Friday, December 30, 2011

Two Cats Again

After five consecutive days of holiday company – including one Welsh Corgi (that’s a dog, sort of) -- my house is once again quiet.

One cat, Herbie, enjoyed everyone, even the dog.

The other cat, Guinness, mostly hid except for those nanoseconds when, made desperate by hunger or other basic needs, he tore through the living room so fast that he was a charcoal blur.

Several of my guests actually saw this. They had to look fast.

This afternoon, now that the house is quiet again, he has emerged. He spent most of the day in my vicinity – or on my shoulder or on my lap.

And when he took a break, Herbie showed up.

It was great to have holiday company. I enjoyed each visitor.

But it is also great to have two cats again.

Long may they purr.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tribute to a Great Human Spirit

On Oct. 7, my brother had thyroid surgery. One week later, his wife went into intensive care. She died Oct. 17. While still planning her memorial service, he went in for his post op exam where he learned that the tumor they had removed on the seventh was malignant and they would have to take out his entire thyroid.

Jayne’s memorial service and reception were held on Nov. 19 – hundreds came. She was loved by so many.

After Thanksgiving, he put up his Christmas tree – angels and doves arrayed at its peak.

On Dec. 16, he had his thyroid removed and on Dec. 18, sang in his congregation’s Christmas pageant.

On Dec. 23, he mailed the last of his 60 hand-printed Christmas cards -- the most beautiful he has ever created. I’m going to frame mine – wonderful linoleum block prints of blue birds in a scarlet tree, resplendent azure and crimson on white.

We went to the Christmas Eve service at his church where he, with others, sang five songs. [And I learned that they had removed all the cancer when they removed his thyroid.]

We made it through Christmas Day together - as did his sons and their families. I know each of us had moments of intensely missing Jayne. But we had enough love to share and, who knows? perhaps she was there with us amid the great un-wrapping and the over-abundant food.

If I needed an example of a resilient human spirit, I need look no further than my brother, Bill McClure.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Cocoa Connections

At precisely 10 a.m. a small parade approached my house. The woman in the lead carried a large object encased in a white plastic garbage bag. She was followed by three pint-sized humans, two boys and a girl (Max, J.D. and Olivia) and a man holding the hand of the smallest boy, Parker, who is not yet two. The woman and man – Judy and Eldon – run a small daycare center a few houses down the block.

I had invited them.

They came up the walk and into the house simultaneously shedding padded jackets and handing me their personal versions of Christmas cards and singing snatches of “Jingle Bells.” The one girl, Olivia, actually sang the entire song. Judy removed the plastic protection from a humungous poinsettia –an unexpected present. After the initial chaos, when the coats had been piled in the designated area, Max approached me. Quite solemn, he inquired if I indeed had something for all of them. Cocoa to be precise.

I confirmed the treat but pointed out that before a drop could be consumed, I needed them to finish decorating my tree. They were delighted when they saw the array of ornaments and went to work with glee. There were giggles and questions and occasional "oohs and aahs” as the each ornament found a new home – generally on the bottom half of the tree.

Wandering from wonder to wonder, they discovered Herbie, the world’s friendliest cat, and each gave him a pat, marveling at his softness.

Then Max approached me again. “Is it time yet?”

“Yes,” I responded and directed them to sit around the table where plates and napkins and a plate of cookies awaited. I delivered mugs of cocoa, one by one, to deeply appreciative recipients. They laughed when Herbie sat in my chair but agreed that it would not be good to give him any hot chocolate.

Eventually beverages consumed and cookies devoured, they wandered back to the living room. A Christmas CD was playing and Parker started sort of dancing then J.D. joined in with impressive gyrations.

It was time to leave. Only slightly prompted, the kids said thank you then – spontaneously—wove themselves around me in a group hug.

It was about 11:15 when they left, a parade in the opposite direction as I waved from my front door.

Who needs more Christmas than this?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not Enough

My New York Times subscription runs Mondays through Fridays. On the weekends, I get the e-mailed NYT digest. Last Sunday, Dec. 11, there was a 58-word story, here quoted in its entirety:

     3 Women Receive Nobel Prize
     The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was presented to three activists and political leaders on    Saturday in Oslo for “their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights”: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, 73; her compatriot, Leymah Gbowee, 39, a social worker and peace activist; and Tawakkol Karman, 32, a Yemeni journalist and political activist. (NYT)

Perhaps somewhere in the real newspaper and/or on PBS television or even a network or cable news program, the women received a bit more attention.

One would hope.

Admittedly, back in October, there were longer stories. And, apparently serendipitously, PBS broadcast the remarkable series “Women, War and Peace.”

So, I guess they have received ‘enough’ attention. Still, their monumental struggles for the rights and safety for other human beings should have generated a little more about the presentation – what they said, the response of the audience.

Maybe even (since after all they are mere women) what they wore.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Wrapping Things Up

Like Scrooge, I have reservations about Christmas. It sometimes seems a pointless frenzy of buying, wrapping, mailing, decorating, and cooking.

I do it, but there are days I wonder why.

Yesterday I started to wrap the present I found for my six-year-old grand niece. The face of the cloth doll looks a little like Iris’s face and I could not help but smile.

The doll and I held each other’s eyes for a while and I got it.

All the mess of wrapping paper, tape and ribbon that I was struggling with had a purpose. The package for my brother contained something to evoke an important memory. The packages for my sons in Chicago were mostly intended to help keep them warm. The package for my older niece holds things to acknowledge her as a nascent woman.The gifts for my nephew and his wife are mostly just beautiful and fun. Etc.

All of these things are concrete expressions of the love I feel for their recipients. As wonderful as good conversations and hugs might be, it is important to occasionally present some symbol of that love -- something people can wear or carry around or put on a shelf or wall. When they see it or feel it they can remember, “This was from Mim. She loves me.”

Every card, every present (or almost every card and present) reinforces the connections that hold us together.

So, like Scrooge at the end of The Christmas Carol, I come to celebrate Christmas in my heart. And like Tiny Tim, say “God Bless Us, Every One.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Comfort and Joy

It’s interesting to discover what brings me comfort after the loss of my sister-in-law.

Every morning – usually before I intended to wake up – one of my cats (Herbie) finds a way to snuggle as close as possible to at least one of my hands and lies there, purring and warm.

And after breakfast, the other cat (Guinness) and I routinely have a play session as he ‘helps’ me make my bed.

My bed is on the east side of the house so the Colorado sun warms us both. Sunshine always helps.

And cholesterol. Cheese has always been a downfall. Now even more so. And Friday, while doing my regular shopping, I actually bought half a pound of bacon. I had bacon (and a egg) for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. It felt quite luxurious. And comforting.

Oh and music. I made myself go to a concert Saturday. At one point, I closed my eyes and just absorbed the harmonies. The healing was perceptible.

And in this time of diminishing light I have created a kaleidoscope of supplements: my Christmas tree, the outside lights, the back window lights, the study lights. And every single one of them helps.

Hugs. Of course. There is a member of my congregation whose husband is rapidly deteriorating. She comes to church, she says, as much for the hugs as for the message. Now I do too.

Friends. Friends who reach out with a phone call or an email or a hug or an invitation for lunch or a card. Each of them weaves a strand in the net that holds me up when sorrow threatens to overwhelm.

Beauty. There was hoarfrost Friday morning. Absolutely astounding. And the prisms that dance in my dining room when the morning light catches the crystals in the east window or those that dance when the afternoon light hits those in a west window. The light of a waxing moon on the snow.

All these things (except perhaps the bacon) are components of my life -- in times of loss and in times of celebration.

Perhaps if each of us were to just pay attention, we could find an abundance of things to bring us comfort and joy.

May it be so.