Savoring the season…

How did your November go? Was Thanksgiving strange? Hopefully it was still a lovely day, full of reasons to be thankful. Now we’ve turned the corner into the Christmas season, and it is different. I still have to remember to put on my mask as I walk into the store, but I decided to help my daughter shop for the last few items for her little family before she welcomes her second child and we had a lot of fun today. No, I couldn’t drink my Starbucks while I shopped, but we wondered what kind of wrapping paper her little boy might like.

Candles and cookies. We look forward to our neighbors’ cookies.

One thing is certain. Change happens to all of us, and while this might be a strange time for us, people are still getting married, having babies, moving to new homes and still visiting virtually. While waiting for the new baby to make her entrance into the world, I’ll also be watching my bride-to-be daughter trying on wedding dresses next week. And by this time next week, I will finally have a waterfront property! Yes, we will “own” a piece of the creek that runs behind our house. My dreams have been realized.

Are you laughing with me? A younger me once wished to have an oceanfront home, though I changed my mind after I discovered sunlight made me ill. Who knew the sun could make some people sick? (Lupus.) Since then, my husband and I have joked about the ponds on our farm in Kentucky, but this creek that has a real name brings me happiness. When it rains, the creek swells and turns rather violent. Thankfully, our house is a long ways up the hill, so I can hear the rush and roar of the three waterfalls. One will be ours, but who can own water, truly?

It’s easy to have a sense of wonder as a child.

We are blessed to have Hunner’s Creek, and we love hearing the neighbor’s kids enjoying the water as much as our own kids did when they were younger. My husband thinned out a few trees, so we can see the small waterfall from our back porch. I like knowing another generation is as mesmerized by a creek just as I was when I was about ten or twelve. My friends and I would play in the large forest that had a small creek running through it, and we were lucky that it ran past our back yard.

My daughter who is getting married next summer wants “her” ornaments. I’ve come to love them, but I’ve kept them safe all these years. It’s time to relinquish them.

A strange thing happened years ago when I drove past that old house where I spent so many days climbing the tall trees, and I found that forest had grown smaller. Much smaller than I recalled, and I had to laugh at the way children can turn something small and not very impressive into a magnificent world. What if we did that now? If we marveled over the cookies our neighbor brings to us each year, and instead of noticing that the array of cookies has shrunk over time, we could enjoy her mint brownies with the green icing? If we looked at the lights people have lit up outdoors in defiance of the darkness of 2020? If we wondered at so many neighbors joined in solidarity against the nights the swoop in early and linger too long?

An early snow changes the dull brown to a world full of wonder and light.

We light out world in unison, in solidarity, and turn our backs to the uncertainty of this world, and it brings smiles to so many. I look at the Christmas tree that looked large at the store, and no, it was not the grocery store this year. I went to Home Depot, and that Fraser Fir looks small. I thought about it over coffee one morning and realized the higher ceilings in this new house, along with the larger rooms mean we have to bring in a larger tree. So, next year we are going to cut down one of the cedars that grows so easily in the poorer soil of Kentucky!

Just watch, though. I think we will wind up bringing in a tree that is far too wide. Which brings me to a story. One December I had just given brith to our third child, so I asked my husband to take the car and find a tree with the girls. They were eight and five and eager to pick out the perfect tree. Did I mention that we had just moved to a larger house with a two story ceiling, so when I noticed a tree covering a car driving up our road I wondered. My husband had tied a huge tree to the top of the car, and how he managed to see the way home was a marvel. The tree they chose covered the front and back. All anyone could see was a tree on wheels. Seriously.

A vintage ornament nestled next to one with glitter made by one of my kids long, long ago.

My proud husband and excited daughters brought in that monstrosity that would be our Christmas tree, only the bottom had to be cut off quite a bit and then the top of the tree had to be tied to the bannister going up the stairs to the bedrooms. I could hang ornaments only as far as my arms could reach, so the tree had bare patches higher up. But the kids were thoroughly enchanted with “their” tree. They had chosen it and watched their father chop it down. It might not have made the pages of any home decor magazine, but it made for a memory. We still laugh about that Christmas tree, so this year’s spindly one (for a second year in a row, because it took me that long to figure out the issue) will be enjoyed.

It’s the small things that bring happiness, as long as we’re willing to feel it. To take this time and snuggle under a blanket, maybe in front of a warming fire or one outside, and turn off all the lights except for the tree and watch a holiday film. To send out a few cards to friends this year. To buy someone a cup of coffee just because. To sing out loud. To really look at the ornaments on your tree and enjoy your favorites. I still go out in the cold and listen to the creek. I’m thankful for heat, for candles, for my family. I’m thankful for all the old Christmas carols that I sing in the car. Thankful for tinted car windows too.

An “ugly” ornament from my mom’s 1970’s collection. It’s growing on me. Might be a collector’s item one day.

In the waning days of a tiring year, can we find the wonder? Can we enjoy a different Christmas? We’re having ours on Christmas Eve, since one of my kids has to work at the hospital on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to watching movies that I like on the actual day itself. And no cooking! Nope. We’re getting Chinese. I’ll be wishing and praying for a thick snow to fall and make the world look beautiful, but even if it’s drab and grey, we still can feel happy. We’ve made it this far. I think we can wander into 2021 with hope. Wonder. And happiness.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time,

Deanna

just breathe…

 

 

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Well, the Christmas crazies have hit. I love it. Always have. I think the more celebrations we have in the dead of winter, the better. We need more than one and a half weeks of frivolity! That magical time from December 23rd (I like the build-up) until January 2nd when my tired tree is unadorned, is beautiful, frenzied, silent, exuberant, exciting, hushed, alone, together, and ours to make the way we choose.

 

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Are you wondering what I’m saying? Make your peace with this season and find your happiness. Craft and carve it out so that Christmas Eve is the way you like. And Christmas Day and why not throw in Boxing Day, which is family game day at our home, and then New Year’s Eve Day, the Eve itself culminating in New Year’s Day. Spend some time with family or friends, and the rest of it is yours. Spend some time with you. Doing what you like. And the rest can be given to your family or friends and the people who want you with them. Give them a rested, happy you. That’s the best gift. And for you?

 

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If you want a cozy fire, with classic Christmas carols playing softly in the background, cuddled in a warm blanket, glass of wine in hand with an engrossing book, plan it. If you go to church like we do, plan for that special time. Meditate on what happened on Christmas Day. I look at our creche and sing the songs long known by heart, and I do feel it. My peace on earth, come down from heaven.

 

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Yours might look different. Santa and cookies left by the tree. Or skiing all day and enjoying eggnog at night. We all Christmas differently. If you want to change something to suit you better, try it. Remember that this is the season of giving, but it’s the little things, the smallest gifts that mean the most. A cup of chai tea latte hand delivered. A candle made by your hands. Finding a new song to love and share. Laughing over funny memes. Sharing a slice of cheesecake. Baking cookies and sending them off to neighbors.

 

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Give? Letting that car merge. Giving up a parking space. Opening the door for another human. Most aren’t aware as they wander in an unknown hypnotic state, trying to finish in time. Let’s make sure we walk through the next three weeks aware, awake and able to give, with the wisdom to stop when we feel out energy depleting. Then it’s time to mindlessly play a video game, watch a Christmas movie, or sleep.

 

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I like to look at my trees and look at the ornaments. The family’s favorite tree is the one I named the “family tree” because it has every ornament ever crafted and cobbled together by my children, by me when I was just five and all the “ugly” ornaments from the 1970’s that my mom gave me. We love that tree, more than the stately one full of glass ornaments. Precious, fresh, fragrant and perfect. We choose the imperfections. That brings up armloads of happiness, much laughter and happy memories.

 

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Make the next three weeks fun and restful, exciting and calm. Give a little and save some for yourself. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. And it will be if we make it that way, but it’s all a choice. Grab it. Your happiness. Peace. Warmth.

 

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

Happy ThanksChristmas…

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I’ve returned to my senses. Back to feeling up and happy, And you? Are you getting ready for the big dinner heading your way in a little more than a week? I am. I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving since 1997. Bittersweet, because my father-in-law died that year, one week before Thanksgiving, and my mom-in-law wasn’t up to having the dinner at their house. So, I offered and it became tradition.

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I went overboard that year and shelled the chestnuts by hand, for the stuffing. My fingernails were nubs by the time I had all those chestnuts ready for chopping. And I had to have a fresh floral centerpiece, created the night before so it wouldn’t wilt. Now I just run in to the floral shop and grab a centerpiece, leaving me time to bake all the pies.

I’m ready to set my Thanksgiving table. But the dishes would be dusty by next Thursday and the wine glasses would be too,  so it’s probably too early to set my table. Maybe I’ll lightly dust the day before? No? Not palatable? Okay.

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We will gather around this table in the one room my daughter asked not to be changed into my Christmas decor. It’s tough! I’m ready for the change. I’m jealous of our cousins across the Atlantic who do not have Thanksgiving, and are setting up for Christmas. I love Thanksgiving, don’t get me wrong, but the Canadians just might be right about having it in October. Why? I love the twinkle lights that grace our descent into the dark days, where it feels like night most of the time.

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Don’t say a word to my daughter, but before I head out of town for six days! Six! To see my family out East, I’m bringing in Christmas. Room by room. The second I have my trees up, you’ll know! I think I found everything I need in boxes in the basement. It’s tough to know really, because the movers put all my winter boots and shoes in the basement, and I just found them yesterday, if you can believe that. I guess Master Bedroom written on the box screamed Basement to them! Who knows? But I found them in the nick of time. It’s now a game for me. Where are the kitchen utensils? And yes, I just found them yesterday too. In the basement by my husband’s workbench. Makes perfect sense and really I was missing my ladles and rolling pin. Maybe that’s why I’m so happy. I’m finally finding the rest of my stuff. In the basement.

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When I come back, I’ll have to shop right away. Maybe I should grab the turkey this week?? What do you think? And then I’ll bring out the Christmas trees and listen to some Snoopy music (the Peanuts music from the Charlie Brown special?), and I’ll… wait! she will be so upset. My eldest. The rest don’t care where I place all my Christmas trees, and we’re not even talking about the real one I buy each year from a cold and frosty grocery store. You should see the Hallmark moments my husband I share choosing a tree in front of the store under the glow of parking lot lamps.

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Random lavender, but oh so pretty. Back to Thanksgiving and Christmas… which one do you prefer? Are you itching to place garland across your mantle? I am! My kids crack me up. Christmas for me is an event. Yes, I celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus! But I also make a game of placing trees wherever I like in the house, and my husband says anywhere is fine as long as he can see the football games from the kitchen. The kitchen, you say? Yes! I place a tree in the kitchen some years.

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Back to my daughter. I told her a few years ago that my wrapping paper “theme” was plaid, using greens and reds only please, and she actually brought in her gifts wrapped in “The Little Mermaid” Christmas wrapping paper! She told me she searched for weeks for a properly ugly Christmas wrapping paper, just so my theme would be ruined. I love that! Now she has most unfortunately brought the other daughter to the dark side and they bring in their gifts a week before Christmas, and laughingly place them under my tree next to my beautifully color coordinated paper and bows and gift tags.

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Oh, this? All the books I buy that I mean to read, but if I read them all, I would have no life at all. Do you know I have two shelves dedicated to Christmas books? Yes, I love the season that much. But I’ll keep the pilgrims, oh no! I just remembered they’re not out, and I’m not sure where I saw them. The guest bedroom closet? The coat closet? This moving thing is tricky. Now I have to find my porcelain turkey, and I haven’t seen him since last year. What to do?

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I’ll think “autumn” and inspiration will follow. Don’t you love the holidays? Feeling competitive with your neighbors, craning your neck as you drive or walk past their windows and you see it. Their tree is all up and lit beautifully! I make it competitive! Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Getting that perfect Instagram pic? No? You’re right. It’s about gathering together or huddling with your besties and thanking God for all he has given us. For seeing us through this year. Good and bad times. All of it. And we eat and celebrate and reconnect. And that’s beautiful…

And then the it’s a game of who flips on their Christmas lights the earliest on Thanksgiving night. Game on! Count me in!

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The fun, crazy season is almost upon us. Why don’t we grab a slice or two of pie and enjoy what’s to come. I’ll try not to get too hung up by the beautiful crusts, latticed perfectly, and browned to perfection that I see in my magazines. Thanksgiving is not a competitive sport. Christmas might be, but I think I’ll grab a glass of wine at about eleven a.m. on Thanksgiving and enjoy the people and the food. Green bean casserole will be next to me on the table.

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I have to go and find my pilgrims. I hope you have a beautiful week, and are anticipating the fun of Thanksgiving.

I’m wishing you happiness wherever you are…

Until next time…

Free flowers and bourbon…

 

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December descended upon me and the first flakes of snow surprised my upturned face, and I began to hope for a very snow-filled holiday. While spending time over some very good bourbon with my husband, we began deciding where to travel next, but for now I’m happily tucked away at home, buzzing with energy and happiness. Is it the hot coffee I cradle each morning or the excitement of the season? Do you feel caught up in the fun? Are you merrily preparing for Christmas or Hanukkah?

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I’m back on a happiness hunt and finding it so many places my head spins round. I found these gorgeous flowers at the store and half of them were thrust in a shopping cart labeled “free”, and I grabbed the gift. It’s not about presents but about being fully present in the moments that make our days happy. My daughter came over and made a gingerbread house while I played with my free flowers.

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Have you noticed it’s the small things that bring us happiness? I love Snoopy and always have, and after the dog decided to ravage him last year, I replaced him and he sits, lovably, with all my bears. Small thing, discovering this Snoopy at the grocery store. (I know! My grocery store sells the most interesting things and I love it.) I’m creating a teddy bears’ picnic under one tree and sweet Snoopy crashed their party. I’m happy fussing with my trees and their themes. So…what’s your small bit of happiness today?

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These pretty pillows add to the Christmassy feeling. I know one of the guys in our family is going to comment on the impracticality of a pillow with jewels attached, but I’m on a tartan plaid hunt, and the reds are luscious. Everyone on my list is getting tartan flannel pajamas, and the reds turned my head. Red feels warm and this cold weather has me reaching for anything that brings warmth and beauty and comfort.

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These flowers look beautiful. And I have a few more secrets to share…

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This luxurious Advent calendar sits under my “main” tree and every day, after I’ve spent time reading and sipping hot coffee, I open another day and find a pretty treat. I’ll take these little treasures on trips since they’re perfect for packing on a flight. It’s a small bit of happiness, I know. But sometimes that’s all we need.

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I’m trying to enjoy each day. My cat thinks the “kids” Christmas tree is his personal play land and climbs the branches, batting at the “toys” hanging so deliciously. For him (or so he believes). I know it’s not his tree, really. But watching him enjoy Christmas makes me think how we need to find happiness today. Grab a book and head for a quiet spot. Watch those Hallmark movies. Head outside and embrace that cold and the skies that are the color of snow.  Ice skate again. Hike. Sit indoors with a little bit of bourbon and watch Netflix.

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Make this your happiest holiday ever. I’m wishing you skies full of snow and a basket of free flowers for the taking. Until next time…