Thursday, December 23, 2010


What lore has Santa left you?

Are the holidays for you a cautionary tale, or do you subscribe to cheer and revelry all the way? Is your story filled with highs and lows? Do you yet seek that storybook ending?

My kids are on the cusp of leaving their first Santa beliefs behind, although I’m not sure I ever will. At worst my oldest tries to submarine the views of my youngest, but not overtly. At best, they ask pointed questions.

I steadfastly and repeatedly respond, “If you believe, then he will come.” Very field of dreams of me, I admit.

I may never face the facts as presented to me when I was six — angrily and with more than a hint of “Got ya!” by my sister. She was mad at me because she had chicken pox, and I didn’t — yet.

So that brings me to my next question, “Do your early holiday experiences set the stage for life, or at some point, do you become your own director?”

Surly the answer is the latter, but there are some childhood memories that cut such a deep gully in our gut, they never totally dry up — good or bad, and they almost always center around the holidays. I still call my childhood friend most years just after "present opening hour" to say, "What'd ya get?" just like I did when we were 10 and living two meters apart. I'm not totally certain she realizes why I do that. But it makes my day.

For me the holidays reflect differently depending on what pool of life I’ve been swimming in.

This year is a little strained, and I’ve been sort of surfing through the necessary Santa-like steps without much vigor. In recent years we’ve been surrounded by a flurry of activity, friends and family, and this year we’re on our own. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not what the holidays have come to mean to me.

I like a good crowd. And people don’t think I relax enough when the house is full, but that’s the way I like it. A full to over-flowing house, and me somewhere in the middle of the mix doin’ my thing. This makes me happy. Relaxing really isn’t how I roll much, anyway.

So I’m trying to wrap my misgivings around a new perspective. We’re doing things differently this year, and I’m curious about how I’ll feel — happy or sad — through it all.

My Aunt Wendy told me once she keeps her Christmas music in her car year-round, because it makes her happy. I love that idea. In fact, each year I seem to buy a new Christmas song book to play on the piano or guitar, but I don’t really get motivated much before Thanksgiving to begin playing.

But I could be anywhere, and when one of the songs comes on from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, I stop and listen. For a while I did public relations for a ballet company. As crazy as it was, I never tired of the music or watching the glitz and the glitter from all angles on stage during Nutcracker season. And then later the same came true for me at Great Lakes Theater Festival during A Christmas Carol. Time spent in the theatre was and is magical — anytime, but especially at Christmas time.

My dad passed away just before Christmas. This evokes such sad memories, but also it was his favorite time of year, even though he may’ve never admitted it. I like to remember him surrounded by family and his favorite holiday fare. Maybe this is where I get my inkling to by surrounded. Maybe that's my dad's legacy.

And now my oldest daughter Zoe shares my love for all things theatre and Nutcracker. She was lucky enough to perform with The Washington Ballet while we lived in DC. She told me today, "I was in Act 1, scene six, mom." Wow. She could probably pull out the exact stanza of her entrance, too. I'm pretty certain these memories are sure enough to shape her future holidays.

So maybe that’s a large part of the answer. Our memories comprise our internal almanac, which forecast weather based on historic outlook. In other words, we may never truly be free of Santa’s early legacy, but we are fully capable of creating memories of our own design for years to come.

Here's to you and yours. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


It’s a rush.

Finding out your change of station destination is that same breath-taking moment when you reach the pinnacle of a really rockin' rollercoaster. The wave of emotion swiftly rolls through — and then you open your mouth to smile, scream, cry, laugh, or just breathe.

And then the ride’s over. All that waiting in line, and the moment is just that — a moment. Now you know. Time to look at the picture and to process.

For us, we’re returning next year to England, where our third child was born in 2002.

A friend recently asked me, not exactly but essentially, if I had one period of time to do over — like an extended Groundhog Day, what would it be?

The very next day, we learned we are slated to return to Mildenhall, where we lived in and around from 2002-2006. I immediately remembered that question.

It’s not a do-over, though; nothing of the sort. Our initial stay was the first time we lived overseas. Our children were infants. Our experiences were from a different perspective. Our years were filled with extreme highs and lows, never to repeat.

Little vignettes from those years keep playing through my mind. Memories, along with thoughts of friends made and lost, and lessons learned — all give me pause.

So it’s sort of like going home again. But you never truly go home, or go back, although certain places do feel more like home than others. For us, England is one of those places, for reasons both complex and simple.

For now, I’ll savor the thrill of knowing, and b-r-e-a-t-h-e into the next forward motion.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I remember years ago when we lived in San Antonio I wrote a piece around this time of year about the Salvation Army bell ringers I passed each day on my way to work at the San Antonio Symphony. The offices were right in the heart of downtown next to the Majestic Theatre, and I passed many an opportunity to give in my to-ing and fro-ing each day.

I was perplexed by how often/how much, when and which bell ringer I might give my spare change. Because how often do you drop into the bucket? How much is enough? What if my pockets are empty? Will the ringer remember me tomorrow when I walk by his bucket and bell without dropping anything inside?

I still struggle each year with giving choices. Now that the children are in school and extracurricular activities, the opportunities to contribute have grown, as well as, perhaps the meaning. I hope my kids grow up with charity in their hearts and minds, so I make an effort to involve them, as well.

I enjoy giving, and I enjoy feeling a part of the community and actively involving the family in the larger picture during this time of largess. I guess I’ve never gotten comfortable with having to choose between all the worthy causes, and my budgetary limitations.

Nowadays, I'd like to find something in which we all participate each year, and make it a family tradition. I need to be creative, though, because we move enough to make this somewhat of a challenge.

I don't like disappointing anyone. And the holidays are a time when we all (at least many of us?) wish to brighten someone's day. My nearest and dearest might say in my effort not to disappoint even one, I end up falling short for all, or at least feeling that way.


My mother says guilt is a wasted emotion. If that’s true, then I waste a lot of time feeling guilty. In fact, If I could be more frugal with my wastefulness, both in time and money, then maybe I could also be more free to give...