Decking New Halls


I am finishing my coffee before my TO DO list for the day begins and I start prepping for my first holiday season in our new home. I have the food to cook for my little family tomorrow as we tamp down our Thanksgiving celebrations. But now comes the tidying, the cleaning, the preparing, and, after tomorrow, the decorating. I still do not have all the Christmas decorations that I could desire but I know that such stockpiles take time, as I am rebuilding them from scratch since the move.

It feels odd to be preparing to dress up a new house for the first time in twelve years. In our old little cottage–which, by the way, we signed the final sale paperwork for last night (big feels!)–I knew where all my decorations went. I knew how I liked things set up and where things had to go in my living room configuration. Nothing was huge or elaborate, but they were there, a constant reminder of stability. Our tree with its silver, blue, and white ornaments, spattered with sentimental ones, glowed in the living room, crowed with its silver star that Ben and Elizabeth put on together every year. It must be the absolute last thing on the tree. I had the same wreath with its silver and white ribbons and flowers for fourteen years. It had had multiple birds’ nests built into it in early springs and then cleaned out once the babies and parents had vacated. The little potted pre-lit tree (that had been our family Christmas tree while we had a cat and small baby) sat faithfully on the front porch, decorated with flowers, leaves, Easter eggs, etc., throughout the differing seasons by myself and my daughter. The silver stockings hung on their snowflake hangers from the dvd shelf, under the compilation frame of family photos and frame by fir branches with silver poinsettas. The nativity scene that my Erin brought back for me from Malawi was set up on the bookshelf, the camel I found at Levi Coffin Days (an almost-perfect match) tucked in amongst the wise men to complete the set.

This year, I will need to figure out just how things will fit in this new house with its new rooms and spaces. I know where the tree is going, and we have a “glowy star” this year, per my daughter’s request and choosing. I haven’t bought any stockings or hangers for the mantlepiece yet (I have a real actual mantlepiece, you guys!), though truly the only one whose stocking gets stuffed any more is my daughter. She has her new one for her door already picked out. Harry Potter, of course.

So this will be a year of starting new in more ways than one. I am trying not to think about not having “enough” to decorate my house this year. What I really want is for my home to be warm, welcoming, and soothing because this will be a holiday season that is already missing some very important people. So I want my home to be a place of uplifting, hygge, and comfort for those hard moments. I want that Christmas-y feeling. Not to avoid the hard moments necessarily but to help them perhaps be not quite so heavy.

I’m trying, dear ones, I really am. But Target is calling my name…

The Netflix Category We All Desperately Need


A few weeks ago, The Great British Baking Show returned to Netflix, and I sat down to figuratively devour new episodes and just bask in the “nice-ness” of it. If you have been reading my blog for a while now, you may have run across my post For the Love of Sweet (Baked) Community where I detailed my love for GBBS and the impetus for that love, which is the sweet community they have built and maintain on GBBS. People being genuinely kind and encouraging and helpful to each other, never mind the fact that they are in competition, that just fills my softie Hufflepuff heart.

As I began to watch this new season of GBBS, I found myself crying and babbling soggily to my husband about how much I had missed this, how much I needed this, something this sweet and good and kind in a world that feels as though it’s constantly falling apart. It felt like the sweetest of steadying hugs in a time that is consistently leaving me wobbly.

“This is what the world needs!” I exclaimed, “Netflix should have a category JUST for shows like this!”

“Write it,” he replied matter-of-factly, Write up the listicle then. What shows would you put in that category? Write it.”

And while I am sure it has been done already, perhaps even many times, I think I shall.

Netflix, you are hereby on notice! I expect to see a category of this type populated with the loveliest of shows before this hellish year is over.

**Shows with Relatively Low Stakes Where People Make Beautiful/Delicious Things and are Genuinely Nice to Each Other.**

The Great British Baking Show – people making delicious baked goods; challenging their skills; encouraging and helping each other.

The Great British Baking Show: Masterclass – Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry: baking together for everyday and holidays, cute quips and delightful conversation; genuine friendship shining through.

Lords and Ladles – world class chefs and friends Derry Clarke, Catherine Fulvio, and Paul Flynn: sharing duties, learning about food and its relationship to history and different families, historical research and context to make a meal memorable.

Making It – hosted by real-life and on-screen friends Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman (Parks and Rec): DIYers come together to make gorgeous, imaginative homemade projects, helping and encouraging each other along the way with their creations, as well as being encouraged and cheered on by their genuinely kind and enthusiastic hosts.

Hollywood Game Night – hosted by Jane Lynch: a fun, silly 45 minutes with celebrities and their fans having ridiculous fun, snacks, and laughs, just like friends, at a raucous game night that would be the embarrassment of ever progeny (because you know how we adults can get).

The Voice – well-known vocal artists encouraging and coaching talented, brilliant new ones who, undoubtedly, leave the show better than they arrived; lots of cheering on, ego boosts, encouragement in growth, and emotional uplifts from both coaches and fellow team members.

Sarah and Duck – While this is not a “creative” show, per say, it is definitely one of my absolute favorite feel-good shows. Created by the BBC, little Sarah and her best friend Duck, accompanied by a caring Narrator, traipse through a beautiful animated world of diverse characters, problems to be solved, and simple, wonderful moments to be enjoyed. It is the ultimate quiet time show with soothing music and the sweetest scenarios.

This is just a handful of the shows that, over the past seven years, have made me incredibly happy and that can always bring a smile to my face. They have been blanket-forts of solace and comfort in the midst of the crazy of life, something that we all deeply and dearly need right now, as much as or even more than ever before.

So…what do you say, Netflix? Hook some happiness junkies up?

Nestling into the New Year


Two more days left in 2019. In these days of limbo between the 26th and the 1st, I am trying to embrace the quiet, take in the silence before the new year. I am trying to rest intentionally before the madness starts all over again.

I have also been trying to think of my word for 2020, a word to guide my thoughts, work, and growth, as well as my writing, for the year. So I have been considering what it is I want to accomplish in 2020. I know that I want to recreate my relationship with Winter, with its silence, bleakness, and dormancy. I want to find the ways to benefit from this season, which is necessary to the process of growth: a restful time. I want to re-learn how to rest.

Is that my word then? Rest? Rest for my body. Rest and peace for my soul. Resting in faith, contentment, and gratitude. Taking moments to step back, to embrace quiet and rest in the midst of all that is going on and all I am striving for.

Rest.

I will admit that, when this word first came to mind a few days ago, I resisted it. “Rest isn’t a goal. Isn’t an intention!” I told myself. But what else could it be when even the plants and animals bear witness to its necessity? We human begins are the ones who have bought into the idea of hustle, of constant going and work and striving. Of shoving quiet and stillness to the side, cursing them as unproductive or lazy. But how can we do our best without a chance to rest? How can I?

I need rest. And I have already begun! In the past few days, I have risen in the quiet of my still-sleeping household. I have embraced early-morning, snow-deep silence. Even today, I have sat here in my hushed living room, the only soundtrack the crackling fireplace flames, for the past two hours. It hails windily outside our little cottage, but, within, my tree twinkles sweetly and an amber candle fills the air with its warm scent, drawing my senses and spirit down into relaxation. I have been nestled on the couch with blanket, books, pen, and coffee–reading, praying, writing–while my beloved daughter takes her fun upstairs and has been miraculously quiet herself. Our house has been full of rest this morning. And, as I look back over my writings for the past weeks, I see it. Subtly hidden or staring boldly out at me. I see my desire for it, my need for it, writ plain on my soul.

Rest.

Yes. In 2020, I will re-learn what it means to rest. To seek and find it, to gift it, and to create an atmosphere of it in my small spaces of the world.

That is my intention. That is my goal.

I will rest.

Holding Myself Gently: When I Kiss My Own Shoulder


One of the most comforting gestures I have ever received is a kiss and gentle cheek press or nuzzle to my shoulder. It is closeness, contact, a willingness to stay, to sit with me in the midst of hard places and times. It is also one of the gestures that I most often give my husband and dear ones when they are in need of support and comfort. I love giving and receiving this particular gesture, and, yes, I do understand the intimacy of it. However, that does not mitigate its comfort one iota. When a dear one draws close to gift me with it, there’s no fully explaining the deep succor it is. But, sometimes, there are no dear ones around. Sometimes, my husband cannot be near. Sometimes I am the only one I have near enough to stand with me. So, in those cases, I needs must comfort myself.

There are days when I kiss my own shoulder. Times when I press my lips to my own skin in the gentlest kiss I can muster and lean my cheek on the curve of my own shoulder for a moment. Times when I so desperately need reassurance in a moment when I am on my own. When the tears threaten and I am not sure that anyone else will understand them if they fall.

There are times when I feel that I need to comfort myself or I just need a quiet moment. It is in those moments that I press my lips to my skin and lean my warm cheek against my own shoulder, reminding myself that it is okay.

That I am okay.

That it will be okay.

NaBloPoMo Day 28: On Crying


I am an empathetic crier. It is rare, very rare, that I can see a friend or dear one crying and I don’t start crying as well. Perhaps it is a sense of wanting to be able to comfort the other; perhaps it is to let them know that what they feel isn’t silly to be crying over. I cry when my friends are hurting. I cry for and with them because, often, there little more that I can do from where I am.

I am also a very easy crier. I cried last night when I prayed over Elizabeth as she lied congested and uncomfortable in her bed. I cry when something bad happens on my favorite tv show. I cry at moments in books, at cards sent, gifts given.

Right now, though, I have plenty of tears of my own. I am tired, my shoulder aches where I banged it, the weather is gloomy and wet (see, even the sky is crying), my baby is sick, my husband also isn’t feeling, and I have had nightmares. It’s just been a teary couple of days.

Not all tears are bad, not all crying is painful. Sometimes we go through periods where our heart leaks out of our eyes for reasons of which we are unaware. But it happens, so the likelihood is there that it is needed. I am not sure just what my tears need to wash away, smooth, or reshape within me, but I think I am willing to let them.

 

“A Love Affair with Disney”


I have grown up on Disney movies, tv shows, concerts, trips, toys, etc. Even now, as a woman of twenty-nine, and especially as I am pregnant with my first child, I am in love with Disney. Whenever we pass the Disney Store in one of the bigger malls in Indianapolis, I have to pull my husband inside to look around. Of course, Disney now owns practically everything – from Power Rangers, to X-men, Captain America, etc., but I still find extreme pleasure in moving around the store, smiling and admiring the loveliness of the costumes, dolls, toys, and clothing that are laid out. So much more intricate and elaborate now than when I was a little girl and longed for such pretty things. But now I find that it is far more nostalgia for me and a sweet nostalgia at that. This past Christmastime, we went to the Disney Store and, when I spied a cute little Stitch in his Christmas pjs and bed slippers. I picked him up and he was so soft and adorable that I fairly started to cry as I held and cuddled him. I didn’t purchase it, however, as the hubby had already bought me a lovely Cheshire Cat and Stitch for our 5th wedding anniversary.

While Disney has sanitized many of the old fairytales, placing in happy endings where traditionally there were none, only fearful, heartbreaking, and sometimes bloody lessons to be learned, I still find a sweetness and joy in watching them. I enjoy remembering when I was a little girl and longed to a heroine. Not necessarily a princess, I think, but a heroine nonetheless. I remember when “Beauty and the Beast” first came out and I watched Belle with her books. I marveled that there should be a heroine so much like me, with a love of books comparable to mine, as I knew no one in school or in my community with such a love and obsession. Therefore, I found a comrade in a fiction when there was no such one in life. Also, like Ariel, I felt that my father didn’t understand me and I longed for experiences, for places to explore and discover.  However, along with that, came a rather romantic spirit but I soon puzzled out for myself that the sort of princes in the Disney fairytales were not the sort of prince I wanted. I didn’t want someone to save me but someone to work alongside me, someone who would get to know me, understand me. Honestly, in all the Disney stories, I do think that “Beauty and the Beast” is the relationship closest to what I wanted. Belle and the Beast were together for a long time, perhaps close to a year, getting to know each other, helping each other, learning each other. None of these whirlwind loves like Ariel and Eric (three days, really?) but a true friendship start to their love. A friendship that fostered understanding and loyalty. That is what I wanted. And that is what I received with Ben.

So, in a way, I suppose, Disney has helped me decide what I did and did not want out of love and relationship. So, thank you, Disney. Thank you for that.