Monday, December 31, 2012

Time Marches On

I enjoy receiving a newsletter from our local Aging & Disability Resource Center.  It's always chocked full of helpful hints and useful information.  One article in the latest edition, written by Steven B. Cloud, was about time.  According to Mr. Cloud, as we view the new year, we'll perhaps see it as 12 months or 52 weeks or 365 days.  But we can also see it as 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes or even 31,536,000 seconds.  It's one thing for me to refer to a year or months or weeks or even days, but when I do the math and see next year as hours, minutes or seconds, time takes on an entirely new meaning.  How will I use this precious gift of those hours, minutes and seconds in 2013?  How will I be a good steward of my time, living each moment with intention and gratitude and not squandering it?  As I get older, time marches on more quickly.  All the more reason to make each moment count.

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Larry and I took a brief drive out of town on a recent Sunday afternoon. I expected it to be a rather ordinary little drive, one that we've taken time and time again, but what we encountered was far from ordinary.  Our drive took us to a winter wonderland.   It was only a few days after our big pre-Christmas blizzard.  The evergreen trees were flocked with thick, white snow.  The silhouettes of the deciduous trees were barely visible in their generous cloaks of white.  Some of the tree branches were surprisingly decorated with snowballs, the same size that we used to make in mitten-covered hands as kids.  How did the snow land in just that fashion on tree after tree without falling off, I wondered. Snow covered the roof of a round (probably octagonal) barn and stuck to the side of silos.  A hawk flew majestically over our heads while hundreds of little black-silhouetted birds (starlings, perhaps) sat high up in three trees positioned close together.  The sun was setting as we returned home.  The western horizon was a stunning gradation of gold and yellow and blue and gray.  I counted my blessings for all of the beauty we were fortunate to witness that not-so-ordinary, snowy, wintery afternoon.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

With the Angels

This month has been marked with an unusually large number of people I knew who have passed away, many of whom around the Christmas holiday.  Some were newer acquaintances, some were old friends, some were relatives. While my heart has been heavy with so much loss, I find solace that these fine people, people I knew, people I cherished are now at peace, no longer suffering from illness.  As we sang Silent Night at church on Christmas Eve, I internalized the words even more deeply this year:  "All is calm, All is bright...Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace."  My human sadness will continue for a bit as I resolve the loss of these special people in my life, but I will also be grateful that my life was touched and made better by them.  And now, where all is calm, all is bright, they sleep in heavenly peace, forever with the angels.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thinking Charitably

Nowadays, there's a catchy name for just about everything, including the big shopping days of the holiday season:  Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Green Tuesday.  I'm not sure if it has a special name or not, but I love to think and give charitably at the holidays.  Other than to buy a few gifts for a few special people, Larry and I have made it a practice for the past 15 years or so to give to charities at Christmas rather than to each other.  There is so little that we want and even less that we need that it gives us great joy to know that when we choose our gifts, we are helping the local children's, health, history, environmental, educational, spiritual and other organizations that mean so much to us and others.  With no worries about the right size, color or style, we only have to hope that our gifts will be of benefit to the quality of life of others all year long.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding

For all the years I've sung "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," including the verse demanding some figgy pudding, I've never really thought about the lyrics too much -- until this year, that is.  I have become enamored with figs.  Our local health foods store, The Grainery, sells organic figs -- regular and dried -- in bulk and I've become a big fan of them.  I really like conadria figs, which are filled with fiber and nutrients and have a golden color, rich, nutty flavor and tender skins. Just one fig at the end of my lunch or dinner makes for a nice, sweet and nutritious ending to my meal.  I've become so fascinated by figs and figgy pudding that I researched them online.  On, I learned that "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" can possibly be traced as far back as 16th century England.  Carolers would sing for wealthy members of the community and be given Christmas treats in exchange for their entertainment.  One of the treats that the carolers would request was figgy pudding.  You don't really hear anything about figgy pudding anymore, but this same online source reported that the pudding was made of figs, butter, sugar, rum, apple, lemon and orange peel, various spices and more.  I won't likely be singing anytime soon for figgy pudding, but I'm glad that I can get yummy figs any time of the year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Birthday Party

Our Christmas was a birthday party.  From a Biblical perspective, Christmas is, as the song says, “the birthday party of the king.”  Our Christmas was also a birthday party for our good friend Betty who turned 90 on Christmas Day.  We celebrated with our good friend over good food and good conversation.  Our Christmas feast came from our church’s community Christmas dinner.  We brought take-out containers to Betty's house, ate ourselves silly, yet still saved room for Christmas treats and birthday cake and ice cream. We were joined on occasion by Betty’s feline ladies who otherwise enjoyed a long, Christmas Day nap.  The gift wrapping, bows and ribbons will make for appealing playthings for the kitties. In every way, our Christmas was a blessing -- a celebration of the meaning of the holiday, a birthday party for our dear friend and an opportunity to break bread together in gratitude for all that we have and for each other.  Those were precious Christmas gifts indeed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Making Christmas Music Memories

When Larry and I were in the car for several hours recently, I thoroughly enjoyed the confined time with him.  In addition to having time free of distractions for conversation and reading aloud, we listened to Christmas music on the car radio.  We sang along, tapping to the beat on the dash and steering wheel, all the while feeling the spirit of the season with each song.  Our car time together reminded me of Christmases from my childhood.  Santa always arrived while we were at church on Christmas Eve, so we opened our gifts on the evening of December 24.  On Christmas Day, Mom, Dad and I would pile into the car to head to Manitowoc and Two Rivers, Wisconsin to spend the holiday and several days thereafter with family and friends.  Both of my parents had parents and siblings living in those sister communities, as well as longtime friends, so it seemed as if we ran from one house to another, enjoying the joyful noise, merriment and treats of the season with people we loved.  All the way to Manitowoc, Mom, Dad and I would tune in the car radio to Christmas music, changing channels as needed to reach a new station when the previous one became filled with static.  Singing, humming and laughing while listening to Christmas music made our three-hour trip seem much shorter.  As Larry and I sang along with Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Andy Williams and Burl Ives, I cherished these new moments made with him.  And, at the same time, I recalled lovely memories of decades ago when listening to Christmas music on the car radio with people I loved meant everything to this little girl.  May you have beautiful Christmas memories to remember and a day today filled with making new memories with those you love.  Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Bringing Meaning to My Christmas Eve

Our church hosts a free community dinner each Christmas. It's a delicious meal.  It’s a celebration of Christmas in the peaceful, beautiful space that we call our church. It’s an invitation to one and all looking to join together in breaking bread with others on the holiday.  Hopefully, each person who partakes in the dinner will feel the love that went into preparing it by the scores of volunteers. This year, once again, I spent part of my Christmas Eve day helping prepare the dinner. There were relish trays to assemble and place settings for 200 people to set out on long, decorated tables. There were turkeys to roast, hams to bake, potatoes to mash and salads to prepare.   I had "new" assignments this year of preparing sweet potatoes, slicing dinner rolls, preparing some of the rolls for take-out containers, and slicing pies.  The church's kitchen had the heavenly commingled smells of roasted turkey, sage dressing and cranberries popping on the stovetop. Larry and I will go to Christmas Eve service at church tonight and probably drive around to look at Christmas lights once again and then snuggle up to watch some old Christmas movie on television until our eyelids get too heavy.  May the blessings of this holiday be abundant in your life.  May you remember with joy those loved ones no longer with you and, at the same time, give greetings and big hugs and kisses to those you love who are in your midst.  And may you have a heart that is light and filled with gratitude, for the gifts of the spirit are present and lasting. ‘Wishing you a merry Christmas --

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Larry and I have owned our condo for a decade as of this week.   It's hard to believe that 10 years have gone by since we plunged into the big decision to purchase our home.  At the time, we thought it would give us so much room that we wouldn't ever use all of the 2,300 square feet of space.  However, we have quickly filled the space and find ourselves living fully in every inch of it.  Owning our condo and residing in our condo association have proven to have been great decisions, for we love our home and we have wonderful neighbors who make our association a true neighborhood.  At the holidays as we reflect on our many blessings, I am grateful for our home and for the wonderful, caring people who make our living space "home sweet home."

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I really love to sing and at this time of year when Christmas music is playing in stores, on the radio, at church and just about anywhere you go, it's nice to be able to hum or sing along with Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Harry Connick, Jr., Steve Lawrence and the gang.  With my cold dragging on for so long, I've not only had a husky speaking voice, my singing voice has been in its basement range at best.  Gratefully, my singing voice is coming back and I've been able to carol and sing and hum along with Bing to my heart's content.  Whether we're great singers or just singers in the shower, isn't it lovely to have a song on your lips and one in your heart?  And what better time to be able to sing joyfully than at Christmas when there are so many great pieces of secular and sacred music?  Whether it's "Jolly Old St. Nicholas" or "O Holy Night," now is the time to sing with gladness and Joy to the World.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Glittering and Gold

Today marks the first day of winter, the longest night, the winter solstice.  To celebrate and acknowledge this special day, I propose to Larry that we take a ride and look at holiday lights.  The Christmas light displays are particularly stunning this year, especially with the new snow, so it would seem only fitting that we view them on this longest night of the year.  By tomorrow, we'll start the slow return to increased daylight.  But for now, I'll appreciate and embrace the darkness, the quiet, the time for reflection and an evening of seeing all that is glittering and gold and beautiful in the Christmas light displays of our community.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snow Day

We mark this last day of fall with a blizzard.  And while the snow storm is inconveniently timed for many things, including holiday shopping, travel and parties, I have found it to be an early Christmas gift.  Sadly, it seems that only during times of bad weather or illness do I let myself -- guilt-free -- be quiet, move slowly and stop my activity completely to curl up in a chair to read and nap.  I have been craving one of those days and today has been it.  I heard some of my colleagues at work talk about their anticipated day home during the storm making snowmen, baking cookies, wrapping Christmas presents and spending time over hot cocoa with their children.  Larry and I listened to Christmas music on the radio, ate a leisurely lunch and enjoyed hanging out together for an entire, uninterrupted day.  I also got in some serious reading time with a 1930s-era, Lord Peter Wimsey murder mystery by the great Dorothy L. Sayers.  Time with Larry, a good book, a cozy chair with an inviting quilt made by my dear friend Kitty, and a view of the storm outside my window while "The First Noel" played on the radio.  I had nowhere to go and nothing on my to-do list.  I couldn't have asked for more today.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Raindrops on Roses

The Sauk County Historical Society in Baraboo has outdone itself with this year's Edwardian Christmas Celebration.  This season's theme, My Favorite Things, takes the lyrics from the familiar song to new heights.  Each of the historical society's 12 Christmas trees is decorated using a line from the song.  The society's Van Orden Mansion is magnificent with the tree-decorating talents of 12 sets of gifted artists.  The "Silver White Winters That Melt Into Spring" tree is an elaborate changing of seasons, with the top of the tree brimming in snow and ice and the bottom a cascade of spring flowers.  There are trees decorated in "Warm Woolen Mittens," "Brown Paper Packages Tied Up with String," "Snowflakes That Stay on My Nose and Eyelashes" and even "Raindrops on Roses," an exquisite display done in white roses and rose petals.  I truly can't decide which tree is my favorite, for they are all filled guessed it, my favorite things.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Press Check

I am about to become a published book author for the first time in my life.  To say that I am overjoyed is an understatement.  Yesterday, the book's designer and I took a road trip to the printer a couple of hours away so we could perform a press check to ensure that the published book would look as we had envisioned it on the computer screen.  I have been given a most rare gift by my employer:  Earlier this year, I was given the budget and complete artistic license to research, write and edit and select the images for this book, which will commemorate our community's 90 years of local health care facilities and services and the people who have delivered and continue to deliver exceptional, compassionate health care.  Over a 14-month period, beginning last month, our community is celebrating momentous anniversaries of our three major local health care facilities:  St. Mary's Ringling Hospital/Manor and Convent (90 years as of November 2012), St. Clare Hospital (50 years as of June 2013) and St. Clare Meadows Care Center (40 years as of December 2013).  While it has involved many hours of my free time, this book has been a labor of love.  I am grateful to have been entrusted with such a project.  Soon, 2,500 copies of the book will arrive at St. Clare Hospital.  None will be sold.  The project was designed so that all of the books will be given away.  I believe that we pave our future by understanding and respecting our past.  Hopefully, this new book will contribute to that perspective.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Yawning Angels and Sheep That Go Baa

One of the most joyful things for me about the Christmas season is our church's annual pageant performed by the children and youth.  Yesterday was such a pageant.  The talented kids, inspired, mentored and coached by gifted adults, told the Biblical Christmas story through Scripture, song, poetry, narration and acting.  Everyone involved did a wonderful job.  The packed church was filled with proud parents and grandparents, many of whom had digital still and video cameras in hand.  Those of us in the back pews craned our necks to make sure that we didn't miss any of the action, especially among the youngest and shortest of the pageant's stars.  There were tiny, little girls dressed as angels, complete with garland halos (at least one little angel was caught yawning during the performance).  There were little boys dressed as precious little sheep.  Each knew his line well ("baa").  Slightly taller boys adorned long black and gray beards to be shepherds and even taller boys carried gold-wrapped boxes and silver vessels as the three kings.  Mary and Joseph were reverent and the angel Gabriel was portrayed with elegance.  No single performer outshone the other.  They performed as an ensemble and together, told the Christmas story with eloquence.  I thank them for sharing their abundant talents to tell us once again that important story of Love. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Healing Notes

This past week has been one marked with sadness, loss and tragedy.  In addition to our own family's loss of my mother-in-law, two people I know each lost a parent/parent-in-law.  Then, a chance conversation with an old friend revealed that his family has endured great sadness and upset over the past year.  On another chance occasion, another old friend told me about his past year of surgeries and his return to work only recently after a prolonged recuperation.  Then, the terrible tragedy struck in Connecticut, resulting in such tremendous loss that there are barely words to express the horror.  We assuredly cling to our faith in difficult times, but I realized that music has also had a place of healing in my life over the past week.  Upon our return from his mother's memorial service, Larry and I attended a concert performed by the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County campus and community choir.  Truly, I felt we experienced a jubilant musical gift.  Then, last evening, we attended a concert performed by Grammy award-winning vocalist Darlene Koldenhoven and the Sauk Prairie Youth Choir.  As a booking agent, Larry represents Ms. Koldenhoven who performs, teaches and composes.  Her vocal range spans some five octaves, all of which she artfully used in last evening's performance.  Her concert, comprised of familiar holiday selections and music she had written, featured common themes of peace, unity, harmony and love.  In both concerts over the last few days, the healing notes of music washed over me.  My heavy heart for our loss and the losses and sorrows of others was lifted in songs of joy, love and peace.  May we carry such songs in our hearts and translate them into peaceful words and loving actions every day.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rising Sun

Have you noticed the beautiful sunrises lately?  A couple of weeks before my mother-in-law passed away, she sent Larry and me a most lovely note on a very pretty Dayspring notecard.  I will cherish that note from her for the rest of my days.  The cover of the card features a quote from a minister named Max Lucado that begins "Next time a sunrise steals your breath...."  I must admit that sunrises frequently take my breath away and those I've been enjoying of late have been particularly spectacular.  I don't know if it has to do with the starkness of a winter sky, but the early morning horizon has been radiant with color and vibrancy.  I recently read this prayer:  "Thank you, God, for this morning as I watched the blazing sun through a wintry sky." My body is still on Daylight Saving Time, so I tend to rise early and get myself ready for work earlier than normal.  In so doing, I have this great opportunity morning after morning to see the blazing sun rise through the wintry sky.  What a wonderful way to start my day.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Crazy Weather

I really don't know how to dress these days.  One week, it's cold with a biting wind and I know that winter's on its way.  The next week, the temperatures soar into the stratosphere and it feels as if we're experiencing that rare treat called a January thaw.  Two years ago, we had blizzards and this year, we have 60-degree December days.  This year, it's a little hard to get into the ol' holiday spirit, sing Christmas carols, drag out the holiday jewelry and drive around to look at holiday lights when you don't need a coat and could even have the windows rolled down as you drive around to see the lights.  I call the weather crazy, but truthfully, I find the weather patterns disturbing.  Severe heat, severe drought, severe rains and severe storms seem to plague our land these days.  I pray for a little equilibrium once again and for December in Wisconsin to act, well, like December. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oh, Andy

My Saturday had been busy and I was running close to the wire, but I knew I had to stop everything before 5:00 p.m. and sit myself down in front of the television, for the best of the Andy Williams Christmas television specials was airing on PBS.  I've seen the show perhaps half a dozen times, but I just couldn't miss it, especially since this would be the first Christmas since Andy had passed away.  Usually when I see this particular TV special, I sing along with Andy, with him and his brothers, and with the Osmonds.  But, alas, this year, my cold had total control of my vocal cords and all that would come out was a whisper or a husky croaking sound that didn't even faintly resemble my singing voice.  So, I plunked myself down in the big leather easy chair and tapped my feet on the ottoman to the beat of Andy's lovely renditions of one great Christmas classic after another and I kept my mouth shut.  Oh, how I loved Andy's smooth tones, and when he sang with his brothers, the harmonic blend was as smooth as butter.  Andy's Christmas specials taught us that our relationships with family (or friends who feel like family) are precious and that we need to make memories with them as much as possible for current enjoyment and future joyful reflection.  Sleep in heavenly peace, Andy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The People Welcome You

Perhaps it's from my having worked in tourism for such a long time, but I tend to pay close attention to the customer service I receive.  On our recent trip to Larry's mother's memorial service in Des Moines, I was impressed to see the signs noting that we were arriving in Iowa.  Their message:  "The People of Iowa Welcome You."  Rather than the normal sign stating, "(Name of State Here) Welcomes You," in Iowa, the people of that state welcomed us.  It felt personal and sincere.  At our hotel, our breakfast server wore a shirt that said "I am (Name of Hotel Here)."  I liked that message because it meant that customer service was so integral to this hotel's operations that its employees felt as if their service was representative of the hotel, that they cared enough to give their best to provide that lasting memory to customers because the employees were the hotel.  Then, at dinner, we encountered supreme customer service.  The waitstaff catered to our every need, anticipating anything that we might even consider wanting.  When customer service is treated as being of such primary importance, an exceptional, memorable experience is created for the customer.  This customer was very happy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Remembering Marty

My lovely mother-in-law, Marcia (but known to all as Marty), passed away on the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Her memorial service was in her hometown two days ago.  Marty learned that she had end-stage cancer over a year ago.  Her medical team was doubtful that she would live much beyond Christmas that year.  But, Marty was one of strong faith and a peaceful spirit.  Her time on Earth was not to end at Christmas, nor on Valentine's Day, Easter, 4th of July or Labor Day, not even on Thanksgiving.  Marty lived for over a year after that initial, dire diagnosis.  Although we didn't live in the same town or the same state, my husband Larry and I found that we became closer and closer to her throughout those remaining 14 months.  Our weekly telephone calls gave us opportunities to laugh and cry together and to say everything that was on our minds and in our hearts.  By the time our last conversation was completed on Thanksgiving, nothing had been left unsaid.  Marty shared her wisdom about living and her grace in dying with us, and many "I love yous" were said, week after week.  I will really miss Marty, for she was a wonderful lady with an equally wonderful sense of humor.  I am so grateful to have had her in my life.  I love you, Marty. I miss you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Greens Are Hung

From childhood on, one of my favorite occasions at my church is what we call the Hanging of the Greens, the day (or evening) when we decorate the church for Christmas.  From childhood all the way through my 40s, we decorated the church's Sunday School rooms and Sanctuary on the evening of the first Sunday in Advent.  It'd all start with a potluck dinner, followed by decorating, then gathering in the Sanctuary to hear a story, sing carols and enjoy the beautifully lit Christmas tree.  In recent years, we've revised our Hanging of the Greens celebration a few times and this year was no exception.  The event was done during the 9AM Sunday School hour of the first Sunday in Advent.  It was a merry mix of children, youth and adults putting up lights and ornaments on trees and affixing evergreen wreaths with silver bows to the railings of our Sanctuary's balcony.  Everything was very festive and it was fun to watch the multiple generations working side by side to make the church lovely and bright for the holidays.  Somewhere in all of the merriment, I was once again a little girl, feeling the excitement of seeing our church transformed.  A beautiful sight to behold no matter what my age.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Zapped, Flat and Napped

I'd been overdoing for quite some time and knew that eventually it would catch up with me.  That's when I leave myself most vulnerable to colds, flus and other nasties.  On the Friday following Thanksgiving, a bug finally caught up with me and really zapped me.  I was laid out flat for a few days and even had to come home early from work three days in a row just to sleep and cough and wheeze.  Despite the annoyance and inconvenience of it all, the great thing about catching a cold is the permission I finally give myself to stop my scheduled activities, tuck myself in, lounge in my pjs, nap and read.  It'd been weeks since I'd sat down long enough to savor a good book and I was feeling withdrawals.  My cold gave me the chance to read not one, not two, but three murder mysteries and it was a delicious treat.  After 1 1/2 weeks, the worst of my cold's symptoms are starting to subside, but cold or not, the delight of being able to curl up with a book and nap is staying a priority. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Oldy, But Goody

While savoring a sneak preview of the Sauk County Historical Society's many beautiful and elaborately decorated Christmas trees a week ago, we landed in David SaLoutos' spectacular display of Christmas from the 1960s and 70s.  Everyone appropriately oohed and aahed at the magnificence of the room's many decorations (including two Christmas trees and Christmas LP records that I can recall playing on our hi-fi at home when I was a child).  A highlight of the display was an old, black and white Zenith television that still worked and to which was hooked a DVD player to show snippets of 1960s and 1970s Christmas television specials from the King family, Bing Crosby and others.  Considering that nowadays nearly every household has a flat-screen television and every individual has a host of other fancy electronics on his person, the thing that held the audience captivated the longest was staring into the old Zenith television, watching black and white renditions of old-time Christmas specials.  Sometimes, the oldies are goodies.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Craning to See

A recent work excursion with a friend took us on a country road to a nearby community.  The view was splendid, but it got even more splendid as we looked out onto what had been a cornfield a few months ago.  Now, the corn was gone, the ground was quiet and the earth exposed.  And on that exposed earth were probably 100 or more sandhill cranes.  They were everywhere we looked.  I craned my neck in all directions, including up at the sky where some of the cranes were in flight.  These elegant birds were likely taking a bit of a rest en route elsewhere for the winter.  How wonderful it was to be able to get a glimpse of that beautiful, breathtaking sight.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Great Danes

It seems that everywhere I turn lately I learn something else fascinating about the people of Denmark.  In the documentary "Happy," I learned that Danes are considered to be the happiest people on the planet.  They have universal health care and free access to college, among the things to make them happy. But it's the way they live, the way they socialize that make them happy people.  They tend to live multi-generationally, not necessarily among family, but among others who become like family. A couple of days later, I saw a PBS program that described Danes as living in an economy that fosters upward mobility.  In fact, according to the TV program, Danes are considered the most upwardly mobile people in the world.  After learning these tidbits, I became so fascinated by the Danes that I searched the Internet, landing at, the "official website of Denmark."  There, I learned that they are so committed to a green, sustainable society that over 20% of Denmark's energy comes from renewable sources and they have a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.  They are known for commuting on two wheels, instead of four, relying on bicycles as a regular mode of transportation.  Their commitment to work-life balance is something to emulate -- something for me to

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Right Words

We didn't send Christmas cards last year.  Mom had passed away just three months earlier and I just didn't feel like writing to everyone after having just sent thank-you notes to the same people at the time of Mom's death.  This year, I contemplated whether I was in the mood to send out cards again and decided that I was ready to jump into it.  But this year, the cards would be in the form of a letter decorated with snowflakes.  As I wrote and edited and edited and edited our Christmas letter, I thought of the words by Mark Twain that I had read in a recent American Profile supplement to our local newspaper:  "To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement." I'm not sure if I chose the right words or put them in the right place, but I was actually happy to write those Christmas letters once again.  Now I open our mailbox each day with anticipation and joy, wondering what Christmas cards and letters we'll receive.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The times, they are a changin'.  On that traditional of days, Thanksgiving, I thought I'd catch a little bit of the Thanksgiving Day parades on television.  I always loved watching the parades on TV, from a child on.  Perhaps it was the time I chose to watch, but most of what I saw on two different networks had to do with celebrity interviews and watching snippets of Broadway musicals performed on the street.  Occasionally, I remembered I was tuned in to a parade when I saw a big balloon or a band or a float, but they seemed to be incidental to the on-camera festivities.  Harrumph.  I finally turned the channel and landed, of all places, on one featuring Looney Tunes cartoons.  I settled there for a moment, trying to find something that allowed me to feel like a kid again.  Harrumph.  Alas, Looney Tunes cartoons have changed, too.  Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and all of the others carried the latest in cell phones, talked about changing batteries on smoke detectors, and discussed what made for a healthy meal.  This old lady finally turned off the television and took a walk outside where the dark cloud over my head dissipated with every breath of fresh air.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Love Lights

I love to look at holiday light displays.  Thanks to my amazing good fortune of landing an office next to a healing garden, I see beauty outside of my window all year long.  At this time of year, however, the garden glows with thousands of lights, mainly in royal blue and white.  The entire garden is awash in beautiful, little lights, including the three love light trees that are lit with bulbs that have been sponsored by people from the community to honor and remember loved ones.  Nearly any holiday light display pales for me in comparison to what I get to see outside of my window every early morning and late afternoon for weeks to come.  The lights will officially turn on this evening as part of the St. Clare Hospital Auxiliary's Festival of Love & Light, a meaningful time for anyone, but especially for those who are looking for a safe place in which to shed some tears when remembering someone they love.  As I look out onto the healing garden in weeks to come, I will pray for all of the people who are remembered with a light in the garden.  Lights of love burn forever in our hearts.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Splitting Hairs

While at a party recently, Larry told a hilarious story about his newspaper delivery days of his youth.  On one of his early-morning deliveries, he came upon a man sitting on his porch, clipping the hairs in his nose.  In a gruff voice, the old gentleman warned Larry that he would someday have to do that, too.  Larry, the young lad, shuddered at the horror of having hair growing in places you didn't want it.  Now, like most men of a certain age, he's clipping hairs.  I recall when my mom started tweezing a few stray chin hairs.  Like Larry-the-boy, Keri-the-girl couldn't imagine having to tweeze chin hairs.  It just couldn't be.  Now, amazingly, I find my own stray hairs.  Such hair-raising realities are but another rite of passage, another gift of the years to join the gray hair, the bifocals and the wrinkles.  I'm armed with my tweezers, but grateful to have gotten this far in the journey.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


My mom loved to work with her hands and she always made lovely items -- potpourri and cinnamony sachets, counted-cross stitch creations, little pillows bearing one-word messages like Love, Joy and Peace.  She even made many of her own clothes and many of mine when I was a child.  Some of my all-time favorites among her creations were red felt cardinals the size of the real bird.  Mom decorated the Christmas tree with them and she gave them away as gifts.  Each was hand sewn with perfectly even, little stitches.  This year, the cardinals that Mom had given me are adorning a large twig wreath in our living room.  Like the real bird, these cardinals are bringing loveliness and cheer to our December, just as Mom brought loveliness and cheer to all who had the blessing of knowing her.