Saturday, December 19, 2009

Turning the Corner Again


It's going to be a very busy week for me. I'll have to do overtime to get all my work done. Thought I'd better post something while I have a work-free day.

We had a great Solstice party/potluck/gabfest/jam session last night. The turkey was moist and tasty, the assorted pot-luck contributions were all wonderful, and the weather was much nicer for driving than last year! Not as many people as previous years, but good friends all. I heard a thing on NPR a few days ago about writing your own Christmas cards. My favorite was from a caller sharing the card she'd written...

"Many things have lost in value this year. But our friends keep appreciating."

I like that. Yes, it's been more of a roller-coaster year than usual. I've been very blessed to be in a secure job. Seems like everyone has a friend who has not been so lucky. Some of our high spots were a good sales week at the Weiser Fiddle Contest, two weeks of violin-making workshop, and finishing his first violin for hubby. A fun week at dance summer school, a raise, and a great gardening season for me. Another year of getting to know all our good friends even more, and re-connecting with long-lost friends on Facebook. Plus we're spending the holidays with my parents - something I treasure more and more as we all age.

In some ways, we can look at the hard times as a silver lining. We've had to think more carefully about how we spend money. But in doing that we've grown more of our own food, started canning and preserving for the cold months, and cut down on the expensive processed stuff. A friend who recently discovered an allergy to corn has got us taking another look at what we eat, and how we can reduce our intake of the ubiquitous "king corn". What a long-term project that's going to be! I may end up making my own granola.

Another change I'm making is to use more cash rather than the debit card. All those banking fees cost money for the local merchants you may be trying to support (like us!), which makes things more expensive for the buyer. And why the heck should we give even more of our money to the banking system than we have to? Although I don't usually make a big deal of my new year resolutions, using cash more often is one way I *can* make a difference. If you want to know more, have a look at this web-page; Use Cash.

The actual solstice event is Monday the 21st. On the darkest day of the year we remember that the corner is turned, the light is already growing. I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and a much better New Year!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent

New beginnings, anniversaries...another winter comes.

I love winters in Idaho. It's my sixth one and I never tire of the snow, the rain, the cold, the wind, the orange moon rising over snowy Shaffer Butte. I've wanted to live in this part of the country for a long, long time. Now, here I am.

I love this time of year. I give a lot of credit to my parents for that. They raised us to think of the Christmas season as what it's meant to be; a celebration of love, forgiveness, and new hope. A time to be with family, make and eat traditional foods, make music and sing, and enjoy celebrations with friends. And now, for me, it's also a time to remember when my husband and I began dating, at the Solstice party he gave in 2004.

Since then, he and I have worked out a blend of our family traditions. We'll throw a Solstice party/potluck/jam session, something he's done for years with his friends and family. On Christmas Eve we get together with my sister, and she and I put together our family's traditional meal. We open one or two presents, eat cookies and fudge, and sing carols.

Christmas morning Santa still comes, leaving floury footprints between fireplace and tree. The kids come over and we open presents in turn, eat oranges and chocolate, take pictures, and laugh a lot.

Since my sister adopted Jasmine, we've added a few new things to our holiday customs. One Saturday before Christmas I take Jasmine shopping for her mom's present while mom shops, then we'll meet for lunch. On another day we'll get together to make our family Christmas cookies.

I have trouble with all the hype and pressure surrounding present giving. I don't recall anyone in my immediate family ever worrying about "competing" to give the biggest or most expensive gift. Gift-giving is not a status-improver, not a contest. I prefer to make or buy gifts that seem special to me, that express something about the recipient's personality, a gift that shows thought. Of course it isn't always possible, but it's what I try for. And getting gifts that show the person put thought and time into choosing it or making it, is what means the most to me.

May your holiday be all you want it to be.

"Green is in the mistletoe, and red is in the holly,
Silver in the stars above that shine on everybody.
Gold is in the candlelight, and crimson in the embers.
White is in the winter night that everyone remembers..."

from the CD 'And Winter Came...', by Enya