Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Not Real Sorry To See You Go...

Not to spit in the face of fate, but let's admit it, some years are better than others. Save for one bright, warm day on the 4th of July... 2012, was not my favorite year. For the most part, there have been challenges.  First of all, no matter what was happening, the world was supposed to end on the 21st. of December, so I thought I could handle anything because I wouldn't have to tolerate it for long. Wrong.

Since we’re all still here, I not only have to tolerate situations, but now conquer them as well. In 2012, I have had more ups and downs than Lindsey Lohan had arrests, which is considerable.  So with that being said, here is what I learned this year:

  • 2012 had issues. Being a presidential election year was one of them. Too many commercials, too many forced smiles, too many promises, too much rhetoric, too many questions, never enough answers.
  • 2012 had weather. Lots and lots of weather issues. From a crippling drought in the Midwest, record setting tornadoes in the south, to a devastating late fall storm on the east coast, Mother Nature had her way with us this year. That being said;
  • 2012 showed the good in all of us like never before. The humanitarian response to such complete and udder havoc heaped upon thousands was nothing short of heartwarming. 
  • 2012 had its’ share of tragedies. If you attended a movie showing in Colorado, a day of shopping at an Oregon mall, or story-telling time in a first-grade class in Connecticut, you stood a very good chance of being shot to death. Mad men with guns made unassuming events into all-consuming catastrophes. If we don't hold our government to its promise to address this issue in 2013, we will all have a hand on the next gun used to kill innocent people.
  • On the upside, 2012 was an Olympic year. We all watched our American athletes with wonder and patriotic pride. We held our breath watching the fearsome five fly through the air and shouted “pull” as our swimmers glided through water. In my house, and I'm sure millions of others, nothing jolts your love of country like the Summer and Winter Olympics. 

Additionally this past year, the social media explosion made the world so much smaller. I communicate with people from around the globe and am always amazed by the conversations. There are people that I now consider good friends that I have never actually met. We have shared some of our most private thoughts and I have come to the conclusion that words are more important than faces. These women  inspire me on so many levels. 

On a more personal note, for the most part, this year has kicked my ass. In July, one of my closest friends suffered a debilitating stroke. An otherwise healthy, relatively young, strong-minded, professional woman was brought down by a single clot. I stand by her now as she fights her way back and reclaims her once energetic life. She is frustrated with the time it is taking her to heal. I’m just glad she is still here, still fighting. In my heart of hearts, I know her determined spirit will shine through and the battle will be won.

Those who know me personally know that in October my world was rocked to its foundation. Without going into detail, something I thought would last forever…won’t. After floundering for weeks, I found my footing. As 2012 ends, I am standing strong and looking forward to the New Year. Especially since we have a wedding coming up!! My son and his beautiful fiance will be married in June. I can't wait! "The Engagement" was one of my most read blogs and I urge all new readers to go to the right side of this page and click on its link.

Which brings me to the fact that at the end of this coming January, Kitchen Clatter will be one year old. I started out not knowing what to expect. I only use Facebook and Twitter to share it and was hoping that maybe a couple hundred people might read it. Well, 11 months later, it is closing in on 20,000 views and has been reprinted in newspapers across the country, and recently, one across the sea. I am thrilled and encouraged to continue. From the bottom of my heart, I thank the many of you who have shared Kitchen Clatter with your friends and followers. Without you, I would never have reached the thousands who have read it.

So bring on 2013! I don't think I have ever been more excited to hang a new calendar, begin a new year, start a new life. Stay with me. We are just getting started!!!!!

Image by ImageGoggle

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

T'was the Week Before Christmas...Like no Week Before

T’was the week before Christmas and all through my place
Was a forced spirit of Christmas invading my space
There is shopping and baking and so much to do
Add wrapping and cleaning to name just a few
But the stockings aren't hung yet, must buy some things
Like underwear and belts, but nothing with bling
My children are men now, not much more can be said
It just adds to the mystery of what goes on in their heads
I don’t own a kerchief, I don’t own a cap
There is no time to sleep and I'm struggling at bat

Cause last week, in the world there arose such a clatter
We collectively turned to see what was the matter
We sat still in our kitchens, couldn't move in our cars,
Starred hard at our monitors, no laughter in bars
The unthinkable had happened, the unfathomable shed
There was madness and gunshots and children were dead
In a hall that festively decked out paper chains
Lay a principal, teachers, hero's, unwanted fame
The nation watched in silence, not knowing what to do
Its people started crying, its President too

A small town in Connecticut brought the world to one prayer
"Lord, give strength and some peace to the families there" 
In Newtown, so many young lives were taken
And left millions with sadness and faith that is shaken
But in the background where questions and anger abounds
Are brightly lit trees and houses and towns
It is Christmas... It is Christmas... No need to atone
It's the child in the manger who has now led them all home

This year's harder, admittedly, to decorate the tree,
but find your spirit, your faith and let Christmas be
So hang the holly, get in lines, sneak a cookie or two
If your're like me, there's a week and still plenty to do
It is Christmas...It is Christmas... Don't let the Season cease
May we all find compassion, may this earth finds its Peace.
But on this Christmas Eve...look up toward the sky
There will be twenty-six new stars, shining brightly, hanging high  

Image by ImageGoggle

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

When it is all just too much...

This 12th month of the year can be absolutely stunning. The holidays, the lights, the music, are all  pure compensation for those long, dark December nights.  But when the stars are not aligned, when things beyond your control are tearing your holiday fabric at the seams…a December to remember can become a nightmare hard to forget.

When Joni Mitchell wrote the painful lyrics “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer's and singing songs of joy and peace…oh, I wish I had a river, I could skate away on”, she captured the true need to escape it all.

2012 has not been the kindest year for everyone. On the east coast, a vicious October storm left many, many people without homes and businesses. Treasured ornaments crushed below raging flood waters could not be hung even if there were trees to gather around. There are no halls to deck. For many others, there are no jobs.

In some cases people struggle with the holidays because the family landscape has changed; the passing of loved ones, divorce, or even more common, over time, members of the clan have scattered geographically and those memorable festive gatherings have become a thing of the past. Almost all of us can identify with at least one of these circumstances. So what is there to do when every Christmas commercial looks like a Norman Rockwell painting and you feel more like Mona Lisa…struggling just to smile?

Well, there will be other Holly Jolly Christmas’s so it’s okay to sit this one out? Maybe, but not completely. Because Christmas isn't just a day, it’s a season; it’s hard to ignore the holiday atmosphere that permeates the air from Thanksgiving to New Years. So I, who has always been a complete Christmas geek, and this year find myself somewhat festively-challenged, vow to conduct a search and recovery of my own spirit.

What I discovered is that; it is okay to scale things back. Maybe, you’ll re-establish some of the old traditions next year…maybe not. That decision doesn't have to be made this year so take it off the list of things to stress about. And most important, no, maybe a better word would be most essential, is that you take one thing, one very special tradition that you hold most dear, and adapt it to your current life. Stay with me here:
  • If you are in a FEMA trailer or shelter, find a way to bake some cookies with your kids. There isn't a church in the area that would deny you access to the use of their kitchen. Gather up others in a similar situation and make it a party. Restore the spirit.
  • Recently, I watched a news story involving a young mother living in a women's shelter with her two kids, and again this year she  is looking forward to sending out her Christmas cards. “One of my favorite holiday things to do, is to spend an afternoon writing out cards for my family and friends. I make some tea and sit for hours”, she told the reporter. They’ll be no return address on those cards, but to her, it doesn't matter where they came from, just that her seasonal thoughts and greetings get to her loved ones. She bought cards that the kids have to color. It’s a family affair. In spite of everything, she continues her spirit.
  • Help someone else. If you have nothing but your time to give, it will be more than enough for someone else who needs it. The feeling that you get back is indescribable. The act of giving doesn't have to be the result a something bought in a store. Find your spirit and share it.
  • Every night, turn off the television for one hour and put on a radio station that plays nothing but Christmas music 24/7. Music soothes the soul like nothing else and it will create a holiday atmosphere that cost very little. Create your spirit.  
  • Keep moving! Staying involved in life and off of the couch is crucial. It is a medical fact that exercise decreases stress levels. Gather the family and find a brightly lite neighborhood and walk through it. Doesn't cost a thing and will bring long lasting memories. Invent your spirit.
Listen, I know, when it is just not your year, none of this is easy. But trust me, it is all do-able. Don't let life's circumstances dissolve your desire to celebrate the season.  Recover, restore, continue, share, create and when needed, invent your spirit. It's  the best gift you'll ever give yourself.

Image by ImageGoggle

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas...What I Know For Sure!

Andy Williams sings to us that “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”…and it can be. But if you’re the person at the helm of creating that entire “wonderful” atmosphere, wrapping it up and delivering it on tray of fresh baked cookies, it can be downright overwhelming. So as someone who has survived the hustle and bustle, the holly and mistletoe, the prep and the landing for well over five decades, here is what I know for sure:
  •  The directions on a bag of Toll House Chocolate Chips are wrong. The two sticks of butter should not be room temperature. That only causes the cookies to flatten out. Cold butter works much better, causing the dough to raise higher.
  •  I am pretty sure Santa is a woman. Think about it; packs well and does the impossible all in one night…and all with a twinkle in the eye! Yep. A woman.
  •  I don’t like “The Twelve Day of Christmas”. It is annoying and sexist. It is a party where everyone is having a good time except the ladies. The Lords are a-leaping, the drummers are a-drumming. And the maids? Well of course, they’re a-milking the cows.
  • I can’t pass a Salvation Army bell ringer without putting something in the kettle. If I’m healthy enough to be walking by and blessed enough to have a little change in my pocket, I’ll share.
  • I learned early on when my sons were very young; beware of toys that consist of thousands of small pieces. My boys are both in their late twenties now, and I swear every once in a while, I still vacuum up a Lite Brite peg.
  •  Just for fun, after loading your packages in your trunk at a crowded mall parking lot, as cars race to juggle for position to get first crack at your spot – close the trunk, smack your forehead as if you forgot something, and start walking back in. I usually respond to their one-finger Christmas greeting with "And thank you...same to you!"
  •  December snow has always been and always will be the best snow of the year.
  • If you are watching your caloric intake or just have egg issues like I do, but still want the taste of  eggnog, put two scoops of low-fat (or sugar free) vanilla ice cream, 2 or 3 drops of eggnog extract, and a shake of nutmeg into the blender and liquefy. I promise you, it will be delicious.
  • I don’t like “gift bags” under the tree. Christmas presents are meant to be opened, not grabbed from a bag.
  • The first night your tree is decorated, stay in. Put on your favorite holiday movie and drink a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows. It is one of the rare quiet joys of the season that does not require a lot of money and the feeling is long remembered
And most important...when it all gets to be too much. When you want to delete the Hallmark movie channel from your programming...when your credit card won't come out of your wallet because it melted to the leather...when you can't dip another carrot stick into the spinach dip... remember Linus. 

He stood under the spotlight on an empty stage and recited the story of a very special night in a Bethlehem manger. He then walked over to his friend who had been broken by the holiday hype and commercialism, and simply said "That's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown." 

Enough said. 

Images by ImageGoggle