Picture-Perfect Holiday

Christmas is a funny thing. Every year I do the same preparations, we bake the same goodies, and put up the same decorations. However, some Christmases just seem to be disappointing whereas others are delightful. This was a year of serendipity, of small things that made magical moments that I’ll remember for a very long time.

For Christmas Eve, I was singing in two church services and my daughter offered to come along with me to help decorate the church and participate in the services. She has a beautiful voice so we pressed her into service in our small choir. (We are five when everyone is there so having an extra voice was amazing). Not only was the music all the more lovely for the sound of my girl’s voice ringing in my ears, but the services ended with a magical moment.

You see, my church meets in a building owned by the city and their policy doesn’t allow us to light candles inside. So, at the end of the service, we light them on the way out the door, singing Silent Night all the while. At the end of the second service, we filtered outside into the dark, cold air, to find that it’s begun to lightly snow. Cars slowed as we gathered on the steps of the church, singing Silent Night with only the Christmas lights on the trees and our candles penetrating the darkness, and a light, fluffy Christmas snow coming down. It gives me chills even now just to think of it.

It doesn’t hurt that we had our Christmas Eve services in this historic chapel, which is delightful and reminds me of my very first UCC church back home in Iowa (although it was a bit bigger):

ruth-chapel-at-christmas

On Christmas Day, we went to my sister-in-law’s, where all 16 of us gathered around a large long table and feasted, even though for some reason the turkey didn’t get done in time. (We had ham. LOTS of ham. No one went hungry). After dinner, there was way too much pie and a Trivial Pursuit game that went on for hours and had all of us falling on the floor laughing. It was an extra challenge that the game was from 2002 so you really had to remember for the answers and I think I got new insights into my own personality. (I will go down into family history for a knowledge of Dollywood, George Orwell’s 1984 and the fact that La Manchas are goats).

I hope you had a picture-perfect holiday. If you didn’t, if you had one of those years when Christmas just kind of missed the mark, remember that there’s always another one coming, and that sometimes the best things are the ones you don’t expect. After all, I didn’t find any serendipity in my traditions, it was in paying attention to the little accidents that made magical moments.

Merry Christmas.

A Colorado Christmas

I didn’t expect to be back online before the holiday, but as I sat here this morning, I felt compelled to write just one more post before Christmas comes. I was sitting here, as I often do, enjoying a cup of coffee in the quiet house as the rest of my family sleeps.

A song rang in my head. Not your traditional carols, mind you, but something I keep hearing on the radio. It’s an old song from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band called “Colorado Christmas.” It’s odd that I would even like this song, it’s a bit country for my taste, but I think it was the lyrics that hooked me. It’s a song about homesickness, about being stuck in a hotel in L.A. when you want to be home in Colorado for Christmas. The refrain, in particular, sums it up.

But all along the Rockies you can feel it in the air
From Telluride to Boulder down below
The closest thing to heaven on this planet anywhere
Is a quiet Christmas morning in the Colorado snow.

It makes me want to run to the mountains and spend Christmas in a little inn, in front of fireplace with a raging fire. It makes me  a little homesick for Colorado, even though I live here. And it reminds me of Christmas mornings at my grandma’s, finding our gifts in front of a huge handmade stone fireplace, even though that was in a place that isn’t anywhere near Colorado. After all, Colorado is our adopted home and we didn’t know if we would like it here, but we’ve found a place where we are surrounded by both family and friends that feel like family. We’ve found a place that speaks to our souls as much as our physical needs. And we’ve found a place where we feel safe and healthy.

My wish for all of you this Christmas is this – may you find the special place that feeds your soul. May you celebrate Christmas with all the things that bring you joy and nothing that brings you down. Eat cookies for breakfast. Raid the stockings before grandma says it’s okay. Have the spirit of a child and the wisdom of your years. And know that on a very special night a long time ago, God came to earth in the form of a baby, to live our lives and see how it felt. I can’t think of a much more caring way than that.

Merry Christmas, all.

The Christmas Post

So, it’s the last working day before the Christmas holiday and for me, at least, may be the last time I’m on my computer until after Christmas. Working in IT, I spend 8 to 10 hours a day at the computer so any time I can get away from it, it feels like a vacation.

Before I wrap up the week and head off for the tinsel/sugary baked goods/music we only hear once a year but then til we are sick of it extravaganza, I wanted to take a minute to wish you, my dear readers, a very happy holiday season. Whether you celebrate Solstice, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, or something else, I hope that your holiday is a great one.

I wish you:

* Time with your loved ones, even the ones that kind of make you crazy.

* A chance to relax and enjoy the quiet of lights, music, and a spirit that moves you.

* The excitement of children who know that gifts are incoming.

* The joy of eating foods you love but only let yourself have once a year because the doctor or your physical trainer wouldn’t approve.

* The knowledge that there is something bigger at work here on our earth than just the day-to-day struggle and that we are lucky to be part of it.

For those of you who get the blues around the holidays, I send you my thoughts, prayers, and a digital hug. We love you, don’t forget that. Ever.

Merry Christmas everyone, and may your chosen Higher Power bless you in the New Year.

Mardee

There’s an Alpaca in My Bathroom

Okay, well not a whole alpaca, just its fiber, I guess.

It never fails to amaze me at how calm my husband is about strange things turning up in our home. In this case, it’s an alpaca blanket (meaning the clipped fiber off the animal, not a finished project). It’s wet, smells like a barnyard, and is drying on the same rack that I use to dry sweaters. In the middle of our bathroom.

Lovely man that he is, he just steps around the drying rack and occasionally gives the fiber a poke to see its progress in drying.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this particular alpaca blanket belongs to his mother and is going into the queue of things to be washed (check!), carded and spun into yarn.

It’s a LOOONG queue, though, so hopefully I’ll get it done before we end up in the retirement home together, his mother and I.

I love the start of a new project, don’t you? So much possibility…

Happy Tuesday.

Don’t You Know You Could Buy that at Walmart?

So, every now and then I take a hint from the WordPress people about what to write. Right now, they’re publishing a topic a day. Today’s topic was to write about a question that you hate to be asked.

It being the Christmas season, pretty much every knitter I know has been caught in the quandary of whether to buy or make gifts. Of course, there’s the question of knit-worthiness for each giftee – after all, knitting is a lot of work and making spending hours to make a gift for someone who won’t appreciate or take care of it is a waste of effort. It’s much faster and easier to pick up a gift card or something ready-made.

But whether it’s the gifting season or not, we tend to run across people just don’t understand why we knit. They don’t see the value of handmade, or made with natural materials, and they ask that question all knitters hate, “Don’t you know you could just buy that at Walmart?” Of course, if we want to be flippant, we might answer with something like “Really? I had no idea. Where is this Walmart of which you speak?” Most knitters I know, being kind people, greet the question with a sigh and something to the effect of “Yes, but I like knitting so I prefer to make it myself.”

I was once even asked this question by another knitter when she found out that I had recently taken up spinning. She seemed shocked that someone would waste their time making yarn by hand when they could just buy it, probably, in her case, at Walmart. I’m a yarn snob and therefore don’t shop there. Also, I try to only use natural materials and prefer to support local businesses.

As for the question of Christmas gift-worthiness, I avoid the topic altogether. My work life is driven by schedules, so instead of also putting my knitting life on a deadline, I have a hard-and-fast rule against knitting for occasions. Instead, I prefer the random gift, sent unexpectedly to people who have no idea it’s coming. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s for them, like the sweater I finished a while back. The whole time I was knitting, I thought it was for me, and when I got it done, realized that this garment was intended for my sister because it was more her style than mine.

So, if you’re knit-worthy, don’t take it badly if a hand-knitted gift from me doesn’t turn up in your Christmas stocking. There may be one coming eventually, when the right project speaks your name.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Self-Knowledge and Puppy Buying

It’s funny how, as we grow older, we come to know ourselves better. When I was young, I was so certain I knew everything about everything and there was nothing new to learn (sorry Mom). Nowadays, though, I like to think myself much more self-aware. I probably still have my blind spots but I’m getting better at spotting trends and figuring myself out.

This morning, out of the blue, I had the strongest urge to get a puppy. Not another Westie (oddly, because I adore Westies) but a black Labrador.  Fluffy and cute with a fat tummy and the requisite pee spots all over my house.  So, I thought, that’s kind of a weird thing to suddenly want, especially when you already have two dogs who are mostly potty trained and both people in the house travel for a living.

I set about thinking it through, to see if I could figure it out. And eventually it dawned on me. Each time one of my kids moved out, I had this sudden, puppy-shaped hole in my heart. Transference, I guess. So what is today’s puppy buying urge created by? My daughter and her boyfriend, who have been living with us, both are settled in jobs, have found a darling apartment and will be moving out on Saturday.

So, clearly, the last thing I need three weeks before Christmas (and with a business trip next week, no less), is a puppy. Nor do I think my husband would approve. Dog lover that he is, he is much better than I am at knowing our limits. So, I guess I’ll not get a puppy today. Perhaps I’ll just find some video clips on YouTube and hug a Westie. Hopefully that will take care of it until the urge passes.

12 Days of Christmas (MardeeKnits Version)

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, one broken knitting needle. (Found in the sofa).

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two Westies stealing raw fleece.

On the 3rd day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three skeins of Malabrigo.

On the 4th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four alpacas grazing in the yard.

On the 5th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me – five golden rings! (Of the stitch marker variety)

On the 6th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six knitters tinking. (And probably swearing as well).

On the 7th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven spindles spinning,

On the 8th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eight winders winding.

On the 9th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine sweaters needing just sleeves.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten wheels a whirling.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven sets of mostly-finished mittens.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, peace and quiet. Whew, the Christmas knitting’s done!

Happy Holidays everyone!

DSC_0094

Oh yes, and today the holiday season gifted me with a tree with a section of non-working lights. They worked when we first put the tree up. That’s how we roll around here, two steps forward, one step back. I also still haven’t gotten the ornaments on. Now that I no longer have kids to help with that process, I don’t like doing it so I procrastinate.