It’s been one of those weeks but I wanted to share some Christmas Joy.
Tonight is a unique opportunity to see the conjunction of the planets, Saturn and Jupiter, looking in the sky to some people like a large star, perhaps the same Christmas Star the three wise men (kings, shepherds) saw that guided them to Jesus’ birthplace.
In my neck of the woods, the Northeast USA, sunset is at 4:25pm, and the best time to see the star/conjunction is an hour past sunset looking towards the southwestern sky. With binoculars, you may also be able to see Jupiter’s four large moons.
Some links to read about this special sight while you’re waiting for sunset:
As we come to the last Sunday of Advent, I have finally decided to recommend an Advent book. The book itself begins with Advent but continues with daily readings throughout the Christmas season. What I have really come to share with you is the author, Michelle Frankl-Donnay.
I have been reading her reflections for a few years now, and she is by far my favorite person to read their reflections. They are a wonderful blend of spirituality and real life with the enormity of the universe for perspective. Professor Frankl-Donnay teaches chemistry at Bryn Mawr College and her science background gives an entire feeling with the mixing of the scientific and religious. Whenever I am reading her books durng the holiday seasons, I am wonderfully surprised at my reactions and how much I get emotionally from her reflections.
In addition to the current book, Daily Reflections for Advent and Christmas: Waiting in Joyful Hope 2020-2021, she can also be found at her blog:
This won’t publish until tomorrow morning, but as I write this it is many things for many people today: it’s the day after Christmas, which makes it the First Day of Christmas. It is also the fifth night of Chanukah. It is Boxing Day. It is the first day of Kwanzaa. Please add your holidays in the comments, and I can add them to my yearly calendar for next year.
I had so many intentions for writing and publishing last week, and part of the week before, including a a reflection on gratitude, a short commentary on something my priest said during a homily about everyday is Thanksgiving or at least the opportunity for thanksgiving, the emotional legacy I feel for the new Star Wars movie as well as something Supernatural finale related, holiday photos of our family’s menorah and Christmas tree as well as other shared instagram-type posts. The one thing I really tried to get done was a special Mental Health Monday before Christmas with ways to avoid holiday stress.
Instead of writing about it, and offering some advice I decided to take my unwritten as of yet advice, and not worry about writing and posting (among a few household things). For one thing, every time I looked at my ever increasing list of writing projects, I blanked. I closed the computer or the Kindle, and I walked away. There were presents to be wrapped, cards to be mailed (which had its own special stress for the lateness that they were received by me and losing my address book), our tree wasn’t up yet, our stove wasn’t working and I wasn’t sure how we were going to prepare Christmas dinner*. I tried to write to avoid the stress of the holidays that were on a timeline, and in making an editorial timeline at this time was really stressing me out. Each time I postponed a day’s planned posting, it increased my stress. And this isn’t why I write. While there is good and valuable stress that comes with my writing choices, this last week and some days was truly giving me bad, debilitating stress.
Once I made the decision to not write until after Christmas Day I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
There are six days left to this year, and it’s been quite a year. It is not only a year ending, but an entire decade. It’s kind of a big deal. I will write again before the New Year and then after as I discover which direction I want to travel in with my writing.
My advice for the rest of this week is:
TAKE TIME FOR YOU. If you’re working, spend your break times eating, hydrating, meditating, reading or whatever it is that you do for you. At home, take time for you. You’ve worked hard all year; take a little time for yourself.
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and have a Blessed and Peaceful upcoming New Year.
*A quick note on these things:
The presents got wrapped.
The cards we ordered from an online photo card store didn’t come, but we did receive another family’s cards. It took a little longer to get our own cards, but we did. No big deal, and an unavoidable delay. I sent the cards out in waves, and it turned out all good.
I found my address book that has ALL of my addresses.
We got our tree and lights up. My son put his Santa hat on the top, and it looks very cute.
Our oven hasn’t worked for months and we are buying a new stove. Unfortunately, it won’t be delivered until the weekend. (My son is already planning on baking a pizza the first night!) Fortunately, a generous friend offered us her countertop convection oven, and Christmas dinner was saved!
It all works out in the end, doesn’t it.
My Christmas story is a couple of days late because my keyboard ran out of juice. It has a weird battery. It will go for months without needing a recharge, but then right when I absolutely, positively need to use it, right now is when it doesn’t work, and with Christmas being Christmas we had other family goings-on, and cooking and present things to do instead, and I let this wait until now.
A few days ago I was scrolling through Twitter. My Twitter is mostly fandom and politics, and so far, I’ve been pretty lucky about staying off the troll radar for my politics (and believe it or not, my fandom also), so it’s not a terribly awful place to be for me, and I get my punditry and news headlines to look into more closely on other sites and I get to make comments somewhere other than talking to myself, although Twitter often feels like that too.
December always comes raring in. Thanksgiving is over, our families have left, we’re still feeling a little full. The air is crisp, and snow can be smelled on the horizon. December first comes on suddenly amidst end of year projects and parties, holiday shopping and decorating, lists and more lists, oh, and Christmas cards. In that first week is my birthday, Chanukah (this year), the letter with the schedules from church, some sort of special day at school that I’ve already forgotten about, but need to buy something for, and in this year, two birthday parties for my daughter to attend and seeing Aquaman a week earlier (tonight, in fact.)
It’s not my least favorite month, but it’s probably one of the busiest, and I think I may have finally learned not to overschedule myself, although I do have many extra medical appointments before 2019 comes and resets my deductible. But the good news is I get one more hour of therapy (at no cost) and my mammogram and colonoscopy both came back all good, which I’m thankful for.
My birthday adventure began with mass and breakfast and then I took myself to the movies: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald, and then dinner and cake with my family. They don’t like when I say this, but I like when my birthday falls on a weekday when they’re all at school or work. It gives me some private celebratory time that I don’t have to feel guilty about. Some years I’ve gone to a upscale shopping plaza, twice I’ve gone to the movies, although usually I go to Starbucks to relax and write and then go ornament shopping for myself at Target. I think this was the first birthday in recent memory that I didn’t find myself at Target. I also get to do all of this while not rushing around like a chicken without a head, and I’m still home by the time the kids get home from school.
I also had two retreats, one letting go of clutter workshop, and one Cursillo group meeting. All of these set me back on a calming, spiritual path. Sometimes we all need that reminder, and the Advent reflections are perfect for that reset. Unlike Lent, the focus is on waiting and anticipating as opposed to the penitential aspect of Lent. Advent feels refreshing and uplifting; a new start, like the beginning of the new year, only weeks away on the calendar, but already having begun for the Jewish, Muslim, and Catholic liturgical calendars. The Cursillo group is new to me. After having been introduced to the idea and the local people (called cursillistas), I am very much looking forward to next fall when I will undertake my own weekend and join with the group. It had been mentioned to me last year, and when I looked into it a bit more I realized that it is exactly what my inner being is looking for. The local group is lovely and they’ve welcomed me to their monthly get-together, so I can start some of the prayerful parts.
Our tree is up, although no lights and no ornaments. I don’t mind the half finished way our decorating looks this weekend. Our house is always cluttered, and it’s gotten a little worse this month, but when the tree is half done and the ornaments are still in the box, and the lights are strewn around the tree, but not on, it makes the normal clutter look like decorating clutter, and it gives us a pass. At least in my head it does.
This year is also a little confusing. It’s the first year that my son will be living on his own, and will need to come visit for the holidays, so I’m not sure how decorating and celebrating will go. I’m trying to be open about schedules, but it’sw hard with the other family members who have been doing things the same way for the last twelve years (for my husband since his childhood since we’ve adapted most of his family traditions into our family). Last year, my son was working three jobs, and since he’s in public service (first responder) and is required to work the holidays with extended shifts, we moved everything up one day. We celebrated Christmas Eve the day before and on Christmas Eve we had our traditional Christmas dinner and opened our presents. By Christmas Day, we were not sure what we were supposed to do. We still had a wonderful holiday, and I have no doubts we will again this year because we’re working around the most important factors – our family time together.
I had a bunch of pictures that I wanted to share, but I think I’ll save them for next week’s post, and simply leave this one of the Blessed Mother. She has become one of my go-go patrons. She comforts and uplifts me.
Have a blessed holiday, whichever ones you celebrate, and remember to take a few moments each day to reflect on where you are and where you are looking forward to going.
Food makes the world go round. When we travel, the first thing we do when we get off the airplane or park the car is to find somewhere to eat. I know we’re always looking for that perfect, quintessential local food that we can instagram and taste, and talk about when we get home. Maybe that’s just me.
The holidays are also a time of food; not always trying new things, but having the old things – the things of our childhoods, of our in-laws, of that Pinterest thread that we’ve been promising ourselves we would eventually try.
Here are a few of mine:
1. Candy canes for Christmas and Gelt (chocolate gold-wrappered coins) for Chanukah.
2. Latkes. Confessional time: I make latkes more during Passover than I do during Chanukah. Passover has an overabundance of potatoes, and by mid-week, it gets a little tiring, although celebrating our Exodus from slavery is never old.
3. French Toast. I happen to make the best French toast. Plain, unadulderated, egg, milk, white bread with butter and Aunt Jemima syrup. Mmm. On occasion I will make a French toast casserole that needs to refrigerate overnight, and then bake in the morning, and that is also amazing, but I think that has less to do with me than with easy French toast on a weekday morning!
4. Green bean casserole. Yes, the Kraft one. Or is the recipe from DelMonte? I think the recipe calls for milk, but my mother never used milk to keep it somewhat kosher-like. Again, simple: 2 cans of French-style green beans, drained, mixed with one can of condensed cream of mushroom soup, mixed with half a container of French’s fried onions and baked for 30-35 minutes on 350. Sprinkle the fried onions on top, and bake for another 5 minutes or so. Voila!
5. Orange Marmalade. I’m not sure why I think of orange marmalade at Christmas time. Possibly because my mother-in-law is British/Irish and that’s a very British food to have during Christmas (or any tea time) with scones or English muffins or biscuits.
What are your holiday favorites that you really miss or can’t live without?