Thursday, December 29, 2011

the pause that refreshes

There's something about this week between Christmas and the New Year that can be so restorative. It's the quiet of a train station after the Polar Express has roared off. It's a winter walk, all bare branches and birdsong. It's prayers and putting gratitude to paper. Oatmeal mornings, a creamy cable knit sweater, an afternoon nap and noodling away on resolutions. A caught moment of the year. Time to rest, rejuvenate, reflect, rejoice.
(image: Pinterest)

Monday, December 26, 2011

rejoice!

Christmas floats down on angel wings
with a message that changes everything
Miracle foretold, a holy birth,
mysterious mingling of heaven and earth
The whole world's a manger, we all have a part
there's a spark of divine in each human heart
Be awake and aware, with joyful intention,
the present's a present and deserves full attention
Life's no to-do list, it's a handwritten letter,
the kinder and dearer and deeper the better
Spread some good news, find your true voice
using your gifts is cause to rejoice
Wishing you snowflakes swirling in air,
magical, festive moments to share
A soft, fleecy blanket piled on the bed
peace, goodwill and gingerbread
Keep the faith, be of good cheer,
let love set the tone in the coming year.
(image: Pinterest)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

angel I have heard on high

Italia arrived home from college in mid-December bearing a beautiful gold angel which I keep moving from nightstand to desk to wherever else I happen to be in the house. Don't be surprised if you're idling next to my car at an intersection sometime and there's an angel bobbing from the dashboard. Then she texted me a picture of these two lovelies she runs by on her morning jog and has been telling me about. Truth is, Italia's the angel. I knew it the moment I had her. She's absolutely radiant and wears a pair of wings like nobody's business (exhibit 1: church Christmas pageant, circa 1998). She is a great inspiration to me to fear not. And she brings tidings of great joy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

would you come through a blizzard?

It's snowing up a storm as the minister shovels the walkway, lights the candles and waits. Who will come to Christmas Eve service? One by one, precious birds and animals and people show up, including the custodian who trundles over on snow skis. The organist comes with her backpack of music and thermos of tea, as does a soloist with a red scarf 'round his neck, and a small boy covered in cookie crumbs and cozy in his mother's arms. Finally, a stranger comes and it is Christmas. Oh how I love Coming Through the Blizzard by Eileen Spinelli. Her language is beautifully poetic and the illustrations by Jenny Tylden-Wright are bright and joyful. The message is, well, the Christmas message. It's not snowing where I am today - or even very chilly - but it is time to decide once again: am I going to show up for Christmas and all that it means to me (everything) or stay on the periphery where the weary world would have us 'celebrate.' I know what my heart wants and I know the way. All I need to do is follow the light.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

a woman of letters

It's raining and dark outside as I pull supplies together in early morning quiet for the children's letter writing workshop Laurie and I will teach in a few hours. Carols play softly on the radio as I think of the great letter writers I've known and loved. My mother's cousin Kay from Birmingham, Alabama, was who and how my love of letters started. I can still see her beautiful cursive on an envelope addressed just to me! Like magic, it opened up the world of writing that I inhabit today. Nelson and Anne put pen to page when I moved away from my childhood hometown and kept me smiling through the tears. Their letters were hilarious and prolific. Layne is exuberant and artistic, the first person I ever knew who created little masterpieces out of envelopes and then filled them with joy. I cherish all the letters from Laurie, too, and from my sister Michele. From Maria, Gair, Katie, Italia, Aunt Jennie, Anna and Mom. This is a love letter to all of them on a soft December morning. Sealed with a kiss.
(image: Pinterest)

Monday, December 19, 2011

joy to you (and the world)

Some days joy chooses you and other days you have to choose it. Either way is wonderful.
(Image: Pinterest)

Friday, December 16, 2011

soothing words

How are you today? I want to be helpful. Tell me what to do. I'm thinking of you. Three simple phrases offered up in a heartbreaking post about holiday grief etiquette, but appropriate anytime. If not in the throes of it ourselves or with prior sad experience, then most of us know loved ones, friends or co-workers who are grieving or going through a major difficulty right now. This the nature of life and it never takes a holiday. In fact, holidays can make things feel even more stark and desolate. Sometimes there can be a hesitancy to reach out because a situation is so overwhelming that our thoughts and words feel trivial and inadequate in the face of it. But reaching out in love and kindness is always right and might even make a tremendous difference. How are you today? I want to be helpful. Tell me what to do. I'm thinking of you.
(image: Pinterest)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

an Advent 'to-do' list

Follow a star. Be a wise person. Make your great grandmother's gingersnaps. Stir hot chocolate with a peppermint stick. Buy the Charlie Brown tree. Visit the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Hop a ride on the Polar Express. Listen for the animals to talk at midnight. Bear tidings of comfort and joy. Be a candle in the darkness. Fear not. Believe.
(image: Pinterest)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

timeless tangerine

There's always a little flurry of excitement in the design world when Pantone unveils its 'Color of the Year' which, for 2012, is Tangerine Tango (that's #17-1463 for the art directors out there), signifying renewed energy, optimism and the promise of a brighter day. Well, let's just say that we Florida girls have known this for, like, ever. There's something about growing up where breakfast could be plucked from a tree in the yard and the local bank dispensed freshly-squeezed orange juice in the lobby. You grow up to be a woman who lingers lovingly in the citrus section of the produce department. Who has an affinity for ambrosia and candied orange rind. Who loves to peel citrus because of the way it makes her hands smell. Whose zester is her prized kitchen utensil. And who is genuinely happy upon finding a juicy tangerine in the toe of her Christmas stocking. So, yes, I'll be dancing the Tangerine Tango again this year to kindle my energy, optimism and sunny outlook. According to the Pantone prophesy, so will you.
(image: Pinterest)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

away in a manger

Lambs and love. Softly, sweetly nuzzling. Quiet hush of a barn, straw strewn and earthy. The world spins round and round, and we with it, until something beautiful and unexpected gives us pause. Advent.
(image: Pinterest)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

drummer girl

I have no gift to bring, pa-rum pum pum pum, that's fit to give a King

Sometimes that's how it feels, especially at the holidays: what can I possibly do that measures up to the enormity of the great yawning need? Write a check here, volunteer a few hours there, donate a case of peanut butter, a winter coat, a grocery store gift card? Then I got to thinking about the little drummer boy and got a favorite book off the shelf, the one illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats with humble, beautiful pictures. The little boy worries about not having anything to bring until he considers the instrument in his hands and plays a song, which turns out to be the best present of all. A bit of himself, a gift only he can give. A drum beat. A heartbeat.

Which makes me think about the unique gifts that I have to offer. I can write. A letter or blog post or even a tweet that encourages and lifts. I can help someone craft a strong resume and write letters of recommendation. I can help organizations craft a message that generates volunteers, donations and goodwill. I also have a gift for encouraging young readers and writers, so I plan to seek out more opportunities to do that, starting today. This is the beat I'm marching to, so if you or someone you know needs any of these things, let me know. Pa-rum, pum pum pum.
(image: Pinterest)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

circling 'round

It always seems a little startling to me when December circles back around, a month so plump with expectations that it would take a miracle to deliver them all. We expect way too much of ourselves and others at this time of year. We expect spirits to be consistently jolly, preparations to be perfect and even the weather to cooperate with a dusting of snow at just the appropriate hour. The good news is that by setting aside an idealized, Norman Rockwell-meets-Currier-and-Ives version of happy holidaze, we create time and space and awareness to experience true joy. We make room for the miracle.
(image: Pinterest)