Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A merry, but puzzling little Christmas

This isn't actually the way I had envisioned Christmas 2014...

The kitchen remodel isn't even started, and the dining room is still stacked with boxes to go into the back storage shed, which also hasn't been finished, so I can't use it yet. I have left all but the most pressing housework go indefinitely due to everything being in a state of incompletion. My kitchen linoleum floor is disgraceful, and there is electrical hardware and miscellaneous bottles of stuff cramming the counters, where in previous years were my recipe books, baking pans and gift boxes of holiday breads.

Not this year...oh, well...

And no, I didn't decorate, for the first time in, gosh, I don't know how many years. Yes, there is my Advent wreath I made out of candles from Bath & Body Works, and some now rather dry rosemary garlands I picked from my backyard at the beginning of the season. Next to it is a carousel-type picture holder, with images of Tiggy during her first Christmas with our household, as she peeked out from the high branches of the Christmas tree as an adventuresome kitten.

And my career is still in a state of flux, again...

To beat back any despair over the state of things, I am using the people in my life as an anchor, and doing whatever I can with them, and for them. Whenever I've done some rearranging to accommodate the remodel crew, I've been astonished at just how many blankets, pillows, items of clothing, etc., I'd totally forgotten I had. So, off to my church they go, with heartfelt blessings. Here they were for years in a closet, or for even a couple of decades, and someone out there really needs these things! What a reality check, and it helps me to be more grateful about just how good my life really is.

A couple of years ago, I posted how I felt my Facebook/1972 high school friends had helped me through a holiday funk. Well, they're doing it again. As frivolous as it seems, FB is the second thing I log into in the morning, and I really take to heart all the life events of my old friends. Their struggles, challenges and triumphs are mine to share everyday. *Gosh, I'm getting a bit teary, here.*

And there's my roommate, who has become a real, dear friend in the past year and a half. My next-door neighbors are the best, and I can't imagine the neighborhood without them. For the past 40 years, the neighbors to my left have seen my son grow up with their youngest son. We've been to parties, the wedding of their oldest son, and exchanged support that only comes with this kind of relationship. The neighbors to the right, an elderly couple from Chicago (though the wife was actually born in Sicily), have been there nearly 35 years. Sandi, God bless her, still bakes and cooks like crazy from scratch, and I can always count on a lovely gift assortment of elaborately-homemade cookies every Christmas and Easter time (including that one cookie that has a hard-boiled egg encased in the pastry). Sam, her husband, is a retired bartender/construction contractor, and is keeping a watchful eye on the projects at my house. He's more than a bit of a busybody, and we've butted heads over the years, but I love this guy; he's like a wise uncle.

The sweetest turn of this year has been my recent joining of an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) class at St. Robert Bellarmine Church, about five blocks from the house. It's been far more than simply returning to Catholicism; in about three months a small group of us have shared our spiritual journeys, from our hearts. On December 14, at the 5 pm Mass, Fr. John Collins presided over our Rite of Acceptance and Welcome. One of the younger men later said he "felt intense" being up there in front of the packed congregation. As for me, at one scary point, I truly thought I was going to faint--really. Thank goodness my sponsor was there with her hand firmly on my shoulder! Never had I experienced such a feeling of intimacy intertwined with such a public declaration.

And then...next evening, there was a 180 from solemnity to unbridled fun. One of our group hosted a holiday party at her house. I brought a bottle of Tullamore Dew (nothing but the best for this occasion!), along with plastic shot glasses. Every bit of surface was loaded with food and wine from every member's household, the rooms were wonderfully crowded. Holiday games, small gift exchanges, conversation circles large and small...and, yes, shots of Tullamore Dew! I wish more weeknights could feel like a weekend, as this one did.

So, I'm off to see some long-lost in-law relatives in San Bernardino Christmas Eve, then hopefully making back for 11 PM Mass. Christmas Day will find me with my son, daughter-in-law, and the "outlaws" (what I lovingly call her parents).

In the new year, I really have to have a vacation, even a modest one, since it occurred to me that the last was in 2008. Here's what I have in mind, inspired by a business-related visit to St. Teresita's in Duarte recently:


And, so, to everyone a blessed holiday, however and wherever you celebrate, and..Slainte!