Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winding down the Festivus

Wrapping is in shreds, empty bottles await recycling, leftovers are devoured; it the holidays' last gasp. We celebrated everything, even Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.

I used to work with some huge Seinfeld fans. They could quote episodes chapter and verse. While they never had very high strength-to-weight ratio aluminum poles in their cubes, they did proclaim Festivus miracles on occasion. Me, I just drank the wine. Not great, but not bad, especially after a couple of earlier glasses and some grievance airing.

So now it's time to clean up, put stuff away, take time off to toast the new year, and move forward. The seed catalogs are already arriving, days are getting longer, the Geib-style series 500 case I want is on sale and the exercise routine must be re-started. There's gift cards to spend, organizing to do, birds to feed and projects started in the fall that still need finished. It's as if Christmas is already just a memory. Where did it go?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Christmas. Such a Pandora's box. Every emotion, every dream, every hope. I struggle beyond the sorrows of Christmas Past and bask in the joys of the present. La Vigilia, (a traditional Italian Christmas Eve seafood dinner), the twinkling tree, the wine, the love of friends of family, the music of the candlelight vigil, the home-baked tidbits and liqueur-laced coffee, snuggling through A Christmas Carol or It's A Wonderful Life, drifting off to dream of the snow. Christmas. It could not be anything but.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. God Bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve....Eve

'Twas that night before the night before Christmas.....

The tree is lit, the presents are wrapped and beneath it. The rain has not yet turned to snow, but as long as there is spirit, there is hope. Streetlights blink a bright red and green just like in the song, their reflections glistening on the wet pavement. Even in the rain, or perhaps because of it, the world shines. My heart looks at Christmas through rose-colored glasses. So much expectation, so much joy. This year I'll greet old friends that I've not seen in years. The season will melt away the time, as it tends to do, and we'll fall into the familiar rhythm that never fully leaves a collective soul. Comfort and joy. We look forward while we're looking back. There will be time with more family, more friends, more music and merriment. A whirlwind of places and people and food. Then it will be over, leaving too soon. And that's why I relish the "eves'.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Here we come a caroling

It's cold, you're frozen. Gloved hands struggle to turn pages, you can't feel your toes inside your boots. And yet, so much joy..... Christmas caroling is an experience unto itself. Even if you sing carols in church, at parties or at home, wonderful as it is, "Caroling" it is not. There is a special breed of joy that comes from singing on someone's doorstep, lawn or street. You are a random act of kindness, a accidental ray of hope. Here in the Midwest, where December is six steps beyond chilly, home-made harmony hangs as great clouds of breath in the air before it floats skyward. People open their doors; they listen, they open their hearts. The spirit of Christmas washes over them and as if by magic, reflects back to warm the carolers' hearts as well. Sometimes there's cookies, hot cocoa or tea, sometimes a hug or a tear. Always, always there is love. If you have the opportunity to go caroling, whether in a neighborhood, a nursing home, a hospital or street fair, do not miss it. And if the carolers show up at your door, just say Merry Christmas! (Okay, maybe invite us in to warm up if we look really cold......thanks.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

QuikTrip Coffee

Woe are the coasts, both East and West, for they know not the joy of QuikTrip coffee. I know, I know. Gas station coffee. Eeeew. Not so! Sure, I'd rather be sipping espresso at a sidewalk cafe in Italy, or at least having fancy cappuccino made in my own kitchen. But when you're already late for work, or on the interstate between small towns that only the locals can pronounce correctly, QuikTrip coffee is an island of caffeinated delight. 100% Arabica bean, different roasts and blends, even a darn good (gasp!) decaf. You can do the cappuccino thing there, too, but I prefer to get a flavor shot or two, there's about twelve to choose from, grab the dark or Italian roast coffee, then use the Steamer option on the cappuccino bar to top it off with steamed, frothy milk. Voila! C'est magnifique! So don't discount the pleasures of gas station coffee out of hand. You just might be missing the most economical fancy joe out there. Next week: White Castles, meat or mystery......

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Remembering Dan Fogelberg

It's been a year now since Dan Fogelberg passed away. While he was always my favorite artist and a tremendous inspiration, I was quite shocked at the affect his death had on me. It came at a time when my emotional balance was already precarious. I retreated. As in the past, I sought refuge in music. My guitar once again became my best friend, and in my solace I resumed writing. I'd only played and written occasionally for some years; as I often put it, life got in the way. But when I wasn't playing, I was only part of myself. I didn't realize that until I came back to it. This all may have happened, as fate sometimes does, without the tragedy of losing Dan Fogelberg. But somehow, someway, it feels connected. It was the push over the edge. My own "Loose Ends".

One moonlit evening in June, playing on the back porch, this song crept to life. It ended up being a tribute to the man I admired most, to whom I owe so much. Many blessings, Dan. Many thanks.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sparkling side of life

Like a crow, I am drawn to shiny things. Christmas is a heyday for me. Sequins and ribbons, tassels and swags, glass and tinsel. If it's red or green, trim it with gold; blue needs more than a touch of silver. The more twinkling lights, the better. I haunt the after Christmas sales and turn holiday trimmings into every day things, like the purple and silver glass bauble hanging from my truck's rearview mirror. Seems I've always been criticized for my affinity for a bit of bling. Catholic school nuns confiscated earrings that they deemed inappropriate. My husband loathed my silver flip-flops. But now it's the season where anything goes. So I'll decorate the tree to within an inch of its life and tie back my hair with gold ribbon, put silver non-perils on the cookies then dust them with irridescent sugar flakes. Time to enjoy the sparkling side of life.

Friday, December 12, 2008


It is a season of waiting. Waiting for Christmas, waiting for cookies to cool, waiting for mail, waiting for the forcasted ice storm. This weekend I'll pack up bags and bags of cookies for his family, and one for mine. We'll wrap presents and make ready, as festivities are already beginning. In anticipation, there's much scurrying around. Where did the ribbon go? Do we have any ice melt left? Have you signed the cards? Which box has the bird ornaments in it? Did you put that sand in the back of the truck? Where did we put the mulling spices? But then, once the whirlwind subsides, once again we wait.

This year with a rare December week off work, waiting may be my greatest joy. A moment to read Charles Dickens aloud, to drink wine in the afternoon. Precious time to play carols sitting cross-legged beneath the Christmas tree. Stolen time to sled wildly if the snow indeed falls, or to skate even if it does not. Time to celebrate with family and friends, and still have quiet moments in between. Waiting can be agonizing, but this year it is a gift. For once I will gladly wait.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Adeste fideles

Adeste fideles, laeti triumphantes,
Venite, venite in Bethlehem.
Natum videte regem angelorum
Venite adoremus, venite adoremus,
venite adoremus Dominum

As a child of five or six, I was taught the Latin first verse of "O Come All Ye Faithful". I was too young to be required to take Latin in school, and Vatican II was eliminating the Latin Mass, but Adeste fideles was alive and well at Christmas. Being a small rural family, mostly isolated from grandparents, aunts and uncles, our holiday traditions were few, but important. A real tree decorated with ancient and home made ornaments, topped with a spire, draped in tinsel with a creche beneath. Mom's perfect spritz cookies. Dad's Polish Christmas carols on clay 78's. And Adeste fideles. When I learned that song, my father was so proud. It meant so much to him that I could share something from his childhood, and from my mother's as well. They both grew up with the high Latin Christmas Mass, the liturgy all chanted in Latin. There was incense, it was foreign, it was mysterious and holy. For them, that felt like Christmas. Adeste fideles brought back those memories and made Christmas feel like home. Today when I sing those mysterious words, they never fail to bring a tear to my eye. Tears for innocence lost, tears for my father, tears for Christmas past. But also tears of joy, for the love of Christmas.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Snow / Silent Night

As my fascination with the season continues, so does my yearning for snow. A couple of weeks ago the first flurries swirled down, getting my hopes up, but it was only a quarter inch or so. As I drove home from work, the sun trying hard to melt the precious dusting, my thoughts turned to the upcoming holiday and my dreams of a white Christmas. And memories of snowfalls past. While I'm not one likely to write a true Christmas carol, this snow ballad, wrapped around a carol, will have to do.

Just a dusting of snow
On the week before Christmas
We were hoping for more
But the sun was too bright.
It's a gentle reminder
The season is with us
And is we are patient
The night will turn white.....

Friday, December 05, 2008

Runaway Train

The holiday season is rollin' by fast like a runaway train. My house is not clean and guest-worthy, space has yet to be made for the real Christmas tree, neither "It's A Wonderful Life" nor "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has flickered onto my TV so far. But that will change. This year I have a week off in December. Even though I'm five years off the retail track, a week off during the holidays is....... just plain weird. Weird but welcome. I have visions of ice skating, gathering giving and watching the tree twinkle while sipping a glass of port. Hopelessly romantic, that's me. Unfortunately, I fear that they will be just that, visions. Time has a way of slipping, the train has a way of rolling, and I feel like Nell Fenwick tied to the tracks. Where's Dudley Do-Right when I need him?