Looking for answers to life's questions

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

In Search of the Tally

I read a comment on another blog I follow where one blogger is lamenting how little they have accomplished lately. We set such high expectations for ourselves and then beat ourselves up because we have not met those expectations.

my tree is up and tips a little to one side like me.

my tree is up and tips a little to one side like me.

I’m no different but I’m trying to take a different tactic when I start the mental abuse of myself. Yes, it’s self- abuse and most of us are very good at it. Every time I start beating myself up for what I have not accomplished by the required December 24th date, I start the list of things I have accomplished.

Decorations are up. This is what I do with old books.

Decorations are up. This is what I do with old books.

I’m usually behind this time of year. I have presents that need to be mailed and aren’t even wrapped. I’ve e-mailed a note of apology already. My mind has been elsewhere. You’ve heard the phrase, “of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most”. Well, mine wandered off alone and I’m still looking for it. I baked banana-nut bread the other day and somehow couldn’t figure out why it wouldn’t look done. I kept adding a few more minutes but still it looked undone. I had in my mind that it baked 30 minutes when in fact, it needed an hour. I’ve baked that bread for over 40 years. What the heck is going on in my brain?

We made coal for the bad kids. Now that was fun.

We made coal for the bad kids. Now that was fun.

I got the quilt top started for quilt group enough to show some progress. I managed to get deviled eggs ready for writing group pot luck and a gift bagged for a friend’s new baby. That’s where I lucked into a bottle of homemade Limoncello from a good friend. Now that’s a very generous person. I had a tiny sip. It was luscious.

The problem comes because our hearts want to do more and our bodies just say “not now”. My mind wanders off for a rest from going to too many directions but things are getting done. The Christmas cards were mailed so all those I care about and those friendships I want to cultivate would know that I’m thinking of them. I actually send out lots of cards all year but this time of year gives extra meaning to it.

There are only a couple of presents under my tree from blogging friends and my former in-laws. My den door had lots of cards taped up so I can see them as I sit to write. The number of blogs I want to get read is staggering but I’ll have lots of time later this week to catch up.

I can see them each time I sit a few minutes.

I can see them each time I sit a few minutes.

My son won’t make it for Christmas, maybe not even till after new year’s day, but he will eventually get here and the tree will still be up, the cookies will taste all the better and our hearts will be even more welcoming.

My tally says I’m doing well enough under the circumstances and I’ve decided to just relax and enjoy what’s on the plus side. I can almost guarantee, this time next year, I can reprint this blog as it will probably still apply. All I can say is I’m doing the best I can and so is everyone else. So please enjoy the family, friends, sappy Christmas movies, indulge a bit and smile a lot. Tis the season for good cheer and that means to yourself as well.

Are you being as kind to yourself as you are to others? How does your tally stack up?
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of my Holiday Oomph

I arrived home late Monday evening after spending four hours waiting in a bookstore for my son to take me to the airport. I can’t tell you how difficult that was. (There was no room left in my suitcase for books) He insisted his waiting room at work would be too uncomfortable for that long. Then there was more waiting at the airport. The weather cooperated nicely and the pilots did an excellent job getting us up and down. I am always impressed by their skill. I do not like to fly even though I’ve done a great deal of it.

One of many tunneling around my son's back yard. He managed to capture this.

One of many tunneling around my son’s back yard. He managed to capture this.

I had a stop in San Jose, CA but no plane change and saw the ground was wet. Yay! They have been desperate for rain. We had some too in the LA area. You could see happy trees and plants everywhere.

My son took this California sky before the rain.

My son took this California sky before the rain.

The sale of my son’s house is back on as of Wednesday. Loan problems for the buyer resolved, for the moment. That means my son could be moving out across Christmas. It’s easy if you are moving across town, not 1000 miles through snow-covered mountain ranges. Getting moving help during the holidays is another tough trick. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here. The right thing will happen in the right time. I’m optimistic.

This is getting left behind for the new owners. Too heavy to take back down the stairs.

This is getting left behind for the new owners. Too heavy to take back down the stairs.

Arriving home brought the usual chores; laundry, grocery shopping and contacting friends and neighbors. I hauled my Christmas decorations out of storage and put up my scrawny fake little tree. Some of the ornaments are on but I’m finding myself a bit…unmotivated.

These are the stairs. Have you ever looked under yours?

These are the stairs. Have you ever looked under yours?

Maybe after my daughter comes by tomorrow to bake more for her work, I’ll get a splash of inspiration and energy. Today I’ve decided to take the day off to rest, read, rejuvenate and right. Oops, (write). More than writing about all the things I have to get done for the possibly procrastinated Christmas, when my son finally makes it here, I’d rather be catching up on what every one of you are doing. I’ll be addressing Christmas cards for a blogging exchange started by my friend at To Breathe is To Write. It’s a good way to learn more about some of those that follow her and send cards to a few that have smaller personal circle for many reasons.

My Thanksgiving was entertaining. How was yours?

My Thanksgiving was entertaining. How was yours?

My card list is smaller every year due to getting out less, my divorce and too many moves. I like real mail. I think most people who write do. Snail mail is fun and prettier if you do it right. I’m running out of time to get international cards out and have given myself till no later than Monday. The rest will follow. There will be no crafting of any sort this year. With my move into this home and my son’s move out of his, I’m out of energy and time. Here comes that old phrase you’ve probably used yourselves. “Maybe next year.”

Do you like to give and get real cards for special occasions? Or have you opted to send only virtual greetings?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of the Next Big Adventure

Things change fast in my little world. I was finally catching my breath. Completing the simple pillowcase dress that is going with many others to an orphanage in Haiti, and 2 quilt squares for my quilting group that scared me to pieces. Quilts do that to me. I was ready to get on with the unpacking and putting away of MORE BOOKS.

Simple drawstring dress for little girls with so little

Simple drawstring dress for little girls with so little

bottom border of the dress

bottom border of the dress

I bought 3 more bookcases so I could get the rest of my books out of storage and eventually get a smaller, more inexpensive unit. I have more to give away and more to sell. There has been a lot of work going on here and a lot of play. Let’s break this down into bite sized chunks.

This was the prototype (experiment)  to see how the final one would look

This was the prototype (experiment) to see how the final one would look

I thought about making another like this prototype but changed my mind.

I thought about making another like this prototype but changed my mind.

My house is starting to look like a home and my sister who has been with me for the last three months is looking for a place of her own closer to her new job and all the places she goes to regularly. My place puts a lot of miles on her truck so the search is on.

Now I’ll be heading back to California for a month of working with my son to pack and paint his house. He has an offer on his home and they want a 30 day escrow. There is no realtor involved so they must do the paperwork. After putting my home together with the help of my children and sister, I’ll be helping to dismantle his.

ready to turn in and combine.

ready to turn in and combine.

A closer look at my take on a quilt square

A closer look at my take on a quilt square

This little birdy faces the other way.

This little birdy faces the other way.

My quilt squares were turned in this week and I thought they would be put into a big quilt and raffled off. That wasn’t the case. They were divided in two and names drawn to win each of the stacks of 12 blocks. I won a stack and now I’m supposed to put it together and bring it to the Christmas meeting. It’s obviously not going to happen. I doubt I can get it done when I get back in time for the December meeting but maybe for the party after Christmas. It will be a keepsake of each member that made a square.

We all started out with the same 2 fabrics. Then added our own touch. Now the fun begins...in December.

We all started out with the same 2 fabrics. Then added our own touch. Now the fun begins…in December.

Can you see why my mind is a little scattered these days? Our weather went from hot to canoe weather. Wish I could send some of it to those who need it. My son hasn’t seen significant rain in a year. I’m grateful every day I found this perfect place to be a platform for transitions. That’s the story of life. Nothing every stays the same. It’s all one big adventure, if you choose to see it that way. Go with the flow, that’s what the canoe is for. Paddle in the direction of the current, not against it.

Home is where we can ground ourselves and share with others. I hand embroidered this piece.

Home is where we can ground ourselves and share with others. I hand embroidered this piece.

Life has offered many challenges opportunities. Even my health challenges have an upside. Since my mouth doesn’t work as well as it used to, I spend more time listening and learning. So much for being the biggest talker in the family. On to this next adventure. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What’s your next big adventure?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of a Bit More Time

It’s here, it’s here and as usual, I’m not ready. Where did the time go? I realize I’m a good time waster. I love to just sit and read or write or even watch a good sappy holiday movie on television. I know, I know. Some of you are telling me to get rid of the TV so I can get more done. Have given that great thought but in the healing process, sometimes you have to just sit there and do nothing.

My kitchen helpers are busy too

My kitchen helpers are busy too

I made my lists, checked them twice but unfortunately, timing is everything and nothing ever goes according to plan. I forgot to make a shirt my son had envisioned for someone on his list because I couldn’t find the right shirt in a good color. So once he was here, I let him pick out the shirt and I worked at doing the embroidery, praying (really hard) that it came out straight. Very small shirt on very large hoop made me break into a tiny sweat.

It's a play on her name and it came out straight

It’s a play on her name and it came out straight

I managed to finish another batch of snowflakes with each taking 45 minutes to stitch out. I did get some reading done while keeping an eye on the machine and replacing bobbins as they ran out. Hard work? Not really.

The bakery is open and the fat friars are working hard.

The bakery is open and the fat friars are working hard.


Groceries were bought in the early morning hours when others were having their first cup of coffee so that’s done. But somehow, with company in and out and stuff being moved from one room to another to accommodate and visit, I let myself get too relaxed, falling a tiny bit behind, as usual. I no longer stress about the holidays but I always want to do one more thing. I just need a bit more time.

I’m not signing up for the winter semester of writing class to spend more time getting sewing and embroidery projects done. I don’t have the stamina for all of it but I will miss seeing everyone. We had a grand time at potluck in mid-December. Santa even showed up and had brunch with us.

Even Santa had a story to read. It was quite moving.

Even Santa had a story to read. It was quite moving.

Today we go see family and deliver our gifts to the youngsters. None is all that little anymore. My daughter has done her usual magic and made our tiny purchases look like they came from Saks Fifth Ave. I’m always happy to have someone to feed and spoil a bit so having company is a bit of heaven for me. Cooking for an army is easy, for one, not so easy.

May your day be filled with all the good we received. Yummy!

May your day be filled with all the good we received. Yummy!

So as you can see, I’ve run out of time and space and I know you have so little time left you probably won’t get to read this till next week, but that’s ok. Cut yourself some slack and if you find a tiny bit more time, ENJOY it! That’s what I’m going to with mine…if it shows up. Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday to you and yours.

Just one question. Are you ready for it to be over or are you already planning for next year’s Christmas?

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of the Next

Complete wellness is still eluding me though I can sense its timid, incremental approach. It toys with me, knowing I have no patience for my illness and debilitation. I have since found only one other, blogging about Bells Palsy and they are into months, not years like I am. I may have scared this person, as I was when first hearing of someone with Bells for over five years.

When I am having a good day and feeling quite spry, I try to find things that are enjoyable to do. This week I had a project that needed to be done. My ex-daughter-in-law is having a birthday at the end of the month so I ordered a couple of Chicken Soup books about cats. But to do something more personal I decided to embroider a kitchen towel for her. I had a batch that I bought wholesale and had one left. The rest had already become gifts.

before washing and pressing

before washing and pressing

more of the proportion of design.

more of the proportion of design.

Then I had a towel that I bought somewhere that looked like it might work for embroidery so I tried my hand at doing one for myself. The teapot in the middle is a tiny scrap of fabric. That’s why I throw nothing away. When living in Arizona, our quilt guild made dog & cat beds for the animal shelter in out small town using scrap fabric for the stuffing. There was no money for the shelter to buy beds so we used up lots of unwanted fabric and made stacks and stacks of them.

I almost forgot to put that tiny piece of fabric over the teapot. I get to choose the colors.

I almost forgot to put that tiny piece of fabric over the teapot. I get to choose the colors.

Once the towels were complete, it was time to move on to a birthday card. Looking through my design stash on my computer, I found one that would work. I’ve never done it before so why not give it a shot. I would only be tossing out cardstock, a piece of stabilizer and some thread if it didn’t work. I printed the birthday sentiment inside the card then centered it in the hoop with a bit of temporary adhesive. I have to admit, I did sweat a bit, but it turned out well enough to send. Something different from the norm.

Not perfect but a great first try at something different.

Not perfect but a great first try at something different.

I finally got everything wrapped and mailed so now I sit here wondering what my next project will be. Christmas is always a challenge for me, as I like to make most of my gifts that aren’t books. I have done embroidered t-shirts for my kids and a gift wrappers apron for my daughter that I really need a picture of soon. I don’t think I have the energy yet for quilts but that could still happen. They take me so long to do since I tire easily still.

Do you try to plan your projects ahead or just go with the flow? What’s next on your agenda? Any ideas you want to pass on I’d appreciate.

“I feel like every project I work on is a dream project, so long as I am learning.”
― Simeon Kondev

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of Summary

Christmas is technically over. All those presents that were beautifully wrapped have been distributed to loved ones and the paper rained over several living rooms. We did Christmas in shifts this year as so many must do. My niece and her girls were visited the weekend before. My sister was two days after as she had a bad cold with fever. We appreciated her not spreading it around.

The ribbon was recycled from years gon by and once again saved.

The ribbon was recycled from years gon by and once again saved.

There is a saying; “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” I think it’s on our family crest. Once again, I’m behind getting done the things I wanted to make for friends and family. Selling a house during the Christmas holiday was a blessing and a welcome accomplishment on so many levels but took a great deal of my time and energy. I wish I could extend my gift giving into February. Maybe I will.

I finally finished this casserole cozy for my sister as her Christmas gift. She picked out the material and pattern just after I became ill. Thinking that it would be no problem to complete, I was surprised that I could not sew until just recently. It had been so long in the making, my sister forgot all about it and was delighted to see it complete.I did buy the casserole dish and wooden spoon as part of the gift.

Casserole caddy three years to make

Casserole caddy three years to make

Next I did a machine embroidered t-shirt for my daughter with her favorite saying stitched on it. She’s concluded there is no prince charming in her near future so it’s up to her to make her life majestic.

This is how she sees herself.

This is how she sees herself.

I’m still working on one for my son and hope to have it complete before he heads back home. They look so easy but somehow mine always end up a little off-center. What does that say about me? I must share my favorite photo of the season taken by my son. My niece’s boyfriend has this rescued Pit mix I’ve written about before. Her name is Amy and she is the sweetest dog.

Yes Santa, I've been a good girl. Please leave a bone in my stocking.

Yes Santa, I’ve been a good girl. Please leave a bone in my stocking.

I don’t know about you but for some reason I always have this long list of things to get done and never quite get there. So I will go back and make another list of the things I did accomplish. When you sum it all up, the movement was all forward. Isn’t that the direction we should be heading with a few peaks at the past to make sure we are still on the road we wanted?

With the New Year just a day away; looking back I realize that I’ve actually come a long way in a year. I have finally become well enough to drive a tiny bit and begun sewing a little. I have achieved all my financial goals I set for this year. Next year, I hope to achieve my health goals. Yes, there is a weight loss in the plan. There is a weight loss plan every year. Obviously, almost 3 years of tipping over every time I move has led to a very inactive lifestyle. That gave me time for the writing I love so much. This time I’m looking for a plan that is kinder and gentler. Three years ago I lost 50 pounds on a bet. Most of it is back. I plan on getting well this year. There are no resolutions here; just a day by day plan to make each one as good as possible. Bet you have some great plans for this year that might not have been. I’d love to hear about them. Maybe we can achieve them together.

Happy New Year Everyone!

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of Signs of the Season

Like so many folks that I have heard from this year, I’m having a bit of trouble getting my holiday grove on. Something feels very off this year and I can’t put my finger on it. I’m blaming the unusual alignment of the planets this year. People look at me funny when I tell them that’s why nothing is getting done but they don’t question it. You can come up with your own reasons.

Since I’m not out shopping to get in the mood, music on my laptop has to get me cheery. I’ve watched as many holiday movies as the Hallmark channel will provide. Those kept me company while I wrote out Christmas cards but the baking required the music. There has been a lot of baking but not as much as usual.

cookie tubs 1

M&M's don't last long when my son arrives

M&M’s don’t last long when my son arrives

My daughter and I bake to make gifts for friends and neighbors. I give a loaf of banana or pumpkin bread to each delivery person that graces my door. The mailman gets one too. The recipes are family secrets. My first mother-in-law shared the banana bread recipe with me along with her lessons on how to love a child. I bake it in her honor. The M&M™ cookies are from the original recipe I found in a magazine in 1963. I’ve made them almost every year since except for 1968 when we lived in Taiwan with no stove or oven. I also make my Rice Krispie™ treats from their original recipe that called for more marshmallows and less krispies. I cut the butter in half and it works just fine. The coconut macaroons are from my mothers German recipe book that we converted the measurements though I still have German measuring cups.

There is more in the freezer and the fridge. OMG! Come help us eat this.

There is more in the freezer and the fridge. OMG! Come help us eat this.

I’ll take cookies and bread to the complex office since they have been so kind and helpful. We will take some down to my niece and her girls. She doesn’t have a lot of time to bake. There will be some left for us to enjoy. My son is the official cookie tester. Everyone has to have a job no matter how difficult.

I spent a lot of time looking down at the ground to find this stuff.

I spent a lot of time looking down at the ground to find this stuff.

My wreath is on the door even though it’s looking a bit weary after 2 years in storage. I’ve made several of them as gifts from stuff off the ground. I’ll repair it before putting it back. A portion of my decorations are still in storage though I sold or donated quite a bit two years ago when they were last out.

My daughter is the official wrapper for our family. We even make her finish her own wrapping after we put her gift in the box. She embellishes everything. She even started making her own bows and sewed a Christmas button on that I had in my stash. We always hate to open the packages. I think next year I’ll let her wrap empty boxes to keep under the tree. That’s what they had her doing at work this week.

To pretty to open

To pretty ot open

Button and handmade bow

Button and handmade bow

I’m as ready as I’m going to get this year. The signs of the season are all in place. At least I think they are. What is the sign that signals the holiday has arrived for you?

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
~ Charles Dickens

From my heart to yours,
Marlene Herself

In Search of the Wonder of Christmas

In one week my son will be here to spend eighteen days with me. Christmas is for me, a season of gratitude and giving. I am the person that wants to keep decorations up all year and feel the wonder of connection to everyone. But alas, it’s frowned upon unless you have a Christmas store. Hmmm, there’s an idea.

We are fortunate that my niece lives just an hour away and has four beautiful daughters, so we will have her little ones to bestow our love and gifts of time upon.

My tiny, skinny tree is up. Since I live in an apartment building, for fire safety, I have opted for artificial. Do you know you can pick up a nice one at the thrift store then donate it back at the end of the season. No storage of a bulky tree. I was at my son’s last year so I didn’t need a tree. This year’s tree is similar to the last one I had. It fits nicely in the small space. Twenty year old ornaments bring that familiar feel to each tree. My ex and I gave up real trees when we couldn’t get the last one to stay standing. It fell over three times before we nailed it to the floor and wired it to the wall. The artificial tree we bought after that lasted 20 years before I donated it. Odd, we never had another Christmas together in that house. Hmmm.

So here’s my tiny tree and a few of my favorite decorations. I didn’t bring out everything this year. My heart just wasn’t in it.

It fits nicely in the corner

It fits nicely in the corner

I made the tree skirt a few years ago when I could sew. It was fun and festive. There are several more waiting to be finished if I ever stop moving.

Heart shaped tree skirt

Heart shaped tree skirt

As you can see, I have a very old Christmoose keeping an eye on the tree as well as Mrs. Claus. She’s not done with her baking so I have no idea why she’s taking such a long break.

Christmoose checking out the tree

Christmoose checking out the tree

Mrs Claus taking a much-needed break

Mrs Claus taking a much needed break

What is it that brings the wonder of the season to you? For me it’s never been about getting gifts. It’s about seeing the sparkle in the eye of the receiver. It’s the smell of cookies, banana and pumpkin breads baking for the delivery people. It’s in the simple joys of family and friends sharing a meal. Every year brings some new addition to tradition.


“Remember, if Christmas isn’t found in your heart, you won’t find it under a tree.”
~ Charlotte Carpenter.

From my heart to yours
Marlene Herself