Category Archives: celebration
Snow is coming in yet again. Not unseasonable for us here in the “cold north”. That doesn’t make it anymore pleasant when I’m stiff from shoveling and gazing longingly at the gardening catalogs filling my mailbox. I need to get in the car and run errands before the storm hits.
Orion and I listen to Sirius XM Broadway station whenever we’re in the car together. It’s the station we can agree on. We both enjoy musicals, and the Broadway repertoire includes music from every genre imaginable.
Orion is also big on filking. He has a talent for making up lyrics on the fly. He says, “If I was singing that song I wouldn’t sing it that way….” and goes on to demonstrate for me. He has some favorites. Instead of “I Could Have Danced All Night” he sings a song about being in the hospital with the catch “I Could Have Slept All Night” (if only I wasn’t woken up every 5 minutes by an alarm, a nurse, or someone wanting to stick my arm….).
Because of our shared appreciation for show tunes, Orion’s birthday present to me was a trip to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater to see Newsies. We got to go this weekend. It’s a show set at the turn of the century (not this one, but the last one) in NYC. The children of the city are working in sweatshops and on the streets. One of the jobs is hawking the day’s papers. When the big publishers decide to unexpectedly jack up the prices of the papers for the Newsies the kids decide to start a union and strike.
It’s a Disney show, so the historical content isn’t accurate. But it does reference historical events of the time. The strike that provides inspiration for the musical was instrumental in the development of child labor laws and the beginning of the 20th century.
On Sunday we celebrated “Ham Day”, in that I made a ham and invited a friend over for dinner. We also scheduled it so we could watch the Jesus Christ Superstar Live broadcast. I’m a fan of the show. I think it’s smart, musically brilliant, and generally fun. This production was impressive. It was well cast. The vocal performances were balanced.Sara Bareilles gave the best performance I’ve ever seen of Mary Magdalene’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”.
Somewhere I also found time to spend with my daughter. She spent most of the weekend setting up for the Easter Buffet at the pub where she works. But she deigned to include me on her Salsa dancing night. I had a good time, and even danced a little. I had more fun watching her. She shines in a crowd and really loves to dance to the Latin rhythms.
I didn’t post a blog last week. I had plenty to write about. I had photos. I theoretically had time. I just spent that time in bed recovering from being all peopled out. It was a busy week, and last week was as well.
Going through the equinox reminded me that this is all about balance. I’ve written about balance quite a bit. There is always something new for me to learn. I recognize balance is not a passive thing. I also recognize that it’s harder to maintain balance when the swing back and forth is very wide. My swing has been a little wide.
In my busy people weekend I had a great time. It turned into a weekend all about live music, what a treat! I ran into an old friend on-line. (Or as I like to remind her: I’m not her oldest friend; I’m just the one she’s known the longest.) Since I hate trying to have a real conversation through messaging (is my age showing) I asked what she was up to and if we could get together. She had plans with another of our High School friends and invited me to tag along. Music in the suburbs, good company – including the strangers who graciously shared their table, old fashioned rock-a-billy music and a lot of catching up.
Then the weekend got into full swing with both St. Patrick’s Day and Paganicon. This is Karina’s first St. Pat’s as a manager in an Irish Pub. I got several phone calls including the stories of all the “fires” that she needed to deal with. The folks I talked to when I stopped in this week had nothing but praise for her, so I suspect she rocked it. She had scheduled events at the pub all week. I went on Friday (St. Practice day) to hear Hustle Rose.
The band leader worked with Karina back in the day, so I’d met him and heard the band before. It was nice to support them both. I think they are very talented and I like their original stuff as well as their covers. David, the band leader, was even kind enough to give slightly intoxicated Mom, me, a ride home.
Part of the Paganicon line-up are the musical guests. Because I took Orion this year we were much more focused on the socializing than the workshops. Of course one of the best places to get together with folks is around the music. Saturday night is the ball, and another friend Tomi T-Time Majoros and his band stepped in when the scheduled band backed out. Even the musical guest of honor S.J. Tucker sang along. It was great to have a ball band that folks could dance too. A fun and friendly evening.
Orion and I also got to hear S.J and visit a little with her. She put out a special edition exclusive CD just for the Paganicon event. Her heart is as great as her voice.
This last weekend, as I said, was the equinox which meant ritual prep and execution. I also ran up to my folks for 24 hours (that’s 3 hours up and 3 hours back for an overnight). Dad wanted to caucus, my sister needed to do an equipment run (a hospital bed and a wheelchair coming soon for my Mom) and so someone needed to stay. Glad to be able to help even if it meant swinging that balance a little wide.
To check out my previous posts search on my blog page for:
Daylight Savings time is hard on the body, especially in the spring. I spent much of the weekend indulging my own body clock. That was great, but since I’m more of a night owl, it made the spring forward adjustment even more difficult.
I am doing better than I expected under the circumstances. I attribute that to taking some time out for a Sauna.
Sauna is a social/spiritual/cultural event. There are sauna/sweat practices in many northern cultural traditions. In the Twin Cities there is actually a club, the 612 Sauna Society that was founded to explore and share the Norse sauna traditions.
This month they’ve set up in the courtyard of the Swedish Institute. A good friend decided she’d like to try sauna (she’d never done one) and I got an invite. I chose to see this as a continuation of my birthday celebrations. Especially after last week’s snowstorm I’ve seen lots of people succumbing to the “is winter ever going to be over blues”. Part of the reason I maintain the “older you are longer you get to celebrate” philosophy is to combat that.
It was a perfect day to spend the afternoon sweating. In a Scandinavian setting sauna is usually done in cycles. You warm up to the core and then come out into the cold and cool all the way down. The “rinse repeat” can mean coming out of the sauna and jumping into the snow or a cold lake, doing a cold water splash, or just hanging out. We did three rounds, and mostly skipped the “rinse” part of the program, although it was certainly an option.
The 612 volunteers actually recommended a slower cool down. The quick splash, or even a brisk breeze at colder temperatures, can make you feel ready to return to the sauna before the core has really cooled. We drank a lot of water and cooled off by the fire. Being outside in swimsuits at 30 degrees Fahrenheit was quite sufficient, and quite pleasant.
The time in the sauna was social, but it wasn’t small talk. In many ways the sharing was as much a release of toxins as the actual sweat. There wasn’t a “timer” we were told to listen to our bodies and come out and go in as we would tolerate it. We brought water bottles and the 612 Sauna Society provided water for refills so we were very conscientious about staying hydrated throughout the experience.
It was a time without time. It was a ritual without a lot of ritual. It was an opportunity to learn more about the cultural history of sauna and about each other. It was an opportunity to get in touch and in tune with my own body rhythms. It was cleansing and healing. It was delightful.
Even better is that I can tell the cleansing and healing effects have stayed with me. My desire for just water continues to be high. My appetite is good, but not overwhelming. My aches and pains have eased up considerably. I slept really well. I’m still grumpy about the time though. It shouldn’t be this late yet!
Previous, perhaps relevant, blogs:
This is me still not feeling much like writing. At least this week I’ve been doing the part where I write my blog in my head. That’s an improvement, and better is better.
I watch everyone I know sink into the cabin fever, long winter blues at this time of year. The longer brighter days are great, but they’re not enough when we get yet another 6″ of snow. I’m grateful to have a birthday this week. It gives me something to look forward to and it gives me a reason to get out and celebrate.
I’m grateful for the neighbors, who are Karina’s age. I haven’t had to lift a shovel all weekend and I was able to get out of my driveway to spend Sunday with a good friend wandering through the Como Park Conservatory and Zoo. We are very fortunate to have this haven in the depths of winter.
When you walk in your skin celebrates. There’s moisture in the air! Your eyes delight in the variety of shades of green. The conservatory staff is very contentious about rotating the small plants though so there are always some manner of blooming orchids.
This time I was delighted by how many things were in fruit. There were limes on the lime trees, chocolate pods on the cacao, star fruit and prickly custard apple. (Now I am on a mission to try prickly custard apple or Brazilian paw paw.) We found odd buds and blooms everywhere. In the conservatory hope for spring thrives.
Thursday was an adventure. Karina had the evening off (a rare occurrence) so we’d planned for her to take me out for my birthday. Then her whiskey distributor invited her to a launch party for Jameson IPA. (They age their whiskeys in beer barrels (caskmates) and brew their Irish Pale Ale in whiskey barrels). I was game and we had a good time. It was not too big a party, probably because of the snow (the first 4″ was Thursday, the 6″ was Saturday).
We critiqued the drinks the same way we often have dinner. Debating the merits and downfalls and discussing how to use or adapt the idea. Mostly we were pleasantly surprised. Neither of us are big IPA fans, but the mixed drinks were well balanced and the caskmates added a level of nuance to the whiskey.
I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate your birthday. I started last Thursday and I’ve got plans (so far) through most of March. That’s something else to be grateful for!
Here are a few more photos from the conservatory, in case you needed your own touch of spring:
I’ve written about the Como Zoo before:
I got to spend the weekend up at my folks helping to make a happy birthday celebration happen for my Mom. Fragile is not I word I would ever have thought to apply to my mother. She’s the strong one, who will do whatever is necessary no matter where she is at. She bounces back. Climbing mountains after surgery is something I learned from her. She’s “in charge” and keeping track of all the moving pieces at any event she attends. At 82 today, she struggles to reconcile a self image which she can no longer maintain.
She rarely goes out anymore. It’s hard for her to get around. It’s hard for her to sit in the car for any length of time. When there are a lot of distractions, or conversations going on she gets confused. My Mom has been dealing with chronic pain for a long time. Her allergies are severe and complicated enough that medicating pain isn’t an option, beyond an occasional Tylenol. Her mouth is dry, so eating and talking become impossible when she doesn’t have water at hand.
We took her 100 miles there and another 100 miles back to go out to lunch with a good sized group. I went a few days early so we could get her showered, lay out her outfit and do some massage therapy in advance. Just my presence gives her a space to gather her resources. I make sure her water glasses are always full so she doesn’t have to ask. I put food in front of her rather than quizzing her about what she might want and what is available. I do the dishes and sweep the floors, which are both really big jobs for her. She can bank a little reserve.
For her, it was more than worth it. She had a really good day. She enjoyed it so much she didn’t want to go to bed because she didn’t want the day to be over. My youngest sister couldn’t make it, but all the rest of the female children and grandchildren were in attendance. It was a girls day out. There were lots of leftovers, but she knew I would get them home and see that they were used. The wait staff sang happy birthday and fussed over her desert. We all tried to keep the table conversation with one person talking at a time. There was a lot of love.
I am so very fortunate to be able to help facilitate that kind of good day for my Mom. I’m grateful for every opportunity I have to see her out and about and having a good time. It’s a joy to watch her relax and participate and let go of the worry of being “in charge”. I wish I could do more.
Happy birthday Mom!
It’s not been a “holly jolly” kind of year. In this season, the struggle to maintain without being overwhelmed can be particularly difficult. Some of it is of course the darkness. For those of us who live in more extreme latitudes the difference in the length of days between midsummer and midwinter is considerable.
North of the Arctic circle (or South for the Antarctic) We have the land of the midnight sun. At the summer solstice the sun never sets. That means at winter solstice it never rises. Think about that for a minute. A day where the sun doesn’t rise. It’s kind of creepy.
I will tell you truthfully that even here on the 45th parallel there are winter days when it’s so dark and overcast it feels as though there is no sun. The snow helps. It reflects what little light there is and bounces it so things seem brighter. The holiday lights help. They add not only brightness but a little color to the black and white photo landscape.
The darkness can also be emotional. Birthdays during the season that get “lumped in” with everyone else’s celebrations can be great. They can also build a lifetime of resentment. A death during the season can bring people together. It can also be a wound that gets reopened every year. Being overwhelmed with Christmas Cheer, especially when that’s not part of your religion, can be an opportunity or an oppression.
Then there is the demand. There is a huge demand on time, both socially and for many people, because of year end, on the job. If you work in retail or in the food industry you can wave goodby to days off for awhile. There is a demand on the pocketbook. All that socializing costs, as do the expected gifts. When the bills are already scary this time of year can be devastating. Despite all the seasonal sales, somehow it seems that expenses still go up and up.
I lean heavily on just do it. Daily Practice becomes focused on small nitty gritty things. Cleaning up the kitchen before I go to bed is not always easy, but better to do it than not. Making my bed in the morning when I get up (even if I might want to go back) makes it less likely that I will go back. Even paying the bills is better than the alternative.
So I put my head down and write the blog, clean the kitchen, make the bed. I make the phone calls and appointments. I meet the obligations and shop the sales with an eye on my budget. I put in a few extra hours where I can hoping for some extra padding on the weekly income. I wait in eager anticipation of the Solstice. Because after the longest night each day has a little more light.
Thanksgiving this year was at my sister’s house. She and her husband have a lovely space with a beautiful kitchen and it’s close to my parents so it’s the logical spot for family gatherings. I keep saying that I’m grateful that she’s the one doing the work!
My little sister and her family didn’t make it this year, which is no surprise. Karina also didn’t make it. She just got a promotion at work and was assigned the Thanksgiving Day buffet. She spent a lot of time with decorations and set up. Karina is a hard worker and she wanted to impress on her first event for the restaurant. She did a beautiful job and got lots of kudos. Hopefully she’ll learn fast how to delegate some of that work.
We missed Karina, but she sent up a cheesecake. She may not be baking at work, but her love for doing that hasn’t stopped. It was a great treat, especially for me. With a cinnamon allergy most pumpkin and apple pies are death to me.
Orion and I came up Wednesday evening and stayed at my parent’s house. We planned to spend the weekend visiting and helping with some of the housework. Just keeping up is getting harder for my parents. Wednesday’s mail brought 36 catalogues. Mom can’t get through them, and doesn’t really need anything. Unfortunately that depression era mentality makes it hard for her to just toss them without at least looking at them. I can sort through the pile, hand her 3 catalogues and send the rest to recycling.
Friday morning we all slept in a little bit. The plan was for a lazy day. Mom was thinking about sorting through one of her old jewelry boxes. She was also pretty sure there was a box of Christmas ornaments we had sorted that needed to be taken over to my sister’s Saturday for her and her kids. I got up and my Dad greeted me with, “Good Morning. You need to go home – today.”
The problem wasn’t me (thankfully), but the weather. We were having an unseasonable thaw. All that deer from hunting was frozen in coolers on the back porch. It wasn’t going to stay frozen based on the weather report. I needed to take it home and get it in my and Karina’s coolers!
So we spent the day packing, setting up leftovers into meals, and taking a memory lane trip through Mom’s jewelry box. We called Karina, who was back at work, and arranged to stay through close so she could haul and carry meat. At least we didn’t have to drive home though holiday traffic.
It all turned out well in the end. Sad that we were unable to spend more time with my folks, but happy to have a few “extra” days at home. I kept off the internet, didn’t tell anyone I was back, and started making space for the rest of the holiday season. I just have to figure out how I’m going to do the baking in my torn apart kitchen!
The temperatures are dropping and the wind is gusting. The cold and damp are fitting for the season, they set the mood. There are ghosts walking.
I am at that age where parents die in clusters. This is the way of things, of course, but that doesn’t make it easy. I worry about my own parents as they approach their “end years”. I see that gradual decline isn’t so gradual any more. It’s getting harder for them to keep up, to get by, to get things done.
This year in particular I find myself trying to offer comfort to friends whose loss simply can not be consoled. Grief comes in waves, it takes its own time. Those “stages” are neither sequential nor independent. They can come in any order, repeatedly and sometimes all at once. And I take those phone calls. I listen. I witness. Sometimes that’s enough.
I’m looking for comfort too. I want to escape in a good book. I want a fire in the fireplace. I want a pot of soup on the stove. For my ancestors those things were just part of the days. Now I can go to the grocery store and buy mirepoix, precut and measured. (I didn’t, but I can.) Bone broth is on the shelf in boxes because much of our meat is already removed from the bones. Soup is no longer the ever present cauldron, but a can in the pantry.
Baking is part of that comfort factor as well. A good bread, warm from the oven, and I can feel myself relax into the smell. Pop-up biscuits from the refrigerator case do not elicit the same affect.
There is no time for this kind of comfort in most of our lives. We rush through our days, rush through our meals, rush through our grieving and just “get on”. Perhaps the most important part of this season is to make a point and take some time. In most of the U.S. we have an extra hour coming to us this coming Sunday. How are you going to use it?
This weekend I had the honor and privilege to officiate a wedding. The best part was that the bride was one of the girls my daughter grew up with. It is a joy to see them “all grown up” and functioning in the world as strong, competent women.
We were lucky to live in a neighborhood with natural boundaries. Many of the residents grew up here and came back to live in their parent’s homes. There were a lot of kids my daughter’s age, and she knew them all. Because of the natural boundaries my daughters childhood was a lot more like mine than many of her peers. The kids ran freely through the neighborhood all summer long. They were back and forth between houses, cutting through yards and “exploring” in the overgrown “woods”.
The girls formed close ties, and maintained them into their adulthood. The one whose family moved away came back for the wedding. The one who is a little less socially inclined drove in to town. The one who got married first (at the Justice of the Peace) found a sitter for the baby so she could party with the gang. This was an EVENT, not to be missed.
The bride was determined to have a great party. As the maid of honor, my daughter was very involved, so I’ve been hearing stories since the date was chosen. The bride invited people to come in costume. She had her dress specially made to her specifications and assigned each bridesmaid a color/character. She kept the guest list under 100, just the right people. She was also pretty serious about the marriage thing.
I take the responsibilities of being a minister seriously. Vows are a big deal for me and the words spoken in sacred space carry weight. I had several conversations with the couple, not just about what they wanted in a wedding, but about their expectations of a marriage. I made sure they knew what they were going to promise before they had to stand up and make those promises.
I haven’t performed a lot of weddings, but I’ve done more than a few. The thing is when I get asked it’s usually because the couple’s beliefs don’t quite fit into a standard religious framework. They want a ceremony, a ritual, a rite of passage. They don’t want a church, or a synagogue or a stranger. I’ve had a bride and groom hand me a ritual they wrote and ask me to do it. I’ve had a Wiccan wedding in my tradition’s circle. I wrote two for myself. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to do something that is open enough for the couple but that won’t offend the more traditional family.
It was a rite of passage for them, but it was also a rite of passage for me. These are the girls I watched grow up now building lives of their own. The officiant at a wedding blesses the union and then sends the couple on their way. That’s what the Moms (and in the bride’s case her Dad) are doing as well.
We, as a nation, are being buffeted about by hurricanes and firestorms, floods and droughts, protests and political manipulations. It’s a scary world out there. Today, September 11, is the anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers in NYC. For many Americans, it was the day we learned what it was to be afraid.
In spite of all that, people persist. They stand up in the winds of change and hardship and continue on with their lives. This morning Orion listed all the people he knows, and there were a lot, who have birthdays today. Forever, their birthday is 9/11. How odd that must be to want to celebrate in a world determined to grieve and remember.
I know the other side too. I understand what it is to be overwhelmed with circumstances and appalled that the rest of the world doesn’t just stop alongside you. I know what it feels like to dig into a huge job, to work, eat, and sleep, and then come up for air and find you’ve lost days, weeks or even months.
Sometimes standing in the wind is taking an opportunity to use a public platform to call out bad behavior, racism, terrorism (thank you Miss Texas Margana Wood even when it might cost you a crown. Sometimes standing in the wind is choosing to skip a few meals this week to buy a birthday cake for your kid with food stamps. Sometimes standing in the wind is getting out of bed in the morning, getting dressed, and doing one of the 100 tasks that have been put off because it just seems too hard.
I know people who are on the front lines fighting fires in the western states. I know people hoping that they have homes to return to on the gulf. I know people who are in the streets day after day fighting against injustice in many forms, in many ways.
We have a culture (white culture) that allows us to take credit, take pride in the work other people are doing. We sit in front of our TV’s watching people standing in the wind and say, “Yes! They are US!” None of us can do all the work. No one can stand in all the storms at once. No one can stand again and again in all the storms. But cheering on the workers and having pride in what others have done isn’t enough.
How can we shift our culture, our attitudes in a way that allows us to truly stand, acknowledge our own storms, our own ability to survive and still reach out and honestly support others? Can we recognize our own work, with strength and pride, and still be grateful for the support we had that allowed us to stand there? Can we encourage people to celebrate and still recognize the work that needs to be done? Can we find a way to come together when the storms rage, and to stay connected when the storm is over?