Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Beginning of a New Time

I've just finished reading Country Chronicle by Gladys Taber (1976, American Reprint Company, ISBN#0-89190-596-0).  I had been invited to be the first patron of our local public library to read the book when it arrived because it had been ordered as one of several in memory of my mother.  When asked how I would like the plate inside the book to read, I requested the following dedication: "In memory of Barbara Naidl - A library volunteer who loved the words of Gladys Taber."  And as Mom loved Mrs. Taber's words, so do I.  I see our mutual admiration for her writing as yet another aspect of Mom that remains alive in me.  With the end of the year approaching in just hours and the fresh face of a new year holding promise and opportunity, I think of Gladys Taber's closing thoughts in Country Chronicle:  "It is not an ending as a season draws to a close but only a beginning of a new time."  And so it is indeed with the passing of seasons or years or of someone we have loved so dearly.  The beginning of a new time.  Many thanks to you for reading this blog and for providing such supportive comments and encouragement.  You make my little experiment just that much more fun and rewarding. I look forward to our continued communication in the new year.  A toast to new beginnings and new times.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tick Tock

My good friend Chris recently told me that his son is 14 years old, the very same age that Chris was when I first met him years ago.  As I watch the snow falling outside of my window. I think of how fleeting time is -- how just like the snowflakes, the days (and years) come and then melt away.  As we prepare to close out one year and usher in the next, I find myself reflecting a lot about time.  In fact, I just read a poem this week that began, "What is time?".  Time is a strange thing.  It has different significance depending on where I am in my life.  When I'm at work, my eye is forever on the clock to ensure that I arrive at a meeting or appointment at the designated moment.  When I'm not at work, however, time takes on such a different meaning and pace.  It rarely matters if it's 11AM, 2PM or 7PM.  I'm more in touch with the sky and the seasons and I live more in the moment as part of that life-rhythm calendar.  As we step up the pace of modern life and place demands on ourselves with schedules that are jam-packed with commitments, are we really accomplishing more?  Truly experiencing or enjoying more?  I hardly think so.  I learned during the last months of my mom's life that time is ephemeral.  It isn't about the quantity of our years so much as it is about the quality.  The years will fly by and when I reflect back on them, will I want to see the blur of the race or the precious, discrete moments that brought such profound beauty and joy?  I don't want to hurry anymore.  The time I have been given is a gift and I'm going to savor each moment.  That's my new year's resolution and my wish for us all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Eagles Have Landed

It's been a busy holiday week of long workdays and little time off, so I decided to steal away for a couple of hours today in order for Larry and me to walk out at Devil's Lake.  Winter hasn't hit its stride yet in Wisconsin.  The sun was shining, the temperature peaked in the mid-40s, and there was only a bit of snow and ice to hamper our brisk pace.  A few others had the same idea, for we came upon a couple throwing snowballs at each other and a young foursome bravely and deftly swishing about on the little bit of solid ice near the shoreline.  Another group of young people skipped stones across the ice, while small children standing with their mom and dad at the boat landing chanted in their light, high voices back to the chattering crows overhead.  We walked behind a couple with a dog whose white coat blended in with its environs.  All the while, the waves of the open water crashed into the icy areas, causing a castanet-type of sound similar to the crackling of freezing rain against the windowpane.  Just when I thought it couldn't get more perfect, Larry and I looked up and saw two bald eagles swoop in and land high atop a pine tree, a sliver of moon already showing in the afternoon sky to their backs.  They spent a great deal of time talking to each other in high-pitched voices.  Larry tried to capture the scene using his cell phone camera but it couldn't do it justice, so we decided to simply etch the memory of that beautiful encounter in our minds.  Our respite from the everyday renewed our energy and made everything seem so right.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Talent Scout

Have you ever noticed how truly talented people rarely make a big deal of their talents?  They just confidently go about their work, requiring very little fanfare.  So it is with my good friend Kitty.  She'll show me her latest sewing or quilting project, describing it all as if it was just a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and then it all effortlessly came together.  I get so caught up in the details of "this," wondering how she possibly accomplished it, that I barely hear the details of "that."  I am not one to work with my hands so it is overwhelming at times for me to comprehend the vision that goes into each of her creations, let alone the time and patience required to make them.  But Kitty makes it all sound easy, almost commonplace. Spoken like the real pro that she is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Drink with Jam and Bread

My mom loved Constant Comment tea.  So when I read a book lately in which the author referred to Constant Comment, I thought of Mom right away and the many conversations she and I had over a "cuppa" throughout the years.  I think there's no gift more intimate among good friends than a gift of tea.  This holiday season, I gave my friend Ellen some Constant Comment as a remembrance of the special friendship she and my mother had.  I gave our friend Betty chai tea -- a favorite of hers, and I gave my boss a calming tea blend to balance her busy life.  A cup of tea has the amazing ability to calm the nerves and clear the mind.  And on a cold, snowy, dreary winter day, a steaming cup of tea goes delightfully well with a good book in one's favorite chair.  I can see myself there now.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Forever Friends

A chance encounter reconnected my forever-friend Pam and me two days before Christmas.  Such serendipity was a true Christmas gift.  Once inseparable, Pam and I now have lives in different time zones. Yet, our long, deep friendship has amazingly weathered the years and the miles.  When we talk, it is as if the decades melt away and we are still those same two school girls finding joy and laughter in innocent times together. Seeing Pam caused me to reflect on the precious value of friends in my life.  These days, we tend to use the term "friends" in new, virtual ways.  Surely, Pam and I communicate via email and Facebook.  But there is nothing like seeing her face, hearing her voice and her laugh, and feeling her warm hug.  While I see value in those new ways of being a friend, my favorite friendships involve real, in-person encounters that transcend the good and not-so-good times.  Someone in whom you can confide over a cup of tea.  Someone who will hold your hand when all you can do is cry.  Someone who can be counted on to be trustworthy and loyal.  What comfort it is to know that no matter how much life throws at us and how rapidly things change these days, cherished forever-friendships last.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Birthday Girl

Our good friend Betty was the first baby born on Christmas day in Cleveland, Ohio in 1922.  For that distinction, she and her family received new baby furniture from a local store.  And forever, Betty's birthday celebrations would be commingled with Christmas.  Larry and I had the good fortune of being with Betty as she celebrated her 89th birthday today.  We joyfully sat in her cozy living room, hearing her recount stories of Christmas birthdays of long ago.  And while birds enjoyed front and backyard Christmas seed buffets, Betty, Larry and I enjoyed a bountiful, delicious carry-out meal from our church's free Christmas dinner. Together, we shared food and gratitude for having the gift of each other on this Christmas day.  Joy to our world!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

What Can I Give? Give My Heart

In the last verse of the hauntingly beautiful Christmas hymn, "In the Bleak Midwinter," the singer asks what he/she can give the Christ Child, "poor as I am," and the response is "give my heart."  At Christmas, it's easy to get caught up in gift-giving, albeit a lovely expression of affection for others.  However, as I have witnessed, giving one's heart is a treasured and priceless gift that often comes back to the giver multi-fold.  This morning, I had the opportunity to help prepare a free Christmas dinner that will be served at our church to 120+ people tomorrow.  All of the volunteers worked in the kitchen this morning with precision and organization, but also with the jocularity of Santa's merriest elves. I went to the church thinking that I was going to give, but instead I received so much from being with my fellow volunteers.  This afternoon, I visited St. Clare Meadows Care Center, the nursing home where my mom spent the last year of her life.  Although my plan was to bring cheer to the lovely people I had gotten to know while Mom was there, it was I who benefited from my visits.  These good people, many of whom in their 90s, provided me with cheer by telling me their stories, sharing their wisdom, talking lovingly about Mom, and expressing their gratitude for all they have.  The Christmas spirit was present in each experience and conversation I had today.  "Poor as I am," I risked to give my heart and I came away the richer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Card Wisdom

When I was cleaning out my mom's apartment, I saved a Christmas card cover that she had taped to her kitchen cupboard. Mom used it as a daily reminder of how she wanted to live.  I am now using that card as my reminder.  The verse is a series of one-line statements about friendship, love, gratitude and more.  Mom embodied all of those jewels of wisdom:  She always gave a soft answer, laughed easily, kept her word, shared what she had, found the time to be present to others, listened with her whole being, and loved being around children and youth.  It was she who taught me to appreciate nature. As I stand alone now as the only one left in my small family tree, I feel almost an urgency to keep that Christmas card close at hand and to live its verses to the best of my ability.  In so doing, I hope to honor who Mom was and how she chose to live, and hopefully model how she would want me to live my life.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Night Lights

Today is the Winter Solstice, the first day of winter, the longest night, the beginning of the slow return of daylight.  To celebrate the occasion, Larry and I spent time this evening at the home of our good friend Ellen where we were warmed by hot cocoa, good conversation and the beauty of Ellen's Christmas tree.  Then, we ventured out to take in Christmas lights.  Mother Nature had delivered just a little snow last night to make the sights pure and pristine -- scenes right out of a Christmas card.  We drove into the country, throughout the town and into the downtown business district, oohing and aahing at the many beautiful and colorful light displays on houses and in yards.  In all of the darkness, I find nothing more friendly and inviting than a lovely Christmas light display.  And what better way to celebrate the Winter Solstice, the return of light than to bring our own lights into the world, literally and figuratively?  Welcome, Winter!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Here We Come A-Caroling

I'm a caroler.  For the past several years, save one, I have been caroling with a group of singers from our local downtown Village Booksmith during the six weeks leading up to Christmas.  Every Saturday for two mid-day hours, we don Santa hats and red felt scarves and gather up our music books.  Then, we stroll from store to restaurant to store, singing in a cappella, four-part harmony, hoping to add holiday cheer to the downtown shoppers' experience.  It's always fun to see people's reactions when we pile in.  There are abundant smiles, and often the audience claps and sings along. Tonight, I got to be the lucky recipient myself of carolers' musical cheer.  Youth from my church surprised Larry and me with an after-dinner visit to our home.  As soon as the doorbell rang, the joyful group serenaded us with a mini-Christmas concert, ranging from "Away in a Manger" to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."  On Saturday when we carol downtown for our last time this season, I will think of this evening's surprise caroling concert at our door. And I will remember just how much music means to the joy of the holidays and to our lives.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Padding Our Nest with Nature's Bounty

I'm a scrounger.  A few weeks ago, I gathered boughs from limbs that had broken off of a long-needle pine tree and created our dining room table centerpiece in a clear canning jar.  On another day, I bought three large pine cones at a thrift store for a total of $1.65 and they now make a bold, natural statement in an antique basket in our living room.  While enjoying a walk one afternoon, I picked up off the street as many plump little pine cones as I could stuff into my jacket pockets and placed them into a crisp, white bowl.  And now today, I brought home several limbs of red dogwood that someone was tossing and I made an alternative Christmas tree out of them for our living room, decorated only with one of Mom's lovely red felt cardinals.  I love nature and I enjoy bringing items from nature into our home all year long.  Although I favor the other three seasons, there's a part of me that must be a winter bird -- a sparrow, cardinal, chickadee, junco, even a crow --that survives the cold winter by staying right at home.  My good friend Kitty brings the outdoors in, as well, but she has creatively brought some of late spring into her recent Christmas celebrations by refrigerating cuttings from her peonies and bringing them out to blossom for the winter holidays.  Whether through pine cones, poinsettias, Christmas trees or even peonies, we have many ways of displaying our vital connection to the natural world at this time of year.  I am grateful to pad our nest with them.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Little Bit of Heaven

I can scarcely think of anything more relaxing than strolling through an art gallery.  Add live chamber music and I think I'm in heaven.  I must've been in heaven yesterday because Larry and I took in an afternoon at the spectacular Chazen Museum of Art on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison.  The museum had recently expanded, so the artwork available for view had grown tremendously since our last visit.  From the masters to modern art, from Grandma Moses to Andy Warhol, we took it all in, finding a treasure to savor around every turn.  The piano, cello and violin music of the Arcos Trio carried throughout much of the museum, creating an almost ethereal environment in which to pore over each piece of art.  I believe it lowers one's blood pressure, focuses attention and restores the spirit to be in the midst of beauty.  A little bit of heaven, I'd say.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Mouths of Babes

There is almost nothing as delightful to me at Christmastime as watching a children's concert or program.  I love the earnestness and exuberance.  This morning, the youth and children of our church presented a Christmas pageant.  Everyone was well-rehearsed, all the way down to the littlest lamb. Their high, sweet voices carried throughout the church's sanctuary as light as air.  Of course, there were some moments that were so cute that one had to chuckle, such as when the littlest of the angels had to have her halo pushed back onto her head instead of over her eyes.  There were also moments that nearly brought one to tears, including the beautiful singing of the young shepherd.  Watching this morning's program reminded the adults in the congregation that Christmas is so much more than gift buying, party going, card sending and cookie baking. It is the beautiful, timeless story of Christmas as told by the youngest among us.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Happy Endings

While preparing our dinner this evening, I turned on the television for a little entertainment.  I watched the latter part of a splendid production of "The Nutcracker" on PBS.  Then, while flipping through the channels, I came upon the beginning of one of my favorite movies, "Pride and Prejudice," starring Keira Knightley.  It is such a beautiful movie: The scenery, the cinematography and the music enhance the beauty of Jane Austen's story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, real love and happy endings.  Even the language is beautiful, with such words heard so seldom anymore as derision, taciturn and caprice.  At a time when all we hear are tragic stories of broken marriages and the unhappy lives of the famous and not-so-famous, it is a treat now and again to get lost in beautifully told stories of forever-love.

Friday, December 16, 2011


I've admittedly been feeling somewhat blue all week.  The closer we get to Christmas, the more my heart aches for Mom and I increasingly mourn her loss.  I find myself wrapped up in nostalgia, thinking about one memory after another about her.  People have been so kind.  They've given me permission to grieve in their presence, surrounding me with understanding and love.  I've been keeping busy, too, both at work and with the social activities that Larry and I have had on our calendar.  But, no matter what I've done this week, that feeling of malaise has covered me like a cloak.  Then, today, I was tossed a lifesaver.  After attending an afternoon holiday party at my boss's house, Larry and I spontaneously decided to take a walk at Devil's Lake State Park.  We didn't have on the correct shoes but we did have heavy jackets.  So, despite the cold and the raw wind, we trekked.  It was as if I'd taken a magic pill.  Just being at Devil's Lake and walking along its foamy shores quieted my mind, raised my spirits and healed my sadness.  I've always found healing properties when in nature but today I experienced that balm deeply.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Today was so windy that my winter hat nearly blew off my head.  I had to hold my fleece cloche-style hat in place with one hand while juggling my belongings and opening my car door with the other.  It was such a relief to get home to remove the layers of scarf, hat, gloves and heavy jacket.  At this time of year, when I get home from work, I tend to like to cocoon, tucked in for quiet, cozy evenings with Larry.  Tonight, home was even more inviting, for I had baked some treats after supper to take to a function we're planning to attend tomorrow evening.  When I stepped into the garage for a moment and then back into the kitchen, I was welcomed by the sweet, warm aroma of fudgy brownies, made with pumpkin puree.  In addition to battling the wind, mine had been a day of little stresses and strains, so I was tired.  Yet, one whiff of that wonderfully sweet aroma of fudge brownies in the oven and Larry's great reviews after sampling them made my so-called irritations slip away, giving me a fresh, new perspective on the gift of this day and what's truly important and lasting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the Eye of the Beholder

There's been a lot of silly talk lately about colorful Christmas sweaters.  Some call them loud.  Others call them garish.  Still others call them ugly.  A good friend recently embellished her son's sweater to help him win an ugly sweater contest at a party.  Another close friend told of a similar ugly sweater contest that was part of her service club meeting.  Then, I read a newspaper article about colorful, loud holiday sweaters illustrated with loads of color photos to make their point.  Admittedly, I'm out of touch with the fashion scene so I maybe don't deserve to comment but I actually like those sweaters and fleece tops festooned with snowmen, trees, French horns, geese, Christmas ornaments, jingle bells and the like.  They seem to put the "merry" in "Merry Christmas," a perky touch to put a smile on your face during a dark time of the year.  Come to find out, according to the newspaper article, seasonal sweaters are now in vogue -- the louder, the better.  And "hip" people are proudly sporting them.  Perhaps I'm not as fashion-challenged as I thought.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

White Christmas

I watched "White Christmas" on television tonight.  It was the umpteenth time I've seen the Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye Christmas classic, but I can't seem to get enough of its innocent, happy-ending message where love is pure, life is a song, and it snows just in time for Christmas.  Mom, Larry and I watched that movie the past two Christmas Eves.  We'd gather around the television eating our Christmas Eve dinner before the service at church.  We'd end the evening by driving around town to admire the Christmas lights.  We have unseasonably warm temperatures and green grass right now.  The only hints we have that Christmas is even nearing are the colorful lights decorating lacy, leafless trees and house roof lines.  Rain is predicted for tomorrow.  If our anticipated precipitation came in the form of snow, the meteorologist said it would equal 10 inches.  Admittedly, the warm weather is a welcome break from breathing in winter's chill and cleaning snow off of the car.  However, when I hear Bing, Danny, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen sing "Snow," it sounds so romantic. Instead, I'll hear the words of Bing and Rosemary singing "Counting Your Blessings":  "When I'm worried and I can't sleep, I'll count my blessings instead of sheep...."  And I'll think of those very special Christmas Eves when Mom, Larry and I celebrated together.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Festival of Love & Light

Tonight, our St. Clare Hospital hosted its annual Festival of Love & Light.  It is a time when the community gathers to honor and remember loved ones and to light Love Light evergreen trees in the St. Clare Healing Garden.  This year, the event was even more meaningful to me because of the grief  I feel from the loss three months ago of my beloved mother.  The minister who delivered the message during the event's program asked the large audience to contemplate how the actions of our loved ones have inspired action in us and how what we do now may inspire action in others someday.  I thought about my caring, loving, gentle mom, who even in her dying process, still found myriad ways every day to reach out to others and to show her caring for them.  Until practically the day she died, she shared her healing spirit, gentle touch and kind words with those around her.  Her actions, her very being, inspire me to try to emulate her, to carry on her legacy.  The question I find myself asking each day is: How can I be a healing spirit, a gentle touch, a kind word for others?  So, this Christmas season and beyond, I will try each day to take the gifts she gave me and give them to others.  Mom was a light to so many.  I hope to become that light and shine it on others.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Seven Swans (or 200 Geese) A-Swimming

With temperatures in the 40s and the sun shining brightly this afternoon, Larry and I took a splendid walk at Devil's Lake State Park.  Chickadees and other winter birds chattered to us overhead while what appeared before us were up to 200 honking Canada Geese spread out in a long chorus line across the lake.  I had never seen (or heard!) so many Canada Geese on the lake at one time. Ice is gradually forming over the lake's surface, creating an artistic icy pattern, and a little frosty snow connects the lake with the beach and is visible in the dormant vegetation.  The geese were in those areas where the water is still open.  The lake and its environs may not have the brilliant color of other seasons right now but the quiet beauty of winter affords the pine trees, red dogwood and bright blue sky center stage.  After our brisk walk, we headed home for another winter treat -- a nice hot bowl of homemade soup and a Green Bay Packer game on TV where the team appeared unstoppable.  A perfect mid-December Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Weather is always a popular subject for small talk.  In Wisconsin, we seem to be pros at talking about the weather.  No matter what is happening outdoors -- inclement or not -- we have an opinion about it, as if our discussing the weather can change or control it.  For the past couple of days, no matter where I've been, people have been comparing this year's weather to the last. We got clobbered with a big snowstorm a year ago this weekend.  This year, the temperature is cold but the grass is still green.  According to a local television meteorologist, the first snowfall of six-plus inches has arrived on or before December 10 for the past four years.  Not this year, though.  Once Daylight Savings Time ends, I start thinking winter thoughts, but a state climatologist was quoted in a recent newspaper article as saying that the meteorological winter season is technically from December through February.  I had to chuckle because there have been years when winter seems to begin at Halloween and end when the lilacs bloom in May.  With or without snow, cold or not, this December is a beautiful month and tonight's full-moon night sky is so magnificent that it warms my soul.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chicken Run

Some close friends told us a sad story recently.  They have a beautiful property nestled in the bluffs where they reside with a delightful array of other living creatures.  Theirs is an easy-living, everybody's-welcome kind of home where outside the dogs can run, the children play and the chickens roam. These gentle, kind and peaceful folks have been raising free-range chickens for a few years, providing family and friends with eggs in white and brown, all the way to Easter basket colors of pale blues and greens. When our friend would tend her garden, she said that the people-loving chickens would come to greet her and keep her company with conversations of lots of clucking and head tilting.  A few months ago, however, they found their chickens reducing in number and discovered a fat and clever raccoon as the culprit.  Since then, they've created safeguards to prevent such devastation from occurring again. Slowly, their chicken family has been multiplying, but you could still hear the sadness in their voices over the loss of their special, egg-laying companions.  We get so close to our pets, whatever they may be. When we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves.  Hopefully, next summer, our friend will have a new generation of clucking gardening friends to pass the time of day with her as she peacefully plants and weeds and harvests.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

This Little Light Of Mine

Since Daylight Savings Time ended a month ago, I have been leaving work in the dark.  The expansive, clear night sky is lovely as I walk eastward to my car.  Each evening, I watch for the position and phase of the moon and then my eyes rest on a lone, bright star in the eastern sky.  When Larry and I visited a planetarium-theme IMAX presentation last month, I thought I learned that the bright star I'd been seeing was the planet Saturn, but since then, a friend who's an amateur astronomer has said that it can't be Saturn and must be something else. Whatever that faraway, bright star is, it guides me at the end of my workday, helping me to slow my pace by revealing its beauty against the ebony sky. As Christmas approaches, it makes me think of the lyrics to "Rise Up, Shepherd, and Follow": "There's a star in the east on Christmas morn...."  My parents used to sit outside in lawn chairs, enjoying the nuances of the summer night sky.  As a teenager, I was too busy being a teenager to spend time joining them in their star-gazing pursuits.  Now that I'm older, I, too, am captivated by those same celestial nuances.  How fortunate to live where the night sky isn't hidden by human-made light.  How blessed to have had parents who taught me gently, by example, to appreciate its beauty and mystery.  And how blessed I am to have my eastern star to welcome me each evening.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mom's Christmas Cardinals

For many years, my mom brought winter beauty indoors by making red and black felt cardinals. I don't recall where she got the pattern, but from my early 20s onward, Mom could often be found on snowy winter evenings making cardinals as gifts for family and friends and as decorations for our home and Christmas tree.  I have a photo that I took of Mom and Dad seated on the floor in front of our tree some 30 years ago that was decorated simply and tastefully with little white lights and Mom's lovely cardinals.  This holiday season, I have some of her cardinals in wreaths and arrangements of evergreen and curly willow around our home.  But, rather than just look at them and admire their beauty, I find myself touching the tiny, precise and even stitches carefully, wanting my hand to touch where her hand had touched.  Today, Mom's close friend Lou emailed to tell me that when she opened her ornament box to decorate her tree, a cardinal that Mom had made for her fell out.  Lou took that as a sign that the cardinal should be placed at the top of her tree this year.  Lou said she enjoys looking at it and remembering very good times together.  This first Christmas season without Mom is marked by sadness for those of us who knew and loved her. Yet, we are wrapped warmly in memories and feel close to her as we celebrate the season with her lovely cardinals.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bookin' It in Baraboo

We have a bookstore in our downtown called The Village Booksmith, where one can disappear into the stacks for hours, sip some coffee or tea with a friend, or vie for the comfy reading chair with the resident golden retriever.  There is an eclectic array of books, posters, bird houses, greeting cards, journals and other items displayed everywhere.  The cozy, comfortable atmosphere draws you in.  But it's the diverse cultural programming scheduled there by the store's proprietress that sends Larry and me -- along with countless others -- to the store on Friday nights.  Last Friday evening, we heard a marvelous Christmas music concert presented by a sextet of a cappella singers and a quintet of brass musicians.  A couple of weeks earlier, we heard a trio of musicians there -- a mom, dad and teenage son -- performing spirited and soulful folk and Christmas music from the British Isles and elsewhere around the globe.  The jubilant music from those evenings had everyone in festive mood and grateful that such a place is available to all ages, all walks of life to stretch their minds, please their ears and feed their souls.  Just another of the many special gathering places in our small rural community.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Music To My Ears

I had my first root canal today.  Given the horror stories one always hears about such procedures, I'm pleased to report that mine was a pleasant experience.  The dentist was skilled and professional and his assistant was thorough in her explanation about every step along the way, all of which inspired my confidence and relaxation.  But what made the experience even more enjoyable was the fact that Christmas music was playing throughout the clinic and the dental assistant gently hummed along while my tooth was being drilled.  It was all music to my ears.  Throughout the rest of my work day, I encountered a series of so-called "root canals," challenges that at another time might have affected my mood.  However, instead, I decided to think of that delightful humming to Christmas music at my dentist's office and I found that my everyday "root canals" held no power over me.  It's all in what I choose to listen to, the drill or the song.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Literary Dreams

My good friend Kitty made me a quilt that she calls "Literary Dreams." When she gave me the beautiful masterpiece, she explained the quilt's name by suggesting that I use it while resting in my chair, snuggled up with a good book.  Made of botanical-theme fabrics (because of my love of nature), "Literary Dreams" is exactly where I'm transcended when cuddled up with that lovely quilt and a good mystery or a P.G. Wodehouse romp or a magazine. The quilt sits on my chair's ottoman, ready for me whenever I'm ready for a restful time.  This afternoon's bleak sky gave me permission to take a break from my self-imposed busyness.  It was as if the sky was telling me to relax a bit.  As always, I had a to-do list at home.  Despite the laundry beckoning me and the dust rag chiding me for not bringing it out, my quilt's whispers were louder in my ear.  Instead of succumbing to my household chores, I snoozed happily with my "Literary Dreams."

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Decked in Holiday Style

Our community has a picturesque downtown.  Everything is situated around a stately courthouse in the town square: a wide variety of retail establishments, banks and law offices, coffee shops and restaurants, a florist, two bookstores, a magnificent theater, churches and more.  There is vintage lighting, a cannon on the courthouse lawn and a pocket park for the children.  Our downtown is beautiful at any time of the year but it is particularly enchanting at Christmas.  Swags of evergreens with deep red bows hang from the exteriors of the well-kept old buildings while evergreen roping twines around every vintage light pole throughout the retail district.  Twinkling holiday lights are everywhere.  You don't have to go to the big city to enjoy artfully crafted Christmas window displays.  A stroll in our fine community's vibrant downtown is a treat, with nearly every store window decked in holiday style.  One sees charming and elaborate displays of antiques, the latest in children's toys and games, mannequins attired in stunning royal purple evening gowns, shimmering silver, old and new books, and colorful kitchen gadgets and cookware.  A couple of the surrounding communities offer weekends of historic living windows in their downtowns, where shop windows are decorated with vignettes depicting holiday seasons of old.  Small-town life is a gift and at Christmas time, it seems to be wrapped up beautifully with a bow.

Friday, December 2, 2011

O Tannenbaum

Larry and I attended a sneak preview of our local historical museum's Victorian Christmas celebration this evening.  The beautiful mansion was made even more magnificent tonight thanks to the glow of flickering Christmas tree lights everywhere.  Twelve trees, decorated to the theme of "The 12 Days of Christmas," exemplified the boundless abilities of imagination.  From frothy and feathery to fanciful and fun, each tree was a visual delicacy.  Creative local people adopted the trees, each employing his or her own unique interpretation of a verse from the popular Christmas song.  For instance, the Four Calling Birds tree was adorned with the "tweet-tweet-tweet" of little telephone-talking birds.  Six Geese A-Laying took a nostalgic view of the 1950s with everything from Red Goose Shoes to feathery angel ornaments.  There were drumsticks, plaid bows, french horns, a partridge in a pear tree and even a tribute to Audrey Hepburn.  It was such a lovely way to end the week -- appreciating holiday beauty with child-like wonder.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Season of Light

Today is the first day of December.  A local newspaper columnist, Betty Lee, wrote this week that December is considered the cloudiest month of the year and that, in our corner of the world, the sun will only shine 25% of the time this month.  That's a mere seven to eight days out of 31!  I felt quite victorious when I saw the brilliant sunshine this morning, thinking that today was one of those precious seven to eight days.  The next time I looked outside, however, the sky had become overcast, then leaden, then filled with a wintery mix that fortunately quit as soon as it started. December is the month when we experience the longest night, followed by the journey to regain daylight, minute by minute.  December often encompasses what we call the season of light.  During all of the figurative and literal darkness of this world, I saw evidence of people bringing light to others today. This morning, I was invited to take part in two cash donation collections to bring a little light to someone else.  No matter what darkness abounds, there is also much light.  If we can't see it, perhaps we are being called to be the ones to initiate it.