Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Present of Presence

It’s Christmas morning about 6:45. I’ve been up for about an hour, not because my kids woke up, just because, as mentioned in previous posts, I am a terrible sleeper. The Toll House pie is in the oven. The tree lights are on and the dog is in my lap (creating a challenging typing set-up to be sure). The house is so quiet.

It’s not a creepy quiet either. Usually I find ways to fill the quiet: radio, TV, having children. But this is a welcome quiet, a Christmas quiet. This is what I look forward to the most. The gifts, the laughter, the eating the parties the traditional viewing of Elf and Black Adder’s Christmas Carol, the frenzy of family are all wonderful. Truly wonderful and I look forward to all of them. But right now, in this living room that is clean enough, in this quiet that is syncopated only by my dog’s snoring, there is peace. And that peace is one of the markers of Christmas for me.

Over the years Christmas has evolved for me. As a child, it was all about cookies and presents and my brothers and sisters coming home for Christmas Eve. As a young adult, it was all about the parties I wasn’t invited to and the kicky outfits I always force-fed on the slightest of occasions. As a young mother it was all about making magic, at any cost, for my children, and keeping everyone as happy as possible which often resulted in achieving the ultimate goal of getting my kids to bed so I could enjoy Christmas. Now it has become moments of presence.

Yesterday I found Christmas in the Acme parking lot as I walked back to my car with replenished supplies to give that new dessert a second less disastrous try when a young Acme cart retriever smiled so genuinely it melted the cynicism of my just forming flip and snarky quips about last minute grocery shoppers. And she wished me a Merry Christmas that felt truer than any I’d ever heard.

I found Christmas as Husband and I took the very grateful dog for an extra long walk and, as we made our way home, witnessed flurries in the air. Not a white Christmas in the blanket of snow sense, but it snowed on Christmas Eve. We were in a 1930’s movie with soft filtered lighting and all the promise of promise before us.

I found Christmas at the caroling party two days ago when an eleventh grade boy (not my own) sat down to play the piano because none of the adults could and sang when none of the adults would.

I found Christmas in the late night request from Teenager #1 for some warmed up Chinese food. He may not have stayed at the table when we ate it earlier because, on a practical level, he was not hungry. He may have played way too much Team Fortress II yesterday. He may not have wrapped a single present. But as I left his room after bringing him his food, he said thank you without being asked, and when I said I love you, he smiled as if he really felt it was true.

The Grinch is a visionary, the movies are true, the gloriously corny books get it right every time. Christmas isn’t in a box, it’s not marked by the perfectly prepared meal, it is not the authentic overjoyed reaction when they open that gift you know they’ll love. It is the art of appreciating all of this, of enjoying the moment whatever the moment is (and sometimes the moment is messy). It is the present of presence.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Why Star Trek is like Real Life

For most of my life I have believed that logic is a universal constant, which means that, once again, for most of my life I have been wrong. According to Merriam Webster logic is “a proper or reasonable way of thinking about or understanding something.” Since the essence of proper, reason, thinking and understanding are far from universal or constant, it stands to reason (or does it?) that logic is subjective and mercurial.

My proof? My family.

To me logic is:

            Putting dirty clothes in the hamper
Eating at regularly scheduled times

Knowing that when the gas gauge is on empty, it really means there’s a quarter of a tank left

Meeting deadlines

Getting work done first so play time can be emotionally unfettered

Eating dinner to get to dessert

To my husband logic is:

Categorizing dirty clothes into “still wearable and therefore draped over whatever is convenient” and “full on dirty and therefore on the floor right next to the hamper”

Eating only after he has saved the world, usually around 4:00pm.

Driving to Jersey to fill the gas tank

Creating work to do so he can deserve play

Leaving cereal residue un-rinsed in a bowl, one can only assume as a service to science

To Teenager 1 logic is

Putting dirty clothes wherever he happens to take them off, which, tonight, included the living room and the kitchen.

Eating constantly or not at all, and blaming me regardless

Providing the world with natural gas on a regular basis in the car with the windows rolled up.

Seeing deadlines as an option

Playing first and working as little as possible

Eating Chinese mustard with a hint of eggroll

To Teenager 2 logic is

Putting dirty clothes in clean clothes’ basket that he never bothered to put in his drawers thus keeping Maytag in business indefinitely

Eating cereal, pizza and Entenmanns' cinnamon rolls with a full on expectation that he will live past 17

Doing an impersonation of Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory to remind me that the gas gauge is on empty.

Hating deadlines and losing sleep over meeting them

Playing & working in possibly the most balanced manner of the whole family

Being able to pick any Hobbit dwarf, his beard and his weapon out of a line-up

Logic, common sense, reason; these are all coping mechanisms we employ to make it through the day. Life is chaos, and, as order-seeking beings, we strive to make order out of chaos. And since we all have our own chaos depending on which side of the bed we woke up on and how many pairs of underwear we tripped over on the way to the bathroom where the top is off the toothpaste tube, the seat is up and a History paper is drying on the towel rack, our logic adapts to our surroundings in all its Darwinian glory.

So what’s logical to Spock is not always logical to Kirk, which is why they’re such good friends…and why they drive each other crazy. And that is why Star Trek is just like real life.

And that last statement came from a Star Wars fan. Find the logic in that.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I'm Thankful for Nathan Fillion

It seems like I should write about what I’m thankful for. Of course there’s the obvious, and true ones, my family, good health, democracy; but those are just the PC, cute little stocking stuffer book answers you find at the checkout line in Barnes & Noble. What am I truly thankful for? I don’t know.

I‘m mostly thankful for little things.

I’m thankful for Castle on Monday nights and in TNT reruns, because, you know, Nathan Fillion.

I’m thankful for knitting, even though my son tells me it makes me look old.

I’m thankful for the Gap Outlet, because sometimes buying a cheap cardigan in a frivolous color actually does make the day better.

I’m thankful for almost any chocolate chip cookie.

I’m thankful for Rhys Bowen’s “Her Royal Spyness” mystery series, because it’s silly and fun counts as reading.

I’m thankful for a movie matinee on a weekday because it feels like I’m getting away with something.

This is only part of my Maria Von Trapp list. And yet it feels like it’s not enough. Like I am missing the bigger picture, or, more likely, avoiding it. I know I am blessed, and the moments when that becomes apparent are often little too, and always unexpected. And I am thankful for those moments beyond expression. They don’t always coincide with a prescribed day of thanksgiving; they often happen on the most ordinary of days, and their sustenance is more filling than mashed potatoes and is rarely accompanied by caloric guilt or the desire to take a nap.

And then those moments pass and I get hungry again, and life’s table sometimes serves cream chipped beef on toast. So yes, I am thankful for my Castle, and my cookies and my cardigans because they are sometimes the turkey and stuffing that get me through the other days; not necessarily bad or good, just those days of undefined significance.

So thank you Nathan Fillion for being my pumpkin pie on those every-day days.