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ten years

August 16th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

“Chains do not hold a marriage together.  It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years.”  

~Simone Signoret

 

 

“You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly.”
~Sam Keen

 

I married at 38, and by that time in my life, I never expected to either be married, stay married or be happily married.

But God had other plans for me, as well it should be.

“Lovers do not finally meet somewhere. They are in each other all along.”
~Rumi 

I won’t say that the past 10 years have been easy; in fact, it’s probably been the hardest 10 years of my life. Marriage forges you, like new steel, and that’s pretty painful at times. It hones and sharpens you, stripping away everything that you once were and shaping you into part of the ‘We’. It rids you of ego and self, forcing you into compliance for the sake of your relationship; fight against that and no one wins. Nothing has made me fight harder for what I need than these last 10 years, and nothing has turned me into a fighter more, someone willing to do what ever is necessary to uphold this sanctity I’ve been given. These years have stripped away parts of an old me in huge chunks, re-knitting a fabric of a million shared threads, with him, that I would step in front of a train to defend.

And if I thought I loved him when we married, it pales in comparison to how much I love him now. It goes deeper, wider and stronger than I could have ever imagined. This man has been, hands down, the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And next to my mother, he’s been the only one that’s loved me unconditionally, supporting me regardless of my choices or direction, who has given me the freedom to be me, and be the best me that I am capable of. He encourages me to pursue my dreams, to take time alone, to leave the house and see my friends, to take care of who I am and what I need because he knows that when I do, I have far more to offer him. And we both benefit from that.

“I love you, for putting your hand into my heart and passing over all the foolish, weak things that you cannot help dimly seeing there, and for drawing out into the light
all the beautiful belongings that no one else had looked quite so far enough to find.” 

~Roy Croft

I’m certain of one thing today, and that is that on a cool Summer day, August 17th, 2002, I made the right decision in spite of the unknown, that in sticking to the vow I took, in facing the hard parts head on, and in rejoicing in even the most minor of victories together that we’ve cemented our union with an impenetrable bond. After 10 years, we still laugh at each others jokes, we love spending time together and we still kiss like newlyweds.

And I also know that what I hoped for on that day, that this love would be redemptive, consoling, life-giving and glorious, and in those gifts I’ve learned that there are a few things that we can dream about and expect; and without a doubt, that they’ll come true.

the cherry manifesto

July 11th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

I went a bit crazy over cherries recently. After discovering them at a local market for $2.98 a pound one week, I splurged and bought nearly 18 pounds worth of them. Then barely two weeks after that, the same market had them for $1.97 a pound and I bought about 8 more pounds.

I know. Whoa, girl. And it begs the question….. just what did I DO with all those cherries??? Besides gleefully stuff them in my mouth. Which I did a lot of, mind you. They are so crisp and perfect and juicy. I could hardly help myself and I’m pretty sure my veins ran thick with deep, dark cherry juice for a few days. I know our kitchen looked like a battle zone following some of our marathon pitting sessions. Griffin was really helpful in that regard, gleefully pitting fruit shirtless so he could comment on how he looked like a mass murderer. Ha. Kids.

For the past several years, we’ve managed to just about eat our weight in cherries when they come in season; it’s one of our all-time favorite fruits and each year as we slurp through a sack of them, our fingers turning purple in our consumption, we’ve always talked about trying to dry them for future use. We have a huge Harvest Maid dehydrator, and dried cherries are one of Mike’s favorite items to put in his daily yogurt, but at almost $10 a pound for them, we don’t keep them on hand much at all. So faced with this year’s bounty, the first goal was to dehydrate as much as possible. Thankfully, a trio of helpful hands made the job of pitting and slicing them a bit easier, and our first batch came through successfully. So successful that I turned around and dried a whole dehydrator full of them again. We were left with about 3 quarts of dried fruit, and Mike’s eyes shone with anticipation.

The process to dry them takes up to 12 hours; we pitted the fruit and sliced them in half, then started the dehydrator at 145° for two hours right around dinnertime. At that point, we turned it down to 125°, placed it in our mudroom (that thing is loud, y’all) and forgot about it until the next morning.

For more inspiration, I scoured the internets, implored friends and sought out anything cherry related for several days. My eyes popped in excitement upon finding a Chocolate Cherries recipe, soaking ripe cherries in chocolate simple syrup and a few quarts of those went in the fridge.

Here’s the link to that procedure; it ridiculously simpleDark Chocolate Cherries. The worst part of doing these was to keep them in the fridge for two weeks. I’m sure I could have consumed them earlier, but part of me loved the idea of anticipating such a treat. And what a treat they were; lush and plump with a rich taste of chocolate amidst the sweet fruit. Dropping them over a bowl of vanilla bean ice cream, drizzled with the chocolate-y liquid was a sensory adventure of taste and delight.

I roasted a batch of fruit too, sprinkled with dark brown muscavado sugar and drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar. Sprinkled with chopped mint, they were mind-blowing; warm and soft, sweet and slightly tangy all at once. They will make a wonderful addition to yogurt, or on top of ice cream, or better yet, turned in to my favorite brownies for a sweet treat. Another wonderful treat for these roasted beauties was to spread some ricotta cheese on good sourdough bread and top it with the fruit. Make it even better by gently broiling the ricotta first.

Here’s my method for roasting the fruit:

Roasted Cherries

Pit and de-stem one sack of fresh cherries, removing any that are bruised or moldy. Heat oven to 450°. Place cherries on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar of choice- it can be brown sugar, cane sugar or any type of specialty sugar. Use about 2-3 tablespoons and just dust the tops of the cherries. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the cherries swell and release some of their juices. Mix about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar in with a cup of water. Drizzle over cherries, shake to distribute and place back in oven for a few more minutes, allowing the juices to bubble and thicken slightly. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool. Sprinkle with finely chopped mint and place in a jar with a few mint sprigs overnight. Remove mint the following day.

For another batch of fruit I made a Cherry Ginger Butter from my friend Amanda. It comprised my very first water-bath canning experiment and went off without a hitch. I was impatient though, and didn’t allow the fruit to completely cook down so the end result was more of a fruit sauce but it’s still an incredible flavor. And it gave me the canning bug so hopefully I can do some more with that as the bountiful summer season winds down.

And you know what?? Another local market is having a Cherry Blow-Out starting on Thursday!! Cherries at $2.99/lb AGAIN. Yikes!! Good thing there are other inspirational ideas that I found:

Cherry Balsamic Vinegar

Martha Washington’s Preserved Cherries

Cherry Cornmeal Cake

Cherry Crumble

 

 

 

 

my valentine

February 14th, 2012 | 5 Comments »

He is the least romantic person I know, and yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.
{{and he knows that I feel this way about him. Funny thing is, he agrees}}

And Valentine’s Day is not a holiday that we pay any particular attention to in our marriage. After nearly 11 years together, there is that deep and abiding understanding that what you do every day of the year means far more than some silly gestures, a box of chocolates or a pink frilly heart on only one of those days.

This man…. he makes every day worthwhile.

Because………

After every day of those near 11 years, despite the inevitable ups and downs of marriage, he STILL makes me burst out laughing on a regular basis with his silly jokes and comments.

He married a woman with an 8 year old son, and has been the kind of Dad that every boy needs. Especially mine.

He brings me coffee six mornings a week, while I lay in bed. {{on the 7th, I wake before him, letting him sleep}}

He makes sure my car runs smoothly, because quite frankly, I have no idea how to do it.

He gladly cleans up even the worst of my kitchen messes, with a smile on his face. As he puts it, it’s the payback for having such good things to eat in our lives.

He is a willing participant in our striving for good health. He cares about what he eats, and encourages me in the kitchen even moreso when he’s happily, and gladly, eating the food I create.

My computer runs beautifully. And he makes sure he backs up all my important files.

He makes this blog shine because he just ‘gets’ my crazy and often vague ideas on how I want it to look.

He treats my friends with amazing grace.

He encourages me to step away from my life once in a while, to get out of the house, to go hang with a friend, to get out and socialize. He knows when I’m being crushed, when I need a break and he makes me do it.

But more importantly, and likely the best thing of all…….

He loves me, for me. He has no expectations of what I should be, and his unconditional acceptance gives me wings to be free and explore the me that I was created to be. This has been, far and away, the finest thing any human being, outside of my mother, has ever done for me.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Mike,  the love of my life. Marrying you was the best decision I ever have made. Thank you for helping make it so incredibly blessed and for making me feel so deeply loved.

happy new year everyone!

December 31st, 2011 | 2 Comments »

I debated a recap type post, to ring out 2011 with panache and style, but let’s face it….. those aren’t my strong points, regardless of how you look at it. I’m pretty basic and down to earth. And after 5-1/2 years of blogging, recaps are sort of old hat.

And there’s no list either, of stellar accomplishments I’ve set down for 2012. While I love the idea of making positive change, and growing a bit more of myself each year, I don’t publicly declare those. I just try and make some little changes, in baby steps and in the right direction, and I realize that my human-ness will always get in the way of these, every single year.

And this blog, really, wasn’t the highlight of 2011. While I discovered a whole new level of health and well-being this year by giving up meat, it felt so simple and easy, like I was meant to be here, filling my belly with good things. Kind of akin to unearthing a pair of beloved gloves you thought you lost, pulling them on so familiar and solid. I think I’ve belonged here, feeling this good and so energetic, all along.

The best part about this past year? My friends. My amazing, beautiful, talented, funny, touching, warm, engaging and trustworthy friends. These people were but a breath in the air last year at this time; something there, but not really, and poised on the edge of 2010, facing down a new and full 12 months ahead, I had no idea that within six weeks of this year beginning, on a very cold February night, how my life would change so dramatically. That so many incredible doors would open, that these smiles would become so familiar, that the truth of an honest and loving friendship would sustain me so well. Who knew? One month you hesitantly attend a huge social gathering of fellow food bloggers, and suddenly the rug of your normal life is yanked from underneath, but a hundred hands reach out to help you stand, in a brand new way. Could I even begin to describe what that feels like? This beating of wings inside my heart, this joy that’s been quietly administered? I’m more of who I am, because of who they are.

May you be blessed with the gift of honest friendship, now and always, and may 2012 be full of dreams realized, love and laughter.

{{photo from Google images}}

moments

November 29th, 2011 | Comments Off

There are moments, as someone’s Mom, that you can’t change regardless of how much you wish you could.

The fall on the concrete, scrapes to the face and nose and a mouthful of sand.

Slipping on ice and little teeth slamming down on a tender lip; blood….. so much blood. And a scar for life.

A door accidentally shut on curious fingers.

Oh my poor heart as a competent nurse holds down my trusting baby…. my baby! and jams sharp needles in to both his chubby thighs. Watching that face crumple and the shrieks that rip in two your poor Mama’s heart.

The betrayal of a friend, the first of so many that will inevitably come. Or the good friend that moves away, and suddenly, there is loss.

The taunting of classmates, horrible teasing, the story of having a chair pulled out from underneath and hitting his head, or a mean kid pushing his face in to a pile of mashed potatoes at lunch while everyone laughs. The way he bravely tried to hold back tears as your heart sinks to your feet.

A biological parent that makes such terrible and dangerous choices that you can only withdraw and walk away. Far, far, far away. Setting boundaries you wish you never had to lay down, to say to a broken heart “I can’t let Daddy come back any longer.”

A grandpa who won’t drive to your new home, saying ‘It’s too far.’ as an excuse not to come around any longer.

Your heart breaks because it has to, because you can’t protect from all those moments, those times of self-growth and change and the hatred in the world for anything that is out of the ordinary, or extraordinary, as it would be. Your heart breaks when your flesh and blood begin to learn of how the world can wrench you in two and tear at your soul. You can’t protect or insulate them from life, the pain, the betrayals and poor choices. You can’t stop the hurt that others inflict. You can’t change the inevitable march to adulthood, with the sorrows and sadness and aches in the heart and you can’t even begin to comprehend how much you hurt when they hurt, how much you wish for that magic to wave away the unfairness.

They break. You break. They recover and you still break. Each year, each new moment is one slippage of time which could break a heart that may never forget, criss-crossed with scars. You step back, you grit your teeth and send them forward

Because it’s what a parent does.

Just Write Tuesday, over at The Extraordinary Ordinary, is on Week 12.

wordless wednesday… happy anniversary

August 17th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

 

Happy 9th Anniversary to the love of my life. I’d marry you all over again, in a heartbeat.

 

love your Mom…. please

May 7th, 2011 | 9 Comments »

For as many times as I’ve mentioned my Mom on these pages, the way that I channel her memory in my baking and how a simple bite of something she used to make can bring a flood of memory into my heart, I realize that I’ve never really talked much about her beyond her astral presence in my life. My friends, those close to me anyway, may know the snippets of her that I share with them over time, time that includes others who painfully join the Motherless Club, and I thought that for Mothers Day, it might help ease the reoccurring ache in me to just tell you a little bit about this woman.

I’m not going to give you her history. That’s not important. But I can tell you what she did for me in the 30 years of life that I lived with her guiding me. Because this person who gave me life, gave me so much more than just a form that breathes, with a heart that beats inside my chest.

She gave me my laugh, and I wish those of you who have never even met me in person could just once experience this crazy hooting thing that bursts from my mouth when I’m amused. Which is often. Because she gave me my sense of humor too, and I use it a lot, especially when I can let go and laugh myself silly. I love laughing and really, I think we all need to do it a lot more. Get me laughing and the tears pour from my eyes, I double over with teeth bared as I about break the sound barrier. Get me and my brother Mike in a room together, tell a few funny stories and we’ve got people almost covering their ears because we are so darn loud. But this laugh, this crazy howl is a living legacy to my Mom, a testimony that she never held back when the world seemed ridiculous, and she gave us the same ability to throw our heads back and let loose when the feeling was right.

She also gave me my voice. Mom was not one to shrink away from the truth. I remember a story she told of a woman who worked with her that could never tell anyone ‘No’. Mom told this co-worker “If you can’t say ‘No’ to them, then send them to me and I’ll tell them ‘No’. And believe me, having the ability to say ‘No’ is a gift, people. I know plenty of folks who can’t do it. But the other gift is simply being able and willing to lay it down when it’s needed, meaning that when someone asks me for an honest opinion, I always raise an eyebrow to them and say “Are you sure you want that? Because you’re going to get the truth.” And I’m relieved to meet people who honestly want the truth. The world likes to lie to our faces, sugar-coating every detail and making the perfect glossy picture that looks like nirvana, but the truth is nothing like that. The truth is hard. It’s sharp at the edges and sometimes it hurts, but it’s also completely necessary. And along with the ability to be honest and real, I learned from my Mom that you simply don’t sit down and let the world walk all over you. Keep your chin up, say what you want and more importantly, mean what you say.

My Mom showed me perseverance in life. She lived through many tough times, and they took their toll on her, but she fought and clawed and pushed through them and I’m sure she spent many nights in the dark of her room in tears over the situations we faced, but she still rose each morning to do what needed to get done. I thought about that a lot in the 7 years I was a single parent, and had many of my own nights drenched in a cold sweat over what I was facing, but I never thought to back down and give up. Someone depended on me, and needed me and I couldn’t give in to that anxiety and fear. On so many nights I used to just pray for some good to come in my life, and in response I often heard her voice, crystal clear, telling me that everything was going to be all right. It might have been just a figment of memory, but at those times it felt like she was sitting right there in the dark with me, like she’d done so much when I was little, and the comfort it brought me took the edge off the pain. If she could be a single parent with five kids, I surely could manage with one.

In life, my Mom taught me many things, but in death, she’s taught me so much more. The simplest of those truths is the hardest to accept; you just never know how much time you’re going to have with anyone. Whether it’s your Mom, your Dad, your siblings or a friend, you could wake up today and it could be the last day you ever get to see their smile or feel the power of their embrace. You just don’t know when the end will come. The worst part about being motherless is listening to people complain about their parents, listening to other women grouse over the phone calls they get from their Moms, the way they think she’s trying to butt into their lives, the annoyance they have with what comes down to the simple fact that their Mom wants to stay in touch with them. It makes my heart hurt because I would give my right arm for my Mom to interfere in my life, to bug me with a phone call.

This photo was the last time I saw my Mom healthy and well. Griffin was two weeks old and she came to visit, thrilled to pieces over finally being a Grandma and getting to see her grandson. She was so excited about this new adventure in her life, so eager to be ‘that kind of Grandma’. She couldn’t stop holding him, snuggling him, tickling his little arms and legs and giving him her big wide smile. After the weekend visit was over, as her and her husband headed home to Warroad where they lived, she began to feel sick. Within weeks she was hospitalized and no one really knew what was wrong with her. She ended up at the Mayo Clinic, and passed away on August 25, 1994, barely four months later. I hardly even knew what was happening. One day she was there, in my house as excited as could be, then she was gone. Forever. I stood at her funeral, my baby in my arms and I could hardly believe that I had to raise my son without my Mom. Now, nearly 17 years later, I still can’t believe it. It was such a shocking exit that I reeled through life in deep grief for years. And as I watch friends of mine lose their mothers I wish that I could offer some kind of hope in such a sad situation, but the truth is harsh and brutal; you never get over it. You never recover. You move on, you live and you survive but a part of you dies in her, never to return.

If your Mom is still alive, please treasure her. Love her, accept her and be gracious to her. Talk to her as much as you can. Show her your appreciation. Remember everything she did for you, even if it wasn’t perfect. My Mom was not perfect, not by any means and many of my memories are painful, but she did the best she could, as everyone does. There shouldn’t be any room for bitterness, because you just never know how much time you have. Don’t waste it.

this kind of love

February 13th, 2011 | 18 Comments »

It’s Valentine’s Day again. And again, we aren’t really celebrating. We never do. It’s a Hallmark holiday, and love, any good love deserves celebration 365 days a year.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a story; a story about a man and a woman, who met each other with a little help from God, and a website called Match dot com. In this story, the man and woman lived a block away from each other, and she was raising a nice little boy all by herself. She liked his smile; he liked her red hair. And little by little, they fell in love and decided that they should marry and when they told their families, there were loud shouts of excitement. Everyone was happy.

And on a mild summer day in a tiny quaint town on a picturesque and majestic river, they held each others hand and said ‘I will’ when the pastor asked them about the divine love, and the journey ahead of them. Then the little boy joined them, they all held hands again, promising to be good to one another as a family, and to love each other, even in their imperfections. They never got to just be a couple. From the moment the rings went on, they were a family, all three of them. And afterwards, they held hands once again -it was a big day you know, for hand holding- while a prayer was said before the first meal they’d share as husband and wife. On that beautiful day, everyone ate a picnic lunch at colored tables, topped with glitter and balloons, while happy children in smart suits with ties and beautiful dresses ran around the room, and leaned in anticipation on the table that held a cake, because it was a celebration, after all, and celebrations meant cake. And the cake was good. Everyone was so happy.

And soon enough, the man and the woman decided they wanted a baby, so they crossed their fingers, prayed and tried, but there was no baby, month after month. They prayed more, and they hoped hard, and everyone they knew prayed with them. The little boy was happy and excited; he’d wanted a brother or sister ever since he could remember, like from the age of 4 and he was eager to be the best big brother he could possibly be. But there were problems, it seems. There were terrible pains in the woman’s belly; pains that scared her and made her fearful that maybe she couldn’t make a baby like God had designed her to do, and so she went to a doctor, and listened as he talked about tests, and listed names of things that sounded odd and scary. And the man held her hand to soothe her (see? more hand holding), and he held her shoulders tight against him and comforted her because all of it was so scary, and there were serious faces and lots of ‘Hmmm’ and ‘Huh’ when the doctor read her charts. On the night before a surgery that would give them all the answers, she wept from the uncertainty and cried to the man’What if you don’t want to stay married to me if I can’t have children?’ The man laughed because he thought that was so silly. But the woman was very serious. The nurses soothed her as she wept before the surgery again. She was very scared. What if she didn’t wake up?  The kind doctor, his eyes crinkling as he smiled through the mask that covered his face, assured her that she would be fine, and soon she was deep in a sleep so black and solid and thick that it seemed like only two minutes passed before she opened her eyes again. There was so much pain, and her mouth was dry and she really, really wanted to see the man. So she waited, and took her pain medication, got up and moved around and did everything she was asked in hopes it would get her to see the man sooner. It took forever for the nurse to wheel her into a room where the man was waiting for her.

But nobody was happy. No one was smiling. There was no joy.

Right away her eyes asked him the question, and he knelt in front of her, grasping her hands tight in his like he always had while he carefully said ‘We can’t have any babies.’ and then when the woman fell into his embrace sobbing and apologizing, he held her close to him, stroking her back and said to her  “I still want to be married to you.” and even in the hardest moment of her life, through a pain she never felt like she deserved, she knew that the only thing that mattered was that one sentence, and the love that had been sealed with a kiss in front of a hundred people in that lovely river town, under a prayer on the wall of the church with a ring on her finger and a vow to hold fast forever. The happy had been stolen.

There would be no shouts of joy in their families for them, announcing that a new life was on the way. Instead, there were tears, a lot of embraces and sorrow, and life moved on for everyone but the woman and the man. They faced a challenge now in their married life that they never expected, and certainly not this soon, still in their newlywed phase. The woman had no idea that she could cry so much, that she could experience such a pain within her heart. She learned to move, stepping one foot in front of the other and exploring her new normal, but the pain within her clenched hard and left her in agony. She leaned on the man, and he leaned on her and the life that they’d started together sometimes slowed down a lot in those moments, shoulder to shoulder, fending off a world that had turned hard and raw. They tried to remember all the good in their lives; the beautiful home, the love between them, the young man who was growing in front of their eyes. But she learned how deeply she could miss someone she’d never even met. She learned to smile when someone announced they were expecting. She learned a lot of things, like how hard God cried along with her, how to lean on Him, her faith and her need to move forward despite the desire within to simply lay down and never stir from that spot.

But moving forward was agony, and it was slow and for so long it felt like the happiness would never return.

So finally, the most painful part of this season passed, but now almost 8 years later, it isn’t gone. It never will be; it still simmers below the surface of her heart. But the love, the one that started on that mild August day, in 2002, with hand holding, the shouting children and the cake and celebration, it’s strong and powerful and seems to get better with every year that passes. The woman feels the inevitable ups and downs of sharing a life, a home and everything with the man, but knows that the hardest peak they’ve ever had to climb came early, a journey that was so difficult and treacherous that they learned quickly how to lean on each other, how to guide each other through, how to survive against what very well might have been an insurmountable sorrow. The man still grasps her hands when she needs the support, his embrace is still warm and soothing. And on occasion when the inevitable pain of loss rises to the surface of her heart, she can turn to him and whisper ‘I miss our babies so much’ and he knows that all she wants is her shoulders drawn to him in silent understanding. The happiness has returned, but tarnished in too many spots that will never again feel shiny and new and full of promise.

And on Valentine’s Day, this kind of love is the only thing she needs. ‘Happily Ever After’ was suspect from the start and really, it only exists in stories of impossibly perfect people with straight white teeth, but what comes in real life is actually much better, far deeper, more powerful and with meaning that dashes the perfection of fairy tales to bits. She learned that happiness comes when the pain is hardest, even when you can’t see or feel it, when the only tether you have to life is a hand in the darkness. Happiness is never found in some box of chocolate, or a special dinner or a frilly card with a red heart, but in the blood and guts of life, of a real, honest, and hard life, the life that forms after the bomb drops and the smoke clears. Because this kind of love isn’t celebrated only once a year; it’s a feeling worthy of a daily toast, a celebration every night with a kiss before sleeping and the assured grip of warm comforting hands on the rough seas.

perfect christmas

December 21st, 2010 | 7 Comments »

I have a lot of Christmas photographs, wrapped carefully in paper envelopes, high on a shelf in a box in my closet. It’s pre-digital Christmas, numerous shots of Griffin, and my siblings surrounded by piles of paper wrapped gifts, sporting huge smiles. I don’t pull them out much to look at physically because the images are stored in my head; multiple Christmases full of insane laughter and a wide-eyed little boy opening box after box from his adoring aunts and uncles. The year he was three, his pile of presents towered over him, and he proudly stood next to the stack, his eyes shining in anticipation.

(photo from wallpaper sphere)

It was a lot, those piles of gifts. Too much, and I had to gently tell my siblings not to indulge him so much. They couldn’t help it, and it made for a pretty joyful Christmas, especially in those early years with Griffin and I as there wasn’t always the best of circumstances in our lives. My siblings never let my boy go without, and helped me to give him some delightful Christmas experiences.


(photo from hubpages.com)

It's hard to express what a perfect Christmas entails, and everyone has a different opinion about it. It's about the food, or the goodies served, or the decorations. It's the pile of gaily wrapped gifts, with ribbons and glitter. Or it's the gathering of the clan. Our culture has given us George Bailey's Christmas, with the ringing of the christmas bell as the angel gets it's wings, or Ralphie pining for his Red Ryder BB gun. It's also given us Linus, eloquently stating the true meaning of Christmas on a dimly lit stage as his friends watch and listen. But in many ways too, far more than I wish to understand, our culture has forced a sense of commercialized perfectionism on a holiday where the true meaning of why it's celebrated has been painfully lost.

(photo from viewpoints)

It's lean for us this year, far leaner than we expected as we had to replace our furnace last Friday. But we're not a big blowout kind of Christmas family anyway. We're really simple, and most of our gifts, in all honesty, were purchased all together last week. Griffin needed basketball shoes, and asked for a new basketball. I wanted a better computer bag and Mike needed a few items as well and so we just bought them together, making sure we got what we needed. There will be a few wrapped gifts under the tree, but we reflect and focus on the meaning of the season far more than the gifts. We count our blessings amidst the dwindling numbers in our pocketbook. We know..... really, it could be far worse. I've been there. I've been face to face with poverty and want; struggling to feed a little boy and myself, shrinking to the tiniest I've ever been because I wasn't eating enough. I've laid awake at night, listening to the little boy sleeping peacefully, and shook in fear over the speedy onset of Christmas, and being so poor that I couldn't even consider what gifts I could wrap for him. And twice in my life, for two consecutive years, the spirit of Christmas, the generosity that pours out of others spilled into my life like a flood and gave me reason to celebrate when the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was about all I could do each day.
(photo clipart from christmasgifts.com)
In 1996, Griffin was two and Christmas was approaching and I was working a minimum wage job that barely kept us floating. It was really an awful time for me, but my boss became my first Christmas angel when she delivered a box at work for me from her teacher husband's high school class. They'd gathered items to give to charity, and as her story went, they had more than they needed so she asked to bring the excess to me. I don't recall how many years passed before I realized that I was part of that charity, but the box I brought home held enough items for me to be able to give my boy a wide array of presents on Christmas Day and I recall weeping with relief as I removed toy after toy from that carton, along with some very nice items for me. Every Christmas, I think of her generosity and grace, of how she lifted me up without my even knowing. We just recently reconnected on Facebook and I plan to thank her again for being the angel she was that year.

(photo from majorly cool things)

The following year I had a similar experience, and I recounted it in this post about my most favorite Christmas ornaments. Again, a friend stepped up and gave of themselves to help lift my spirits and make a better celebration for my little guy. It was the last year that I struggled against the tide that was trying to push me over the edge, and the remaining years of Griffin’s young life were much more hopeful.


(more from majorly cool things)

It isn’t about the number of packages under your tree, as the Grinch clearly found out. The Who’s down in Whoville knew exactly what it meant, each dawn of December 25th. We’ve faced some pretty mean challenges from life in the past few years but each time we feel like we’re teetering on a cliff about to slip off, something happens and the ground stabilizes. We’re blessed. And we know it. It’s hard to see among the trials we face each day, but when we awake this Saturday, we know in our hearts what really matters. We’ll sit by our lush Balsam pine, thick with ancient memories and stories, with glittery ribbon tinsel and sparkling tiny lights and we’ll smile and enjoy each other and the safety and warmth of our home. We’ll celebrate with family, laugh and drink and eat and laugh some more. The gift is here, right now, with us. It won’t be found in a box, no matter how beautifully it’s wrapped, or a meal that’s carefully thought out and prepared, or even in a plate of cookies.

The perfect Christmas is here, in the heart, with us all the time.

Merry Christmas to all,

and to all, a good night!

(photo from teal town)

missing my harmon

November 21st, 2010 | 1 Comment »

This was taken last January, a few months before he died. I kind of knew, somewhere, that it was my last winter with him. And I treasured the time, the cuddles and his kingly appearance, the loud meows he greeted me with, and the way he looked at me with all that love present in his golden eyes. I love Eli, our Mr. Meep, the snugglemonster shedder extraordinaire; he’s done wonders to heal that part of my heart that broke when Harmon died. Still, there are times that I see Eli and I think he’s Harmon and my heart jumps in my throat because I feel, for one split second that it’s all been a bad dream and my old pal never left.

And then my heart breaks all over again. And each time it does, I thank God that I had those 17 years, and that the pain of losing a friend can still be so acute even as you smile and remember how wonderful life was when he was around.

If you’re new here and don’t know Harmon’s story, this is what happened to him. And then back in March, life stopped for a while. And on Easter, we struggled back to life. Finally, we found our redemption. The stories are sad, especially if you’ve ever lost a treasured pet, but I’ve gotten to a point in life where I’ve been able to accept and embrace the pain because it means that I have loved deeply. And there’s never a reason to be sad about that.