Me: "Who has the best seat in the house, me or daddy?"

Adam: "Well, Daddy's is nice, but yours is best. Your's is squishier."

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Different Kind if Christmas

It was the same ornaments, the same lights and village, mostly the same traditions.  All but one.  One really big, unfortunate, it-totally-got-away-from-me tradition.

The whole gift giving thing started out innocently.  In fact, I remember vividly that for our first Christmas, Guy and I had a $20 budget.  Not $20 each... $20 total.  I remember Guy managed to find tennies for me for just $5, leaving him five whole dollars to splurge with.  I don't remember what he bought me, but I do remember being impressed.  It must have been chocolate.

As the years and the babies piled up (because that's what we do with babies around here, pile them), and as our meager income grew to meager-plus-twelve-cents, we found ways to provide Christmas for the family, and in the years since, present buying has gotten a little out of hand.  Not that we have ever spent very much on "a" gift, since there are ways of finding things like coloring books and small games for a pittance.  But once we got used to giving more here and there, so too, on the receiving end, the kids got used to getting more.  More to unwrap, and play with, and wear.

A problem that comes along as children get older is that you can't get away with shopping at the dollar store anymore.  Then there is the planning, remembering what you got for whom, and in the day or two before Christmas, pulling it all out and assessing "where you are at" with things.  Comments like, "Well, we didn't get as much for Ellie as we did for Tessa", or "We spent more on Ethan than we planned" were often uttered.  We found ourselves saying things like "We HAVE to get so-and-so" this or that.  Or, "We didn't get enough stuff" for this kid or that.  Stuff.  That's what it was, but we were so used to the status-quo, and we knew for years that we were not proud of the way we were handling Christmas, but it wasn't easy to change.  There was dual guilt; guilt that it was all too much, and at the same time, not enough.  Not good enough.

I was resistant.  I made excuses.  I told Guy that because we seldom get things for the kids during the year, Christmas was my opportunity to pamper them.  I argued that at Christmas we gave them many needed items.  I swear I have the only kids on the planet that love getting new underwear as a present. I had lots of reasons that we couldn't change the way we did things, even though a part of me knew we should.  The bottom line was, I was afraid to disappoint them.

I overheard Guy talking to his sister on the phone in November.  He told her he would like to do things very differently in the gift-giving department, but he didn't exactly have wifely support.  When I heard him say it, I knew it was time to change.

(to be continued)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Let it Rain, Let it Rain, Let it Rain

Oh, my schedule is something frightful!
Though the season's so delightful,
The stress has gone to my brain,
Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

Well, we hope there's no sign of stopping
(though I've done almost no shopping)
the drought has been such a strain,
Let it rain! Let it rain! Let it rain!

When I climb into bed each night,
my to-do list just grows while I snooze,
Though I'm glad there's more rain in sight
I'm tired of wet, muddy shoes!

Oh, my fire is quickly dying,
and the year is now goodbye-ing
Join with me, one last refrain...
Let it rain!
Let it rain!
Let it rain!!!!

I had full intentions to continue with posts while I did the play and my sale this past month, but each time I found myself with two minutes to rub together, there was always something else screaming for it's turn in the To-Do line.

Now that the play is over, I am in a massive game of catch-up.  Laundry, house work, school, Christmas, did I mention laundry?  Someone was complaining to me the other day about how busy they had been lately.  I had to giggle.  To me, getting caught up on your TV shows is not being busy!  Jus' sayin.

The play was amazing.  You may recall, if your life has been boring enough to read this blog for a few years, that Ellie and I were in a musical almost 4 years ago, when Jonah was a wee tot.  This past month we participated again.  The play, Savior of the World, was actually act one (taken from the New Testament book of Luke), dealing with the events around the time of Jesus Christ's birth.  It was such a sweet delight to be involved, and I grew to cherish a few new relationships there.  I forgot how much I love standing in the wings, watching the play from behind heavy black curtains, exchanging hushed whispers and smiles with interesting and talented people who I might never have had the opportunity to know had it not been for this event.  My favorite part, besides having the privelege of re-enacting the sacred events of Christ's birth, was having the chance to spend so many hours with my girls.  I don't often stand quietly hugging on them for 10 minutes at a time, but I got to do that many times in the final weeks of the play.

My role was as the mother of Mary, and my part had me frequently on stage with Mary, played by Dawn Setters. What a sweet time we had, both on and off stage. There was one moment, during the wedding scene, where I am helping Mary to put on her veil. I suddenly imagined helping Ellie to put on her wedding veil a few years from now, and my eyes flooded with tears. It wasn't fair to do that to Dawn, and try as I might I couldn't stop the tears from welling up. I wept through that scene, and could barely sing the group song. Thankfully, I had no lines at that time. I don't know how actors can tap into those feelings and manage to control the outcome. 

It was a very sweet blessing to be inviolved with the production so close to Christmas. It has prepared my heart in a tender way to remember the birth of Christ, and to hold tight to the reasons we celebrate. I'm reminded of how I felt after the birth of each of my children; I couldn't help but be reminded to feel grateful both for the new blessing in my life, and for the many blessings that had come before. 

May we hold tight to our blessings, and freely express out gratitude to God, to our families and other dear ones in our lives for the gifts we have been given. 

I know why she smiles

Besides doing the musical, our family spent the month of November preparing for my 4th annual open studio sale.  This year I was joined by a few new folks, and as usual,  we had a great time.  The weeks leading up to the sale were a string of sleepless nights making art, and the days before it were a blur of studio prep.  We gut the room, removing all signs of home-schooling, art-making and general family-destructo-living, and try to pretend that the studio always looks that great.  The night before the opening of the sale I had all of my kids, and even Malcolm (our neighbor and part-time resident teen) crawling around on their hands and knees scrubbing the studio floor.  I wish it looked that tidy all the time, but my creative juices flow with a little bit of chaos around me. 

We were incredibly blessed to do very well this year with the sale itself.  I am so thankful to everyone of you who came to do your gift shopping here.  It is because of you that our family has Christmas.  It is such a joy to see folks take home items that I poured time and love into.  It is especially rewarding when someone falls in love with a particular item.  I know, in the grand scheme of things, all we really need in this life is food and shelter to survive, but I know that beauty in the world around me, particularly in the space where I spend most of my time, brings me imeasurable joy.

There is a story taken from the time of the Nazi invasion, when Hitler had his armies pillage and loot the greatest museums in Europe.  Country by country, they invaded reverent spaces and stole precious paintings, sculptures, pottery and other relics.  A few countries, seeing the invasions coming, had time to hide their art treasures.  In France, the Louvre sent hundreds of it's master works of art to be hidden away by simple farmers in country cottages.  The Mona Lisa spent some of her time in hiding, I read, behind a wall panel in a small country house.  On Christmas eve, for one special night, the family would bring her out of hiding, and admire her.  For some time, it said, because curators began to worry about damage that the storage box might cause, she even hung on a bedroom wall in the cottage "so she would never be alone".  

As a maker of art (though of course, not of Louvre caliber!), I imagine that the Mona Lisa was never so much adored as she was during those years.  Of course, while she hangs on public display, she can be admired by the elite and wealthy of the world, and thousands may get a distant, crowded glimpse of her after waiting in a tight, dreary line for a few hours.  But just imagine what it would have been like to have her's be the last eyes you saw as you drifted off to sleep in a tiny country bedroom; to have her's be the first smile to greet you in the morning.  She must have delighted in being so well loved.

I will never paint a Mona Lisa, but each time someone cradles one of my little pots in their hands, with that look on their face that seems to ask, "How did you know to make this for me?", every time someone walks through my studio with a little painting pressed to their chest, a satisfied smile on their face, I have a sneaking suspicion I know why the Mona Lisa smiles.