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Sending you actual love, right now.

Free image via pexels.com cabin forest winter night

Hi, Lovelies.

It’s been a busy month for most of us. And cold and snowy for many of us, at least in our area of Ontario.

I also know it’s a really hard month for people. Even for those who celebrate and love the holiday season, it’s hard. Keeping spirits up when there’s so much to do, when expectations are high (especially our own), through the emotional ups and downs of social occasions, anticipation and letdown, hopes and dreads.

I love this time of year, and I find it hard too. I love the music and the food and the family and friends. Gifts are fun too, especially when you get to give gifts to children.

But I still fight depressing thoughts. I worry that materialism and greed will take over my kids, despite our best efforts. I worry about the germs that spread scarily fast in winter. Especially when it’s really cold out, I worry about the people who don’t have someplace warm to be. I feel the emptiness when Christmas ends. And I struggle with the darkness. It makes me dwell on the things that are wrong in the world. It makes them seem overwhelming.

This has always been somewhat true for me. I remember the way it would feel on winter evenings when I was young… I would consciously turn on my warm yellow desk lamp and read an L.M. Montgomery book, to fend off the creeping knowledge that the world is dangerous and violent and dark and cold. I had to deliberately keep these thoughts at bay, even though I had very little actual experience with suffering. I can only imagine how hard it must be for people who don’t have loving families, who don’t feel safe, who spend their days hungry or in pain.

Right now, I’m hoping that you are okay, and have found some beauty in this month.

I hope you have spent time with people you love.

I hope you have also spent at least a little time just for you, doing what you love most.

I hope you felt awe in Nature, despite the darkness – a sunbeam when you really needed it, a bright star, a pink sunrise, the deep hush of a snowfall in progress.

I hope the shortening of nights has been a comfort, even though it’s hard to see.

I hope that if you were grieving, you did not feel alone.

I hope you deeply felt the support, purpose, creativity, and unity you needed.

I hope you’ve had a really good laugh.

I hope you saw – or were part of – generosity in action.

I hope your home was warm, and your candles burned bright.

I hope you’ve felt some true wonder lately.

And some joy.

Today is a beautiful snowy day. (And it’s packing snow, miracle of miracles!) Our tree is still up and smells sweet. Our kids are not completely healthy right now, but healthy enough to play. We have been blessed to visit with all family branches this month. There’s been singing, which is important to me. Also family games and jigsaw puzzles, which I love. Sean has actually had significant time off, which is a treat for all of us. I’m very grateful for all these things.

2016 has been a rough and upsetting year in many ways, but it’s almost done. We in this house are choosing to be optimistic about 2017.

***


 

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Sometimes it’s hard to find words.

Dear Sebastian,

I hope you enjoyed the music yesterday. I loved listening, and feeling so close to you.

The three women whose voices delivered our lullaby were singing with you in their hearts, thanks to the initiative of my dear friend C, who loves the song and felt that it should be shared in person.

I haven’t been to a traditional Sunday morning church service very many times in my life – it felt a little funny to gather with a congregation that is not Quaker, and not in silence.

But it was really nice to be there, sincerely welcomed by strangers with smiles, hearing about the people that the community is presently holding in the Light (they didn’t use those words exactly, but I knew what they meant), following along with the hymns, watching the music director’s exuberant piano-playing, listening to the reverend speak about love and what an important part it is of each of us.

And when our song was sung, the notes soared sublimely up to the vaulted ceiling, and it was lovely to be gazing at the candle flames, the flowers, the jewel-coloured windows, and the most beautiful organ pipes I’d ever seen. Of course, I was crying too.

It is hard to describe what was going on in my head and heart.

It was exciting to be announced as “the composer” of the piece – I almost felt like the genuine article… And it was incredible to be given the gift of finally hearing the song I made for your first birthday, live and real, for the first time ever, sung by people who care about your story.

Most of all, it meant the world to feel close to you.

The truth is, I missed you so much over the holidays this year. I thought of you often, and wore your necklace every day, but mostly – I’m so sorry – I tried not to think about you. Usually I welcome the connection I feel when I think of you, even though it’s sad for me. But this time, for some reason, the grief felt harder, chilling. When we put your special ornaments on the tree, I had a taste of the dark kind of sadness that reminds me of cold baby graves with teddy bears beside them, and devastating family tragedies that blacken December. I did my best to steer clear of those thoughts.

But in a big room filled with beauty and sunlight, listening to our music, I was okay. We were okay.

And somehow, the singers wanted to thank me for the song. I couldn’t remotely find the proper words to thank them.

Even though part of me would have liked for everyone who loves you to have heard the music yesterday, it was easier that only a few people present knew your story. C’s mom gave me a big, bolstering hug (which I really needed) when the song ended, but the general audience had no reason to wonder how I was taking the experience, thank goodness. Many of them told me afterward that they enjoyed the song, and that was all I wanted.

After the service (and lots of hugs, and a few more tears on my part), the three singers took the song to the hospital with them, to say goodbye to a dear friend who won’t be with them much longer. They had asked permission, which I gladly gave; that was when I fully realized that this lullaby has always been meant to be a comfort to both the listener and the singer. It’s just that, until now, the only singer had been me.

What a blessing, this experience.

I still can’t come up with all the words I need right now. I’ll just remind you that I love you and I miss you. As always, I am glad that you are part of my heart. I wish I could kiss your little cheeks.

***

To listen to the original lullaby, please click here.


 

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100 Happy Days – Day 37: Christmas Tree!

 

 

I wish you could have seen how excited the kids were to decorate our Christmas tree. Especially AB – she kept saying things like, “I’m DECORATING THE TREE!” and “Look at this one! It’s so cool.”

Like last year, we got a pre-cut tree from the local Y, which helps to support their Youth programs. And boy, does it smell like beautiful Christmas.

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Happy.
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Focused little decorator.
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As usual, certain lower branches are more thoroughly laden than others.
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Yay!

***


 

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100 Happy Days – Day 34: Advent Calendars

This year, we are marking the days of advent LIKE A BOSS. Like a whole FAMILY O’ BOSSES.

That is to say, E still has Auntie Beth’s gorgeous creation which we fill day by day with tiny nifty things. (Except for yesterday, when I broke E’s heart by not having it secretly filled by the instant he woke up, and he cried and insisted, “It gets filled at night! Now it’ll never work again!!!” But then, it magically did work, while he was at school.)

Then, Grandma J got the kids each a classic Santa Claus advent calendar with teeny stamped chocolates for each day – because who doesn’t love a teeny chocolate first thing in the morning? Sean gets all nostalgic about his own advent-chocolate exploits of childhood. And AB was pretty screechy-happy when she found out what was behind those windows.

And this year, I finally ordered “traditional” advent calendars for E and AB – the kind with little pictures behind each window, like I had when I was a kid. Because I love-love-loved my own advent calendar and wanted them to have something similar.

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AB got woodland creatures.
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E got the one with the cars (Norman Rockwell).

And then Grammie sent animated virtual advent calendars from (by Jacquie Lawson), and they are very spiffy. Games and puzzles and tree-decorating and pets that follow you around, and new things to explore each day. (My favourite thing so far is the snowflake designing tool, where the six-way symmetry turns whatever you make into a gorgeous snowflake.)

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This is the opening scene of the Edwardian one…
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And this is the Christmas Market one.

To sum up: with this much counting down, there’s no excuse for not being absolutely ready for Christmas this year! Unless the excuse is that we were having too much fun with our advent calendars to do anything else.

***


 

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100 Happy Days – Day 3: Cuties in Costumes

Hoping my technical difficulties might take a coffee break, I’m attempting to backpublish a post from… several days ago. (I wouldn’t want you to think that Jian Ghomeshi had completely quashed the possibility of happy days.)

Here’s some happy from Day 3, even though they’re pics from October 31st. Because they can make me smile any day of the year. (Even though excited kids standing still enough for a clear photo on Halloween simply did not occur.) Plus, costumes are fun EVERY DAY.

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AB the giraffe and “Baby” G the dragon (he’s not a baby any more – he’s a big brother!).
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And E as a pirate!
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Jack-o-lantern designed by E, executed by Daddy.

And if you think that wee giraffe looks just like another wee giraffe you might have seen a few years ago… you’re right.

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Please Don’t Wish Me “Happy Turkey Day”

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Turkey appears courtesy of my son.

Don’t worry: this is not an angry rant or even a grumpy one. A little persnickety, perhaps. It might not even qualify as a rant.

I would just like to ask that you wish me Happy Thanksgiving this year, instead of Happy Turkey Day.

I know y’all are excited about your turkey. Some of you look forward to your roasted bird all year long, and it’s your very favourite thing. That’s great! The more you relish the foods you love, the more they are worth eating.

But Thanksgiving does not deserve to be renamed “Turkey Day.”

{OMG. Is it me, or is the word “turkey” starting to look totally bizarre?}

It’s not just that I’m a vegetarian and haven’t eaten turkey since I was thirteen. I mean, sure, that does factor in; folks write about Turkey Day on their Facebook walls and I’m all, Don’t suppose you’d like to wish ME a Happy Lentil Pie Day? Because trust me, Lentil Pie is a very happy-making food. (By the way, if you are one of those FB “Turkey Day” rhapsodizers, no hard feelings. I still love you.)

It’s not that I wish we could talk more about Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower, or Puritans and Native peoples eating together (they probably ate at least as much venison as turkey anyway).

Mostly, I wish to be wished a Happy Thanksgiving because of the thanks-giving part.

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Appreciating simple gifts.

Let’s be honest: most of our mainstream holidays reek of commercialism at this point. Valentine’s Day is about chocolate, Easter is about chocolate, Victoria Day is about fireworks and drinking, Christmas is about shopping, Boxing Day is about shopping, and, in the U.S., Thanksgiving is about shopping too. Well, that and football.

I’m not saying we must all devoutly return to the religious and/or patriarchal and/or monarchist roots of each holiday. But, at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, could we just keep this one holiday, at least in Canada, for thankfulness?

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Autumn colours are good for the brain.

Yes, it’s undeniable that Thanksgiving is revolves around a certain amount of consumption. But ideally, it’s the simpler side of consumption – and one time when we all consume with reverence. When we think of words like harvest and plenty and gratitude, and really feel their meanings deep in our souls.

These days, most of us don’t do things like get our hands in the soil, or pray for rain, or reap the literal fruits of our labour. Despite this – or perhaps because of this – we need to keep in mind that being nourished is a profound blessing. It’s important to think of what it took for that food to be on our table.

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Seriously magnificent food.

I look forward to Thanksgiving because of those beautiful moments where gratitude is almost tangible. Walking in chilly autumn sun. Catching a glimpse of bright trees against sky that renders me speechless. Coming inside and having my glasses fog up in the sudden coziness. Smelling delicious things cooking (even the ones I’m not going to eat). Looking past candle flames at a feast of colourful foods, and a circle of people I love.

It’s good for our souls to not just notice, but cherish, our good fortune. Especially the simple gifts.

Thanksgiving is the point.

***


 

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Freezing and Thawing and Partying

It’s been a memorable holiday season. Christmas that was both black(out) and crazily white… So much awesome family… Yummy food and festive music… Gratuitous cuteness….

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The true meaning of Christmas: Cousin R and Baby AB chillin’ with random things in their mouths.
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E with brand-new cousin M.
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My Aunt’s legendary Figgy Pudding on Christmas Eve.
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Artsy Christmas tree pic taken by E.
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Baby AB snuggling.
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Self-selected holiday fashion.
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Self-selected (except for the sleeper) holiday fashion.
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I’m sure y’all heard about (/participated in) that crazy ice storm. My poor parents were without power for 4 days, so Christmas morning ended up at our house! But the TREES. The SPARKLINESS. On Christmas Eve, E looked out the window and started exclaiming about all the new “pretty lights” on ALL the trees; it was the sunset hitting the ice. Amazing.
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I just know there are majorly profound lessons to be taken from the cedars and birches that just bend like this, then (mostly) recover when the ice melts.
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Presents! Here was a fave: mini paleontological dig in plaster for a triceratops tooth.
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So, Mrs. Claus was in Chapters a few weeks before Christmas and found this: a BOY FAIRY. She thought of E, who had recently been watching Tinkerbell and who still wants to wear his fairy wings even though the elastic is stretched all to heck. She took the plunge.
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Then she also got this lovely-and-not-too-frou-frou girl fairy.
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Then she got a daemon for each fairy (baby wolf, baby tiger) and got a bit crafty with a pretty gift box and tag she’d received from a fellow blogger, and made a fairy house. (The door’s in the top because FAIRIES. They fly in.) (And yes. Mrs. Claus has a blog. Pretty sure she’s on Pinterest too.) In case you’re wondering, E did not flip out over the fairies as Mini-Di would have at his age, but he has been enjoying his fairy folk, on-and-off. He was stoked when he realized that his popsicle-stick craft from school makes a perfect deck for them.
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But this present was the real winner. Automoblox Minis. He had one already from his Great-Aunt Suze, so Mommy and Daddy added these – and you can mix and match all their parts, once you have more than one. Seriously, they’re so fun.
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Pillow forts. Baby AB is a fort-wrecker, and also hilarious.
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Treats!
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New Year’s Eve fireworks in the park! E’s first “up-close” fireworks. Damn cold but awesome all the same.
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New Year’s Day open house at Grammie and Papa’s. All partied out.

 Now here we are. Gearing up to go back to school and normal life tomorrow, while also battening down for another storm. Bracing for back-to-school germs, now that both kids are finally almost done coughing and E is getting over his second bilateral ear infection since JK started. Feeling a bit of the blues, but also glad to be getting back to a routine.

And today, my Hubbibi spent the day cleaning house (while I got the kids out of there) so we could all feel fresh and ready for NEW YEARNESS. (Thanks, honey. What a difference.)

Here we go!

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