December Reflections, Day 25 – Love is…

Love is when you get each other fancy drinking vessels without having any clue what the other was buying.

Back to the beautiful chaos, friends.

Merry Christmas.

December Reflections, Day 24 – One Year Ago

I took this photo on Christmas Eve, 2014 and my kitchen does not look much different as I write this. I am currently putting the finishing touches on the 2nd thing I’ve made for the day, with the 3rd dish waiting to go into the oven, and ingredients for the 4th dish are waiting in the wings. No matter the year, my house looks much the same on December 24th, and yet in my heart, there has been so much change.

I am a creature of habit. I thrive within routine, and find comfort in the “sameness” that is the very lifeblood of tradition. After a year such as the one we have had, with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, there has been great comfort in the sameness of today. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been flustered more than once during the cooking frenzy. There have been swear words. One child has acted out and cried, the other has been camped out in his room all day, like the almost-teenager that he is. My husband has been trying to keep us all in balance, a job he always does with the dexterity of a tight rope walker. No, comfort does not always mean that things are perfect. It means that they are what we know.

I appreciate that, any given Christmas Eve, it is almost certain (because nothing is completely so), that you will find me in the kitchen, making a mess, swearing, possibly drinking. My kids will be doing exactly what they do, my husband will be helping me when he can, and building train tracks for someone small in between. It may not be pretty, but it’s what we know, and I will always find a wealth of joy in that.

Merry Christmas, friends.

December Reflections, Day 23 – Delicious

Just popping in quickly, because I am busy making up for lost egg nogs and enjoying my family today. We have been out taking in some lights and the incredible 60 degree weather that we are getting here in the Midwest. We spent a night soaking in deliciousness for all the senses and I am very pleased with the way we have kicked off this holiday break. Capping the night off with a delicious sleep seems like just the ticket.

Peace and love to you all, and Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating it.

December Reflections, Day 22 – Numbers

3 – The number of days until Christmas.

– The number that best represents how excited I am about that. (Infinitely excited, guys.)

0 – The number of egg nogs I have had this season. SERIOUSLY?  What is wrong with me?  I will be making a run to the store tonight, to fix this problem.

*No Comment* – The number of Brandy Alexanders I have had this season. Making up for lost egg nogs here, y’all.

5 – The number of hand knitted objects that I am giving as gifts this Christmas. This is actually a rather small number for me, but I spent the last several months making quite a few things for myself instead. Sorry, not sorry. This number does not include the socks that I am making for my husband… because they won’t be ready in time for Christmas. Sorry, honey. Hope to have them on your feet before Spring time, though!

1 – The number of Scandinavian cooking shows that my husband and I are currently obsessed with. Seriously, you guys, New Scandinavian Cooking is mesmerizing and I highly recommend it for foodies, travel/nature buffs and history nerds alike. And if you, like me, fit into all three of those categories, I absolutely insist that you check it out. INSIST.

– The number of female reindeer that pull Santa’s sleigh. That’s right, pretty much all folkloric depictions of Santa’s prancing posse show antlered, adult reindeer. Since male reindeer drop their antlers after mating season ends (around the beginning of December), the only adult reindeer that would still be sporting prongs on Christmas are – the ladies! In addition to that, male reindeer lose a large portion of their body fat gettin’ biz-ay during the previously mentioned mating season, while female reindeer enter the winter months with as much as 50% body fat. All that cushion means they’re more equipped to handle the chill and work of a round-the-world journey. Note- this number does not include Rudolph, who was a 20th century inclusion and is not mentioned in traditional folklore. Sorry, Rudy, looks like I’m leaving you out, too.

2– The number of times that I got emotional at work today because a co-worker gave me an incredibly thoughtful gift to honor Clara (pictured). So floored. So lucky. So grateful for the kindness of others.

8 (again) – The number of Christmases that my husband and I have been together. I think there may have been one Christmas early on, where we did not spend it together, but we are nearing a decade of Christmases, and that is a pretty cool thing.

4 – The number of Christmases that my youngest son will have celebrated after this year.

13 – The number of Christmases that my oldest son will have celebrated after this year (excuse me, I need to sit down…)

1.5 – The number of inches left to grow, until my oldest son is the same height as me. (!)

6 – The number of inches that I think my youngest son may have grown in his sleep last night. (HE LOOKS LIKE A TINY MAN ALL OF A SUDDEN!)

35 – The number of posts that I have made on this blog since I started blogging in October.

709 – The number of unique visitors who have been to this site, as of today (according to my WordPress stats). Neat.

1 Million+ – The number of good wishes that I send your way, as we approach the holiday and the beginning of a new year. I wish you peace, joy and comfort today, and for all your tomorrows.

Peace and love to you all.

December Reflections, Day 21 – Solstice Sunset

I am switching today and tomorrow’s prompts. Today was supposed to be “Numbers” and tomorrow “Solstice Sunset”, BUT since I am in the U.S., solstice is technically happening today, on the 21st. So, I’ll be back tomorrow with the “Numbers” prompt. It was a bit difficult to get a snap of today’s sunset, since today is a bit dreary. However, I was thinking about it and decided that it actually seems quite fitting to have a dark sunset on the Winter Solstice, no?

With that, let’s learn about the December Solstice, shall we?

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, December Solstice marks the longest night of the year and the first day of Winter. This astronomical phenomenon occurs annually, when the North Pole is tilted to it’s furthest degree from the sun, about 23.5 degrees off the vertical axis. This marks the Summer Solstice for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, where Winter Solstice actually occurs in June. December Solstice happens most frequently on December 21st, but it can happen anywhere between the 20th-23rd. It happens at the same moment for the entire planet. This year, it is happening on December 22nd at 04:49am GMT, which is December 21st at 10:49pm CST (hence the need to switch my prompts)

You will often hear Stonehenge mentioned in conversations about the December Solstice. This is because Stonehenge is mysteriously aligned precisely on the solstice sunset sight line (say that 5 times fast). It is believed that the monument, built somewhere from 3000 BCE to 2000 BCE, was a burial ground and, considering the careful alignment of the stones, that the Winter Solstice must have had some religious significance to the people responsible for its construction.

Solstice is celebrated around the world by many different groups of people, with a wide variety of folklore and beliefs around the event. No matter your cultural ties or religious affiliation, Winter Solstice is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the coming season and the lengthening days.

So, today, I wish you a very happy Solstice, friends. I hope that as the days to follow lengthen, so too does your capacity for joy and peace expand.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

December Reflections, Day 20 -Warmth

Today started with a warm cup of coffee, before anyone else was awake in the house.

It moved into a warm breakfast, as I cooked french toast, bacon and eggs for the people I love most on this planet.

Early afternoon you could find me baking sprinkle cookies with my youngest son. Sitting in the warmed winter kitchen and rolling balls of dough through sprinkles, while he giggled in delight.

After lunch, I drove to pick up one of my dearest friends, who was joining us for the afternoon and for dinner. He arrived with gifts for the boys, and we spent a fun afternoon playing games, chatting and eating dinner.

In a final “warm” act of the day, I just pulled a loaf of banana bread out of the oven, which we will enjoy for breakfast tomorrow.

Quite simply, today was lovely, and it most certainly was filled with warmth.

December Reflections, Day 19 – I Said Goodbye to…

Clara. It should be no surprise that I would choose her for today’s prompt. Today’s picture is an excerpt from a letter that I wrote to her, a couple of weeks after we said goodbye. However, in saying goodbye to Clara, I ended up saying hello to a lot of things too.

I said hello to a new perspective on abortion and pregnancy loss, a perspective which has empowered me to be a stronger woman. A fire has been lit within me, driving me to search for ways that I can be of support to other women, to other moms, who may be struggling with grief from a loss, or with postpartum mood disorders.

I said hello to a new chapter in my marriage. The experience of losing Clara could have ruined a marriage. I really believe that to be true. It is the kind of thing that, were there any cracks to begin with, could split a marriage right open. Thankfully, this experience has only drawn my husband and I closer. We’ve leveled up, so to say (uh oh, gamer nerd core has been exposed!). We have been able to lean on each other throughout this experience. We have taken extra care to listen and hear each other, and I am grateful every day for this amazing man that I get to spend the rest of my life with.

I said hello to a new level of gratitude. Gratitude is something my mother was really good at teaching me. For almost as long as I can remember, my mother taught me to be grateful. As such, “attitude of gratitude” is a phrase that can often be heard around my home. It is an important quality that I hope to instill in my own children. Grateful as I was to begin with, there is nothing like loss to deepen your appreciation for what you already have. Saying goodbye to Clara has opened a new well of thankfulness within me. It sounds strange to say, but in some ways, I am thankful for this experience, as terrible as it has been. I recognize the personal growth and spiritual development that I have undergone as a result of going through it. But it isn’t just me, my husband, my parents, my in-laws, my children, and many more people, have been affected and have grown from this terrible loss.

In just 22 weeks of gestation, Clara taught some very important lessons to a great deal of people. So, we said goodbye to Clara in 2015, but because of her, we said hello to a lot of wonderful things, too. Plus, it’s not really goodbye, only see you later.

Thank you, sweet girl. Mommy loves you so, so much.