800px-Candle_Light Light. It’s the primary reason I will never move north of my current home in Missouri, USA. I don’t think I could bear shorter winter days than I endure now. This year, December has been especially gloomy, with many overcast days and little sun. I’d pick up my son from school at 4:05, car headlights already on.

The longer I live this northern hemisphere existence the more I appreciate the inclusion of some celebration of light in most winter holiday traditions. I know folks who have a bonfire to mark the solstice. Then there are yule logs, the seven candles of Kwanzaa, menorahs, and good old Christmas lights. One of the things I like best is that other illumination needs to be dimmed in order to fully experience any of these. The presence of a light in the dark, rather than a bright overhead fixture to make it seem like daytime, helps me feel welcoming toward night.

Last year we bought LED lights for our Christmas tree and it’s been transformative. Because they’re not running up the electric bill (much) and they don’t get hot, I leave them on all night. Most mornings I’m up before the sun, assuming we’re even going to see it that day. This is dictated by schedule and not by choice. I’m a person who needs to ease into full wakefulness. The multi-colored fairy glow that greets me when I come down the stairs helps me transition less grumpily than I otherwise would. So far this season, we’ve avoided our traditional middle-of-the-night crashing of the greenery that usually comes with Christmas trees and cats. I have to wonder if keeping the lights on is keeping the felines at bay. Any excuse, really.

I had a “be still my heart” moment the other night when my two teens actually liked my suggestion to pile in the van and drive around town looking at Christmas lights. This was our ultimate destination: magictree.jpg

But we took a lot of side streets to get there, turning down any block that looked well-decorated. I’m grateful to my fellow residents for their efforts. In the middle of the busyness of shopping and wrapping and holiday logistics, our little outing was the equivalent of a deep, relaxing breath.

The holiday lights will be coming down in another week or so, but it’s okay. The days are getting longer again. Until then, whatever holidays you celebrate or don’t, I send out thoughts of light and love to you. Yes, I mean you.

I Sang Along, Y’all



I know some people will hate me for this, but I love holiday music. Almost all of it – traditional carols, sacred hymns, pop/rock selections, novelty numbers. Just about anything except that one about the kid picking out Christmas shoes for his mom to die in. I spend the month of December belting out the lyrics of myriad winter celebration songs. Any time I find myself alone in my home or car.

I fondly recall the days of my childhood when I’d participate with enthusiasm in school choir programs, sing along with the radio in front of anyone, and generally enjoy the sound of my own voice. Back before I realized I was kind of terrible at singing.

By the time I reached my teen years, I kept my not-quite tune-making to myself. Other teens are not ones to let you keep your delusions of adequacy. In church, where everyone was expected to make a joyful noise, I lip-synched behind my hymnal.

During my young adult years I didn’t sing and didn’t sing. And I missed it. I missed being able have fun with a song for the simple pleasure of it, with no worries about how good I was, with no self-consciousness. For me, singing had become all self-consciousness and no pleasure. Then I had babies.

I sang to my babies while rocking them, and they didn’t criticize me. They even seemed to find some comfort in my voice. And as they got a little older, we sang Christmas carols and “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Old McDonald” and it was a blast. When I volunteered at preschool, I sang along even though there were other adults present, because I wanted to set a good example around embracing music without embarrassment. I *felt* embarrassed, but I tried not to show it. Singing was once again part of my life. It was a great unexpected gift that came with motherhood.

Then the kids got even older and we stopped doing any of that. I’ve spent the last few years keeping my vocal efforts a solitary activity. Secret even. Back to treating it as a shameful activity.

But today – today I went to the Christmas party at my mom’s nursing home. We had carols. I sang along, y’all. I was surrounded by 85 and 90-year-olds, many of whom suffer ailments that have pretty well trashed their voices. But most of them were giving it their best shot, so why shouldn’t I? Besides, my mom is one person who never said a negative word about my singing, no matter how it made her suffer. Some of the aides might have looked at me askance, but I had a good time. I think I even hit the correct notes a few times.

This was huge for me. I sang along. I didn’t hum, or stick to smiling and tapping my foot just off the beat. I sang. I’m ready for my participation award.