Monthly Archives: December 2012

Simple and Beautiful

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There are many great things about the Christmas holiday (food is a big one), but I think my favorite is the use of lights to decorate.  Take a rough little home in an otherwise unattractive area…add white or colored lights…and suddenly there’s something of beauty to behold.  Of course, some folks go over the top and then some this time of year.  While I wonder how they pay the electric bill, I do love their enthusiasm!

There’s a neighborhood in a city close by that has become well known for its Christmas balls.  There’s not much to see during the day, but at night – it’s magical!  cmas balls 4

Imagine brightly colored bubbles, suspended and stationary in the air around you.  They float anywhere from five feet off the ground to about 30 feet in the air.  You can see them from the main road before you move into the neighborhood.  Make that first turn and it’s as if you have entered another world.

It’s become such a popular Christmas activity that the neighbors set up two locations for anyone driving through to leave canned food items for the local food pantry.  This year, one of the homeowners organized a Christmas Ball Run.  Several hundred people entered and ran through the area with the proceeds going to that same local food pantry.  Now that’s a wonderful way to enjoy the holiday and provide help to people in need.

You can make your own Christmas balls without too much trouble.  You need gloves, some chicken wire, strings of lights and extension cords.  Cut the chicken wire into rectangles.  Roll it into a cylinder and fasten the seam together.  Then fold in the ends to make it more of a circle.  You may need to “massage” it a bit to get the rounded shape you want.  Then wrap your string of lights all over the ball, leaving the plug end hanging a little.  Plug that end into your extension cord.  Then, using a ladder or an extension pole, put the ball up in the tree as high as you can.  cmas balls day 1

The more you put up, the prettier the scene will be in the dark.  cmas balls 3

What is your favorite part of the holiday?  Do you make or do something special?

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas.  Thanks for reading The Sunny Side!  I hope you’ll stick with me into 2013.

Your Hiding Place

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I have wrestled with words this week after last Friday’s horrible shooting.  I’ve had no desire to write anything simply because my thoughts have been with the families of the Newtown community.  Tuesday night I was a volunteer at a local Christmas concert.  After working the “will call” ticket table, I was seated immediately before the music began.  Walking down the aisle right behind me were a young father and his daughter who were seated next to me.  The little girl was probably 5 years old and adorable in her pink outfit and pink shoes.  She had long hair and a very sweet smile.  I really just wanted to put her in my lap and wrap my arms around her.  In that moment, she was the embodiment of all that is precious about children and life.

I take the same route to work almost every day .  My favorite stretch of road is about two miles long with plenty of things on both sides of the road for me to observe.  There are two farms and I enjoy watching the fields change as they are worked each season.  What I have pronounced as “the most perfect tree” is on this route as well.  Right now all the leaves are gone and I’m waiting for it to be covered in ice on a sunny winter day.  The whole tree will sparkle like a crystal statue.  My favorite sight, however, is the little wooden chapel.

Roadside Chapel

Roadside Chapel

This roadside log and cement sanctuary is less than two car lengths off the road, so you need to pull up at an angle.  The door with its “Welcome Home” sign is usually left open when no one is there.  It’s rough on the inside.  The walls and floor are unfinished.  There is a small table against the wall immediately to your left as you enter.   Directly in front of the doorway against the back wall is a plain altar with a picture of Jesus hanging above it.  In the middle open area, there are a couple of short benches.  In the back right corner is a broom.  There is no electricity, but some hooks have been added in the ceiling for anyone who wants to bring and hang a lantern.

Above the small table is a typed history of sorts.  It’s been framed and is still readable.  That’s where you discover that the chapel was placed in this spot by Kathryn Smithey who has since passed away.  There’s a simple composition notebook and pencils on the table for comments along with a Bible.

Over the years, I’ve seen groups of four to five teenagers gathered inside; they looked as if they were having a Bible study.  One morning a guy had parked his motorcycle in front and was leaning on it while he played a guitar.  On another afternoon, an earnest looking young man had set up four short rows of chairs outside to the left of the chapel and was standing behind a simple podium.  He was facing the road and waiting for someone, anyone, to stop and listen to his message.

Most often I will see a car parked in front and the door will be closed.  I imagine a person with a need has stopped in for a few moments of prayer or solace or simply to be alone in the quiet.

We all have those times.  When it’s your turn, where is your hiding place?

Bits and Pieces

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I was reading the paper yesterday morning and decided to glance at something called the “Legislative Roundup” – a look at some of the votes of our local congressional representatives.  One entry was titled “Amending language in federal law.”  I’m afraid to think about how much time might have been spent on this item.  According to the report, the House cleared a bill from the Senate that would remove the word “lunatic” from the U.S. Code.  Who knew that word was a part of the Code?  Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas was the only person who voted against removal.  His argument was that the word should be retained since his fellow members of Congress were living, breathing examples of it.

On the way home last night, I was listening to a news broadcast on the radio.  The Pope launched his personal twitter account yesterday and sent out seven tweets.  Hmmm…I immediately began to think about a name for this social media effort.  Papal Peeps?

Sandwiched between these bits of news, I found something in an online Scientific American article that adds a little science to The Sunny Side philosophy!  Dacher Keltner, Director of Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory, was discussing his new book, Born to be Good:  The Science of a Meaningful Life.  Based on his research of the human body and emotions, he notes that “meditating on a compassionate approach to others shifts resting brain activation to the left hemisphere, a region associated with happiness, and boosts immune functions.”  He goes on to highlight that “talking about areas of gratitude…boosts happiness and social well-being and health.”

I found this article on a site I had never heard of, but can totally support:  Random Acts of Kindness.

If you needed a reason to look on the sunny side of life, you can be reassured that it is in the best interest of your health to think compassionately, be empathetic, and verbalize gratitude.  Here’s to a kind and grateful end to your week!

 

Cut First; Apologize if Needed

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Two of the best days of the year are the first Saturday in December – wreath making day- and the day before – greenery cutting day.

For the past twenty years, my dear friend and I have jumped in a car with an assortment of clippers and bags and headed out of town to the woods.  Since neither of us owns any woods, we borrow other people’s woods.  Vacant lots, abandoned homesteads, old graveyards not “attached” to a church; we spend the year looking for the best spots possible.  We cut first, prepared to apologize to an owner if needed.  And we have had to apologize a couple of times.  At least we haven’t been shot for trespassing, yet.

For the past few years, we’ve hit the jackpot in a 150 acre spot close to my house that’s up for sale.  Road cut thru 1

Pine and overgrown English boxwood are right there for the cutting.  This year we also stopped by a local business that has closed, leaving some very nice cedar and juniper in need of one of our trims.

We cut greenery, pick up pine cones and discuss all the important issues of the day (which could be as deep as what we will eat the next day at lunch).  We jam the car with filled bags until it looks like the Grinch’s sled leaving Whoville.  I love to breathe in the fragrance of cedar and pine as we head back to her house.  Then everything is unloaded and laid out in an unorganized fashion on her patio awaiting Saturday.  Prep on the patio 1

When I arrive the next morning, I unload boxes and bags of “stuff” – forms, wire, clippers and all kinds of things to add to the greenery.  My supply goes next to her supply in the family room. There are natural additions, like dried hydrangea.  Last year I had dried okra pods and cotton I had picked on the way home from the beach.  There are also fake additions, sparkly and colorful items that add a little glitz.  We have a tendency to go over the top.  Maybe that’s a southern thing, like big hair.

Fresh coffee is poured and the creativity begins to flow.  We have two requirements:  share advice and materials freely and praise all efforts.  We are very big on admiring our own work.

My friend is a Pinterest addict, so we now have her Ipad close at hand, in case we need inspiration.  This year, the wreath I made for my office was a “use what I had on hand” version of something she found and emailed to me.  office wreath

Hours later, as the sun begins to go down, we clean up the incredible mess we’ve made.  No matter how hard we try to clean as we go, that approach is usually abandoned early on.  We talk about our fabulous creative skills and praise ourselves for another successful start to the Christmas season.  We split up what’s left to be used in the coming days.

I carry those same bags and boxes back to my car.  Then I carefully load my completed projects and head for home.

The first thing I do when I get there is hang the wreath on the front door.  wreath w bronze and silver

My husband knows to give his full attention to this process and then GUSH about great it looks.  (This is what 20 years of training has accomplished.)  Then he suggests we go out to eat or at least get take out because he knows I am way too tired to cook.

What a great two days!  I can’t imagine starting the holiday season any other way.

What do you do to jump start your holidays and with whom do you do it?