I can’t remember the last time I wrote a Christmas letter. It was probably when my daughters were little and maybe I wrote about all the new things they had been doing as they grew. They are twenty-four (Roise) and twenty-eight (Maire) now and still changing and growing. I still love them to pieces. I am still very much a part of their daily lives. I am happy about that.
For Maire this has definitely been a year of growth and change. She has been more reflective and introspective lately than I have ever seen her. She has made some courageous decisions this year that cost her dearly but I know she will come out shining as she always has. She still lives in her school bus (converted into a tiny house. I’m told these are called “Schoolies”) She has carried on my mom’s ardent gardening and has done some amazing things out on the land. It looks great out there. It’s such a joy to have her back home in Texas these last couple of years instead of on a mountain top in Oregon. Now she is only forty-five minutes away! She is still working as a secretary, still raising her two little boys, Blaze and Brazos who are having an amazing, imaginative childhood steeped in lore and nature.
Blaze is the most tender and sweet boy you could ever meet. He is a dreamy little five year old with lovely eyes. He is a great little story teller of the fantastical. He is the loudest kid on any playground since his speaking voice is all shouting. Notably he saw someone whose truck wouldn’t start and asked the guy if he had jumper cables because it sounded like the battery. He volunteered his dad’s jumper cables. Once the truck was jump-started the man tried to give Blaze a dollar. Blaze said, “No that’s OK. I love helping people!”
Brazos is the most expressive kid I have ever seen. His facial expressions are eloquent for a two year old, his eyes intense. His face is always changing too, his emotions fluttering by like ripples in a lake. He’s speaking better and better every day. I am continually surprised how he can put sentences together more and even talk in paragraphs like a pro. He is as tough and spunky as his brother and the two roll around and wrestle like a pile of puppies.
My youngest daughter, Roise and her five year old daughter Arelani had to move in with me when our apartment complex couldn’t get the rodents out of her building. This has been rough because my apartment is a one bedroom. I had just signed a new lease but I am relieved I can transfer us to a two bedroom where there will be places for everyone and their things. The kitchen is a little bigger too, thank goodness. My mom would have said this one I have now is a “one butt kitchen.” The new one looks like almost a two butt kitchen.
Roise is still hilarious, still a guitarist and wonderful singer-song-writer, still working on becoming a Special Ed teacher. She transfers to Sam Houston this Spring semester. She has kept her grades up in spite of the stress of being a young single mom and going to school full time and being invaded by unstoppable rodents!
Arelani started Kindergarten this year and is doing very well. She is so smart she drives us crazy with all of her questions and interests. Her vocabulary is astonishing. She has been going through a bit of an existential crisis lately, reminiscent of her mother at this age. The other day, the boys and I came outside and said “Hello world!” Lani said, “The world is nothing and everybody is dust -they can’t answer you.” I tried to explain. She said stubbornly, “ NO ONE will respond!”
For me this is the year I finished my book, which will be called Come to Mary’s House: Spending Time with the Blessed Mother. (I wrote more about my book here.) Writing it has been such a spiritual journey. Also I can’t believe there was this much agony over a little 30,000 word book but there was. It is my first book so I was worried that I would turn it in and Our Sunday Visitor would say, “Nope we don’t like it. Kindly pay back your advance and leave us alone.” But they didn’t say that! Thank goodness! What’s happening now is I am working with a “developmental editor.” I was so so scared about what she would change about my book but she didn’t make any, as she called them, “substantive edits.” She loved the book and all she did was a little touch here and there. I would call her work elegant. She made me sound a bit smoother and more grown up and professional than before.
Otherwise I have been working with Zane as his care giver. He is turning eighteen this month which I can hardly believe. He is such a cool kid and I have loved spending time with him. I love his family too. They are all easy to love. Zane is nonverbal but he knows everything! We have a great connection and I feel very close to him. I read aloud to him a lot and like any teen he loves listening to music. I am always looking for new music for him or a book he might like. We spend most of our time outside. He loves being outdoors. Sometimes he walks around outside touching the plants and inspecting everything. Mostly he just likes to hang out. So that is what we do.
At this writing Roise is out of town so it’s just me and Arelani. She is engaged in building a fort. My apartment is in absolute chaos so she may as well drag the furniture and the bedclothes around anyway.
The most horrible thing that happened this year was the police shooting of a young black man in front of my apartment. I wrote about it here.
The saddest news I have from this year is that we lost my wonderful mama-in-law on August 1 to cancer. She was my favorite atheist, an activist and social justice warrior. She was intelligent, warm, and loving. She was the most Jesus like atheist you could ever meet with a great heart for service and dedication to the greater good. She never made a big deal out of her good deeds. Being altruistic and caring for others was just who she was. She and I became as close as we were when we were my husband, Bob’s support team as he fought Brain Cancer. We supported one another through that tough time too, as well as afterwards. When Arelani learned to read I wanted to call her. I’m always wanting to call her.
Our Christmas plans involve migrating across the land of parking lot in hopes of a better life in the other apartment. There I plan to set up the Christmas tree and have all the kids over to make cookies and decorate. I already have the cookie cutters. We will do a family prayer service and bless the tree and the Nativity scene as always. Our family tradition also includes singing, “I want to walk as a child of the Light” when I put the star on, last of all.
Our traditional family music for Christmas is Dead Can Dance’s album Aion. We also like the old classics like Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and all those guys. We are sure to gleefully listen to Aye Aye Aye it’s Christmas too, by Ricky Martin. A neighbor gave us the CD years ago and we still listen to it every year. Traditionally, like a lot of people around here, we have Tex-Mex for Christmas dinner. I’m vegan so I make my stuff separately otherwise the meal is vegetarian, involving lots of cheese, beans and rice, chips and salsa and iced tea.
We will blow out the candles on Jesus’ birthday cake and I will make everyone sing him the Happy Birthday Song (and many mooooooooore!)
I haven’t shopped for Christmas yet so I had better get with it. The important thing is that though we have lost so many people in our family, the girls and I still have each other and we have these amazing kids with us as well.
God bless you all this Christmas! May you have a moment in the midst of all the activity and family time to immerse yourself in the clear light of Christmas and encounter the tender Savior deep in your hearts.