hi Jessica Roach
I’m looking forward to a different Christmas ritual this year. As N and I are becoming a family, it’s been a bit of an endeavor to figure out how to join each of our Christmas traditions. Rather than melding or trading off or trying something new, we have spent the last several years trying to pack it all in, with a trip to
We’ve also been feeling increasingly squeamishness about the growing consumerism of the holiday, and the annual struggle of finding some material thing for people whom we love, but have everything they need. Are we spending enough? Are we spending too much? Can we find some more meaningful way of celebrating our love and community?
So we’re trying something new this year. We’re taking all that money we’ve been spending on airfare and gifts each year and directing it instead towards a shared experience with my Mom and stepdad and N’s parents – in
It’s beautiful here in
Traditions unmarked this year: Christmas day without the gift exchange felt a teensy bit, um, compassless. And of course, in France, we don’t have those little tokens that we associate with Christmas, like the Styrofoam Santa, the little knit Santa doorknob decorators that jingle every time you open the door; putting gift bows on the kitties; familiar ornaments that we’ve hung on the tree each year as long as we can remember; visiting with my dad.
Same as ever: spending time together, which is the thing we look forward to more than anything each year; and a special meal.
and a special meal.
New things to appreciate: combining families; discovering new places together; enjoying local wine; learning about local Christmas customs (Santa doesn’t some down the chimney here – he climbs a rope through your window; decorations and marketing are significantly more modest here; duck is typical for a Christmas meal); I made a Christmas ornament with my mom out of yarn and a couple of toothpicks.
Dec 31 –
Today must be national Go To a Museum Day. Lines at Musee d’ orsay snaked through the whole plaza and trailed around the block. We went instead to Musee do quai Branly, a relatively new anthropological museum of African, Asian, and Native American art. Pretty stunning – especially the African art. I haven’t seen anything like it in the
First day back at work and I’m celebrating a promotion. I’m now the national policy coordinator for my team. Which means I do more of the work that I have liked over the last year and less of the work that I haven’t liked so much. And I get an office with a door and a window to myself, at least until our organization grows so large that everyone has to share.
I came across an interesting exercise of reflection on a blog I like - Superhero Journal - the other day.
She challenged her readers to a new years’ ritual to reflect on the previous year to allow us to complete this year and move on to the new year with a greater sense of newness and possibility. Her questions:
1. What do you want to acknowledge yourself for in regard to 2007?
(What did you create? What challenges did you face with courage and strength? What promises did you keep to yourself? What brave choices did you make? What are you proud of?)
2. What is there to grieve about 2007?
(What was disappointing? What was scary? What was hard? What can you forgive yourself for?)
3. What else do you need to say about the year to declare it complete?
The final step is to consider your primary focus for the year to come. What is your primary intention or theme for 2008? Is it the year of joy? the year of self-care? the year of partnership? Stand up and say it proud, "2008 is my year of...."
I have to admit that I don’t like what I came up with when I did this exercise. I have lamely battled bad habits and lacked the discipline to consistently practice good ones. At work I have more often simply gotten through the day rather than seeking opportunities for challenge and growth.
I have given love to my sweetheart, kitties, family and friends, but I didn’t give as much as I could have, and I have neglected and disappointed people I care about by failing to return calls, keep in touch, being irresolute about where we will live, and neglecting Christmas rituals with those with whom I did not spend the holiday.
In general I feel like I have missed opportunities for connection and growth. It may sound like I’m being hard on myself, but I have felt a lot more proud about many other years in the past than I have about this one.
But the blessing of facing this truth and feeling this regret is that I do feel a sense of possibility to change it and dedicate some time to reflect on priorities for the coming year. I know I won’t be perfect, but I can embrace this opportunity for a new beginning and try to rededicate myself with purpose towards greater discipline and courage and effort in hopes of greater growth and connection.
"The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning." -George Baker (quoted from Superhero Journal)
Here’s to 2008!
"Few things in life are more intimate than eating. When I eat a tomato, I am transforming it into my body. I take it into my mouth; my saliva and gastric juices break it down into nutrients that feed my muscles, my bones, my brain, my skin. Nor am I eating only a tomato: I’m eating the sun, soil, and rain that grew it. I’m also communing with the workers who planted the seed, cultivated the plant, and picked the fruit. Eating, even eating alone, is always a form of communion." - Amy Assinger
Fragrant Lentil Soup
Makes about 2 quarts, serving 4 to 6
3 slices bacon (about 3 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large onion , chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium carrots , peeled and chopped medium (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can diced tomatoes (14 1/2 ounces), drained
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 cup lentils (7 ounces), rinsed and picked over
½ cup barley
½-3/4 teaspoon table salt
ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves