Sunday, December 31, 2006

Z is for.....

Zekas - my surname. My maiden name and now in this marriage, my married name. I changed my name in my first marriage and when I divorced, I took back my maiden name. When I remarried I didn't want to change it again so my husband, who was sort of adrift without a surname at the time (long story), decided he'd take my name. It worked out to be a wonderful gift because my father is an only son. He had only sisters and only daughters. My older sons have my ex-married name. But William has my name and so my father's name lives on. I'm really happy about that because he was a great dad and although he wouldn't have worried about a name, it's a nice way to honor him.

Zeke - With a last name like Zekas, Zeke is an obvious nickname. In fact I thought my dad's name was Zeke Zekas until I was about six or seven. Turns out his first name was really Paul. Who knew!? I've been called Zeke, my husband goes by Zeke with a lot of his friends, and I suspect William will become Zeke at some point in time as well.

zen - I can't claim to know a lot about zen buddhism, but what I do know is a nice framework through which to see the world. I borrow terms from the philosophy a lot

zinnia - one of my favorite flowers because they're just such happy looking flowers. Every year I tell myself I'm gonna plant a bunch of them and every year I forget. Maybe this spring will be the year.

zombies - zombies, vampires, ghosts, werewolves... I like all those paranormal, fantasy creatures. Not that I'd want to meet one in real life. Well, maybe a ghost. But I like my scary folk safely ensconced within the covers of a good book.

zest - no, not the soap. Just a general zest for life.

And that's it! My Wordplay list is complete!

What am I going to do next year? Hmmmm......

Saturday, December 30, 2006

My Top Reads of 2006

My friend Deb just posted what seems to have become her annual "Top Reads of the Year" over on Red Shoe Ramblings. She inspired me to to do the same. I'm not sure how she keeps track of all the books she reads in a year. The best I could do was skim through the archives of a book list I'm active on looking for posts from me announcing books I'd just started or just finished. I came up with 37 books, far less then the 95 Deb said she'd read. But I know that I probably read more then that because I could remember a few for sure that I didn't seem to have mentioned and for every book I remember now, at 2:30 in the morning (how did it get so late! Oh, yeah, I just skimmed an entire year's worth of list mail), there's probably at least twice as many that I'd remember if I went out and started skimming my bookshelves. Which I won't do because William is sleeping on the couch because Joe and Lisa took over his room.

Anyhoooo, back to books. So, let's say I probably read at least 47 books, that's still half of Deb's 95. Hmph. Either I've been a lot busier then Deb this year, which doesn't seem likely, or I read twice as slow, which is probably true. I'm a slow reader for a true bibliophile.

Another thing I noticed is that apparently I've been reading a lot lighter fare then Deb. She had a lot of books on her top ten... er, or rather, top twelve I think she made it - that I've been meaning to read but just haven't managed to get round-to. Many of them for the same reason she mentioned - worried it wouldn't live up to the hype. Now that she's pretested them for me, I should make more of an effort to read some of them soon.

And now that I've whined enough about my lack of depth and speed.... I think I can make my list an even ten.

In no particular order - (an asterisk by the name means a reread)

Between, Georgia by Joshilyn Jackson - the second novel by an online buddy and very funny, and sometimes touching, blogger. I read her first novel gods in alabama (the title is uncapitalized) last year. Both of them made me cry outloud, laugh outloud, and clutch the book to my chest in love and sadness (that the story was all over!) when I had read the last page. I'd be hard pressed to decide which one I liked best - I want to say her first but I think it's just because it was the first time she amazed me. Both are MUST reads.

Harry Potter and .... (books 1-4) by J.K. Rowling * - I know ,that's four books, not one. I couldn't decide which one I liked best, so you pick. I finally got around to rereading the Harry Potter saga this year and I'm amazed at how much I still love falling into Harry, Ron and Hermione's world. It doesn't seem to matter if they're fighting dementors or just hanging out in the library teasing each other, I love spending time with them. And now that I've read all but the last book and I have some serious suspicions about how it all ties together, it's really fun to read through and pick up all the clues and foreshadowing that I missed the first time through them.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman - This is my third Gaiman book. The first one was Neverwhere. I think I might like that one better then American Gods but it was a while ago so I'm not sure. I also read Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett - loved that one! But just because I might have liked the other books more, it doesn't mean I didn't love this one too. Gaiman is just one of those authors where anything he writes is probably gonna be a memorable read. I also have his newest, Anansi Boys, and kept meaning to get to that all year long. Oh, and he's also got one called Stardust. I think it's on my shelf somewhere, still unread. William and I went to an old village in the Cotswolds when we were in England this May and the tour guide for the day told us that they were making a movie there. We got to see the village all dressed up in props for shooting. In fact, I blogged about it in one of my Holiday Photo posts. Anyway, I just recently figured out the movie they were filming there was based on Gaiman's Stardust.

Sleeping with the Fishes by MaryJanice Davidson - this one is a completely fluffly read. We're talking helium balloon light. But it makes my list for sheer laugh out loud delight.

Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire - this was the sequel to Wicked, which is also one of my favorite reads. I loved returning to Maguire's completely different take on the land of Oz. No spoiler here but I have to tell you that the ending of this book - and by that I mean the very last sentence - is probably my favorite ending of all time.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - this book has been on my bookshelf for years because I didn't know if I could handle reading it. It's written from the perspective of the "ghost" of a murdered child. Having lost a child myself, I wasn't sure if I would find it too personal. Well, with some trepidation I finally picked it up this year and it turns out that I did find it very personal indeed and yet the timing turned out to be just the time I needed to read it. I read a lot of the book, particularly the first half of it, either with great difficulty through tears, or with a hand in front of my mouth in horror. And though it seems unlikely, the book actually made me feel warm and happy (although still in tears) by the end. The author must undoubtedly have suffered great loss personally because she caught the smallest, hidden details of great grief.

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver* - this was already one of my favorite books. I assigned it to William as one of his last homeschooling reading assignments this last spring and I decided to reread it along with him. I loved it again. I loved it even more. I found so much more in the book the second time around I'm left wondering how I could have loved it so much the first time having missed so many of it's messages.

In Your Dreams by Tom Holt - I picked this one up in England and it makes my list because it was so quirky and completely different from anything I'd read in a long while. It's always fun to discover an author with an already existing body of work you know you'll have to work your way through. It was also a fun read for me simply because my trip to the UK meant that I could understand and picture a lot of the small details in the book that wouldn't have meant anything to me beforehand, so that's a very personal reason for enjoying it.

I was having trouble picking book number ten. It was sort of a multi-tie between a number of first or second books in urban fantasy series. I'm too tired to sort it out, and it might be worth just mentioning some of my newly discovered urban fantasy authors in another post altogether, since that's the genre that I seem stuck in most often these days. Instead I'll go with another book for the last of this list...

The Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon - this is book four in the historical romance series about the time swept lovers Jamie and Claire. I started this series long ago with great resistence because of it's "romance" genre, but it's a wonderful read. Each book is also a very, very long read. Remember I mentioned being a very slow reader. I know people who have read this entire series several times through. I even know someone who says they read this entire series through EVERY YEAR! Me, I manage to tackle one book in the series every year or so - apparently I'm a reading lightweight. Sigh. I start out with great enthusiasm, get frustrated it will never end by midway, give up reading anything but this particular series two thirds of the way through, and finally wail "It can't be over already!" when I'm finished. I know, it doesn't make sense, but I never said I did.

This was an interesting look back on my year of reading. At least it was for me. Until I went back and listed all the books I could find, I hadn't remembered even half of them. I wonder how many of them I would have remembered on my own if I hadn't posted about any of them at all? And now I wonder what books I read that I'd forgotten. What books I read in 2005? 2004? I might be able to piece together a partial list of previous years from digging through the same book list that I did for putting together my 2006 list. See if I can see any changes in my reading habits, or patterns.

I've just recently allowed myself the luxury of reading during the daylight. For many years now the only time I've given myself to read is right before bed, which means the amount of reading I manage is directly tied into how much sleep I'm willing to lose and how long each book could keep me awake on any given night. It might be interesting to see how many more books I could read if I consistently read during the day as well. Not only would I obviously have more time to read but I might read faster when I wasn't reading only when I was already tired. I'm going to make a concerted effort to keep better track of my reading list during the coming year.

Ack! it's after 3 am and I have a house full of family who will probably wake me up early. So, that's gonna be it for me, no time to copy edit this - I've got to turn off the light. Forgive me my typos!

If you do a Top Reads of 2006 list on your blog, check back in the comments and let me know.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice....

....that's what little girls are made of." At least according to the ol' nursery rhyme. Whereas "Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that's what little boys are made of."

Anyone who has raised both boys and girls know that in some ways there's a wee kernel of truth about these old fashioned lines. But anyone who's raised both know that there's so much that's untrue about these stereotypes. Having been a tomboy who also loved to play with baby and Barbie dolls, having raised a little girl who looked like Holly Hobby and would happily beat the shit out of any of her brothers (or perhaps more likely, anyone who tried to mess with her brothers), I take offense at the two dimensional view of women as sweet and innocent.

I have equally strong issues with the idea of little boys as being only rough, tough and dirty. My boys played football and broke kitchen chairs as fast as I could replace them, but they also were tender and vulnerable, good baby sitters, good cooks, and enjoyed learning things like sewing and knitting. Let's not box someone's potential in by whether they're an innie or an outie, okay?

And yet, there's something that is undefineably but persistently male or female about each of us, even when we're just a tiny scrunched up face wrapped in a blanket. Something that makes most folks correctly guess the gender of a baby even without the social cues of blue for a boy, pink for a girl.

When I was pregnant with my second child, one of my baby shower gifts was a baby cap. Pink. Everyone was sure that my second child would be a girl. But the giftee assured me that if, by some twist of events, I gave birth to a boy, I could exchange the hat for a blue one. I quickly assured everyone that of course, boy or girl, that my child could, of course, wear a pink cap. And so that's how Sam came to spend the first two months of his life in a pink cap, which, I might add, looked beautiful against his beautiful newborn complexion. But the funny thing was that every time we went out, almost every day, strangers would come up to admire the new baby and it would go something like this:

"Oh, what a cute little boy!........ Oh....... Uhm......Girl?......Uhm......Boy?" Their first instinct was that he was a he, which he was. But then, before they'd even finish their first comment, they read the social cue - pink hat - and tried to change their mind. But he didn't look like a she, so then remained unconvinced and confused. It usually ended with them standing there looking puzzled and me enjoying a moment's smile before I answered them.

Stereotypes are persistent creatures. This afternoon Noel came home from running errands with a McDonald's Happy Meal for Joshua in hand. Knowing I'd appreciate the story, she related that they'd gone through the drive-thru and that when she'd ordered, the voice on the speaker had asked if she wanted "the boy toy or the girl toy". I said "So, did you correct them!?" She didn't. Sigh.

After one of my sons at the tender age of four or so had been crushed by having excitedly decided on a particular toy only to reach the counter and have it referred to in front of him as a "girl toy" (whereupon he immediately decided he had meant, in fact, he wanted the "boy toy" and unhappy and embarrassed, slunk away with a toy he really didn't want), I spend the next decade on a fervent one woman campaign to educate poorly paid fast food workers on how to describe the toy by description and not by gender association. Maybe it wasn't really a one woman campaign - maybe there were a lot of us mothers out there complaining at one time - because it seemed for a while that the stereotyping of toys became less noticable. But trends come and go and recently it seems it's seen as only harmless and cute once again. I'm not so sure of that, but I'm also less sure if arguing the point will do any good.

The whole issue is a bit of a quagmire for me. Part of me is always on the look out for people jumping to conclusions based on gender. Another part of me obviously jumps to the same conclusions myself. They're useful shortcuts when dealing with people. At least, they're a starting point. I like to think I try to move on from them as soon as possible. And yet, it's all come up for me again recently, interacting with my grandkids. I find myself watching my eight month old granddaughter Anastasia and being amazed at how much of a girl she is! I don't really know how to describe it. Joshua can be just as sweet and gentle and giggly, but when he does those things I don't think he's acting "girlie." And Anastasia is certainly tough and determined and loud and I don't immediately think of those as male qualities. So what is it, this genderness that we are all imbued with?

Honestly, I don't know.

But, the reason I brought it up was because I started out to tell you the following recent story:

My daughter-in-law and I both share this sort of general aversion to pink when it comes to baby girls. Not that we dislike pink on little girls. They look adorable in pink. Baby boys look adorable in pink too, for that matter. But baby girls also look adorable in powder blue. Or bright red. Or cheerful orange, or sunny yellow, or peaceful green, or earthy brown.

I know some women really don't like pink personally. Not me. I like pink. I just bought myself the softest, fuzziest pink jacket - oh, remind me to post a photo for you soon. The pink aversion thing is really more about disliking pink saturation than about pink itself. Both Noel and Lisa got SO MUCH PINK at their baby showers. I think it just goes against the rebellious and tomboyish streaks in us to tow the party line I guess.

I've already mentioned how Lisa decided one day in her sixth month of pregnancy, after staring at mounds of pink piles of baby gifts, to make the baby's room in red, white and black? Didn't I? Hmmm, maybe it was over on Laume's Studio - there are photos of the quilt blocks she was made over there. When I tell people that, they look at me horrified. A few people have even gone so far to ask me "Are you alright with that!?" Alright? What's not to be alright with about it? I love the idea. Although, it's not as dramatic as you might be imagining. Here's a photo of the baby's room in it's finished form. Pretend the navy blue blow up mattress isn't curled up agains the wall there. See the cute curtains. And you get a peek at the brightly contrasted crib quilt. There's a black dust ruffle beneath it that you can't see. And a few bright red items on a shelf on the far wall that are also not in view. But see, it looks "normal." It turned out bright and cheerful. (Hmmm, maybe I should buy her a bright red throw rug to spice things up? I had imagined something more "gothy" myself.)

So, anyway, all the first week while I was there after the birth, Lisa was dressing Joli in cute but androgynous outfits - in blue, white, green, red, a little bit of every color, brights and pastels. A few days after I got home I hear from Lisa. Joli was awake and wanting to play early in the morning and Joe offered to tend to her while Lisa slept a while longer. An hour or so later Lisa wandered out of the bedroom and found Joe holding Joli and looking guilty and "caught in the act". She unwrapped the bundle of pink blankets and found her daughter all dressed in pink.

Joe defended himself - "I just wanted her to look like a little girl!" I thought that was (and here you have to imagine me speaking in a high false squeaky voice and making a scrunched up cutsie face) SOOOOOO CUUUUTE!!!! Maybe it's just the thought of my big kinda macho son searching through all those little clothes, gently pulling her tiny arms through her shirt and dress, bundling her in extra blankets... it just makes my heart go all stretchy-ahhhh and lovey-achey. It's my favorite photo of her so far.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Life gets in the way...

of blogging. Yep. There's still more holiday going on here. The last couple of days I've spent baking cookies, wrapping gifts, cleaning and preparing for more family and guests.... doesn't sound any different then before the 25th of December, does it!? And then there's a couple of cute grandkids wandering, tottering, crawling, investigating, and generally filling up our days. These are the main reasons there's not a lot of blogging going on at the moment.

A few random bits and bobs that have nothing to do with anything, but since you stopped by -

My folks are driving home from my sister's house in Ohio to their home in Colorado. They're trying to beat this next winter storm moving in from the west. This afternoon they were at a gas station on a turnpike somewhere near Topeka, Kansas. They were stuck there until a locksmith arrived, my stepdad shooting the breeze with a highway patrolman, my mom talking to me on the phone. My dad had locked their truck keys inside their trailer.

Talking to my kids a lot on the phone this last week, making all sorts of travel plans and such, I have discovered something interesting. My grown kids rarely watch the news. None of them had heard of either big storm in the Pacific Northwest and didn't know anything about a storm in Colorado. My son Joe didn't get half the jokes on a recent comedy show poking fun at the news of the last year. Sam made some comment about the war in Iraq the other day and when I tried to point out an inaccuracy in what he said, he cut me off with "Mom, I don't want to talk politics with you." Uhm, fine, but can I at least give him correct information?!

Part of me understands - they're busy with work, commuting, girlfriends, friends, babies.... but part of me wonders how they can live in our world and yet be so unaware of what's going on in it! I remember myself being a lot more involved in big "issues" when I was their age - environment, politics, health, women's rights, philosophy, religion.... my kids might spend time thinking of these things, but if they do, it's hard to tell.

I do know that when I was in the midst of raising five kids, I had to cut back on the amount of time I spent learning, volunteering, being involved in bigger "issues". Mainly I had to focus on just a few and I chose to concentrate on those that had the most day-to-day and immediate affect on my family. It seemed the right thing to do at the time and I still think it was probably the most effective use of my limited time during those years. But now, I have regrets that I didn't try just a little bit harder to stay involved or at least comment more often on larger issues. I see a huge difference between my youngest son William, who's been exposed to his parents expounding on all manner of global issues on a daily basis, and who seems to have a pretty good grasp on most of them (even if he doesn't always express a personal opinion), and my older kids who, when they even know what's going on, tend to parrot the media's favorite catch phrases and biases.

Of course there's always a trade off - William might know the names of all the current political players but he wouldn't know a nutritional fact if it bit, if he bit it on the.... trans fatty acid.

Yesterday I was still doing some more holiday decorating. Grandson Joshua, two and a half years old, was very interested in everything I did. We were chatting about all the different things was pulling out of a box - Santa, bells, candy canes, and all things holiday. As I was pulling out the holiday plates I realized the snowmen design would interest him. I held a plate down, pointed at the snowman and asked - "Joshua, what's that!?" He tipped his head at me, raised an eyebrow like I was a little dimwitted and replied "A plate." I realized what I had done and started laughing - he's lived in Sacramento and as far as I know, he's never been in the snow. He had never seen a snowman!

Speaking of snow, apparently it snowed here early this morning. I slept through it. It didn't stick down here on the valley floor. But when I went out to run some errands this afternoon, I noticed that all the hills and mountains around us are covered in white - finally! All these storms swirling north, south, east and west of us, but the only thing we've had much of has been wind.

I bought my husband a movie he's been wanting for months - Curious George. We all watched it last night. Well, Jeff and Noel and Joshua watched it. I got halfway through it and then ended up in the kitchen, cleaning up before it got too late. But the part I did watch was really delightful - adorable and quietly witty, without being sappy. When the movie was over, Joshua cried for the monkey to come back for fifteen minutes, and then fell fast asleep.

A bunch of William's buddies came over yesterday, enough to fill the entire living room (which isn't hard - little room, big gangly teens), hauling a new video camera and all the wires needed to view it on our "big screen." One of the boys had done a whole dance routine - it was really funny. And don't tell them this, it'll embarrass them, but it was oh so sweet as well. Gosh, I've known all these big, shaggy headed teens since they were tiny, scruffy kneed little boys. Too cute. It's fun to see them acting silly again and not having to always act "cool".

I took all the plants and hangie thingies out of my kitchen window and did a major cleaning and scrubbing. It looks so pretty now. Who knew that glass was supposed to be transparent!

It's sort of surprising to me how few ornaments have fallen off the tree this year. I have a theory about it. I think the grandkids, who have spent most of their time in the livingroom and diningroom, the tree stands at the corner of the two rooms, have scared the cats away from playing in and under it. There are still gifts underneath the tree, some unwrapped, some waiting for Joe, Lisa and Joli's arrival. The presents then keep the kids from getting too close, although Nonny has managed to grab a few things when we weren't watching closely enough. One ornament that I know was hanging too high for the baby but not too high for, oh, let's say a two year old like Joshua, I found yesterday in the middle of the livingroom floor. "How did this ornament get over here?" I asked Joshua, who had been alone in the room. Without a shiver of guilt Joshua raised his cute little face and earnestly tattled "Rosie took it off the tree."

Did I mention I FINALLY finished rereading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire!? I started rereading all the HP books this summer as "secondary reads". That is, I had one book on my nightstand I read each night, but the HP books I took with me to read while I waited between errands in the car, brought in to read during commercials while watching television, carried outside to read while Rosie played in her little fencing. I got through the first three books fairly quickly for the little time I generally read during the day, but for assorted reasons, I seemed to get stuck in the middle of the fourth book foreeeeeeever! I made a real push to finish it by Yule because I wanted to then rewatch the DVD, with the Yule Ball scene, which I've only seen once at the theatre long ago. I didn't finish it by Yule but I did finish it early on Christmas morning. The family all sat on the couch and watched some sentimental movie while I sat opposite them in the chair with no view of the TV and wept my way through the last three chapters. I still have to find time to watch the movie. Instead of starting another night time book, now I've jumped right into the fifth book as my only read.

And speaking of owls, which we weren't, but there are lots of owls in the beginning scenes of the fifth HP book, I just took Rosie out to pee. It's a very cold, very dark night. The stars twinkling like frost. I've been nervous about taking her out at night lately because the last few weeks we've had weekly owl serenades in the trees overhanging our house. They've been so noisy that at times, inside with the curtains pulled and the bed covers pulled up over my ears, they've woke me up! I'm not sure if they're fighting, wooing, or just hooting late night drinking songs, but they're really loud. I've been paranoid that one of them would swoop down on little Rosie while we're out there, so I've pulled her kennel walls in tightly around her and stand protectively near. Fortunately it's been so cold and frosty or cold and wet that she hasn't wanted to dawdle out there. I haven't heard the owls for a few nights now, I'm hoping they've moved back down to the wooded lot down and across the street from us.

Yawn. There, I've babbled on long enough. Cuppa tea. Off to bed with it, a few cats, a chihuahua, my husband, and Harry.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Let's try this again

I wrote a post late last night. I think it was heartwarming. But it was late, I was tired, so maybe not. In any case, about three quarters of the way through writing it, my computer did some sort of wierd 60's thing and went all psychedelic and fuzzy and then it passed out completely. I wasn't sure if it had just had too much holiday eggnog, or if it was something more serious. I went to bed wondering if I would still have a laptop in the morning.

Fortunately, I did. I think it overheated and turned itself off. Unfortunately, it appears I've lost all my bookmarks for some reason, which bums me out because I had saved a bunch of really cool blog addresses and I was hoping to seriously update my sidebar to reflect what I really like to read and visit online. Alas, I'll probably never find them all again. But maybe I'll go hunting and find some new ones.

At the moment I'm sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by graham crackers, frosting, spilled coconut, brightly colored breakfast cereals, and all manner of other sweetened building materials. Sam and William are making gingerbread houses. Sam is determined to make an exact replica of the house he's building in real life. William is building your basic Cape Cod. The conversations floating back and forth across the table have been pretty amusing.

"One of my teddy grahams fell off the roof and broke his leg."

"I hope you have workmen's comp!"

"Nope. They're illegals. I was trying to save money because I spent too much money on the front doorway."


"How do I get this roof to stay on top?"

"You use frosting."

"Damn, I don't think this thing is gonna pass code."


"You're using chocolate frosting in the front yard instead of white frosting. It's not going to look like snow."

"Don't worry, this is just a load of topsoil. I"m going to landscape."


This is the part where I was going to tell you a bit about the kids arriving, the grandkid's adorableness, the gifts, the food, the family fun and noise. But alas, William has just bailed on his construction job and gone off to bed, I need to clean up the "construction site" and I have to save what little energy I have left to stay up to help Santa out.

So instead I'll leave you with a few photos.

Grampa reading to Nonny and Joshua

A cute little Nonny baby

And now I'm gonna make a cup of tea, hmmmm, or maybe eggnog, grab the bags hidden in my room, and help Santa fill the stockings before heading off to bed.

Doesn't it look cozy - the lights on the tree, the presents piled beneath it, the books lining the wall behind it.

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Have a Very Blessed Yule

Combining two holidays back to back has it's disadvantages. For example, I've been so busy trying to plan for Christmas (and New Years - family is coming and going throughout all the rest of the month), I doubt we'll have time to do much for Yule this year.

Many years ago when we first started trying to celebrate both holidays, I felt a bit disappointed that no matter what I did, Yule was always a poor cousin to Christmas in the family's anticipation and participation. Not that they didn't enjoy adding another holiday into the mix. Hey, more holiday is always a good thing, huh?

I worked hard to try to make it meaningful to everyone in some small way or other and now, many years later, some of our new or blended traditions have been around for so long that no one really remembers a December without them. But let's face it, tradition is hard to change and the real star of the show for kids is the guy in the red suit. And since the guy in the red suit had always come on Christmas Eve, the same as for everyone else, for continuity's sake he's continued to come on Christmas Eve and so December 24th is the date for which the energy builds to a peak.

Over the years, however, I've discovered that being the less noticed holiday isn't all bad. Having less hype and expectations means there's more potential to get more out the experience then what one was expecting. I've learned to appreciate that no matter whether we manage to squeeze in the Yule traditions we've accumulated over the years or not, for me, there's always some very private, often quiet moment in which the solstice reaches out and touches me in a way that makes the entire holiday season come together into something cohesive, makes it something greater then the sum of it's parts. It's the "It's a Wonderful Life" moment for me that washes away the commercialism, cynicism, and frustration of "why am I doing all this again?" and transforms it into something worth all the spending and exhaustion that always manages to creep into the holidays no matter how hard I try to keep it out.

Sometimes it's a single point in time, deep in the longest night of the year, alone under an icy star strewn sky. Sometimes it's just a subtle dawning that the "perfect" holiday I'd planned isn't gonna happen, will never happen, and that the chaos and serendipity that unfolds instead is far more precious then any perfect holiday could ever be. Regardless of how and when it happens, the gift Yule always seems to bring to me is a breaking of the tension that has built up, usually since somewhere weeks before Thanksgiving, so that I can relax and enjoy whatever the rest of the holiday season will bring our way.

It's early morning now and I've managed, without having planned it, to stay up for most of this transformative night, wherein the old year lays down and dies and the new year arises young but full of potential with it's first cold sunrise. I've been wrapping gifts all night. My fault for waiting until the last moment. So many gifts not because I've gone money crazy but because I love to indulge in a dozen small surprises for each person. My own insanity for being the kind of person who will wrap a pair of socks each sock separately if it means someone will enjoy having another package to enjoy tearing open.

Along with the emotional and spiritual aspects of the holidays coming together for me tonight, the practical aspects of things seem to finally be sorting themselves out as well. The madness and disorganization that I've been working in the last few weeks suddenly seems easy to pull together into something that is, if far from my first enthusiastic ideal, at least a satisfying crazy quilt of warm traditions.

Sunrise won't be here for another two hours and I'm tempted to stay up to greet it. Reality, however, is that I have to coordinate life with hubby and son, who have both been slumbering away for long, long hours. Plus, Sam is planning to drive home tomorrow and I don't really want to sleep through his arrival. Better for me to have enjoyed that part of this night I've already spent company with and "call it a night" so I'll have some energy to enjoy the short daylight hours of the first day of winter.

So, goodnight. Or if you're far east of me, then a good morning to you as I wander off to bed. Regardless of what holiday or holidays you and yours choose to celebrate in this winter season, my wish is for you to experience the full peace and happiness that your traditions can bring to you. May your nights be filled with sweet dreams and your days be filled with purpose and joy - and perhaps a cookie or two and a nice cup of eggnog by the fire.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A post about not blogging

I worked on getting my Yule tree up today. I'll try to post a pic tomorrow after I get some of the clutter cleaned out around it. Tonight I took a break to watch Doctor Who, read e-mail, and make some new holiday dolls for my blogs.

That's it. Yawwwwn. I told you, this is a post about not blogging. You didn't believe me?!

Off to bed.

Oh wait, one more thing first. A few holiday photos:

I took this from the beach in Coronado.

The close-up is nice too. What? You're thinking "very pretty but, how is this holiday-ish?" Well, it was dark when we arrived back from our walk on the beach, and here's the same house all lit up at night.

Perhaps not as nice as the day time photos, but it was really pretty in person. (Try clicking on it, there's a lot more detail if viewed larger.)

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Arrival of Joli: A Story in Pictures

I took a lot of photos, and there's a lot of story. But let's just simplify it down to this very happy series of vignettes...

Lisa called to say her water broke. Grammy (that would be me) jumped on a plane and flew to San Diego. It turns out Lisa's water hadn't broken after all. But Joe and Lisa were very happy to see me anyway.

Since the baby wasn't ready to arrive yet, we all went out to breakfast at IHOP. Here's Joe telling baby it's time to come out now.

Later, Lisa, Lisa's mom Gaye, and I all went shopping. That's what girls do when there's time to spend, yes? We went to Seaport Village and they have a Pirate Store!!!! Here I am in front of the Pirate Store's Christmas tree. I want one of these.

Another fun thing to do while waiting for baby to arrive - visit a hat shop. Here's Gaye in a lovely red lobster cap, Lisa wearing the latest in hot dog shaped apparel, and me donning a classic flamingo chapeau.

A few days later, still no baby. So Lisa and I went to the beach.

We walked, collected shells. Lisa chased a lot of seagulls. She said she had a contraction every time she chased a seagull. It was an exceptionally low tide and we collected a lot of sand dollars. Here's Lisa throwing a live sand dollar back into the sea.

We walked a long long time. We walked one direction all afternoon. When the sun started to set, we turned around and walked the other way.

Lisa complained that it didn't feel very much like the holidays. She missed the cold and snow of the north. I have to admit that having come from that snow and cold only days earlier, I was happily enjoying the warm weather. And as for getting in a holiday mood, well, apparently San Diego believes that anything that doesn't move is fair game to be decorated. It was very festive everywhere we went. Here's the Del Coronado Hotel from the beach all decked out in lights.

All that walking did the trick. A few hours after we went back home, there was no doubt this time, Lisa's water broke. We picked up Joe at work, Lisa's mom met us at the hospital, and a long but successful night was spent birthing a baby. Everyone at the hospital was amazed because she had her naturally. It amazes me how rare that apparently is these days. Here is the new family looking tired but happy.

A wee babe, she inherited her father's rather large head, much to her mother's dismay. The little skull cap the hospital provided didn't fit so I brought this cap, which made her look like a little pea in a pod or perhaps a baby Jolly Green Giant.

We all got to go home the next day. Here's the new daddy wooing his baby daughter.

And the new mommy equally smitten with her perfect little girl.

And just to prove I was really there, here's a tired but content grandmother rocking with her fussy but adorable granddaughter.

And finally,the best for last, the new arrival herself - the happy ending to a lot of flying, walking, shopping, laughing, timing, contracting, and pushing - baby Joli.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The baby that kept me from blogging

I've been absent from the blogging world for over a week. Long story, which hopefully I'll find time to tell in greater detail when I return home in a few days, but for now, I'd like to upload a few photos so you can all bask in the loveliness that is my new granddaughter.

Joli Samantha Rose Dawson
Born December 6, 2006
12:04 pm
8 pounds, 20-1/2 inches long

We're finally home, or rather, we're back at Joe and Lisa's home.

Joli is practicing the art of:

  1. nursing
  2. frowning with her eyebrows
  3. getting her diaper changed without alerting all of San Diego county
  4. being held
  5. looking adorable

Lisa is practicing:

  1. nursing
  2. walking on her new center of gravity
  3. how to keep a hat on a baby's head
  4. functioning with hardly any sleep

Joe is practicing:

  1. saying with complete awe "I have a daughter"
  2. the "papa" dance
  3. showing everyone he knows a photo of his daughter
  4. being the humble servant to yet another female