Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tidings of comfort and joy

We've had an eventful Christmas eve. Catherine and I went walking for an hour while Trey and Olivia went on a Ralph's butter twist mission. We all ate lunch at Bobby Q's (delicious, although the location change was hard to deal with).  I ate a bunch of hush puppies (man, are they good!).

My dad, in his best curmudgeonly Christmas spirit.

Then Catherine, Trey, Olivia and I had a very quiet couple of hours drinking coffee, all of us working on various projects (really!).  And now we're at home, relaxing before I start making pies and Trey starts dealing with the giblet water.

Here's Trey's homage to the turkey whose neck is now boiling on our stove:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas priorities

The other day the Washington Post presented an article about how women wear themselves out at the holidays.  While I see the accuracy of what they're saying, I read what these women were doing and thought, "Holy shit, people!  That is too much."  A billion batches of cookies, Christmas cards, extensive decorations, visiting with everybody from the past--things that often weren't fun but were part of the tradition.

I am a big believer in tradition and routine, so I understand that compulsion.  So much has changed in my life, though, that there are a lot of things I'm willing to let go of--things that it's a relief to let go of.

So here are my priorities for Christmas:

To be with my immediate family (which of course includes Catherine Bush).  To have leisurely time to connect.
Woo hoo!  Child-sized coffee set!
To watch Maybelle open presents (but not all at once, and not in the evening--she's having a much better time opening one present a day, midday.  She's excited about opening it, and she's excited about what it is.  And then she's done.)

To eat!  This morning I identified the foods that are top priority.  If the Christmas meals only consisted of these three things, I'd be delighted and satisfied.  My holiday needs would be met.
---My mom's turkey--best turkey in the world, accompanied by a gallon of gravy.
---My grandmother (Nana)'s cranberry salad--LH mercy, I could eat the whole Pyrex full.
---Pecan pie, with unnecessary but delicious whipped cream.  Real whipped cream, not from a can.

There you go.  Keep that in mind, future holiday planners.

I think that's it.  That's what would leave me feeling loved, happy, and full.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Theme for 2013

2013 has been one of the most eventful, challenging years of my life.  Some very, very difficult things throughout the year.  A couple of times I've considered whether this year was worse than the brain tumor year, and friends have said, "Good lord, if this is worse than the brain tumor, that's saying a lot!"  I've decided that this year and the brain tumor year have been equally bad--but bad in very different ways.

And yet it's been a year when I've had lots of amazing events and discoveries--for instance, I discovered that I'm surrounded by friends who aren't just "friends" but are essential sources of support, professionally and personally.  They made me laugh.  They gave me consistent and incredibly helpful feedback on my writing.  They held my hands and let me cry.  They did everything to help me move into Maybelle's and my new place, including saying "This is the place.  Live here," deciding on and hiring the moving crew, and hauling thousands of boxes.  I had to do almost nothing (except order pizza after the move was finished).  They let me tell them everything.  And they even brought Maybelle into their homes overnight when I needed space to breathe.  

So:  nothing in life is more important than this kind of friend, and this kind of family.  And here they are, filling me up.

This is my message to myself for 2013.  It's been on my laptop all year, and it's my theme, something I've said over and over, something that has helped me feel grounded, compassionate toward myself, less desperate.

We are all doing the best we can.  This resonates with me.  It feels true.  I suspect I'll carry it with me into 2014.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A fabulous mess

Maybelle's preschool has been working on gingerbread houses as a learning opportunity for a couple of weeks.  Last week all the kids in Maybelle's preschool class had to bring in the framework of their homes, made of cardboard.  We were allowed to do it any way we wanted--some parents made the whole things, while others worked with their kids.

I was very committed to this project being Maybelle's.  I'm not interested in seeing my own work.  I wanted Maybelle to be able to watch it come together due to her own efforts, and to be proud of it.  So I had the brilliant idea to have Beth, Maybelle's occupational therapist (who's worked with Maybelle since she was 18 months old) help us build the house.

Maybelle and Beth, happily constructing
Beth was amazing with her expertise.  I cut out the cardboard, and Maybelle and Beth used the "see see kay" (sticky tape) to assemble.

The "before" picture.
We live in a triplex, and our place is right in the middle.  Beth made a door and two windows (which are what's visible on the front of our place), and then she let Maybelle decide where they went.  Maybelle did a really good job, because our door is in the middle, and our windows are to the right, one on top and one on the bottom.  You can see that Maybelle was actually pretty pleased with what she did.

This week at school, parents and friends were invited to help the kids decorate their houses.  It was hard for me to explain the concept of "decorate" to Maybelle--I kept using my hands to try to explain, and she would imitate my hand motions without getting any sense of what I was trying to say.  So I told her we were going to make her gingerbread house "so cute," and she got that.

So cute.
From the very beginning I'd said that I wanted her gingerbread house to be a fabulous mess.  I wanted her to get to see her work start shaping up.  Three of Maybelle's favorite people--two friends and Uncle Trey--came to her preschool and supported her during the process (channeling Beth):  asking her what colors of gumdrops she wanted on the house, and helping her put them where she wanted them; using their hands and hers on the squeezy thing to pipe frosting onto the house; using their hands and hers to scoop big blobs of frosting and spread it wherever she wanted it.

This is a fine house.  A fabulous mess, for sure.  She was pretty pleased with it (and then she was exhausted and ready to go home).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Oh, Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree!

We're both a little sleepy.  I hadn't yet had coffee.
I don't actually know all the lyrics to "Oh, Christmas Tree," so my version typically goes like this:
Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree!
Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree.
Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree,
Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree.
Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree!
Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Christmas tree.

It's December, so Maybelle and I have our tree.  It's exactly right for our new home:  plastic, three feet tall, with lights already installed.  You just puff out the branches, plug it in, and you're ready to go.  Maybelle was entranced when the lights came on.

I'm not particularly Christian, but I do love Christmas:  Christmas food (sugar cookies in festive shapes! Aunt Betty's coffee cake! Turkey! Pie! Peppermint mocha!), Christmas carols, and Christmas trees.  I used to be someone who demanded a real tree, both for my own home and my parents', but these days my priorities are different.  I love the festivity, and I love the fact that I get to spend more time with Maybelle without struggling with the base, the sap, the sweeping of needles.

Oh, fake, small, pre-lighted Christmas tree!