Friday, December 19, 2014

on the importance of tradition

We picked out our Christmas tree last weekend. We’ve been putting it off and putting it off, just not feeling the season for a variety of reasons. Having just made the decision yet again to put off the tree search for another couple days, we passed a festive looking lot and I had a sudden change of heart. It was actually a fun experience, walking among the strongly scented firs and chatting with the farmer who’d cut them just days before and trucked them down the mountain. Popping a small candy cane in my mouth, we brought the tree home and began the process of hauling the seasonal boxes down from the attic, fingers crossed that the leak in the roof hadn’t damaged our treasures.

The holidays seem to come more quickly these days. I don’t know if it’s because the years are flying by with more haste as we get older, or it’s because the stores and TV commercials start their holiday push before Halloween is even past. Maybe it’s both.
 
So we wrestled our new tree into its stand and Dave began winding the strands of lights between the branches. The cats gathered, batting at the bouncing limbs and hanging wires. Dave utters words of frustration at them to try to chase them off, but they remain to “help.”
This weekend we’ll bring the remainder of the boxes down from the attic and our now adult kids will join us to hang the old ornaments. Some are handmade treasures made by their once small hands, some are memories we’ve brought with us from our own childhood trees, some selected as souvenirs on vacations taken a long time ago, and some that used to hang on the trees of generations past.

The mantle is decorated, trains set up on the hearth and old library table, crystal dangles from light fixtures and greenery is tucked here and there.  All the while, eggnog and holiday munchies are enjoyed and favorite holiday music hums from the stereo. It’s a good time and the best part is that we all are together and we’re all sharing in this tradition that grounds us. From year to year, no matter how busy we’ve gotten or what hurdles we’ve had to deal with, these traditions help us to find our way back.
We’ve been given another year together and for that I’m so grateful. There have been changes since the last Christmas, my kids continue to make me proud and inspire me, we’ve added new people into our family fold, we thrive, we struggle, we grow and grow older. There were failures, there were great successes, there were heartbreaking losses as we had to say good-bye to family members who have passed away and joys as babies are born. The holiday traditions carry us from year to year as we repeat our annual routines, retell the old stories and remember family members no longer with us. The holiday traditions bring us warmth, memories and security in otherwise fragmented and all-too-busy lives. 
  
We have no way of knowing what 2015 will bring us. By this time next year, we may have made it through challenges and changes that we can’t foresee today. What won’t change though, are the family traditions that anchor us, even if there is a bit of groaning and grumbling when it’s time to bring home the tree and haul the boxes down from the attic again.

Friday, December 12, 2014

on why I'm now a big fan of facebook

A high school classmate passed away very recently after courageously battling cancer. When he found out that he had reached “stage four” of this awful disease, Dennis reached out on Facebook to a dozen or so of his childhood companions and together, this group bonded, supported, listened and held hands (virtually) across all the miles of physical separation. He never posted about his illness on his personal page, keeping it all private and within the group messaging. Tough conversations were had. Dennis kept everyone updated during months of chemo, radiation and hospitalizations, and was comfortable asking his childhood friends for advice when he was making final plans for himself and for the future of the family he would be leaving behind. He remained upbeat, never complaining but staying in touch, because this was a very real emotional lifeline that he grabbed onto. 

He appreciated this group of friends so much, sending them encouraging messages and sharing his thoughts about what is truly important in life. One such message went like this: 
"Today is a great day for blueberry pancakes! My only wish is that I could share them with all my kind friends. May everyone have a pleasant Wednesday, understanding you all are playing a part in my journey. Anything that comes up today that causes you stress -  wipe it away. It's my gift to you. Things always get better with time. Understand that what is stressful today you may not even remember a year from now. I wish you all a peaceful and relaxing day. Hugs to all!"

This group of pals were in touch with each other through their Facebook group several times a week and daily when the need and desire was there. They cheered Dennis on through his chemo and radiation treatments, all the while sharing. They shared stories, memories, songs, photos from their childhood and hometown, and photos of their current lives. They consoled him when he received word that surgery was no longer an option and when Hospice was called in during his final weeks. They “chatted” on the day that he was moved into the Hospice Home.  Even from his Hospice bed, he messaged back and forth with this amazing support group.

Less than a month before he passed away, Dennis sent this message out to the group: "I feel blessed that I have reconnected with great people like you. I am learning so much from others. If you give people the chance they will amaze you. Every time I receive a ping from FB it's from someone that really cares, like you!"

When he fell silent for a time, the group kept talking, sending messages of good hope and love to him,  in hopes that he was still receiving them. Finally, with no words left, Dennis posted a “thumbs-up” emoticon and was gone. The next message was from his wife, letting the members of the group know that he had passed away and just how much their little group meant to him on this final journey. The messages remain for those left behind, to revisit and remember their friend. "Thinking of everyone today. I love you all, I wish you peace and a day filled with love. I hope your loved ones show you today how much they care."  

As young kids, we never imagined that the internet and this phenomenon called Facebook would be available to us no matter where life led, but what a gift it was to reconnect and be able to stay in touch, across all the miles, and to help a childhood friend when he needed it most. RIP Dennis.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

corner view: attendance

Corner View is a weekly appointment - each Wednesday - created by Jane (Spain) and curated by Francesca (Italy), where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme.  The theme this week is "attendance" and comes from Susanna (Netherlands).

This morning, Django and Binx were in attendance as I was working on a new song.
I guess they liked it!

Friday, December 5, 2014

step by step, bit by bit, one to another

This has been a highly-charged, emotional newsweek. Court decisions were made that have angered and saddened people, divided communities, resulted in injury, property destruction and protests. People are lashing out because they’re frustrated – frustrated with “the system”, frustrated with each other and frustrated because they feel helpless. When the fight is just too big, the problem overwhelming, the conversation just too hard, the best thing we can do is to think small. We need to look at our own day, our own backyard, our own actions. We need to focus, every single day, on what we as individuals, are doing right, what we’re putting out into the world and what we’re contributing to our own community. The little bit of good that we can do today and every day all adds up. The little bit of good you do right where you are – put together with all the other bits of light – that’s how we create change. So focus on kindness. Kindness is catching. It’s viral. Kindness encourages, creates possibilities, gives strength and heals. The little bit of kindness that you show someone today can turn their day, week, and life around. A kind word, a gentle hug, a strong shoulder, a moment given and a willing ear, a door opened, a note left, a bit of food donated, there are so many little things you can do today.  It’s through kindness that we can make a very real and profound difference…we can change the world. Step by step, bit by bit, one to another.
 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

corner view: open doors

Corner View is a weekly appointment - each Wednesday - created by Jane (Spain) and curated by Francesca (Italy), where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme.  The theme this week is "open doors" and comes from Joanne (Japan).

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."    ~ Walt Disney

Monday, December 1, 2014

family portrait

When we were strolling around in Hillsborough recently we made our way to St Matthew's Episcopal Church. In older, historic towns we usually seek out the Episcopal properties because they're often among the oldest in town and have lots of architectural beauty and great old graveyards. St Matthew's was built in 1825 and was actually the second of it's denomination in town. The first was built in the early 1700's but was destroyed by fire. St Matthew's though, did not disappoint.
We rounded the sanctuary, enjoying the beautiful stained glass including the Tiffany Angel window and noting the stones marking the graves of the first Rector, his wife and their infant triplets all inset on the back wall of the building. Making our way through the soft moss and leaf mold of the graveyard we came upon another set of triplets, very much alive and enjoying the peaceful setting.
They were so quiet, nibbling the grasses and staying close together. I think one of us must have snapped a twig because they were suddenly aware of our company.
We were spotted.....
...but not before I was able to take a family portrait.

Friday, November 21, 2014

allow your dreams to overwhelm your fears

I’m fully aware that sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I daydream scenarios in my head, envisioning future events that aren’t actually based in reality – well, because they haven’t happened yet!  I run through internal conversations with people (usually naysayers) that don’t end well.  I imagine putting myself out there and having it end badly.  My mind seems to be running on autopilot when this is going on and I have to “wake-up” and realize that I’m sabotaging myself.  Yes, I’m creating big challenges and building impossible walls - all in my mind.  I’m learning to catch myself when I’m in this trap. Worrying about some future event isn’t going to help and it’s really, really not going to get me where I want to go.  It’s all about fear. When I realize what’s going on, I tell myself “Stop!”


To get where we want to go in life, to achieve the outcome or results we’re looking for, we have to jump in, to push ourselves. We need to imagine great results and success. We have to be brave, face the hurdles that our fears have created and push forward towards our dreams and good outcomes. We have to do what we’re afraid to do. We need to pay attention to our internal conversations, visualize positive outcomes and decide that what we want is indeed possible. Dream it and then do it. If people around you are not supportive then surround yourself with people that are rooting for you.
 
Did you jump in, give it a try, push yourself and it didn’t quite work? That’s ok. You’re moving in the right direction and at the very least, you've learned something. Take a breath, give it a rest and then start again.  Pay attention to the messages you’re telling yourself and allow your dreams to overwhelm your fears.    

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

corner view: one song

Corner View is a weekly appointment - each Wednesday - created by Jane (Spain) and curated by Francesca (Italy), where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme.  The theme this week is "one book" and comes from Ibabe (Basque Country).

Posting on last week's theme "one book" was tough, but coming up with "one song" was even harder! I have so many favorites and so many memories embedded in them. My leanings change depending on the season, my mood, the occasion, etc. So what "one song" could I share on Corner View? Then I happened upon the tune appropriately named One Song, written by Frank Churchill. If you've ever seen the 1937 Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, then you've heard this song. Prince Charming sings this song to Snow White during their first meeting at the wishing well, she later quietly hums the tune to herself and then in the big dramatic kiss scene, Prince Charming sings it to her again. Interesting trivia: to this day, this is the only song sung solo by a Disney Prince in a Disney Princess movie. 


One Song
I have but one song
One song
Only for you

One heart
Tenderly beating
Ever entreating
Constant and true

One love
That has possessed me
One love
Thrilling me through

One song
My heart keeps singing
Of one love
Only for you


photo credit: Disney Studios
 

Monday, November 17, 2014

a walk in white cross woods

Yesterday was chilly but the air was fresh and still so we took a walk in White Cross woods. There's some history in these woods, old trails and interesting artifacts left behind by people who were there a long time ago. An abandoned blind high up in a tree, old bottles and fire pits, and most curious of all - the cast iron guts of a baby grand piano, rusty strings and all. Did someone haul a baby grand deep into the woods to create music under the trees?
I considered leaving the camera behind since it was so overcast, but despite the lack of light and shadow, the sky was a pretty great backdrop to these towering trees.

Really interesting rocks jut high up from the ground in what is otherwise a rolling yet boulder free area. At the creek, water-worn rock formations fill the creek bed, allowing hikers to hop around. A great line of immense rock defines the far wall.
 

If only these woods could tell us the stories of all they've seen. Sissipahaw Indians, users of the old horse trail, hikers, partiers and apparently a pianist have all enjoyed this place.
Now we do too.

Friday, November 14, 2014

it's not too late!

This is my birthday weekend (yes I intend to play, have fun, and celebrate for the whole weekend – not just the day!) At this stage of life, some friends are slowing down but others are just getting going. The go-getters have realized something important: It’s Not Too Late! They’re starting new businesses, recording their first cd's, actively imagining their dream homes, seeking out new friends, learning a new skill, writing, singing, creating, traveling, adventuring, connecting. We don’t need to wait until New Year’s Day to reset our focus and make resolutions. A birthday is the perfect time to reaffirm that it’s not too late to become a better version of yourself, to build something more in your life, to remember that person that you’ve always wanted to be, and to adjust your course.  Your past circumstances, the negative noises and criticisms from others, hard times, debt, aches and pains, disappointments and rejections,…you can choose to overcome, to drown those things out, to become a better version of who you are,  to continue to create a better version of your life.  It’s not too late to begin again!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

corner view: alone at home

Corner View is a weekly appointment - each Wednesday - created by Jane (Spain) and curated by Francesca (Italy), where bloggers from all corners of the world share their view on a pre-arranged theme.  The theme this week is "one book" and comes from Ibabe (Basque Country).

I tried to think of something interesting I could share about how I spend my time alone at home, but it occurs to me that I'm never really home alone, ever!



Monday, November 10, 2014

old salem on a quiet autumn sunday

After developing the towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania, the Moravian missionaries who had journeyed to this country from Europe purchased 100,000 acres of backcountry in North Carolina, in an area then called Wachovia. They began building 5 different congregations (or communities) within that acreage. The first was Bethabara, which was settled in 1753, and then they moved on to develop the settlement they named Salem. Founded in 1766, Salem became the center of Moravian life for the sect and for the surrounding towns. The area is backcountry no longer. Old Salem sits quietly amid the noise, bustle and hurried city of Winston-Salem, but to enter the protected limits of Salem you truly are stepping back into a quieter, simpler time.
   





 You can attempt to cross the busy streets that surround Old Salem, but crossing over the traffic on the covered bridge is to really be welcomed. Moravian Stars hover overhead and during this season, greenery is added to mark the beginning of the holiday season.
The village is the home for some very lucky families who lovingly care for their old dwellings...
                                       ...but also holds restored community buildings.
Guides dressed in the garb of the period tell stories of life so long ago. 

two gents take a break to chat with the young lady in the long lavender dress

Still a living and breathing community, Salem College, Salem Academy
and a very large and active Moravian church thrive. 
We stood outside the old church and listened to a saxophone ensemble practicing for upcoming holiday services. Hymns, carols, church bells...the atmosphere was extra special on this visit. 

Old trees fill "God's Acre", an old cemetery filled with simple stones set upon rolling hills. The deceased are buried—not in family groups—but in well organized and beautifully maintained rows according to the date of their passing. On most of the older markers, the country/county of origin is listed along with the deceased's name.
The oldest stone there is dated 1771.  

Gardens are seen throughout the village...
...as are traditional Moravian Stars.
Carriage mounting/dismounting stones and horse hitches are among the signs
of times gone by, hiding in plain sight.
If you look carefully at these peg and beam constructions, you can see Roman numerals etched into the wood, giving direction to the builders/restorers.

 On this day, as the "golden hour" began, family groups, small children, and brides could be seen posing in especially quaint spots, with photographers snapping keepsake portraits.
We'll be visiting again...next autumn.