The Art of Selective Celebration

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Once upon a time a long time ago I lived in the land of obligation, see and be seen and just show your face.  Mercifully, I don’t live there anymore and can practice the art of selective celebration.

Begin with a catchup with dear Franny, then a funny, loving, and confirming dinner with my beloved Cookie Club, on to lunch the next day with the Rileys where we proceeded to leave our joyful mark on Davey’s.  Sunday with my friend Linda to celebrate food, friendship, and I let her lament for a minute. Oy, just for a minute and she’s back to her funny, warm and grounded self.

The best way to celebrate on your own terms is to throw a party, enter the 2nd Annual Car Hag Lunch. Car Hag; a term of endearment originating from a man in the car business who was generous with his knowledge, respectful of the strong women he worked with and supportive of their fight for equal ground.

These are not the politically savvy women but those women behind the scenes that know how to get it done.  They are part of the underground network of women who know like they know, the ones who, too, can slap you so hard you think you got a kiss, who tell it straight up, no frills or fuss, the ones you’ll always ask first.  Car Hag is not derogatory, if you don’t like the name you probably aren’t one.

What a delight to have them on Stowe Lane.  Oh the stories they could tell, and tell they did but like Vegas, what happens on Stowe Lane stays on Stowe Lane.  We will do this again and again, though we’ll need better scheduling next time bearing in mind, forecasts, days off, month end, and on and on in the land of automotive.

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Christmas Eve with my best friend, Sandra, and her family.  I am honored to be with them each year, to watch them grow, to share in the food prep, to ground her from the inevitable mother daughter button pushing, to exhale and know that I am completely loved and exactly where I’m supposed to be.

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Christmas morning with my Mother and Sister and the traditions that go with the many years of sharing Christmas morning together.  Breakfast, gifts, coffee, all tweaked a bit over the years but still basically intact.

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On to my adopted sister, Evi, and her family for a visit and to drop off Walter’s fruit cake…stop it, this one is good, and I made it.  It’s not your usual fruit cake but light and fresh and delicious.  He eats it all himself.  Fabulous.  Catch up with the kids, unavoidably leaving with some of their germy germs, which I am unable to fight off.  I don’t have any kid immunity but oh how I love them to bits.

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Next stop Cookie’s for kisses and a flyby drop off of the Italian cookies and back to Stowe Lane I go.

One of the best ways I know to celebrate is with my camera.  Clicking my way through the season so that once I’m back on Stowe Lane I can savor each moment.  And that’s my gift to me.  I call myself an accidental photographer firmly believing that if you shoot enough and make yourself just short of a nuisance you can capture the moments that make celebrations special.  Those ordinary moments that can be relished for years to come.  My technical ability would certainly be called into question by any self-respecting photographer but I no longer care about technical excellence.  I care about the moments and the memories and the surprises that come out of my camera each time I download, things even I didn’t realize I captured come to life in front of me.  Let’s see, ordinary moments in time captured with loving surprises included.  Yeah, that’s my idea of selective end to end action and a wonderful celebration.


Christmas Nostalgia

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Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.  As if that isn’t difficult enough add Christmas to the mix and you’ve really got your work cut out for you.  I’ve pretty much got it down after five years on Stowe Lane but I can assure you I’m not immune to the vortex of Christmas nostalgia.

I go to a mall only one day in the season, usually with my sister so I can keep her from hyperventilating over her list; who to leave on, who to take off, who’s kids are too old now, who blah blah blah.  Mostly it’s about dinner afterwards as we can breeze through one of the minor malls, on a Wednesday, when the weather is beautiful outside so no one wants to shop.  See what I’m sayin.  What I don’t do in the mall is listen to the music.  To this day, when they get to the “fall on your knees” part of Oh Holy Night I’m a tearful mess.  Don’t know why but it grips me EVERY TIME.  It has shades of church nostalgia when you didn’t know any better, it has shades of A Christmas Carol; I’m on my knees Jacob Marley, on my knees.  Jeez, I’m killin myself over here.  And there’s the time himself was on his knees hoping for a way out of his maze.  When you are an accidental witness to something that personal it sticks with you.

The Christmas movies are making the rounds on every channel at any hour of the day.  I don’t watch them on TV; I pull out my favorites and have a heart wrenching nostalgia fest with no commercial interruption. George C. Scott is hands down my favorite Ebenezer Scrooge.  Come home from Sandra’s on Christmas Eve and in it goes, wake up the next morning and amazingly the spirits have done it all in one night.  Just sayin.

And then there’s It’s a Wonderful Life.  In our darkest hours, in the depths of our despair I so wanted someone to come through our door with a laundry basket filled with cash to save our mess.  I had to let that go because it didn’t happen.  Now I can watch the movie and feel like a George Bailey myself, just doing the next right thing.  But I must say there is that moment when you let yourself go back, just for a second to remember from whence you came.  And yes Clarence, no man is a failure who has friends.  I am incredibly rich now.

I have a beautiful little tree on Stowe Lane, I put it up each year by myself but it’s a different kind of put it up by myself now. There was a time when I resented putting the tree up by myself as I resented so many of the things I had to do by myself.  There’s irony in that these days, much of everything I do, I do happily by myself.  I’m starting to believe that one of the definitions of irony might just be letting go of what isn’t yours.

A friend of mine brought his children over for “cookie day”.  Thankfully most of my serious cookies were already done so we could just enjoy watching the kids roll out, cut out, start again, decorate etc.  They watched while I pressed the butter cookies out, both of them standing on the little chair/stool that my sister used to sit on to watch the cookies bake in the oven when we were kids.  There was such déjà vu in that moment, the sound of the cookie press hitting the cookie sheet, the giggles from the kids, I might have glimpsed a bit of what my mother experienced when she was the chief cookie baker. Makes me wonder if there will be cookies when I’m her age; but that isn’t mine to hold on to either.

It snowed all day yesterday.  The kind of snow that is reminiscent of Christmases past.  Stuck in the house, the smell of cookies in the air, bundled up fun with the dogs romping through the enchanted forest, and nostalgia hanging in the air.  Funny thoughts enter your head, like having to wait for Dad to “set up the lights for the camera” before you could get out of bed to see what was under the tree.  Those cameras no longer exist and my father is gone too.  The smell of pine coming from a candle instead of the tree, I long ago let go of having a real tree when our little Dobie didn’t realize the smell inside is different from the smell outside and lifted his leg.  These were fleeting thoughts tucked in to one of the most wonderful days I could have had.  Being stuck in the house is never a problem for me, I love my home.  Baking cookies in my tiny little kitchen is more like choreography but I’m so good at the dance.  Spending time with children who are making cookies is always fun.  And best of all a phone call from my friends Benno and Harumi who now live in Amsterdam.  Lively conversation, picking up where we left off, laughing, sending love across the wires is an amazing gift.

If I were to sum up the Christmas season and how best to get through those flashes of nostalgia, I would say to honor them.  Feel them all the way through, take the moment and know that whether it is happy or sad it has made you what you are in this moment.  Enjoy the season, remember what it really stands for and go with that.  Make yourself engage even if it’s hard, we are watching a friend of ours deny all that is joyful and it’s breaking our hearts.

From all that I was to all that I have become I know like I know there truly is balance in the holding on and the letting go.

No, You Can’t Buy Christmas Spirit


DSC_0821But I found it everywhere this week.

In my wood bin:


From my oven:


Catching up with Fran:


Putting up the tree:


I even found it at the doctor’s office.  Sorry no picture available for that one.  I’ve had a cough for weeks, a bark actually, and it’s plucked my last nerve so I decided to investigate with someone who actually went to medical school.  The thing is there’s really nothing wrong, no pneumonia, no sinus infection, not a smidge of temperature, just this nagging bark.  Perhaps it’s residual from an upper respiratory infection he said.  Wouldn’t I have noticed an upper respiratory infection?  I’m a huge believer in stresses manifesting themselves in the body…just saying, person who keeps touting misinformation all over the company about things you don’t understand.  But I digress, the Christmas spirit appeared as Advair, which is very expensive, but came in the form of a two-week SAMPLE.

Christmas spirit is giving, service, love, sharing, and human connection.  It’s not material, you should never have to buy it for the sake of the season.  Simply send someone home with cookies for their morning coffee.

I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year….Charles Dickens


Thanksgiving Week Anniversary


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A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog … Continue reading