house, feeling the happy hum of contentment. I love making my house comfortable and enjoy whipping about while he relaxes.  I have been on my own, self-sufficient, self-reliant and independent for so long, it is nice to do something just for the pleasure of someone else, or just in their company. He seems to delight in watching me too. He smiles when I trip over the cats, or the vacuum cleaner chord, or whatever, as I am so very clumsy. He laughs at the fact that I may already be plotting to steal his socks (as I have previously written, I have a thing for mens socks). He tells me I am adorable and beautiful, which of course, I love to hear. I am enjoying the ease, comfort and trust with which we move. And I trust him.

We talk of the future, how it is to be taken slow, but how we hope it leads to something. He and I have known each other for quite a while. He is patient with me. He knows I am a bit delicate now, and respects it. Somehow he knows how to encourage steps forward without taking advantage of my vulnerability. I hear his words “There is plenty of time,” and feel safe. I feel safe in his presence.

Saturday I picked my up my wonderful nephew for our annual traditional birthday trip to the museum. Every year his birthday

weekend I take him their. We have a great time, talking about the art, what we see in the paintings and sculptures, we laugh sometimes at what passes at art, and stare deeply at other pieces that seems to stir something deep inside. We people watch, and discuss and wonder about the lives of the other guests. We discuss topics of life. It is just a great time to spend with this young man, and it is our own tradition we have carved out and look forward to.

The Picasso
My Favorite
The Warhol

By the time my nephew and I returned home, the rest of my family had arrived. There were many hugs, and they were tight, as this season seems to be so much more meaningful than the ones past. The last time all of my family was together at my house was 4  months ago, when my ex attacked me 2 days before the wedding.

I have since heard from a friend that he has posted a letter to me, saying how he would still be open to talk and move past this…yet mentioned nothing of attacking me, choking me, threatening to kill me, robbing me, running from the police.  If he wanted to get past what happened and he really wanted to heal, he would be honest about what really happened. And he will never heal until he is honest about what happened. It just depends on how bad he wants it. Until he admits what he did – in detail – I will never communicate with him. (on a side note, apparently he threw the ring and earrings he gave, then stole from me in the ocean. Shame, so many could have benefited if he had sold them and given the money to charity. So many are in need this season. At least then others would have benefited from the ugly situation. Toys for Tots, The Salvation Army, The Red Cross…Or he could have simply given them back to me – with an apology.)

Saturday night was a delicious home cooked meal I prepared for my wonderful family. We talked, laughed, ate and drank in fellowship and love, each enjoying the company of all those around the table.  My father even went back for seconds, which is a huge compliment. Saturday night time was spent with The Man and my family and I drifted away to sleep with a warm soul. I am truly blessed to have all that I have in  my life, and the people are what make it wonderful.

Today was spent shopping and shopping. I am surrounded my techies and computer geniuses in my family, and I am the lone creative person. I don’t get computers and technology at all. And we went to Micro Center. And BrandSmart, my three family members like kids in a candy store, walking around wide eyed and with silly grins on their faces. They looking and grinning at all the things hanging in the isle and on the shelves, me wondering if they have a vending machine handy. I did have a nice compliment paid, as a very attractive man asked me if I had anyone special to buy gifts for this season. I blushed, smiled and said yes, I do, but thanked him for the compliment.

Tomorrow is dinner with the nephew and his first (legal) beer. He has finals this week, so he can’t celebrate too hard. Also, Dad’s final appointment and his cancer should be cleared. This Christmas season there is so many reasons to be thankful, so many blessings, so many things that have turned out OK.

Me after the whipped cream fight at Mom's

My Favorite Christmas Traditions

We all have those holiday traditions. And through the years, some change and some keep going. This year is a mixture of both. As my life changes, so do the traditions. A bit untraditional maybe, but I am very much getting rid of old baggage and things not needed. Some traditions may need to be taken out. I decided way back in June that this was the year to grab onto the new and trash what is not needed of the old. Traditions do give us  and consistency in an ever-changing landscape of life. But sometimes it is good to make new traditions, and new memories. And the nominees are:

The Christmas Tree: Every year I have friends and family help put it up. This year is not different, with cheesy Christmas music playing and the eggnog flowing, it is a tradition that must be kept. And my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree? Yes that is staying too, even though many have said I need a better tree. And, in keeping with my tradition, I may just let this years tree stay up past Easter. Again. After all, it is tradition!

The Date:  I typically avoid dating during the holidays. Like the plaque. If I am not already dating someone by the Beginning of November (possibly early October) I typically do not date until after the new year.  This tradition gets rid of the “I don’t want to be alone during the holidays” boys, and the awkward “What do I get someone I have only been dating a month” Christmas gift exchange. This tradition needs to go, obviously. And I am enjoying this year and shopping, which is a very pleasant surprise.

The Mistletoe: This tradition simply needs to be altered a bit. Even thought I do not normally date anyone during the holidays, I do usually engage in some holiday mischief. I hang up mistletoe and insist any man who crosses my threshold must kiss me. This year, that will not be the case, though I do plan to have the same amount of kisses, if not more, under the mistletoe.

The Cheesy Christmas Music: Blasting all the Christmas Carols I can in my car and house is a must. From Celine Dion, to Wilson Philips to Michael Bolton…the cheesier the better. This tradition stays. period.

The Stocking Shuffle: Every year, Christmas Eve, we sneak around each other and put “things” in the stockings. We are so Sneaky, we are Neaky…the S is silent (just an example of how cheesy things can get, and yes you can quote me). They are not expensive, could be pencils, candy and cute hand puzzles, but they are tiny little things that are given for the pure pleasure and enjoyment of it.  Every year my sis brings the stockings to my parents house, along with their hangers, and they are hung by the chimney with care. Yes, this tradition stays.

The Shopping: This defiantly gets changed this year. Usually shopping is done early, except for maybe a few last-minute gifts. This year, the holidays snuck up on me and I have not even started shopping. I may even have to go into a mall this year, which is something that I do try to avoid in a big city around Christmas. Pray for me.

The Socks: Every year, for over 20 years now, I give my father socks. This is more than a tradition, it is a requirement.  When I was about 15, the style was to wear the big, bulky socks. Well, I just went into my fathers sock drawer and took them. This went on for months when my mother finally came to me and said that my father thought is was sweet that I stole his socks, but he was running out. So, would I mind replacing them every now and then? And the tradition was started, that every gift giving opportunity, whether Father’s Day, birthday, anniversary, Christmas, whatever, he was given socks along with his regular gifts. And I still steal mens socks (as all boyfriends know).

The Pictures: Every year I am the photographer for the family.  I don’t see this changing, though I may have some competition as other family members are also very good at snapping those great candid shots.

Monopoly: Growing up, every year my sister and I would get up at the crack of dawn (5am) and play monopoly until 6am. Thenwe would sneak out, and look in or stockings (something we were not supposed to do). We then went back to playing Monopoly until 7, when we were allowed to wake our parents up and start ripping into the gifts. While sis and I have not done this in many, many years, we still have very fond memories.

Decorating Mom’s Tree:  Yes, it is a fake tree. Mom has put up a fake tree since the “Live Tree Incident of 1971’ish”. Mom and Dad were married and put up their first live tree. They had a disagreement about who should take it down – Dad, because it was the man’s job since Mom put it up, or Mom, because she was in charge of the interior of the house. Needless to say, with both my parents being just a tad stubborn, the live tree stayed up until they moved the next April…after it had long died and all of the little needles had all fallen off. Now we do fake trees.

This has been a family tradition every year since I was a child.  And Mom putting up the tree has always been a huge deal. It took Mom several days to put up the tree, shape the branches, and string the lights from the inside of the tree onto each one of the 2,000 tips. Then there are all the ornaments she has been collecting for 30 years. We each get our favorite ones and hang them on the tree. Oh, and the Snitch Baskets – little baskets full of candy that you have to sneak to eat. The tradition has been modified a bit, it is now a prelit tree to help save time and Mom’s back.

The Dinner: This will always be a tradition.  Mom, or one of us girls, cooks a wonderful Christmas dinner. It is usually Polynesian (or however it is spelled) ham. I tried to make it one year, but used too many whole cloves and it turned out to be…less than appetizing. I leave it to the experts, namely my mother, now. There are green beans and corn, and casseroles, and too many wonderful things to even be able to eat.  Then there are all the baked goods. Mom’s traditional Candied peanuts, which everyone goes crazy for. And the Pecan Kisses, than every one loves. Then there is the banana bread, pumpkin bread, sour dough bread. And the fantasy fudge and cheesecakes. YUM!

The Nap: It happens every year, it is just a bet to see who is the first one to fall.  We all end up falling and curling up in a bed, or on one of the world-famous, so comfortable you fall asleep on them couches, and nap. Happy, wonderful deep napping. OK, that tradition isn’t going anywhere either.

There are other new traditions I hope to start this year as well, but I don’t want to give those away yet, I want to savor them first. And these are my favorite Christmas tradtions.

The Best Gift

We all have that one gift that we have been given, that one that just stands out more than any other.  It could be a Red Ryder BB gun, a dollhouse, a whatever that one childhood toy that you always wanted more than anythign else in the world. And throughout the years, it stands out as the best gift. Ever. As I was watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas, because I am a Christmas sap, my mind went back to my childhood and that one gist for me.

I can’t remember how old I was, maybe 8 or 9, but I was very into Barbie Dolls. I loved my Barbie dolls like Ralphie loved his Red Ryder BB gun, maybe even more. My parents have always been craftly people, but that Christmas they surprised even me.  I got up on Christmas morning to the most amazing gift that has been given to me to this day.

There were all these little BArbie clothes laid out…wonderful patterns and modern outfits that were very well made, not like the cheap Barbie clothes you bought in the store…because these clothes, these tiny little clothes hadd been hnad stitched by my mother. Stitches so small a machine could not do them, they had to be done by hand. There were little jumpsuites and dresses made of soft wanderful flowy fabric, wonderful shirts, pants and skirts, all so very well put together and stylish. A thousand stitches by hand, sewn with love.

But that was not all. While some were laid out, others outfits were hung up in a hand made Barbie Doll case taht my father had lovingly made by hand.  This doll case had two drawers, perfect for holding all the shoes, brushes, rings, earrings, purses and whatever other Barbie Doll accessories. It had a litle mirror in it (for the dolls), compartments for storing the dolls, and even a wardrobe area to hang all the hand stitched clothes – and here is the wonderful kicker – the clothes that were hanging in the wardrobe area, were hanging on tiny little hand made wire hangers, that my father had also made for me. And this wonderful hand made with love, one of a kind case had an inscription: To Miss Ada Lamar Burch, with love, from her Daddy.

To this day, after many expensive gifts that have been given to me over the years, this one Christmas, those gifts are the best I have ever recieved. The time and the love it took to make those wonerful things for me make my heart warm every time I see them – and yes, I still have all of the clothes and the case.  I have the best parents in the world. And all my life, that has been the best gift.



Sitcom Moment #533: Thermostat Natzi

Every family has that one thing that someone is just a nut about.  It is the kind of thing in which sitcoms are made because  when you find yourself in those moments, you literally think, This would be really funny if I were watching it on TV.   Many of these moments happened this holiday weekend especially centered around the inside temerature.  There is a running joke in my family about the Thermostat Nazi.  Very similar to the soup Nazi.

It has been this way as long as I can remember. Even as a little girl I remember my father being very possessive of the thermostat. It was only the adults who were allowed to alter the temperature, well actually it was only my Dad. He was the Thermostat.  And somehow he knew if we were just thinking about changing the temperature. He had a sixth sense when it came to that thing, and if we changed it he would appear out of no where faster than a hunting dog on a hot trail.

Always one to have the latest in gadgets, he was one of the first to instal a digital thermostat. He was giddy with excitement as he hooked this new complicated device, this magical instrument that he could program with secret codes that we could not crack, and thus we would no longer be able to change the temperature. And indeed it was a formidable foe, with heat sensors, codes, and zones.  Until one day I discovered that if you breathed on the heat sensor, in essence tricking the new computerized thermostat into thinking it was suddenly 96.8 degrees in the house, it would turn on.

Now, my father is a good man, actually a great man. He is my hero and has taught me about having integrity, being honest, keeping your word, as that is truly the only thing for which a man can be judged. He has built an very successful business on the principles of honesty and integrity, and indeed,  based on his word alone, he can make or break another’s career. But he is obsessive when it comes to that thermostat and the inside temperature.

When he and my mother built the house in which they now live, he made sure to add a very complex thermostat system, with zones, digital sensors all over the house, and even more complex codes.  And as he has gotten o0lder, bless his heart, he has become more and more cold natured. So, it will be 85, yes 85 in the house and he will have a jacket on while the rest of us are melting. And try cooking in a house when the starting temperature is 79…not pretty.

It is the women in my family that have the reputation for being the most stubborn, and this is a trait rarely seen in my father…except with the thermostat. But I have to say that I am very proud of him this year. That even though he was cold, he did, after seven people complained of melting, turn that thermostat down, and kept it down to a comfortable level for most in the house.  And that is one of the many reasons why I love my Dad, the Thermostat Nazi.


They say the way to a mans heart is through his stomache, they way to a woman’s heart, at least for me anyway, is through my family. This Thanksgiving is special, because of Dad’s cancer, because of what was last Thanksgiving, because of of who I am bringing, because of so many reasons.

As we drove to the family homestead, we came upon a car accident. We were the first on the scene and we jumped out to check those involed. He went to one car, I went to check on the other. Both were ok, only minor injuries, though the cars looked more serious. It made me think of my own family and how we are right now, on this day, in this moment, this holiday, to all be together. You never know when it will be the last. My own brush with death makes me all too aware of that realization.

So this Thanksgiving, I look around at my family and the ease my guest fits in and am so very Thankful. Life can change in an instant, with a car accident, a violent attack, a diagnosis, any number of things. The fragility of life cannot be forgtten. So be safe and be good to each other.