Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Home & Nature

American White Pelican (2008)

by moi

Returning from beautiful, snowy Indiana yesterday I immediately turned on my computer to see what went on in my absence. My Inbox was loaded down with all manner of newsy missives, but the most exciting one of all heralded the return of American White Pelicans to my beloved river. Apparently, there are hundreds on the Elk River, which means Pelican Island around Wheeler Dam on the Tennessee River should have No Vacancies. That's where you'll find me later this week. Today, unpack and do laundry. Later this week I'm going on an adventure.

I've been missing nature and my home. While this move has been necessary - I think - a huge chunk of my being has been placed on hold. Instead of nesting I'm perching, poised to fly at the slightest notice. My nesting materials are all neatly boxed up and put away. My soul craves a Home for my heart, surrounded by my rocks and feathers, flotsam and jetsam from travels, beloved books and treasures collected through the years. Comfort in the familiar, gardens to plant and enjoy, making memories for your children, enjoying grandchildren and listening to the stories your children tell, knowing they were happy in their Home. Home is everything, and nature is a huge part of my Home. My heart.

This holiday season has been blissfully quiet and reflective. We bought less, we ate less (well, sorta) and we stressed less. This is the way Christmas is meant to be, but there is still room for improvement. I hope each and every one of you have a wonderfully quiet and safe and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

"Isn't it funny that at Christmas
something in you gets so lonely for -
I don't know what exactly,
but it's something that you don't mind so much
not having at other times."
Kate L. Bosher

Christmas is hard at our house. I'd simply rather not go through it but feel I must for the sake of my mom and dad. Today, my goal is to write down blessings to share tomorrow morning in hopes that verbalizing them will begin changing the fiber of our family. We'll see if Christmas miracles truly happen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Gift of Happy

(Mute Playlist to hear video)

A good friend sent me a link to this video and asked me to watch it. Amazing shadow puppetry, but beyond the artistry I love the message. My own personal search for Happy this holiday has been very fulfilling. How nice to know that the Gift of Happy can be given by everyone, anyone, by the click of the mouse.

This is a 7:14 video that can be seen on YouTube by clicking HERE.

Here's a snippet of information taken from their YouTube page: "The Gift of Happy is an original holiday story told through shadows. Visit for more info. In the true spirit of giving, AJWright will donate $1 to the Boys & Girls Clubs for each view of this video. This first-of-its-kind film was performed by children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and was made possible through the partnership between AJWright and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Creative services provided by SBC Advertising"

I'm not sure if perusing the video from my blog will actually count so I offer both sources. It's a beautifully done piece and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday Music


I'm missing my holiday tunes. Our stereo is at the lake house for the renters and I've only my iPod and computer to feed my need. Music provides the backdrop of my life so Christmas without stirring Celtic tunes or Michael McDonald's Christmas music or James Taylor's Christmas music or my favorite STING's Christmas music floating on high I feel as though I'm lacking a critical bit of my being.

Because the family never, ever think to get me music for the holidays I always rush out and buy it myself. Sometimes, if I can wait, I'll wrap it up to me from them and put a little "To From" on it to open on Christmas morning. "Thanks, guys! I've been wanting this!" They grin, knowing of my obsession. I simply could not wait for Sting's "If On a Winter's Night" to be released. As Sting says, this isn't Christmas music but winter music. I, too, love winter and this is the perfect music for chilly nights with fireplaces glowing, snapping logs and red embers, hot toddies within reach. Please enjoy this beautifully crafted video and the beauty of Sting's music.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Credo at Christmas

Mooresville, Alabama

Daniel Roselle

At Christmas time I believe the things that children do.
I believe with English children that holly placed in windows will protect our homes from evil.
I believe with Swiss children that the touch of edelweiss will charm a person with love.
I believe with Italian children that La Befana is not an ugly doll but a good fairy who will gladden the heart of all.
I believe with Greek children that coins concealed in freshley baked loaves of bread will bring good luck to anyone who finds them.
I believe with German children that the sight of a Christmas tree will lessen hostility among adults.
I believe with French children that lentils soaked and planted in a bowl will rekindle life in people who have lost hope.

I believe with Dutch children that the horse Sleipner will fly through the sky and fill the earth with joy.
I believe with Swedish children that Jultomte will come and deliver gifts to the poor as well as to the rich.
I believe with Finnish children that parties held on St. Stephen's Day will erase sorrow.
I believe with Danish children that the music of a band playing from a church tower will strengthen humankind.
I believe with Bulgarian children that sparks from a Christmas log will create warmth in human souls.
I believe with American children that the sending of Christmas cards will build friendships.
I believe with all children that there will be peace on earth.

This quote spoke to me deeply this afternoon. After spending a week with my mom, who is convalescing nicely following a cataract procedure, I'm back at the city house preparing for the week ahead. All of our usual holiday decorations from tree to nativity set to ornaments to you name it are in storage. I'm enjoying the change with fresh greenery and candles. We're planning a simple nontraditional meal of beef brisket...just 'cause we like it!

Busying about the house I've been thinking of my daughter who will be leaving for college next year. Recalling Christmas's past and all the joys and happiness, the magic and sweetness. Hence, the quote. I've nothing profound to add or say today but wanted to update and touch base with everyone. Have a lovely week.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Front Door

"Mail your packages early so the post office
can lose them in time for Christmas."

Johnny Carson

Perusing the world wide web for humorous quotes about holiday mail service I only found this one. Personally, I've found the postal service, and other delivery services, to be very efficient over the holidays. Shopping online is common in our home for the sheer convenience of sending to family far away and never once has a package arrived late. Well, that's not true. From time to time it's happened - not by fault of the delivery service but of the shopper - me. I tend to procrastinate when I'm not quite sure what I want to give.

While I enjoy the Act of Giving it's only truly special when the gift is absolutely perfect for that person. My husband is the King Of Christmas Eve Shopping, but I can't do that. I collect all year long. When I see THE PERFECT GIFT for that special person I buy it, hide it, and have the joy of expectation for a long time. Heartfelt gift giving doesn't have to cost a lot. In fact, it's best when it doesn't. It's also best when it's very personal to the recipient. For me, it's really more fun when I stumble upon that PERFECT GIFT in a shop and I touch it, feel it, smell it.

The Internet is filled with easy answers to holiday shortcuts. Want a letter to Santa? Download it here! Send your e-holiday-cards - click here! That kind of ticky tacky holiday stuff is just as smarmy as those horrid blow-up Christmas blobs that are showing up everywhere. The Plasticing of Christmas. Christmas Commercialization at its worst. (*Ed Note: IMHO)

Rant aside, I must say that I'm enjoying the peace and tranquility of a Christmas devoid of shopping and planning. The simple greenery smells wonderful, the little star softly glows, the house is quiet, the handmade cards are mailed, all is calm, all is bright.

My wish for you and yours is a soft, peaceful, glowing season of love, laughter and the things that really matter in life. Blessings to all.

P.S. I'll bet you can pick out the banner shot in that last photo!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cute little house in Mooresville, Alabama

"I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day.
We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and
humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my
Christmas a little at a time, all through the year.
And thus I drift along into the holidays -
let them overtake me unexpectedly -
waking up some find morning and suddenly saying to myself:
"Why, this is Christmas Day!"

David Grayson

The gray, misty Sunday was perfect for seeking holiday happiness. Surprisingly, and amazingly, I wanted to experience Christmas among people yesterday. Driving down to the local Christmas tree corner stand I purchased some cut off branches from a Frasier Fir tree and enjoyed a brisk, happy conversation with the owner who hails from Boone, North Carolina. North Carolina is one of my favorite states, from the Smoky Mountains (that actually straddle the Tennessee/North Carolina border) to its wild, beautiful beaches North Carolina has been my family's vacation destination for decades. Talking to this gentleman, whose eyes twinkled at my enjoyment of his home state, made me long for a lengthy, meandering road trip to North Carolina and back. A long weekend immersing myself in that culture, that beauty. But, I digress...

Fir branches tucked in the hatchback I head for the bookstore and other stores along a popular strip mall. Am I nuts? Decidedly. Walking into Pier 1 a cheerful girl asked if she could help me find what I'm looking for. "I'm looking for HAPPY!", I told her. I found it yesterday in the simple joy of people bustling about, which is what I needed to experience.....just for a bit.

I hope each and every one of you finds your own Happy ... not just this holiday season but every day of your lives.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Virgin of Guadalupe Cajun Gumbo Christmas Party

Oh Come Let Us Adore.....Her?
Even Yogi, the Corgi, wanted his time with this sweet baby!

Last night hubby and I attended the 7th Annual Virgin of Guadalupe Cajun Gumbo Christmas Party hosted by our good friends, Mike and Cathy. This dinner party is the highlight of my holiday. This year we welcomed a new member into the fold - the lovely 7 month old Matilda Elizabeth, who goes by the less-wieldy moniker, Milla. Clearly, Milla stole the show.

Milla and I admire the beautiful Christmas tree.

Heading home in her stylin' owl hat
(all photos compliments of our host, Mike)

The evening was perfect and simple, warm and affectionate. There was a fire in the fireplace, pretty lights and candles everywhere, soft music playing, gentle laughter and murmuring conversations. The smell of gumbo simmering perfectly complemented the scent of evergreen. Glowing candles, glowing cheeks, glowing hearts. This is Christmas.

"Christmas is the season for kindling
the fire of hospitality in the hall,
the genial flame of charity in the heart."

Washington Irving

Last night was the inspiration I needed. Today, I shop for evergreen sprigs for the mantel, and maybe even some lights and candles. I'm missing music the most and vow to make some changes in that arena. Maybe that new Bose system, eh? LOL! Merry Christmas, ya'll!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Memories

See the little wreath on the old shed?

"To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world."

Calvin Coolidge

Presidential message December 25, 1927

I dreamed about this and woke up thinking about it this morning, so it's like I am driven to write this post!

The majority of my working life was spent in local television whereupon a major duty that befell to me was directing the city's Christmas parade. It was this one task that at first overwhelmed until the process was recreated into something more like a science. Over the course of my 16 year directorship we became a well-oiled machine. One team consisted of volunteers from all walks of life - police department, fire and ambulance services, veterinarians, ham radio operators, retirees, and school systems among others. The television crew was headed by one amazing guy named Tim and consisted of coworkers in television - the production crew, engineering, news team, promotions, managers and anyone who I could snag in the hallways and beg. I loved those people, the volunteers and the crew!

Arriving pre-dawn at the staging site I would check in with production to say my "howdies" and drop off some hot biscuits. They would be cheerfully setting up cameras and microphones to record the event for playback, wreaths and greenery bedecking the production stand, Santa hats on their heads, holiday music playing, songs in their hearts. (...maybe a few early morning grumbles!)

Soon afterward volunteers came to the hospitality breakfast, Santa hats and Christmas sweatshirts on, bells on strings around their necks, candy cane earrings and Rudolph pins on their jackets, bright red clipboards and jingle bells on their shoe laces, smiles on their faces.

Before long the floats and bands and horses and marching units began arriving to seek out their position numbers marked along the staging area curbing. The constantly changing colors, laughter, music, decorations and themes were so festive and joyful! Children laughing with rosy cheeks in the chill; adults exhibiting all manner of courtesies and kindnesses. The Christmas Spirit was palpable and true. This was the real deal.

The parade would take all day from setting up and staging, meandering slowly through town over a 2 mile course, then dismantling floats and units, cooling down and loading up horses, observers and participants leaving for home. There was so much traffic, literally a sea of humanity, hustling and bustling, yet everyone was polite and courteous. (...for the most part!)

As the parade ended our volunteer and crew hospitality suite in the nearby hotel would begin where we would all sit and share stories of the day's event, sipping various libations and scarfing down sustenance. Yes, it was lots of work and everyone was exhausted but happy. Very happy. Naturally happy that the event was completed and successful, but even more than that. All that happiness and joy, merriment and song, festive feelings and warm, genuine caring all in one place was like an effusion of glee into your soul. One could not have been there and not felt the true meaning of Christmas because our hearts were bathed in its spirit.

It was a time in my life that I'll never, ever forget and for which I'll always be thankful. I just didn't know it at the time.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Expectations 'n Comparisons

Belle Mina United Methodist Church
Decked out for the holidays, 2009

"In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season;
the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church;
the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue;
the atheists went to parties and drank.
People passing each other on the street would say
'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!'
or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'"

Dave Barry
"Christmas Shopping: A Survivor's Guide"

Finally made it back to Belle Mina to photograph the old church in its Christmas finery. Well, frankly, I was a little disappointed. Plastic wreaths with bright red bows. Not quite what I'd seen in the past and expected upon my return journey. I mean, this is a historic church so, like, I was thinking fresh greenery, fruits, etc. Bows are okay, but ... well, you know...I expected something quite different from what I got. There was no lingering in Belle Mina. Jumping in the car I drove about 15 minutes to Mooresville where my expectations of historically appropriate decorations was satisfied in spades.

Pondering this post I was thinking about expectations and the holidays. I cause my own holiday angst each year. The Norman Rockwell scenes of Christmas with loving family members, the holiday movies that always end happy, gloriously and beautifully scored with Christmas music, the Martha Stewart Perfect Feasts and Decorations that glitter warmly and bathe each scene in warm and cozy light. The cherubic children filmed or photographed all wonderfully appreciative and loving and caring and happy. Picturesque homes, perfectly decorated inside and outside, holiday music mingling with the scent of perfectly baked fudge and divinity, pies and turkeys. All of it lovely of course, make no mistake.

However, that's what for years I tried to be - to do - to offer, never mind the realities of life. I mean, there are people who actually DO this stuff! Their houses always look like something that belong in a magazine, and their menus and holiday party announcements are posted in the local newspaper.

Comparisons and Expectations are a dangerous thing. I'm no Sally Social, preferring a quiet, peaceful, simple gathering of family. But I Expect more of myself and Compare myself to the Sally Social's in the newspapers and magazines, Cooking Channel, and everywhere else.

Cancel! Cancel! Cancel! I shall not make comparisons this year! I will NOT exhaust myself with cleaning and decorating and cooking lavish (unappreciated) feasts! I vow to embrace my simplicity and nurturing nature! Bring on the holiday without a tree! Make imperfect fudge! (if at all) Live for the moment; cherish what I have; bring on the eggnog in its unadorned carton from the grocery store! No more homemade biscotti! (...well, I might just have to do that one...) Make new, simpler traditions that are heartfelt - NOT trying to keep up with the Joneses!

Those adornments were always for ME. My family wasn't putting the stress of performing onto me - they couldn't have cared less. It was me wanting to build family traditions, me who wanted the perfect holiday snapshot, it was me wanting the dinner and decorations to be perfect, it was me all along.

Since making the decision to go simple this year - so far only stockings on the mantle and only because the nails were already there - my blood pressure has remained low. I'm enjoying being free from my own expectations and comparisons. It's liberating and healthy. Why didn't I see this sooner? As the season progresses fresh greenery may appear on the mantle, and perhaps some candles to light on Christmas Eve. I think a little holiday Cognac may be in order. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Have a marvelous, peaceful season everyone!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little house in Mooresville, Alabama

"What is Christmas?

It is tenderness for the past,
courage for the present,
hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that
every cup may overflow
with blessings rich and eternal,
and that every path may lead
to peace."

~ Agnes M. Pahro

Peace sounds good about now. "Blessings rich and eternal" perfectly phrases my thoughts today about Christmas. If we could all just sit still that day in quiet repose and reflect on our blessings, count each one, write them down on a piece of paper and recite them to our loved ones - I believe our individual worlds would shift and each of us would feel rich and loved and blessed beyond all imaginings.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cute little road signs in Mooresville, all decked out for the holiday!

"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season,

that very special time of year when we join with our
loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions
such as trying to find a parking space at the mall.
We traditionally do this in my family by driving
around the parking lot until we see
a shopper emerge from the mall,
then we follow her, in very much the same spirit
as the Three Wise Men,
who 2,000 years ago followed a star,
week after week, until it led them to a parking space."

Dave Barry

I hate, hate, hate Christmas shopping. No way will I trudge to a mall and fight the crowds to save a buck....or so they want you to believe. Anyone here old enough to remember The Waltons? One scene in the original movie has stayed with me - the kids slipped out at night, dashing through the snowy fields to town because a lady was bringing toys for the children as a charity drive during this depression time. They defied their parent's wishes to do so because they were so anxious for "store bought" Christmas presents. When each received their present - only after having to recite a Bible verse - from the lady they dashed away in glee to open them. Their faces told the story. The presents were cast-off toys, broken and torn. The youngest girl's present was a doll, one eye missing. She screamed - the magic was broken. The toys were dumped into the snow and the children walked slowly back home.

The season isn't meant for banality, but for heartfelt moments, love of family and friends, giving and sharing. This year I'm reaching back into my heart to find those emotions I shut off long ago. Innocence and simplicity, love and light. Magic.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Countdown

Church of Christ
Mooresville, Alabama
Built 1854

This year my family will not be decorating for the holidays. Well, let me be even more specific, I - myself - me - my personage will not be decorating for the holidays. Some greenery may appear on the mantle, perhaps a candle or two but beyond that, nada. I've not taken emotional ownership of the city house and look forward to returning to my house on the lake and the Giraffe Head Tree. I don't think of this as pouting or whining, or even being in denial. Instead, I consider this to be a frugal and energy-saving step on my part. Instead of concentrating on decorations and gift-wrapping my goal this year is to concentrate on the real meaning of the season which has less to do with Santa and gifts and consumerism than with spirit, caring and sharing.

As a child, in my household, it was all about the baby Jesus. It was a time for family, reconnections, reflection, Spirit. The family watched every Christmas movie and special on television together. My favorites were The Little Match Girl and Charlie Brown Christmas. Favorite Christmas Movie? "White Christmas," of course! I still love it! My mom still puts out the same little paper mache creche that adorned our home long ago. My grandfather gave us a set of bubble lights for the tree which, to me, were magical. The entire event was magical. Animals talking at midnight, holiday carols on the little radio playing as the house filled with scents of tangerines, fudge, divinity and pies. Those were special days. When my daughter was younger I pulled forth those memories and tried to recreate them in my own home. She loved it as much as I did. These days she doesn't have time for such "foolishness," and hubby doesn't much like it so I'm going to rest and recuperate and rethink things.

However, I decided this morning that I do need some sort of holiday cheer in some fashion. So, my blog will be my holiday outlet - lucky you! Recently, I took some photos of Mooresville all dressed up with greenery and fruits and bows. I'll post a photo a day, and will head into surrounding burgs to snap more holiday shots to share along with some poetry or prose. I hope you enjoy these as we count down to Christmas.

Merry Christmas, ya'll. (a little southernism to entertain you!)

The Giraffe Head Tree

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just Playin' Around

My good friend Eve at Sunny Side Up recommended a new lens for my kit - a 50mm 1:1.4, which is perfect for low light situations. I was worried about taking portraits at the Bar Mitzvah, in a small synagogue I've never seen, so during lunch one day she suggested I check it out. Not only did I check it out but I ordered one that very day! Turns out I didn't need this lens for that situation but I'm really happy to have it. Yesterday was the first day I allowed myself to go outside and play with it.

The dried flowers of this sedum had ice captured among the bits and pieces, much like icing dribbled on a cookie. It's dusk now, nearly "dark thirty." Getting a shot from the top is easy and predictable so I bent over and shot upward as much as my body would allow.

A very good friend of mine doesn't enjoy photos with Bokeh, but I love, love, love shots that are surreal and make you wonder. They sort of give your eye and brain something to do while gazing at the photo.

I went completely bonkers playing around.

In the end I enjoyed each and every photo, but also knew that you would appreciate seeing only a few (maybe) (if that). Playing is good for the soul and body, mind and spirit. Without play, random meandering down roads not taken, discoveries and adventures, life would be quite dull. So I say to you GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY!!!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snow? In Alabama?

Yes, Eve...I can believe you! Just last night hubby and I were dining with friends and they told us about the forecast. Yeah, right. Sure. Uh huh. There'll be snow in Alabama AND snow in Houston, Texas. Uh huh. And I've got a bridge I wanna sell ya. Well, yee haw buddy 'cause we woke to SNOW on the GROUND.

Baylee romped and bounded and sniffed and snuffled.

This is looking in the general direction toward's Eve's house far away in Grant. Hello, Eve! To look in Daniel's direction isn't nearly as nice a shot, sorry Daniel. Fortunately for us Southerners, the snow is due to melt soon. There's no ice so driving to run errands later will be easy peesy.

Happy Snow....for now!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Parting Shots

I begin by telling you how special this occasion was to me. It wasn't my son nor am I Jewish but the warmth and love of everything touched me deeply during this, my cousin-in-law's (and wife's) middle son's Bar Mitzvah. This was a beautiful ceremony and reception - lavish and fun, traditional and contemporary, solemn and boisterous. There were Jewish elders in traditional wear sitting next to teenage girls in brightly colored party dresses. Rock and roll music was the backdrop to traditional toasts and prayers. Some of my favorite shots, as usual, are of the small details.

Torah scrolls

The Hebrew that Jordan read.

Lavish decorations adorned the Torah covering.

Outside, this bell hung from a tree.

Flatware at the reception

My favorite photo of all.


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