Revising Christmas


“When we pay attention to who we believe we are and we surround ourselves with the things that reflect that story, with all its urges, aspirations, and processes, we develop a perspective that’s uniquely ours to share. In turn, we can share that unique perspective and, acting from a place of greater wholeness and awareness, thus become better and more useful members of our community.” In Honor of Saint Sunrise Day by Khristopher Flack (illustration by Katie Hickey) is an essay in Issue 20::SHARE, reminding us of the calendar and the pace at which we live, especially during the holidays. @katiehickeyillustration #taprootmagazine

Photo Credit: Katie Hickey

This lovely artwork and quote popped up in my Instagram feed tonight and reminded me I need to order a subscription to Taproot Magazine. “When we pay attention to who we believe we really are…” That’s what this project has been, an act of paying attention to who I believe myself to be, inside this moment in time, this specific era of my life. I like Flack’s conclusion, that this practice allows us to share our “unique perspective and, acting from a place of greater wholeness and awareness, thus become better and more useful members of our community.” I’d like to read the entire essay, especially because it speaks to the pace of our lives around the holidays. The holiday dread is already creeping in. Don’t get me wrong–I’m no bah humbug. The Christmas tree lights are twinkling, the stockings are hung, and tonight I fashioned a boxwood wreath in front of the mirror with a beautiful scrap of red and white fabric. It feels peaceful and bright. We sing carols at night before bed. And I can’t wait to see my daughter’s smile when she unwraps her dollhouse this year. It’s the racing around, the shopping overload, the many many many events. I’m trying to think of ways to make this year feel less hectic and more relaxing. Perhaps, instead of stretching ourselves thin, we need to stretch the holiday out.

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Lost and Found

Rosebud, a painting I made for a friend back in ’99.

Two and a half days of single parenting feels like more than two and a half days. It’s mostly a-okay, but after bedtime routine I’m spent. Zero energy for writing.

Tonight, on our way home in the rain, I noticed a lost dog trying to cross the busy street. A sweet, chubby Pug. I scooped her up and plopped her onto the front seat. It seemed like she would’ve been happy enough to come home with us, but her tag had an address, so we found her house and delivered her back to her family.

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Shake It Out

Last night I was awake with insomnia, worrying about my husband’s flight, which kept getting delayed and delayed. This morning he sent photos of Big Ben against a clear blue sky, and suddenly I felt so confined in the house and wished I could hop the next flight and chase him there, walk to the Tower Bridge arm-in-arm with newspaper cones of fish ‘n chips, have high tea at Harrods, spread clotted cream on scones, shop Portobello Market, cozy up in a pub with a pint, stroll through the pigeons at Trafalgar Square and up the steps of the National Gallery and see all those glowing Turners again.

Before he left, he stacked newspaper and kindling and logs in the fireplace, so that I’d have only to light a match to get a nice fire going.

I try not to worry about the news, but I worry about the news.

My daughter’s favorite book right now is a book of Christmas carols illustrated by Tomie dePaola. Every afternoon before nap and every evening before bed, we sing our way from “Deck the Halls” to “Away in a Manger.” It’s a happy practice, uplifting. It occurred to me I haven’t been playing enough music throughout the day. We should be singing and dancing every day. Shaking it out.

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A Call to Make Art

After the election, I expressed my shock to an artist friend. She said, “I felt like a character in a Chagall painting flying over the landscape,” which I thought captured the sense of disembodiment so beautifully. 

There was a year I made a series of papier-mâché angels and gave them to my best friends for their Christmas trees. Somehow I did not think to make one for myself, and the top of my tree is bare. I have a lifelong habit of making things and giving them away. The final act of creation is always release. Because art is communication. An offering.

Sometimes we make meaning, and sometimes the offering is simply one of beauty, here is this thing I made. One thing I know for sure about myself is that I am compelled to create. The good stuff, the resonant and universal, comes from a place past consciousness, pulled up through the strata, dragging remnants of those other layers with it. Here is this core piece of me, perhaps one that resides inside of you, too. These extractions of truth are the rare finds. More often I am sifting dirt, sometimes discovering a piece of sandstone, a shard of shale.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. The art we make, whether the simple papier-mâché angel that sits atop the tree, or the resonant piece of writing that’s been labored over for months, is vital–crucial even. Especially now. Amidst the chaos and the vitriol, we must make art. Where they are divisive, we create connection.

No matter your chosen medium, whether your art is big or small, public or private, I call on you to create. Keep going. Hone your craft. Wield your words. Maybe you need to shout and curse or type in caps. Maybe you’re smearing a canvas with wild brushstrokes or playing a violin or knitting a scarf or adorning your home with winterberries. Whatever compels you, whatever asks to made, make that thing. Drag it up from your core through the strata of your being. Excavate truth. This is your healing. This is your resistance. This is your self-song. This is the way forward.

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Tree Trimming

Today, tree trimming and Santa Claus. My little one’s first candy cane. Her joy at unraveling the ornaments wrapped in tissue paper, “Look, mommy, another present!” Our kitties will end up with sticky sap spots on their heads from crouching beneath the tree. Nostalgia permeates the air like chimney smoke. All the twinkling white lights are that magical combination of comfort, romance, and hope.

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There were so many words in my head this morning, but I only had an hour before the brimful day began, and I chose to jog instead of write. So tonight, a meager offering. A reminder that this is just how some days go. But even these fews words keep me tethered.

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Today I give thanks. For able hands to create with. Hands that can braid dough, hold a pencil, type these words, lift my child, change a diaper, shovel earth, wipe tears, wave hello, grip a steering wheel, strum a ukulele, cup water, peel a clementine, fold laundry, pet the cat, build sandcastles.

There’s so much I’m thankful for. A strong and loving partner. Our daughter, who will never cease to feel like a miracle. The precious and valuable gift of good health. Parents and stepparents, who are alive and well and vibrant. A big family I can always rely on. Sisters who I can turn to for anything. Friends who are like family. Two sweet kitties. Our house with its cozy front porch and old stone fireplace. First world luxuries so easily taken for granted like a dishwasher and washing machine and health insurance and a car. The beach. Salt air. Seasons. The freedom to express my thoughts, speak my mind.

And I’m so thankful for everyone I connect with in this space, the readers and writers and thinkers and creators. Thank you for taking the time to read and for sharing your thoughts with me–it truly means so much. I hope you all had a blessed day!

Molasses Cookies


We began baking at 6:00 this morning. A double-batch of chocolate chip cookies, and then molasses cookies. The molasses are tricky. The recipe is from my grandmother’s original handwritten recipe, an ingredient list with measurements and oven temp. No instructions. But bright memories. She would always let me lick the molasses-coated spoon. The recipe is so sensitive, you have only to be in an off mood to botch the batch. So this morning’s achievement, that perfect crackle, the smell of cinnamon and ginger and cloves, was like my grandmother arriving in my kitchen. Her calm-busy-gentle essence filling the room as I roll the dough into little balls and cover them in sugar.

For the first time in years, we’re spending Thanksgiving at home. The week is bookended with travel–our trip on Monday, and then my husband’s trip to London on Sunday–so we decided to stay local. It feels so peaceful and relaxing to be home for the holiday. Tomorrow we’ll wake up with a morning fire, watch the Macy’s Day Parade, and bake the apple pie. Maybe I’ll even get some writing done.


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Apple Pie


Today we bought apples. Lots of apples. For eating and for making pie. Apples are my daughter’s favorite food.

On the way home from the store, she asked, “Can I have an apple?”

“Sure, bug, when we get home.”

“Do you want an apple, mommy?”

“Yeah, I should probably have an apple, too. I haven’t really been taking care of myself.”

“That’s okay, I’ll take care of you.”

Oh man, right in the heart.

I hadn’t meant to say that part about not taking care of myself. The truth just unconsciously rolled off my tongue. I keep vowing to quit sugar. Then I click on The Atlantic and see a bunch of white nationalists gathered at the Reagan building in D.C. doing Hitler salutes, and suddenly I need sugar in my coffee and a piece of buttered toast. I make phone calls and sign petitions and struggle with a helpless feeling in the swirl of this madness. None of it is okay. Bigotry will never be the new normal. I will continue to resist it with my entire being.

I will make a beautiful apple pie. I will love my family. I will resist the fascists. It’s holiday season 2016.

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Instead of funeral, I tell my two-year-old, celebration of life. 

She stands quietly in the pew, in her grey pea coat and pink Mary Janes, sorting hymnal books.

There are wildflowers. A trumpeter plays Silent Night. 

At the cemetery she finds a fallen American flag among the brown leaves. I root it in the dirt, upright and sturdy, next to the headstone. 

Driving home through snow squalls, the sun sinks purple and hot pink. A murmuration of starlings rises above the tree line and sweeps across the sky.

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