Happy Thanks-Hallow-istmas! This year has been a mixed bag of emotion and mental challenges for all of us. We’re rounding the corner to 2021 full of hope, but exhausted. It surprised me to see how many people decided to put up their Christmas decorations early in a futile attempt to hasten the welcome exit of 2020. (But I get it!)
I, however, decided to “celebrate” each special occasion, even if on a much smaller, quieter scale.
Masks — saving lives, and the occasional cake
I love Halloween. I’ve never found anything sacrilege about the event that brings out little goblins in search of candy. For me, it’s the first event that ushers in the holiday season. So, in my usual manner, I decorated every nook and cranny of our home.
This year redefined scary at every turn. The whole thing has been a solid twelve-month fright-fest. I think we’ve all learned to appreciate the simple things in life and, without having much choice in the matter, we’ve all gotten really good at “blooming where you’re planted.”
For the most part, parents were much more cautious as to how their costumed kiddos enjoyed the event. One of my little pumpkins helped me bake a Halloween cake. All was going well until a surprise sneeze nearly “redecorated” our creation, causing me to make the executive Mimi-decision to strongly suggest that it would be a great idea to wear a mask while baking and decorating… “After all, it’s Halloween!” (She thought it was a large idea, whew!)
I also attended a creative Black Cat party at Board and Brush ** We celebrated my friend Renee's love of all black cats, but one in particular, her beloved Frankie (and my sweet Emmie). The party favors were adorable and we all left with kitty ears, mouse pads, glasses, masks, and black cat shaped cookies.
The piece I chose to make was a S'mores box. However, when I offered to make some for Cryslynn (pictured above), she quickly told me, "NO! When I eat those and then brush my teeth, it makes my toothpaste black!"
I decided, also, to try my hand at making my first pumpkin roll. It was a huge success and has now been added to the must-haves for future holiday menu ideas.
For the Tikaa Cone/Kristen Gehm recipe: https://www.instagram.com/p/CG5FhpPDhSf/
There were no trick-or-treaters, no parties, no signs of “normal” around here — but there was still much happiness.
And a fairly decent, germ-free cake.
Thanksgiving during the new normal
In lieu of our usual feast, where we all gather to be grateful for so much, Lanny and I opted to keep it simple. Did we miss the noisy tradition of the entire family being under one roof with enough food to feed twice the guests? Absolutely, we did.
But not having our loved ones around didn’t stop us from finding a temporary “new normal” solution. I set the table, just as I would if everyone was coming home. We had a delicious dinner (prepared by the local supermarket), enjoyed some good wine and each other’s company. While we missed our traditional, noisy family feast, it didn’t stop us from being grateful for what we weren’t missing: food, shelter, health and love.
Many folks chose to bypass the current social distancing recommendations and go ahead with travel plans and large family get-togethers. We are all traveling uncharted territory and have been told so many different versions of “the truth” that none of us knows what to believe. We’re left to our own devices as to how to handle the holidays.
As for me, I tripped across a fabulous, appropriate haiku on Facebook. Although it “flies in the face of” those who believe that we should all celebrate this year and treat it like any other year “because next year we may not be here,” it pretty sums up how Lanny and I feel.
We isolate now
So when we gather again
No one is missing
(Seen on Janis Ian’s post, as Shared from Jen Parkin Kurtz. I do not know the original source, but it’s a lovely sentiment.)
How to deal with the holidays is another one of those sticky subjects that can easily lead to misunderstandings. Be gentle with one another. This pandemic can’t go on forever.
Existing in a new normal
It also surprised me to realize how quickly the year flew by, even though life was anything but ordinary. Somehow, I stayed so busy I let this little blog of mine go unattended for longer than I had intended!
No, I was not in front of the tv, binging on bon-bons and Netflix. (Oh, ok, since I’ve discovered "Virgin River" that might now happen, but I digress.) I was editing, writing, social distance visiting with friends, and figuring out what I could get into that would keep my brain working.
Margie and I celebrated my birthday at a fabulous family-owned shop in downtown Brenham, Brunmillers. This adorable find handcrafts body care products, using ingredients that include organic, fair trade and local sources. The most unique feature of Brunmillers is their Make and Take Workshops, for adults or kids. For a reasonable price, you can grab some of your besties for a private party and have a wonderful time making goodies and memories.
We chose to make soaps and lip balm, but if that’s not your thing you can opt for making fizzy bath salts, candles or other items. What a fun way to spend quality time with close friends! And the final products are fantastic. (Still need a final gift or two? Certificates for those workshops fit nicely in a stocking!)**
Learning to paint
There used to be a joke around our house that whenever Lanny goes hunting for a few days, something was going to get painted. I’ve repainted the rooms in our house so many times that I’m pretty sure the numerous coats of paint have decreased its square footage— the walls are closing in. Enough, already! Since I have so much more time on my hands, I opted to try a different kind of painting. Watercolor.
It was love at first brushstroke. A few trips to Michaels and Hobby Lobby ensured that I had every single item I could possibly need — and several that I have no idea what to do with… yet. I’m blessed with the friendship of a very accomplished artist, Ollie, who patiently guides me through the learning process, and I was given instructional books as birthday gifts to help with the basics.
Honestly, I have no magical artistic ability. I’ve just been born with a natural curiosity and an insatiable desire to learn new things.
Just about the time I begin to wonder if I’m wasting time dabbling in something that I’ll never master, I trip across a Facebook post, shared by one of my favorite high school teachers, Bette Drymon. And I realize, no. I am not wasting my time at all.
From renowned author Kurt Vonnegut:
When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes. And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.” And he said something then that I will never forget, and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.” And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them.
Enjoy what you choose to do and do it with every ounce of passion you can muster.
It’s not about becoming Picasso.
Here comes Santa Claus
I’m suffering from a severe case of wanderlust. I miss all the traveling Lanny and I did through the past years. I was always the gal who said, “Hang on! Lemme get my shoes!” before anyone could finish the sentence, “Hey, Connie. Would you like to go to…”
Covid robbed us of that. But if that’s the only thing the pandemic takes from us, we’re still ok. This year has not been all bad. And much of it depended on how we approached way we adapted to the new normal.
I chose to lay low quite a bit more than I thought would be necessary. While I miss the constant stimulation of being with others, the travel, the lunches and dinners, movies, date nights, concerts (and the list goes on and on and on!), I don't feel cheated. Of course, I’ve had my share of down days, but overall, I’ve kept myself occupied. I mentally “reframed” 2020 as a year-long staycation.
At the end of the day, the choice is ours. We can rail against the unfairness of this year’s cruel offerings, or we can indeed, bloom where you’re planted.
That said, I’ve never lost awareness of those on the front lines, those who have no choice but to put themselves in harm’s way in order to help others. Or, for that matter, those who are working outside the home in any capacity. I feel, for those of us who are retired or who work from home, it’s especially important to remember the fact that we have to be sensitive to those who are still out there, working in a public environment. Do something nice for them to make it easier whenever you can.
Our tree is up. The gifts are wrapped. There’s food on our table and a roof over our heads. That’s more than many can say this year.
All in all, I call that a win.
In case you missed my last year's Halloween post, click here to read, "Boo! It Runs in the Family"
Or if you missed 2019's Thanksgiving post, click here to read Grumpy Old Turkeys, Cranberry Sauce and Distance— But Not Mariah
** I am not affiliated in any way with Brunmillers or Board and Brush and have taken no compensation for their mention.