Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice - December 22 (12:30 am)

Picture taken from

 Today begins a new year.
 While I know January first is the traditional beginning of a new year,  there are several other "New Year's" dates that are far more important to me personally.  September, because I am a teacher, is ALWAYS a new year, a fresh start, at school.  And, the Winter Solstice, is by far the MOST important new beginning for me - the day the light begins to return to the earth. Seconds at first, then minute by minute, gradually earth, and we with it, turn our faces to the light once again, a little more every day.  Though it seems, where I live, that winter has not even yet begun, and lies still too many long months ahead ahead, I take comfort in the fact that even though we may eventually be in for snow and winds and storms and many bitter cold days, we are, in fact, actually doing so with more light in the world. That's strong encouragement. Too many bad things happen in darkness, and many more good happen in the light. According to the ancient Celts, the year could be divided most simply into "the dark half," beginning at Summer Solstice, and "the light half," beginning at the Winter Solstice.  Many, many cultures celebrate the bringing of the light into the world in some way or another this time of year, and although I strongly, strongly believe and hold fast to celebrating the Savior of Mankind's birth as that of bringing the MOST light to a dark humankind, it doesn't, in any way, preclude me from celebrating the physical return of a few more moments of sunshine on the snowy ground, either. I love the winter solstice. It is magical, and doesn't require that I buy the perfect present, stress over how many different types of cookies to bake, or worry about getting my cards stamped and in the mail on time. It's a joyful new beginning, just when the world, and I, needs it most.
A New Year Blessing - by John O'Donohue  
On the day when
The weight deadens
On your shoulders
And you stumble,
May the clay dance
To balance you.
And when your eyes
Freeze behind
The grey window
And the ghost of loss
Gets into you,
May a flock of colours,
Indigo, red, green
And azure blue,
Come to awaken in you
A meadow of delight.
When the canvas frays
In the currach of thought
And a stain of ocean
Blackens beneath you,
May there come across the waters
A path of yellow moonlight
To bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
May the clarity of light be yours,
May the fluency of the ocean be yours,
May the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
Wind work these words
Of love around you,
An invisible cloak
To mind your life."

Picture taken from

Saturday, December 10, 2011

High School Boys, and Their Cookies

     In an effort to get into some sort of Christmas spirit today (I always feel like I owe it to my family, at least), I have begun some baking while listening to soothing Christmas music on Pandora radio. It has taken all day, but I’m softening. Oddly, it was discovering that on Pandora (an internet radio station my kids put me onto last weekend) I CAN just listen to quiet, instrumental music, not the awful stuff played on the radio that completely sets my teeth on edge.  That helped. And although I made a list and shopped for items needed for Christmas baking later this week (hopefully I can mix up a batch, one per evening, or SOMETHING at least…), it wasn’t actually Christmas baking I ended up doing today, and this isn’t even a Christmas story. But where I ended up in my head today was nostalgic, and a little sad and a little happy, and I felt like sharing.

     I’m not exactly sure how it started, but I have baked cookies a couple of times this fall for some kids at school, high school boys, former students of mine in 3rd and 4th grade, or 5/6, depending, and for the past few weeks they’ve been seriously BUGGING me for more. I have felt sooo blah that baking was just not even on my radar. I bake when I feel good, when I’m happy, and I’ve just been in such a funk for weeks that every time they poke their heads in my classroom door to ask, hopefully, for cookies, I’ve started cringing, because I just don’t WANT to bake. Last week, things got serious – they took my giant (stuffed) husky dog that I keep in my classroom hostage.  Of course, I didn’t notice until the hostage post-it note was left on my computer, but I have to admit, it was pretty funny. These kids have grown up with my dog, (especially my husky dog-Alaska) obsession, so they knew how to get right to the heart of me!  And I decided this weekend that I really SHOULD bake them some cookies, so, despite not really “feeling it” today, I did finally whip up a batch of the requested peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies.  As I was putting the cookie dough on the sheets to bake, and thinking about the guys I was baking for, I was overwhelmed with a huge wave of deja vue, and nostalgia.

You can't tell, but all of the pink notes stuck to my board behind my computer are notes requesting that I PLEASE bake cookies... notes which I have been ignoring...

This is what I found stuck to my computer LAST week...

So, I guess it's serious, now...
     When I was in 6th and 7th grade, three of my good friends at school (a K-12 school, with less than 500 kids, so everyone knew everyone) were guys who were 5 and 6 years older than me. Mark A. was a Senior when I was in 6th grade, and Ron F. and Rob J. were both Juniors. I had a crush of sorts on all three of them, but I was also genuinely friends with them as well. All three of them were good Christian guys and I looked up to and asked a lot of questions of them, as I searched for my place in the confusing world of religion and faith.  Not an easy task for me growing up, for too many reasons to go into now, but needless to say, all three of them were patient, kind and encouraging teachers and friends to me.   They, all three of them, made a HUGE impact on my life in such positive ways – I’m so very lucky to have had them IN my life as I was growing up.  Anyway, I got thinking about them today, because I used to bake all three of them cookies and leave brown paper lunch bags of them in their lockers at school, on the little top shelves.  My dad worked at school, so I used to get there early, and go up the back stairs, technically not allowed until after the bell rang. Ron and Robbie’s lockers were at the top of the stairs by the math room, and Mark’s locker was down in the very first set of cubbies, closest to the elementary wing. I remember feeling sort of sneaky as I opened their lockers, put the bags up there, and then watched for them in the halls, in between classes the rest of the day. There they’d be, carrying their little brown paper bags, or even just a big handful of cookies with them, happily munching away. They’d grin at me, or yell a loud “thank you” across the noisy crowded hallway. Sometimes I’d get a hug, always praise for my baking, and sometimes even a thank you note scribbled on notebook paper. Those notes always really made my day, since I did have that little bit of a mad crush on them, a hand written note, well, THAT was something! And I could keep it, and re-read it a million times over, closely studying how they had written the L in my name, or how they had signed it or whatever (ok, I was 11 – give me a break!)  I guess I never realized until I had 2 hungry high school boys of my own how much boys like cookies. And now, baking for some of my favorite high school boys, even though they steal my husky dog and leave me ransom notes, I realize that boys are ALWAYS hungry, and anyone, girl, teacher, mom, ANYONE, who makes cookies just for them and fills that constant cookie-hunger they live with, it seems, is a hero in their book. I could use a little more being a hero, some days.
     The nostalgia, thinking back to Mark, Ron and Robbie today, and my early beginnings as a half way decent baker, was nice. Except a little sad, too, because although Mark would now be 54, nearly 55, and Ron would be 53, almost 54, I think, if they were still alive, the fact is, they are not. Ron died quite a long time ago, I bet it was at LEAST ten years ago, if not more, of a brain aneurysm, I think, if I recall correctly. And Mark also passed away, suddenly and unexpectedly, probably about five years ago, if not more, of a heart attack, I believe. Both deaths were very sudden, very unexpected, and so very sad, as they were both so young. Rob, though, thankfully, is very much alive still, and lives nearby, though I haven’t seen him in many, many years. I was able to recently reconnect with him through Facebook though, and that makes me feel good, to re-establish a relationship that was so important to me many years ago. I should probably tell him “thank you,” while and since I can one of these days – for the impact he made on my life, for his patience and kindness to a girl who quite obviously had a pretty serious crush on him. Not one of those three guys EVER made me feel foolish, or made fun of me, or talked poorly about me. They were genuinely nice guys, and even if they were not able to return the feelings of an intent, overly romanticized 11 or 12 year (!), they were able to make me feel that I was a friend, a real friend, even at my tender age. It was nice to think back on those days today, and I realized tonight that while I now have a container of cookies with which to negotiate the return of my giant husky dog, I also feel a little better than I did before I started baking today.

     Maybe I don’t bake when I feel good. Maybe baking MAKES me feel good. Just in case that’s the case, I think I’ll try it again tomorrow. Lord knows I need to get those feel-good endorphins SOMEHOW, and baking is easier than exercising!