Thursday, December 25, 2008

An old Chinese truth

Beanie called me yesterday afternoon to tell me she was on her way to her mother-in-law's for Xmas eve and she had a migraine and then her voice perked up and she said they had given Mom her gift and she was ecstatic.

A couple of months ago, I suggested to my siblings that we go together and get the whole Forever Knight DVD series for Mom. Every time I talk to her, that she isn't eating or making chocolate pudding to eat, she is talking about Nick Knight and her Forever Knight and how she loves to watch the show. It was easy to figure out a gift she would love and luckily my siblings went along with the idea, even my idiot brother, Jimmy, who lives almost full time in his own world and has little to do with the world the rest of us live in.

I called Mom after I talked to Beanie and she was predictably eating. Carol was asleep and Mom was fretting because she doesn't know how to work the DVD player. She wanted to watch Forever Knight. Now there was a glitch in the shipping schedule and they sent the first two seasons to me instead of to Beanie, where they were supposed to go, and the third season, the last, was back ordered. Beanie got that one first and that's the one she took to Carol's last night and gave to Mom, explaining the other two seasons would arrive on Friday. It's a long story, but suffice it to say that Snail Mail screwed up and lived up to its gastropod tendencies (moving as fast as a snail frozen in its slime trail). Mom said she didn't care. She could go back and watch them all again because they were hers. She said she'd never have guessed what it was in a million years.

Carol isn't likely to get much help once Mom figures out how to work the DVD player with so many episodes of Nick's vampiric activities in Toronto to watch. I did offer to take it back since she was so upset we bought her a gift when she couldn't afford to buy gifts for any of us, but she threatened to maim anyone who tried to take it back.

Today was the real surprise. Beanie called me this morning and was so excited because she called me before I called her. I'm always the first to call for birthdays and holidays. She told me about what her boys and Randy got her for Xmas and what she got all of them. She even managed to surprise her husband with a guitar he wanted and thought had been sold out. It was sold out; Beanie got the last one.

Before Beanie called, a dear friend called and wished me a merry Xmas. I didn't recognize her voice. All I could hear was the wind rushing by (she was driving and had the window down), but when she finally told me who it was we both squealed. She has been through so much over the past year or two and she wanted to wish me happy holidays. We talked for a few minutes and laughed and shared a little of the season's joy. We'll do it again on New Year's.

Other friends called and stopped by and it turned out to be a busy and happy day. Food, laughter and friendship were shared and I still managed a nap and some quiet time with the sun and a cool breeze coming through the windows. Although it seems like this time of year is for children, it's really for everyone. The childlike delight of holiday cards and presents and spending time with friends, on the phone and in person, is something we never lose.

As this year comes to an end, I look back and wonder at the many changes, surprises and gifts the year has brought. Many of the gifts have been the result of hard work and waiting and some, like the friends and loved ones who have come back into my life, are serendipitous delights I will always treasure. Maybe it's true that old Chinese saying that if you love something, let it go. It will return if it's meant to be. So many things and people I let go have come back to enrich my life and remind me how wealthy I truly am. That is the gift of the season -- the season that lasts every day if you, like the reformed Scrooge, keep Christmas in your heart all year long.

Happy holidays and may every day be as bright as today.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Priorities speak volumes

I've been eyeing a recipe in a new cookbook for mile high brownies. The recipe calls for icing, but I decided not to make it. It also calls for yogurt and I substituted sour cream and added two teaspoons of espresso powder. They turned out really good. One more baking item down for the holiday dinner. I'll probably make mushroom caviar and sweet potato puffs for appetizers to go with the cranberry glazed ham. Since the pumpkin flan turned out so well for Thanksgiving, I'm making it again. A few veggies and maybe some mashed potatoes and gravy and that should do it. There will be a couple bottles of wine to go with dinner, but I think I'm in good shape, except for the egg nog and gingerbread, but those will be no problem at all.

I wonder sometimes why we don't go all out for every day dinners. There's a lot of work involved, but the results are worth it, especially when there are friends to share the meal. I think I'll propose a monthly dinner to celebrate nothing in particular, except friendship and continued health.

Friends are around more during the holidays, too, although some friends are so busy they can't afford more than five minutes a day to say hello and chat for a while. No matter how busy the days, friends should be able to carve out more than five minutes a day, judging by some of my friends who inundate me with phone calls and emails all hours of the day and night without cease. A happy medium between five minutes and monopolizing the whole day would be good.

New year's resolutions are usually a bad idea since they seldom last into February, but this year I'm making a resolution. If friends cannot spare more than five minutes a day, then it's time to say goodbye until their priorities or their schedules change. Even friends I haven't seen in years spare more than that and then there are the weekly marathon phone calls and chats and emails back and forth. My time is valuable and free time will be at a premium next year with three novels and six more anthologies coming out. And I'm working on another book. I don't have time to spare for people who have no time to spare for me. It's like pruning an LJ friends list in some ways, although I write more for myself than for any specific group of people. In that instance, stay if you want to read and go if you find nothing worth reading. I skip through some of your posts simply because I don't always have the time to read every word, but you'll never know which ones I skim and which ones I read every word because I don't always comment. I wonder if that means I can't spare five minutes a day for them. Hmm.

Relationships are about communication. If there is no communication, there really is no relationship. It's that simple. Stopping by once a month and emailing once or twice a day do not a relationship make. That makes an acquaintance -- and not a very good one at that.

I know this seems a bit cut throat, but there it is. If someone has the time to spend 12+ hours a week watching television, but no more than five minutes a day communicating and connecting then there's not much of a relationship happening -- nor likely to continue. It's like I tell people who say they want to write but don't have the time. If they watch television every night, or for several hours a day, and they really want to write, they'll give up at least 30 minutes of watching TV. If not, then they have no real interest in writing. Relationships, like writing, require commitment and sacrifice. If someone isn't willing to sacrifice even 30 minutes of TV to write -- or to communicate with a friend or loved one -- then their priorities say it all. They don't really want to write, they just like the idea of being a writer. It's sort of like being enthralled with the idea of love but not wanting to love someone -- or in this case, build a real relationship. A person's priorities tell you a lot about who they are and what is important to them and speak so much louder than empty promises and emptier words.

That is all. Disperse.