Coffee Chat: Now and Then

Come in my dears, and have a cup of something warm...Make it what you like. There's cocoa we may make by that lovely recipe I shared in 'Worth Sharing' yesterday, and lovely teas, Peppermint or English Breakfast. There's coffee and you can have creamer or half & half or eggnog in it if you'd like. There are lovely choices to be had for a cool morning and a good bit of chatter.

Where shall we start? I've been thinking back over Christmases past and most of my memories come from before John...I think because we've only had about three actual Christmases in which he wasn't working his medic job. The first two years we lived together he worked at the hospital as head of maintenance and was home. One of those was my second as a divorced parent when in the midst of breakfast a horn sounded outdoors and Amie and Sam jumped up from the table, ran out the door and never even said so much as goodbye. I sat there stunned for a moment and then quietly began to sob. We'd been having a lovely holiday breakfast and while I knew they were going to their dad's for the day it was such a shock to go from a happy moment of good food and laughing conversation to being left alone with John. He felt it too. Not a happy memory perhaps but that's all right. It was what it was at that time. But my point is that Christmas as a whole has been more about a 'season' of time rather than a single day. I learned quickly then to grab my moments as they came. So we had parties in the days before Christmas and we went to other's homes and we had our own quiet very early morning celebrations as a family but we never had a proper Christmas Day from then until now. It hasn't been a bad thing, as it's taught us to enjoy the whole of the time instead of relegating our enjoyment to a brief hour on a hurried up morning.

I find myself a bit flummoxed. Christmas Day approaches and while we've no hard and fast plans because guess what? John is working from Christmas Eve morning until Christmas morning, it's still my desire to cease the season and have a special meal of some sort. But I'm flummoxed because here we are and I've planned NOTHING. Seriously. I have a lovely cauliflower and am longing to make what my Aussie friend calls Cheesy Cauliflower and some fresh green beans and meaty porta bella mushrooms to add to them, and there's carrot cake layers in the fridge awaiting that special cream cheese frosting that only my family ever makes but I've no idea what meat we might have. A roasted chicken seems not quite special enough and turkey seems too unlikely a thing to thaw entirely before the day arrives. I'd thought of a standing rib roast but Mama is making one for her family day, so... I'm still thinking it out and I plan to DO something but not sure what. I seem to have most of my menu already planned, don't I? I've promised myself to know just what the main entre shall be by the time I go to bed tonight.

This morning, I got up earlier than I've been doing and lit the tree and the garland on the mantel and had first coffee in the quiet gloom of a cloudy Sabbath morning. It's one of the first times since the tree has gone up that I've been alone to really enjoy it in the early morning. I sat here in the semi-dark, looking at those lights and thinking how like it is to this season of advent, this coming of the light into the darkness until the glory of it 'shone all around' and how like it is too, to the change of heart that brings about that change in knowledge that a distant God exists to the knowing of God that comes with the conversion of self into a creature who has been enlightened that He is real and tangible and awesome and we are His beloveds.

John joined me and we sat and talked over many things, mostly spiritual things which seems to have been the order of the morning. We each have insights that the other doesn't have and that's what makes sharing our thoughts so important. I told John again of my reading of an interpretation of scripture in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas approaches Jesus with the soldiers after betraying him and how Jesus addressed him still as "Friend" with every knowledge of what Judas was doing. John talked about what Judas suffered as his final fate, or what we've always assumed his final fate must have been and I agreed at first but then I remembered in scripture it says he 'felt remorse' and went to return the money he had gained from that betrayal and doesn't that mean, at the end, he was saved by his own regret and remorse? God being the designer or all things, who plans all, surely intended Judas to be used for just such as this? We debated that a bit and then John spoke of John the Baptist's moment of doubt while imprisoned. We talked about the way prisons and punishments then were ever harder and more crueler than we can imagine, that our view of prisons now is based on television and they seem almost sterile as a hospital and clean but John knows first hand that isn't a true portrayal either because of his experience with a state prison in the county where he works. Men wrongfully imprisoned shoved in with men who were rabble and murderers and prisons being a place of great suffering, it's no wonder that a momentary doubt might creep in...Was John the Baptist comforted when he received Jesus' reply. Was his own imprisonment, his own part in the play of life not now an understood necessary thing, including the suffering he now was going through?

We talked about other things, things to which I have long objected like baptism making you a member of a church and how some churches don't accept a water baptism of any other than their own. I spoke of Amie's long ago heartfelt desire to be baptized and both pastors in the churches we attended refused because the one didn't want to upset the pastor at the other church and the other church felt I'd condemned her soul to hell for confusing her and subsequently 'cast me out'. I can see this was to my own good in the end, but in the meanwhile I came to feel the baptism of tears when one falls to one's knees is water baptism of the only sort that truly matters and that within a church is nothing more than a symbol that satisfies man. On and on we spoke in the quiet morning light of the tree that some say is nothing more than glorified idolatry, and yet here we were mindful of so many more spiritual things than one might imagine, all because of the lit tree before us.

I have been sort of lamenting John's perceived lack of commitment to the church we attend but realized as he spoke this morning that in truth, he has committed. He just doesn't think it's necessary to be a member if he's there for services and sending the church his tithe and supporting it in many other ways. While I, well, I'm the one who has remained uncommitted because I've been waiting on John to take that next step...So I must make up my mind if I am as committed or not. I see now that I was in error in my thinking and now I must examine what I mean to do to show my commitment besides follow along almost blindly behind my husband. So yes. It was deep conversation and I'm glad I had a half cup of coffee in my body when we began this long talk because I shouldn't have held my end up very well at all if I was just awake.

And as an aside, it's just astonishing and a bit annoying that this man to whom I am married can wake and be so incredibly lucid and deep thinking right away, lol. I mean he hadn't even had a sip of his cup of coffee when he began! He challenges me and that is a good thing.

Well in the last few minutes Bess has run by with the boys to bring John an item he asked to borrow and I went out to the truck to speak to the boys. Bess was leaving home with them while Sam did the last bit of work on the master bedroom, the laying of carpet. Then John checked his phone when Bess mentioned Sam had texted him and he's gone off now to help. So I am alone once more with you all and the Christmas tree which is doing it's best to illuminate the corner in which it sits while the gray gloom of late autumn (oh so very nearly winter!) taps at the windows.

This month it seems has been more of what I dreamed life might be like, with running in and out of homes and visiting between us going on. It is a lovely season!

I've been primed for deeper things this morning, having read Sarah and Joy Clarkson blog posts and had that lovely conversation with John. And yet, one portion of my brain too is occupied with the very earthly and homey things like what to make for Christmas dinner and what I shall need tomorrow at the grocery and how late shall I have to push today's meal back while John is gone and will Taylor want to eat what I have or decline it or will Katie even have time to swing by with Taylor?Women, even when seemingly occupied, usually have two or three things going on at once don't they? We are the mistress of multi-tasking. Which reminds me of a video Jordan Page posted this week about being efficient in the home and she said "You can never do a mindless task and a mindful one at the same time...but you can always do two or three mindless tasks at once." Her example was that while her girls were in the bath and she was supervising them, she could organize the drawers of the bathroom vanity and plan out tomorrow's meals in her mind thus three relatively minor tasks were done at once. So true!

As we traveled the other day a church had a sign that read "Have a Mary Christmas not a Martha one". Well you all know how I feel about Martha and the hard knocks she gets. But I'd say I've found a balance between my Mary and Martha personalities this month and maybe that is the hardest thing of all, to find the balance that is right for the moment.

I've been thinking ahead to next year. I hesitate to make hard and fast plans about big purchases, home renovation wants, costly projects etc. I don't know just what to expect from the days ahead. I am assured we shall manage them but I want to see what adjustments I must make before I plan things that must be set aside and risk deep disappointment. But I would be unlike myself if I didn't make some sort of plans.

So I am looking at things that are entirely possible. Like committing to that bit of vegetable gardening I know I could do even if in pots and half barrels. John has this horror of having a large vegetable plot and tons of produce that must be put by. I don't understand it in the least, having grown up in such an environment and knowing the comfort of a harvest upon the shelves or tucked into the deeps of the freezer. However, mindful of marriage always being about compromise and equally mindful that often his concern is more for the work load that falls upon me rather than himself, I have thought I could surely manage tomatoes and squash and green beans and possibly bell peppers and eggplant...And in the fall green peas and lettuce and spinach and beets. Enough for the season and perhaps a little to be 'put by' yet not the excesses that he seems to worry over.

I have a hot water bath canner that I could certainly put to use for small batch canning projects, like homemade Enchilada sauce which would be lovely to have on the pantry shelf or even excess tomatoes that we might grow. I'd like to make jams and jellies from seasonal fruits as they come to market. So I'd like to do a wee bit of canning and become accomplished at it once more.

Katie has convinced me that I might be better suited to knitting than to crocheting...but I'd really like to learn to do a bit of both. Maybe I shan't do more than a few dishcloths or edge a few guest towels and make a lap robe or slippers to wear about the house but it would be a new skill wouldn't it?

And then there is sewing. I find it's awfully expensive these days to buy patterns and fabric for sewing clothes and certainly clothing has proven to be more than affordable at thrift stores than I'd imagined, but now and then I just like to sew. And I've meant all this time to take up embroidery and it seems to me that now is the time to pick that up as well. If I don't want things for myself I can always sell them or give them away, can't I? But how lovely to have a bit of handiwork to occupy my fingers while listening to a podcast or music for an hour or so daily.

I'd like too to continue to build my skills in making noodles and tortillas, and bagels and such, things that require time and pantry stable items rather than money but are a help to the budget just the same and to stretch myself to learn to make a few more things besides.

Perhaps I'll not plan big home renovations, but paint? I've always wanted a home painted to suit me and I've only a bathroom here to show my personality at all...and I'm ready to change that! Now surely is the time when I might slowly begin to lay another layer of personality upon my home and at little cost? Besides at present I am totally satisfied with my decorating efforts, save the walls...

And this year, this year, I want so much to add to my flowers. I've that bed next to the shed to fill and I'd love to see it just full to overflowing with cosmos and zinnias and other blooms that last months on end. Seed packets are all that is really needed for that. and with care I might add a few perennials more to bloom year after year.. so those are surely affordable wishes!

Reading is something I'd like to do more of as well. I have become very prone to the instant sort of reading that is a blog post here or a short story there or even to watch YouTube, but it's not a substitute for really reading. I might well loathe our local library but I could go browse at other libraries nearby and often used to bring home a diverse lot of books as well as old faithful reads that I don't yet own. And there's my own library which has been calling to me loudly all this season and I've yet to pick up even one book and read. It's inevitable that good reading often leads to inspiration and ideas flowing and that in turn enhances both my thinking and my own writing and I long for that once more. I've been reminded of it as I have moved away from reading just frugal blogs and veered off into blogs about books, and spiritual things.

And music is much the same. Goodness I've been exposed to and found true depth in some diverse music this year. It feeds my soul and my mind and I need that nourishment more often!

So you see, I have been thinking of the future and what is quite doable and I am willing to wait and see on the bigger things I might plan to do a little later down the road, things that are meant to enhance the home we have, or for travel, but aren't strictly necessary. But the feeding of mind and soul...well that is rather necessary and always less expensive but so heavy on the benefits side that I can hardly deny the need to fully incorporate that into my daily life.

I have many ideas I hope to share this coming year in various forms.

I've thought about the blog...I am happy with the description as it reads and I think it points to a balanced view of life. I think the "Worth Sharing" post has been my most favorite addition in many years time and I'd like to continue that. I won't lose my frugal slant. It's as much a part of who I am as the love of flowers and procrastination and ditzy conversation is but I want to share my life with you all and have you share yours with me via comments and ideas and inspiration. Gracious how many of you do inspire me with a thoughtful card, or share a photo on Facebook or a blog post or YouTube video that you know I might find interesting! I can't thank you all enough for being mindful of me and taking the time to share. You've invested something of yourselves into my life and the past four years would have been a great deal harder to have gone through without you all there encouraging me, sometimes with gentle criticism as well as praise, and loving reminders. Thank you all!!

I've thought about vlogging, but here's truth...I think it's not for me. I very much need to edit what comes out of my mouth and I tend to be less genuine as I am shy and self conscious, more than many of you might think I could be. I am more who I am in the written word with me safe behind my wall of words which are edited carefully to more fully impart my sometimes ditzy conversational method. If only for the sake of coherency, I think I'd just best stick to writing! I don't know how much I'll write each week. I suspect it will flow with inspiration and that there will be times when I take a break to refresh, but I'll be here, I assure you all of that. I shall continue to show up and be present.

I'd like to do a bit more with my writing once again...but it's vague ideas at present, not as clear and plain as the things I've shared already. Vague notions of writing my own Advent booklet or devotional...but as I said, it's not really jelly yet, just something simmering in the background of my mind...

I've been thinking a lot about Christmas as I knew it as a child, but it's atmosphere I remember the most. Going into warm homes on a cold day, the greetings between loved ones and good hard hugs and smiles that stretch from ear to ear and smelling the aromas of special foods that were saved for the Christmas season. I've shared all about those in the past. Granny's love of mille fleur and ribbon candies and toffees and of Mama's love of making cookies and Grandmother, who was the most frugal of all, making multiple cakes for Christmas.

Turkey and dressing were constants at every table but sides varied. Granny always served up creamed corn that she'd put in the freezer in summer and tiny green butter beans. Other things might vary on the table but those two sides were constants. Mama often served 'exotic' things like Brussels Sprouts or Cauliflower, always in cheese sauce as her sides. Grandmother would have fluffy white mashed potatoes (always inexpensive and lightened and whitened by a spoonful of mayonnaise) and an odd sort of salad that had pimento and pineapple and pecans in a milky gelatin base that sounds perfectly awful but was delicious to us and perhaps that was because it was traditional to have it!

We haven't such traditions now, of food nor visits with family really. But that was then...Now we begin once more and perhaps new traditions will come about in the years ahead, what with family living close enough to visit and John about to be home for the holiday...I have learned to hold traditions lightly and enjoy them for the season they are allotted to and to let go so that lovely new things can come to us in time.

Perhaps a nice roast beef would be a Christmas tradition for us...I'll find a lovely one tomorrow and we'll start there...

On that note, I shall end. Have a lovely Christmas!
(C) Terri Cheney