Archive for December 2010

Happy Holidays

December 27, 2010

To all my faithful readers who celebrate Christmas, I hope your Christmas was filled with family and fun. I also wish you the very happiest new year. May 2011 bring us peace within ourselves, our families, our surroundings, our country and our world.

Many of you know of the spontaneous singing videos featuring the Hallelujah Chorus. Our choir sang this for many years so I’m familiar with it and love it. I also was a teacher as was my mother. I have a sister who teaches as well as a few cousins. So that aspect of this video with a teacher doing something special with students appealed to me. You also know my oldest son lives in Alaska, and if I could spend more time up there, I would.  Snow and cold don’t bother me.  I’ve always wanted to get back into the small, bush communities that he often visits because of his work.

So this Youtube video of the Hallelujah chorus immediately called out to me when I heard about it. I’m posting this video below: I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. See you in 2011!

Can you believe that date?

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The Bitter and Sweet of Christmas

December 19, 2010

Mid December Sunrise

A week from today Christmas will be another memory for many of us—except for clearing away the debris of ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper. This is why several years ago I adopted my sister-in-law’s view that Christmas lasts 12 days just like the song. Following that principle makes the rush a bit easier as I don’t try to have everything done by December 24th.

Today I’ve baked in preparation of sending my Alaska son’s his favorite cookies. Those will get mailed tomorrow. But right now, I get to enjoy their wonderful aroma while I know I won’t touch a one as I’m sending them as a gift.

I’ve mentioned before that December is a bittersweet month for me. It’s sweet as I love the holiday and always have. It’s bitter as my son and grandfather both died within a day or so of December 24th. So I fight silent tears more than a few times during the month, especially in this coming week. It’s also bitter as my family isn’t together on this holiday. And that always brings me to remembering past Christmases where we were all together.

What I have realized is that while I treasure those memories, at the time “something” was always present that made the moment less than perfect. For example, in my childhood, while all my siblings and my grandparents were with us, very often my dad would be gone as he worked for the highway department and was often called in because of a storm.

When I married and had my own family, very often the “perfect” Christmas dimmed a bit because one of my sons was disappointed with Christmas gifts. While that didn’t happen too often, since money was usually tight, they usually got one thing they really wanted instead of several items that might have been on their Christmas lists.

So while I may not have all my immediate family around me this Christmas, I will be celebrating Christmas Eve with my sisters, their children and grandchildren, my husband and son. We will miss those who can’t join us, but we know those who live away will be surrounded by friends. And we have telephones to stay in touch. And memories of Christmases past which we all share. We are a close family and sometimes a little bit crazy. I guarantee we’ll sing a lot, eat a lot, and enjoy the antics of the youngest generation as they tear apart Christmas packages.

I hope your holiday celebration is all you hope for. If you live in the Midwest I hope the weather makes it easy for you to achieve your plans. If you have a bit of the bitter in your celebration, I hope you can dwell on the sweetness that can be found if you look for it.

Merry Christmas to all.

My Gift-giving Grampa

December 12, 2010

Snow again

We’re definitely into December. Yesterday and today many parts of the Midwest and Wisconsin have endured blizzard conditions. In my little portion of the world torrential rains fell yesterday which turned to heavy blowing snow about 7 AM this morning. It’s been snowing and blowing all day, and the lake has been throwing huge waves against the shore all day.

Weather forecasters have been calling this storm a blizzard, and while not so here, other places not far away have been hammered. All day I’ve been thinking about similar snowstorms in December. Those thoughts bring me to thoughts of my maternal grandfather who died in such a storm 51 years ago. He was shoveling snow.

He is always in my heart but much on my mind in December. He loved December—maybe because as a farmer, this time of the year may not have been such a busy time for him. However, I think it was because he loved Christmas. Like many farmers, he had a deep faith and loved the religious aspects of the holiday.

But he had a bit of the mischievous Santa elf in his make-up and loved to surprise his family with silly little gifts.  He adored his wife, and Christmas was a time he expressed it with special gifts for her. These three parts of his nature are what make me think so much of him during this time of year.

Why?

Not long after I was born, my father left for the South Pacific during WWII and we never saw him for three years. This was the time when letters were few and far between; the internet, Skype, email etc where beyond imagining. So the dominant male figure in my early life was my grandfather as we lived with my grandparents while my father was gone.

My earliest memories of Grandpa were of wrapping little gifts with him. Well, early on I watched, but since this wasn’t a job he particularly liked (or excelled at), I inherited the job as soon as I was able to wrap. Those early attempts of mine were pretty sad, but he always praised me and never tried to make my efforts look better. We did this for years and I always looked forward to that special time between the two of us.

He died two days before Christmas. He had already done his shopping, and I had wrapped his gifts; however, he hid them, and I had no way of knowing where they were. His death dimmed everything about that Christmas. No one was thinking about gifts. But in the months following his death as my grandmother and I were clearing out the home they shared, we found those gifts. Each time we found one, Gram clasped them to her heart, and we both cried. It was if Grandpa had returned to us for just a bit.  Of course, a little bit wasn’t enough. He was such a special man.

But because he was so special, we as a family knew we could never give up the Christmas traditions he loved. To this day we still gather as a family, one much larger than the one that celebrated with him. We did multiply. 🙂

Because of my grandfather and the love he and my grandmother shared, when she died 34 years ago, 12 days before Christmas, I was devastated. But I knew she was now celebrating Christmas with the man she loved—and most likely he had years of Christmas gifts hidden and waiting for her to find in heaven. Because of Grandpa and all I learned from him, when 11 years ago, my second son died 3 days before Christmas, I knew I could carry on, bear through, and not be sad. Because John was surely meeting his great-grandfather for the first time.

So Christmas and its preparations are bittersweet for me. On days like today with fierce winds and heavy snow, my heart aches with the losses of those I love. When I wrap gifts, I think of Grandpa and all the wonderful values he taught me: the love of God, the love of family, the joys of Christmas and giving, I could go on for pages. Since today I wrapped packages, I think Grampa was looking over my shoulder and giving me that impish smile I loved.

I’ve been very blessed with special people in my life. But today was a time one of the first of those was with me much.

Have you had days when you’ve felt the same?

Everyday People:Some Observations

December 5, 2010

First Snowfall on Snowflakes

I was reading an article in the Entertainment section of our paper this morning about Pixar, the animated movie company which makes the films people love to see—over and over again. You know, movies such as UP, Ratatouille, Wall-E, and the Toy Story trilogy.

It seems the head of Pixar is very unhappy that Toy Story 3 which has garnered incredibly great reviews from everybody, gets the audiences of all ages emotionally involved, has great voice over work from major stars, made more money than other films this year, but will not be a likely contender for the top movie award, the Oscars.

So the man intends to start a serious money campaign to change how the voters view contenders.  The point the writer made was the man should save his money and keep making the films people love to see, over and over again, and remember.

I have to say I agree with him. Not only in relation to movies, but also books, television, and people.

Think about this. Maybe I’m a low-brow, but several recent Oscar winning movies were ones I really thought were a waste of my money, and sometimes worse, my time. Many of the books Oprah chose for her book club reads, I couldn’t finish—or didn’t want to, so now I don’t bother.  Of course, the two announced today I’ve already read—twice, and I didn’t need some “expert” to tell me to read them. If you didn’t hear, Oprah (and I do respect her) chose A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations for her next reads. However, I expect Dickens didn’t have the money to a ready audience for his work.

And for people? Most of the most meaningful people in my life haven’t won awards or garnered any kind of publicity. They’re people who get up every morning and go about doing whatever their lives demand. They do it well and without expectation of great glory. They are everyday heroines and heroes. They don’t waste time or money trying to get others to determine their value.

I am blessed for having them and learning from them. My hope is I’m doing the same with my life and once my days have come and gone, I will be remembered by those I’ve encountered as one who always did her job as best she could.

As I think about this idea in relation to my writing, I realized that I write from my heart and about people I believe in, even if they are fictional characters. I want them to have the strength to deal with whatever crisis I create for them—and do it with no expectation of awards or accolades. Just their own happy ending.

Everyday Beauty of a Snowfall

So I hope that the Pixar guy rethinks spending tons of money on what could be a losing battle. I hope instead we soon see another uplifting movie, one in which we laugh, cry, heave a few sighs of relief and remember forever. Then Pixar continues to win and make money.

I hope everyday people continue to spark my interest as a writer so I write their stories well.

And finally, I hope I always remember to honor the everyday people who populate my life. They are my jewels beyond price.

What are your everyday thoughts?