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8233805181_eaf62c704d_cWhen I was in college, I mentioned at the cafeteria dinner table that I just didn’t feel that Christmas spirit anymore. Maybe it had to do with writing ten-page papers and studying for finals (ya think?), but I didn’t feel the same zest, the same joy as I remembered from being a kid. My friends nodded, and some may have agreed. But no one could manage to find something to say to convince me otherwise.

The following week, I started getting small gifts outside my dorm room door. They were tiny, probably from the dollar store, decorated with Christmas paper and little rhymes. They were signed “Santa’s Elf.” I had a feeling who it was—my friend Sara, who had a hard time hiding her grin when I saw her in the halls. At the end of the week, before we all went home to our families, I made her fess up.

“What made you think to do this?” I asked her, flattered that she had thought of me and put so much time into each small gift.

“It started with my dad,” she said. “Each year, he’d fine someone who didn’t feel the Christmas spirit, and he’d give them a gift. We started to do it as a family, with our neighbors. So this year, I decided it should be you.”

It was a kind gesture, perhaps most joyful for the elf. The secret of Christmas, I think, is in making it not about yourself, but about others. Part of the reason I don’t want to emphasize Santa in my house is because it sets children up for future disappointment; if they learn early on that Christmas is all about the big man coming and delivering them gifts, they don’t get the chance to participate in the magic of giving, which is a much more sustaining, and happiness-building, lesson. While I haven’t become an elf myself in these past years, I have become a mother. And buying gifts for the kids, making cookies, hosting movie nights with hot chocolate, using this time of year as a marker of all that has come and gone and changed and stayed the same, have given me the the feeling of Christmas more than anything else.

Christmas can be sad, though, a time of disappointment or stress. So often, we get bogged down by what we’re “supposed” to feel. We think that getting people a lot of gifts, or the most expensive gifts, is what makes Christmas special. We think we have to do a lot, perhaps more than any other time of year, even though our bodies are ready to go into hibernation mode. But for me, the most special time is before Christmas, feeling the kids’ excitement, and after Christmas, enjoying the gifts and books and toys and silence that settles over the house as we physically and mentally prepare for winter. Mostly, I like spending time with my family. (The sibling fighting, I can definitely do without.)

I’ve started to see Christmas as one of the only traditions my family celebrates yearly (aside from birthdays) as a marker that helps us honor and reflect on the past. I hope that when my kids grow up, they remember Christmas not as a time of getting lots of gifts, but a time of rest and comfort with family, in the safety of their home, with plenty of love and cookies. And I hope that by that time, they’ve learned that the most fun is in the giving, not the getting. It’s in the message of love, despite the darkness and cold.

 

Image: “derivativeofcourse” by L via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.

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Thanksgiving Poem

November 28, 2013

I’m no Sharon Olds or Lucille Clifton, but today’s a day to be grateful, not judgmental. I’m learning to let my guard down and let all the imperfections slide…. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

 

media_poetry

 

Before Thanksgiving

I am thankful for the moon last night

A flash of crescent that lit up the cold sky.

The warmth of lamps in my living room,

and a chance to sit in silence among friends.

My children’s smiles, my husband’s chuckle.

For prayers, and the yearning to repeat them.

I’m grateful, this week, for warmth,

For quiet rooms,

And my solitary walk over the leaves of my neighborhood.

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SuperWoman Makes Progress

November 1, 2013

Here is one sure sign that SuperWoman is progressing as a yogi. She went to her regular 9 a.m. yoga class this morning. Nothing unusual. She left feeling wonderful, refreshed, free from tension. She knew she would need a snack when she got home, and her favorite snack lately is Ritz crackers and peanut butter. […]

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Me and Thich Nhat Hanh

October 30, 2013

Apparently, a person who practices yoga is supposed to have a guru. At least that’s what I heard from Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She had (or has) one, but she doesn’t reveal who it is in the book. All we know is that it’s a woman, which is cool enough. There are so many highly […]

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Practicing

October 11, 2013

I’ve feel like I’ve been neglecting my little blog. I hear her calling to me, saying Remember me? We used to be best friends. Why don’t you visit anymore?  The truth is, I’ve wanted to visit, but I’ve been trying to stay on top of all the other endeavors I’ve been pursuing in recent months. Not […]

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Ode to Coffee (and a perk)

September 15, 2013

  I miss you. Your long hair swirling in the atmosphere Your musk reaching from a tall cup.   We had a love affair for many years Quick rendezvous in the kitchen, between breaths and babies’ cries Or dates in a dark-wooded shop, your warmth tucked between my palms.   Since I left you, I […]

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The Ultimate Pose

August 31, 2013

When I first started training to be a yoga teacher a few months ago, pursuing difficult questions about existence, it made me nervous. Who am I? Why am I here? What causes my anxiety, my fear? What are the darkest parts of me? I said to my  husband, almost earnestly, “What if I figure everything […]

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Tips on Writing Memoir

August 15, 2013

Today I posted an article on my new website, Firstdaypress.org (if you haven’t checked it out, please do!) about what the past six months have been like for me after I got fired by Quakers. That sounds like a great title for a movie, doesn’t it? Fired by Quakers.  I’ve written a little bit about […]

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Remembering

August 6, 2013

Sometimes I wonder how I’ll remember this time of my life. The months of slow days, mostly by myself. The months of morning yoga, and reading, and writing three drafts of a novel—only to discover it might not be the novel I want. The year I stopped defining myself by my career, and saw that […]

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Blackbirds and Magazines

July 25, 2013

Every time I start a new post here, I’m tempted to begin it with an apology. Sorry I’m not writing more, dear readers. Sorry if I’m letting you down. Really, it’s an apology to myself. I wonder if I’m not keeping up, if I’m letting my blog fade into the cached pages of internet scrolling. […]

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As the World Spins

July 8, 2013

For over three years, I’ve used this blog as a sort of meditation space, a place to work through the thoughts and worries and fears that were on my mind as I journeyed through motherhood. But this month in my yoga teacher training, we’re focusing on real meditation, the kind where you cross your legs […]

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The Tortured Genius

June 17, 2013

When my husband and I were dating, he asked me once if I’d rather be a tortured genius or a happy idiot. I only had to think for a second. “Definitely,” I said, “the happy idiot.” His whole face contorted as he looked at me. Clearly, that was not the answer he expected. A tortured […]

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SuperWoman Goes on a Family Vacation (And Lives to Tell the Tale)

June 15, 2013

You haven’t heard from SuperWoman in a while. That’s because she’s involved in the stage of her life where she’s supposed to understand that she’s not a superhero at all, but really a plain old human being. (She’s not having any of it.) And as other human beings do, she had this idea to take […]

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Who am I?

May 23, 2013

For months now, I’ve been having dreams about buying clothes. I’m in the store, trying to find something that feels right for me. Is it a sleek cardigan, a wide linen shirt with blue stitching? A dress? And which beautiful earrings should I choose to go with it? There are so many—silver and gold, small […]

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Countdown to Before Midnight

May 13, 2013

I’m one of those women. The kind who had a poster of Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything up on her dorm room wall. The kind who memorized lines from Singles. The girl in high school who read the horoscopes of the boys I had crushes on. I’m a romantic, and my enthusiasm for romance still exists, even […]

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Countdown to Before Midnight

May 13, 2013

I’m one of those women. The kind who had a poster of Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything up on her dorm room wall. The kind who memorized lines from Singles. The girl in high school who read the horoscopes of the boys I had crushes on. I’m a romantic, and my enthusiasm for romance still exists, even […]

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Countdown to Before Midnight

May 13, 2013

I’m one of those women. The kind who had a poster of Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything up on her dorm room wall. The kind who memorized lines from Singles. The girl in high school who read the horoscopes of the boys I had crushes on. I’m a romantic, and my enthusiasm for romance still exists, even […]

0 comments Read the full article…

Countdown to Before Midnight

May 13, 2013

I’m one of those women. The kind who had a poster of Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything up on her dorm room wall. The kind who memorized lines from Singles. The girl in high school who read the horoscopes of the boys I had crushes on. I’m a romantic, and my enthusiasm for romance still exists, even […]

0 comments Read the full article…

Countdown to Before Midnight

May 13, 2013

I’m one of those women. The kind who had a poster of Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything up on her dorm room wall. The kind who memorized lines from Singles. The girl in high school who read the horoscopes of the boys I had crushes on. I’m a romantic, and my enthusiasm for romance still exists, even […]

0 comments Read the full article…

Countdown to Before Midnight

May 13, 2013

I’m one of those women. The kind who had a poster of Lloyd Dobler from Say Anything up on her dorm room wall. The kind who memorized lines from Singles. The girl in high school who read the horoscopes of the boys I had crushes on. I’m a romantic, and my enthusiasm for romance still exists, even […]

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