Friday, December 31, 2010

fountain of youth

It's the anti-aging secret of all time, one guaranteed to melt away the years in just a few short hours and make you feel younger and better than you have in ages. No surgery is involved except for carving out time to really listen, cutting to the chase and keeping each other in stitches. I left our reunion lunch yesterday feeling 21 again . . . except happier, wiser, more blessed and less stressed than I did in college. The hands of time simply stopped turning for a few hours while we caught up on what matters in life. There is absolutely nothing and nobody like a dear friend, emphasis on dear. Someone who knew you when. And loves you anyway.
(Currier & Ives, c1874)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

gifts

You probably know the story of Della and Jim, young and in love and poor, seeking just the right gift for each other. She makes a great sacrifice to get him something perfect and he does the same. The result is not what either intended, but much greater because the love behind the actions shines brightly through them. We've arrived at the time of Christmas when the stardust has settled and what remains are gifts that don't fit in a stocking. Things that aren't limited to a single season in life and are available in abundance any time we choose to give them away: kindness, friendship, laughter, generosity, grace, love. And the greatest of these is love.

Monday, December 27, 2010

things we carry

Lots of people travel during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. But blizzard-like weather has bungled itineraries here and abroad this holiday season, stranding people in airports, train stations and bus terminals, over the river and through the woods. It's got me thinking about an article I read the other day in which former Clemson All-American and NFL player Perry Tuttle, now an author and motivational speaker, talks about suitcases. Specifically and metaphorically, the luggage we lug around on this journey of life and what we keep inside it. Mine gets so heavy sometimes with woulda' coulda' shoulda' thoughts, academic and career atrophy, loss and grief, minor irritations, mindless worry and wasted time. Baggage that just needs to be set down. In fact, the tattered, oversized naugahyde suitcase itself should probably go. And in its place, a small carry-on containing only the clearest thoughts, wisest lessons, best intentions, true faith and cherished memories, which are all lighter than air and take up hardly any space at all.
(Tepper Jackson luggage tags)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

joy to the world

We spend so much of the Christmas season (and life, come to think of it!) waiting for the mystery and miracle to envelope us, wondering when the wonder might present itself. Now may be the time to rethink this living in a state of hopeful expectation and actively seek out the divine instead. That's the message I've taken to heart this December. Rather than merely singing Joy to the World, to be that joy to the world. And then, instead of just one paltry day, it will seem like Christmas all the time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

(click on image to enlarge)

Monday, December 20, 2010

refreshing

Several sweet things: I overheard a customer summon a store manager today to profusely compliment an employee. A happy Santa bag full of Chex Party Mix was left on the kitchen doorstep (extra buttery and worcestershire-y, the way we love it!). I spotted a wreath lighted like a peace sign while driving down Maryland Avenue. And was sent this adorable video by a friend. I'm not saying it was a perfect day. But it was filled with perfect moments.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This is what I'm wishing you today, put so simply and festively on these little Kate Spade cards. Prayers, a winter walk, a gingersnap or three. Unrushed, uncomplicated. Unbelievably good for the soul.

Friday, December 17, 2010

special delivery

Christmas letters are quirky, wonderful things often requiring a propensity for reading between the lines. The 'joys, tragedies, recipes and reflections' of three generations of sweet southern women are captured in The Christmas Letters by Lee Smith. Across the ages and pages, a grandmother, her daughter and then her granddaughter take up a December pen to share their story with family and friends. Really funny at times and achingly revealing at others, these letters are full of good old life. With lots of love.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

earthly delights

Are you getting your daily quota of earthly delights? They don't have to be extravagant or extraordinary, just everyday things mindfully enjoyed. Clementines, a butterfly sighting, figs drizzled with honey, the color orange, a favorite chair, a homemade scone warm from the oven. Life can be awfully barren if you don't fill it with special people, flavors, flowers and art (even if it's just a museum postcard!). Once when we were waiting on hospital news, my friend Liza fixed us really good coffee and served it in gorgeous china cups and saucers. "We need a treat," she said. Her words still make me smile.
(click on image to enlarge)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

city sidewalks

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday gear. In the air there's a feeling of Christmas. Not so much in the opulent window displays of Fifth Avenue, at Bergdorf's or Bendel's or even Rockefeller Center, with its iconic tree and ice skating rink. We found it in the hush of Pierpont Morgan's 1906 Library where the manuscript of A Christmas Carol, scribbled by Charles Dickens in 1843, is on display. And in a gorgeous old stationery store where dozens of shoppers appeared not to have gotten the memo that correspondence is passe. Then, as the afternoon began to fade, turning an unexpected corner on to the twinkling lights of Little Italy and an old bakery with a sign in the window: 'best cannolis in the city.' A taste of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

breathtaking

Thirteen degrees in Charlotte this morning, a record low. The kind of weather that'll take your breath away when you first go outside. Bracing but refreshing, too, in a Peppermint Patty kind of way. I think of my cousin Kay from Birmingham in her red wool coat, whose birthday it would have been on Saturday. Now she was a person who knew how to spread warmth. Prayers for anyone who works outside on days like today and for people waiting at the bus stop. For people who don't have a sturdy coat or gloves or proper winter gear, for those without a heated place to stay, a hot meal, hot coffee. And a special prayer of thanks, for Kay.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

the blessing of a book

When a small group of us set out last spring to compile into a book the weekly devotions sent out by our church clergy, we had no idea how exciting it would be to hold the finished product in our hands these many months later. Our challenge was to take fantastic raw material and package it in a worthy container, one that would sell like proverbial pancakes today at the Christ Episcopal Church Bazaar, in The Good News Shop and online. Arkon designed the beautiful cover, which pays homage to a beloved tree in the church yard. I'm telling you, this self-publishing stuff is way cool! If you've ever had even a little tendril of a dream of creating your own book, it is well within reach of ordinary people like us these days. Which, to me, is quite extraordinary.

Friday, December 3, 2010

hit the refresh button

Stress is much more than just desserts spelled backwards. By definition, it's our reaction to any kind of change that requires a physical, mental or emotional adjustment. Stress can come from any situation or thought (running late, cross words from a co-worker or loved one, troublesome news, trouble sleeping, waiting, coping with a health problem, working on deadline, studying for exams, worry about health, relationships, job, finances, life!) that makes you feel frustrated, nervous, angry or anxious. Which boils down to, basically, gazillions of things. Some in our control and many not.

Stress can make you feel miserable at the very least, and get sick or die at worst. I'm trying to give stress a major heave-ho in my own life, which might do you a world of good as well. One way to start is by conjuring up a list of de-stressors to default to when things get tense. Things that refresh the senses, soothe the soul, lift the spirits. The most basic, of course, is taking a good deep breath. All the better if it's cold, clear December air, scented with pine.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

calm & bright

December arrives on a frosty wind, birds perched on bare branches like tiny ornaments. Today's a good day to choose how to spend this gift of a month. Calm and bright? Or more like E. Scrooge pre-emotional makeover? I waffle. I don't like to shop and am dreadful at social occasion small talk. But I do love an afternoon spent in the quiet of a kitchen, making shortbread angels. I love the really old carols mixed in with the rest of the music on the classical radio station. I love coming home from work or errands and finding a cellophane bag on the doorstep tied with a bright ribbon and, inside, peppermint bark or party mix or reindeer food. I love Christmas stamps, the Charlie Brown tv special, twinkling lights, the pine perfume of a tree lot, wreaths on the church windows, the rustic miracle of the creche. And I love beyond measure the reason for it all. I may never be Fezziwig festive, but I can choose not to be frantic or frayed this December. I can choose peace and joy instead. And keep Christmas in my heart.