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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

boot and angel (2)_LIEmbrace the glorious mess that you are. (Elizabeth Gilbert)

Our angel fell from her Christmas tree perch last year. Several times. Jay and I referred to her as fallen. She couldn’t maintain a lofty position balanced on a wire stub with fake green needles attached. I can’t blame the angel. The treetop offered insufficient support. Her last dive cracked her plastic cone innards.

This year we replaced the fractured guardian with a similar angel. She too reigned lopsided. A younger family member set her straight with steady, understanding hands. Our girl has mechanical know-how. The current tree is smaller. However, I wonder if one angel didn’t recognize another, at least metaphorically.

Another metaphor appears at the bottom of my own being—a post-surgical orthopedic boot. A small mechanical can opener didn’t fall on my right foot. I dropped the darned thing. No cracked bones showed on an x-ray and I did not have surgery. However, my swollen foot needs protection. A regular shoe would be a vise-grip-pliers substitute.

I am a glorious mess. Nevertheless, I am alive.

A good, fun friend died recently. I talk to him in my thoughts, with no reply. At least on this side of time. For now, I celebrate the temporary rises and falls, the human frailties, the holes and fabric of lace woven from one day into another.

…From one perfectly imperfect, alive moment into the next. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or Hanukkah. Or, simply celebrate being if holidays aren’t your thing.

May life bring beauty and joy into the everyday.

 

 

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What can go wrong will go wrong. (Murphy’s Law)

My computer is unplugged. Temporarily. A few minutes. No more. Its battery is at 69%. I checked two seconds ago. Then, the screen goes as dead as the inside of a serial killer’s conscience. The blackout has just destroyed 83 pages of edits.

On my final manuscript.

Scheduled to go to my publisher.

Today.

Yes, I do know how to write complete sentences. However, under the circumstances, my mind isn’t thinking in complete thoughts, especially as I realize the do-you-want-to-recover document I was editing contains an uncorrected way-too-common phrase I changed on page one.

And, no, I did not wait hours before hitting save. The save button would have a hole in if it were made of any earth material—including diamond.

Glitch two—some missed connection with my new Microsoft Word. No-o-o, a two-letter word that now has at least ten syllables.

Time to breathe before starting over. Two friends help make that happen, Ann and Shannon. They are coming for lunch and a personal concert. Fortunately, lunch has been prepared ahead. Simple. Homemade soup and tossed salad. Bagged tortilla chips. These two women appreciate. Excess is unnecessary.

Ann is blind. I pick her up from home and lead her up the steps leading to our house. She has no difficulty finding her way. Her sunshine greeting, light coming from her spirit, encourages me.

I realize there is no way I could have started over on my manuscript in a milieu of internal darkness. Shannon is already at the house and she is talking to Jay. Her laughter greets us as we enter the house.

We begin our afternoon with music. Neither of my friends could come to the Get Lit Festival last Saturday sponsored by Post Mortem Press. (Lit refers to Literature, not buzzed.) Local artists and writers brought their art to sell. I read a short section from my next middle-grade urban fantasy. I also played and sang three songs.

Nathan Singer from the Whiskey Shambles, rocked the program. He has an established following.

However, Ann and Shannon cheer as I play two songs on my guitar—just for them. Jay claps as well, even though he has heard my music so often, I close the door so he can concentrate on something else, anything else. A song may be incredible, but any sound repeated 7, 468 times requires ear canals as calloused as my fingertips. It’s called survival.

My heart lightens by the time I get back to start-over mode. And that is valuable because one beat after I get to the last page, Murphy’s Law shows up again. The computer freezes. Donkey-stubborn, won’t-get-out-of-bed, it refuses to budge.

My unprintable response remains in my husband’s and my memory since the computer is comatose now. It couldn’t hear if it were a living being anyway. Moreover, I reserve questionable language for the computer. I reboot the gosh-darned thing and pray my story has lived.

Trembling, I consider one of the last changes I made. Perhaps one of the angels my friends left in the house is present because I remember two edits. They are both intact.

Bye-bye, manuscript. Have a good time being formatted into a fantasy kids can enjoy where the good guys win. And hello, real life. No, I did not use the hammer or axe on my computer. The old thing will, however, be replaced. My birthday present from Jay.

After all, the innate beauty in life returns. Eventually. Murphy’s Law never destroys goodness completely.

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A good friend is a connection to life—a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world. (Lois Wyse)

A. and I sing along with Christmas carols played in the background at the senior Christmas party. She is not distracted by the colors and movement around her—she can’t see them. Her white cane leans against an empty chair next to her.

A.’s enthusiasm buoys mine. We have already exchanged gifts, nothing dramatic. She gave us the practical items we asked for: potholders and handkerchiefs. We got her a grocery gift-certificate. The gifts don’t matter. Our intentions do.

“You don’t know it, but you really helped me,” I tell her.

Then the leader of the senior program goes to the microphone and asks for quiet. Among a group of older folk, that’s something like suggesting a tornado stop mid-whirl. For a change, everyone’s hearing aids are tuned-in. A little girl plays a few carols on guitar, single notes, but the songs extend into complicated musical patterns.

The featured entertainer switches from guitar to keyboard.

“He’s good,” A. says, tapping out the rhythm to “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Our friends at the table seem to pick up on her enthusiasm. A. wins one of the door prizes.

When we are in the car and returning home, A. asks how she could possibly have helped me.

I tell her about how our friendship deepened when Jay was in the hospital in the fall. I was having muscle spasms and needed to care for my recovering spouse. She was sunshine when I felt uncertain and more than a little frightened. A. told me then she could listen and would be my friend forever. Her assurance helped me get through a difficult time.

I watch as she feels the items through the plastic wrap over the basket of the door-prize win. Dish cleaner, a wash cloth, some unidentified smaller objects, possibly kitchen oriented. I can’t see anything tucked under the visible objects. I don’t know if any other treasures wait inside. A ceramic angel is situated on top, in the center.

At first I wonder how an angel could have anything to do with miscellaneous cleaning products. Maybe the connection doesn’t need to be obvious. Maybe the blessed isn’t separated from the ordinary. And a human-angel is appreciating a ceramic image with a tactile dexterity I have never experienced.

The winter solstice appears now. Each day slowly adds daylight. A. has never seen light. Yet, she has absorbed it through her being, even if her eyes can’t observe a single cloud, or recognize one shade of blue or gray.

I see the shapes and colors. However, I haven’t captured the fullness of what I can touch, taste, smell, see, and hear. Yet.

A., my newest life teacher, unlocks her apartment door. “Call you in a couple of weeks,” she says. I hope she doesn’t mind if I contact her sooner. This student has a short memory.

The Solstice: created from a public domain image

winter-solstice-with-background

 

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One eye sees, the other feels. (Paul Klee)

This year will probably be the last one for our artificial Christmas tree. The bottom lower branch no longer lights. Our angel has toppled so many times she lies, as if exhausted, at the base. She is supposed to be reigning from above. Maybe she is afraid of heights. I suspect that is better than being a fallen angel.

My husband and I celebrate the full twelve days of the season, even if those days include the ordinary chores of laundry, rug-scrubbing, and bill-paying. Holiday music plays in the background. The greatest celebrations include a full day with our grandchildren.

On December 26 Miss Rebe pretended to be mommy-having-a-baby. Her imagination swelled as she followed that experience with a brain, and then a heart transfer with her newborn. None of these moments fit into anything resembling real life. However, Rebe did understand that surgery includes cutting followed by blood. Even in play young people recognize suffering.

“Don’t look, Daughter,” she told me. Of course within seconds the transformation had occurred and been reversed—several times. In a kindergartener’s world magic slips into the ordinary as easily as wind blows through an open window.

Somehow Rebe’s fantasy touched something real. Physical brain and heart transfers don’t exist beyond imagination. Empathy does. Answers may not come in easy packages. Time may not heal. In-a-better-place isn’t always the best response. Yet a quiet soul and listening ear can speak in unexpected, healing ways.

Most holiday seasons are tainted in some ways; that’s the nature of anything that has created form. This December has been filled with sadness, illness, and tragedy. I have seen friends and acquaintances suffer. Some have died, suddenly, at a moment when the lights were expected to be brightest. Instead they extinguished.

After her imagined ordeal Rebe told Daughter it was time to go home. Apparently she had returned into pretend-mommy mode. Baby, yet unnamed, lay tucked in the crook of her arm. We were on our way. She didn’t say where.

But then, life’s journeys aren’t mapped anyway.

pic from the Optimism Revolution

love tainted world Optimism Revolution

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Life can be difficult sometimes, it gets bumpy. What with family and kids and things not going exactly like you planned. But that’s what makes it interesting. In life the first act is always exciting. The second act, that is where the depth comes in. (Joyce Van Patten)

Thanks to my savvy brother, my father’s house has been transformed—from worn and dreary to modern and beautiful. Floors shine; appliances sparkle. Even the landscape feels different. The family homestead is for sale.

The memories are not. They simply don’t live in the same space anymore. My siblings and I need to maintain them, in our own ways. Strange how the moments I recall first aren’t necessarily the most significant. I smell Mom’s chicken soup wafting into the living room and up the stairs into my room. Our food budget wasn’t huge, but Mom could make a feast out of almost nothing. Then there was Christmas, the house uncluttered for a change, the lights from the tree reflecting in the front picture window. I watched more television as a child than I do now. Bullwinkle Moose acted as a perfect companion to homework, at least I thought he did. The television is where I learned about the Harlem Globetrotters and laughed with my father, deep hearty guffaws that expanded me a bit because I hated sports. Gym and I were oil and water. I didn’t throw like a girl—any round object could throw me. Meadowlark Lemon lightened my approach.

Not every memory brings a smile. Life doesn’t work that way. Grief, death, and trauma also touched those seven rooms. However, they didn’t live there. They moved on, as the clock moved from one hour to the next, as my parents accepted heaven’s invitation.

Sunday, just before I entered the small area where my church community gathers, I spoke with a man who said he had just found a place to live. His apartment had been sold, so he had been kicked out. He said someone gave him a sandwich, but it was getting cold. I heated it for him in the microwave. He didn’t seem to know how to use one. I was struck with how much I take for granted.

I always grew up in a house, small maybe, but a house. My father called me his little girl even as I reached my sixties. My childhood is gone, at least externally. My parents live with the angels. Nevertheless, I am grateful, for the good and the bad. I wouldn’t be me without both.

May I live in this day, with whatever comes, and find its blessings. Peace upon all.

enough

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In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future. (Alex Haley)

The Statt Family Songfest—this celebration extends far beyond the dictionary definition where an informal group gathers to sing. This musical family and friends meet on an evening after Christmas to  enjoy every verse of thirty-plus Christmas carols. Some of the children play downstairs; the older children join the singing, and the babies dance, recognizing celebration with the innate sense infants enjoy. Harmony seeps into the walls and defies the weather. So what if there is a winter storm warning for tonight. If fear talk is going on, I don’t hear it. Instead piano, voice, and even the clear bell-like tones of a glockenspiel take over the living and dining rooms. Breaks occur either for food and drink or a rousing rendition of Ein Prosit.

I watch as toddlers shake bells or lift their arms touchdown style, a pre-verbal form of hallelujah.

The artificial atmosphere at most parties bore me. I don’t drink alcohol, and while there may be a benefit to discussing the pros and cons of political situations, this kind of talk tends to turn into an “I’m right and you’re wrong” match. The Songfest is different. Music is a powerful spiritual vehicle that unites people.

This year I feel especially blessed. I didn’t have to drive. I can relax and let my friends, Dick and Marie, decide when the snow has become a foe instead of a nuisance. Moreover, I don’t need to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow. Time isn’t an issue. I can stay until the last note of the last song.

That final song, an a cappella version of “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” hits me in a way I didn’t expect. It was my grandfather’s favorite hymn. He was a mild man, quick with a smile. I inherited my lack of height from him. As the song swells I drop back into time. I’m five-years-old and I hear my grandfather’s gentle voice suddenly boom out. He stands, back straight, hands on the pew in front of him. He doesn’t need a book for the words. I stop squirming for a change and lay my hand next to his. He grabs my fingers and gives them a soft squeeze without missing a beat.

In the present time I miss more than one beat, however. I feel my grandfather’s presence in the room. I am also aware of Avita, the mother of our host. “She was a great woman,” one of her grandchildren told me earlier, when I complimented the family. “She taught us how to be like her.”

And I think about learning, not what comes from books, but what comes from being true to who you are. I fight to keep my voice from cracking. “Holy, holy, holy, Lord.”

One corner of Songfest (I’m on the far left in the pink sweater.) photo by Kathy Statt

songfest 2012

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There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. . .There are seven million. (Walt Streightiff)

I am four years old again. The year doesn’t matter because it didn’t then—I am eternally young. Santa delivers toys. The world reaches no farther than Grandma and Grandpa’s house a mile away. Television hasn’t appeared in our household yet, and the power of the commercial hasn’t been developed either, so I don’t ask for much: a doll, definitely, maybe some new crayons and paper. Coloring books limit my creativity, but fresh clean paper opens possibilities.

However, this year Santa brings the gift that fits me perfectly: a table that is just my size and chairs that I can sit in without dangling my feet. How did he know I would cherish this moment? I sit at my special table and watch the lights on the tree reflect the ornaments. In our house Santa decorated that, too—all while we visited our grandparents’ house and waited for Dad to arrive with the notice. You can come home now: Santa has left for the next neighborhood.

Years later, I learned that S&H Green Stamps made my table possible. Mom and Dad, not elves and reindeer guiding a sleigh, worked to make our Christmases possible. Perhaps I was a strange kid, but I stood in awe as Mom washed dishes and I asked, “You mean, all this time you and Dad have been giving us all this great stuff and giving Santa the credit?”

Mom showed no affect. Even then I thought that was peculiar. At age seven I didn’t know how much it had cost them to give. My father didn’t make a semi-decent salary until I hit middle grades. Somehow Mom managed to make meals for a husband and four kids out of almost nothing. A few pieces of chicken became a delicious soup; flour, sugar, yeast developed into breads suitable for a king’s table.

Now, as an adult, I realize that children don’t see with adult eyes. Nevertheless, their vision is valid, even sacred. Our little Ella smiles at a doll house inside a decorative bag on Christmas Day. Her speech is limited, so I can only guess what she thinks. The house is just her size, with little people who can follow her imagination into places only she understands.

What she doesn’t know is that the doll house was bought second-hand, in perfect condition, but nevertheless used. That way her grandmother could purchase other gifts too. Oh well, there’s a saying that goes back to eastern origin that expresses my motivation: “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” And I am grateful for that tree.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

photo taken by Ella’s Aunt Sarah on December 25, 2012

doll house inside Dec. 2012

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Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory. (Betty Smith)

Kate rearranges my Christmas decorations on the windowsill as I prepare the table for cookie baking. Sure, I had items arranged according to size and balance. But her design tells a story. A porcelain figurine becomes a little girl opening a gift. The girl sits in front of a house. She has just finished making a snowman. The entire area is surrounded by angels. Kate takes a wreath that had been encircling a candle and places it on top of the house.

“See, Grandma, the people in the house decorated.”

I smile. The wreath is over half the height of the house. In real life this scene would either appear  on national news or a late-night comedy show. It’s hard to say. Nevertheless, the new arrangement will stay even if it is a tad top-heavy .

Then Kate moves to the manger scene on my breakfront. She picks up an unframed picture of my father in his World War II uniform, and pauses. I wonder what she is doing as she moves the three kings forward—long before the twelfth day of Christmas. The shepherd doesn’t seem to care. He waits, unconcerned.

Ah! The three kings have brought more than gold, frankincense and myrrh: they present a new arrival in the heavenly realm. In this picture he is a young man who had two jobs in World War II: company clerk and bomb disposal. He spoke many times of close calls, when he wondered why he had been chosen to come out alive.

Yet, he lived to be 91, long enough for his eight-year-old great granddaughter to decide that wise men would be willing to push ahead their celebration and appear for a special early visit. “Greetings! We have someone we want your newborn to recognize. His name is Bill, and he has lived a long and fruitful life.”

No, Kate didn’t add those words. She didn’t speak at all—didn’t need to say anything.  Her smile relayed the obvious. Love. It transcends language and opens the way to wisdom.

wisdom

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