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November 2016
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December 2016

A Different Kind of Christmas

For me, this could easily be one of those sad, blue Christmases.  You know . . . the ones they sing about in holiday country songs?

After all, this will be the first Christmas without my mom.  AND - for the first year ever, neither of my kids will be home for the holiday.  It's just sort of . . . layer upon layer of Christmas bummer.

But I decided . . . NO.  It will not be a sad, blue Christmas!

It will be hard.  

It will certainly be different.  

But it will NOT be a bah-humbug kind of season.

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Over the years, I have gotten pretty attached to (entrenched in?) the ways we celebrate Christmas.  Traditions we all enjoy, sure.  But traditions that are hard to change --- even when the only reason we're still doing them ... is because we've always done them.

So.  This year provided me with . . . the reason, the space, and - yes - the permission to evaluate and re-think HOW I celebrate Christmas.

I've cut back on pretty much everything.  Decorating.  Gifting.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Going.  For the first year in . . . well, decades . . . I have empty space and time in my December calendar.  I don't have a tree -- and I don't miss it a bit.  I'm not constantly on-the-go -- and it feels great.

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In this year that I could easily NOT have any Christmas spirit at all, I'm finding that I actually have more than I ever expected.

It's hard, there's no denying it.  I nearly broke down the other day when I found the perfect gift for my mom . . . and then remembered I didn't need to shop for my mom this year.

But I'm enjoying the lights and the music and the decorations - and my memories.  I'm looking forward to what's next -- and how we can create a "new" way to celebrate this year. 

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Christmas?  Yeah.  It's going to be different.

But it's going to be okay.

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Today's post is part of Think Write Thursday.  Read what other bloggers have to say today here.  And sign up here to receive the weekly prompts.

 

 


Take Action: Money Talks

After the election, and during this bizarre transition phase, I remain particularly troubled by threats to causes and issues I care about most: the environment, women's rights, civil liberties, anti-discrimination, and access to health care.  

It's overwhelming, really.  Because the threats are everywhere -- and real.  

I've decided to put my money where my heart is . . . and give to organizations that will continue to champion these causes that I hold dear.  And you know what?  A whole lot of other people are doing the same thing!

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In fact, this article from The Atlantic, written shortly after the election, explains that donations to organizations like Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, the ACLU, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations have just gone through the roof.  Another article, this one from the Washington Post, speaks of the "unprecedented" levels of giving after the election.

It seems that many of us want to DO SOMETHING.  And making donations is a way for us to respond positively and concretely to a very disturbing situation.

There's even a term evolving for this motivation to give:  rage donating.  According to this article in the Boston Globe, "rage donations" have become an anti-Trump movement.  The concept has even spawned a website - RageDonate - designed to harness the power of anger to deliver real change.  Their tagline? Get mad and help others get even.  They feature actual DJT quotes . . . and then select non-profit organizations threatened by each quote for rage donations.  Check it out.  It's empowering!

My Take Action Challenge to you this week is this:  Consider the causes and issues you hold most dear, then donate what you can to organizations working to champion those causes and issues.  And remember -- EVERY donation helps -- no matter the amount.  Just . . . put your money where your heart is!

As for me?  I'm funneling my charitable giving dollars to the following organizations:

  • American Civil Liberties Union - because I want to protect our constitutional rights and processes
  • Planned Parenthood - because I care about women's health and access to affordable health care
  • Sierra Club - because I care about the environment AND I believe climate change is real
  • NPR - because I care about aggressive news coverage - now more than ever

Want to take action?  GIVE!

 


Hygge Weather

It started snowing here on Friday.

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And, with only a brief pause Saturday afternoon, it hasn't stopped yet.  (Although definitely tapering down now.)

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Yeah.  Garden Buddha . . . wearing his little snow-cap at noon on Sunday.  Now?  Well, now you can't see his face.

But this is perfect hygge-weather!  

The dogs LOVE to romp in the snow.

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We enjoyed a little time out in the snow -- I filled the bird feeders while Tom threw snowballs (JoJo loves to chase snowballs).  I took a lot of photos.  

And Tom and I got out to the gym and to see a movie.

Inside, though, it was All-Hygge-All-the-Time!

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I hope your weekend was nice and cozy and hygge-filled, too.

 


Hygge . . . for the Gardener

This gardener decided . . . what better way to bring hygge to the dark days of winter than by nurturing some lovely amaryllis bulbs.  

Not only will there be joy and comfort in the planting, but also in the watching -- and certainly in the blooming.

So I splurged!  

I ordered four different amaryllis bulbs from that Flagship of Gardening - White Flower Farm.  (I gotta tell you -- even just the choosing which bulbs to order was a hygge-moment!)  Then, I gathered up my vases and some stones for planting, and I waited for delivery.

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The bulbs arrived earlier this week, and yesterday - in the midst of our first major snowfall - I planted them.

Let's just say . . . these bulbs are big.

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Like . . . pretty much too big for any of the containers I had chosen.

But I think it'll work out.

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Now, I'm going to sit back and watch the show.

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Hygge . . . for the gardener!

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And be sure to check out Bonny's blog.  Her annual Amaryllis Watch has begun!  (She is a true amaryllis-whisperer!)

 


A Christmas Tradition. Since 1992.

Back in 1992, a friend invited me to a Pampered Chef party.  And, well, you know how it is . . . you feel obligated to go.  And obligated to buy something.

I bought this . . . 

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a gingerbread mold.

It'll be fun . . . I thought.

The kids and I can make gingerbread houses . . .  I imagined.

Maybe it'll even become an annual tradition . . . I mused.

And, y'know?  I was RIGHT!

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It was fun -- and it TOTALLY became an annual tradition!

In the early years, I always baked two houses worth of gingerbread, and my mom and I teamed up with my kids to decorate houses on a weekend before Christmas.  It was lots of fun - and something we all enjoyed doing together.  (Although Brian usually lost interest once the houses were assembled; he hardly ever stuck around for the finished product.)

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While Brian's interest waned, Erin became the Queen of Gingerbread.  She started hosting an annual gingerbread decorating party for her friends.  Here they are in 5th grade (Erin, the hostess-with-the mostest, is in the very back of this photo; I can't remember which finished house was hers, though.) . . . 

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(You'll notice I gave up on the mold when it came to Erin's parties.  We just went with graham-crackers-on-milk-cartons.)  (Works GREAT, by the way.)

Erin's annual parties continued even in high school.  She invited fewer friends -- and baked the gingerbread (in the mold) on her own.  (Just as an aside . . . one of Erin's high school friends used to decorate these incredible houses every year.  Intricate and gorgeous.  Really amazing.  She ended up becoming a pastry chef and decorator extraordinaire as an adult!  We knew her when. . . )

Once Erin finished college and moved to Pittsburgh, we started doing gingerbread houses on Thanksgiving evening after the meal.  We continued the tradition this year.  It was really hard without my mom . . . but we were thrilled to add my sister to the mix!  (She has never taken part in this particular activity with me before, although she is a veteran gingerbread house decorator.)

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This year, my sister and I got our inspiration from Pinterest.  Like . . . maybe too much inspiration.  We got really excited about . . . thatched roofs and stone fireplaces.

My sister's kind of worked . . . 

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But mine?  Not so much. . . The "stones" are falling off in little piles around the base of my house!

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(There will be no "stones" left by Christmas. . . )

But, you know.  That's how it goes!  Some years, our gingerbread houses turn out GREAT.  And some years . . . well, they just don't.  

But it doesn't matter at all.  

Because it's really not about the finished product!  Like most beloved family holiday traditions, it's ALL about the being together, having fun --  and creating memories.

I'm really blessed . . . to have some great memories coming out of that silly Pampered Chef party.  These houses really just . . . warm my heart.  Every single year.

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This post is part of Think Write Thursday.  To read more contributions, click here.  And to sign up to receive the weekly prompts, click here.


Is It Genetic?

Recently, one of my mom's cousins in Canada sent me a few old photos of my mom as a little girl.  Here's one I hadn't seen before.

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That's my mom ("Little Vonnie") . . . with her mom (my grandmother) and grandma (my great-grandmother).  I love and treasure this photo -- because we only have one or two photos of my great-grandmother at all, and not many more of my grandmother.  (Both grandmas died before I was born.)

But look closely.

My great-grandmother is knitting a sock!!!  (Further, she didn't put the sock down for this rare 3-generation family photo-op with her daughter and granddaughter!)

Genetics.  It's a powerful force!


Tuesday? ACTION!

FOUR Tuesdays ago . . . I sat there, watching my computer bring me election updates, stunned.  

Numb, in fact.  

Sick.

And, really . . . four Tuesdays later, I'm still pretty much there.  (Although I am sleeping through the night now, so that's a plus.)

After giving the whole thing quite a bit of thought (and a lot of angst), I've decided that, really, the only way to deal with post-election madness and the upcoming (gulp) DJT presidency is to take ACTION.

On Tuesdays, I'm going to put together some sort of ACTION-related blog post.  Sometimes, I'll pass on direct actions you might choose to take; sometimes, I'll share information; and sometimes I may even bring you something to laugh about.  My aim is to provide information we can use . . . to stay informed, prepare ourselves, raise our voices, and make a difference.  Because one thing is for sure . . . I can't just sit here.  I need to do something!

So.  Where to start?  (Because there is just So Much.)

I'll begin here. . .

This morning, as I was driving to the gym, I heard this story on NPR.  (I can't find the NPR story I heard, so the link from ABC news will have to do.)  An off-duty police officer, who also happens to be a Muslim woman, was subjected to verbal threats by an angry man in her Brooklyn neighborhood.  (The man has since been charged with menacing as a hate crime.)

This type of news story is becoming increasingly more common.  It certainly seems that hate crimes are on the rise since the election (actually, since the campaign madness).*  

It gets me thinking. . . What can I DO if I encounter someone being harassed?  How would I take action?  How could I help?  I want to be prepared.

Here's a nifty little infographic that offers practical tips for helping diffuse harassment.

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This short video by Films for Action also provides practical advice for what to do if you are a witness to harassment.

While I'm hoping I don't encounter this kind of situation, at least I'm feeling more prepared and ready to act.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
                                                   ---Margaret Mead

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*  Here's an interesting article about hate crimes reporting and the difficulty in obtaining meaningful, consistent data.  While it certainly does seem that hate crimes are on the rise, it is difficult to state with clarity how much.

 

 


'Tis the Season . . . for Hygge

The first time I ever heard the term hygge (which is pronounced hue-gah, by the way) was in Stockholm a few years ago, when I traveled there with my sister.  One of our tour guides mentioned it as a Scandinavian tradition -- creating a comfortable environment through enjoyment of the simple, ordinary things in life.

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Hygge . . . is actually a Danish term - and there is no direct English translation.  Basically, hygge is "the art of creating intimacy" -- a ritual of introducing simple pleasures to make the dark, cold months of the year as pleasurable as summer.  It's about creating a mental state of coziness, warmth, and togetherness in the heart of winter.

I really need a bit of hygge in my life right now!  Focusing on connection, well-being, and warmth sounds just perfect to me.  I want to feel rooted by ordinary ritual, comfort, and presence.  I want to create light . . . around me, and for those I love.

So . . . I'm planning to embrace all the ways of celebrating hygge -- creating comfort in my home, getting outside every day, pampering myself a little, looking for ways to connect with friends, slowing down and savoring the ordinary pleasures in my days.  

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I can start with my new slippers.  Over Thanksgiving, when Erin was in town, we visited DSW (because she needed new boots, y'know?).  I splurged on something for myself . . . $19.99 for some Dearfoam slippers with memory foam.  This was a completely unexpected purchase -- because I'm not generally a slipper-wearer.  (I prefer going barefoot around the house - even in the winter.)  But these slippers with the memory foam?  They are SO comfortable!  I feel pampered every time I put them on.  Hygge?  Definitely!

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Watch for future hygge-themed blog posts this month (and maybe all winter), as I look for ways to introduce comfort and warmth into my life.