Fat chance

We are making some major changes around here in the new year.

Lilly the Beagle has no idea what’s coming, but I am resolute. Resolute, I tell you. You see, she has a little, er…..food problem.  Every moment of Lilly’s waking hours are dedicated to begging for People food. Even when she’s sound asleep, she can hear the pantry door open and she bolts (BOLTS!) upstairs to see what she can beg off of the human in the kitchen sneaking a snack. She is a little food addict and we are her enablers. Why, you ask? Well, let’s see. She’s small and funny and pretty much runs the joint.  The kids are appalled that we have lowered our standards so much. Lilly is just two years old. In people years, that makes her a teenager. If she was a human, based upon our poor parenting, she’d probably be staying out all night or shoplifting from stores, their disapproving looks practically scream at us.

It’s true. We are terrible empty nest dog parents. We live with a short, fat, begging tyrant and it isn’t really even her fault because beagles have no thumbs and cannot open pantry doors on their own. She really isn’t tall enough to steal anything off the counter, either. And if we leave the door to the closet where the garbage is and she just so happens to discover something just waiting for her there,  well then that’s on us, too.

So, my first resolution of 2017 is to put the dog on a diet. No more “last bites” of toast. No more “just one won’t hurt” for her no matter how much she complains. And so, it’s going to be ugly around here for a while, I’m afraid.  If there was a twelve step program for chubby little dogs and their owners, I’d sign us all up. It might be easier than what’s heading our way.

But I have faith that we can do this. We can.

As for other resolutions not having anything to do with the fat little dog who lives here?

Who knows? I’ve got my hands full.

Happy New Year!

A stranger near the manger

For the first time in over thirty years, I ended up choosing a tiny Norfolk pine instead of a big balsam decorated to within an inch of its life. At first, I regretted my decision but then, I reminded myself that it wasn’t really about the tree anyway, found my Nativity set, and felt a lot better.

We received the set as a gift from my mother-in-law the year before we adopted our first child. The primitive, hand-painted, black-haired figurines were purchased in a market in Mexico. The baby Jesus in the set looks a lot like my two kids. One of my favorite pictures from long ago is of our son the first Christmas he was with us standing on his tip toes at the age of eighteen months, peeking over the edge of the table where the set had been placed.  In the picture, he has a mischievous grin and his pudgy hand is reaching for one of the tiny lambs.  That day seems like a lifetime and about ten minutes ago to this mom of grown children. How is that possible?

In addition to the three wise men bearing gifts, angels, a couple of donkeys, Mary and Joseph and Jesus, this year there’s also a small wooden Buddha in the cast of characters on my buffet. I’d originally thought of relocating Mr. Buddha to a different spot in the dining room for Christmas but then decided that in this, of all years, the concept of being more tolerant and inclusive when it comes to people who don’t necessarily believe everything I do couldn’t hurt so I let him stay. He looks pleased to be a part of the holiday festivities, actually.

I don’t know a lot about Buddhism except that there are three “universal truths.”  The first one being that nothing is ever lost in the universe. Matter turns into energy, energy turns into matter. Everything returns to earth. We are born of our parents, and then our children are born of us, and then their children will be born of them. The second universal truth is that everything changes. Life is like a river flowing on and on. Sometimes it flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth in some places and rough in others. The third universal truth is that there is continuous change due to the law of cause and effect, or karma. That our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we will have.

I love the Christmas story of shepherds and angels and a small boy born in a manger who would grow up to save us all.  I need this story this year. Attending too many funerals and not enough christenings in one year makes one want to believe that it all turns out okay in the end. I need to believe that bad things happening to good people has nothing whatsoever to do with karma when I see terrified brown-skinned children in an orphanage in Syria on the nightly news begging for the shelling to stop and it’s a week before Christmas.

Maybe we all just choose the narratives we need to make sense of the nonsensical and hope for the best. Invite strangers to the party. Put up the tree, string the lights, and pray for that peace that surpasses all understanding as we’ve been taught to do. Have a little faith. Be more patient. Love each other better.

And hold those we love a little closer, knowing that everything changes all the time. And try be okay with that, too.

Merry Christmas.



A little snow

It snowed during the night.

I inhaled its fragrance when I let Lilly out this morning. She was surprised to see her yard covered up again and spent a little extra time nosing around by the fence hoping to find a cold chipmunk or weasel to terrorize before she came in for breakfast.

We don’t have a Christmas tree yet. Yesterday I texted both kids to ask if they’d be disappointed with a small Norfolk pine instead a big tree and since neither of them seemed to care one way or the other, it’s now up to me to decide. One of them said I should “get what I want” and not worry about what they want.

So what DO I want this Christmas?

I want to shop small and put a little extra in more red kettles than I usually do. I want to avoid the big box stores at all costs. I want to bake and decorate some cookies and make a couple of batches of fudge and then hide some so that it isn’t all gone before the kids get home. I want to make a batch of Russian Tea and invite some good friends over for a cup.  I want to hug the ones who are missing family members they lost this year and hope with the ones whose loved ones are struggling with illness, addiction, or hopelessness. I want to light a candle and remember the people I know who didn’t live to see another Christmas.

A little snow would also be nice. Not so much that I have to worry about the kids driving home from the Cities the day before Christmas. I want a few large, fluffy, flakes on Christmas Eve when my daughter and I leave both men at home and go to Midnight Mass to sing “Silent Night” on the one night every year that I still feel a little bit Catholic. I want Christmas morning to dawn bright and full of sunshine and my dear ones to wake up and check their stockings just as they always do. I want ham instead of a messy turkey to deal with on Christmas Day and then an afternoon of doing nothing much with the humans who are most important to me.

I want them healthy and happy and whole. Peace on earth would be nice, too.

But do I want a big Christmas tree?

We shall see.