“The two most joyous times of the year are Christmas morning and the end of school.” ~ Alice Cooper
I have been sick since last Thursday. I thought it was just an allergy thing making me lose my voice. I had to skip a few things along the way to try to keep from getting worse. It finally caught up with me Christmas Eve. I was in bed by dark only to wake up this morning feeling even worse. Mom and dad went to Aunt Lois’ without me for Christmas day dinner. I hated to miss the family (many of whom have this same cold so I wasn’t the only one absent today). I slept all day. The folks brought me a plate of deliciousness this evening and I soon started feeling better. My point in all this is that, despite having been sick the entire holiday, it has been one of the best Christmases we’ve ever had. We were all happy. We were all grateful. We were all present. I’ll take a cold every year if it means we’re all together and happy.
“I have noticed that people are dealing too much with the negative, with what is wrong… Why not try the other way, to look into the patient and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Sure enough, it’s magical, majestic, and merry…and it actually tastes like peppermint. Stacy Yelton finds the funniest stocking stuffers and this one might be her best yet. Get your own at www.BagofFarts.com. They have a wide variety for all occasions. It gets a <snort>!
“My to-do list for today: Count my blessings. Practice kindness. Let go of what I can’t control.
Listen to my heart. Be productive yet calm. Just breathe.” ~ Tiny Buddha
Back in late October, when mom was just able to get around without a walker, I took her to the outlet mall near Shelbyville where she discovered Chico’s. We had a delightful time as we bought many Christmas presents. I bought this sweater. I loved it immediately, and I wore it to work right away. It was soft and warm and contoured to make me look thin. Truly, I adored it. The next time I washed it, I threw it in with something that wasn’t done sloughing off dye so that the white of the sweater was dulled. It wasn’t ruined, it just needed a good soaking in Woolite to brighten it up again, but I was headed to California so it would have to wait until I got back. Mom was sad for me. While I was gone, she tried something she’d been led to believe would brighten the white without destroying the black. It brightened the white, that part was true, but it turned the black to sepia; blotched sepia at that. She was bereft, virtually inconsolable by the time I got home. By then she had searched two states trying to find another one. It was not to be. I put a call out to the facebook hive mind of shoppers. It became clear that the sweater was so beloved that no more existed, new or used. I resigned myself to the worn-one-time memory, and to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Then came Christmas. The first box I came to held a brand new still-with-the-tag replacement sweater. Mom had somehow managed to find the right Chico’s employee who would really help her, and help she did. They found a sweater in Arkansas, of all places. Mom won Christmas! Bless her heart, she was tickled to death, and I was tickled for her. We celebrated once more.
“To be nobody but yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~ e.e. cummings
This is Janet’s first Christmas at the rest home in Campton. She’s at the same facility where both of my grandmothers stayed. The staff is exceptional, and the facility overall is really nice. For Thanksgiving, they invited families and provided an excellent full course traditional meal. For Christmas, they provided a large array of hot snacks, caroling, and Santa. The facility bought each resident something special, which I thought very kind. When it was over we wrangled one of the nursing assistants to help with a family photo (mom was telling me what she wanted printed before we snapped the first shot <sigh>). Our Janie-on-the-spot photographer did a darn good job I think.
Now, mom is all about the posed, everybody smile, nice background, formal pictures. I, on the other hand, prefer the more natural smiles, the less posed, the spirit of the moment shining through some way. If you follow me at all, you know that’s my thing. Case in point: this picture of Mom and Janet may be one of the best pictures of the two of them since they were just girls, in my opinion. And then I’ve got my hipster dad who just lights up a room anymore. Although nobody wants to see a loved one in such a situation, the fact that we were able to spend one more Christmas together is truly all that matters. We’re all grateful for it.
“Accept who you are; and revel in it.” ~ Mitch Albom
A few weeks ago the planets aligned to bring photographers Sallie Powell and Crystal Heis to my office. From that conversation I was inspired to track down some old film I had never processed because I don’t have space for a darkroom in my house. I sent it to a great lab in LA called Richard Photo Lab. I thought I knew what all of the film was. Today, I scanned it. Turns out that I did not know what all the film was. For example, I had completely forgotten about this roll from 2009 of the Gaumer/Cardenas family taken the same weekend their daughter Lilia took her first steps!
Or this roll from Christmas 2008 when my beloved Sadie dog was still with me, mom and aunt Janet were less grey, and Mamaw was still laughing without help from oxygen and had the Christmas bow stuck to her head (a normal thing for her). Certainly not my best work – hideous, unbounced flash – but the subjects are as dear as any could be. Their presence supersedes aesthetic any day.
What I expected were shots from First Presbyterian Church in Lexington. Lee Bowman was still pastor, and because the pipes were still a solid color, this must have been very early 2006 just before the church’s renovation. Most of the film was exactly that, First Presbyterian. Yet, somehow I’d forgotten organist Tina Wagner climbing atop the pipes: a favorite! In any case, these treasures, each and every one, are so welcomed. There’s something to be said for hoarding film for years. It really makes for Christmas in June, and what a delightful blessing that is.
“Bless us Lord, this Christmas, with quietness of mind; Teach us to be patient and always to be kind.”
~ Helen Steiner Rice
When we knew for sure that Aunt Janet would be getting her home replaced after the tornado, we said we had to spend Christmas in it. Last year the house was still a basic shell, but this year our tiny family gathered inside its warmth. We shared a delicious meal, exchanged thoughtful gifts, and played several rounds of Yatzee, which is what you play when there aren’t enough Rook players to be had. My mother wins the best gift award of the day (below). The family home place that sat on this spot for over 70 years had an outhouse that looked a lot like this one. There’s much to be thankful for this season. God bless us every one – and thank the lord we don’t have to use an outhouse in these temperatures! Merry Christmas.
“Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” ~ Unknown
For Christmas my awesome parents gave me a wide angle lens (shout out to Ian Davis). I spent my day cooking and cleaning, so I didn’t realize until an hour after they’d gone that I hadn’t snapped a single picture of them all day. Fortunately, I did on Christmas Eve when we exchanged gifts (below). Meanwhile, the cats, still self sequestered up on high because of dad’s dog, had to fill in for the day’s photo. Notice they remain unamused. They’re totally peopled out.
“My friends, life is short, and there’s little time to gladden the hearts of those who go the journey with us. So be quick to love, and make haste to be kind. And may the blessings of God almighty, father, son, and holy spirit, be with you, and those whom you love, now and forever. And may all God’s people say ‘Amen’.” ~ Rev. Dr. Lee Bowman
I don’t go to church so much since Lee Bowman left to pastor in North Carolina. Still, First Presbyterian in Lexington has the most glorious Lessons and Carols service, and I try to go no matter what. Every time, I marvel at the ceiling as it reaches to the sky, the pipe organ majestically rising behind the choir, and the ostentatious pulpit…well, I try to overlook that and focus on the craftsmanship instead. The wooden cross, its simplicity among the ornate rightfully holds my attention.
It isn’t just the building that holds me, but friends among the choir. Laurel Reid grabbing my hand as she sang her way down the aisle, Allen Smith flashing his sweet smile at me between stanzas: they warmed my heart, and gave me pause to consider the church family rather than lost pastoral messages. This church, more than any other, holds my fascination, and it’s filled with some of the most gentle, compassionate souls I’ve known. Coincidentally, or not, I received a letter from the Rev. Dr. Lee Bowman just this morning: a first. Lee’s benediction, up top, will stay with me all the rest of my days. I find it suitable for any occasion, including Christmas.
“The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale
Crystal Heis makes a return appearance, donning merry socks and chucks (note tiny jingle bell). This she did for the library’s holiday costume contest. She didn’t win, sadly, but we were all very impressed with her inventiveness and freshly shorn legs. Although, one contestant had mittens sewn on her sweater just so, as if to cop a feel. That was pretty funny.