Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Strange Holiday Season

Maybe it's because Thanksgiving was so late. Maybe it's because I lost a full week to the flu and another to Rick's trade show trip to Las Vegas. But I am totally unprepared for the season.


Now, there's an irony to this. If most people came into my house they'd say, "What do you mean you're not decorated?" Because there are trees everywhere (and never mind that a few still only have lights and garland; they're still pretty.)

But they only have lights and garland. They need all the things that make the trees special.

I started putting ornaments on the big tree yesterday. There are boxes and boxes of them. Guess what -- they aren't all going on this year. And I think that'll be OK.

So, what do you choose? Well, there are the "must haves" -- the ones that make it my tree and Rick's tree. Those are the photo ornaments depicting something we did together, some magic moment or holiday. The ornaments from our vacations and the ones he's brought back to me from business trips.


There are the special bits -- the sole ornament from my grandmother's tree, fragile, beaded, but still beautiful.

There are ornaments that remind me of my solo travels, too, and PBS meetings all over the country. A cardinal from St. Louis, bought with my blog friend Diana, who is no longer with us, except of course, in our hearts. Oh, that was such a glorious day of Christmas shopping and butterflies!

There are the gifts from friends I have known for 40 years and more. College friend  Laura's cross stitch and needlepoint. An angel and wonderful ornaments from Lisa, a high school friend. More from former teacher, now friend Lin than I can say. Pretty stars and uniquely made ornaments from Bonnie. Cheery offerings from Patty. A bird from blogger Joanne. I've known Nancy since I was four. She's added wonderful ceramic and other one-of-a-kind ornaments to my tree. Quilter and creative Santa-maker Virginia is represented by Santas and holiday girls, cows and lambs.

There is the ornament I made with my friend Michele when we were in fourth or fifth grade; the yarn character that came with flowers my friend Jerry sent me when I got very sick in college while we were on a theatre tour in the Upper Peninsula over spring break. The little bear in the sailor suit was from my dad -- that also came on flowers sent for my birthday one year. Shiny brites from my mom and dad's tree, along with lots of felties. Sweet angels and swirly balls came from former roommate and art-sale friend Jane, along with a wonderful beeswax snowman.


You'll find the macaroni angels I made with my friend Richard one year. And a personalized ornament from my college roommate LeAnne, who shared these the last time I saw our whole gang together in 1982.


Cats from Kate. European ornaments from Wally and Carolyn. Marvelously inventive ornaments from my late colleague Jack. Ornaments from my late friend Patricia that bring tears to my eyes, along with offerings from Mary Jane, also no longer with us.

A cardinal from Judy came with the Norfolk pine she sent when my dad died at Christmas 21 years ago. A series of stuffed wreaths and stars came from my cousin Patty, circa mid-70s. A clothespin cheerleader was made by our Junior League president back when I was on the board, while clothespin three kings were made by my dental clinic colleague Sharon back in the 70s. A Leo the Lion (my astrological sign) decked out in the robes of Father Christmas from Mark and Jan is there too.

And of course, the ornament Kevin gave me when he was just a little guy -- an orange cat flying a plane that he picked out himself -- has a place of honor.

This year on my big tree there are few ornaments I bought for just fun. Some, yes, because I loved them so much or they were too darned cute or pretty not to add. But for the most part, this year's tree represents all the people I've loved and the experiences I've had. It reflects memories of special moments shared, times tearful and times joyful. The creativity of artistic friends and the thoughtfulness of those who traveled far and brought back something to share. And of course, pets past and present.

This year I have 14 trees up -- large and small. (My house is very small. It's overdone. I know. It looks like a holiday store exploded). Not all are decorated yet -- the Solstice tree gets a smattering today; the cat tree is done. Dad's tree and Mom's tree still need the rest of their ornaments. And I don't know what I'll do with the three boxes in the basement that aren't getting on the big tree like they usually do. Maybe next year I'll just have to add another.

I can hear the protests now!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seven Years -- and Counting

One December 20, 2007, I did my first blog post. Seven years and 1040 published posts later (plus a few in draft!) I am still at it and loving all the more this terrific community of creative and caring people who share their lives, their passions, their talents and their love with all of us, asking for nothing in return except, perhaps a comment. If you like!

So, I thought I'd hand out a few bouquets, a few virtual flowers to you all in these days before Christmas, with my thanks.

I couldn't resist going back to that first post, so embarrassingly short with no photos, an introduction of sorts. There were three comments. from Shelley (who doesn't currently blog but we stay connected on Facebook), Rosemary (whom I had the pleasure to meet last year) and Karla, who has become one of my "go-to" creatives for inspiration and whose swaps have introduced me to many other bloggers and enriched my own collection of art from others.

Within a couple of days, my comments increased! That was because several of my good art friends (including Beth, not currently blogging) shared the word! That's when I met Janet and Tara (whom I've also had the pleasure of meeting in person).

Of course, the more you blog, the more people you meet! When I traveled and I knew a blogger was in the area, we would try to get together. In the past seven years I have met at least a dozen bloggers I first encountered online. I have stayed in their homes, they have stayed in mine. We have shopped, eaten, played in paper and glue.

At times, my world has been opened, my heart broken or my soul lifted because of the words that you share when I visit your blogs. More than once I have audibly gasped to see the perfect photo or to read exactly the right words to help me sort out something I had been feeling or grappling with.

We have supported one another with our words and greetings. When I was very ill, surprise cards or gifts would come in the mail. They cheered me more than anyone could imagine. And to those of you who have supported my art with your purchases, well, you know who you are. And I thank you so much.

I've traveled vicariously around the world with you -- to France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, England, Russia, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Canada, India, Japan, Denmark and places throughout the United States. Some of these spots I've visited, but most I will see only through your eyes.

You have come to my dinner table in the form of recipes you have shared. Your generosity in sharing your creative ideas has taken me in new creative directions, trying things I never really thought about doing before. And I have been honored to support you in yours.

I have experienced great joys and delight with my blog community. I have also experienced grief and loss. And yet, those friends remain shining lights in my heart.

So, thank you. To those of you who popped in during my earliest days (and during the busiest time of year), I thank you. You may not even remember you did -- but I do.To those of you who visit but don't comment, that's OK -- but sometimes, just say "hi!"

Keep spreading your joy and sharing your heart and your light. Believe me, it does matter.

Note: I'm still catching up after having the flu and then Rick's trade show trip to Vegas -- so behind on the holidays that my holiday posts will probably be after! But I'm looking forward to seeing all of your "Merry," no matter how long it takes!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christimastime in Vegas

Well, blog buddies, I'm back on home turf again, after a week in Las Vegas with Rick. We go there for his trade show. Not my favorite place. I think everyone should see it once but unless you gamble, it gets old.

And big. Huge. Very tiring. Especially after being sick. Home never felt so good.

Still, there is much to find lovely, especially at the holiday time, so I thought I'd share a few pix of some of the most festive spots.

One of my first stops is always the conservatory at the Bellagio. They often reuse some of the elements (I have seen the penguins and bears before) but always move them around and do them in a wonderful, whimsical way.

Everything is done with flowers and organics. It takes 140 people to make this happen.

I particularly love their big tree. The "snow globe" was new this year and rather magical.

We quite love just looking at it, noticing the small details and the amazing use of plants and foliage. It is a bit overwhelming.


(And best of all, it's free! One of the best bargains in Las Vegas!)

Another hotel that does Christmas well is the Venetian.

Set like an Italian fortress of shops and canals, the Venetian always has a lovely tree outside.

They also offer free entertainment, which is a perfect time to sit down and give your feet a break!

Of course the shop windows are always something to gaze at -- I particularly loved the festive nature of this one!

And couldn't resist this shot!

Outside, you will find everything from people dressed in Star Wars, Michael Jackson or Elvis costumes to some more seasonally attired. I love the contrast in views here -- in the first, the girls look like they are having a very bad day. But when the gentlemen pass with their "donations," there are smiles all around!

Ah, Vegas. I can't say that I like having my senses continually assaulted or working the trade show floor with Rick.

But I have to admire the panache to make the fantasy seem real. For a minute, you are in Venice, in a garden, in a crazy world. And when you're not too pooped to participate, I admit -- it's kind of fun!

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