Browsing Tag

christmas

Guest Posts, Holidays

The Christmas Tree That Saved My Parents’ Marriage

November 30, 2018
tree

By Julienne Grey

Right before my mother died, she wanted to give me a gift. “I want to give you something,” she’d said. “Anything you want. Something special. What would you like?”

Surrounded by family photos and irises and loving cards from the years, in the room she’d chosen to die in, I wasn’t thinking of gifts. That week she’d been dipping in and out of consciousness. She’d glimpse a photo from her Mykonos honeymoon and say, under the influence of morphine, “It’s beautiful being here on this island.” I’d smile back and say, “Yes, it is.”

What did I want? I wanted my mom alive, alert, awake. But that wasn’t something she could give for much longer. And I didn’t want to make her sad. So instead I said, “Can I have a puppy?” Imagining a sweet little bichon or a shih tzu was the only thrill I could imagine in that room. But when I looked up, my mom had already fallen asleep. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Holidays

Nun Gimmel Heh Shin

December 22, 2017
hanukkah

By Magin LaSov Gregg

The LeVees

In our sodden delta parish, December means sweater weather, fleece parkas, fairy lights twinkling along the bayou. At night Carl and I sip monk beer on our back patio while a cat curls up at our feet. We sit beside azalea bushes, in the shadow of oleanders, and watch the pale moon glow. Autumn leaves don’t change colors here. They dry out, become brittle and papery, then fade from green to brown by Hanukkah.

This year I’m observing my second Hanukkah in Louisiana, and I’ve done the thing I never expected to do. I said yes when Carl asked me to marry him. At this time in our lives, he’s a Baptist minister, and he serves a small congregation known as the “gay church” in town. He’s the only minister between Jackson, Mississippi and Shreveport who will officiate at same sex weddings. Recently, I fretted when he stood in a gazebo across from the court house and blessed the union of two women while cars whizzed along a busy road –– this is 2006, nine years before Obergefell v. Hodges. Our parish carried David Duke during his bid for U.S. Senate. And a few years before I moved to town, someone left a burning tire on the front yard of one of Carl’s colleagues, who’d spoken out against Christian prayers being broadcast on the intercom system of a local high school. I tell few people I’m Jewish, and we keep our address unlisted. Yet Jews view me with suspicion too. Continue Reading…

Christmas, Family, Guest Posts

Tidings of Comfort and Joy.

December 25, 2014

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By Melodye Shore.

 

I swear to you, there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
–Walt Whitman
It was when our mutual friend Katrina Kenison introduced me to Amy VanEchaute’s blog, My Path With Stars Bestrewn, that the seeds of a friendship were planted. In a later entry, “While My Pretty One Sleeps,” Amy wrote a gorgeous tribute to her beloved Momma, who seemed to me the stuff of fairy tales. At once magical and ephemeral, Amy’s Momma reminded me of my sweet Nana—not mirror images, mind you, but similar in all the places where light exists and love makes itself manifest in the world.

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Amy’s Momma with Maymer, 1973

My Nana, early 1970s

My Nana, early 1970s

Though we are separated by distance—1,900 miles, more or less—my subsequent conversations with Amy brought us closer. Over time, I came to realize just how much we have in common. Our personalities are uniquely our own, but we approach the world with a shared sense of wide-eyed wonderment, are attuned to music about Mother Earth and her creations, and words that whisper to us the wisdom of Transcendentalists, matriarchs, and the Eternal All-knowing.

A few weeks ago, when Amy posted a picture of the Victorian-style wreath she’d created as a Christmastime homage to her mother, I wished aloud for a memorial spot where I could visit Nana. Amy expressed similar regrets about her own grandmother. As fate would have it, “Maymer” is buried in a cemetery less than nine (count ’em, 9!) miles from my house.

Right then I realized that we’d ventured into that serendipitous space where wishes are sometimes granted, the realm of possibility where you don’t dare blink, lest you miss all the fun and magic. “I’ll make her a wreath,” I heard myself say, “I’ll find Maymer’s grave and lay it there for you.”

Get this: I’d never made a wreath for a loved one before, much less a total stranger! So what? My inner voice asked. I answered the challenge by grabbing my car keys and heading to Michaels. Not for me, something purely decorative…I’d pull together thematic elements! The circular shape would speak of unity—the joining of hands across the miles, a warm embrace in absentia. And the sturdy evergreens would represent our grandmothers’ character: strong women who endured hard times without complaint, who embroidered the fanciful into the everyday, and who sowed seeds of grace in every word and deed.

 Behold! My first-ever homemade bow! See the tiny angel? She represents Maymer and Nana, spiritual giants of short stature. In the curve adjacent to the gilt-edged bow, I placed creamy white roses, as fair as our grandmothers’ porcelain complexions.


Behold! My first-ever homemade bow! See the tiny angel? She represents Maymer and Nana, spiritual giants of short stature. In the curve adjacent to the gilt-edged bow, I placed creamy white roses, as fair as our grandmothers’ porcelain complexions.

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Here and there, I scattered various gifts of earth and sky, to help illustrate the underlying meaning of this circle: Hope, that thing with feathers; pinecones that represent growth and renewal; a sprig of cedar that symbolizes strength and healing; holly that speaks of loving sacrifice; and twining ivy, to depict the precious memories that cling to the very fabric of our being.

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On these scrolls are written the songs of our heart: “Deep Peace” for Maymer, and “His Eye is on The Sparrow” for Nana. I tied them together with a tussie-mussie of forget-me-nots, tiny blue flowers that grew prolific in Maymer’s garden and inspired Amy’s momma to write this gorgeous haiku:

Like my mother’s eyes
Twinkling from the garden path
Blue forget-me-nots.
©Marjorie Neighbour, 1982

 I then clipped two candles on the upper right corner, humming as I placed them among the greenery: These little lights of ours, I’m gonna let ‘em shine… Sprigs of mistletoe are scattered at the base of the candles, for who deserves bunches of kisses more than a beloved grandmother?

I then clipped two candles on the upper right corner, humming as I placed them among the greenery: These little lights of ours, I’m gonna let ‘em shine… Sprigs of mistletoe are scattered at the base of the candles, for who deserves bunches of kisses more than a beloved grandmother?

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A chubby bird hovers mid-air, a shimmery gold confection that catches the sunlight with its feathers. Into its bosom, I tucked a pale pink rose from my backyard garden—a secret treasure of the sort that I suspect Nana and Maymer loved best. Over time the petals will fade and crumble, but as with our most cherished memories, their essence will remain.

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Here’s how my finished wreath looked, lovingly placed as it was near the cedar tree where Maymer rests.

136042_600I discovered nearby yet another wreath, created with bougainvillea flowers by Mother Nature herself! It’s a very unusual arrangement, which makes me wonder if I was meant to stumble upon it in my walk across the grounds. And just beyond the reach of my camera, a songbird flew from tree to tree, chirping when it landed but never lighting long enough for me to get a clear glimpse of it. Felt more than seen, it was identifiable only through the sweetness of its song. “Like the soul,” Amy suggests to me later.

Sunset at the cemetery.

Sunset at the cemetery.

This wreath is truly a gift of the heart and of this season. It honors the circle of life, a miracle with no beginning or end, and brings tidings of comfort and joy to both the giver and recipient. In the same way that the Winter Solstice turns back the dark by lengthening the days, this gift has swaddled us in warmth and light—new friends who feel as if we’ve known each other forever, pulled by our grandmothers into a wordless embrace that is nothing less than divine.

About Melodye Shore: I am an established writer and researcher whose work appears in a wide variety of published articles, newsletters, and educational materials. My personal essay, “Luz” is included in the Young Adult anthology, DEAR BULLY: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories (HarperTeen, 2011), and I’m a co-contributor to THE GIRL GUIDE: Finding Your Place in a Mixed-up World (Sourcebooks, Inc., 2013). An experienced public speaker, I’ve been quoted on a variety of topics in Time Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, USA Today, and other publications.

My current book project, CAN I GET A WITNESS? Memoir of a Tent Evangelist’s Daughter, chronicles an itinerant childhood during which my family crisscrossed the country in a cramped sedan, setting up revival meetings wherever we landed.

While I still enjoy traveling, I feel most at home in Southern California, where I live with my husband. In addition to writing, my interests include art journaling, photography, gardening, and plotting new adventures. Connect with me here.

Featured image courtesy of Robert S. Donovan.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to  be a human being.

VANCOUVER! The Manifestation Workshop in Vancouver. Jan 17th. Book here. No yoga experience required. Only requirement is to be a human being.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email rachyrachp@gmail.com.

Contact Rachel Pastiloff for health coaching, weight loss, strategies, recipes, detoxes, cleanses or help getting off sugar. Click here or email rachyrachp@gmail.com.

click to order Simplereminders new book.

click to order Simplereminders new book.

Christmas, Guest Posts

Our Christmas Fixer.

December 24, 2014

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By Aine Greaney.

My father never told us that he loved us. Instead, Dad fixed the things that we loved. Decapitated dolls.  Wobbly kitchen chairs. Pinching shoes. Give my Dad one hour in his backyard shed, a few whirrs and clanks from his messy toolbox, and … Presto!  Whatever had been fractured was (almost) good as new again.

Dad worked 60-plus hours per week as a lorry driver for Ireland’s state-run freight company. In the busy season, the Guinness Brewery sub-contracted with his company to make extra beer deliveries. In Ireland, believe me when I tell you that there is no busier Guinness season than December and New Year’s.

So by Christmas Eve afternoon, Dad was still working, and our tree always stood, trimmed but unlit, in the window of our front parlor.  It never occurred to my mother or any of us five kids that anyone but Dad should or could engage in the Grand Light Showdown. Only Dad could get those miniature lights working and strung.

Our house sat directly across the street from the village church, so we were under deadline and surveillance. In country villages like ours, tongues really wagged—especially during sold-out Yuletide ceremonies. So before our fellow parishioners arrived for midnight service, whatever it took, he had to get that tree lit.

Now, over four decades later, I can still see him standing there in his lorry-driver’s uniform, testing, twiddling, and then, when he found that one, recalcitrant bulb, he would dead-head and fix it until … We had lights.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Inspiration

The Blank Page by Denise Barry.

December 19, 2012

The Blank Page by Denise Barry

Sears Adventure

 

When I was eight years old I desperately wanted to be a writer.

I didn’t know I could be one without a typewriter (yes, I am old enough to have used a typewriter!) and I knew my parents couldn’t afford to buy me one, so I fiercely prayed to Santa Claus on a nightly basis, begging him to bring me one for Christmas.

When Christmas morning came, I held my breath as I tore into the beautifully wrapped box with my name on it, from Santa. I reached inside and pulled out….a ream of paper.

I glared at that paper with as much hate as I could muster. “Why am I getting this?” I thought, bitterly. “What am I going to do with paper?”

It should have made sense to me that if I was getting paper, the reason I was getting it would follow. But I was too fixated on what it wasn’t to have any common sense.

My mom had been watching me the whole time. “Is there anything else in there?” she prompted, sounding amused.

I looked in the box again. I don’t know how I had missed it before, but there it was – my typewriter!

I didn’t notice that it probably weighed less than a pound and it was made almost entirely out of plastic. All I knew was that it was the color of my heart, and it glowed, just like my mother’s eyes as she watched me jump up and down, hugging it close.

The paper meant something to me then. I fell in love with it. I remember how I gently slid that first piece out of its package, not wanting to crease it in any way. It felt so smooth and clean and pure. It was as empty as a new day, just waiting to be filled with whatever I chose to fill it with. What a delicious feeling. What a gift!

I excitedly rolled that page into my typewriter and began tapping away on the keys. I watched as words appeared, then sentences. I couldn’t believe that what had been just a thought in my head was appearing on this blank canvas, right before my eyes! The reality of this scared me. “What if I make a mistake? I can’t just erase it, it’s ink!” I thought. The paper felt so special to me, I didn’t want to waste even one piece of it!

Well, it turns out, I did make mistakes. A lot of them. But I never wasted even one sheet of paper. With every piece I crumpled up and threw away, I was one page closer to what worked for me, what felt right.

When I was nine years old I wrote a song for my mother, which she made me sing ALL the time! After she died a couple of years ago, I found it tucked away in an envelope, inside her box of treasures. She had saved it for all these years.

I am humbled to realize that my thoughts are creations. MY creations. And that what I create can be powerful enough to touch someone so deeply, they treasure it for a lifetime.

What a powerful gift we come equipped with and no Santa required (sorry Santa!).

If you would like to see the original song I wrote, click here

Shared with love by Denise Barry. To learn more about Denise, click here.