December Survival

6:18 a.m.  Sunday morning, December 4th, thinking about Christmases past and the one that’s coming up, reflective, nostalgic, bitter-sweet.  Rarely do I feel excitement anymore.  The Christmas season has become a chore to do.  This sounds incredibly sad to me and a bit depressing.  Tis’ the season of joy and warm wishes: HOW can I find that for myself and then share it?     Life is rich in moments: moments of happiness, of awe, of gratitude, of clarity, of wisdom, of vision.   I’m working on the habit of mindfulness: recognizing the present moments and making choices.  See and act, I’m in control now, of my thoughts and actions.   However, when little children are running around needing to be fed, bathed, and educated life can feel out-of-control.  When family members are sick or passed away, life can be very bitter-sweet.  

 Here’s two ideas that helped me keep my sanity during those challenging years of child-raising:

  1. Hot Water Bottle:  Any mother can relate to a crying child waking in the middle-of-the-night with a tummy ache or ear ache and hours to go before you can call the doctor.    I use to fill the hot water bottle, place it in a pillowcase, and let my son or daughter sleep with it.  Also, helped to warm up the crib, before laying the baby down. 
  2. Play-Doh Recipe:  This recipe gave my children something to do, keeping hands busy and allowing me to get my work done.  It’s easy to make and has a wonderful, smooth consistency. 

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp. oil
Food Coloring
Artificial Flavoring (optional) for smell (Peppermint/Spearmint)

Put oil, food coloring, flavoring, and water in saucepan.
Add other ingredients and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and forms a ball.  Let cool.
Store in air-tight container, in refrigerator, if possible, but not necessary.
This recipe holds up well, does not crumble and will not dry out.******

Part of my bitter-sweet holiday blues come from missing loved ones who are no longer here.  I miss my father’s playfulness and my mother’s excitement over Christmas decorations, writing and receiving long letters from friends, getting the family together.  Their home was filled with good cheer, music, lots of laughing and talking and everyone helping in the kitchen.    When my father passed away, it was his time, and I’m at peace with that.  My mom is lost to Alzheimer’s so my wound of sadness remains open. 

Thinking of mindfulness, the present moment, I have family here and now.  My traditions, my spirit can take over where my parents left off, and make memorable memories.  Yesterday two very special things happened.  First, my daughter and I spent time together making wreaths using fir-tree branches from the bottom of her Christmas tree.  We wired them around a metal coat hanger formed into a circle.  Then she glue-gunned some ornaments and pinecones for decoration.  There is joy in making something together, listening to music, smelling the pine, and drinking a cup of warm tea.  She had a candle burning too.  Setting the stage, creating the mood, giving the time helped to make this memory happen.

The other special event was a local concert, the De Angelis Vocal Ensemble, held at the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano.  On our daughter’s suggestion, her father went with us, we did something spontaneous and unexpected.  And, this musical production was absolutely different.  The church ablaze in gold, the voices multi-layered, I experienced a glow of art, beauty and sound right here in my home town.   I experienced a renewal of spirit, forgiveness, and a wish to re-involve myself with my community.   Here’s the cover of the program:

Here’s the words from one of the songs based on a poem by Charles Bennett, and set to music by Bob Chilcott: 
There’s a Rose in the Middle of Winter

“There’s a rose in the middle of winter,
a rose which has no thorn,
Into the garden it comes,
Like a child that is waiting to be born.
And while he waits for the rose to bloom,
The gard’ner sings:
And the clouds all dance to his tune, dance to his tune.   

There’s a bird in the middle of winter,
A bird who’s song is a prayer,
Into our dreams it comes,
Like a child that is almost here.
And while he waits for the bird to sound,
The gard’ner sings:
And the stars all dance in a round, in a round.

There’s a child in the middle of winter,
A child like a flower in the snow,
Into our days he comes,
Like a child who is with us, with us now.
And while he listens to the song of the rose
The gard’ner sings:
And the child is a dance in his soul, dance in his soul.
There’s a rose in the middle of winter.    

Now imagine these words put to song with the harmonies of soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices giving a sense of movement and texture to this poem.  I was uplifted.  Words took on a whole new perception, multi-layered and rich. 

One last comment about December.  Everyday I get mail requests for donations…this cause, that organization.  I get phone calls in my evening hours to make a donation.  Now, I find this all very annoying.   I don’t like making donations out of guilt.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my few special causes that I give too.  But, last year I gave a donation to my town library and I felt an appreciation, I’ve never experienced before.  Usually, a library donation placed in the jar on the counter goes to the county to be disbursed among all the libraries.  But, because I went in to my branch and requested making a donation to my branch, my town library got to keep all the money for their needs.  The director was so excited she instantly made me a member of the Friends of the Library, gave me a book bag, and sent me the most gracious letter in the mail.  I didn’t think it was a large donation, but it must not happen very often.  Appreciation.  It’s very nice receiving appreciation.


About Wings of Wonder

Linda Ruddy is a creative and she works in a variety of materials including pencils, paints, paper, porcelain and fabric. Her current projects involve hand-sewn bookbinding, children's book illustrating, and writing. In 2010, two of her paintings were published in the Saddleback College literary magazine, The Wall. In the past, she has received recognition for painting and doll making. Linda lives in California with her husband and family pet. Her new blog can be found Please visit often to see how the site develops. Following the muse, Linda Ruddy
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6 Responses to December Survival

  1. robin says:

    Ahhhh, Linda, your blog entry came at such a good time. I was feeling a bit of the holiday blues. You reminded me of the simple shared moments and events that make the season bright. Somehow I missed your gratitude list last week. I just read it and want to do my own list now. It was very uplifting. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Marilyn says:

    We have to “manage” our Christmas season. There are so many expectations and commitments that I find myself wanting to fast forward to the calm nothingness of Austere January. (Though I am often disappointed because social commitments end to spill over for weeks.

    So we scaled back big time on our spending, outings and expectations. We don’t send cards, give small gifts, and generally don’t stress. But it takes a lot of work to be so relaxed. 🙂

    Hugs, M

    • I’m working on balance and keeping it meaningful, and re-examining expectations too. My greatest joy comes from making things…and I am reconnecting with that part of my holiday activities and enjoying it. In fact, Marilyn, I’m enjoying the Toymaker’s paper toys. I think you understand.

  3. The holidays are what you make them . . . keep them simple and meaningful and they are no longer a chore. 🙂

    How wonderful that you and your daughter made wreaths. That’s one of my favorite things to do on the holidays. You get a beautiful door decorations and your hands smell like pine (which has got to be one of the best smells on the planet).

    • What I want most is to connect in some special way with the people in my life. Making the wreaths gave me a special memory with my daughter. And that makes it all worth the effort. I love the smell of pine too!!!!!!!!!

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