zoethe: (Xmas)
Even if you don't celebrate it. In which case, have a lovely, gracious day anyway.

Though I am not of the Christian persuasion, I still love this day for the celebration of family and friends that it is. A long history of winter feasts predates Christmas by millennia. It was a time to welcome back the return of the sun, the lengthening of days that signified that a new spring would be coming, and with it life renewed.

Is it any wonder that the early church chose this holiday as the perfect place to celebrate the birth of their god? The coming of the sun/son already had an established history from which to work. Bless those Romans, they were the best at vacuuming up local culture and using it to their advantage.

For me, the celebration of Christmas is a wonderful time to enjoy family and reach out to those less fortunate. Looking upon the most classic of Christmas stories, Dicken's "A Christmas Carol." one can see that, while there is much talk of kindness and generosity, there is no real talk about Jesus. It's not a Christian story; it's a human story. A tale of how our humanity is impacted by our interaction with the world.

For me, today will be a day of family and friends, of feasting and laughter. The fruited bread is rising, the fire is roaring, and a leisurely morning will soon give way to excited children and chattering adults. We will deep-fry the turkey that's currently brining, cook the ham and the rolls and the potatoes. Everyone will come to the table to feast.

So whether you are feasting with family, taking in a day of movies and Chinese food, or just hanging out, I wish you the best of the day, and a happy final week of 2011.
zoethe: (Cheers)
I just read a blog entry discussing the author's plan for Christmas dinner. Her family traditionally makes prime rib and rich side dishes for that special meal, but because she has lost weight and doesn't want to regain, she is bringing her own food instead of partaking in the family meal. She expects resistance, and is dreading the ordeal.

She then goes on to describe a meal that would be considered deprivation by any standards: steamed turkey breast (!) steamed vegetables, and half an apple with cinnamon and 6 raisins for dessert. Her planned Christmas dinner has fewer than 400 calories.

And sounds like bad hospital food.

Now, I have more than a few pounds of extra padding. I have struggled with weight my entire life, and weight has pretty much won the battle. But I really wanted to respond that I'd rather be fat than to have to eat like that.

Food is more than just fuel for our bodies. It's an integral part of our social structure, and sharing meals is a bonding experience that carries tradition into our times together and memories out of those times. A good meal, particularly a festive meal shared with family or friends (or both), feeds more than just our stomachs: it is pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the sense of smell, tactile, and even pleasing to the sense of hearing as conversation and laughter fill the room. A shared meal should fulfill all five senses.

We have gotten out of the habit of lingering at table, and food tends to be bolted down in front of the TV or the computer--I'm just as guilty as anyone else about this most of the time. It's partially because of this that the disconnect between fueling our systems and the true nourishment of dining has occurred. Even though dining out used to be considered a lingering experience, some fine restaurants are now making reservations for three separate seatings per table per evening, because they know that they can hustle diners in and out without the customers feeling rushed; they are so used to eating on a fast food schedule now that they don't even notice. Much of the time, they barely notice what they are eating.

There is some pushback going on in response to this speed-eating insanity. Restaurants like San Francisco's Saison are decreasing the number of tables and taking reservations for only one seating in an evening, with the expectation that diners will linger, talking and eating small portions of numerous courses over several hours. It's the kind of dining experience that was once common, and now is a sort of novelty.

How sad for us all. Where we used to spend time with family and friends, we now rush off to watch TV or play on the internet. Where we used to make memories of shared times - some good, some bad, some funny, some tragic - we zap something in the microwave and stuff forgettable food into our mouths. And wonder why we feel unfulfilled.

The holidays are often all we have left of those shared traditions. A group of people coming together to prepare and share a meal has a certain sacred, ritual nature to it. That nature doesn't belong to any one faith or creed; it doesn't depend on believing in anything - except the value of each other as human beings.

Yeah, lots of us suffer from difficult relationships with our families. Yeah, there can be division of labor issues with who does the cooking and cleaning up. But these issues don't detract from the bedrock nature of sharing both food and ourselves. Nurture is not just about providing the proper number of kcals and nutrients to ensure our internal combustion engines run at optimal efficiency. It's about feeding our minds and our souls as well, if not with the family of your birth, then with the family of your choosing: friends and loved ones.

And I come back to the idea of that blogger surrounded by lovingly-made food, eating her plain, white dinner while regarding the dishes around her as a sort of enemy, rejecting the love and caring that went into them in favor of food she's prepared only for herself, and brought only for her own benefit. Will she feel smug and superior as she eats her spartan meal? Will she feel resentment? Will her family look at her plate with ridicule, guilt, hurt feelings that she has rejected their traditions in favor of something so meager? What will or won't be said because of her choices? What opportunities will be lost?

I'm not saying that the notions of healthy eating should be tossed to the winds and people should stuff themselves sick just because it's Christmas. But imagine that instead of setting herself apart from family ritual, she'd brought a big green salad and some roasted brussel sprouts to share? That instead of turning her nose up at the prime rib, she'd asked to a sliver of a slice? That instead of closing herself inward to the food-is-fuel mentality, she'd embraced the idea of dining-is-sharing? For her, Christmas dinner is an ordeal to be overcome, instead of a communion of family. And it doesn't have to be.
zoethe: (Me)
I was all prepared to have a very bad day today. [livejournal.com profile] theferrett is going out of town and I have to work and study and go to school, and then I was just going to go home and sit alone for the evening.

Not a very pleasant way to turn 45.

Fortunately, the people who love me rescued me from a deep bout of sorry-for-myself-itis. [livejournal.com profile] neorxnawang and his daughter have baked me a birthday cake, which I will be able to enjoy this evening after class, Ferrett made my morning by getting me exactly what I asked for as a birthday prezzie, and there were lovely birthday bagels and a mocha waiting for me at the office. And the porch swing arrived, though it’s not hung up yet (we have the lure of the other half of the money to get the landscaper back out to finish, so I am not worried about no follow-through). My garden is in, but not so "finished" as to leave me with nothing to do.

As it turns out, a very pleasant way to turn 45.

I woke up this morning and found myself singing: "lalala, I’m 45!" I’m actually remarkably happy about this particular birthday, which surprises me because, while 30 didn’t bother me, 35 did. So when I welcomed 40 with open arms, I figured that 45 would be another difficult landmark. So I’ve been poking at it, like that place on your arm you smacked really hard into a filing cabinet and are sure must be getting swollen and bruised. Am I just numb? Am I really not feeling any pain there?

Apparently I am not.

I’ve been contemplating the source of this contentment. And real happiness. Because despite all the frustration and exhaustion and continual battle with health and injury and school, I am, at the base of it all, happy.

I think it has something to do with the fact that my life isn’t settled. I’m back in school, working toward a major career change, instead of looking back on 20-odd years of working and wondering where it’s gotten me. I’m looking forward and seeing challenges and adventures, rather than another 20 of the same thing and the terror of not being able to retire. I’m looking around me and liking what I see: I love my little house, particularly now that I have a garden that calls to me; I have good friends to buoy me up when I’m down, to encourage me when I’m discouraged, to need me back so that I feel useful; I have family with whom I am at peace, for despite a rocky childhood I have come to know them all as people and do not begrudge them their faults; I have children who, even when trying, are beautiful and intelligent and fun to be with; and I have love, the kind of great love that sustains and nurtures.

Is anyone really richer than I?

I have probably passed the halfway mark for my years in this incarnation—and certainly have lived the majority of my healthy, strong and vibrant years. It is not yet twilight, but the sun is past midsky. Yet I do not fear the years ahead, nor regret those left behind. I am who I am because of what I have known, who I’ve known, how I’ve lived. Not perfect, not even always strong in the right ways. But unique and powerful in my own right.

Happy birthday to me.
zoethe: (Default)
Struggled through snow and ice to my doorway at 10:40 this evening. Unlocked dark house, stumbled in, washed a few dishes, ate a few chips, drank a glass of milk. Going to bed now.

First time I've felt lonely alone.
zoethe: (Default)
This was the first Thanksgiving in almost two decades that I have spent at a family home--once again not my family, since they are scattered to the winds, but here in Connecticut with Ferrett's family. And not even really his family; his step-family, mostly, the siblings and their children of his step-dad. It was an interesting experience. I know that early on there were tensions between some of these match-ups, but they appear to have mellowed over the years to that jokey acceptance that, hey, we did the best we could to raise the kids, and this is what we've got (amusingly, the children of the rigid, born-again sister whose vicious lack of acceptance of anyone else are the only ones who don't get mentioned, being the ones who became heroin addicts and out-of-wedlock parents and criminals).

It's fascinating to watch inside family jokes from the outside. I was never made to feel unwelcome, never treated with anything less than affection, yet there is a certain level of humor that I can only enjoy for the fact that I'm simply not getting it. These people have a history together, one that is not all simply but one abut which they can joke and laugh in the mellow warmth of a humid kitchen, too many bodies squeezed into a small house. The house sighs and relaxes and lets them all in, because it is part of the history, it remembers, too.

It wasn't my nostalgia, but it was a happy nostalgia, and it embraced me as well.

Next up: Thanksgiving redux on Saturday with the NEXT set of relatives.
zoethe: (Default)
I spent the day with my sister, whose marriage may be coming to an end. Things got off to an odd start when she began with a fervent monologue about her newfound relationship with God and how she is turning everything over to him and how much better she feels about it.

I had to tell her at that point that I am a practicing pagan and, while respectful of her beliefs, thought that she was using faith as an excuse for not making up her mind.

It led to a few awkward moments. But by the end of the day she could see that the place we're coming from isn't all that different. The strange thing is how much she casually acknowledges the natural power that we all have -- Mom has been a natural witch for as long as any of us can remember, we've all had visions, etc. That's fine, but as soon as you acknowledge that power as a nonChristian thing people freak.

So now my family will undoubtedly hear within the week. It's only my brother, the hyperXtian, whose reaction will undoubtedly be...noisy.

And it was great to have her ask how Ferrett and I were doing and to be able to genuinely say, "great." It's nice being back in a good place in our relationship. We held on through not loving each other very much because we like each other so well. It made what came back around even better. It's a happy place.


zoethe: (Default)

September 2012

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