Happy 2013!

AU0A7743 AU0A7645 AU0A7626 AU0A7547 AU0A7481 AU0A7462 AU0A7447 AU0A7381 AU0A7364 AU0A7330 AU0A7251I have just finished ringing in the new year.  For some folks, the new year comes as a surprise.  They were expecting the world to end on the 21st or there-abouts.  We were all supposed to be done before we had the chance to ring in the new year of 2013.

It’s my sincere hope that all those who thought the world was truly coming to an end will feel welcomed and included in the new “off-the-grid” year.  After all, I don’t care if you thought the world would end of not.  I only care if we can peacefully co-exist together.  You were wrong this time, but, who knows, you might be right next time.  I don’t wish to point the finger at you and ask if your mother was ugly.

On the flip side, I don’t want to miss out on toasting the new year, either.

I’m happy that the ball dropped and the new year came in just as it has for many decades now.  While the end of the planet might have been more dramatic, rolling over to a new year with a new lease on life seems a whole lot more promising to me.

Now, if only I could stay awake late enough to write something really meaningful about us  . . .

Since that doesn’t seem to be an option, here are some really cool fireworks shots that might help fill the gap when it comes to ringing in the new year:

Oh, Christmas Tree

This very real looking artificial tree is easily 20 feet tall.

This very real looking artificial tree is easily 20 feet tall.

The tree is set and ready for the lines to start.

The tree is set and ready for the lines to start.

I love the lighted gifts hanging from the ceiling.

I love the lighted gifts hanging from the ceiling.

Twiggy's rear end is just in the lower left.  Tisen seems to want more lap time when Twiggy is around.

Twiggy’s rear end is just in the lower left. Tisen seems to want more lap time when Twiggy is around.

The bench is ready for Santa to come and visit with the children.

The bench is ready for Santa to come and visit with the children.

The bridge to the Asia exhibit makes for lovely lighting.

The bridge to the Asia exhibit makes for lovely lighting.

 

I’m glad I have the photos of the Chattanooga Zoo Christmas tree–it’s the closest I will come to a tree this year.  Having given up long ago on decorating for Christmas because we were always gone for the holidays, we, of course, have decided to stay at home this year.

This is because we have just moved.  We moved about 500 yards from one building to another.  The new building is nicer with a little more space and a lot more quiet.  But I’m not sure deciding to move on the Monday a week before Christmas was such a smart idea.

Even having downsized 3x, we still have boxes of stuff we don’t know what to do with.  I don’t know how this happens.  Furniture, papers, boxes multiple in the dark much like wire hangers and dust bunnies.  Like goldfish, we grow to the maximum size the walls of our container will allow.

I suppose from that standpoint, right before Christmas is the perfect time to move–it’s a great reminder that we really don’t need these things that take over our space.  Plus, having to buy a new washer and dryer, blinds, and closet organizers can serve as our Christmas gifts.  The new washer and dryer just got installed this morning.  Just in time–we were running out of clean unmentionables.

On the down side, the move motivated me to go shopping yesterday evening after work.  I think it has been so long since I went shopping on the last Friday evening before Christmas that I had forgotten what that would be like.

I made it to the grocery store, the dog store, Target, and Lowes.  I needed to go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but I couldn’t take it.  My shopping tolerance was exceeded at Target and I still didn’t have any Christmas lights for our balcony, so I skipped getting towels and went to Lowes for a lighted garland instead.  My homage to Christmas.

I nearly walked out of Target leaving my cart full of bulk toilet paper and miscellaneous supplies behind when I saw the lines.  Fortunately, not everyone had figured out there were two rows of registers, so I was able to find a short line just in the nick of time.  I really had had it by the time I got to that line.

The dogs were also starting to get impatient.  As much as they love going along for a ride, they prefer not having to hang out in the car for too long.  When I came out of Target, Tisen had taken up sentinel position in the driver’s seat.  He looked very alert.  This is usually a good indicator it’s getting close to dinner time.

Tonight, I look at the date and realize it’s almost the 23rd.  I haven’t bought a single gift or even thought about doing cards yet.  I guess my nephews won’t be getting their Christmas presents on time this year!

 

Ringing in the New Year

 

For 41 years, I lived in one place.  Even when I went other places for weeks or months at a time, it was always temporary and I knew I would be returning home to Columbus.  There are certain things that happen when you always return to the same place for 41 years.

First, you make friends.  This happens through the natural course of life, although most of my current friends are people I met through work or a networking effect of those I met through work.  Over 41 years, I ended up with an eclectic group of friends who honor me by at least acting like they enjoy our company.

A second thing that happens is a place becomes familiar.  You hear about an event one year and think “Oh, we should try that next year.”

Between learning about the annual events and having friends who invite us to do things and/or have parties, we never really had to put much thought into New Year’s Eve.  We stumbled across something we wanted to do as a couple, were invited to do something with other couples, or were invited to someone’s party.

Now, as a couple with no dogs, no children, activities that mainly take us out of town, and home offices, it’s suddenly very difficult to meet friends.

The strangeness of being without geographically close friends stuck home when we found ourselves with no plans for New Year’s Eve.  I realize in retrospect that I have simply gotten lazy when it comes to planning New Year’s Eve.  I have taken it for granted that something will fall into our laps without considering how that could possibly happen in a new place.

Figuring that New Year’s would take care of itself, I didn’t bother to make any definitive plans.  Then, New Year’s was upon us.  Interestingly, it did take care of itself.  We decided to walk across the bridge to downtown and return to a restaurant we hadn’t been to since a visit to Chattanooga before we moved here, back in March.  I was skeptical that they would have any tables open, but it turns out that they had several tables for two available.  Apparently going out as a twosome is not that popular on New Year’s Eve.

We had an amazing dinner and shared a great bottle of wine.  After talking and laughing our way through four courses, we walked out feeling reconnected and ready to face a new year together.  However, it was only 9:00PM.

So, we went to the new Sherlock Holmes movie to keep us up until midnight.  It turns out I’m much older than I thought–I was nodding off in the first 10 minutes.

After the movie, we walked to the center of the Market St bridge by midnight.  We stood on the bridge and kissed at midnight and watched fireworks in at least 5 different directions as we made our way home.  So what if we were home by 12:15AM?

Christmas Past

It’s still dark out.  There are no hooves clacking on the roof, no “Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas” echoing through the air.  But there is something magical about this morning none-the-less.  The sun will start to rise in another hour or so.  By then, my nephews will either get up or we will wake them.  But for now, I sit quietly, alone in the living room, looking at the colored Christmas tree lights reflected in the glass.

A million memories swirl in my brain.  They focus around a Christmas tree and rotate by like a slow moving carousel, colorful and full of laughing children.  There is me and my brother, rushing into the living room of long ago, mouths wide open, amazed at the fancy packages under the tree.  Wrapping paper flies as we tear into that moment of hope and expectation.  We are absolutely convinced that what lies below the paper will fulfill our wildest dreams.

As my carousel of memories continues to rotate, our faces fade as my nephews move into the prominent place on the carousel.  Their eyes amazed, their teeth gleaming as their mouths gape in smiles that couldn’t possibly stretch any wider.  They, too, attack the packages before them.  Once more, wrapping paper flies through the air.  And the carousel rotates again.

Now, I see our parents pretending to love the silly dime store gifts we picked out for them and paid for by saving our allowance.  I see their eyes shining with emotion–a detail I missed when I was a child.

Next, our Grandparents smile nervously and watch us intently while we open gifts.  They strain with their desire to see how happy we are with what they so carefully chose for us.

As the carousel begins another pass, I see our parents again, but now watching my nephews instead of us.  They smile wider and their eyes have a little more twinkle as they open homemade gifts from their grandchildren.

I have few memories of what any of the gifts were, either received or given.  What stays in my mind is that shared moment when a group of people lean forward with barely contained anticipation.  In that single moment, before the first gift is unwrapped, we all share in the possibility that our love for one another will transcend any disappointments, any difficulties, any trials or tribulations and we will achieve the perfect manifestation of love through the act of giving.

That is the moment I look forward to every Christmas.  When people ask why can’t Christmas last all year, this is the moment I imagine hanging onto year round.  That perfect moment that is absent of disappointment, history, baggage, judgment.  That perfect moment when the excitement that we might be able to amaze and delight those we love electrifies the air.

When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.  ~Bob Hope