Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas and May God Bless Us Everyone!

I am sorry that I missed wishing some of my readers a Happy Hanukkah  In truth my Christmas Greetings are in the Nick of time (no pun originally intended).This year Christmas almost arrived before me. If I hadn't kept my expectations minimal, and had the help of my daughter, Hannah taking over the role of Ms. Santa Jr., it would have looked like the Grinch had come and gone instead!

Christmas is here now.  We have been to mass earlier this evening at beautiful St. Bridget's in West Rutland, Vermont. The packages are wrapped and under the tree.  I am not allowed in the living room now, as Ms. Santa Jr. has been at work already.  I am to be in bed and fast asleep, but I didn't want to go there without wishing you all a Merry Christmas and may God bless us everyone!

I have heard that if you don't believe in Christmas or Santa, you might receive underwear? True or Not? You will have to let me know....

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Preparation Suggestions for Aspiring Santas

It is only 8 (now 6) days before Christmas and my holiday sales are over—well, almost, except for finishing an order of “two French hens and a…” cozy comforter for my sister started by my mother and I ten years ago. Truly if this is sung to the 12 days of Christmas it seems almost festive!  The comforter will not be done until after Christmas now as it seems that I forgot to double check her bed size. At the time we started it she had a queen-sized bed and she now has a king-sized bed instead.  Details! Fortunately the backing was designed to create a very wide border that was to come up and over the top, and will instead be part of the back and extra borders will be added to the front to make the comforter bigger.  This is not ideal, but what is these days, especially in the middle of the Christmas Season?

Creativity, I learned years ago is about getting in the middle of a project and then having to re-design it due to lack of material or fore-thought, or whatever other reason my brain computations didn't work right! Covering mistakes has often lead to my unusual designs!

I thought I learned a few years ago to “let go of the commercialism” and focus on the spiritual side of Christmas, putting Christ back into the season, besides which isn't simpler better? This remains my goal! I have found that this change of focus is easier said than done however. My children are now young adults and I have let them know that the Advent Elf that I created over thirty years ago has now retired.  No more balloons, candy and pre-Christmas stories to teach small children the meaning of Christmas as well as help them wait out the long days of Advent!  With our home-made Advent Calendar, The Elf would write rhymes in shaky left-handed writing that would delight and give clues as to where their advent package would be hidden.

I must caution new parents not to take on this tradition as these gifts ultimately became one more thing to remember in a season that is too busy already, and the number of small gifts needed grew exponentially with each child.  We could have saved enough to put at least one of our girls through college with what was spent on their twenty-four little meaningful gifts before Christmas.  As with raising any child, you don’t see the damage until it is done and the Advent Elf, like Santa lives in their hearts, never to be forgotten!!

This year, my eldest daughter, sensing a diminishing Christmas spirit in her too-quickly-aged and worn-out mother, alias Mrs. Claus, and the past few years, alias Mrs. Grinch instead, announced that she would take on the “fun” role of being Miss Santa for 2012.  This was an offer I couldn't refuse.  It would likely save me from tumbling down the slippery “over-the-hill” slope even faster and perhaps avert us going over our own personal fiscal cliff as well.

This daughter knew that I really meant what I said about sticking to a budget, and it seems that she had a wind-fall job that would afford a lavish Christmas for us all!  I became like a child and started creating a Christmas wish list!  Meanwhile I would indeed be spiritual and thank God for such a wonderful adult child!

For anyone with Alien Adult Children (AACs), these signs of assuming adult roles are so welcome, that it is easy to experience a temporary euphoria.  Be cautious however in giving up your role as parent, Advent Elf, Santa, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy lest the following happen to you!!

Before I expound on this role-reversal experiment, I must first tell you that as a wife and mother, I have not been perfect!  It seems that my body wasn't cut out for the rigors of maintaining these roles and working too, and so much has been compromised when it comes to keeping a well-organized, clean house and disciplined children.  I am not sure what broke down, BUT I did find that through much experience I did perfect my ability to plan ahead by hours, days, weeks and even months and it isn't easy to train a replacement for Mrs. Claus, though I am noting that replacing Mrs. Grinch isn't so difficult!

I learned long ago that my suggestions, instructions and even commandments fell on deaf ears after my children turned two, and so I simply didn't make a list of suggestions as to how to create a successful Christmas.  My AAC’s constantly remind me that they aren't stupid and of course they already know what I am about to tell them.  I see now, however, that there are some details that should be imparted to those aspiring to be Santa.  Perhaps this list will help you, my readers, as well?

Christmas Preparation Suggestions for Aspiring Santas
1) Overseas packages need to be light-weight, inexpensive to ship ($46 to mail bargain-priced, but coffee table books is entirely too much!).  These gifts need to be purchased or made first and mailed a month before Christmas.
2) Christmas trees must be well-secured to car roof tops lest they blow off and get run over by a truck following close behind you, and down-sizing the tree at both ends!  Yes, this really happened, but was not allowed to be written into my yearly Christmas letter—and so I will merely blog about it instead! Taking the long way home and driving slowly versus speeding down the highway is definitely a suggestion to be heeded!  Decorating “middle of trees” might become a new trend if this suggestion is not followed but would eliminate the need for tree-top angels.
3) Dusting and washing “ordinary house decorations” and safely packing them away for the holiday season needs to be done before Christmas decorations are put out lest the house be doubly decorated—not at all attractive!
4) Tasteful decorating doesn't include displaying all the too-carefully-saved Christmas decorations given AACs by the Advent Elf, so that each child by age twenty will have enough decorations to decorate their own mansions.  Our tastefully decorated home is not, in the end, to resemble a Christmas Tree Shop!
5) No room shall include more than one tree, no matter how pretty they are, unless, of course, you are decorating your own mansion and not your parent's tiny home.
6) Aging parents (APs) need more room to turn around and function in their homes without clumsily knocking off decorations that are too close to their elbows.  You don’t want them to takes cruises every Christmas for the rest of their lives to avoid the holiday season, do you, or send you, their AACs off on a cruise so that they can enjoy a simple holiday season without you?
7) When AACs are buying gifts for their parents, it is important to consider what room is left in their house.  Consumables for those that hate to cook are always a safe bet.  Hide-a-keys are also invaluable and take but a small space attached to bumpers of their cars and outside of their houses, especially nice for the busy holiday season when forgetting seems to be on the rise among seniors and others with half a brain!
8) Decorating schedules cannot be squeezed into an evening already cluttered with other activities or after a long work day.  Decorating is, after all, a big job and this is why it needs to be simplified to include, but not surpass: wreaths on the doors, candles in windows, a tree, a crèche or two, and a few special music boxes if you own a collection.  Anything beyond this needs to be done the previous summer.
9) Nothing should be put up, that you, AAC Santas are not available to help take down and properly store for the next year.
10) As parents age they want the joy of family around them, the music of the season, to celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas Eve Mass with the family, and have a nice dinner on Christmas Day. More than that and all sanity might be lost, tensions increased and the spirit of peace fly right out of the season!

I am sure that I am forgetting other “suggestions” for aspiring Santas and will be eager to hear from my readers as to what they might add.

Last, but not least, I want to bless my eldest daughter who had the courage to take on being Santa of 2012.  It is a role that is second only to being God and only done well with small children who can “be programmed” to make their list for Santa to match what has already been purchased at bargain prices and even then some kids will have a great Christmas and some will be disappointed as fantasies often exceed realities.

Whatever happened to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s sort of Christmas where a candy stick, a tiny gift and delicious mashed potatoes NOT made from instant flakes created a wonderful Christmas Day? Did such Christmases really exist, or were they merely a figment of the author’s imagination?

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Congratulations to Cheryl B., winner of this month's Common Thread Give-Away!

To my readers:  I will be back with you soon!  Between my last two shows of the season, a child moving  and some computer issues, my writing has been pushed right out...I will be back very soon! jane

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kim Gifford,December's Featured Common Thread Give- Away Artist

Kim Gifford is December's Featured Common Thread Give-A-Way Artist.  Just click on Pug's and Pics on the side of my blog to take you to her website, and leave a comment in the next couple of days to register for her special featured give away piece, Gone to the Dogs.

I met Kim some time ago at a craft sale over a cup of tea and right away she seemed to be a “kindred spirit”.  Our visit was too short and we soon parted with plans to see one another, but as we don’t live nearby, the next time I saw her was at a gallery show featuring her and other artists at Maria Wulf's Pig Barn Gallery.  She had told me of her work which she described as collage art using photographs combined with art of various mediums as well as textiles.  Knowing Kim I knew it had to be good and I was not disappointed!

Just as I had thought, each of her pieces drew me in just like seeing Van Gogh's work for the first time. I had to spend much time with each piece as they were to be experienced not just viewed.  I was especially taken with a piece entitled, You Know the Song. I sat down the day after this gallery show and wrote her a personal email telling her of my thoughts and feelings that related to this picture.

I wrote to Kim, “I didn’t tell you, but I have a “thing” for ballet.  I took ballet when I was a child and used to use the front porch, cement though it was, for my stage.  Perhaps that is why my ballerina years were short lived and not because of the concrete…but rather due to the decreased value to my parent’s home, as I had little dancing talent and my stage was in such public view?"

I went on to tell her that it was likely revenge against my parents for recognizing my lack of talent and cutting my dance education short, that I took ballet again in my twenties, and starred in a local production of the Nutcracker as one of "the backdrop guests" at Clara’s Christmas party. I forgot to tell her at the time that an old close family friend brought me a single rose to celebrate my debut, and joked about me not having a private dressing room as he told me that he thought I was "the prima ballerina star" and so he gave it to me in-person after my performance.

My parents, shortly thereafter gave me a lovely little hand painted shadow box, with a blue velvet lining in which to hang my toe shoes.  My mother had read me the story of The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes when I was a child.  It was the story of young female bunny who found herself with 21 children instead of fulfilling her life-long dream of being an Easter bunny.  But when her children were old enough to take care of their home and all that needed to be done, she went to fulfill her dream of being one of the five Easter bunnies and was selected as she had shown great wisdom in raising her children well. I will not give away the entire story, for it is special and deserves to be read, except to say that her special gold shoes, worn during her important Easter delivery, were ceremoniously  hung up in her little home afterwards. My parents had no way of knowing that I would soon have ankle instability and have to hang up my shoes as well. For years, my pink satin toe shoes were framed and hung just as ceremoniously as The Country Bunny's little gold shoes.

I went on to share with Kim that I still do my ballet exercises in the pool at Castleton where the water helps me el-e-vay (my French is as limited as my ballet talent) and then told her that one of my favorite ballets is a Beatrix Potter ballet,done by a London ballet group featuring all of her characters dancing!  The costumes are as wonderful as the dances. Watching Jemima Puddleduck waddle and Jeremy Fisher sloshing through his house makes me come right off my sofa and dance again in my living room!  I have been known to play it's VHS tape for my child guests and invite them to dance with me.  I have never played it for adult guests and would quite deny knowing any part of it if I did, especially Jemima Puddleduck’s waddle! I knew I could share this with Kim as she would understand, being the creator of a ballerina pug, why not me, no matter my age and condition!

Only a few years ago, I found myself keeping my mother company in a nursing home.  This home had bars along the walls to help the teetery patients walk, but one resident simply stood holding onto it for a long while every day.  And in my mind, I imagined ballet music piped in along with some full length mirrors added to the walls and me joining her at the bar! ...So pugs doing ballet…why not?!  Bring them on!! I am glad that some one else has a great imagination!!

You can imagine my surprise when one day in the mail I found a large padded envelope with a matted print of You know the Song,  along with a Vermont Life Magazine featuring Kim’s work. I am going to have to clean out my basement to find my infamous toe shoes in their shadow box along with the picture of me in my first  recital dress to hang next to it. In my mind I will see its soft yellow fabric though the picture is in black and white and shades of gray!

This blog is not about my dancing career, but rather about my friend, Kim Gifford and her work that will transport you, as all fine artwork does, into the wonderful space between reality and the place in your heart where your innermost dreams reside.  Her work is delightful!  Don’t miss visiting her website, and seeing where her pictures take you!  Thank you Kim and good luck in winning the December Common Thread Give-Away!!