Category Archives: Holidays

How to be “less busy.”

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The tune flooded into my ear buds and I slowed my pace from a run to a walk.

A slow walk, I was huffing and breathing as the sounds of Judy Garland reached my ears. She started to sing, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Let your heart be light.”

The sun was setting. It was falling beneath a hill, just trying so anxiously to keep its head up past 5:30pm. Two silhouettes tumbled over the hill. I never would have noticed them if I hadn’t slowed down enough to walk and look around. It was a guy and girl. He was sitting in a motorized wheelchair and she was sitting in his lap. A fleece blanket was wrapped around her and that guy was holding her so tightly as if tell the world, “I know what I have and I am holding it tightly.”

The two barreled down the hill. They were laughing wildly and I couldn’t hear the words coming out from their mouths. As I walked past them, they both looked at me. They paused their laughter and looked at me in the eyes– as if they were both saying, “Come into our moment. There is room for you, too.”

The girl was grinning ear-to-ear and I bet she had her father’s smile. The guy’s mouth was agape. He was missing two front teeth and the rest of them were gold. Together, they went on laughing and rolling down the hill in their motorized wheelchair.

I watched them go on their way as the words continued to play in my ears, “from now on, our troubles will be miles away…”

I thought about the two of them the whole way home.

I thought about how I could have missed that moment– that beautiful and rare moment when you get to witness two people loving each other so fluidly. I thought about how perfect it was and I am still wondering: did they know how perfect it was? Do we know a perfect moment when we have it in our hands? No crying. No fighting. No broken dishes. Just laughter and the chance to be young and in love.

 

These are the things I miss when I am busy.

I say I want to be “less busy” but I forget that “less busy” is something you must train yourself to be. I think, these are the things I don’t see when I am trying just so hard to reach the next best thing. These are all the reasons why November shows up and I don’t know how to handle her. I don’t know how to handle her pauses. Her hopes that I’ll show gratitude. Her patience towards me when I want to keep hustling and she’s just fine to stand in the corner– letting me rip the days of her off the calendar– and only say once in all her 31 days, “You’re going to miss me when I am gone. I am the introduction to your most favorite season. And you’re going to miss me if you don’t look up, girl. Looking up is the whole point.”

Looking up is the whole point to this time of year.

Judy kept singing as I walked up the hill, sat on my porch and waited for the moon to hang and make the night jealous. I kept hitting repeat on that song– my favorite Christmas ballad– just so I could hear those two lines sung over and over again, “Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.”

There it is, I think to myself, as if I can place a finger down on how this season makes me feel: it makes me feel hopeful. It makes me feel like the world is okay. And humanity is working somehow. And yet, I am sad. I am sad because all the songs are saying this should be the happiest time of the year. And yet, life didn’t get perfect just because November came. And the songs that trace the radio always seem to remind me: people pass away. Life goes too quick. People pass away and they stop calling you to ask if you’ve noticed the lights yet this year.

I want to live in a world where we always remember to go and see the lights.

It’s as if the air gets colder and we start saying things we never thought to say when the sunscreen was out– “I miss you. And I wish you were here. And why can’t you just be here? It’s not fair. It makes no sense. Are you doing ok? I hope you are doing ok. Life is fine. It’s good, even. But I don’t miss you any less.

There is someone I still want to call up and say, “Listen, I don’t even care where you are. It could be ten thousand miles away from me and I’d be okay with that, as long as I could still call you from time to time and hear your voice. I just want to hear you tell me you’ve been okay this whole time. Tell me dying didn’t hurt you. Tell me you’ve been laughing and you’ve been okay and yes, you managed to find some time to see the lights.”

Truth told: I wanted to started this whole piece by writing, “This is a piece about nothing and everything– all at the same time.” That is just how I feel about life these days.

I mean, there are moments when we swear we have everything we want. We are happy. We are invincible. We are seeing things so clearly. And then there are moments when we realize we are nothing. We are small– just flecks. And this whole thing passes us by so quickly. This whole thing slips from our fingers and we lose people before we are ready to let them go. We shake our fists at a God who makes us attend funerals for the people who made us feel like the only thing spinning in their orbit. And then we move on. Because there’s really nothing more we can do but go on living like time would be up for us too some day.

 

This piece is about everything and nothing at all.

It’s as much about that as it is about a night that happened a few weeks ago. It was me and two friends. The coffee shop with the pretty orange stools lined up by the ceiling-high windows closed at ten and we were still talking. The night was still young for us.

We picked up our bags, shoveled laptops into their cases, and walked to a bar across the street. It was the day I got a package in the mail full of two-dozen books. My book. Printed. Bound. “Galley proofs,” as they call them in the industry.

“This girl has a book,” my friend announced to the bartender as he took our order. “It’s a real book and it’ll be out in March!”

The bartender just looked as us strangely while my friend held the book high in the air and I just wanted to whisper, “I wrote that thing. He’s holding all the proof in my little world that I was capable of getting my heart out of my chest long enough to wrestle it down to a page.”

The bartender looked at us as though he thought life was going to disappoint us more eventually. For now, we were untouchable. I ordered a margarita. We split queso dip. And somehow, someway, I just started reading the book aloud. A few sentences. Then a few pages. We were laughing. We were crying. My voice was trembling. And one point, one of the boys paused and looked at me from across the table with tears in his eyes.

“It’s only cold air and songs,” he told me. “Those are the only things that make feel the way your words do.” Cold air and songs. I thought, that is the loveliest compliment I’ve ever heard.

“We’re going to remember this,” he said, snapping the somber moment in two. He motioned us all to take our drinks and hold them high to the air. “Years from now, I know I won’t remember everything but I am going to remember this night. I am always going to remember being here.”

We clinked our glasses together. If I had a photographic memory I would have snapped, snapped and chosen to keep that pile of seconds forever.

You’re right, I thought in my head as we set the glasses down on the table. You’re right, I thought again as I opened my car door and got inside just a few minutes later, waiting for the heat to trickle into the Camry.

You’re right, I will remember this too. I’ll remember that our phones didn’t sit on the table. We weren’t checking tweets. We were just completely here in a world that makes me feel us feel like we always need to be somewhere else. We were just as we are– young, and hopeless, and hopeful and here.

And it’s true– another season will come through. And we’ll get a little older. Some of us will make it. Some of us won’t. There will be more celebrations. There will be more funerals. There will be more parties, and black tights, and clinking glasses. They’ll be more gold and people who make us feel like falling in love and chunky wool sweaters. We’ll claim to be a little busier. We’ll promise to get a little slower.

Life will keep unraveling. It’ll keep coming. But, for now, I like to think we have it good. It feels good right now, like that moment when you are sitting in an empty coffee shop on a Thursday night and someone comes and opens their computer right beside you. And suddenly your shoulders relax and you breathe out and you feel less alone because they showed up.

That’s just how it feels to me. It might not be perfect. It might never be perfect. But it’s good and we’re here. And it makes me feel like I should call someone up tonight. I should call someone up tonight and ask them before it’s too late: “Hey, have you gotten a chance to see the lights this year?”

 

photo cred.

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I want to say I didn’t miss the bells.

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“So sorry you missed Christmas– just sending a belated holiday wish! Good luck in St. Louis. You will be a smashing success!

Much love, Mom--”

I found the letter tucked in the side of my carry-on bag while waiting in the gate for a connecting flight. Little snowmen adorned the front of the envelope. The scribbles were familiar; they’ve been stretching across my memories for years.

She must have tucked the card, wedged it deep, when I wasn’t looking. When I was packing a bag or fixing my hair in the mirror. With every letter she leaves for me to find, my mama says “Carry me with you. I want to go wherever you’re going. I want to see whatever you’re seeing.”

 

“I feel like I already missed Christmas,” I said, tracing circles in the carpet just the night before. “I feel like it’s already gone.”

“You’re being super dramatic,” she answered. I’m always super dramatic.

But there is something about this time of the year. How furious it seems to bustle in and out. How it breathes & quickens & tears like wrapping paper off the sides of us. How we always say “I’ll be ready for it this year, I’ll be ready for it this year.” How we are never fully ready or maybe we’re not even sure what to be ready for. Would we even know slowness if it filled our lungs?

I want silent nights this year. I want silent nights.

 

My secret fear is that I’ll miss life.

That I’ll miss this thing we’re always dissecting so adamantly in deep conversations and blog posts. That I’ll look up suddenly and realize I missed the stitching; how I wanted so desperately to make a quilt and yet I never slowed enough to learn how to make a sturdy stitch. That I won’t be the person I have always wanted to be. That I won’t remember to call when I think I should. That I will miss the things– little & big– that make other people say out loud, in the holding spots of the November air, “This made everything worth it.” I want things like that. The things that make everything undeniably and unexplainable but worth it.

It’s been a constant clatter of travel lately. This writing space easily feels a bit neglected when there are 80,000 words of a memoir lining up to take their place. I’ve been ping-ponging around the country since August and it’s sincerely very hard to find inspiration to write in airports. I get too wrapped up in the waiting periods of other people. I imagine too many love stories about people I’ll never meet. I secretly date the beautiful boys in bright green uniforms that stand by the gate and wait to board. They don’t know it but they have bought me sunflowers and I have kissed their cheeks.

It takes extra sorts of concentration to quiet my spirit in an airport because I feel this binding pressure to be calling someone or filling them in. There’s this pressure to be racing back home because maybe, maybe I can barrel through the gate just five minutes sooner.

Bear with me. I’m still trying to write to you. Tucked in a corner. Pursing a red cup between my hands. Letting classical Christmas trickle through my headphones and whisper to me softly, “You’ll be home soon, darling. You don’t need to rush.”

I’m watching other people wait for something. All around me. People at the door. Flights in the crooks of the terminals. Restless to get somewhere, and go somewhere, and be somewhere, and leave somewhere. And it takes every ounce of human in me not to grab the shoulders of people I’ve never seen before and shake them good. Grab them with an urgency and just admit to someone, “I’m scared of missing the point. I’m scared of always rushing to get somewhere, onto the next somewhere, that I never fully arrive anywhere.”

 

When my fingers were tiny and all my world was a slow ballad of princess dresses and Lincoln Logs, I used to gush over a storybook version of the 12 Days of Christmas. I gushed over whoever sang that little song, whoever that Someone was who was just so lucky to have a “true love” that gave her so many gifts. So many rings. So many swans. So many milkmaids.

I would go page by page, taking time to count the lords-a-leaping. Memorizing the grins of the pipers piping. Soaking in all the wonder of the partridge sitting triumphantly in his pear tree, crowing (or whatever partridges do), “I’m the b-o-s-s. I’m the first gift that started this mayhem.” And there was enough time to count everything. To notice everything. To spoon your hot cocoa between your two hands and know, without really knowing it, that you weren’t missing a thing.

When did I stop counting? When did life get so busy that I stopped counting all the blessings, all the gifts that leap & dance around me?

 

I could feel God breathing when I arrived in St. Louis yesterday morning.

I could feel Him breathing as we shoveled my suitcase into the car and drove along the streets while a girl with a lace dress and chocolate-brown tights told me the history of a city she’s grown up in all her life. And I felt God saying, “This is life, my girl. This is life. You don’t need to be somewhere. You don’t need to hustle. You don’t need to hurry. I just want you to suck this moment in good. And I want you to pay attention to this girl and the people I will give you in the next few hours. And I want you to say thank you when we are done.”

That’s all God is asking of us at any given moment: To suck in what is what right before us– what He has placed there so intentionally– and then say thank you. Because it’s simple. And it’s true. And it’s a gift we forget to find the gratitude for. And it fills us so much more mightily than the fears and worries we stack inside ourselves when we think this day-to-day is about getting “stuff” done.

He gives me a thousand tiny, glittering objects within a single day. A thousand, a thousand. And I’m just stomping my feet and crossing my arms and waiting for something better. Something that doesn’t shimmer and doesn’t shine but it makes me feel legitimate and “known.” I muddy up the simple roads with wheels that turn too fast. And He? Well He just smiles and shakes his head, as if to say, “Girl, take your shoes off. Let the mud sink around your heels. Dance a little, girl. It won’t kill you stop in this moment but girl, you’ll miss it something fierce when it’s finally gone.”

And so I start to count. Because He has given me a thousand glittering objects to count.

 

“Life wasn’t what I thought it would be.”

Maybe I will say that when they’re hooking me up to oxygen, and I’m so frail and old and ready to have my Jack & Rose “meeting by the big clock” moment up in heaven.

“It was colors & fragile faces & brilliant stories that only made me feel human when I stopped sprinting so furiously to just notice it all. Oh, there were colors. Oh, there were sounds. It was flashing all around me and I didn’t always see it. No, I didn’t always see it.

It was about choosing people. It was about choosing people when choosing people was just so damn hard. Because it’d would have been so much easier to choose 1,000 objects over a single soul that cries, and doubts, and wants, and questions, and challenges. Flesh & grace was all that was ever worth it though. Flesh & grace & resilience that sang like a battle cry.”

Maybe I’ll be that eloquent when they hold my hand and tell me I am dying. I want to be able to say I heard the bells in all my favorite songs. Clink. Clink. Clink. Dripping into the backgrounds of all my favorite melodies. I want to say I didn’t miss the bells.

 

This season is a slow breather.

Slower than you’d think. You’re gonna have to stop. You’re gonna have to look around. You’re gonna have to slow a little too.

Find someone who’s been good to you– all sorts of sweet to you all this time– and grab their hand and say, “Let’s count the glittering objects tonight. And all the swans. And all the turtle-doves. One by one.

We have the time. We have all the time we thought we never had. Let’s just pretend that it can’t get better than this right here.”

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And tonight we’ll catch the Christmas lights like sacred specks of fireflies.

Drive a little slower tonight and suck in the beauty that is living on lawns and awnings this time o’ year.

Suck it in deep, so deep. Like the first prickles of the winter air to pierce the young messiah’s lungs.

The World, she’s holding something peculiar to her bosom right now, like the locket of the shy girl. The one she held deep to her chest all the days of 1942.

Tis’ a sacred kind of time we have in our hands. Where the fragile instruments, the xylophones & harps & the high notes we rarely talk about that sit so pretty on the fringe of Baby Grand pianos, get unbuckled from their dusty cases to be the centerpieces of Christmas songs that sit in our throats but once a year.

It will be gone soon, so suck it in.

Suck– the way you once sucked hot chocolate from your crazy straw on the Day You Realized Life was Designed to Turn Color with Heat.

Before.

It.

Slips.

Slips from the back door, out the side window where the wind chimes hang.

Slips like the wayward wafting of aroma soaked deep with Grandma’s pies only just the year after no one could find her standing by the counter, checking the timer against the pulse of her wrist. The holiday season missed her that year. The season wept to the tune of Oh, Holy Night that year.

The World, she’s allowing this crazy, little thing to conspire where suddenly the December Air is hoisting up Certain Lines of Songs by the waist as if they were the ballerinas meant to steal the final curtain call in the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center. The Waltz of the Sugarplum Fairies. Up, up in the air they go.

“Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.” “From now on your troubles will be miles away.”

Lines I never thought to believe in, with a fist to my heart, until the red cups came out and the wicker of the lawn reindeer caught frost in their limbs each morning.

It is a 31-day span of time made for Joy, made for Simplicity. For the stripping of the garland off the staircase only to find we should have been giving to one another all along. Should have been waiting under the mistletoe for you long before we tacked an advent calendar to the wall and pulled “Elf” out from hiding. Should have been holding, long before Bing Crosby bellowed over shopping mall speakers that it was, in fact, cold outside. Too bad we really cannot stay. Too bad we have to go away.

Love sits heavy on custom cards these days—the one time of year where we might still think to use a stamp, lick an envelope, and send pictures we took of our children on the beach in August sailing into hands of Postmen who dream of the paperless eCards they’ll send when they get home.

Memories remind us what it was like to believe in something Just Because.

Just Because it was some sort of thrilling to believe that 32 hooves would shuffle on our chimney tops when the Sugar Plums fairies started dub stepping in our heads.

Just Because it was more exciting than anything to don a bright red coat and a muffler between our hands, trying Sky High Kicks in Central Park before the Radio City Spectacular confirmed every ounce of our dreams to be a Rockette one day.

Just Because there was something peaceful about changing out of the holiday dress to wear a bed sheet around our torsos and sit down, Indian-style, to hear about a story of a poor boy, born in a manger to two peasants. And we whispered into the ears of one another, “Did she say Frankenstein? Who’s Myrrh?”

There lives something peaceful in the chance to put down our chocolate-covered pretzels to cup a Linus-like message in our hands. Good News. Great Joy. Cupped in our hands, wishing we could feed something as magical as this to the reindeer.

It will go quickly. Slip away so quietly.

In one month we’ll watch the trees—flopping and folded—as the doormen carry them out to stack beside the sidewalks of a New York City that loves the way people look to her for the holidays. No one hosts a Christmas party the way she can. Denver would admit it. Chicago would call it a fact. And San Diego sits, holding his breath, wondering if NYC will remember to send an invite to his door.

Perhaps it is the Christmas season, or maybe it’s all of life. Regardless, it will slip through the fingers. Unpredictable. Quick.

But beautiful if you stop to see the lights. The way they cascade the limbs of little fir trees. The way they can take a home, full of hopeless bodies that don’t know Family the way they know the first few lines of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and somehow make anyone want to come inside to see if magic hangs on the brows of the bodies within it in just the way it hangs from the beige shutters.

That’s the hope in it all. The delicacy. The possibility. The chance to believe.

That’s the season. That’s life.

It’s all just the chance to find some sort of reminder to hitch to our hearts, like the star on the tree: It sure is wonderful, all of this, and some kind of rare we should talk about more. When the white lights take you in and hold you by a hope you never knew you could hold.  

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For your knees might shake but your arms are strong. And they? Well, they were made to cradle a King.

If I sink back into the shoes of my 7-year-old self, sequined to the mark the debut of the church’s Christmas Pageant, then I was the star of the show.

The top of the program. Signing autographs outside the dressing room until the sun kissed down behind the hills.

I. Was. A Shepherd.

A sheet on my head. A staff in my hand. Standing off to the side of a stage just like this.

Should have been staring up at the sky, up a Tiny Tinfoil Star Tied Tight to a Spot Light. A galactic ball of energy that, when stripped down to the bare-boned simplicity of it all, simply whispered, “Follow.” To shepherds like me, counting sheep to pass the time. Follow. A King is Born. A King is Born.

But instead I stared at Mary with a beady-eyed look of Envy Perched up in my Pupils as a I craved to be the one to stand shaking in my sandals as a Golden-Glinted Gabriel stood by a kettle in my kitchen and told me I would birth a baby.

A baby born with ten fingers, ten toes, two eyes & one nose. Just to Save a Soul Like Me.

And some would call him Son of Man, and you might say E-Man-Nu-El. But for right now, let’s just call him Baby. Baby, let’s just call him Jesus.

I’d have traded all my Christmas presents to be the one to stand with the pink bed sheet on my head and the pastor’s baby in my arms. I’d have cradled that baby & rocked it. The way the New York City Transit Line Rocks a Thousand Single Tired Souls to Sleep in Just One Sitting.

I’d have swallowed every rule in swaddling until… until I realized the Mandatory Matter of the Mary in the Manger that Night. For she would be the one to go out to find the words to pair with the teeny, tiny words that she collected so furiously like sea glass to somehow form a lullaby.

A lullaby.

Which is really just a Single-Stranded Melody for a King that Deserves a Symphony.

I would have slid down from the back of the donkey, a sweaty little boy whose name was really Teddy, and we all knew he wanted to be a wise man but he got down on Hands & Knees to Carry a Marry to a Bethlehem that Didn’t Know Her.

Wait, I would have said. And poured out into a crowd of people just like this, to as people Just Like You.. And You..

What do I say? And how do I sing? Because my vocal chords aint strong enough and I’ve not got the bones of Billie Holiday, and my breath? It just aint thick enough to Sing a Song for the Son of Man, E-Man-Nu-El.

I’d have searched until I found the one to pull me in by the pink bed sheet on my head and say,

Mary, you be strong. And Mary, Don’t You Cry. And don’t you doubt these aching, breaking arms of yours. For your knees might shake, but your arms are strong. And they? Well, they were made to cradle a King.

You suck in your breath, you pull back your shoulders, and you sing for the baby whose cries will crack the mountaintops. You sing for the child who already knows all his Little Children and has the Holes in His Hands to prove he loves them so.

Be you 7-years-old, a shepherd staring up at the sky, or someone standing on a stage just like this. Wishing she had more to give her King than a Single-Stranded Melody for the One that Deserves a Symphony.

Still, you suck in your breath, you pull back your shoulders, and you sing.

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And tonight we’ll catch the Christmas lights and remember a day when we treated them like fireflies.

Drive slower tonight and suck in the beauty that is living on lawns and awnings these days.

The World, she’s holding something peculiar to her bosom right now like the locket a shy girl held to her chest all the days of 1942.

 A sacred kind of time where fragile instruments—xylophones & harps & the high notes we rarely talk about, sitting on the fringe of Baby Grand pianos—get unbuckled from their dusty cases to be the centerpieces of Christmas songs that sit in our throats but once a year.

It will be gone soon, so suck it in.

Suck, the way you once sucked hot chocolate from your crazy straw on the Day You Realized Life was Designed to Turn Color with Heat.

Before. It. Slips.

Slips from the back door, out the side window where the wind chimes hang.

Slips like the wayward wafting of the aroma of Grandma’s pies just the year after no one could find her standing by the counter, checking the timer against the pulse of her wrist.

The season missed her that year. The season wept to the tune of Oh, Holy Night that year.

The World, she’s allowing this crazy, little thing to conspire where suddenly the December Air is hoisting up Certain Lines of Songs by the waist as if they were the ballerinas meant to steal the final curtain call in the Nutcracker Ballet at Lincoln Center. The Waltz of the Sugarplum Fairies. Up, up in the air they go.

“Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow.” “From now on your troubles will be miles away.”

Lines I never thought to believe in, with a fist to my heart, until the red cups came out and the wicker of the lawn reindeer caught frost in their limbs each morning.

It is a 31-day span of time made for Joy, made for Simplicity. For the stripping of the garland off the staircase to find we should have been giving to one another all along.

Should have been waiting under the mistletoe for you long before we tacked an advent calendar to the wall and pulled “Elf” out from hiding.

Should have been holding, long before Bing Crosby bellowed over shopping mall speakers that it was, in fact, cold outside. Too bad we really cannot stay. Too bad we have to go away.

Love sits heavy on custom cards these days—the one time of year where we might still think to use a stamp, lick an envelope and send pictures we took of our children on the beach in August, before that growth spurt in October, sailing into hands of Postmen who dream of the paperless eCards they’ll send when they get home.

Memories remind us what it was like to believe in something

Just Because.

Just Because

it was some sort of thrilling to believe that 32 hooves would shuffle on our chimney tops when the Sugar Plums fairies started dub stepping in our heads.

Just Because

it was more exciting than anything to don a bright red coat and a muffler between our hands, trying Sky High Kicks in Central Park before the Radio City Spectacular confirmed every ounce of our dreams to be a Rockette one day.

Just Because

there was something peaceful about changing out of the holiday dress to wear a bed sheet around our torsos and sit down, Indian-style, to hear about a story of a poor boy, born in a manger to two peasants. And we whispered into the ears of one another, “Did she say Frankenstein? Who’s Myrrh?”

Something peaceful in the chance to put down our chocolate-covered pretzels to cup a Linus-like message in our hands. Good News. Great Joy. Cupped in our hands, wishing we could feed something as magical as this to the reindeer.

It will go quickly. Slip away quietly.

In one week we’ll watch the trees—flopping and folded—as the doormen carry them out to stack beside the sidewalks of a New York City that loves the way people look to her for the holidays. No one hosts a Christmas party the way she can. Denver would admit it. Chicago would call it a fact. And San Diego sits, holding his breath, wondering if NYC will remember to send an invite to his door.

Perhaps it is the Christmas season, or maybe it’s all of life.

Regardless, it will slip through the fingers. Unpredictable. Quick. But beautiful if you stop to see the lights.

The way they cascade the limbs. The way they can take a home, full of hopeless bodies that don’t know Family the way they know the first few lines of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and somehow make anyone want to come inside to see if magic hangs on the brows of the bodies the way it hangs from the beige shutters.

That’s the hope in it all. The delicacy. The possibility. The chance to believe.

That’s the season. That’s life.

It’s all just the chance to find some sort of reminder to hitch to our hearts like the star on the tree: It sure is wonderful, all of this, and some kind of rare we should talk about more, when the white lights take you in to be held by a hope you never knew you could hold.  

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Dear 2011, We have our Bright Yellow Knickers on and we are coming right at ya….

It would be too simple to cast the blame on my mother for this holiday season’s most embarrassing moment. Far Too Simple. So I am opting to blame Venezuela instead.

That’s right, Venezuela. I’m not so fooled by you, sitting so smug and innocent right between Brazil & Colombia. You are the very reason that my whole entire family ripped through the wrapping paper at the same exact moment on Christmas morning to find a pair of yellow underwear, as if we were going to match as quaintly as the Duggar Family. It was you, Venezuela. All you!

My new pair of yellow knickers  is proof that if you give my mother “Google” she will unearth some crazy South American superstition to help ring in the New Year more efficiently.

 This year’s tradition comes straight from Venezuela where the people of the country wear yellow underwear on New Year’s Eve to bring them good luck in the twelve months ahead. Perhaps we think its a bit crazy but we are the ones running around frantically making lists to change our lives at the stroke of midnight. As if our will power and years of habits will suddenly shift on the first of January.

I have never been a big fan when it comes to New Year’s. You can string me up with Christmas lights or set me loose in a yard on an Easter Egg Hunt but the old famous anthem of the New Year has always picked a strange cord with me.

1999-2000, now that was bound to be a good New Year. I can still remember putting down my Titanic picture book an hour before midnight, positioning the Y2K hat on my head and sitting before a buffet of crackers and orange juice. Waiting. Waiting for the world toend. I kid you not, I was absolutely giddy over the prospect of the clocks and computers malfunctioning and the world turning to darkness. I even went so far as to bake a Y2K cake for all of my friends. Can you tell that I was extremely popular?

 So back to that Yellow Pair of Knickers…

Many of us will be carrying suitcases full of resolutions into the New Year. Hopefully some of us will decide to leave some baggage behind as well. I claim to not like New Year’s Resolutions but I know that come 11:59p.m., while singles at the bars will be searching for a make out fellow for midnight, I will be searching my head for the Resolutions I would like to stick with for at least the first two weeks of January. If I look at the bright side of the New Year, it is a pretty good thing. The chance to start over at the sounding of twelve chimes, the freshness that floats in the air as we all open our new agenda books or take that first run of 2011. The Possibility of Change is always a good thing.

But this year I have decided to carry only one word into the New Year. One single word that I hope will carry me through 365 days and leave me better because of it. Now, I technically get two words because my Yellow Knickers count for Luck. But Luck, she needs a faithful companion. A traveller to snuggle with throughout the Cold Nights of January. The Arrow-Stricken Days of February. The Lucky Mornings of March. The Teary-Eyed Afternoons of April. Luck will need a confidante to share her Memories with in May. Her Juicy Gossip in June. Her Jesterly Jokes in July. Yes, yes, Luck will need a best friend to run through the sprinkler with in August. Sip Sweet Cider with in September. Carve Pumpkins with in October. Keep Carving til November, but this time a Turkey. And Christmas Carol with in December.

And maybe Luck & her buddy will have to part ways at the end of 2011, when the last day crawls to the front of the calendar. Or maybe they will reel in another Friend and form a 2012 Trio.

Picking the word to accompany Luck in the New Year was no easy task. I now know how the Bachelor feels with all those roses. I sorted through Confidence, Craziness & Comfort. I grappled with Resilience, Responsibility & Radiance. I tried on Elation, Ecstasy & Excellence. And I almost picked Laughter. Laughter, you were runner-up. But I settled on Serendipity.

Serendipity will be the Groom to my Luck this year.

Serendipity, one of my favorite words! The act of finding something valuable & delightful when you are not even looking for it. What a grand theme for 2011!

Thankfully the Luck & Serendipity are so compatible by nature, figured that one out without even employing the help of eHarmony. Everyone knows there is a little Luck in Serendipity already. But isn’t that the secret to great lovers? My pal Rumi knew it best, that great lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, they are in each other all along. Oh, Serendipity & Luck, welcome to sweet, sweet matrimony. My wedding gift to you two love birds is a calendar full of open spaces for you to play & gush & sing all day long.

So my friends, I wish you a wonderful New Year’s Celebration. To the singles at the bar, I hope you find the lips of an angel to pucker with at midnight. To the Resolutionaries, I make a great cheerleader. Here’s to a year full to the brim of Excitement & Spontaneity. Yellow Knickers. Love. Lessons. & Pearls, Pearls, Pearls. Pearls of Wisdom at every turn.

Now, if you will excuse me I have to introduce a dashing couple, Serendipity & Luck, to a brand New Year and reward my match making skills with a mimosa.

Now it is your turn, what “one word” will you carry into the New Year with you?

P.S. Don’t bother looking at the GAP, they don’t sell Yellow Knickers. H&M is a safe bet.

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Filed under Holidays, Humanity, Life Lessons, Love Yourself, Simply Living

Have Yourself a Teary Little Christmas.

So Once Upon a Time, Charles Dickens kidnapped a little girl. That’s right. He swooped right in and kidnapped her with a Hardcover Classic.

He kidnapped her eyes. He kidnapped hours from her day.  He kidnapped her soul. He kidnapped her imagination. He kidnapped just about everything of hers with a single story about a grumpy old crank and a visit from three ghosts.

Ever since that point where I discovered the ghosts & their visits & the lessons Scrooge learned, I have wished for my own kind of encounters. My own Christmas Past & Future to come knocking at the door to show me a thing or two. I am 22-years-old and still wondering, how would the Ghost of Christmas Present manage to break into my Bronx Apartment to get to me if he needed to? Should I leave the gate open for him? Can he use the fire escape?

But, like Ebenezer Scrooge, I have had three visitors this Christmas Season. Three Very Distinct Visitors who have delivered me a great deal of Perspective. And so, on a Christmas Eve where I cannot muster up a single syllable about Gingerbread Cookies, Mistletoe or the Grinch, I will tell you the story of these Three Visitors and the Difference they have made to my December 25.

The Waltz of the Snowflakes

I was not expecting Them. I wasn’t prepared for the first visit.

I had just settled into my seat, smoothed out the creases in my new black dress and eagerly awaited the rising of the curtain. It was the same scene, I have seen it dozens of times. The beginning overture, a little boy and girl peeking through the Grand Doors to see their giant Christmas tree.  A party scene. A crazy uncle. And the giving of a single gift. A Nutcracker. To Clara.

And then they came, as if they had watched the ballerinas emerge from the wings and felt inspired. They emerged from the wings of my eyelids. They emerged like Petrified Munchkins who had needed some serious coaxing from Glinda.

The Tears of Christmases Past. I knew it immediately.  

Throughout this whole holiday season I have been absolutely captivated by the little girls I see in passing who wear the Great Big Winter Coats with the Leopard Fur Trimming and Oversized Buttons. Fifteen years ago, I was one of those little Girls. Coming to New York City in my Big Girl Winter Coat, going to see the Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet. And now I am two years past two decades, Finding my Way on these New York City streets everyday. Putting on a black coat and a Pair of Black Heels that some younger version of me would have adored finding in her dress-up closet.Clicking those heels all over this City. Finding a way to call it Home.

And so these Tears were a visit from the Christmases Long Ago. The ones with leopard winter coats. American Girl Dolls tucked under my arm. A JC Penney Catalogue to keep me captivated for hours. A cup of Hot Chocolate. Staying up for Santa. A reminder that at any age, and with any winter coat, if you put on your child-like sunglasses you will see the season better. It will glow with a red & green goodness.

Deck the Halls

Yes, yes. They came again during a round of Deck the Halls. I get it, I cry a lot.  But it doesn’t really bother me. Once I get over the anxiety of typing a new, fresh sentence about an instance where I cried Once Again, I get over it. I reach into myself, pull out the “Crier” baseball cap, and plop it on my head for the world of the internet to see. I think it is o.k. to cry. I cry over good things. They are Worthwhile Tears to Me.

So back to those halls, the ones we decked. I was standing next to two women. Each holding their babies and a massive bag from Santa Claus. It was the only gifts they would receive for their children this Season. Donated Gifts from the Santa’s that roam this earth. The women in this Bronx shelter are homeless. Some have no family. Some have no education. Some are pregnant, some of them already have a child clinging to their side. But regardless of what they have or don’t have, they are beautiful women. Strong Women. Women who get up every single day and they face life, and I think that is a very daring and admirable thing.

And so I was not surprised when the Tears of Christmas Present showed up, wedged in between a Fa & a La. A reminder that I so often greet, that I don’t really need much for Christmas. I am happy. I am healthy. I am surrounded by people who love me. Above all, I am lucky. This Season has been the most challenging of all. To see how the Poverty Finds its Way to the Christmas Tree before Santa. But it has also shown me that Christmas is not about the bows or the gifts we give. You have heard it 1,001 times before, 68 times from Charlie Brown and 29 times from the Grinch, but hear it from me too. Let’s not focus in on the Presents but rather on our Presence this Christmas. Let’s gather the Memories, Moments & Peace into our arms like the World’s Most Skilled Holiday Shoppers. This is the good stuff. This is the great stuff.

I wish you could meet these women. I wish you could have joined our round of Christmas Carols. You would have shook hands and wished a Merry Christmas to one another. Then you would have smiled, at the simple realization that we are not so different from one another. That Differences Fall Away with a Single Exchange.

A Silent Night (or traffic jam, whichever you prefer)

The first time he saw me I was completely fine. Just another girl tapping her fingers against the steering wheel, waiting in a traffic jam.

The second time he pulled up next to me, it had already began. The Tears had begun travelling down my face, making their way over the humps of my cheeks. This time he stared a little longer. Gave me a half-smile.

The third time his blue truck pulled up to my green CRV, the last time, the Doors had opened. The Big Green & Sometimes Hazel Doors had opened for a slew of tangled, salty tears to break out of their hiding spots and barrel through like Black Friday shoppers.

This time I smiled back. Tears & All. Sending him a salty mess of a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

There is a few things that I cannot tell you:

One) Why a Stranger prompted these tears. He was probably nearing 50, stuck in a traffic jam, waiting to go back to work.

Two) Whether these Tears were of the Past, the Present, or the Future. All I know is that they were Tears. Tears I must have Needed.

But I will bask in the things that I do know. He had a kind smile. I really did want him to have a Merry Christmas. I hoped he was heading somewhere wonderful in the days ahead, a place full of Good Food & Family.

He was a stranger. Oh, oh, My Favorite! And yet he took me with my tears. He didn’t shake his head and turn away or switch over lanes to avoid the Girl who Cries in Perfect Traffic Jams. He smiled. Countered my Salty Wishes with a Somber Duplicate.

And this is how I hope the holidays will be for all of us this year. A time to spend with one another. Be it at a Homeless Shelter in a round of songs or around a tree in our homes. Be it in the middle of a crazy traffic jam or in the stillness of a Silent Night. With Friends. With Family. With Strangers. With Lovers. Wishing one another a Merry Christmas. Regardless of who they are, homeless or housed.  Where they are, From Italy to the States to everywhere in between.  Or How they are, Grinchy or Clausy.

This is what I pray for you. For me. For All of Us. Teary-Eyed or not. Lonely or not. Full or not. Happy or not. Holy or not.

A Merry Christmas to all. And let’s top it off with a good night.

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Filed under Happiness, Holidays, The Tough Stuff, Tragedy

Dear Mr. Kringle, there is a young woman out there who needs a 34th Street.

via weheartit.com

You will think I am crazy only because I have never met her. And that is why I need you in this very moment.

I probably will never meet her or know she is the one who received this message, but that doesn’t matter. You and I both know that I will never sit down next to her and hold the basin for her tears. It doesn’t change anything though. It shouldn’t, right? Not the fact that her name doesn’t tiptoe along my recent calls list. Not the fact that no coffee date in the near future will find me sitting right in front of her. She can still have it. You hear me? I want her to have it.

Let her know that I have been there, that I have felt it too. That I was once waiting in the same long line that she is in right now, standing in front of the world asking for it to love me. Asking the world to open up its arms and allow me to slip in. Asking it to Cradle Me like a Child. Teach me to Walk. After Crawling. Teach me to Run.  After Walking. Teach Me to Conjure Up Dreams only to set them free, spinning wildly out into the night sky and hitching themselves to stars for other little girls like her to pluck and wish upon. A Long Line Of Little Ones. Plucking, Dreaming & Wishing. Connected by the Constellations. Perhaps We are Already Connected in the Crook of Cassiopeia’s Crown. Who knows.

Regardless, tell her that I eventually got tired of asking. That it stopped being worth it. That all the ideas of Perfection & Happiness & Popularity & Security turned out to be not so true. She might not listen but tell her anyway. Remember to mention that having ten thousand friends can still make a girl terribly lonely. Tell her that winning the hearts of too many boys won’t guarantee a safe resting spot for her own heart. There is a good chance she will just turn away, go on continuing to struggle with the zipper of that dreadful dress-up costume called “insecurity.” I did that once.

Tell her to stop asking for love, requesting it timidly as if it were a slice of pizza or a side salad. Tell her to stop showing up ready to barter, ready to list off a resume of reasons as to why a person should love her, Pay Attention to Her, or Spend Time with Her. Show her what a marvel she is, instill that in her for me. It’s a very big wish, I know, but could you do that?

Maybe then she will seek out the ones who never needed a reason to love her in the first place. They will love her for every reason. They will love her for no reason at all.

Maybe then she will begin to find the ones who begin at the very beginning, the ones who can hardly wait for Tomorrow and the prospect to begin Loving her All Over Again. They are out there, everywhere, but she won’t ever find them if she never stops looking to gain the Things That will Never Make Her Happy. She needs to know that it is ok to put down all that fills her arms. She can place some baggage down to rest. She has better to pick up. Better to pick up.

Tell her that it is perfectly fine to feel like a Little Drummer Boy in this world. To feel like she has no gifts to bring to anyone, no music to add to an already Loud Soundtrack. To feel small and meek. Tell her to admit to her smallness and then Listen. Admit to her meekness and then Listen. Stay quiet and listen, not for sleigh bells or reindeer hooves, but for a little voice inside of her. One that Sings Sweetly: You are o.k. You are brilliant. You are beautiful. You are right where you need to be. Now dance, Child. Dance.

Remind her that she serves the world perfectly as herself and no one else. There are days where it is tempting to imitate, to be someone else, but if she is lucky there will be a day where the falsity falls away. And she can do no more. Do no more than be herself. And she will smile for that blessing.

I realize I am crazy to even be writing this, to think that you are a regular visitor to HannahKaty.com, but Santa, I don’t need a wish this Christmas. I don’t need much of anything. But she does. And because of her I am stitching together fibers of childhood left inside of me to believe for just a moment that you are real, and that you really do reply to a World that Labors You with Letters & Wishes All Year Long. I figured you and I might have a thing or two in common. You read the letters and requests of this world, of kids from ages one to ninety-two, and I am merely a Little Dreamer Seeking to Deliver a message to someone else. A message that she is good enough. That she always has been. She has enough. She does enough. She is enough.

You will know her when you find her, of this I am sure. And when you reach into your big velvet bag, full of twelve months’ worth of wishes,  and you go to give her something to rest her head upon at night, please let it be my wish. Let it Be My Wish.


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Filed under Big Dreams, Happiness, Holidays, Uncategorized

Looks like the Christmas lights at the end of our tunnels are on after all…

Some times I close my eyes and wish so hard for throw up,” she tells me, taking a large bite from her fairy bread.

Throw up?” I ask, raising my eyebrows for just a moment before continuing to sweep up the mess of sprinkles that have fallen from her bread and onto the kitchen table. A Chaotic Collection of Red, Purple, and Pink Castaways Begging to be Gobbled Up. Maybe my ears missed something, no one seriously wishes to vomit.Why would you wish for that, Audrey?

Because when you throw up you get to sleep downstairs on the couch right next to a big bowl! And sometimes Daddy even comes and sleeps next to you!

Now here is a trooper who looks on the bright side.

The prospect of sleeping on the couch, letting her head split its times between a pillow and a massive bowl while her Daddy snores next to her was enough for little Audrey to wish for throw up before a pony. Just Enough. More Than Enough.

Some days I am enveloped tightly in the memories of spending my summer days with a four-year-old who may one day grow up to have Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine all as her bridesmaids.I can still vividly picture Audrey rummaging through the bottom cabinet in the kitchen, finding an enormous white plastic bowl, and spitting into it from time to time. “Throw up,” she would inform me, waiting as anxiously for the potential up chuck as she would for Santa. “It might be throw up coming!”

I have had all kinds of days in the past four months while living in the Bronx, New York. And some days are just throw up. Yes, that’s right. Throw Up.

Before you grace me with a giant “Ew, Hannah, please be a little more eloquent,” let me explain.

There are definitely days where we all want to cross our arms, stamp our feet, and swap out our brightly colored pastel crayons for a more suitable art set full of grey charcoal. To Color Our Days Exactly How We Feel. There are those Days. You know the Days I am writing about:

Days where we don’t feel like moving. Days where we grumble instead of talking.

Days where Wednesday is acting more like an evil dictator than a hump day.

Days where Saturday is cross dressing as Monday and stamping all over our weekend.

Days where we swear that someone has shut off the christmas lights at the end of our tunnels.

And in some of the hardest times of our lives these days string themselves together. One after the Other after the Other after the Other. (I will ask one more “Other” to join the sentence, just for the sake of inclusion and emphasis).

Before Negative Nancy and Debbie Downs come Christmas caroling all over this blog post I would like to label These Days as perfectly normal, better than that, essential to our ever getting anywhere in this world.

Audrey might have squealed and clapped her hands in knowing that I spent my Thanksgiving Night with her favorite verb, throw up. I, however, was not so thrilled to be entertaining the flu instead of pumpkin pie. I don’t want to be graphic but lying curled up on the bathroom floor, crying, while listening to what could have very well been a gun fight outside, did not exactly bottle the same excitement that Audrey assigned to being sick. I would have certainly been ready to rumble with her at this point, to argue with a preschooler over the fact there is not always a big white bowl or a Daddy in sight to sit with you until the fever breaks.

Maybe I would shatter her innocence by telling her that we grow older. That life gets harder. That sometimes Challenges and Adversity reel us in for a cup of tea. But while it might not be as easy to look on the bright side, life has a way of delivering Little Graces in the presence of a Great Dismay. Perhaps there is no plastic bowl, but there are comforts to fill our arms with in times of trials. Baby Steps. Hot Chocolate. Micro Movements. A Book that Offers Comfort. One Foot in Front of the Other. Letters from Home. Perhaps there is no Big Great Couch to sleep upon but there is a God who allows us to tuck our angst into bed, a God who allows us to throw our hands up in the air and say, “I give up, you take it from here.” Maybe there is not always a Daddy in sight but there are friend who allows our hearts to come piling into their in boxes. And they respond to every pitiful sentence we type.

Looks like the Christmas lights at the end of our tunnels are on after all. We just forget sometimes. We forget that we don’t need to see everything clearly or understand everything exactly to be in sync with the Day we have been given, a Throw Up Day or not. We forget that even in the dimness of a room, we can bask in the tranquil glow of the Tiny Little Lights that promise to never leave us fully in the dark.

 

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Filed under Disconnect, Holidays, The Tough Stuff

Rewriting the definition of “Home” for this Holiday Season: On Thanking & Giving.

If your eyes had never rested upon a textbook story you would have believed that the first pilgrims and indians shared arroz con pollo and Capri Sun while singing to Justin Bieber.

One Little Pilgrim slips her hand under the table to find the grip of another Little Indian whose headdress is held up by plastic flower hair clips. They are a part of circle of 22 four-year-olds all taking turns proclaiming what they are most thankful for.

A parade of Mommies, Daddies, TiTis, and others, spill from their mouths as they listen intently to one another. It is the first moment of silence I have welcomed all year with these Little Ones.

I fit perfectly around the table with my preschoolers as we celebrated Thanksgiving on Tuesday. But my mind kept inching back to a different table that I will not be sitting around this year.

This will be the first year where I don’t take my seat at a long familiar table that still carries my initials within its wooden spine.  This Thanksgiving, instead of being home, I will celebrate the holiday with seven other volunteers in my program. Sharing Stories. Enjoying Community. Sharing Hot Coffee as We Make our Way to See the Big Balloons Come Sasheying Down 34th Street.  I am sure that even in our unity we will still find our minds meandering to our own memories of being home for the holidays.

Home. Funny how most stories seem to drift back to this word these days.

I adore when my words are able to play tag with those of a dear friend. Just like Little Children who Run and Run, Ignoring the Street Lights as They Come On. Libby wrote about “home” recently and what compels an individual to allow a four-letter word to play piggy back upon a spot on a map.

If you had asked me a week ago I would have certainly told you that Home is a place that I miss greatly. Home is not the Bronx. Home is not Manhattan. Home is not New York City.

Perhaps just seven days ago I believed that Home was a place to be, a destination after three clicks of your red heels, a spot of comfort to fall into when you feel at odds with the world around you. More and more these days, I am beginning to see that home is not a place where we go but rather something that we can give to one another. Maybe I just choose this definition during this holiday season because it leaves me believing that I am never far from home. That I am Never Without Home.

Home is something you can find in a letter from a best friend. She Writes her Words Pumped with Love and Pride, her Syllables Bursting with Life. They fill you better than the Floats that gulp air in the Macy’s Day Parade.

Home is in a single swipe of a gift card from a friend, a Push for you to Purchase a Pumpkin Spice Latte and Pretend as if a Coffee Date is Among You. You practically cry in taking the first sip, wishing you had accidentally just bumped knees with her from under the table.

Home is receiving a package in the mail from your mother, filled to the brim with organic food favorites wrapped within a Bright Yellow Towel. You puzzle at the Yellow Towel until you read the card from her, “When I was in New Mexico for some holiday I remember a package from my mother with a beautiful yellow towel in it so I will continue the comfort and color of this tradition.”

Home is a gift. And also a Give.

We can give Home to someone else by holding their Tiny Brown Hands and wiping their tears, so as to make sure that the Indian Man Painted Upon Their Face does not get Washed Away in the Flood.

We give someone Home by brewing a cup of Hot Chocolate and Meeting Them Face-to -Face for a Skype Date. Sitting Cross-Legged on the Floor, Laughing as if Shoulders were Touching.

I guess it comes with the growing up, this realization that we may not always be “home for the holidays.”  While I am tempted to tackle people who drape clichés all over the world like Holly and Ivy, acting like they are next big thing, I am quite torn because those clichés are famous for a reason. We like to find Home in one another. There is no place like Home. Home is where the Heart Is. But why all the heartache in stapling Home to a place? Why not carry Home with us wherever we go, sprinkling it like confectionary sugar upon the people we encounter who need a little less of that heartache and a little more Home?

I pray you Find Home and Give Home this Thanksgiving Holiday.

Link Arms. Laugh Wildly. Dance Outrageously. Watch the Parade or Go to the Parade. Better yet, Make your Own Parade. Sing Carols. Play Chimes. Ring Bells. Don’t say it’s too early for all of that Ruckus, Rejoice in the Ruckus. Pack up your purse and get out there for Black Friday, just to say you tried it once. Eat til your Stuffed. Thank God for that Food. Pray for Those without it. Make Jokes. Catch up with Old Friends. Wear a Ridiculous Holiday Apron. Smile at the Little Ones as they play before dinner. Hug your Mom. Dad. Sister. Uncle. Grandma. Smell them too. Yes, Smell Them Too. Sip in the atmosphere alongside the Cider. Breathe in the essence along with the Sweet Aromas. Deck the halls. Deck the walls. Watch the Grinch but don’t be one. Welcome the Holiday Season with Open Arms. Put down the to-do list and just sit down, around Loved Ones. Take time to Count Your Blessings, one by one by one by one.

Split the Holiday into two parts, like two identical twins who both compete for their mother’s love, knowing all the while that they are absolutely equal. Thanks & Giving. Both loved equally and the same. Do your share of both this season. Thanking & Giving.

Stop the bickering. Stop the comparing. Stop the doing. But Never Stop the Thanking or the Giving.

 

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Filed under Family, Holidays, Uncategorized