Sunday, December 30, 2007

Celebrating connection

Today was a gift of friendships, a celebration of connection -- but that's the way I feel about this entire holiday season this year.

Actually it began yesterday with lunch with our youngest daughter, a visit where we brought her Christmas gifts (except that we forgot one at home and didn't even realize it until much later! So we'll gift her with it again soon.) and heard about plans and her day-to-day life as a sort-of stepmother. It was pleasant and we're grateful that she seems to be doing well, and even heard what sounds suspiciously like maturity creeping into her stories.

And today was a Christmas brunch and gift exchange with the Cowgirls -- we're beginning our fourth year? Third year? Anyway, it was fun, funny, touching, and the gifts so reflected each giver. I do treasure these women for their wit, their intelligence and insight, and their diversity.

And then we had yet another gift of connection in a neighborhood gathering where we nibbled on delectables and watched an incredible sunset redden over the Yolla Bollys and coast range, and caught up on each other's holidays.

How blessed we are!

The year's end always feels a bit to me like heading down a corridor and opening a door at the other end. I know where I am, I know where I've been, but I'm not at all sure what's on the other side of that door, and it feels both a little scary and a little exciting.

I'm also aware more than ever of how quickly time passes. Blink...the leaves are popping.'s 115 degrees. Blink...another birthday approaches. Seize the day!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas greetings

To those faithful readers who have checked this site nearly daily for the past two weeks and found nothing new, thank you for your patience. I'm brimming with thoughts and promise to put at least some of them into words soon. Very soon.

We are home from our quick sojourn to Tennessee to share Christmas with my brother, sister-in-law, daughter, and .. .yes... ex-husband. It was wonderful. It was not without stress, but then few things ever are, apart from quiet weekends at home. It was good to open gifts and share meals and cooking and familiar goodies. It was good to listen to jokes I'd forgotten and personality quirks I hadn't. It was good to be with family, who love you warts and all, and who you love back despite and because of theirs.

Our flights had some delays both ways, but it was not as bad as it could have been and was for others flying United (although Tony swears that his former loyalty to that airline is so over now). The weather behaved. No luggage was either lost or -- surprise -- examined. Tony's come home with a cold, but we think he's nipped it in the bud between Airborne and Wellness Formula.

The kitty boys cuddled immediately. We missed them.

Life feels very sweet. It will change, to be sure. But for today, it is good to be where I am.

I hope your holiday was joyous as well.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Grateful days

Everything changes -- nothing stays the same.

And I'm happy to say that my brother is doing much better and in fact is shooting pool probably at this very minute with friends in Las Vegas, something he hasn't done in six weeks and which he was pretty dubious about doing for a long time because of his shoulder injuries. Oh, he doubtless has more difficult steps on that journey back to full health, but this is a welcome layover for now, and I am grateful.

Ditto with daughters 1 and 3, at least for now... while there are and probably always will be stuff to deal with, problems to face, hardships to overcome, both seem to have found a respite at this moment. For that, too, I am grateful.

When pain and difficulties seem unrelenting (even when they really aren't), finding an oasis of calm and peace and pleasure can give you the courage to step out again and continue down the harder path. It is a gift from the universe, I believe, that time.

There are always going to be people who are better off, happier, richer, healthier, more famous. There are always going to be people who are not. Being somewhere in the middle is where most of us come down most of the time. And in whatever circumstances you find yourself, there IS something to be grateful about.

Part of an e-mail I received today was about gratitude:

"Life Is a Gift

Today before you say an unkind word -Think of someone who can't speak.

Before you complain about the taste of your food - Think of someone who has nothing to eat.

Today before you complain about life -Think of someone who went too early to heaven.

Before you complain about your children -Think of someone who desires children but they're barren.

Before you argue about your dirty house someone didn't clean or sweep -Think of the people who are living in the streets.

Before whining about the distance you drive -Think of someone who walks the same distance with their feet.

And when you are tired and complain about your job - Think of the unemployed, the disabled, and those who wish they had your job.

I'd add one: at this Christmas season, remember that the cost of one dinner out can provide a hardworking local family with some Christmas blessings -- food cards, new socks, a warm blanket -- things most of us take for granted. Please consider a donation, however small or large, to an agency such as Adopt-A-Family. You can even give online with a few clicks. What you do today can change a life -- not merely a Christmas -- by helping someone find their own gratitude.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Slow it down!

December is flying by -- it's like the wind that's been around here for several days is urging the sun to scoot across the sky and night to come more quickly.

Our days are shrinking -- slightly less than two weeks and we'll be at the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice. And then it's a rush to the New Year. At least days will begin lengthening again as we continue with the second half of winter.

It's not that I mind winter. I rather like the cold days, the clouds, the rain and wind. It makes me want to curl up with a book, cat in my lap, and sip tea while I read something delectably trashy. (Like I've allowed myself THAT particular luxury... ha!)

And I don't miss the sunshine much. We have so much of it in the summers that I like to soak up the clouds and cool.

No, it's that the days go by so quickly, with sunrise at 7:20-something, and sunset before 5.

I've also been knee-deep in deadlines, as if merely accomplishing Christmas tasks weren't enough -- and they've taken second place to the other deadlines. There are no cookies nor breads baked, nothing is wrapped -- very little has been purchased or done, and what's going to be mailed has gotta be ready in a week. I did get a few decorations up yesterday so it looks festive, and we've been enjoying Christmas music immensely.

A word on that: the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has a couple of Christmas CDs out that are just dynamite played on a good system -- they're good regardless, but we've enjoyed them even more with new equipment.

Do you remember the Christmas lights video of a couple of years ago? That was set to one of the Trans-Siberian cuts, "Wizard in Winter." The creator of the lighting display has done several more since, actually creating a company as a result of the popularity of this display.

Anyway, the music is quite fun.

So I always have good intentions of making gifts -- sewing, or taking photos, or baked goods -- and sometimes I actually do it -- but I don't think this is the year for much. I think I'll get a little baking done, but not a lot -- and we don't need it anyway. I'll send fudge and maybe a couple of other things..

The wind has been really wild and is supposed to get more so tonight, I gather. And yet the leaves are still clinging to the trees like fleas to a dog! They're ugly and brown and tired, and yet they still hang on. I guess we need a hard rain and more wind to help them let go.

I suppose we cling to old ways like that, hanging on until they're shriveled without a speck of moisture or life left. Takes a hard rain -- or the cheese moving -- to make us let go so that the new leaves can be nourished, and eventually bud and furl out in the spring. And that will come all too soon, I know, blowing in with the wind.

Once more I'm trying to stay in the moment and not obsess over what is undone or unwrapped or unpurchasd or yet to be sorted. It's a daily effort, isn't it.

Listen to music. Savor the moment. Enjoy the friendships. Stay in touch with family. The rest of it just isn't as important as all that. Cookies can be purchased. Gifts don't have to be extravagant, nor even perfect -- everyone I know enjoys the intangible gifts of the season more than the purchased ones anyway. Oh, I've got things I must do -- but I'm going to have fun along the way too.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Eight years ago

today my daddy died. Every once in a while -- most recently at a concert Saturday night -- I'll see an older man from the back, or from the side, who has his fine, white, flyaway hair or his thin, slightly bent figure, or the crinkles in his face that come from a wide smile, and I'll have to look twice, or three times. Just to be sure, y'know?

It was unexpected: he'd gone in for an angiogram, they'd found significant blockage, and left it to him to decide whether or not to have surgery. He had just turned 83. As it turned out, the blockage and damage from years of diabetes was more extensive than expected, and his heart wasn't strong enough to rally. He came out of surgery okay, but never regained full consciousness and died the next day.

I miss him, although that horrible grief and pain has been gone for a long time. And he would have made a terrible invalid. I miss his smile and his big, hearty laugh. I miss his sentimental tears when he'd watch a tv show that touched him. I miss sharing books with him.

I miss his singing. He always had a song for every situation, even if just a snatch of melody. Rachel grew up thinking that he'd made up just for her the old folk tune "Reuben, Reuben, I've Been Thinking.." -- the second verse is "Rachel, Rachel, I've been thinking..."

I miss that a lot.

So much has happened in these past eight years, and there have been many moments when I've felt him nearby -- especially when Mother was alive, and when she was so sick, I knew he was there beside her, beside us.

He was a good, caring, involved father and came to our concerts and plays and activities. He loved us deeply, and we knew it. He told me once that his father had never seen him on stage -- had never come to his games, his plays...sad.

He was proud of us, my brother and me, and who we are and what we do, and we knew that too. We were blessed to have him -- and my mother -- as parents.

I think you truly grow up when your parents die and the torch passes to you in the great wheel of life. Assuming a good relationship, you will never again have that unconditional love that is such an incredible bond between a parent and a child. (The love of a spouse can be utterly amazing and deep, and I am the most fortunate of women to have found that, thanks in no small part to my awareness and appreciation of my parents' lifelong love affair with each other. But that is different.)

So I'll light a candle for Daddy tonight and give thanks for his life. We loved him dearly. We miss him still.