Monday, December 22, 2008

Finding Faith and Common Ground The Best That They Were Able

I made my way back from my longest road trip with me at the wheel - for thirty-two years, my road trips have involved me sleeping in the passenger seat while my "driver" deals with the traffic. After the training in Sac, I headed south to Hollister to spend some pre-holiday with my sister and her family. I listened to my iPod and sang at the top of my lungs for over 700 miles, Christmas songs interspersed with my regular mix. Somewhere around Laytonville, in the dark and the rain, Dar Williams came on. It was fitting since it was Solstice and, as always, this song made me tear up. Not sure why except that the sentiments are amazing. So, if you've never heard her do "The Christians and the Pagans", consider this my gift to you - the lyrics are below. A late Happy Solstice and a Happy Merry Christmahannakwanzakhah to all, and to all a good night:

Amber called her uncle, said "we're up here for the holiday
Jane and I were having Solstice, now we need a place to stay."
And her Christ-loving uncle watched his wife hang Mary on a tree
He watched his son hang candy canes all made with red dye number three
He told his niece, "It's Christmas Eve, I know our life is not your style."
She said "Christmas is like Solstice and we miss you and it's been a while."

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And just before the meal was served hands were held and prayers were said
Sending hope for peace on earth to all their gods and goddesses

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch
Till Timmy turned to Amber and said "is it true that you're a witch ?"
His mom jumped up and said "the pies are burning" and she hit the kitchen
And it was Jane who spoke, she said "it's true your cousin's not a Christian
But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share
And you find magic from your God and we find magic everywhere."

so the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And where does magic come from ? I think magic's in the learning
Cause now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning

When Amber tried to do the dishes, her aunt said "really, no don't bother"
Amber's uncle saw how Amber looked like Tim and like her father
He thought about his brother, how they hadn't spoken in a year
He thought he'd call him up and say "it's Christmas and your daughter's here"
He thought of fathers, sons and brothers, saw his own son tug his sleeve
Saying "can I be a pagan ?" Dad said "we'll discuss it when they leave"

So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
Lighting trees in darkness, learning new ways from the old
And making sense of history and drawing warmth out of the cold

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

These are a Few of My Favorite Things...

Mom's winter adventure has been a road trip in the aftermath of our seasonal "hard freeze". Driving to Sacramento via Highway 20, I encountered the white stuff pretty solid from the Peg House to Laytonville where it mostly dissipated except for those sucky little shady spots. My lowrider xB and I survived however and I'm sitting comfortable in my motel room thinking I need to take one more stab at the scrooges.
Our Christmas tree is up and decorated with our odd conglomeration of family ornaments. Many are homemade, like this one. I believe this is Mark's masterpiece. When we were first married and living in South Carolina, we was broke. No ornaments for the free tree we scrounged from a tree lot the day before Christmas so we made some out of salt dough. Most have not survived the years but I'm glad his elfen dude made it.

This one was made by Gloria in kindergarten. My guess is there are hundreds of children who strung wooden beads as a "pattern" project in Jane Nelson's kindergarten class at Marshall Elementary. Glo assures me it was HARD to stuff the yarn into the bead holes. Similarly, Hope stitched buttons on the felt tree in Jennifer Sanders' Second grade class at Marshall.

Other ornaments on our tree are mementos. This little Minnie was bought at Disneyland on a trip we made when Monica was five.

The little Girl Scout was purchased in Savannah, when Hope and I made a trip with our Girl Scout troop - a very special pilgrimage to Juliette Lowe's Birthplace.

During the holidays, I see theme trees and trees decorated to match the home decor. They're all so pretty but, at our house, decorating the tree is a chance to reminisce as we hang our ornaments where they can best be admired. The girls each have personal ornaments (Hope and I each got a Girl Scout in Savannah) that will move with them. Monica has hers and her sisters will someday take their ornaments to new homes so that their pasts can be included in their futures.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

All apologies to my scroogie blogger friends but....we like Christmas in our neck of the woods. I have decided to tone down my decor, this year, opting for an understated white and silver motif that would thrill Martha no end. The decorating in the house has always started at Halloween, morphs through Thanksgiving then goes to full-on, wrap the banisters and (as my friend Sandi at Cheaper than Therapy calls it) vomit Christmas all over the house. Unfortunately clutter, even Christmas clutter, makes me crazy these days so I think the toning down will make for a more relaxed holiday. We have brought out the Christmas music (sorry, Eko and all) and we have stacks of CDs....everything from Perry Como to the Backstreet Boys. We love to singalong with John Denver and the Muppets and, man, the girls LOVE the Al Green Christmas CD. We have pulled up the Christmas playlists on our iPods and bump the holidays wherever we go. Hope and I hit the craft fairs last weekend and Mark and I have been checking out lights in area neighborhoods. I am not done with my shopping and I'm sure some packages will barely make it to their intended recipients on time.

We put up outside lights but try to avoid making our house visible from space. We do just enough to be sure Santa finds us. This year, we switched over to LEDS so Mark has been working his little fingers to the bone with an idea he's been cooking up for the last ten years. He has installed the lights in PVC, cut to fit the roofline. Drilling holes for the bulbs and tucking the wire inside a slit run lengthwise. He has hooks on the house and eyebolts in the pipe to hang it all up in one easy step. Understand that my spouse is short and my house is not -- so getting up on the ladder to hang lights two stories up is not one of his favorite activities. This will make it so easy, it will be tough for Andy Butch to beat him again, being the first in the neighborhood to hang lights. On our street, this is not a size competition but speed only. More importantly, taking them down after New Years will require only a small window of fair weather.

So, we shall deck our halls and shove a tree up Angie;s skirt. We will drink nog, make batches of cookies and maybe make our own cards to send to friends. We will also be terribly relieved when we make it to December 25th with our minds intact.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Want to Thank You...

For a change, I returned to work after a holiday feeling well-rested. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday - all of the family without the drama of Christmas. We did miss my siblings and the "kin" and decided we were due for a trek to Coeur d'Alene . Maybe next year but for now, I am thankful for my little family - Mark and our three beautiful daughters. I'm grateful for traditions and, in my family that means a Thanksgiving hike. I recall the walks in Henry Cowell State Park when I was little, with family and friends that varied from year to year. The smell of the redwoods, the feel of a banana slug when we dared touch it. The aroma l of the turkey roasting (when the oven timer was set correctly) when we walked through the door. The fight for the showers when we knew we had ventured too near the poison oak.
In our family, we have added a mid-hike snack and photo break. The food pack seldom varies: Ritz crackers, oranges (preferably mandarins) and (ugh!) Easy Cheese. Yes, that nasty stuff in the can that they SAY is real cheese. Once a year, I am required to buy it to appease the crowd. Any guest (there is always at least one) is included in our family photo, an expected addition to our Christmas card. Also required, training the guest in the "thinking pose" - I think he's got it! Devil Dog (Vince) seems entranced with the blinking light on my camera timer.