Tuesday, December 16, 2008


What a perfect day! It's very cold, just 29 degrees, and the sky is the color of an old pewter mug. There's a thin crust of ice on almost everything that isn't in direct contact with the ground. Streets and sidewalks and the flagstone path in my back yard are dry, but shrubbery and the few remaining leaves on the trees wear an icy shell. Even the grass crunches gently underfoot. The leaf net over my fishpond is sagging toward the water, weighed down by the droplets of ice that adorn it, like diamonds. It's a perfect day, if it happens to be the middle of December.

My little lighted deer out back all wear icy garments. Some of them are animated, and it will be interesting to see what happens tonight when the timer turns them on. Will they still light up? Will they move?

A friend commented earlier today that Christmas no longer holds the same magic for him as it did years ago, and he mentioned a grandmother who has gone to her Lord, and how her passing seemed to rob the joy of the season for the rest of the family. He described how he finally hit bottom and then began a slow rebound, but doubts he will ever find the same thrill in Christmas that he once did.

Oh my. How well I understand that. I would imagine that almost any adult who is middle-aged or older would have at least some comprehension of what he meant. Most families do have at least one central figure, the person who seems to hold the reins of everyone else's happiness during the holiday time. It's usually a woman, most likely a grandmother, and she's the one who bakes the cookies, plans the gatherings, does the shopping, wraps the gifts and decorates the house. She may even make a fruitcake in spite of the teasing from the rest of the family.

My mom was a very Christmassy person, and she conveyed that spirit and love of the holiday to me. As I grew older, and my own family emerged, somehow she and I managed to share the responsibilities and the planning without any conflict. As she began to tire more easily, I took over more of the work of the season and helped her with her tree and much of the cooking and baking. For a number of years, we had it all worked out.

Then in 1996 I lost my husband very suddenly, and with him went all my spirit and joy for Christmas and everything else, for that matter. I went through the motions each year because I had to, but not because I wanted to. In 1999, my mom joined him in Heaven, and in the next couple of years a newborn grandson returned to his Maker, and then my father left us as well, in 2003.

I suppose that was my year of "hitting bottom". There seemed to be no point in decorating or baking or doing any of the traditional things, but somehow, I did. I had tremendous help from my son, who comes every year and puts the lights up on my house, and makes it so beautiful. A dear friend came and helped me put up my Christmas tree. Other friends invited me here and there, and somehow, Christmas came and went.

And now, I am so happy to report, Christmas seems to be a happy time again. Deep in my heart, Christmas was always there - the real Christmas. The love, the promise, the warm security that can be found in that humble stable. The Child that was born there, and placed in the crude little manger did not remain an infant, helpless and dependent. He grew up, and in time He laid down His life for me, for all of us. He died, but that still wasn't all of it. He rose again after three days, and is now in Heaven with the Father.

He's not alone there. My husband, my parents, my grandson - all the loved ones whom I've lost are also there, because they were His children, bought with the price of His blood. And because I'm His child, a true believer, I know that I'll see the ones I love again.

The pain of immediate loss, the loneliness at holiday times, all these things are inevitable. We all go through them. However, at some point, most of us "hit bottom" and realize that we can't go on that way forever. We finally reach a point where we remember that the loss is not permanent. We start to look forward, in a sense, to our own homegoing. Being able to do that also makes it possible to experience a sense of joy and contentment in the everyday things of life, and especially in the holidays and special times that once seemed so lonely. It removes the sharp edge from the here and now.

Oh, there are still moments, when those little pangs of grief hit us. A sentimental Christmas movie, a beloved carol, the warm scent of favorite cookies baking, the crackle of the fireplace - all have the power to call scenes to mind that are so dear, but so painful at the same time. Those times can still be difficult, but through the mercy of God and time, we can find the joy and peace and sweetness once again.

Speaking for myself, I can say now that I never really lost those things, though I thought I did. As unexpected upwellings of joy flood my soul, and beloved carols ring in my mind, I now realize that I had just misplaced them for a while.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2008


What a great morning! I'm sitting here at my window, watching four fat little squirrels playing in the leaves, pausing now and then to take a nibble off a pumpkin I put out for them, or scramble around in the seeds they knocked down out of the feeder earlier. I have some old dry cereal I'll put out later, and a few shelled pecans that taste a little refrigerator-y, but the squirrels won't mind. One is a juvenile, not fully grown, and so cute. He won't be around here for long, though. He's evidently a remnant of the last litter that grew up in one of my nest boxes, and should have left for parts unknown by now. There's one grumpy female in the group that keeps running at him and chasing him away. Probably his mother, who knows it's time for him to do his own thing. Poor little guy. If his mom only knew, it would be okay for him to stay. I'll keep him fed.

At my feet is a tiny, fluffy miniature Sugarplum. Not quite as pretty as the Plum was, doesn't have the lush coat, but she is so cute. She's almost exactly half the size the Plum was, at just under four and a half pounds. She's looking pretty frazzled today, the air is dry and there's a lot of static charge in her hair, so it stands straight out at times. She's so playful and energetic, carries a toy around in her mouth most of the time, trying to persuade someone, anyone, to throw it for her. That game can continue for a very long time, if one is foolish enough to get it started.

I enjoy her the most though, when she gets tired. At those times she gets very clingy, wants to be very close to me, and will lead me to my big old chair if she can. As soon as I settle down in it, she hops into my lap, then climbs up to my shoulder and finds a comfortable spot there, settled on my chest for a nap. She'll sleep for an hour or so, then wakes and goes up on the back of the chair behind my head. She likes to lie up there and play with my hair. She'll pat her little paws around in it, or take strands of it and draw them through her teeth! Not sure what that's all about, but it's restful to me, and she enjoys it. Maltese are odd little dogs. They seem to possess a lot of feline traits, which only makes them that much more fun.

I paused for a moment and took that cereal outside. The squirrels scooted up the tree when I stepped out the door, and peered down at me from their lofty perches. As soon as I returned to my window, they were already on the ground, pushing their little noses around in the pile of cereal, selecting just the right one out of the hundreds of little O's. Then they move to one side, sit upright with tail curved over their back, and holding the bit of cereal in dexterous little paws, they nibble away. For all the time and effort it appears to require to eat one little cheerio, it would seem that squirrels, like people, are prone to make much ado about nothing.

And now the pigeons have arrived. Fortunately, there are only two, not the dozen or more that usually crash the squirrels' parties. When those winged marauders hit the scene, the groceries disappear faster than Depression glass at a garage sale. Since the squirrels outnumber them today, the pigeons are being unusually polite and non-aggressive, just picking around in the grass around the feeding station. They aren't venturing into the pile of seed and cereal that occupies the big flagstones. There is a squirrel sitting right in the middle of the stones, and if a pigeon ventures too close, he leans forward looking as menacing as a squirrel can manage to appear, and the pigeon retreats.

This balance of power is interesting. If there were more pigeons than squirrels, everything would be reversed. The pigeons would be shuffling around in the pile of feed, and the squirrels would be on the fringes, looking hopeful and trying to snatch a stray bit of something, anything. Apparently, there is strength in numbers, and in strength lies power.

There are many parallels between the animal kingdom and the human condition, and I think our newly-elected president would be very wise to study this parallel and realize that the dynamic seen here applies not only to squirrels and pigeons, but to nations as well. If he carries out his campaign threat to disarm America as an "example" to the rest of the world, he is going to learn a bitter lesson, and unfortunately, the rest of us will suffer as well. To disarm is to appear weak, and when one appears weak, whether a nation or an outnumbered pigeon, one will be attacked and dominated.

My late husband was a large and very strong man. I don't recall that he ever got into a real fight with anyone, and he once told me that he only had one actual fight, while in high school. He won, of course, and after that, no one ever challenged him. As he put it, when you look like you could win, no one ever asks you to prove it.

It seems to me that we need to continue the surge in Iraq, defeat Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the insurgents, whoever we need to defeat in order to convince the rest of the Muslim world that they really don't want to challenge us. We need to find Bin Laden and drag his wretched carcass over here and into a courtroom to be tried for the murder of three thousand people. Then we need to put him in a prison cell and feed him nothing but beans and hamhocks for the rest of his miserable life.

Unfortunately, I doubt very seriously that Barack Hussein Obama is going to do any of those things. If he does what he said he would do, he'll pull us out of Iraq and confirm in the minds of the Muslims that we are weak and cowardly. Then he'll dismantle our nuclear armament, drastically reduce the size of our military force, and step meekly aside as the vultures come to devour our way of life.

Well, be that as it may, for this morning I'm going to sit here and laugh at the antics of the squirrel who is now INSIDE the bird feeder, sending seed showering to the stones below, where the other three, the juvenile included, are all but rolling in the bounty. For this morning anyway, life is good.

Be blessed!