Category Archives: Holiday

Valentine’s Days Past: The Good and Not So Good Ones

How much are you loved, Valentine?  This Much!
Kiko serves as a prop for two old Valentines sent to my daughter as a toddler, from each set of grandparents. 

Our daughter, then four, before preschool on February 14, 2003.

Our daughter is now twenty and in her second year at UVA.  I find myself missing her more than ever recently.  And today, as I look through the charming old cards we’ve saved from her childhood, I wish I were on my way to pick her up from preschool so we could enjoy a celebratory afternoon together.  My favorite Valentine’s Days were those when my daughter was a toddler.  See Fool-proof Valentine’s Days, a post from 2012.

Later that day, with her Valentine goodies

I also have cozily pleasant memories of making Valentines with my mother throughout my elementary and middle school years.  The preparation was the high point.  The actual day tended to disappoint.  Young love, for me, as for many, was elusive and unrequited.  See The Best Part of Valentine’s Day: Before the Day.

A Valentine I made for my father in 1974.

Valentine’s Day in high school began painfully and took some time to figure out.  My friends and I managed it by senior year.  See Working the System: Getting the Hang of High School Valentine’s Days.

On this Valentine’s Day, I wish you comfort, love and happiness.  Don’t fall prey to the hype.  Those false expectations of perfect romance are set by merchandisers hoping we’ll buy into hollow dreams.  Instead, call a friend, make a card, spend an hour with a child or an elderly person.  Someone out there may need you to be their Valentine.

Merry Christmas 2018

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing,

and heaven and nature sing,

and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing!

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May the light of God’s love dwell in you now and always.

May you share that sacred light with those around you in the darkness of our troubled world.

And may the joy of Christmas fill your heart all year long!

Holiday Advice from Kiko: Just Chill

During the height of pre-Christmas hubbub, as the humans in our household fret the fine points of preparing for the season, Kiko maintains his air of customary quiet serenity.

He is the tranquil eye of our holiday storm.

He gifts us with his presence as we wrap gifts.

Kiko keeps calm as we carry on.

This December I’m taking Kiko’s comforting presence to heart.  I’ll step back from the edge when I feel myself about to plunge into holiday overdrive.  My gifting will focus less on those who have everything and more on those who have little.  I will say no to some proposed, supposedly festive activities.  Our Christmas cards will become New Year’s cards, sent out in early January.  Maybe mid-January.

I’d like to hold my little dog up as some kind of spiritual mentor.  I could pretend that he’s a holy fellow, engaged in prayerful contemplation, actively resisting the rampant secularization of Christmas.  Clearly, Kiko abides “in that place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God,” as in the words of a favorite hymn.

But I know he simply enjoys a good snooze.  Apparently, as a senior dog, he needs to sleep more now than during his teen years.  And should he wish to help with gift-wrapping or cookie-making, he lacks the hands to do so.

But my handsome dog, lying in sweet repose, reminds me that I can allow myself a time-out.  Every once in a while, I join him on the sofa for a nap.

Typically, Kiko endures my company for only a short while.  Then he gets up, stretches, shakes vigorously and resettles on the floor.  Please, he says, don’t mistake his desire to snooze for a need to cuddle.  Unless there’s a chance of thunder, of course.

For a post on Kiko’s only fear, see Evading the Terrible Thunder Monster, April 18, 2013. 

From the Archives: Favorite Christmas Posts

Back in the days when Wild Trumpet Vine was young, I managed to compose many Christmas-themed posts.  How did I find the time?  I have no idea, except that I was younger then, too.  And evidently I had more to say.  December has only just begun, but if the past few years have taught me anything, it is this:  the month will dash by as though in a sudden sprint.  December moves at warp speed.  Much like last year and the one before, there will be little time in these short, dark days for writing.  So, from the Archives, posts for the season, which I conveniently grouped together this time last year.  Some deal with surface treatments, the baubles and the glitz, and others dive deeper.

 Favorite Christmas Posts, December 1, 2017 

Halloween Update

Things have a way of working out swimmingly for our skeleton friend Slim, especially on Halloween.  Merrily and swiftly, he piloted his pack to Charlottesville without incident, arriving at UVA with plenty of time for trick-or-treating on the Lawn.  In a costume-wearing crowd, the unadorned authenticity of the group stood out.  Slim was greeted as a celebrity (as he typically is, wherever he goes).  Our daughter, who was there with friends, soon spotted her old buddy, the center of attention in a multitude of admirers. 

D was dressed as Barf the Dog from the movie Spaceballs.  She wore my 1980s Banana Republic khaki jumpsuit, furry ears and the appropriate make-up.  Slim approved, as he’s an avid Mel Brooks fan, and the pack welcomed her as one of their own.  

  

Kiko rapidly got his fill of the festivities and the press of the throng.  He retreated to the shelter of a stately column and resumed his nap.   And as for costumes, he says no.  Since submitting reluctantly to an ill-fitting red fleece vest (made by my mother without access to any actual measurements) for his first Christmas card photo, he wears only his own fur.  Should he encounter a costume-wearing canine, more than a trace of condescension is evident as he sniffs a greeting. 

Slim, ever the people person, could have mixed and mingled until the wee hours, but he honors his commitments.  Just as his faithful lead dog, Fluffy, was about to point out the time, Slim began to say his goodbyes.  The Crew was needed back in Northern Virginia.  They would not disappoint.  I’ve learned not to doubt my friend’s word.  His integrity is beyond reproach.  Plus, he seems to be able to bend time according to his whim.  Just as I was putting the tea lights in our jack-o-lantern votives, the car zipped up the driveway. 

The gang hopped out and assumed their places.  They’re good at freezing in position, so as not to frighten the unsuspecting.  Kiko looked out the storm door to assess the situation, sighed and retired to the sofa.  The night was only just beginning for Slim and the Crew.  But Kiko can only take so much Halloween. 

Until next year, folks!  Goodnight! 

Skeleton Crew 2018

 

Halloween season is in full swing, as is our Skeleton Crew of merry mirth-makers.  In early October, Slim and the pups emerged from eleven months of quiet repose and restorative rumination in the shadowy comfort of my mother’s basement. 

For the past few weeks, they’ve enjoyed roaming from our house to hers, snacking, lounging, soaking up sunshine as well as rain.  They savor weather in all its forms.  Slim, widely renowned as a scintillating conversationalist and acute observer of the human condition, has considerable wisdom to impart. 

With the tiniest bit of coaxing (or sometimes none at all), he delves into his endless cache of beguiling tales and truly ripping yarns.  As my father would say, that skinny guy “really can talk.” 

When the month is winding down, the gang is gearing up.  They’re  more than ready to let loose their insouciant charm and plunge full-throttle into fall festivity.  High-jinks ensue. 

While Kiko enjoys smallish doses of the company of his furless friends, their boundless enthusiasm tends to grate on his nerves.  In the very top photo, he has sought out an isolated patch of sun by the garage.  Before long, though, the pack is upon him again.   

These puppies will never grow up, he sighs.  How tedious it is to be the object of so much unbridled adoration.  What’s a senior dog to do?  

Perhaps with an absence of encouragement, they’ll lose interest.   

And then Slim suggests a spin in his favorite vehicle.  Top down, of course.  Gotta feel the cool autumn breeze in one’s silky locks.  With a knowing look he turns to Kiko and asks: Why not head down to Charlottesville and check in with your sister, old man?  We’ll be back before the trick-or-treaters arrive.  

The college kids love Slim.  Plus, he’s an architecture buff.  And a tad vain.  The Lawn and Rotunda, dressed in fall foliage, will serve as a striking backdrop for photographing his good looks.  Also, he and Mr. Jefferson were kids together, back in the day.   

Kiko needs no further nudging.  He’s stirring and stretching, preparing for a full-body shake.  He remembers why he loves this garrulous guy after all, and why it bodes well to tolerate his pack of yippy beasts.  Halloween joyride!

At last, the top dog can finally get some serious shuteye. 

Happy Halloween, everyone!

 

For previous Skeleton Crew posts from years past, see here

Ash Valentine’s Day

This year, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day both fall on February 14.  The two are unlikely bedfellows, so to speak.   

Ash Wednesday is a day for Christians to face our mortality head-on and clear-eyed, to gaze into the bleakness of what would have been, had it not been for God’s saving grace.  It marks the start of Lent, the forty-day period leading up to Easter, during which prayer, repentance and self-denial are encouraged.  Lent’s Biblical basis is Christ’s retreat to the wilderness to commune with the Father in preparation for his ministry. 

Valentine’s Day, on the other hand, needs no explanation.  For most of us, it involves the giving and getting of various treats.  It’s a day for indulgence, not denial. 

To Lenten sticklers for self-abnegation, the concurrence of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day will likely pose a conundrum.  To deny or not to deny?  Chocolate or no chocolate?  Dessert or no dessert?  Wine or no wine with that special Valentine dinner?  Perhaps a compromise:  to begin the denial process on February 15? 

I’ve written several times about Ash Wednesday.  See: Looking into the Ashes (March 1, 2017), and Saved from the Ashes (February 10, 2016).  I’ve tried Lenten self-denial in the past, but I’ve been known to lose track of the larger purpose.  The season’s truly spiritual pursuits–prayer, Bible reading, penitential introspection–they sometimes were left in the dust of Ash Wednesday.  A couple of times, when I renounced all things sweet, my Lenten journey became little more than a period of dieting.  I wince when I recall certain instances of self-righteous forbearance that must have made me a most disagreeable companion.  See Mindful Eating, and a Mindful Lent (March 24, 2012). 

The purpose of Lent is to try to become more like Christ.  Instead, in our singular focus on denial, we become more like the Pharisees, those elite Jewish leaders who prided themselves on following every iota of the Mosaic Law.  They were probably among those Jesus denounced for ostentatious fasting:  “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting.  I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.” (Matthew 6: 16, New Living Translation)  Jesus called out the Pharisees for their empty, showy arrogance and for the stumbling blocks they set up for others:  “You shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.  You won’t go in yourselves, and you don’t let others enter either” (Matthew 23: 13).  Overly zealous regarding trivial details, they missed the big picture:  “You are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law–justice, mercy and faith.  You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides!  You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23: 23-24).   

On this Ash Wednesday, I look into the dark ashes and contemplate Jesus’s supreme sacrifice.  I give thanks that his unimaginable love lifts me from the depths of destruction and despair. 

On this Valentine’s Day, If I know my husband, he’ll come home with a big box of Russell Stover’s candy.  

During Lent, I will try to take Jesus as my role model.  I will keep my Bible close at hand.  And I will eat some chocolates.  I may also swallow a few gnats.  But I hope to avoid the camels.  

Happy Ash Valentine’s Day!