Posts Tagged 'Christmas traditions'

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year everyone!

May 2012 be a year of continued blessing and growth for all of you.

I can hardly believe it’s been over a month since I last posted.

Then again it seems like forever since December began. A lot has happened since then. Last summer, after 30 years of submitting applications, my husband finally drew the single 2011 Desert Bighorn Sheep hunt permit for a unit in the eastern portion of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in southern Arizona. The season began December 1 and ended December 31. Since he will never get another chance to hunt Desert Bighorns,  he has since August been making the four-hour drive out to hike the arid, empty, forbidding lands of the Cabeza Prieta seeking to get a sense of where he might find the sheep.

As a man who’s always looking for adventure, he found it in spades.  In an area bordered on the south by Mexico and on the north by the Barry M Goldwater Bombing Range he encountered violent thunderstorms, and gale force winds, blazing heat, frigid cold, solitude, bad roads, dust storms, illegal smugglers of people, drugs and guns, the discovery of human remains, A-10 and F-15 fighter jets strafing and bombing the nearby range  in training runs that shook the air and ground for miles, and a never- ending parade of Border Patrol officers wanting to know what he was doing. With his access limited to three roads, each miles from the areas where the sheep were, and camping prohibited throughout most of the refuge, he faced a long walk out at the end of the day, no matter where he was.

And that was just the lead up. He worked his last day of work for 2011 right after Thanksgiving, taking off before opening day to prepare and get settled in his camping area before the season actually started. Five friends met him out there to help.  He was prepared to hunt the entire month if need be. I had no idea if we were even going to be able to do Christmas.

Plus, with my mother gone, my sister decided to stay in New Mexico, and with our son and daughter-in-law due to stay with her family in Tucson for the holiday, even apart from the hunt, Christmas 2011 was certain to be a radical departure from our accustomed traditions.

Since by the weekend of Dec 11th my hubby was still at it, I gave up on the idea of getting a tree, put up a small one in the piano and put Santa hats on the animal mounts we have in our living room.  Here’s our full sized Gould’s turkey with his tiny hat. It makes me laugh…

As it turned out the ram was taken over that same weekend,  and shortly thereafter my kitchen was co-opted for meat processing for about a week.  No Christmas baking to be done then!  Instead I spent the time working on the Christmas letter and ordering presents (first time in a loooong time we had to do so without lists!)

Once the butchering was done, my husband develped a weird staph infection under the skin of one of his fingers, so we were off to Urgent Care two days in a row right before Christmas. The treatment was a shot of antibiotics followed by a 10 day pill regimen of the same along with daily soakings in betadine and epsom salts. It’s better now, but for awhile it was very nasty — swollen, painful and after awhile black. (Which was really just a scab beneath the skin, though we didn’t know it at the time)

We ended up having the kids at our house for Christmas morning, then went over to join Kim’s family for the Christmas dinner that afternoon. It made for a very nice –and festive –holiday after all. I’m thankful they invited us!

Here’s Lily with her new stuffed puppy, which looks — ahem — a lot like Quigley. Imagine that…

Then we left for California to visit my 91-year-old stepmother (and her 92-year-old sister)  for three days and by the time we returned I was exhausted and had picked up a cold — most likely from the seven story hotel in which we stayed (on the seventh floor) (with Quigley) along with about 100 marching band members from Japan and their supporters, all of whom were apparently housed on the third floor!

But! on the way home New Year’s Eve, on the road somewhere between Yuma and Gila Bend around 8:15pm we saw the New Year’s Eve meteor!  It had nothing to do with the Quadrantid meteor shower that was supposed to begin  on the 3rd, but was instead a random meteorite from somewhere out by Jupiter.

It started as a bright light coming at us out of the east. What in the world???Then it sprouted a tail that turned green with red around the edges and we realized it was a meteor. It looked like it was going to crash into the ground right beside the highway, but just before it did, the head vanished and the tail slowly faded. Turns out it wasn’t that close, but streaking low on the horizon, visible to people in New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. Others also thought it was going to hit the ground or a building, but we were all deceived I guess by how bright and low on the horizon it was. Fantastic experience. We could hardly believe we’d seen it. It’s the first one I’ve ever seen, apart from the little white streaks way way up in the sky from “shooting stars.” If only I’d had the camera out and ready I might have been able to get a shot.

Instead, I’ll have to settle for this picture from Wikipedia that shows what a bolide looks like. It’s very similar to what we saw. Ours had a fatter, greener tail. Still — Very Cool! And it seems symbolic somehow, though I haven’t figured out how, yet.

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A Christmas Tradition

When I was growing up, and to this day, my family had a Christmas tradition that was unusual. I say that because when asked what we did “on Christmas” there was always a degree of shock in the asker when the answer was, “we spent all day opening packages.”

Maybe people thought we had SOOO many gifts it took us all day to get through them, but that wasn’t/isn’t the case. We didn’t have a big family — mother, stepdad, sister and me — we had a ritual. A couple of them actually.

The first was Christmas eve where we had lasagne for dinner and then arranged packages around the tree. When all was in the most “artistic” arrangement, we turned off the lights except for candles and tree lights, got some egg nog and sat listening to Christmas music and looking at the beautiful tree. Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Andy Williams’s Christmas album and more recently, Narada’s Medieval type music created a delicious “Christmasy” feeling. Mostly we just looked and sipped and listened and didn’t do too much talking.

All of that, I understand now, are typically introverted pleasures. We were soaking up all the stimuli — tastes, smells, colors, lights, the glory of the tree in the darkness, each individual ornament (and most were unique), the music, the holly berry scent of the candles, maybe a warm blanket…

Next morning we came out, looked at it all and then began our second ritual. One person would be designated the package distributor and each person would receive a gift to open. Then one by one we went around the circle, each opening in turn, noting the paper, ribbon tag, carefully unwrapping the gift in almost the same order it had been wrapped and finally opening the box to reveal the gift within. At which point considerable conversation would ensue, regarding the story of acquiring the gift, or why it was wanted, or other such things, some related and some not… This was not forced on any of our parts. We liked to draw it out and drink it in. To savor and enjoy all aspects of the process.

After a couple of “rounds” we’d go make breakfast and eat it. Then back to finish up the remainder of the packages. By then it was early afternoon and time to start dinner.

Given what I’ve seen in movies as well as what seems to have been the holiday modus operandi for most people who I’ve come in contact with is to rip into the gifts in a wild frenzy all at once, the whole thing over in half an hour.

That seemed so terribly unsatisfying to us, but our way certainly did seem to be “weird.” We’ve continued a reduced version of it into adulthood, though my husband being one of those who, growing up in a family with 8 kids, came from the ripping frenzy tradition had some adjusting to do. He has been tremendously gracious in adapting and taking part in the full spirit of the thing (though at times he does grow drowsy!). Anyway, he reported similar responses from people when they asked and he told them how we did it — weird!

Then, a few weeks ago I opened a book call Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, the same day I’d received it from Amazon to read this in the Introduction:

“I was number nine out of ten bright, creative, and mostly LOUD kids. My dad, an eccentric genius, had wall-sized speakers in the living room that blared out classical music. When the family sang together, we sang five-part harmonies of the uncompromising Handel’s Messiah. On Christmas Eve, we had a talent show and family service, and later tore into our presents all at once, paper and ribbons flying everywhere and voices crisscrossing the room shouting out “thank you!” and “just what I wanted!” These are happy memories, because there was a part for each of us. But instead of ripping paper and shouting, I sat in my corner with my pile of gifts and handled each as a treasure, slowly and carefully opening them, preserving the paper and lingering in the delight of discovery…..”

Whoa! I was absolutely astounded. There it was. Just what we did, without all the flying paper and yelling!

She went on…

“However, when there were no gifts to open and everyone was competing for airtime, I felt invisible and became overstimulated and anxious. My anxiety was not about the pressure to socialize; there were more than enough bodies to take care of that. I became anxious because I couldn’t think, and, without my own mind, I felt like I was disintegrating. My solution was to retreat to my room and write. In my solitude I could regain contact with myself and become solid again.”

Thankfully I didn’t grow up with nine siblings, but I have certainly felt this sense of being unable to think, especially recently where I’ve had so many things demanding my attention. But the retreating to my room to write and imagine stories… Yes! I couldn’t wait to get home from school and do that. She goes on to say she wrote science fiction (ditto) and developed secret codes (ditto) to share with her sister (I shared with a friend)… the entire introduction continued in this vein, highlighting things about myself I knew existed but had never really recognized as part of introversion. Nor had it ever occurred to me that there were reasons why I was always exhausted after social interactions, even those I enjoyed,  and that it wasn’t because I was bad, or defective or just plain ornery, but part of how God made me to be.

I have been so excited to read both this book and the other one I ordered, The Introvert Advantage, and I hope to share a bit of what I’ve learned from them both this week. The challenge will be to distill the most important bits from the wealth of things I could say about it all.


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