January 24, 2015

What Goes Up, Must Come Down, or Why Our Christmas (Tree) Ended Early this Year

Another Christmas has come and gone, and winter looms before us like a long, cold, gray day. What can we do to pass the time?

We can string cranberries into garlands, and paint pine cones with peanut butter and roll them in birdseed to feed the birds. There's a reason for all of this... read on.

One of my faithful readers lamented not getting to see our Christmas tree this year. Well, here it is, in all its glory! It may be our largest ever, with a height of about 15' and a width of about 12' (this is guestimated as we never actually measured it!)

Our Tree prior to cutting it down

Cutting down our tree has been a family tradition for years, and we've cut down trees in California, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. Here's this year's tree before we got the chain saw out. It was a very cold day and we are all bundled up. But where's the snow?  

We put our tree up quite late this year, only three days before Christmas Eve. We usually enjoy our tree through at least mid-January when we celebrate one of our sons' birthdays. This year, however, the tree had other ideas.

One morning, I was in my bedroom and I heard something fall. When I walked out into the living room, this is what I saw.
And no, Kali Cat had nothing to do with bringing the tree down. At least, I don't think so! She was concerned and stayed next to the tree for quite awhile trying to figure out what had happened to her Christmas tree! If she had a played a part in it falling down, I'm certain she would have run away in fear.

The tree fell right onto the sectional sofa. We had removed two sections of the sofa to make room for the tree, and it fell right onto the open chaise end without an armrest. The part of the sofa you can see is actually a very large, round ottoman, and the tree landed on that as well.
Ornaments that survived were piled up on the counter top
The soft boughs of the tree cushioned the ornaments, along with the soft leather sofa, and miraculously, I think only about 10 ornaments broke -- from well over 400! 

Many of my ornaments are glass, and some are heirlooms. We lost one very special one that said "Grandma" on it that used to be on my in-laws' tree. Grandpa's ornament survived.

The view from the kitchen. It looks like the sofa gently "caught" the tree!

Overall, it was an incredible miracle that no one was sitting on the sofa when this tree came down. 

Our tree weighed somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds! 

I think the way it fell protected all of my precious ornaments, and we were very fortunate that we had so little breakage. It was rather miraculous, actually!

When we decorated, we pinched the wires of the hangers onto the branches, and I believe that is what saved them from flying off and breaking. The only ones that broke I think were shattered when the bead garlands became trajectories, whipping around as the large tree fell.

My son kept saying that underneath the tree we would find a lot more broken ornaments, but as they pulled all of the  ornaments off and then rolled the tree over, very little breakage was discovered.

Lest you think we are crazy to have such a giant tree (and we are), let me say that in 19 Christmases in this house, this is only the second time the tree has fallen down. After the first time, my husband bought a cast iron (!) stand that is mounted onto 2 x 4's. Those boards will now be upgraded to 2 x 6's and reinforced with new angle iron brackets.

I don't think our legacy of enjoying giant trees will end with this one falling down. Every year I say I don't want such a big tree, and they just keep getting bigger. One day, we may opt for a more "normal" sized tree, but for now, we have the time and the energy (and the ornaments!) to fulfill our dream of the "Best Christmas Tree Ever".

And after the season is over, the tree goes outside to provide shelter and treats for our feathered and furry friends seeking assistance to weather the winter cold. I'll post some pictures when I finish decorating it for them. 

For now, I will cherish the memory of our tree, and the time spent decorating it. And mostly, I will remember our special Christmas morning, spent together as a family, opening our gifts around our beautiful Christmas tree.

SUBSCRIBERS! What an oops! Somehow a draft for this post was attached to the email feed sent out the other day on "Embracing Winter Just As You Are". I apologize for you receiving an unfinished post. Please enjoy this post now in its completion.

January 21, 2015

Embracing Winter Just as You Are

Such a bright, white winter wonderland appears outside my window. Snow clings to every twig, looking like frosting iced along the branches. Such beauty is unique to this season in our beautiful state of Wisconsin.

I step out to take pictures in the early morning light, and snow crunches under my big boots and makes me smile. I want to take my pictures early as the winds are already picking up and chunks of snow are falling from the branches. The scene is ever-changing and I drink it in. 

What if I had stayed in bed with the covers over my head? I never would have enjoyed this early morning walk, in my jammies, robe, and long winter coat, camera in hand. There's a visual for you! Don't forget my warm, big boots! That alone should make you smile!
This was taken through the window so as not to scare him away

This little guy kept me entertained outside my office window today. I hang a suet feeder to keep the woodpeckers off the cedar siding on my house. I don't mind that this furry friend sought out something to eat. It's cold and snowy and he probably can't find the nuts he buried in the fall.

I plan to string some cranberries I found in the fridge to decorate my old Christmas tree, and make peanut butter pine cones for my feathered friends. If I want to keep the squirrels from hauling them away, I'll need to wire them tightly to the tree.

Yes, our very large Christmas tree is now outside and set up as a haven for wildlife. I couldn't just discard it! It still has so much usefulness as a shelter for the little animals and birds which will seek the treats I adorn it with.

You see, it came down much too soon! And it wasn't by my choice! If you want to hear more about this story come back tomorrow when I will share "What Goes Up Must Come Down!"

For now, I sit in the warmth of my home watching the wind blow snow from the branches like a blizzard, and my little furry friend has come back to try the suet again. I better get busy with those pine cone treats. I'm certain there are other creatures looking for a hand-out as they try to survive another Wisconsin winter.

We, too, must find a way to survive and thrive while the winter winds howl. It's true that the days are lengthening, ever so slowly, and in a few short months we will shed our layers of winter garb for thin cotton and bare feet. Doesn't that sound marvelous?

For now, snuggle in. Make some hot cocoa, and don't forget the marshmallows. Set a fire to blazing in the fireplace if you have one, or grab a good book and a fuzzy blanket and hunker down.

Winter won't last forever. Look for the beauty, and like frosting on the cake, taste the sweetness of the season that we may find in the peaceful, quiet times when life seems to slow down.

Celebrate the season, knowing that nothing stays the same for long.

Before too long, what now looks like this,

                                      will look like this! 

Stay warm, my friends!

 * Just a note! If you ever wish to see a picture in more detail, just click on it!

January 16, 2015

Breathing Hope and New Life

The most amazing thing has happened. Perhaps it's really a simple, normal thing, but nothing is really normal with me!

I've been down with a bug the last couple of days. Nothing serious, just ugh! Laying in bed for a whole day really is not my thing, even though I profess to hibernate. (That's usually just after the sun goes down).

But today - TODAY! I feel so much better and I am astounded how this affects my perception of my life and my purpose.

It's true. EVERY day is a new day, and we can begin again.

Begin again to tackle that pile of clutter that we've been pretending we don't see.

Begin again to realize that life is more than our to-do lists.

Begin again in our search for happiness.

Because that's really what this life is all about, isn't it?

We wake, we work, we eat, we sleep. All necessary parts of our human life.

But there is so much more to be found!

There is an inner joy bubbling up from a wellspring deep within me, and I know it can only be God finally getting my attention. How I've waited to feel this hope again!

For me, it was a change in my health and my lifestyle, taking the time to do what I know is good for me. Taking care of myself -- not just my health, but my inner self, which needs nurturing just as much as our bodies need sustenance.

However you find your center, through meditation, yoga, or prayer, we have to make time to be still. That time is hard to find amidst our busy lives. But it is crucial to our well-being.

I've been so well-intentioned in my goals to make time for my heart, my spirit, my center. And however well-intentioned, I was caught up in my busyness and the days would fly by with no connection to my inner self.

Now I see how taking time to nourish my inner being benefits my whole outlook on life. And the added bonus of feeling well again is like frosting on the cake!

We all have trials in our lives that pull us off-center from our place of contentment and peace. It is a battle to try to keep ourselves positive amidst the chaos that is in the world. Even more reason to make the time to find our quiet center and just breathe.

I pray you will take the time to reconnect with your inner self. It's as simple as slowing down and shifting our focus to our breath, growing an awareness of what it means to be still. With practice, in breath work, through yoga asanas, or a regular contemplative practice, we can strengthen our connection to ourselves and to each other, and ultimately with God. 

When we take the time for ourselves, we reap the benefits by gaining a more positive outlook with renewed energy. We are then able to reflect this in our relationships and our work. It is well worth the time we perhaps feel we must sacrifice from our busy agendas to achieve a more positive outlook.

Life is waiting to be lived. With peace and joy. Care for yourself. Grow in your love of self by nurturing the core of who you are. Then you will be ready to share yourself with the world without feeling depleted.

Take care, my friends.

January 13, 2015

Finding Hope in the Dead of Winter

Snow is falling so softly, almost imperceptibly. 

Fluffy little flakes float out a half-blue sky and disappear in the white world outside my window. 

Wisconsin is deep in the frozen depths of winter.

Because of this, I’ve been hibernating.

Soon my many commitments in the community will draw me out of my winter break and back into service. It is difficult for me to force myself out of my warm home (picture a blazing fire in the fireplace) to attend an evening meeting or rehearsal.

It is very difficult. That’s just the way it is. 

Normally, I love my involvement with people and making a difference in my own small way. But lately I just want to stay buried under the covers and let the world go on with its own business.

Wake me in April. Or perhaps May.

I know I am not alone in my winter doldrums. I see people from around the world searching for hope in these pages.

It’s that time of year.

Darkness lasts way too long; and the cold seeps into our wood frame homes and into our bones.

The joys of the holidays are over, being placed in our memories to cherish while we pack away the decorations and ornaments.

Where do we turn for something uplifting? 

How can we cope with the silence that winter brings?

I say, embrace it.

I shall put on my snow pants and my warm coat and go for a snowshoe walk in my backyard, gathering any dry kindling I can find for tonight’s fire.

I will get out of my jammies and find the drive to motivate me to breath cold air again and feel alive.

Winter is here to stay, at least for awhile. We might as well enjoy what we can find.

Even in the death of winter, there is life. I watch the little animals scurrying through the freshly fallen snow and wonder what they will eat today.

I breathe air that feels foreign to my lungs, yet invigorates me with every breath.

The squeaky crunch of snow beneath my feet reminds me that we are in a very rare season, indeed.

And now, as the sun breaks forth from its hiding place amidst the clouds, the white carpet of snow dazzles my eyes with reflections of a million surfaces.

Taken at sunset, the coloring of the snow brings out the sparkles


Yes, Sunshine on Snow Sparkles like Diamonds. Believe it or not, this is one of my most read posts, read and re-read by people from around the world. And this winter season this post is being visited again.

Look for the beauty. Search for the unique in the ordinary.

This is the only way to combat the fatigue of a long winter.
Venture out, when the mercury rises above the deadly cold, and breathe in the life that awakens us to the possibilities.

Winter may be holding the natural world in a frozen silence, but there is beauty to be found. 

Search, and you will find it. 

I was blessed to watch a beautiful winter sunset at the end of my walk. That was my reward for venturing out. 

Stay warm, my friends.

{It has been ages since I have written on these pages. I hope to be bringing more hope to you as I begin to write again. Leave a comment if there is something you would like to read about. I’d be happy to oblige if I can find the words. Thanks!}