Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Retrospective

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

-- Omar Kayyam

The Moving Finger has written. 2015 passes from us. 2016 takes its place. Tomorrow morning, we start learning to write 2016 on all of our checks.

Some will rejoice the passing of the old year. Others will rejoice at the coming of the new. Some will awaken and wonder what happened. Some will make resolutions to be thinner, better, or happier in the new year. Others will mourn the non-accomplishments of resolutions made in 2015. And for some, the change of year will make no difference.

For me, the passing of the old year is a time of reflection and assessment. The Moving Finger has written. The old year becomes part of the unchangeable past. What was accomplished? What events made it memorable? What do I want to do again and what is best left behind?

In 2015 I settled farther into retired life and decided retirement works for me. Since retiring, I have touched nothing about my former profession, but maintain contact with the people. Sometimes I miss the work. Always I miss the people. I never miss the commute. 

In 2015 I continued to learn to live within physical limitations imposed by pulmonary fibrosis. I am still learning. I'm learning I can still do most of the things I enjoy, only not as fast. I've learned that rather than blithely charging ahead, sometimes I need to stop, catch my breath, and enjoy the moment. I learned that sometimes I really do need supplemental oxygen, and to use it when needed.

I also learned the absolute necessity of maintaining aerobic fitness to slow progression of my disease and to maintain lung capacity. I walk a lot. Walking is pleasant. I enjoy watching changes of weather and season in the neighborhood. And I'm finding the enjoyable part of the walk is not necessarily the walk itself, but the things I see and the people and dogs I meet while walking.

2015 was a great year for gardening. The eggplants and peppers produced prolifically, as did the bush and pole beans. White potatoes were a disappointment, sweet potatoes a pleasant surprise. The charity garden also did well. I may be slow, but I will plant a garden when spring comes. Gardening is therapeutic, and you get vegetables.

2015 was not a good year for writing. I neglected this blog and made faint progress on my Vietnam memoir. Both remain goals. I hope to do better in 2016.

But mostly 2015 was about family, friends, and church, all of which are dear to me. It was about going places and doing things. It was about enjoying kids and grandkids and grand dogs. It was about eating together and laughing together and working together. It was about sharing a pizza, eating ice cream and celebrating a grand daughter's first birthday. It was about watching a grandson play baseball and remembering why I loved the game so much. It was about seeing all four kids and all but two grandkids over the recent holidays. And it was about so much more.

2015 was mostly good. 2016 promises to be better.

How was your 2015? What did the moving finger write for you?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What Kind of Christmas?

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
Just like the ones I used to know..."
Irving Berlin

The words above from the song by Bing Crosby are familiar to us. For many, these words set expectations for ideal Christmas weather. In areas that get snow fall, Meteorologists start predicting the likelihood of a "white Christmas" as early as October.

We like the idea of a white Christmas. Greeting card manufacturers stoke our expectations with pictures of snow, horses and sleighs, and warm and cozy farmsteads populated by cheery people. It's all very romantic, nostalgic and beautiful. 

I love those images. They take me back to memories of Christmas Dinner with Grandma, Grandpop, my two aunts, my uncles, Mom, Dad, my sisters and me all seated around Grandma's table enjoying the meal and the time together.

Even with all seven leaves and the table expanded to maximum capacity, there was seldom room for all the food. There was turkey with mashed potatoes, inside and outside dressing, sweet potatoes, corn, and corn pudding, spoon bread, sauerkraut, cranberry sauce and lots of giblet gravy. For dessert, there were pies, apple  and pumpkin, and mincemeat "with liquor in it" the idea of which which made my aunts giggle. There was applesauce fruit cake and cookies and candies. And there was joy. 

The one thing there was not was snow.

In rural Maryland where I grew up, December is a mixed bag. Some years, Christmas was gray, some years sunny. Other years, it rained. Temperatures ranged from chilly to bitter cold to almost springlike. One year -- the year I got engaged -- we had nearly sixty degrees and a short thunder snowstorm followed by driving rain. 

And yet, as the song prompts, we dream of a white Christmas, but not really. What we really dream of is the warmth and fellowship of family and friends, of seeing the joy in someone's eyes as they open that special present, of the joy of singing carols and hearing the Christmas Story. Our wish is to rekindle that joy and excitement and hold it close to our heart, to make merry and be glad whether the day be warm or cold, white with snow, or wet with mud.

This year, there will be no white Christmas for me. Instead, we will enjoy rain and temperatures borrowed from April. The appropriate song would be

"I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas,
With raindrops falling all around!
Puddles glisten, and people listen 
To raindrops falling on the ground.

I'm dreaming of a warm Christmas,
With temperatures like early spring,
Trees are budding above the mudding,
And dampness covers everything.

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas,
Where rain will never dim the lights,
Nor silence singing of people bringing
Gifts to celebrate this night.

I'm dreaming of a wet Christmas.
We'll celebrate the Holy Birth.
Our God is with us to love and bless us
And will bring us peace on earth."

With sincere apologies to Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby.

Are you having a white Christmas?

What kind of Christmas are you having?

What makes Christmas special to you?