Twinkly Trees and Traditions

Last night I drove down my street towards my home at the end of it, and I noticed tree lights in a window.  Happy yellow-white glowing twinkle lights.  My spirit responded with a standing ovation, claps and cheers included.

Then I broke out of my mental auto-pilot and realized they were my happy lights.

I write this to you in case you happen to wander past and see the twinkle lights shining through the front window of my house.  I write this so you don’t wonder as my neighbors and even some of the folks who abide with me do–just why is the Christmas tree still up?

I wasn’t raised this way for sure.  The same Mama who didn’t do laundry on New Year’s Day or let us wear white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day made sure our tree and Christmas decorations were down by New Year’s Eve.  I think there was some line of thinking that carrying them into the New Year was bad luck.  Also, our trees from my Granny’s woods were usually shedding and in dire need to go to the high grass at the back of our property to live out their next life as a bunny habitat.  (I refuse to entertain the idea that snakes found joy in our old trees.  Because SNAKES. No ma’am.)

Then I married into a tradition of keeping the tree up until Epiphany, January 6th.  I liked this and had no problem embracing it after the first year or two of feeling slightly uncomfortable and apologetic.  The only problem was that January 6th only fell on the weekend a couple of years out of six or seven, so it was rarely the 6th when we actually took it down.  I remember attending a “Tearing Down Christmas” party once, and I thought it was brilliant.  It was after Christmas when folks were more relaxed, but she still had her home beautifully decorated.  It was the last hoorah before she put everything away.  I have yet to host such a celebration, but it’s still something I really hope to do one year.

This year things have been different.  There’s been a different feel in the air since October. I was looking at a milestone birthday in November, so maybe that’s why I missed Mama and Daddy so much–things were just different.  The month of November and first half of December flew by–with all my people taking turns having the cold crud that went through everyone we knew, with celebrations, having Thanksgiving at home (due to aforementioned crud), and three shows in a sixteen day period.  All wonderful things, but time passed quickly.  We always go tree hunting as a family.  With our oldest in law school and folks sick on Thanksgiving weekend, it was the 16th of December before we could actually make the hunting happen.

During this time I struggled with the idea of finally getting an artificial tree.  The only other time we haven’t had a real one was when we were living in Japan for those two Christmases.  I have wonderful memories of the tree hunts of my childhood.  Like other things I loved that I’ve not been able to share with my children, it was hard to let this go. Still, I felt like it was time.  With an artificial tree, we could put it up whenever we wanted–never mind if someone was sick or not.  And it could be decorated at leisure when my law student could come home.

Because as lovely as the ornaments are and as much as I love the stories behind each and every one (and if you have a month or two, I’ll tell you each one), it’s the lights, y’all.  It’s the lights that lift my spirits and give the room a glow like no bit of sunlight can.

Those lights create magic.

Lovely twinkling magic.

So I could tell you that it’s still up because my tree only went up on the 17th.  Or I could tell you that it’s because it’s artificial and I don’t have to worry about needles falling or fire hazards.  Or I could tell you that we just haven’t had the time, what with having wonderful family from out of state here with us after Christmas.

And while those things might be true to some degree–those are not the reasons why.

During these darkest days of the year, that tree with its little non-LED lights has given me hope.  It has been the light that draws my soul towards it and that hope like a moth to the moon.  The magic that I saw so brilliantly in the wee hours of Christmas morning before I retired for a few hours’ slumber remains.  It whispers to me–“All will be well, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

There is promise. The sun, the warmth, the days will lengthen.   The light will return.

But until then, I find joy and peace in the twinkling lights that someone in a warehouse somewhere painstakingly attached to my faux tree.  Bless them and bless that peace that surrounds me every time my eyes land on that luminous evergreen.

And bless all of you.  I hope that when you find something that brings you joy and peace and puts magic into your world, making your heart sing, that you will hang on to it too.  Some years are like that.  Some years we just need to keep those trees up.

And that’s okay.

Love  and twinkly lights to all.

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TRASH

New Year’s Eve. 2018.

So much to think about and ponder upon and yet, I remember the old wives’ tale about sweeping. Don’t sweep on New Year’s Day or you’ll sweep someone out of your life. I don’t want to review memories and stories and sweep them back into my memories. And so I find myself not wanting to become all maudlin and auld lang syne-ish. I’d like tomorrow to be just another day, albeit wonderful as I will be surrounded by many of my favorite people, and make the best of it and try to leave the world a little better place at sunset than I found it at sunrise–just as I hope to do for the other 364 days of 2019.

“This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

My Mama sang these words out more days than not, challenging us to find joy in each day and not take a single one for granted. She especially loved to remind us of this when we got down in the dumps.

With four children born in a nine year period, there were a lot of those days when at least one person needed that reminder.

So as I wish you all a Happy New Year, I offer you Mama’s greeting–Happy Everyday! And in keeping with my New Year’s Eve tradition, I share with you my Word for 2019.

TRASH

When I realized this morning what today is, I realized I hadn’t chosen a word yet, and I even thought about not choosing one. It was then that the word TRASH came to me.

Ummm, say what?

I wondered if it was an acronym for something that I was supposed to learn from. Truth…..Trust…..Respect…..ummmm, I don’t know. That didn’t feel right.

I thought about the literal trash that we put out by the curb every week and how it gets picked up by people who are too often under appreciated and who show up. We don’t always notice that they show up, but we sure do if they miss us, don’t we? I want to be present and notice the folks who show up. I don’t want to take them for granted. I also want to be that person who shows up for other folks.  For the big things and the small and all those in between.

I thought about the “trash pandas.” We have quite a few around here, as we live backed up to woods. One might say, and I have, that we invaded their home. We have some who come up and snack on this or that and they seem to think cat food is some kind of fine dining. Over this holiday season, the littles and I have had a basket of water, Gatorade, seasonal snack cakes, and chips in a basket for the people who deliver packages over the year. (The world’s best elves I call them.)  One night when I was locking up rather late, I noticed the basket was still on the porch. I saw two empty plastic cellophane wrappers on the porch next to the basket. I immediately just KNEW what had happened. Some little trash panda/raccoon had come up and discovered our little treasure trove and rushed back to invite a friend to join her. And together they’d shared a little joy…..and a lot of sugar.

I want to be like that little trash panda. I want to go and find someone to share in the treasures I come across. Joy multiplied, sorrows divided–that was something else my Mama talked about a lot. And y’all knows there’s a lot of joy in some Little Debbies and Oatmeal Pies.

I thought about the trash we come across in our day to dailies–and how important it is to make sure we put it in the trash can and get rid of it. Sitting something to the side with the intention to get rid of it can create quite the mess. Every night my Mama bagged up the bag from the small trash can under the kitchen sink and toted it to the bin outside. She was always wary of the critters (ants) that might come in after it if she didn’t. Not taking out the trash just created more trouble to deal with. In the days to come I want to remember to make the effort and take the steps to get rid of refuse when I come across it–let it go. Get rid of the trash. From within and without. Everything in its place and trash out the door and out of my heart.

As I was thinking on this word, I Googled the definition. And this is what I found.

trash
/traSH/
noun
1.NORTH AMERICAN
discarded matter; refuse.
synonyms: garbage, refuse, waste, litter, junk, debris, detritus, rubbish
“the subway entrance was blocked with trash”

verb
verb: trash; 3rd person present: trashes; past tense: trashed; past participle: trashed; gerund or present participle: trashing
1.INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN
damage or wreck.
“my apartment’s been totally trashed”
synonyms: wreck, ruin, destroy, wreak havoc on, devastate; More
2.strip (sugar cane) of its outer leaves to ripen it faster.

I read along thinking yeah, yeah, yeah, no surprises here until I came to the second definition of trash as a verb. “Strip of its outer leaves to ripen it faster.”

Yes.

I want to strip those outer toughened layers, let go of the mask that hides authenticity, and leave myself opening to ripening, blossoming, and growing.

I am not sure why this word came to mind this morning. Maybe it was because I was out walking Miss Sophie and appreciating and breathing in the beauty of the morning and breathing out a quiet amen. Maybe it was because I was listening or because I had let go of the pressure of figuring out a word.

Whatever the reason, this is my word. It’s the word I need for the coming days. It’s the word I need for living and letting go.

And I thought I’d share it just in case you need it too.

Love to all. Don’t forget to put out the trash.

And as my Mama said, happy everyday!

raccoon in trash can

Photo by Steve from washington, dc, usa [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

oh September

time to bid you farewell
though it seems that you just walked across the grass wet with dew
a few short mornings ago
knocked on the door
satchel in tow, announcing your arrival

there you stood
dressed in your blue jumper
pants rolled up and barefooted from summer,
pockets filled with this and that
trinkets of days gone by
and as each day came you insisted
on sitting together, pulling them out
one by one,
rubbing each one over and over
in your weathered hands
with recognition and remembrance
until the sheen was nearly blinding

you have brought me some of my greatest treasures
and you have been the beginning of my saddest stories
you are like the evenings that come with you–
the impending darkness coming sooner and sooner
and the clouds above more ominous than before

the songs you sing make me smile
and fill my eyes with tears–
the little ones and old,
whose hands I held for the first time
and the last
will always come to mind when I see you
and I thank you for that

still I’m not entirely sad to see you go
what good would it do anyway?
time presses on, unbearably weighty
like the humid air you claim as your own,
sometimes making it hard to breathe,
and I have no choice to but to rise and welcome you,
sitting with you as you remember and remind me
and then just as we reach a companionable silence,
you leave

me alone

to face all the other days that follow,
days that insist on festivities, joy, and cheer

thank you for the grace you bring
this reprieve after the light, airy days of summer
demanding so little,
merely that I listen
and hear our stories
once again

tuck away your treasures
and mind you take care now,
mend that pocket so you don’t lose any of our precious memories

and don’t catch cold as you head out into the dark, damp night
there’s so much that can happen in a year
and I don’t think I can bear it all again without you

the red couch

flying down the interstate
one goal in mind
home
mile after mile
and then unexpectedly
we see
a red couch
abandoned, in the emergency lane

cushions awry
broken slats

someone will walk into the house
and feel incomplete
like something is lost, missing
for their red couch is no longer there
waiting for them
to continue with their stories intertwined–
the couch filled with tears
and laughter and movie nights
and evenings spent reading together
by the fire,
hardly noticed
until it was gone

some will be angry
others wondering why
some blaming, some crying
some simply sitting where it used to be
wishing somehow they could bring it back

and so that is how it is
today
with you gone
and your stories with you–
how will we go on,
walking into the room
or the gathering
or taking the photograph
with one less smile?

like the couch
we are lost and broken
without you here

this journey
with all its pain and goodbyes
and finding joy in the hardest of days
laughter in the midst of the tears

it’s baffling
it’s all so baffling

much like a red couch
abandoned
on the trip back home

Red_sofa

By Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/190007) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

the stories behind the door

on the first day you walked through the door
did you stop to breathe it all in
with the hope of memorizing it all-scents, sights, and sounds,
the way you do now

did you gently pull the door to behind you
and stop for a moment and lean into it
knowing as you do now that a measure of strength
is gained from the place that watched you grow

and stretch and learn

and break and piece it all back together

did you listen for the sounds of the birds
the same families over all the years
and look for that pink in the horizon as the sun
set and closed its eyes for its evening slumber

on the first day you walked in
eager and excited for the new journey
did you shed a tear over the place you’d left behind
or was there none of that, with all the possibilities in the rooms before you

did you find a corner and sit,
dizzy with the emotion all this new change was bringing,
and did you wish more than anything that you could
turn the clock in your hands, the last thing left,

backwards by days and years

or did you simply run through and search through every room
looking for the memories yet to be made
having no idea the story
that was about to unfold
upon this stage
this new setting
this
new

home

img_1946

 

Mama Said

there’d be days like this.  There’d be days like this, my Mama said.  (Thank you, Shirelles and others.)

Days where there are way more questions than answers.

And those questions lead to more questions.

But wait!  That’s not all…..

sit and think about this particular something, and then there are all the questions cropping up from a totally different situation in addition to what is already churning through your mind.

And it just goes downhill from there.

Today hasn’t been an awful one, not by any means.  Days that bring beautiful people across my path and ones that have me savoring the leftover memories from past days…..those can be actually quite lovely.

But the unexpected things that can crop up…..and expected, dreaded ones as well.  Those are what can turn one’s sanity all topsy turvy and toss it around like a tennis ball in the dryer.

All over the place.

It in the midst of those that I feel the most lost.  I’m the one some folks are looking to for guidance now, bless ’em.  Like my 11 year old who came in with so much anxiety, I suspect it could have been a panic attack.

It is enough to fling me straight into one right along with her.

I don’t know exactly when the shift happened.  Maybe it was when my parents were no longer here or years before when I became a parent for the first time myself.  All I know is, it can get really awkward when folks are looking to me, and I turn around looking for the one who really knows what is going on.

I don’t have the answers to all the questions.  I don’t even have any good advice to offer on the days when all the questions keep roaring through, refusing to allow for rest or peace or comfort.  All I know is, some days it’s okay to simply survive.  It’s okay to make do, to do what it takes to get by, and to take the grace offered in sleep and waking up to a new day.

I guess that’s why I’ve clicked like on every single one of the memes that proclaim that resurrection can be an everyday experience.  Yes.  That.  I need to believe in that.  That each and every day, hour if need be, we can rise from the death and doubt and find new life.

Every single time.

Some days are just like that.  And those are the ones when resurrection matters the most.

The courage, the love, the faith, the determination, and the good people around us–and we rise up and try again.  One more time.

Love to all.

12801574_10153859762690342_8727484881024476929_n

via LoveWinsMinistries.org  Go check them out.  They are doing amazing things and showing the beauty that can come from practicing resurrection.  

 

 

for all the tables

where does the table go?
he asked
I barely remembered his name,
Joe or John or J-something–
he’d shown up with the others,
the ones they’d sent to do the job

the table? I replied,
stalling for time
wishing for more of it, so much more time

the table whose surface told
our story
the blonde wood glowing in the dimming light of evening

the fork marks from an excited toddler
banging his utensil up and down
overeager for that next bite

the pencil marks that were never quite
completely erased
from one report or another
or perhaps that year of Algebra II

the surface of it still cool to the touch
just as it was all those times
I lay my head on it, my face hot from the tears
I’d cried
I can’t remember all the reasons now

but today I know why they fall,
all the memories etched into its surface
and the time has come to let it go

time to open my fist and stop holding on
to all the things
and find comfort in the memories
playing non-stop inside my head
and heart

and while some of them are muted
and a tad out of focus

I can still feel the cool of the table
long after the the sun has set
and the truck pulls away

and the door is closed one last time

 

table photo

Foto Wolfgang Pehlemann [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons