The Real Meaning of Christmas: making sense of Sandy Hook

The Real Meaning of Christmas

I usually post about interior design but in light of yesterday’s tragedy just two towns over, I find my heart and mind with the families of Sandy Hook, CT. I just cannot find the right words to begin to express my grief. How do we begin to help those families heal?

As a parent, I am devastated. Where in the parenting handbook is the chapter on how to tell your child 20 kids your age were senselessly massacred yesterday? How do we begin to wrap our heads around this tragedy? How do we continue to live in a world that feels increasingly less safe with each event?

I started this year with the diagnosis of our daughter with Hemophilia C, then the murder of my best friend, got through an historic storm that devastated the lower level of our church, Trinity Episcopal in Southport, and now the most horrific thing that I could ever imagine has happened – innocent children have been shot, witnessed unspeakable acts, had their innocence ripped from them in the moments in which a terribly troubled young man went off the deep end.

And yet what I recognize as real life has swept through my back yard is there are places all across the world, where people suffer these sorts of horrors daily, whether war or famine, children are the innocent recipients of some dreadful messes.

So what is our response this Christmas? Do we just pull the covers up over our heads, bury our heads in the sand or crawl back under our rock?

Or do we work hand in hand with our friends and neighbors to begin to change the world one little corner at a time? You ask how? Where could we possibly start?

Start by looking inside. Do you judge your neighbor for his unkempt lawn? Maybe he has a cold or is taking care of a family member and can’t get to it right now. Are you unkind to the checkout gal who just might be having a bad day? Maybe she has to work a second job to pay the bills and really wants to be home with her kids. Do you walk by the homeless guy and wonder why he doesn’t just get a job? Maybe he was laid off and lost everything.

There are a thousand stories and we cannot begin to know which one any one person is living through right now.

This Christmas, smile a little more, bake your home bound neighbor cookies (that’s what our daughter chose to do), cut someone a little slack, let the harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line, pick up the trash you see on the ground even if isn’t yours, put a coin in the Salvation Army kettle, feed someone at a shelter, listen really listen when your child tells you that long story again, call someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time, forgive…

Make one small change each day and one by one we can heal the world!

Wishing you peace, love and light,
Catherine

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A Message of Christmas

Christmas Pageant

We received the most wonderful Christmas card tonight that captures the Christmas spirit for me.

It reads as follows:

Give.

Hope.

Have a cookie.  (Or three.)

Sing songs that make you happy.

Help others.

Believe.

Put love in all you do…

What great words not only for Christmas but all year long.

From our family to yours, we wish you a blessed Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!

From my Kitchen to Yours…

I’m in the mood to mix up the Holiday Extravaganza.  After all, the holidays are not just about shopping and most importantly all of the religious traditions, but also they are about cooking and then eating…yum…

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love my Kitchen and I love to cook.  I’m not usually much of a baker, but every Christmas I bake over 1,000 cookies and then put together beautiful gift boxes with ribbons and tags to give to all of my friends.  And yes, if you have read my earlier blogs, I also decorate two trees and most of the house.  I know, I know… I guess I am a bit OCD.  But I really love Christmas.

I made the first batch on Sunday – Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies for a Caroling event at our Trinity Church, Southport.  I displayed some of these on this wonderful handled plate I picked up in Tuscany while on our honeymoon several years ago.  It looks like Christmas without going over the top!

Since several people asked for the recipe, I am posting it below.  I guess they were that good.  I loved Alan’s (our Music Director) Gingerbread Cake myself, but… for you cookie lovers out there, here is my family’s friend, Philippa Weller’s semi-famous cookie recipe.

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 cups Quaker Oatmeal (not instant)

1 cup chocolate chips (I like semi-sweet, but your choice)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F

Beat together butter and sugars until creamy

Add eggs and vanilla and beat well

Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon and mix well

Stir in oats and chocolate chips, mix well

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown

Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet

Makes about 4 dozen

Treasures of Afghanistan

Thursday, a group of art lovers from Trinity Episcopal Church in Southport had the pleasure of visiting the ‘Treasures of Afghanistan’ exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Afghan map 2008

Afghanistan lies at the crossroads between East and West on the Great Silk Route which runs roughly from Xian in China to Byzantium (Constantinople) in Turkey.  As such it was cross-cultural in nature.

Afghanistan was rich in the precious stone lapis lazuli, which was traded for silk, gold and other precious stones.  The treasures shown below (and in the exhibit) come from sites at Fullol, Ai Khanum, Begram and Tillya Tepe and range from the third century BC to the first century AD.

The history of this exhibit is unbelievable.  In a land torn by decades of war and strife, some quick thinking government and museum officials were able to hide away some of the greatest handiwork of the ages.  “Workers involved in the transfer swore secrecy and designated ‘key holders’ for the vaults. They kept their covenant through civil war and Taliban rule at enormous personal risk”. (National Geographic)

Afghan Folding Crown

I think this gold folding crown was my favorite.  I love the intricacy of the design and the folding functionality.  Many of the peoples along the Silk Route were nomadic and they carried their fortunes with them in gold jewelry inlaid with precious stones.

Afghan Gold Jewelry

More examples of the gold jewelry.  I would wear those bracelets! Just imagine wearing all of the wealth that you own-no savings accounts or safety deposit boxes…

Afghan lionheadbracelets

The level of detail on these lion heads is mind boggling.

Afghan Cybele Disc

This disc with Cybele is fascinating because it combines symbols of so many different religious and cultural beliefs in one item.

Afghan Painted Goblet of Achilles and Hector

First of all note that this is painted glass.  I still can’t believe that it survived at all.  It tells the Greek story of Achilles and Hector but is painted in the Roman style.

Afghan Blue Glass Vessel

The detail on this blue glass vessel is simply amazing.  The curlicues are added by dripping hot glass on to the vessel to form the design.

Afghan Ivory Carvings for Furniture

These ivory carvings again show elements from several cultures.  The design of the architecture reminds me of Hindu temples that I saw in Indonesia.

The Treasures of Afghanistan leaves the Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 20th.  It is well worth a special trip to enjoy this breath-taking exhibit.

(all images from websites of National Geographic, Flickr and the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

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