... first, please don't end abruptly.  i surely do hope that the Mayan's stone was just not big enough to write the entire future of the universe on.  and i hope that nothing catastrophic happens with the switching of the earth's poles.

also, this is going to be a huge year of writing my theoretical foundations paper, finishing up my internship, graduating from graduate school and getting married;  i was going to write some specific, amazing goals for you, but then realized how busy you're going to keep me.

so i'm not writing goals.  or resolutions.  instead, i'm going to concentrate on the things i know you already contain and focus instead on how to be and rest within the tasks i need to accomplish.  as in, i will be focused on being peaceful, being compassionate, and maintaining a good sense of humor.  shoes and i have many unanswered questions about this year:  no clue where we're going to live, who is going to move, what jobs we're going to have, but i trust that you contain only good things.  (we have some creative ideas, but i'm bound by small town politics to avoid talking about them prematurely.)

with all that you have revealed, you are still the year of the unknown.

i trust you anyway.

(but seriously, no abrupt, cataclysmic ending of the world, ok?  i'm pretty serious about that.)
this mini break from my adult life is doing wonders for my soul. taking this week off from counseling has had exponential benefits, and the fact that i hardly have anything to do at the hospital for my paid job isn't hurting too much either.

shoes and i had a superb Christmas.  sister Cheryl came over for Christmas Eve and the next morning we all drove out to sister Lizz' house for a tiny bit.  came back and enjoyed Christmas Dinner and then dessert with our dear friends B. and her Mr.  we drank deeply and laughed heartily and talked about all of the things we wanted for this year.

i'm asking a lot out of 2012 (to be shared later).

i used to be a better picture taker, but this year i just have one to share.  after shoes finished his dinner he laid down and said, "stair plank!"

that is code for "food coma."

sister Cheryl wonders if this is amusing or sad.

stair plank.  sheesh.
Of concentrating on merry and bright.  But in the world that Shoes and I work in, there is always a balance.  My concentration on loveliness was tempered by a family experiencing shocking darkness.  Shoes' loveliness was tempered by an autopsy he was required to attend.

How much time do we spend at work? About 8 hours?  (I'm bad at work / life balance and often do paperwork well beyond that.)  We all  have things we specialize in.  Editing.  Retail.  Community Protection.  Food Service. Auto repair.  Nursing.  Marketing.  Shoes and I just happen to specialize in "whatever goes the most wrong in society".  I wouldn't be anywhere else, but on days like today, I get home, and I am so grateful for all of the little, tiny, most insignificant things that are going well.

Turns out those things aren't so insignificant after all.

On Facebook today, my friend Candace asked, "What does the Incarnation mean to you?"  Some believe.  Some don't.  But on today, the day before Christmas Eve, when I am waiting for my Shoes to arrive and it is almost Christmas and we have so many lovely things to look forward to and I have spent an afternoon grieving with people whose Christmases aren't going to go well, I'm deeply absorbed in this question.

I offer two bits:

One:  Without the Incarnation, I do not know how to offer hope to children who are physically, mentally and sexually abused.  I do not talk about it in session; I just personally do not know how to offer hope and light without the Incarnation.  There's a little verse about truly knowing what hope and faith mean .... after you've seen the darkness.

Two:  With the Incarnation, I believe there are good things in this world for us.  I live in the land of the living.   I need to see the good now.  The whole world changes for me with the Incarnation.

And so, while all Merry and Bright has not been lost, I find myself thoughtful and pensive.

And sending out good thoughts to the families who will be searching (and may just be finding) Merry and Bright in the midst of impossible situations.  (Send them out with me?)
(That was supposed to be a ghost noise.)

Shoes has a thing for soft, frosted sugar cookies.  A big thing.  Like, on our first Valentines Day, he made dinner reservations at a lovely restaurant and on the way over to my house to pick me up, stopped by the grocery store to pick up some simple flowers.  But, on the way to flowers, he passed by the circles of deliciousness, forgot about the flowers, bought the cookies instead and showed up at my doorstep with a dozen sugar cookies.

The first Christmas we were together, I made a ton of Christmas sugar cookies, and they were a major pain in my rear. I cut them out, frosted them, destroyed my kitchen and came up with maybe 10 that were passable.  The snowmen were the worst.  The lines blurred together as the cookies cooked and they looked like big blobs of nothing.   Sister Cheryl helped me that year and we tried again the two years after that.  This year, when discussing our holiday baking day, she ever so sweetly said, "Do you think maybe we could do something this year that doesn't require frosting?"  Amen, sister.  Amen.

Still, I wrapped those cookies up and took them with me to the Vineyard Town a couple days before Christmas.

Upon seeing the plate, Shoes became EXTREMELY excited and said, "Circles of Deliciousness?  You made me circles of deliciousnes?!"  He ripped the wrapping off those cookies and then froze in silence when he saw them.

"Why did you make me Christmas ghosts?" he asked in a small voice.

I almost threw those sugar cookies outside.

When texting today about Christmas dinner, Shoes wrote, "Sounds good.  With potatoes, and Christmas ghosts??"

I initially told him we would make Christmas ghosts together on Christmas Eve day, picturing this lovely day of baking and laughter and love and light.

I revise history in the most interesting ways.

Probably better just pick them up from Fred Meyer when I pick up the prime rib.  Better to hold on to the merry and bright in the ways I know will work.
so many lovely little bits to add to my own advent season of beautiful things:

*  the holiday giving tree at the mall.  merry christmas, precious 6 - 8 year old girl.

*  super fantastic holiday parties for my internship site.  you never know what's going to happen when you get a bunch of therapists in the room!  raucous laughter, darling babies to pass around, delicious wine.  things that help remind us that the world is really a gorgeous place to be.

*  picking the absolute, 1,000% perfect recipe for stuffed mushrooms and watching them fly off the plate at said party.

*  a walk down Portland's amazing Peacock Lane with my love.

*  watching a darling young man propose to his gorgeous young girlfriend on Peacock Lane and joining with the strangers on the street in cheering in jubilation when she said yes.  (truly, truly a magical christmas moment --  there is nothing sweeter than proposals at christmas!  [unless, of course, you're proposed to at the japanese garden on july 27th.])

* and speaking of, my dear friend becca getting engaged just today!

*  finding the perfect christmas gift (possibly ever) for sister cheryl.

*  dinners with my sweet friend stacey and her amazing husband josh.  sharing my hamburger with their daughter liberty and having liberty ask me, "what's he saying??" as i cuddle liberty's infant brother, jaxon.

*  writing letters "from" santa claus and receiving letters "to" santa claus.  how sweet is it that my dear nephew Finn wants to know if santa likes green or brown cookies, or that little miss molly wants to know if santa is warm and what he eats for dinner?  getting these letters and writing back is no small joy.

*  the mischievous little imp of a girl who stole all of our hearts at the ADHD lab when she said asked santa for a poodle puppy for christmas ... one she wants to name ...  snoodle.

*  new years eve plans for the vineyard town at a fancy pants, name-on-the-list-only cool kid party ... and time to get all caught up with my old roommate and her daughter.  giddy with excitement.

*  dancing with shoes in my kitchen to potential first dance songs.  out of breath laughter when we tried, "baby, don't forget my number ..."

* knowing that very soon i will be able to say that shoes and i are getting married ... "this year."  (ditto for graduating ... "this year!")

not quite sure where the last two weeks of winter break have gone  ... the busy-ness really never let up ... but still grateful for all that's here.  still excited about all that's going to come.
ever watch Portlandia?  not such an exaggeration.

i myself have stepped in dog poop at night twice in one week.  when dog poop gets in the cracks and crevices of your shoes, it is almost impossible to get out.

i realized this during weekly formal supervision at internship.  when i could smell my shoe.  7 clorox wipes later ... my shoes still smelled like dog poop.

which is why, while on the floor building a train track with a 6 year old client, 6 year old client said, "something is stinky."

what to do?  tell him it was my shoe?  ask him how he felt about that?

i said, "i wonder what that could be."  he looked at me suspiciously and said, "it stinks like that when my teacher farts."  i said, "does your teacher fart a lot?"  (great.  now kid thought i was farting and ducking responsibility.)  kid said, "yeah, sometimes.  oh you know what?  i farted on santa's lap on saturday."

i said, "you did?"

kid said, "yeah.  i hope he still brings me toys."

me too, kid.

my shoes are still outside.

stupid portland dogs.
 I know I just posted about this.  Maybe I'm perseverating.  Maybe the more I work with kids who have been emotionally hurt, the more I long to share a childhood of games and play and love and safety.

This hat on my head?  The head of mine that was four years old?  It's a Kermit birthday hat.

I so wish I had that hat today.
I do not think there is a name for a Muppet fan.
If there was a name for a Muppet fan, I would be he.  Or she, if we're bucking gender normative language.
This isn't the only picture we have of me loving on the Muppets when I was little.  Somewhere in the archives are pictures of my darling stuffed Cookie Monster, long since passed on, and my beloved Muppet Show poster.

I watched the Muppet Show.  Weekly.  I wasn't born when the Muppets appeared on the first season of Saturday Night Live.  Sesame Street.  Often.  The Muppet Movies. All but two.  Fraggle Rock.  Not my favorite, but still lovable.  In high school I somehow managed to convince my best friend to see Muppet Treasure Island with me.  Every year at Christmas I watch the Muppet Christmas Carol.  The Labyrinth.  Not a Muppet movie, but Jim Henson puppets, indeed.

What is it about them?  I don't know.  But something about them whispers back to me about innocence and imagination and childhood.

Shoes doesn't understand.  Last night he said, "I never got what it was all about. It just felt like a bunch of Puppets shouting at me.  Why where they shouting at me? And why didn't Oscar the Grouch ever tell those kids to quit bothering him.  Didn't they know he was homeless and hungry and didn't want to count to 5 every day?"

I'm trying super hard to not make that a deal breaker.

Moving right along ... (footloose and fancy free ...)

This has been the longest introduction ever to simply let you know that Sister Cheryl and I saw the Muppet Movie on Friday and it was not fantastic.  No.  It was not fantastic, and am I just crazy, or were Fozzie's eyebrows graying just a touch?  It was not the magic I remembered from my childhood, but at 33 years old, sitting in theater, watching it on the big screen, I had a flashback to the very exciting day when my mom took me to see The Great Muppet Caper in the theater when I was 6.  (We're going to catch those crooks red-handed ... What color are their hands now?)  (Just for posterity's sake, the Great Muppet Caper was released in 1981.  I was 3.  I lived on a military base, which sometimes show movies at weird times.  Hence, I was 6.)

My own darling, accepting Muppet puppet friends, bigger than life. And with that memory came a slew of its warm memory friends, reminding me of a time where I believed in imagination and good.  It reminded me of a time when I had no reason to not believe that childhood was a time of growth and love and happiness.  And because of that, of that in and of itself, the movie, though not fantastic, was pure magic.

Sister Cheryl later said she did get choked up when they sang The Rainbow Connection.  I outright cried.  This did not surprise Shoes at all, who reminded me I cry at everything.

I do indeed.

But try to remember the first time you saw this and see if there's not something there for you ...

is it sacrilegious to include them in my own shiny, happy and bright advent season?

i have always loved Christmas break the best.

i have always worked, so it has never been a complete time of do nothing, but the absence of school makes a huge difference.

this term i turned in approximately 80 pages of written work.
completed approximately 1200 pages of assigned reading.
completed additional optional reading, research and intervention finding.
provided counseling to 4 precious families.
participated in 20 hours of supervision / evaluation.
worked approximately 200 hours at my job at the hospital.

but now it is Christmas.  now i am getting home a tad earlier.  going in to my internship a tad later.  picking up takeout.  sleeping (significantly) more.

it's not without its difficulty.  shoes and i are finding this year to be the hardest year yet to be separated and living in 2 different states.  we put up the Christmas "decorations" yesterday:

i realized i have been stringing Christmas lights around the perimeter of a room and hanging ornaments off of them (no room for a tree!) since i was 19 years old.  next year .... dreams of a house i share with shoes and a real tree and Christmas cards and Christmas cookies ...

this is also a very, very, very favorite part of my holiday season:

holiday giving trees!!  it is one of my great privileges to be able to buy toys for local kids, and as a social worker, i can absolutely, 100% assure you that your contributions do make a difference.  the need is so great.  greater than i could ever fully explain.

but, i prefer to think of it not as work or labor or a chore or an obligation.  i like to think of the kids i work with and how super happy they are when they get to play with new toys.  that happy kid innocence gets me far.

this holiday season i will continue my holiday shopping.  i will attend the brightest holiday parties.  i will bake my most favorite holiday goodies.  i will hold on to this time of happy and shiny and bright before the madness that is my last Winter term starts 1/9/12.  that's a little bit of a d-day ...

... but i have 4 glorious weeks until then ...