Thursday, December 24, 2009

To All the Whos in Whoville

(with thanks to Dr. Seuss:)

Welcome Christmas, bring your cheer. 
Cheer to all Whos far and near. 
Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. 
Christmas day will always be just as long as we have we. 
Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand.

What a ride! Beyond the roof estimates, property survey issues (old problems don't ever go away), kid juggling, holiday prep and health appointments there comes the moment of "whew!" when all is ... done. A few hours of vegetation in front of the Christmas tree, Peets coffee in hand, newspaper on lap and I'm a new chick. 

We are anticipating our first ever Christmas Eve at home with the kids and our own quiet traditions. After family Mass, where the kids are participating in the pageant (Gracie is an angel and Dan is one of two bell choir members), we'll head home for a supper of tortilla soup. (Backstory: our family present is a Vitamix blender and we're excited about trying the recipes sampled at Costco, especially since Danny and Gracie both were seen ingesting VEGETABLES at the demo.) Then, we plan to call friends and family far away, play games and watch home movies, and listen to the kids play Christmas songs on the flute and piano. A friend or two may stop by. The kids may even get to bed before midnight this year which means good news for Santa's helpers.

On Christmas Day I'm going to honor my family tradition of chicken kiev for the holiday meal. Hmmm, better get crackin' on the prep for that if I remember right! It has been awhile. We may grab the dog and head to the beach for our annual beach walk (picnics are for Thanksgiving). The evening will see dear family joining us for a light supper and celebration. 

For years the approaching holidays would fill me with dread, and this year I nearly fell victim to the same fate. At the last minute I realized that if I truly fill my heart with intention of lovingkindness there is no room left over for anything else. No anxiety, no worries, no anger. We cannot control how others behave or what they believe. And when my intention is set with love it is only love that fills my heart.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Forecast for More of the Same

Giving no explanation for its actions, the leak has retreated. We are suspicious but grateful. At nearly 1:00 am I sit in an otherwise silent house listening to rain drumming off the roof, the gutters, the deck. Weather that would lend a cozy vibe to the holiday preparations instead is causing us to glance at the ceiling – every ceiling  in every room – frequently for signs of moisture.

Not a time to stick my noggin in a puddle and pretend it isn't happening, is it?

A dear neighbor has given me the number of a fellow who might do an interim check and repair. Meanwhile yet another roofing company will come out next week to give an estimate for whole roof replacement, and we're even having a heating fellow evaluate why only half the house seems to receive warmth at any given time.

A three cat, two Bordeaux (the See's variety) night if ever there was one.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Umbrellas in the House

This is the year I knew the roof would not hold. I started getting estimates several years back, watching carefully after every storm to see if the cedar shakes were flat or standing tall. Or, worse still, scattered throughout the yard! Around September I prepared Joe for the fact that 2009 was the Big One.

Two estimates later I held out a little hope that we might slip into spring without too much trouble. Then, last night, Danny shouted that it was raining on his homework. He had blamed his sister for dripping water on it earlier but now had to apologize because he clearly saw the drop coming from the kitchen ceiling.

Oh, dear. Today is the day I get quote number 3, see if we need emergency leak repair to tide us over until the storms pass, and hope the ceiling doesn't drop in on the kitchen table.

Everybody grin and pass the Tylenol.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rainy Day Blues

We've been brewing the storms the rest of the country is shivering through this week. Our days are drizzly and nights are stone cold. Three dog, three cat nights for sure.

A deep sadness is wrapped around my shoulders and I can't shrug it off. The year has brought transitions of  many family members and beloved friends and their absence is keenly felt. New losses revive old. Keeping alive memories of grandparents my children have never met takes great effort. There are days I miss the voice over the phone, the presence in a house, or their minds' reach into shared history and the grief returns. What do you call sadness beyond tears?

I have always understood when people in their eighties or nineties expressed sorrow that they have outlived all their friends and family. It is not just being "alone" that crushes the spirit, for caregivers can be hired or provided, young friends can be made. No, it is the irreplaceable loss of those who share the memories of your life, who know the context of you. In midlife we look back to reconnect with childhood friends for the same reason, knowing that the understanding will still be there.

Remember the ditty, "Make new friends/but keep the old/one is silver/and the other gold"? I have in my life several "gold" friends who have been with me through years, miles and all kinds of weather. Even in sadness I cherish these friends. Somewhere amidst the day's chill I will turn away from the rain and look for the warmth of their presence in my life.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feast on the Beach

Ah, before we move into the next holiday zone a few tasty words about Thanksgiving.

Somewhere in the last decade I lost my spiritual center for the two holidays most dear to me. Without that spirit there is only food for Thanksgiving and a to-do list for Christmas. I needed to reclaim the joy, the sense of wonder and gratitude the months of November and December represent. Desperate and depressed, an image of water came to mind.

Water to a California transplant means "ocean."

Hmmm, Thanksgiving near the ocean. Okay. Then the real idea formed. Warm ocean is not something we have around here; it's only in the southern part of California that "warm" is connected to "ocean," especially in November. And Southern California has not only beautiful beaches but one place two children would love to return to before growing too old to appreciate the simple pleasures found there. Anyone? That's right: LEGOLAND! (You were thinking about the Mouse, right?) No, Legoland is much more our speed.

That's what we did. We drove down to Carlsbad and spent a glorious sunny day on the beach, eating a take-out turkey (and pastrami for Danny) feast on the beach. The kids played in the waves and we all laughed at the dogs parading their people. We toasted my mom, who should have been celebrating her 80th birthday on earth, not heaven. We were together, the four of us; tightly bound, gently blessed. We decided that we had a new Thanksgiving tradition and would have to celebrate every year on a beach.

We spent two days at the theme park, talking Danny into getting on rides he soon refused to get off. He loved the water canons and Gracie was fascinated by MiniLand. We were one of the last to leave the park despite the drizzle, reluctant to say farewell to our adventure.

Our hotel was across from the beach, a last minute find but quite nice, with a simple kitchen, small living room and bedroom. Two days in we were getting ready to head out when Dan reported that the ceiling was leaking. Indeed. The woman above flooded the bathroom from her shower and we received most of the water through the light fixture (zzzzzapt!) and ceiling drywall. Knowing that we'd have to move to another property or room when we returned put a small damper on my enthusiasm (I'm the kind of traveller who unpacks immediately and likes the room to feel like home) but did not wreck the magic. Strong magic it was.

The last morning we went to Mission San Juan Capistrano for the Latin Mass in the Serra Chapel. I had been hoping for a beautiful experience but the "no joy here" was okay, too, so the kids could see the difference with their own open and loving parish at home. There was a shrine to St. Peregrine, the "cancer saint" (who knew?) and I delved a bit into that story. We stayed longer than we planned.

Driving back home we received a text message on my smarter-than-me phone announcing the early arrival of a cousin. New life — remembrance of life gone before — living every moment with awareness.

That was our Thanksgiving. Who knows what we have planned for Christmas...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Grinch Has Something to Say

"And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. 'What if Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?'"

We will again be pursuing a Christmas of less, a season of more, with gifts of ourselves and our time wrapped in love. Join us in spirit wherever you are.