Friday, December 31, 2010

May the Road Fall Before Ye

Here it is. The new year! Woohoo!

Not just one month slipping into another, but a mankind-given chance to stop, assess and start over. Great!

In my youth and middle age, I loved to go out. To party, except I almost never had a hangover. I don't do excess very well. Tonight I will snuggle in and drink some wine and then, tomorrow, clean up the detritus of Christmas and gird up for the new year. I already have four meetings planned. Next week. Not every week --just next week.

New Year's. It's like some wonderful package I'm itching to tear into.

And we all will.

This was a really good year. I bought my house--a surprise. good health. good friendships and some old ones revived. some good projects completed. Enough money to pay the bills. People to hug, including family. new friends. And I also lost four friends who were deeply important to me.
Funny about aging. I take comfort from the memories of these lost friends and add to the joys of what I gained. Yeah. It was a really good year.

The joys are just pure, shining silver. The sadnesses have a silver lining that adds to the weight of the joys.

May you have a year that shines, through tears or sunshine.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The End is not always The End

Went to a funeral today. Yeah, I know. I've had a lot of those this year.
I didn't know the deceased at all well. Have known his wife for decades.

The thing is, when you are dealing with an aging population, nowadays, you have several participants who are wearing hats because they are in chemo. They have no hair. But they have hope. And they are feeling well enough to attend.

A lot of cancer gets cured or postponed today. The deceased didn't have cancer. He died from surgical reasons. He was 82. That is okay. The infection--not so okay. So.

He died a week ago and was cremated. I want cremation myself, and wonder how our care of the dead will go. I know personally, I want the least expense. The body is the leftovers. The spirit is where the spirit goes. No cost. Shoudn't be.

I expect God to be with me when I die. What happens after happens. I don't know. I do know my present life is better with God in it. When I meditate. When I pray. When I ask forgiveness.
I KNOW God will be with me as I die. Afterwards, eh. Up to God. Much of what my fellow Christians believe, I do not. Doesn't scare me. Nor do I want to contradict others who believe otherwise.

But I do believe in spirituality. I do believe in God. As a Christian, I also believe in Jesus, but I don't believe he negates the other paths to God. We have muscles. We have brains, We also have spirit. And it is a separate mileau from muscles or emotion or logic. If you have not experienced it, you can scoff. If you have... you smile. there is no argument.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Learning to see outside the box

I think it is great that so many come together for toys for children at Christmas.

In fact, I took my own Angel tree kid and got her a Dora Explorer doll, toy, coloring book and crayons. But the food bank that issued these also has a clothing bank. So I am pretty sure she has a warm coat and a few new clothes (or gently worn). And her parents got some food if they needed--beyond Christmas baskets, day to day things like peanut butter and jelly, cereal, canned meats and vegetables, even toilet paper. I know because as a community, we donate it all year long.

I do it through my church.

But it isn't only the little kids. Teenagers need stuff, too. Razors and shaving cream. New shirts and jeans. Hairdryers. Body wash. Cheap calculators for school. Earrings for the girls, aftershave for the boys. Coats in cold weather. Sometimes backpacks. CDs. clock radios. Hair bows, headbands, even some of that gel stuff. Lip gloss.

In my area, the state provides duffel bags for the belongings when foster kids move. Used to be garbage bags. This is better.

Most are generous. Sometimes a Grinch or two wraps up rags or garbage, wraps it pretty and turns it in as an Angel Tree donation. I don't get it, but some do it. So the gifts are now asked to be turned in unwrapped.

Recently, I saw a woman with so very little take an Angel Tree kid off the list. She wanted to. She will sacrifice to do it. I honor her. With her income, it means cutting severely into any treats for the next month. Or two. But she wanted to. And she smiled so happy.


What does it mean? What do we do?

A little more.

Each year, a little more.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Want some fruit with that?

Christmas is coming. I still have gifts to wrap and baking to do, but I am confident this year I will be ready before it gets here.

Here in the Southwest, as in the South, we love our fruit salad. A friend recently served one I in turn took to a Christmas party. I like the dressing better than any other I have had. Goes well with the ham, or even with Great-aunt Bertha's melt-in-your-mouth pound cake. It's another internet prize. It's fast, delicious and can be made ahead--just add the dressing and banana just before serving. Other fruits can be substituted, but these are easy, can be bought ahead and kept in the pantry when ready.

For 6-8 persons, Refreshing Fruit Salad

1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained well
1 (8 oz)can pineapple chunks, drained well
1 medium banana, sliced
1/2 Cup seedless grapes, halved

3 Tablespoons Hellman's mayo (for best results)
3 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon honey.
Mix thoroughly
add 1/4 Cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup flaked coconut

Refrigerate all.

Add dressing and sliced banana just before serving. (For banana, you can slice early and thoroughly coat with lemon or lime juice to prevent browning, if you wish)

Frankly, this will go well with any poultry, as well. I had some fresh mint to use for garnish. It was both pretty and tasty.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

When Kids Spell It Out

Stealing from a friend, a young mother with two smart, precocious daughters--
They were in the grocery, picking up items, and came to a blocked aisle where two older women were talking, their carts firmly blocking passage, and oblivious to other shoppers trying to pass.

Her 3-year-old daughter suddenly yelled "AhhOOOGa!" (where did she learn that?)
She said the two women jumped about a foot in the air, came down and hastily moved their carts so the mother and her daughters could pass. Go, Bailey!

This nice-mannered mother passed with embarassment--and also satisfaction. Brilliant child. Simply brilliant. At three, she already knows how to get things done.

The other day, I was pulling into a handicapped space (my knees are bad, and my lower back has a kick), when my 8-year-old said, "Gramma, when I grow up, I think I might like to have just a little handicap. Then I will always be able to find a parking place."

When I quit laughing, I told her that good legs and backs are much better than handicap parking places, which really aren't always there, anyway.

Well, she sees the silver lining. And so do I. Life is much more doable today for persons with disabilities. I have a ramp over the steps to my front door, put in by the last owner in a wheelchair.The ramp is much better for my knees, and many of my friends. And easy for everyone, really.

This spring, I will plant some Knockout Earthkind roses that will grow 4x4, hide the ramp from the street, and bloom May to December.

And I will keep listening for the advice of the children I know.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmases Then and Now

On Christmas Day, about 25 years ago, we opened some gifts from an office friend and found three Santa hats.

It had been a lean year. I think that may have been the year I sold a gold ring to buy a Christmas tree and Christmas dinner.

She had wrapped what at the time I thought was a load of crap so the boys would have stuff to open. Paper clips? Postits? But they DID enjoy the unwrapping, and laughing over the triviality. And they loved the hats. They put them on. I can still remember how cute the youngest was in his hat, both of them chuckling.

But I was full of bitterness. Overflowing with it. I felt pitied, not loved. Sometimes kindness can be the deepest cut of all.

And I, without benefit of chemicals or anything alcoholic, went berserk.

What I remember, what we all remember and can now laugh about, was that I ran into the kitchen for my treasured best scissors (wonder what happened to those? can't find those anymore) and I began to cut that hat up into many, many pieces. Which I then threw on the floor and jumped-jumped! -up and down on repeatedly. Presumably noisily.

I have never behaved so before or since in my life.

I didn't touch THEIR hats. No, no. But do you think they wore them the rest of the day?
I still remember a glimpse of the bewildered, hurt, frightened youngest son, about 6, taking off his hat.

And since no permanent insanity, nor drugs, nor alcohol was involved, the rest of Christmas Day went on pleasantly. I hope. There was a witness. A lifelong friend of my oldest was there and apparently marveled.

I still remember how good it felt to go berserk. To jump up and down on those scraps of hat. But I hurt my family. They have long since forgiven me and laughed about it. Recently, so have I.

For a long time, it rankled.

Christmas hats became an icon for my lack of control over what happened at the holidays, both what I couldn't control in my life, and what I did when I reacted. As such, I wasn't fond of them.

I thanked the co-worker again, and she was so pleased she sent more stuff the next Christmas. No Santa hats, though, because we had those, didn't we? Did I ever confront her? No, I didn't. Even then, I had the sense to understand she truly meant well. I think my Nana used to say something about not slapping the outstretched hand even when you wanted to.

Life went on. I gained a little wisdom.

Despite a graduate degree, I have never chosen work that pays well. It has been fulfilling. Meaningful. And we always had enough.

I'm retired now. I still work, but for free. And I have come to realize, I not only have enough, but more than enough. When you add the wealth of family I really love and like to be with and friends, ditto, I am actually filthy rich.

All these years later, I look back at that berserker woman with amusement at what she still had to learn. Bitterness grows no fruit. Love does. I forgave both her and myself. That's what I mean when I say I gained a little wisdom.

Today, I bought two Santa hats for my granddaughters, who both have performances upcoming requiring holiday gear. They look adorable.

Heck, I may go back and get a Santa hat for me.