30 November 2014

And So November Ends

I am always surprised when it's the last day of November.  I'm not sure why, since Thanksgiving - even if not as close as this year - is often at the end of the month, and one of my sisters' birthdays is the 29th, so I know the next day is the only day left in the month.

Maybe it's because I like November.  It's usually the month when the cool and crisp of autumn starts working its way to the cold of December.  When people actually start to think of others, reminded that Thanksgiving is on the way, and that all of us have *something* to be thankful for.  In our house, there's also The Tim's birthday, so there is birthday cake to be followed by pumpkin pie a week or so later!

And then, Thanksgiving itself - a holiday that I feel is the coziest of them all.  When the whole idea is to stay put and enjoy the day (even though some feel the need to go shopping), and it's OK to eat  more than you might on any other day.  I am fortunate, since for me it's almost always a four-day weekend, so I am able to enjoy relaxing but also accomplish some things, without feeling rushed.

This year, as happens often, the last Sunday of November is also the first Sunday of Advent.  I am not the most devoutly religious person on earth, though I do have strong beliefs, and consider myself to be very spiritual.  I love Advent; the word itself is defined as "the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event,"  and I think anticipation is one of the most exciting things that anyone can experience. Advent is just that for so many.  Waiting for the arrival of the Savior for some; for a bicycle for others; for a family gathering that is way overdue for many - whether they are about the "real" meaning of Christmas or not, I think they all are.  Advent and Christmastime can be what you want them to be, regardless of their origins in any given culture.

Just as some people scoff at thankfulness at Thanksgiving, because they "don't need a day to be thankful" they are thankful all year, etc., people discount this time of year as being too commercial, too consumer-oriented, etc.

I believe that yes, we should be thankful all year, but sometimes that  is harder than others, so if there is a day to make us stop and reflect, that can't be a bad thing.  And for those who decry commercialism, consumerism, and the "secularization" of this time of year, I would like to point out that everyone has a choice of the way they choose to observe it.  Though we may be surrounded by things we do not agree with, that is the case all of the time.

Holidays - all of them - are what you make it, or what you want to make it.  I choose to ignore the grumblers and do what I want to do.

And so today, I am extremely excited that Advent has arrived.  So much hope, so much expectation, so much chance for light at a dark time of the year.  May your Advent season be a happy one, regardless of what "notable person, thing, or event" is the one you await.

O Come O Come Emmanuel*

(*click to listen)

27 November 2014

A Special Day of Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours!

I hope that whether you are having a quiet day at home, or a busy day with friends and family, that you will enjoy this holiday and the blessings that we all have.

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it 
is like wrapping a present and not giving it"
-- William Arthur Ward

24 November 2014

Thanksgiving Monday 2014

This week is Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., one of my favorite holidays.  I like it because I like to eat, and Thanksgiving is all about food (stuffing! potatoes! pie!), but also because it is a cozy holiday, when staying home and just relaxing is an OK thing to do.  Since The Tim works the day before and the day after, we stay put and enjoy the day with Dug and the kitties.  I love it because there is no particular "schedule," and The Tim gets to enjoy a quiet day before the onslaught of holiday schedules and such at work.

Today, though, is always a day that makes me stop and think.  The date is a "before and after" date for me, and the fact that it is also the Monday of Thanksgiving week makes it more so.  Because at approximately 10:30 p.m., on this day of the week, on this date, in the year 1969, my father died.  He had liver cancer, and had more or less been in a coma for several days.  He would never ever get well, and to be honest, I was praying that he would die so that he could stop suffering.  My mother had already taken me to see him a few weeks before so that I could say goodbye, and for so many reasons, it was awful.

And even though I knew he was dying, and even wanted him to be relieved of his suffering, it was still a surprise when he actually did die.  It was the first time in my life that someone I knew intimately, and loved dearly, would die.  It was terribly sad, and there are few days that go by, even 45 years later, when I don't think of him.

Ten years ago, on another Thanksgiving Monday, dated November 24, my doctor had sent me to have tests prior to having a biopsy to examine a "suspicious" finding on my most recent mammogram.  As soon as the nurse told me that was the date for my tests, I knew that it would be likely that I would have cancer.  Not that I am a fatalist, but I just felt that since it was all happening on that day, I would know the answer before anything else had occurred.  I wasn't wrong.  Unlike my father though - and years later, my mother - I was living in a time and place where cancer was no longer something to be ashamed of, and where there were doctors who studied nothing else.  I was, and am, lucky.

When people learn that my father died when I was so young, they always feel sorry for me.  Which I do understand, though it is not necessary.  I have incredibly clear, wonderful, happy memories of him and of time we got to spend together.  I have his enthusiasm (some would say that is a mild term to use) for the holidays, and though I always wish we could have spent more of them together, he is always closest to me during this time of year.

Most importantly, I learned at a young age that no one lives forever.  That it is possible to continue to live when others die.  That you should appreciate people while they are still with you, even if they drive you crazy, or you disagree, or you assume they will always be around because they are not sick.  That you should enjoy things as much as you can, because your happiness is as much your responsibility as it is what is going on around you.  That even terrible things that happen are worth being thankful for, since feelings mean you are stilll around to care.

So here I am on this bittersweet day, being happy that it's Thanksgiving week, and getting ready to make stuffing the way my father did.  Missing him, but knowing that he is right here, just like he has been my entire life.

~My dad as a young man, in his backyard~

Have a wonderful week and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

21 November 2014

Five Favorites for This Friday

Admittedly, this week is an easy one, since it was a great week overall.  But it still counts, even if you don't have to dig deep for things that made you happy, right?

1.  Last weekend, we were in Baltimore visiting family.  Perfect weather, and we got to see nearly everyone, and had a blast.

2.  As part of that weekend, we went to a performance by Hot Rize,   One of the members, Tim O'Brien, is a guy I was in elementary school with (he later went to a different high school), a few years ahead of me.  Then later on, my brother-in-law became his father's law partner.  The show was great!

3.  Monday evening, we went to an installment of the Authors Series at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and got to see/hear Alan Cumming, who is one of my favorite actors and people!  He was talking about his new book, Not My Father's Son.  He was so engaging, I think it must be fun to actually know him.

4. Tuesday was The Tim's birthday.  Both of us took the day off work, and we had a fun, relaxing day, topped off with trying a new restaurant for dinner, and of course, presents and birthday cake!  The only down side, according to him, is that now for the next four months, we will be the same age, and he doesn't like that, since I'm "old."

5.  Kim received the package I sent her in a swap, while I received an amazing package from Alyssa.  (I'll post about that with pictures separately.)  Kim seemed really pleased with her things, and I was blown away by my package.

Life is especially good sometimes, you know?

Have a wonderful weekend!

14 November 2014

Five Favorites for This Friday

This has been an iffy week, so I decided that even more than usual, I needed to sit down and think about good things.  Then I realized that it's been a long time since I did one of these posts, and I enjoy writing them, as well as hearing others' thoughts in the comments.

So it's time to forget the bad and enjoy the good!

1.  The weather has finally gotten cold.  Yes, I know I am the only one who is happy about this, but I love cold weather, it *is* November after all!

2.  My knitting has been off-kilter lately - I have had a hard time focusing on anything, and have been feeling so disconnected from it.  But the past few nights, I've worked on a couple of gift things, and it's made me so happy!  I think it is helping that I'm reading Knitting Yarns by Ann Hood, and enjoying that as well.

3.  The Tim made some yummy cranberry bread the other day, and every day I have been taking a slice to work to have with a cup of tea on my morning break.

4.  Pip has decided - at least for now - that sleeping right next to me under the covers at night is the best.  He is so cuddly!

5.  Mashed potatoes.  Do I really need to say more?

What about you?  Have there been any favorites for you this week?

Enjoy the weekend!

The Tim bought me this mug** a few weeks ago,
and though this is not the best photo,
LOOK - knitting!

**They have these mugs at Barnes & Noble, if you want one for your very own self.  :-)

06 November 2014

Fun Saturday #2

Hmmm ... I started this post the other night, but then the pictures weren't edited, so it all got delayed ... anyway ...


Not to be outdone by Fun Saturday #1, today I bring you another one.  The funny thing is, it was the weekend after the first one, which is of course the way it works.  You sit around for months not doing much, and then everything happens in a few weeks!

Anyway, on the weekend of October 18, my niece Amanda and her husband Pat visited from Baltimore.  We always have a good time with them, and they are always up for any adventure.  The Tim decided that we should all go on a visit to Winterthur.  We had been there once years ago, for their Christmastime display (amazing and beautiful), but not since.  And they currently have a special exhibit of some of the costumes from the TV series "Downton Abbey."   Since we watch it, and knew that Amanda and Pat were big fans, it seemed like a good idea for an outing.

As luck would have it, the day was one of those fall days you think only exists in the movies - sunny, crisp, with the slightest breeze but not too cool and not too hot.  We had a wonderful time, enjoying the outdoor spaces as much as the indoor ones.

Hopefully, these pictures will give you an idea of the place.

From left to right:  Pat, Amanda, The Tim

Story stones in the Childrens' Fairy Garden

Fairy House chandelier

Pat and The Tim in the bird's nest in the Fairy Garden

Wall around the pool

And then, the inside of the house, including the conservatory and its ceiling - it's always hard for me to believe that people just lived in these places, you know, like a "regular house" ...

As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The rich are different than you and me."  I think he was on to something there.  :-)

The Downton Abbey costumes will be in another post (whenever I get to editing those pictures), so stay tuned!