Friday, December 31, 2010

Aliens On My Tree

About four years ago, after Christmas was over and all my family had gone home, I discovered a new ornament on my tree. I had never seen it before and had no idea how it got there! It puzzled my husband and me so we asked other family members if they knew where it came from, but no one knew. Finally, our son said he saw our son-in-law hanging an ornament on the tree one day, but thought he was just putting one back that had fallen, so he didn’t mention it. When I questioned my daughter later by phone, she vowed she knew nothing about it. And so... the question of the mysterious ornament was put away - along with the tree and its decorations.

However, the next year, when we took the tree down, once again – we found another odd ornament that we’d never seen. And no one knew how it got there! We laughed and put it away as carefully as we did all of our precious ornaments. On the third Christmas, we hung the two unfamiliar ornaments on the tree right along with the others... laughing as we did it, knowing that some member of our family was chuckling each time he or she saw the alien ornaments on the tree.

When we took the tree down on the third year, sure enough, there was a third one! They are always very pretty and unusual ornaments. No dollar store trinkets, these – but nice, large, “special” ornaments!

This year was the fourth Christmas since the ritual began. It's December 31st and my tree still stands in the living room with all its decorations intact, including the odd ornaments from the past three years. Last night, my granddaughter was visiting. She loves the tree and was taking one last close look at it before it comes down when she suddenly asked, “Where did this little skater girl come from?” 

“I have no skater girl.” I said. Then it hit me. I ran over to the tree; got a closer look and there it was... another alien ornament! Very pretty, of course. And unusual. But no less alien. She is ceramic, dressed in a white coat, pink hat with matching socks and gloves, black ice skates and carrying a large wrapped gift with a gold bow on it. She is beautiful!

No point asking. I’m sure no one knows how she came to be on our tree! So I’ll wrap her lovingly in tissue paper and store her away with the others. Next year, she will be hung on our tree in a prominent place. Maybe a handsome skating partner will join her. Secretly, of course.

Read about alien ornament #5.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's All Over

On the day after Christmas my dad always said, “Well, it’s all over but the mess and the memories!” He loved holidays. He possessed a wonderful childlike quality that endeared him to all who knew him. I can still see the smile on his face and the glow about him at Christmastime. Not one special occasion ever passes without my remembering this special man.

I’d like to think my children and grandchildren will always remember me fondly at holiday time, too. We are a large family. When we all get together, it’s loud, confusing and fun! This year was especially so. We first had a Christmas Eve celebration with the ones who live close by. There was an abundance of good food, the exchanging of gifts, and much laughter. After a brief rest on Christmas Day, we gathered again the next day when family members who live out of town arrived. Once again, we shared good food, togetherness, gift exchanging and loads of fun! This lasted for two days.

But tonight, sitting here alone after everyone else is in bed, I’m beginning to feel somewhat depressed. My daughter and her family will be leaving in the morning and we probably won’t see them again until late spring or summer. That makes me unhappy.

When I was a young mother, my husband and I used to take our children to visit my elderly grandmother and grandfather who lived in another state. My grandmother would always cry when we left. I’d say, “Please don’t cry; we’ll visit you again in a few months.” But she once told me she feared each time we left that she’d never see us again.

I’m not as old as she was, but I’m not young either, and I suppose there’s a little of that fear in me, too. I sense it each time I must say good-bye to someone I love. An inexplicable feeling of finality comes over me as I watch the car that carries my loved ones move slowly out of my driveway and then – out of my sight. I feel sad. Empty.

But as I walk back into the house, I hear my dad’s voice, “It’s all over but the mess and the memories,” and I begin to feel a little better. This year, there were pictures taken and memories made that will last a lifetime. Hopefully, every member of the family will look back lovingly on the Christmas of 2010 and smile as they remember what a wonderful time we had together! 

We even had a white Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Giving From The Heart

“For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” ~Luke 6:38 

As Christmas Day draws near, holiday joy fills the air. Carols play continuously as last-minute shoppers bustle about. Everyone we meet greets us with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” in this – the most love-filled time of year! Homes are decorated for the season with brightly lit trees, wreaths and sweetly-scented, flickering candles. Wonderful aromas waft through the air as mothers bake savory treats for family and for sharing with friends and neighbors. Many holiday parties and special programs are planned. Children are glowing with excitement and expectation.

The majority of people are finished shopping for gifts and are all set to enjoy the most important celebration of the year. But there are always those who don’t get their shopping done until the last minute. Perhaps you’ve searched for weeks to find just the right gift for that special person on your list or worked for many hours to create one. Sometimes, that perfect gift eludes us and we end up making an impulsive last-minute choice.

It warms our hearts to exchange gifts with others. We are hopeful that the gifts we’ve chosen or prepared will reflect our love and appreciation for those who receive them. Presents, cards, cookies and crafts are symbols of thoughtfulness and love. As we give and receive these gifts, our lives are blessed. We are fulfilled.

Our gifts need not be elaborate or expensive. The simple things are often the most significant. One of the most poignant stories of the Christmas season is that of The Little Drummer Boy. The story tells of a poor young boy who, unable to afford a gift for the infant Jesus, plays his drum for the newborn with the Virgin Mary's approval. The child seems to understand and smiles at the boy in gratitude.  He had given all he had – from the heart!

Like the little drummer boy, we can give of ourselves – our time and talents, whatever they may be. And in giving all we have, we are certain to be blessed.

May you all have a blessed Christmas!

Published in the Charleston Gazette, Sunday December 19, 2010.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Perfect Angel

I awoke to a beautiful sight this morning. About four inches of snow on the ground! I stared out my bedroom window in amazement just as I've done with every snowfall for as far back as I can remember. The world around me was white. Spotless. Glistening. And I loved it!

I especially love it before it’s all messed up – before the snow plow comes, destroying the pristine beauty and giving drivers the confidence to venture out. Nothing makes one remember things they need, and must have, like being snowed-in. Suddenly, we can’t live without items we haven’t used for six months.  And so... the silence is broken and it’s business as usual... all too soon.

A good friend e-mailed to ask if I was staying on task with my holiday baking and wrapping as I’d told her I was going to do, "Or did the wild child in you take over and send you outside to make snow angels?” She asked. 

Oh my!  Just the mere mention of snow angels takes me back to childhood!  Last winter, I complained many times to another friend that I wanted so much to go out and play in the snow  but hated to go alone, feeling that the neighbors would surely think I’d lost my mind to be doing such a thing at my age. She apparently got tired of hearing me sing the same song, so late one night, she said, "I double-dog dare you to go out tomorrow... alone... and make a snow angel."

Well, I never could resist a dare, so the next morning, with the snow still coming down and the temperature in the twenties, I approached my husband, “Wanna go out and make a snow angel?” I asked. With an icy stare, he said, “You must be kidding.” I assured him I wasn’t, but that I didn’t expect him to do anything but take a picture. I explained about my friend’s dare and said, “I need proof, you see?” Reluctantly, he agreed, “If you make it fast.”

Once outside, I found the twenty degree temperature exhilarating. The child in me sprang to life as I caught snowflakes on my tongue and trudged through the deepest, most undisturbed snow. I was having fun until my husband insisted we do what we came to do and get back in the house.

Down I went onto my back in the snow.  I had on so many clothes; I didn’t even feel the cold. I said, “Ready, Set.... Go... and started moving my arms back and forth over my head while my husband snapped pictures at perfect intervals.

With several pictures done, he was ready to go inside and my playtime was cut short. Although I would love to have spent more time acting like a child, I was more convinced than ever that, even when the numbers say we’re getting old; our actions don’t have to confirm it.

That night, I sent my friend a picture labeled Perfect Angel. I told her how much fun I'd had and double-dog dared her to go out the next day and do the same thing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Greatest Gift of All

What a special time of year this is! As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we delight in the joyfulness of the season. Enduring, unconditional love is at the core of every human being, just waiting to be expressed. We see it in the innocent faces of children; in the devotion of a young couple; in the manner in which grandparents interact with a young grandchild; and in the tenderness of two people who have spent a lifetime together. 

This is the season of light—a time when hearts are aglow. It is a time of insight, radiance and joy; a time of gentle caring and thoughtfulness; a time to share love, joy and peace; a season of embracing wonderment and beholding things dear to our hearts.

We are inclined to let our inner light shine out more brightly at this time. Through wisdom and kindness, we make a difference in the lives of others.  Many people let go of personal differences and say, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to everyone they meet—even complete strangers.

After Jesus' birth, wise men from the East saw a star and, with great anticipation, began to follow it. They knew the star signified the birth of the king of the Jews so they continued to follow it in search of the new born king and found Jesus with his mother in Bethlehem. They bowed and worshipped him, offering treasures of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

There is a light that guides us as well. We look to the light within and receive insight. Giving thanks for this inner light and the new revelations it brings – we rejoice in the awareness that the very first gift of Christmas was the greatest gift of all. It was given to us by God on that glorious night so long ago. It was His only son, Jesus Christ!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Each Season is Special

A couple of months ago, when I wrote about my love for autumn, I never imagined that I could feel equally as emotional about a wintry day. But as I drove home from an appointment today, I realized I could.

It was 27 degrees; a fine snow swirled all around my car. I felt like I was inside a snow globe. It was mesmerizing! To my surprise, I was also quite taken with the beauty of the naked trees standing gracefully on surrounding hillsides… the same trees I had been in awe of in October when they were fully clad in magnificent colors.  

I suppose every season has some merit. I must have been aware of this all my life because I recently came across a poem I had written many years ago, when I was very young. It expresses strong emotions about the changing seasons. 


To go away in summer would be more than I could bear,
With sky of blue and grass so green and flowers everywhere;
Children playing, running, laughing, frolicking in the pool
So happy that it’s summer and they are out of school.

I couldn’t leave in winter—impossible I know,
For then I’d miss the beauty of the softly falling snow,
And the twinkle of the streetlights upon the ground so white,
That makes a winter wonderland in the stillness of the night.

To take leave in the springtime would surely be a crime,
For there’s a new beginning each and every time.
Trees budding, birds singing, breezes softly swaying—
“Spring is here,” it’s very clear, that’s what they’re all saying.

Departure in the autumn would be too sad for me
‘Cause I would like to stay around to make sure that I see
The glistening of a frosty morn, a pumpkin wet with dew,
And marvel at the leaves that fall, each one a different hue.

When my time is all used up and I must go from here, 
I’m glad that it’s not up to me to pick the time of year. 
Each season is quite special—summer, winter, spring and fall,
So if I had to choose one, I would not go at all!

“Not exactly Emily Dickinson or Elizabeth Barrett Browning,” I thought, “but rather intense for a young girl of only fifteen years.”

Suddenly feeling very grateful, I bowed my head and thanked God for blessing me with the sensitivity—even at such a young age—to appreciate the beauty of His creation, for the inherent ability to express my awe-inspired feelings, and for the gift of contentment during each of life’s wondrous seasons.