Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Lights

We have exterior illumination adorning our Wolfe Street porch! After almost 29 years of intending and hoping and one years, the time is finally here. It is a reminder that there are still tree of life moments in the midst of looming death.

I love your lights! I can see them from my kitchen window while doing the dishes, and it’s so cozy!

Our little girl loves walking past your house and looking at the Christmas lights.

The comments come from neighbors and bring my heart joy. I laugh that we have a slow turn-around time with our house projects and intentions and tell them that to think of us on the days when discouragement sets in that things will never change. I want them to think of and remembers us in ten years when the days are hard and hope for change feels far-off.

One day the light will come.

This is the year of another phase of extensive electrical work in our big old house. External outlets made the list. Every year during the post-Christmas review we say next year we will hang outdoor lights. Time passes, other things take precedence, and it remains dark.

Steve and Roo hung the Christmas lights.

We hold on to hope in dark places. This year we see and celebrate the playful, colored light in the midst of it.

It is the last day of 2020, and I sit in the early-morning hours in my parents’ living room. Though I am the local daughter, I am here for the week like my sisters from out-of-town.

We spend time doing daily life together, living with both parents like we did so many years ago in so many houses in so many cities in so many states. Our uncle visits bringing with him a rush of childhood memories.

My young self is so close, the one who hung a strand of colored lights around the window in her tiny room on Nicholson Street. She has much to tell me, and her big feelings come in waves, in sobs.

She is comforted by sisters, mother, father, uncle in ways that are new. She sits as part of the pack when she can and wanders off to far-away corners of the house when she can no longer. She laughs and cries and feels all of her feelings and is neither a sick cow nor crazy person.

She is a human .being with permission to feel all of the things and to talk about whatever she wants to talk about and to be quiet when there are no words to say.

I ride with my parents and uncle to the family dinner at my brother’s, the other local sibling. Sitting in the back seat of the Odyssey, I help Mom with her seat belt, and we ride side-by-side like sisters. One sits behind her dad, the other behind her brother.

We ride, admiring the twilight and clouds and full moon. We realize that we almost have made it through 2020 and then sit quietly, enjoying just being together.

On the way home, Dad suggests a drive to look at Christmas lights. Mom loves to look at lights and has been hoping to do so. She wants to see my house at night, but the timing has been off.

Tonight is on. Her brother is in the car with us, and it is fun to show him her town and neighborhood.

Dad knows exactly where he will drive, mostly, and turns left onto Dogwood. Mom and I hold hands in the back seat.

This is where we used to go for walks when I could go for walks.

Dad turns down streets and side streets and crosses over to my side of town so Mom can admire my porch. She loves it and tells me so. We continue the drive around my block and back home, noticing the different types and colors and scenes and winter wonderlands and just enjoying being together. That is the theme of our days and times.

Just being together.

Watching and Waiting Days

The watching and waiting days of Advent lead to the longest night ~ one where Mom’s sister is here visiting her. I walk across town to visit with them and feel my young heart remember.

These waiting days bring more Thursday mornings with Mom and Dad ~ more working on puzzles and drinking coffee than sharing stories. They bring the gifting of Mom’s teenage charm bracelet to me one week. They bring abundant laughter and copious tears.

I don’t want you to leave.

More moments happen with me, head on Mom’s shoulder, arm linked through hers, hands clasped, fingers entwined, sobbing. All the times my little girl, teenage girl, adult young woman, midlife woman, older woman self wanted, wants, will want her mom come flooding over and out and around us in heaving sobs.

We won Christmas.

Christmas Eve is a Thursday. I sit with my parents at the dining room table. We finish the birthday kitten puzzle, eight kitten faces, eight pairs of kitten eyes popping out of gift boxes with balloons and streamers surrounding them. The missing green piece is found under the table.

We thought it was missing!

We are all getting really good at puzzles.

I plan to leave at 10:00 to shop downtown. Mom and Dad ask to join me, so we make an outing of it. Driving to the Water Street parking deck in the rain, I sit in the back seat of the Odyssey ~ the only child riding behind her parents.

It’s a positive-corrective team-building experience as I carry the umbrella, holding it above all of us to shield from the rain. I joke that I can now check make a Christmas memory with Mom and Dad off of my bucket list.

Agora Market is the perfect choice. There is a coffee shop where Mom and Dad order a latte and chai. A former preschool student recognizes them and says hello. I walk away as they talk, my eyes, the only part of my face showing, filling and spilling over with tears. The 90’s feel like an eyeblink ago.

Mom and I agree that she will select gifts for Dad, and I will take them discreetly to the counter. The cashier stows them to the side until all are gathered. I pay for them at the end.

She sees a black dress hanging. She knows it will be perfect because of the way it falls when she fans out the fabric of the skirt. I think of Jerry Seinfeld’s sketch on the difference between men and women when trying on clothes.

She also grabs a cozy sweater and chunky earrings. All are so beautiful and so her.

We return home, and I help Mom wrap gifts. She tries on her new outfit, and I leave to run some errands alone.

The smell of bacon fills the house when I return. Mom and Dad putter side by side fixing BLT’s for lunch. Mom wears a vintage apron sewn by her mother, my grandmother, years ago. My grandmother still lives with her husband in Michigan.

I won’t know what it is like to lose my mom.

My mom says this to me during a conversation. She won’t know loss. Not like this.

I can’t think too hard on that now. The pain runs deep. She and her mother are all I know of a mother ~ daughter relationship in the future. We were working hard on ours.

I thought I had at least 20 more years with her.

I hope I get 20 more days.

Mom peels and cuts a large naval orange into chunks, filling a bowl with them. She opens and pours out a small bag of Rt. 11 chips into another ~ not the Yukon Gold ones of early to mid fall ~ but regular.

I pour glasses of milk and Dad pours a Yuengling, and we all sit down. Just three of us. A Christmas record plays on a new record player that stands on the vintage record cabinet that Deanna and I helped Dad find the Saturday before.

Mom’s Christmas gift.

December was a month of gifts for Mom. We started Hallmark movies in October. That’s when the red Hallmark Christmas Movie watching blanket and the Merry pillow arrived.

It’s a delicious lunch followed by a rest for Mom and shopping trip to the co-op for Dad and me. We buy groceries and a few stocking stuffers.

Returning home, Dad disappears to his third-floor hideaway. Mom and I hunker to rest and watch a movie. This slow day ends with Steve picking me up for re-entry into my local life. I walk downstairs from the third floor with Dad to find Steve sipping coffee on the couch across from Mom ~ coffee she helped make for him.

We say our goodbyes and exit the front door. Stepping onto the porch, surrounded by the brightness of the colored LED lights and the darkness of a December evening, my heart relaxes and releases all it has held and pondered this day, and the tears begin to fall.

Steady On

I want to write not just when I’m wiped out and done with everything. I am so tired tonight and have several things weighing on me. I would actually *LOVE* a snow day tomorrow . . . I think this is one of the first times I have felt that way. I would love the permission to have a little extra space. Today’s client cancellation was kind, because it gave me time to take down Christmas decor in the studio. I would love to do the same here at home.

Will there be snow? The only way to find out is to go to bed.

These words and more spilled into my journal at the end of a long Monday. Most curious to me was my hope for a snow day. That was a first.

I woke the following morning to school cancellations and bare ground. Glad for a slow start to the day and for the ability to work from home, I made a scheduled 8:00 phone call and then fixed waffles.

By 10:00 snow was steadily falling, creating a winter wonderland. I braved the elements to visit a friend. By the time I returned, a blanket of white covered everything, including the ornaments hanging from the tree in the front yard, a new place for them this year.

Usually they hang on the porch from the plant hangers. This year I thought they would look fun in the tree of friendship. I was right! Several neighbors commented on how festive it looked as they walked past our house.

My children thought otherwise. One commented that they were going to find a light blue blanket to wrap around the base of the tree next year. Another thought it was something only a Baab would do or like. Both correct.

Today I took them down. The same week that brought snow and two and a half days off of school for my kids brought seventy degree weather and sunshine for the weekend. Hauling the storage box from the basement, I walked to the front yard and removed the colorful orbs.

The tree now stands empty, unlike my planner for the upcoming week. 2020 has burst onto the scene with no sign of slowing. As I ponder how to remain steady throughout, I realize it takes living moment by moment. That is what I practice as I sit here writing.

I cannot plan for snow days or predict when a child will need me. I cannot know when a client will cancel or forget an appointment, or when I will get an unexpected, much-welcomed last-minute appointment call. I can only do the things in front of me and wait for what surprises may come.

Steady on, Friends! Enjoy your week, surprises and all.

Christmas Letter 2019

Dear Reader,

Christmas 2019 has come and gone, and no Christmas cards were sent. Plenty were received, and if you are one who generously kept me on your Christmas card list, thank you. It was noticed and appreciated.

This year I needed permission to not send cards. A time of much transition, it was kinder to remove the pressure and expectation. Thank you for understanding!

There were no major family events this year. No weddings, graduations, or career changes.

I say this and then realize that, in fact, yes there was something.

I started my own business!

Heart Path Story Coaching was born this year.

Like any newborn, it took time and energy away from other things, namely, writing on the blog. For those who continued to read faithfully and also noticed this, thank you.

The question of whether I have been writing is asked of me in private, and truth is, I have. I have been doing a lot of writing. Each time I respond to an email or send a letter, it’s writing. Each story I work on for personal therapy is writing. Each blog post I write for business is writing. Each story I post in my private writing group is writing.

It just has been quieter here.

I hope to be more consistent in this space in 2020. When I show up here, I love it. I love all of you who read and spur me on to keep writing. I love what Composting the Heart has been for me and hope to share more on it in 2020.

First will be my word of the year on January 1, so stay tuned!

As an added bonus for reading this far, here is a picture of Christmas Dinner festivities. We are wearing the crowns from our poppers! This is real life in our home. I am grateful!

May you finish 2019 well and find much love and peace in 2020!

Blessings to you all!

Julie

Static Christmas Tree

The tree stands in the living room, glowing with white and colored lights. Four ornament boxes brought up from the basement, one for each child still living at home, wait to be unpacked by their owners.

Each person puts their ornaments on as the spirit leads. There is no rhyme or reason and certainly no ceremony surrounding the process. In a few days I will carry the empty boxes back to the basement.

Checking in with my youngest, I ask about her decorating status.

Have you hung your ornaments on the tree, yet?

Yes! All except the stuffed animal ones. I am not hanging those up this year.

She has quite an assortment of Beanie Baby mini ornaments and other holiday stuffed animals that she hangs on the tree each year. I am surprised by this news.

What? But you always hang your stuffed ornaments on the tree! You play with them in the Christmas tree.

Not anymore.

And just like that, Friends, is the end of yet another era. There is no more playing in the Christmas tree.

But the Hello Kitty ornaments made the cut and still hang in their row.

Time marches on, Mamas! One day those ornaments will stay put and the tree will no longer be a working document. It will remain static for the season. That day came for me today.

Hope in the Darkness

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. We light the hope candle. I look at it now, recycled from last year. I do not have new candles. There is one missing. It is either packed away in a different box or burned down so low that I threw it away last year. I need to make a trip to the store to find another purple candle or two.

In the hall is a lighted display of candles surrounding the usual sheep that live there. I pull out the sparkly house, a gift given years ago by a friend, containing Bath and Body Works items. I think of her each year that I get it out while lighting a tea light inside of it.

Light in the darkness.

There are candles around in various places. My husband strings colored lights on the tree, layering over the white lights, because I like both. That is me. Both a white and colored lights girl.

Hope is a memory of the future.

Dan Allender

I sit in darkness remembering the future. Waiting with hope. I believe in what is next while waiting with endurance. With patience. It is a vulnerable place, waiting in the now, hoping for the not yet.

Milestone in the Mail

The pile of mail on the front entryway table grows daily. Periodically, I shuffle through making mental note of the contents. It would be better to sort it out and write things down. I resist better ways.

It’s the holiday season with advertising in full swing. Coupons and circulars and free offers intersperse with bank statements and bills and the occasional letter. Fantasy me thinks of all of the deals I could score, while reality me counts the actual cost and discards some of the unnecessary.

Rifling through slick, thick papers, coupons, and lustrous catalogs, I stop suddenly. What is this?

For the first year ever, the American Girl catalog is lost in the growing stack. It is not being pored over and circled through and dreamed about. It is left alone, untouched, abandoned.

This is it. The year.

I have known it was coming and saw it foreshadowed here. There have been small clues along the way. The last catalog that arrived close to birthday time (those sneaky marketers!) still held interest with the gaming accessories circled. It was still looked through and desirable.

By Christmas, no more.

The final daughter has left elementary school behind and stepped up to middle school. Still in love with Rainbow Bear and some of her other precious childhood toys, she no longer lugs out bins and boxes of accessories to set up doll play circles.

This year I won’t set an alarm to wake with excitement at midnight on Cyber Monday to scope out great American Girl online deals and try to score some. I won’t use Christmas money from relatives to buy a doll or outfit or some other desired accessory.

It’s bittersweet, like every other final milestone.

In the past there was always another. Another baby, another toddler, another preschooler, another elementary age, another, another.

But this is it. The last little girl.

Memory lane takes me back to a hug from heaven and to Christmases gone by where doll beds were set up around the tree on Christmas Eve, dolls tucked inside, waiting for their humans’ discovery. I allow myself space and time to remember, following the Christmas trail on the blog.

Such goodness. Such grief. All the feels spurred on by a glossy catalog, the milestone in the mail.

Christmas Morning

I woke Christmas morning to quiet. Thoughts filled my head. Words filled my heart. Leaning over the bedside, I pulled the laptop from it’s place on my nightstand shelf.

Propping up on pillows, I opened it and began composing. The bedroom door cracked, my husband doing his signature peek to see if I was awake from my sleep.

Do you think you will be long? Everyone is waiting for you in the living room.

Of course they were! In a classic move of having words come to me at the worst time, I closed the laptop, replaced it on the nightstand shelf, and eased my way out of bed.

Wrapping in a cozy robe, I exited to the living room, where a combination of excited and sleepy faces awaited my arrival.

The month of December has been full of celebration. From the first weekend when our eldest and her husband came to celebrate with us, to the weekend before Christmas when my son and his wife visited, we have eaten no fewer than three Christmas breakfasts and as many dinners.

Programs, concerts, gift exchanges, parties, and the wedding of a friend’s son filled the days leading up to the big one. Shopping, wrapping, tending to individuals occupied my time. Christmas cards still being worked on were intentionally set aside until the days after Christmas.

Christmastide.

This brought me to Christmas morning and all of the words in my head and people around the tree. Two adult children and the four still at home greeted me with various levels of excitement and exhaustion written on their faces.

I knew they had been up together late into the night playing games in one younger sibling’s room, sleeping over together in another. The one sharing his room slept downstairs by the light of the Christmas tree, keeping his own tradition.

All of this worked itself out without my planning or control over bedding and beds and sleeping arrangements.

I’ll take care of it, Mama. Don’t worry, adult daughter said. And she did. I went to bed, slept soundly, and woke thinking I could write while everyone was still sleeping when they were all quietly waiting for me in the living room.

This is how I know change has come.

We weren’t awake late into the night trying to settle small children into their beds and startled awake early in the morning to excited knocking on our door. The excitement, while present, was more contained and less explosive.

Present.

Contained.

Less explosive.

These word choices reveal work that has been taking place in my heart and the hearts of those in my home. Learning to be more present. Helping to contain and handle strong feelings. Revisiting and repairing places of rupture with adult children. Revisiting and repairing places of rupture in my own heart.

I woke to words from my story, the story of a younger self, the last Christmas spent with my family before marriage. It was the self of 20, the age of my youngest adult. The words in my head were spoken by a sibling, 13, the age of one of my own.

I have a clear visual of these ages and more context than ever, which is why I think the words came so loudly and clearly. It is why they came with kindness for those present in the scene.

I am still coming close to late-teenage me. From ages 16 to 20 is a painful blur in my story, beginning with a move following the Christmas of ’87 and punctuated with the words,

We’re not having Christmas this year. We’re having a wedding, Younger Sibling, 13, Christmas ’91.

I was married on January 4, 1992.

Christmas and the season surrounding it holds much for me. There is loss and grief and struggle and joy. There are heavy places in my story with Christmas, places even nostalgia can’t reach.

I didn’t write on Christmas Day. I spent time with the family, soaked in the tub, and took a nap. I spent moments on an unexpected phone call with a friend. I hugged adults goodbye and found presents that had not been wrapped in the excitement and passed them out and played a board game.

I watched Elf and went for a walk after dark to look at the neighborhood lights. I fed my parents’s cats. I brewed a cup of Sleepytime tea with my husband, choosing to end the night with tea and reading instead of wine and more eating.

It was a kind choice. As is this early morning writing time two days later. Little by little, step by step, things are changing, have changed. (Yes, do click on that link.)

It is a good gift.

Merry Christmastide, Friends!