Sunday, December 18, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

We’re coming into the homestretch here for Christmas, and around our house, things are moving a bit slower than usual this year. I’ve been wrapped up in a big project creating a book for my 97-year old mother that I’ve titled “A Hero’s Journey”. It tells her brave and amazing story during World War II as the only woman in the Polish Parachute Brigade and as the director of a United Nations camp after the war for displaced people who had been in concentration camps. I used audio interviews that we’ve recorded throughout the years, so the stories are told in her own voice. I’ve illustrated it with photos of her life, and I came to a new realization as I looked at the finished book. Even though there was a period in her life for about six years from 1939 to 1945 that was really tough and frightening (and definitely marked her forever), my mother’s 97 years have been mostly filled with happiness and love. I gave her the book early since I decided that every day is fragile and precious when you are her age and I wanted to be sure that she was cognizant to appreciate what she was looking at. It was overwhelming for her as she flipped through all the pages of photos and stories, but I think that she feels something important has now been preserved for her granddaughter and all the great grandchildren who will never actually meet her.

So, now I’m moving on to baking cookies and cranberry-orange bread and filling the house with all the sentimental decorations that we’ve collected over the years. For our family, the holidays are a time of remembrance. Our tree has ornaments that go all the way back to the one my first grade teacher made for me and the felt and glitter mitten that my husband’s grandmother made for him. There are little bells on it that were from my grandparent’s 50th anniversary cake. We’ve got lots of horses and cowboy boots and chili pepper lights from our years living out West, which are regarded as very exotic here in New England. As my daughter grows older, she appreciates decorating the tree more and more because each treasure that is hung on it comes with a good story.

Out in the pasture, Silk and Siete are really enjoying this mild weather in December and the lack of snow and ice. It’s cold at night, but they have such thick coats this year that even though it goes down into the 20’s, I haven’t been blanketing them. The supplements that I’ve given them for the past couple of months have made a huge difference in their health and energy levels. Silk’s back right hoof has improved dramatically, and she is moving so well that I feel a rush of happiness and relief each time I see her run past me. We are what we eat, and the horses are both visible reminders to me that I need to keep up my own nutrition.

If you are able to take 10 minutes to really improve your state of mind, please check out this link to a TED talk given by filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg. It is a perfect message that captures the meaning of gratitude and it’s guaranteed to make you smile:
(for some reason, the link feature on blogspot isn't working, so you'll have to paste this into your browser. I'll try to fix it in a while to see if I can get it to work - sorry!)