“I personally gave up the Absolute…I fully believe in taking moral holidays.”
– William James
“I personally gave up the Absolute…I fully believe in taking moral holidays.”
– William James
A brief collage of my December adventures!
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.
Cranberry Cheese Spread
I experiemented with this earlier in the year, and decided to have it for breakfast, spread on a croissant last week, and it was delicious. I think it works well as a breakfast spread or as an appetizer/snack on crackers or as a dip for breadsticks, pretzels or vegetables.
1 cup softened or whipped cream cheese
1/4 cup craisins
Mix until incorporated.
Options: To make a dip or larger amount, use the entire container of 16oz. whipped cream cheese (or softened 8oz. block) and add in 1 cup (or your preference) of craisins. Incorporate thoroughly. Chives can also be added for a different, delicious flavor.
Five days in, finally posting in our last month of 2018.
Finally getting rid of last month’s snow.
Darkness at 4:30; feels like midnight.
My whole clock is off.
Asleep at 5pm; wide awake at midnight.
And then again at 3am.
Taking medicine all at the wrong times.
It’s cold out, but the car is hot.
Wear a jacket? Or just cope between the heated house and the heated car?
Monday was my birthday. I like to pretend my birthday is in the spring. If the sun is out, and there’s no snow, it’s my spring, and I take myself out while the kids are in school and my husband is at work, and for a little while I’m me.
So, on Monday morning, I got up early and went to mass, and then I took myself out for breakfast (free entree – I love birthday freebies!) and a movie. Across the restaurant from me was a woman, a little younger than me who was also having a birthday. I knew this because she was wearing a crown that said “happy birthday”. She wasn’t shouting from the rooftops, she wasn’t laughing loudly, but once she put the crown on, she did seem regal. Poised. Special.
Part of me was like I would never – too much attention, too much shiny – but a part of me was also like why don’t I have a crown? I should have a crown.
Or was it a tiara? Whatever it was, I should have one.
In this time of holiday joy and generosity, please do what you can to support those organizations who help throughout the year.
Where I Give My Support (list not inclusive)
Scroll down to the Stands links for a collection of worthy charities, all of whom do good works.
Add your own recommendations in the comments with how to reach them with donations and what their organization does.
When the real fall begins.
The colors of the leaves are changed just enough to notice on every highway; every corner.
If you have kids they will bring home fall art of trees using “fall” colors in torn tissue papers, sponge prints, fingerprints with tiny thumbs red from pressing apples onto the trees.
Rows of pumpkins appear on every church lawn, primarily Methodist for some unknown reason (to me) reason.
Harvest festivals and school fundraisers as well as my local retreat center and interfaith council.
Apple, pumpkin, and sweet potato pies fit for space on supermarket shelves.
Trying to squeeze in family applepicking before the apples are gone, but scheduling around work schedules and birthday parties.
October is also the month of the rosary. This year is a special one as we celebrate the centennial of the Marian visitation to Fatima, Portugal. The process for Sister Lucia to join her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco in sainthood has begun. Will she be beatified on the centennial of the final visit (October 13th)?
This will be my second year participating in the Living Rosary at my church.
Jack O’Lanterns, spiders, and a row of little Batmans and Disney Princesses round out the moth and usher in the holiday season from Halloween until the New Year.
October has arrived.
With the liturgical year having ended nearly a week ago, thus began the Catholic New Year and the season of Advent, the time for waiting for the Nativity of Our Lord. For someone new to the faith, I often compare my old views and beliefs with my new, Catholic ones. I had seen Advent calendars growing up, but I didn’t really understand their significance. I had thought of it as a countdown to Christmas, but in a secular, Santa Claus is coming to town sense. There are many secular versions of Advent calendars – calendars filled with chocolates, Lego Advent calendars, Starbucks has a chocolate candy calendar that comes with a $5 gift card. I also never associated it with beginnings, but rather endings since it comes at the end of the year. We had our Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, but it never occurred to me that there was a parallel time for the Catholic year. I had assumed that our secular calendar was a Christian calendar, and it had been set up long ago and adapted after the birth of Christ.
Now, I know that the religious year comes to an end in much the same way the Jewish year does, and Advent is the beginning of that new year. After celebrating a proper Advent last year I look at it more as a companion to Lent, although less somber – more anticipatory, more joyous, but also an opportunity to look at the past year and make some changes in whatever way that seems appropriate. Change is good, so a time of reflection before the family centered times of the holidays – presents, dinner, dessert, church, and family get togethers.
One other thing I and many other people think is that the twelve days of Christmas are the twelve days preceding Christmas Day but it is actually the twelve days after – the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. During the Middle Ages, this day was called Twelfth Night, and that was the traditional day to give and receive gifts. The Advent season goes from the first day of the new year until Christmas Day, and the Christmas season goes from Christmas Day until the feast day of Our Lord’s Baptism. It was startlingly to recognize that the Christmas season began with Jesus’ birth, and hadn’t ended with it.
It really is quite a profound change in perspective.
Our last few Christmases have been a little more low key as the kids get older and the toys get quieter. They sleep a tiny bit later, and they anticipate and expect our family traditions every year just a little bit more, looking forward to each one almost as a separate holiday. Chinese take-out for Christmas Eve dinner. Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks for Christmas Day breakfast. Roast beef for dinner, and Doctor Who with dessert. In more recent years, they have gotten used to Mom’s church traditions of the Nine Lessons and Carols, the Christmas Eve Vigil and wondering when the tree will go up. We celebrate Chanukah, and they are always surprised to get a new dreidl and a bag of chocolate gelt even though they receive both yearly. Christmas Day comes with a phone call to their cousins and Grandma, a couple of texts and Facebook posts, and quiet time with their siblings, the oldest counting down until he’s spent enough time in the living room and can sneak back to his bedroom.
In this time there is also the Novena of the Feast of the immaculate Conception. This is the patron of my parish, and so we recite the novena daily. I had planned to include a daily rosary recitation during this week, but instead of looking on it as failing, I will instead look at it and try to do better for the rest of the nine days. The Novena prayers conclude with Mass on December 8th for the Feast of the immaculate Conception.
This week (yesterday to be precise) although not a milestone, it was my birthday. Forty-nine. It celebrates the ending of my forty-ninth year, and begins my fiftieth. I’m hesitant for fifty, although I think it’s more self-fulfilling anxiety because somehow I’m supposed to be upset by it. I wasn’t upset by forty. Or 42, although everyone who knows me knows that was a year celebrated as my Douglas Adams birthday. Forty-one gave me issues. I feel like I should commemorate fifty, so I am, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel at the end of next year.
As the days pass I’m sure that I’ll figure out my feels – happy, scared, and everything in between – and share them with you. I am planning on a year long reflection journey; I’m still not sure if it will be daily or weekly or weekly with an occasional influx of daily.
I am also entertaining the idea of some kind of pilgrimage in regards to the Jubilee Year of Mercy as announced by Pope Francis, but I’m still not finished on deciding what I want to get out of it. I don’t want to do it just to say I’ve done it. I only know that when Pope Francis mentioned it, it struck me in the heart as something calling to me.