Thursday, November 30, 2006

decking the halls......

With Thanksgiving safely tucked away for another year, it's time to concentrate on the holiday madness of Christmas. Even though we are aware that it comes the same time and same day EVERY year... it always feels like we are never ready for it to have come so fast. Didn't we put away the ornaments and lights just last week? How did a whole year zing through in that short amount of time? How was it that I wasn't paying attention?

My tradition is to put up the tree and lights on the first weekend of December....... unlike the neighbors who like to start their lawn decor the Friday after Thanksgiving. Eager beavers, to be sure. Well, who can blame them if they have the time and manpower.... besides, the neighborhood association awards a whopping gift card (worth $25.00) to the coolest display of the neighborhood. I've never won.... and am convinced it's rigged. Anyhoo....... back to the point. I don't adorn my yard with the lighted reindeers or blow-up Santas. Strings of white icicle lights drape from the facia of my house, a nice wreath hangs on the door, and we put a few colored lights on the bushes in front of the house. All very simple, and all within taste, as I abhor anything real flashy for me. However, I do like to see it at other houses.... and sometimes the flashier the better. I must admit that viewing these displays during the day make them come off silly and too contrived..... but in the stillness of the night, driving by, they give off a magical vision.

I've had the opportunity to drive through some of the classier neighborhoods in Atlanta..... you know, the ones where the houses are dressed to the nines with perfectly hung lights, and wreathes on every window. The occupants of the address never do the work themselves, as they always hire out for this position. Of course the effect is spectacular. Then there are the littler neighborhoods like my own, where it is quite obvious we take on the responsibility ourselves. We only have one Clark Griswold in the group.... a man who takes decorating for the holidays far beyond traditional. I would like to see his electric bill at the end of the month, as I'm sure the dials never stop turning and have an accelerated pace to them, especially at Christmas. This particular gentleman dresses up his house for ALL the holidays.... yup, even Valentines Day. The display is complete with holograms, statuettes, blinking lights, and signs. It appears a little over the top, but keeps us amused all the same. I'm only too grateful he lives far down the street from my house... and better yet, not across the street from me. The light show would be deafening.

Every year I find myself in search of the perfect victorian tree. It must be thin, not too tall, and be able to fit into a small area I have reserved for it in my livingroom.... AFTER I move furniture and houseplants to arrange for the spot. Lucky for me, I can spot my Charlie Brown tree within the first few minutes of trolling the rows upon rows of cut trees. And every year, I vow to scale down a bit, perhaps get an even smaller tree, but once the ornaments and lights are out of their boxes, I can't help but get into the spirit of setting up decorations everywhere. (I usually reprimand myself when it's time to take it all down... but don't we all?) I did run across some really nice table-top trees at a local nursery this year, and am still tempted, but I do adore a tree that goes from floor to ceiling, and would still miss not being able to put up ornaments my son and I have collected over the years.....well, mostly me. We did the little traditional thing of hunting down the perfect "new" ornament for many years when he was a child.... at 20, it's no longer a priority for him. However, we did good over the years, as each one has a story of it's own for being chosen. Doesn't everybody have ornaments like that?

So the first weekend in December is already here, and somewhere between juggling twenty Christmas parties and plenty of last minute executive luncheons, I plan to get myself in gear to decorate the house. Since hubby is a ladder-climber, he has the honors of icicle placement on the facia. I plan to be ground supervisor, official tree trimmer, and nativity scene placer, while my son has the honors of setting up the village we add houses and people to each year. By the time we're through, my house has taken on every sense of the word: decorated. The fresh scent of pine permeates the air, Santa and snowmen faces peek out from under the tree limbs to wish all a wonderful season with their smiles.........Christmas red and green is everywhere, and my livingroom takes on an animated look. Many times I get up in the middle of the night to just stare at the lights, in the silence of my home. It is a peaceful and magical time..... a time to reflect, and a time to have a few moments with a cup of tea and my God.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

holiday feasting and giving thanks........

Tomorrow will be a day for most of us to gather with family or friends.... to get on with the process of turkey carving, and giving thanks that all who made it to the table will be richly rewarded with that favorite part of the big bird we place in front of us. We will then loosen the top buttons of our pants as we settle in to watch the parade or football games that will be playing continuously on TV for hours. As we root for our favorite team to win, or best float of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.... we will know that snoozing is part of the process, indeed it is expected.

The trip back to our respective abodes will be sent with many well wishes of a safe travel on sketchy road conditions for some.... all the while knowing that the care package sent with us will provide snacks for a midnight raid on our refrigerators later. Another holiday looms it's presence one short month later, and we force ourselves to get up in the wee hours Friday morning to stand guard at the local Walmart to snatch that coveted gift..... to perfect in price to not sacrifice some sleep over.

Not me. For the last twelve years, I have passed over the Thanksgiving holiday. I have sent off hubby and son to relatives to enjoy, while I turned up the Christmas carols on the radio, and took out the baking pans to make cookies and breads. I chose to be alone. It wasn't that I was not thankful for all I had, or all I had accomplished... rather it was a day I could reflect on all I had learned from a master. It was my homage to my Mom, who passed away on Thanksgiving in 1978. I get a little weepy still on Thanksgiving... and given my nature of not losing all control in front of people, I like to weep alone as well. I don't do puffy face well in front of people.

This year will be a little different though, as I plan to make the trip up to Sylvania, Alabama, where my sister-in-law has the honors of making the feast for the whole family. Being in their company, and joining in with their wit and laughter is the best medicine, I have found. The banter is friendly, the company a blessing in itself, and the food (traditionally) a whole family participation event. No one person does everything.... we all contribute with our favorite dishes that wouldn't make it Thanksgiving without. There are no embarrassing moments, no fights, no awkward moments. Only laughter rings from the table... except in the moments when everybody is stuffing their mouths with more delectable goodies. I won't have time to think about anything other than I have made the right decision to come along this time. I can save the weepy moments for later.... like I will the cookies and breads. All things will get done in due time.... and I will have another wonderful memory of the good people in my life to tuck away.

To all who celebrate.... to all who struggle with the turkey to get it carved just right... and to all who overstuff themselves.......... have a wonderful and safe holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2006

38 years later, we still need to hear these words.....

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product.... if we should judge America by that-- counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our national wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifles and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

Bobby Kennedy, speech at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968

Thursday, November 16, 2006

comfortably numb.......

Before I get around to my links and say hello to all my favorite reads, I must send an apology for my absence. To say my life has become busy is an understatement... I am far above that assessment. This year I was ready as far as my shoe choices.... but the brain and body are having a hard time with it, and December parties are still in store.

Catering has been very, very good this season... and we have been cooking, hopping, and running in all directions of the metro area. Figure you put a pin in the middle of a map of Atlanta, then count out 100 miles in radius.... and I've been there within the last three weeks. If not, I would have missed all the beautiful foliage we had this year.... as it was the only way I was able to witness the colors of Autumn. And we did have a brilliant year this time. I almost thought I had driven so far that I was back in New England again.

Problem is, I wasn't able to keep up with anything else.... and the leaves in my yard give proof that the house and gardens look abandoned. If it wasn't for the vehicle parked in my driveway, it almost appears that I might have gone on vacation. Not so..... although I'm overdue for a few days around Thanksgiving. This is the "me" time I take every year; if not, Christmas would not exist in our household. There is much baking to be done, and presents to wrap and mail. Hubby wanted to take a few days to go out to Savannah.... but I had to turn the offer down. Geez.... and I really could use a few minutes, hours, and days at the beach. Oh well...... it's chocolate chip banana bread season, and many loaves have to be rotated through the oven. Besides, this is my only time to make the roll, cut, and decorate sugar cookies. I turn on Christmas carols played by a local station and patiently wait to hear "Oh Holy Night" that's my favorite song of all. The baking and music have a way of putting me in the mood.

In the meantime, I have another wedding reception to prepare for this coming Sunday night, and some pre-Thanksgiving holiday dinners to make and deliver through the coming week. I look forward to this time of year because of the smells of turkeys cooking in our ovens, but am well over it by the 10th turkey to trim. Today I hit my mark, as we fed 300 folks glazed ham and sliced turkey. I always forget how slippery those big birds are..... and I nibble too much in the process of carving. How can one not? Problem is, I am a little sick of turkey after the first batch of the season..... the reason I insist we have something completely different for Christmas. I'm turkeyed out by that point.

Somewhere in all the free time I will have left (cough cough), I still need to attack the yard, and clean the house. But first.... I want to take some free time today to go around to each and everyone to say hi.... and so sorry for being awol. The good thing about priorities is that they can be comfortably shifted...... or maybe I'm just comfortably numb.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

a great opportunity........

One of the most important liberties we share as American citizens is our voting voice. This is a chance for us to be heard as a "collective of people".... a chance for us to enact change within our own government if we choose fit. It's a privilege that a great deal of other countries do not share.....take most of Africa, for instance. And North Korea. So this should be a great lesson to us as citizens to preserve our voting rights by actually using them. How else will we be able to change what we see as wrong. Well, in a perfect world...... this system is perfection personified.

Our challenge is that we do not live in a perfect world. Our globe gets smaller by the minute, and the problems of the world get closer in proximity at each spin of the orb. Not only do we try to solve the problems in our own personal lives, we find ourselves embroiled in the problems of the planet as a whole. So lets hope each American citizen exercises their right, privilege and duty today. Vote, knowing the issues your candidate stands behind... making a difference for change where change is needed. And vote, knowing this system is still the best in the world... because it sure as hell is a lot better here than it is in a many other countries that never get to voice opinions about their government.