Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Message from Marla

Dear Family of Friends,

It's been too long. The year is coming to a close in 11 short days. How many times I've headed for the computer or smart phone intending to dash off a note to you, but I always seem interrupted on the way. It's the story of my life. Goal for the New Year, slow down and smell the two day old tunafish in the garbage disposal--we have a serious lack of roses here. I can't grow anything because either a) Wyatt will pick all the flowers b) Owen swings at the bushes with a bat or golf club just because, or c) our one year old black lab Bo eats it rootball and all. This is a joke, not a lament, just in case you were wondering. 

We all decry busy-ness, but secretly we must crave it. After all, no one forces us to sign up for piano lessons and after school activities. There may be pressure to be the grade mom or PTA liaison, but nobody twisted our arm. Incidentally, nobody twisted mine at school this year. My reputation must precede me. Ha! I'm learning to say no to most things so I can say yes to what I truly care about. This is a difficult lesson, and one that is learned in baby-steps. 

In our house a year ago, Owen had his two front teeth, we could only understand Wyatt about 60% of the time, Andy has less silver in his hair, and the fine lines in my face, were, well, fine. This year, Owen would like his two front teeth, we understand Wyatt 98% of the time, Andy has a very attractive salt and pepper mane, and my fine lines are now character lines. Ha! Owen is our mathematician and word search extraordinaire. Wyatt is our artist in residence and quite the story teller. Andy continues to make beautiful smiles and is our ever present pillar of assurance and calm. Is it too cliche to say he is the love of my life? 

As I sit at my computer to write, I am reflecting on the increasing amounts of community tension that exist this season. I have decided that I am perfectly content to live in a world of confusion and clarity, tension and peace, joy and sorrow, doubt and certainty. I know many people get a little bent out of shape this time of year over what to celebrate or not celebrate, recognize or not recognize. I think that's too bad. Friendship and generosity are not limited to holidays. Come celebrate with me and I'll come celebrate with you. Maybe we'll make a new tradition all together, or revive an old one. 

Here is why I choose Christmas (in case you were curious, or just have time to read a lengthy pondering from me):

1. I love decorating my tree. After the tree is inside, the lights are on, and the boys have hung their ornaments, I spend the next couple of hours touching every ornament and remember its story. The year we bought this one in Phoenix to remind us of our trip. The year I bought that one to celebrate baby's first. The year mamma made that one for all of us in the choir. The thumbprint from preschool I made next to the thumb prints from preschool the boys made. It's one of the ways I remember all the good things I have in my life.

2. I love Christmas cards. Facebook is fabulous, but there is nothing like walking to my mailbox every day between the day after Thanksgiving and Epiphany. I can't wait for 2 o'clock when the rural carrier finally comes bringing my 947th Lands End catalog and my stack of cards. I've kept every Christmas card for the last 7 or 8 years. They've moved with me at least 3 and some 4 times. Each year, I put the cards on the mantle in a beautiful silver dish my roommate gave me for a wedding present. The year Andy's Mimi died, we put the cards in her silver bread bowl she left us. This year I put the cards in the center of our Advent wreath. After Christmas, the cards go into a silver tray in my bedroom that I keep on my dresser. I see them every morning and I am blessed by the presence you all maintain in my life. (Side note: I also need to use these beautiful pieces I received as wedding gifts since I obviously don't cook much and our entertaining runs towards backyard weenie roasts and pirate birthday parties at least for the present.) 

3. I'm an American and I'm very much into holidays. I love Christmas the way I love Halloween or Valentine's Day or Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July. Christmas is a time to spend thinking of others and myself at the same time (present for all I say), and chowing down on good eats. It's a time to make obligatory phone calls to my family, post cute pictures on Facebook, and relish the homemade goopy gluey glittery works of art my darling boys bring home from school. I enjoy receiving flowers, eating candy, and watching fireworks. I love excuses for dressing up for parties--costume or couture. 

I love Santa, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Lucy and her siblings Susan, Edmund, and Peter, Disney World, and Jesus too. I think we can all co-exist. I have no problem celebrating make-believe along side my faith. I don't feel threatened by magic, allegory, fact, fiction, oral history, recorded history, or finding the same story told seven ways to Sunday in seven different faith traditions. We're all human beings and we are all in community with one another. 

I have no issue with the fact that many people don't celebrate Christmas. I don't worry about people who don't celebrate Halloween. I imagine lots of students studying abroad and other foreign nationals living in America don't celebrate Thanksgiving or 4th of July because it isn't a holiday celebrated in their home country (I could be wrong there; blanket statements usually are.). I'm okay with non-Halloween school parties. I love fall festivals, scarecrows, apples, and harvest time themes just fine. Corn mazes, candy apples, and hayrides are fun. We can do costumes at home and hit up the neighborhood for candy later on. And, I once dragged two of my girlfriends in Germany to an American army base for a 4th of July celebration because I was desperately homesick. They were kind enough to humor me. Maybe someday I can return the favor to someone else living far from home.

In my home, during the seasons of Advent and Lent we make special time to focus on our faith for a whole month at a time culminating in the two highest holy days on the Christian calendar, the birth and resurrection of Jesus. Hopefully these times build character and provide examples of how to practice our faith all year long and not just during the winter and spring solstice. So I'll be at church on Christmas Eve celebrating one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, because that is when we celebrate it in our church calendar. On Christmas morning, I'll be in my living room watching my babies rejoice over Santa's visit and the pile of imported plastic. You are welcome to come hang out with us. Andy will make you pancakes and I'll wish you Merry Christmas. If you invite me to come to your house for your holy, holiday, or family traditions, I'll come and relish every moment. 

I hope you find joy and peace in the last two weeks of the year 2011. I hope an email or handmade craft warms your heart. I hope a Christmas Card, New Years Card, or Valentine's Family Greetings (I received all of the above last year) puts a smile on your face and a happy tear in your eye. 

I cherish each and every one of you today and every day.
Much love,