Monday, December 29, 2008

It's over? Already?

Each year I try to savor Christmas. I read the decorating magazines, watch the required movies (Elf, Scrooged, Rudolph). I listen to the homilies and the priests saying Christmas begins on the 25th, not before. But I disagree.
Preparing for Christmas is like preparing for a new baby. You decorate the room, you have presents and showers, you choose a name and you look forward to the day when your life will change. How is that different from Christmas? I know the priests do not want us getting caught up in the materialistic celebration, but buying or making presents for others brings us joy. I think God wants us to feel the joy He had when he brought His only Son into the world. We can't truly know, but as parents, we do understand the joy, the fear, the frustration, the excitement of waiting for the new baby. Let us have that, and stop trying to take the pre-celebration away from us.
Despite knowing this, it comes and goes like a flash and I miss it. In Ohio, we had a pastor who loved tradition and pomp and circumstance. He would invite everyone to bring bells to ring for Midnight Mass. I would be so busy, that I would forget, and my little girls would be disappointed, and my mother's guilt would crescendo. One very bad year, I had forgotten again. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around to see an unfamiliar elderly man. He handed me his bells and said "They can ring mine." The girls took turns ringing the bells and the joy in their faces was overwhelming. That was one of the few moments I have had where Christmas made me feel peaceful and content and I knew we would get through that terrible time.
I have grand delusions every year. Things to make, people to impress (why do I care?), gifts to purchase, our annual party to prepare for. By the time the party happens, Christmas is anticlimactic. Isn't that sad? I spent so much time preparing for the party, I didn't have time to decorate (the girls handled all of that), I didn't have time to shop (Matthew and the girls handled that), and I put my body through incredible pain, standing for such along time- baking and cleaning.
I think next year we will have our party on Christmas Eve. I imagine fewer people will come, but at least the highlight will coincide with Christmas. The girls get the party they want, the house is clean for Christmas, and I only have to cook once instead of twice. I like this plan. It will give me more time to savor the moment with Matthew and the girls. Less is more? We'll see.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Time to relax and enjoy

Yesterday, we had our annual holiday open house. Too much food, not enough chairs, but plenty of laughter, friends and family. 
      I took Friday off from work so I could stay home and bake. I made our family favorites: meatballs, kielbasa, crab-stuffed mushrooms, tomato tart, veggie wraps, pesto cheesecake, spinach and cream cheese loaf. 
     Then, the desserts....mochaccino spirals, egg nog cookies, cream cheese spritzes, white and dark chocolate bark with pecans, peppermint bark, homemade hot chocolate. The girls requested Vienna Torte- chocolate cake with creme de menthe frosting. But the highlight was the Yule Log- gingerbread cake with crystallized ginger, orange pastry cream filling and nutella frosting. Oh my. Naturally, I made two of everything, and now we have a torte and a yule log left for just us. Yum.
     The girls decorated the house. Emily was working, so Christine's boyfriend Leaf filled in. He got to hear the history of every ornament- 23 years worth of stories and memories. Sweet.
     I have yet to go shopping. Matthew ventured out into the ice storm, so I could stay home and make Cheese Braid, another perennial favorite. Actually, I could have a party and serve nothing but cheese braid, and everyone would be happy. A sour cream, nutmeg and orange dough with fabulous filling. Teachers fight over it, co-workers steal it, Matthew's father lives for it.... it cannot be helped. I scored a Kitchen-aid over it. 22 years ago (in Washington, base housing), I stumbled across this recipe in Good Housekeeping and made it. But it burned up my handheld mixer and another one. So Matthew said if I promised to make it every year, I could have a Kitchen-aid. What could I say? We drove to the Exchange at the Air Force base south of Tacoma, and bought a red Kitchen-aid for $229. So expensive, but we thought we had gotten a good deal. 22 years later, and they are still right around the same price. Amazing. But I still have it and I still make Cheese Braid for Christmas and sometimes Easter. And everyone still "oohs and aahs." 
     Merry Christmas to all of you. I think 2009 is going to be an incredible year.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How do they know?

When the girls were little and the phone would ring, that's when they would decide to go nuts. If I am working on a project, that's when Matthew wants to hang out. Now, when I am in the groove of writing a paper, my daughters want to fill me in on all the things we haven't talked about over the last few days. It's amazing how hungry we are for each other's company and attention. It's wonderful to actually have a family that WANTS to hang's just the timing. But then there is no free time. Every second is filled, and if it isn't- then we nap. 
My research paper is due Friday, and today, TODAY, I finally understood what the professor's notes meant. And today, TODAY, someone from the city asked if I had received the data I had requested. I love this topic: economic development and increasing housing occupancy rates. But I don't know what I can do to pursue this. My Master's is Management. Other schools have Master's in Urban Planning or other relevant studies. I guess I will continue the path of self-education on this. I've been reading about this since 93. There is so much good information and examples of failed projects in cities. But with the current economy, all stats are thrown out the window.
I've been enjoying my Current Leadership class. The readings are great and the class really gets into the discussions- finally! But it ends the 18th; only a 5 week class. I wonder of these shortened classes are actually helping us (graduating faster) or hurting us (not really absorbing the information). I'm sure someone's Master's thesis will be on this topic.
So now that the family has gone to bed, I sit here writing instead of reorganizing my paper. I'll get it done. I'll do the requisite PowerPoint. I'll take some pictures downtown tomorrow before class. And I will accept that it will not be an A paper. I can't be perfect all the time. There are more important things to do- like chat with my girls.