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The Colors of January

8 Jan

Spring has tulips and cherry blossoms, Summer has sunflowers and petunias, Fall has goldenredburgundy leaves.  And winter?  Christmasy reds and greens, crystalline white snow and crisp blue skies.

Every January, I clear my house of the cozy green and red of Christmas and replace it with crisp and clean blue and white.  Always displayed on my hutch, is the bridal “china” my Mom insisted I have.  I had my choice of patterns (within monetary reason) and selected one that sang to my Scandinavian side.  One that my Danish Great-Aunt would have loved.  It’s a stoneware rather than china; far more practical and definitely used more often because of it.  Made by Franciscan, the pattern is called Denmark.  I’m so grateful for this reminder of Mom and my heritage.

denmark

The fresh colors of January.

 

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My Eyes Wide Open

2 Jan

Yesterday on Facebook, I came across a post about the 365 Grateful Project.  The woman who started it posted pictures of things she was grateful for to Flickr every day for a year.  As the year went on, she felt happier and more content.  She noticed little things that her busy life had prevented her from seeing.  In effect it slowed time, allowing her to experience wonder.  I like the idea of spending more effort on wonder than on stress and worry and guilt.  But 365 posts?  My lazy self thinks not.  I will, however, keep my eyes wide open to all the perks of my life and make a bigger effort to be thankful that they exist, no matter how small, and post about them occasionally.

I have many, many things to be grateful for.  Some very big things that influence my life in fabulous ways, but today I wanted to start with a small thing.  Something that is no big whoop, really.  But something that makes me smile.  Something that brings a bit of happy to my day when I see it.

Things that Glitter, Sparkle and Shine.

Like sun glinting off snowflakes.  Houses lit for Christmas.  Sparkly jewelry. Shiny appliances.  Fairy dust.  The way a person’s eyes shine when they’re happy.

I’m so grateful for whoever first decided that the combination of glitter and pine cones was a good thing.  I’m ready to box up my Christmas stuff for another year and was looking at these cones this morning as I sipped my coffee.  They made me smile, and I knew I had a gratitude post for today.  Nothing epic, nothing life-changing, but certainly something that makes my life a wee bit happier.

glitter cones

Sometimes even the small things….

The Meaning of Christmas (In My Humble Opinion)

9 Dec

Beware.  I’m up on my soapbox.  Generally I reserve this soapbox for my rants about public education, but today I stand up here to stand up for myself and Comfort and Joy, Joy to the World, and A thrill of hope for the weary world.

Yesterday, I wrote a post to remember my Mom and her love of all things Christmas.  It focused mainly on decor and sharing good food with good friends.  This morning, I found two “pingbacks” (notification that another blog has linked to your post) to the post about Mom from a blog devoted to Christianity.  This blog used quite a few excerpts from my post to illustrate a perceived increase in secularism in what the author feels should be a completely Bible-based event.  I wrote a comment on his post, thanking him for at least citing his source, but that I felt that his use of my words belittled how religious and spiritual my Mom truly was, and that using them in that way completely ignored the whole purpose of my post.

Perhaps I am wrong for not going on about her deeply religious side.  She was a devout Catholic, regularly attending church, with many religious artifacts displayed in her home.  Not in a shrine-like way, just incorporated into her surroundings.  A large framed tin of The Virgin of Guadalupe, for example.   I feel more importantly, that Mom always conducted herself in a very Christian way: helping those who need help, listening to someone who just needs to talk, taking food to neighbors who were ill.  She loved her friends and family well.  Aren’t those Christian ideals?

Who decided that in order to be a proper Christian, you must adhere strictly to the Bible and its many interpretations?  When did these interpretations of the Bible start trumping the sort of life Jesus would have approved of?  When did displaying a Christmas tree result in being labeled a heathen?  Yup.  The blog’s author responded to my comment by saying that Mom may have been religious, but was probably affected by family traditions which caused her to celebrate Christmas with all the “heathen ornaments.”  What?!  Judge not…

Good gravy.  I don’t know about you, but when December shows up, and pretty lights, candles, evergreen boughs and even Jolly Old St. Nick appears, I get all warm inside with a feeling of Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.  Isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas?   Yes, it’s the day used to celebrate Jesus’ birthday, but isn’t it more than a birthday party?  Isn’t it the encouragement to be the kind of person Jesus always tried to be (according to the Bible!)?   That feeling of we can all get along and love each other.  The impetus to be kind and share joy.  Am I somehow less Christian because I have Christmas stockings out?  Am I heathen because the trolls Mom loved are sitting on my hutch?

Where is the Christian tolerance and compassion?  How does a secular decoration belittle anyone’s personal faith?  Faith is faith, right? One of the few things you can have that can’t be taken from you.  And Christmas is a season of joy and loving and caring and holding our loved ones close.  All very Christian things to do in my opinion, even if they happen within view of a Christmas tree.

big tree

A Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it, and Happy Holidays to the rest.  May all of the Joy of the Season bring you warmth and comfort.

Celebrating Christmas, Celebrating Mom

8 Dec

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!”  ~Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

To say my Mom loved Christmas and kept it well was an understatement.  She baked jillions of cookies, decorated multiple trees and hosted a holiday open house with tons of different appetizers, cookies, Scandinavian delicacies, and drinks.  She loved to share her decorated home and culinary skills, and particularly loved that people she invited brought others with them and that the parish priest would stay until the very end of the party and take home leftovers.  She was in the middle of planning her holiday party when her recurring cancer landed her in the hospital.  She died Christmas Eve.  I like to think she went to party with the angels for Christmas, and they took her at that moment to make Christmas extra special for her.

People ask if this sad moment has “ruined” Christmas for me.  Not at all.  I’m a bit melancholy, but mostly, I try to decorate, cook and entertain in the way Mom would have.  I celebrate Christmas and celebrate Mom.

Mom had a shed on her New Mexico property she called the Christmas Shed–packed to the rafters with all manner of Christmas decor.  I brought a few things home with me, a tub marked Norwegian Tree, and a few of her treasured trolls.  Mom’s mom was Norwegian, and Mom identified with all thing Norwegian.  The tub had ornaments, linens, and candlesticks painted as a Norwegian man and woman in their traditional finery.  Here’s my Norwegian tree, decorated with Mom’s ornaments and those she had given me over the years, and festooned with strings of Norwegian flags–just like she would do.

Norwegian tree

Mom had a huge collection of trolls.  Trolls are beloved by Scandinavian people and according to Mom, these must be complimented on their beauty and charm.  If you dare speak of them in terms of ugly, homely or scary, they will play pranks on you at night.  These are my three favorites:  The Fairy, The Angel, and The Mom.  Aren’t they beautiful?!

trolls

Here are the candlesticks, complete with the candle wreaths she bought for them.  The friend that made them for her tried to paint them to resemble Mom and Dad.

candle sticks

Mom liked to decorate trees in each room of her house, each tree with its own theme.  While I don’t have trees in every room, I do have themes:

A snowman tree,

snowman tree

A kitchen tree with tiny kitchen utensils and cookie cutters,

kitchen tree

A tinsel tree that reminds me of the big one my grandparents had that had a lighted wheel that cast the tree in different colors as the wheel rotated,

tinsel tree

A silver and gold tree with spun glass ornaments that belonged to my mother-in-law,

silver and gold tree

The big tree with ornaments from my childhood and those my family has collected over the years.  It’s traditional to use an ornament as a decoration on a wrapped gift.

big tree

Some of my favorite ornaments from my childhood are these:  my glass Santa, an elf who sits on a tiny pine cone cushion, and a birdcage whose “bird” spins from the heat rising off a Christmas light.

ornaments

I also set out a couple other trees; a lighted ceramic tree that belonged to my mother-in-law, and a stuffed red tree Mom made for me.

ceramic tree

stuffed tree

My hutch gets decorated with a collection of red, green, and white, including three little choir boys Mom painted when she was a young woman.

hutch

I also set out a pair of Christmas plates, also painted by Mom.  The Santa one has Mom and Dad’s names as well as the names of their friends of the time, on Santa’s list.

Christmas plates

While planning for the holiday party that never happened, Mom called to discuss what sort of tasty bites to serve and asked if I could find Aquavit and bring it when we came for the party.  Aquavit is a traditional Scandinavian spirit, distilled from potatoes and spiced with caraway, dill, cardamom, and anise.  It pairs nicely with fish and is usually served in tiny glasses and meant to be sipped and savored.  This week I found a local liquor store that carries it!  We had friends over last night and toasted to Mom.  Skoal!

aquavit

I miss being able to call Mom when I’ve made a delicious recipe, or to ask for advice, or to share a cup of coffee and just talk.  Going all out with Christmas keeps her memory vibrant and close to my heart.  I hope she enjoys my efforts.