Dear Readers

It’s a funny thing, this year, for the first time, I don’t find myself wanting to pack up the ornaments and toss out the tree. We chose a modest tree this year, one that’s tucked nicely next to the fireplace. I’ve enjoyed having the outdoors inside and the many twinkling lights to brighten the darkest time of year.

I feel the same way about this project–I’m not ready to give it up. I wonder, should I attempt to go another year? But that doesn’t feel right either. I plan to write every day, now that I’ve proven to myself it can be done. But I need to channel the daily commitment into various projects. Perhaps that sounds too much like I’m abandoning ship. I’m not! I plan to blog weekly in this space. I’m curious what you, dear readers, think about that.

I began this project as a lone little boat at sea. I had no notion of marketing or self-promotion, no flares to send up, so how would anyone even see me? It was a relief really, because I was so afraid of being seen. I’d chosen to blog my 365 project, rather than write privately in a journal, mainly for accountability. If I failed, I would have to fail publicly. Blogging also meant I’d have some freshly published writing samples floating around the interweb.

While those factors fueled the first months of this voyage, they were not at the heart of what kept me going over the long haul. What motivated me to write, even on the most challenging days, was you. I hadn’t anticipated the deep sense of connection I would find here, the way blogging would feel like letter-writing, and the way that intimacy would allow me to write in my truest voice. You, dear readers, who’ve generously spent time in this space offering your thoughts, feedback, ideas, advice and support, have been one of the greatest gifts of 2016. You have lifted my spirits and reminded me I’m not alone, you’ve generated conversation, you’ve ushered me through milestones like weaning my toddler, and celebrated my first essay publications. I am so grateful for you and everything you’ve shared with me. And it is because of you that I’ll continue to write at One Blue Sail.

I wish you all a joyous and peaceful New Year’s Eve! I’m curious about your traditions and celebrations, and your dreams for the coming year. We’re celebrating with my sister and brother-in-law, low-key pajama party sleepover style. Today I’ll pull out a big sheet of drawing paper and we’ll write out our dreams, goals, and ambitions for the coming year, our New Year’s Eve conjuring ritual. Mine range from simple to lofty. I may as well dream big!

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Merry Christmas!

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It’s a sunny, mild, Spring-like day here in the Northeast and a very happy Christmas. What a joy it was to see our sweet girl unwrap her new dollhouse!

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Here she is, busy and content.

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And these are the mugs Chris and I got each other for Christmas, which suit us to a T. The perfect mugs to toast this good life.

Merry Christmas, dear friends! May your hearts and bellies be full, and may love surround you.

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Santa Claus

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Christmas Eve. 9:00 p.m. We’re home and we’ve just finished the wrapping and the kitty threatens to dismantle our work and it’s all happiness. Isabella has already received heaps of gifts from three sets of doting grandparents. There’s nothing like grandparent love. This is a picture from today with her sweet cousins just before Santa arrived. My father-in-law has an elaborate Santa costume and he looked as if he’d just flown in from the North Pole. She jumped up and down when she spotted him from the window as he rounded the house. During the hubbub and picture-taking, I noticed her studying him closely before she turned to me and said, “Mommy, Papa’s so silly, he’s Santa Claus!” It made us all laugh, this perfect moment of recognition. It didn’t dispel the magic. In fact, it enhanced it. Santa wasn’t a stranger, but someone who loves her, someone she feels safe and comfortable with. And there we were, all of us playing this wonderful game of pretend. For my little one, nothing could’ve been more magical than that.

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Ghost of Christmas Past

Still shopping. Sort of breathing. Raising my voice too often. The Christmas countdown is on. As my friend said to me today, “Merry Cranksmas!” Solidarity feels so good.

In my attempt to stay organized this year I created a spreadsheet. Not including our immediate family, our list is 28-people long (plus one birthday and two Yankee swaps), so I think the spreadsheet is justifiable. (And yes, I know we haven’t even reached the territory of teachers’ gifts, etc.) Last year while trying to wrangle Christmas, I made a simple Word doc with notes about each event and how to best prepare and which gifts to have by which dates and when to bake cookies and the best time to host out-of-towners etc, etc. At the end of this helpful doc (which, of course, I’m finally reading now, just days before Christmas), I wrote:

12/26: Plan NOTHING for this day!!! DAY OF REST. Go outside and be in nature. Take a walk, go sledding. Play with new toys. Eat healthy food. Take a nap. Read a book. Tidy up, but don’t spend the whole day cleaning.

Additional Notes:

  • If planning with out-of-town friends, grab pizza. This is easier than hosting at home around the holidays (too much prep and clean-up).
  • Don’t drink alcohol or eat sweets–you’ll just be more exhausted.
  • Get in as much exercise as possible.

Isn’t that a sweet little note I left for myself? Oh dear tired nursing mama of Christmas past, you tried so hard. You did your best. Why is it so much easier to be gentle with our past self than our present self? As for 12/26 being a day of rest, I have to laugh, because this year it’s packed brimful with three different rounds of visitors, and we’re totally hosting dinner with friends from out of town that night. But I remembered pizza! We’ll be ordering out. And it will all be lovely.

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Changes and Traditions

These last couple of months leading up to age three are all rapid change and growth. Increased vocabulary and refined pronunciation. Heightened awareness and comprehension. Assertiveness, a strong will. There’s a lot more resistance, a lot more “no!” She will hold up her hand and say, “No, mommy, leave me be!”

She still has an ethereal essence, a sweet and gentle soul. It shines through her big brown eyes even during crabby moments. But a fierce will is emerging, and though it sometimes wears me out, I’m glad for it. I want her to claim her space, raise her voice, stand her ground. She is an incredible combination of peace and strength and silliness, teaching me all the time.

If you ask her what she wants for Christmas, she will answer, “A present!” There is no material good she longs for, except perhaps another book to add to her collection. She is still blissfully unaware of our consumer-driven culture. I know it won’t be long before this changes, and I’ve been thinking of little traditions that focus on what truly matters. I love the tradition of decorating a tree in the yard with edible ornaments for the animals, detailed over at Wilder Child. It’s a simple craft project, an experience, and an act of giving. It turns our attention to the creatures we share space with and instills a sense of responsibility to wildlife. And it looks so lovely, the cranberry strands and orange cups of birdseed hanging from the tree. We’ve been reading Jan Brett’s The Mitten every night and thinking about all the creatures in our backyard.

If I had any talent for sewing, I’d quilt an Advent calendar. My favorites are the fabric ones with pockets for little felted ornaments and candy canes. This year we have a beautiful paper one from my sister. Perhaps next year I’ll craft one from fabric…

How are your little ones changing? How do you celebrate the season?

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Revising Christmas

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“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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Molasses Cookies

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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

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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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Halloween

img_8429It was the happiest Halloween. Kiddo loved her kangaroo costume, and we all dressed up. It’s the first year we’ve gone trick-or-treating, the first year she’s really been aware of all the details. Friends came to our neighborhood, and we joined our neighbors and more friends and made our way in a big group to each house under a clear and starry sky, the air crisp but not too cold. Some homes had spooky decorations. My little ‘roo hopped right up to a skeletal witch with glowing red eyes and a sinister voice, she touched the dismembered hand in a front yard graveyard, high-fived the tall man with the Day of the Dead mask. Curious. Fearless. She’s at an age I wish I could keep, if not forever, then at least a long stretch. Innocent but keenly perceptive, relishing all the tiny joys.

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Let It Go

The long weekend was an ongoing gathering that paused only while we slept. Everyone arrived early to the beach, staking umbrellas, lying on blankets, passing out strawberries and cherries while the kids played and swam.

The toddler who won’t wean settled her sandy body into my lap and tugged at my bathing suit. I nursed her to sleep, which bought me an uninterrupted stretch of time to talk with my cousin Kathy, writer, teacher and all-around incredible person. We are kin and we are kindred. Conversation flows the same way it did when we were kids, walking the double cul-de-sac near her house, talking endlessly.

Beneath the shade of the umbrella, we spoke of family dynamics and the bittersweetness of returning home, where the loss of her mom is felt more acutely. We talked about writing, about being brave and being vulnerable, about navigating boundaries, about all that’s left unsaid.

Later we gathered for the annual barbecue at my dad and stepmom’s house, once my grandparents’ house. This summer marks the 70th year. I’ve lost count of the little cousins running wild in the grass.

During dinner, my cousin Eileen came over to chat and I noticed her bracelet, a leather band with a silver plate engraved with the words “Let It Go.” I touched it and said, “Everyone should have those words tacked on their body.” She smiled and unsnapped the bracelet from her wrist. I began to protest, but she stopped me, saying, “This is how it works. You wear this as long as you need to. And when you feel like you no longer need it, pass it on.”

The bracelet hasn’t left my wrist since. There is so much I hold onto. So much outside of my control. Big and small. I hold on tight. The last two days, when I look down at my wrist, I feel myself exhale. My jaw relaxes, my shoulders drop, my palms open. And I just let go.

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