Family, Travel

My Town at Christmas

Oxnard_XmasTreeLane

My hometown is at sea level. We don’t get snow. Ever. Okay, I heard we had some back in 1962, but someone might have mistaken it for bits of hail.

For us, Oxnardians, the winter season arrives when Christmas Tree Lane in the Historic District opens, where palm trees lit in sparking white lights tower alongside huge sycamore’s, and Craftsman style houses sit next to Spanish Revivals.

Our annual writer’s group party took place at the home of our friend, Florencia, who co-founded the group ten years ago. Interestingly, she also founded the first dance team for her high school back in 1989. Must be why we like to party at our writing retreats.

The Hostess Home
The Hostess Home

The archway to her home had mistletoe conspicuously hung, not that my date noticed, until we left, when it hung so low it hit his head and ricocheted off my cheek.

After the scrumptious posole, tamales, bolillos and chocolate champurrado, all twenty some of us, plus kids, headed out the door and walked the few blocks of Christmas Tree Lane.

Charlie Brown Christmas -Oxnard, alvaradofrazier.com

Lucky for the crowd, the sidewalks in the historic district are wide enough to allow for strollers, dawdling toddlers, and hand holding couples. But not all at the same time.

Christmas Tree Lane, Oxnard Historic District
Christmas Tree Lane, Oxnard Historic District

And the town’s historic plaza:

Oxnard Pagoda dressed for Christmas
Oxnard Pagoda dressed for Christmas

Now, we’re off to enjoy some ‘real’ winter weather and snow in Denver, Colorado.

I’d like to share with you a travel prayer, sent to me by my mistletoe ducking boy friend:

May the Lord accompany you, that no evil befall you,

no accident overtake you and no calamity come near you,

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

Have a beautiful Christmas.

Books, Family

20 Ways to Celebrate Before Christmas

 

Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com
Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com

We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.

When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”

The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.

There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.

This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.

How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:

 

1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.

2-Hug more and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.

3-Spend time with your parents or anyone over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.

4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.

6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.

 Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.

8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.  

9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.

10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you. 

11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.

12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.

13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.

14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…

15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.

16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.

17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.

18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.

19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.

20-Pray and work for peace.

Enjoy your weekend!

Encouragement, Faith, Family, Strength, Stress

When Stress Gets To You

Depression, weariness, exhaustion
Gettyimages.com

If I could choose 10 days to give back to time, I’d choose the last ten.

Between my usual six month cancer checkup (to see if I’m still in remission or not),  a relationship ending, and my brother in critical care and suffering from ICU Delirium, the stresses of my life cut through any desire to do much, including writing more than a few words.

What do you do when life rides so heavy on you that you don’t want to get out of bed?

I jotted down bits and pieces of words in my bedside journal. Sometimes it was a curse word, other days I don’t remember what I wrote until I looked back.

This is what my journal said one day:

I think we’re on the brink of change, like a jeep tottering over a cliff in an action movie. Will it fall or won’t it. Will we be saved or crash and burn? I pray and pray. I show up in life. I try to write, read, concentrate, but all I want to do is cry. 

On that day I prayed continuously for my brother to progress. And then I rested and cried.

Another day my journal reminded me to take time out, be grateful, meditate, pray, take it easy. And I tried to do that.

I’m well acquainted with the valleys of life, but for the last few days it’s been particularly hard. Perhaps, it’s because I feel I’ve been hit on three sides; too many whammies at once.

It’s getting the gumption, the ganas as we say in Spanish, to move forward that eluded me.

But, I know things will get better, and I thank God I am still in remission and my brother is slowing progressing. It really is one hour at a time, then one day at a time, for a while.

Today, while returning home from the hospital, I opened my Bible scriptures app (yes, there’s an app for that):

Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…-Matthew 11:28

I smiled at that. And then I put in my earbuds and listened to meditation music on my cell phone, while my sister drove us home. Among the soothing music a gentle voice said:

Put away the ghosts of the past, the worry about the future, and stay in the here and now. Stay in the present moment. Surrender.

Again, I felt comforted. I am encouraged.

These small acts have made a big difference. In my heart, I feel the ganas returning.

Thank you for listening.

poetry, Travel, Wordsmith Studio

A Poem of Preparation

Airliner in danger-Gettyimages.com
Airliner in danger-Gettyimages.com

Can you prepare for possible  death? 

In the gap between the “heads up, you may die,” and your actual departure much goes on with the mind, body, and soul.

Heavy stuff, I know, but I began thinking of this when I read that the weekly writing prompt, over on Wordsmith Studio, is “Preparation.” 

I immediately thought of a trip my mother and I took to Paris several months ago.  We boarded a plane from LAX to Washington D.C and changed planes to proceed to France. We had several rocky minutes, bouncing up and down, before the Captain’s voice erupted loud and clear over the microphone.

I began jotting words in my travel journal.

The second time the Captain spoke is when I, and probably everyone else on that plane, experienced our own preparation. My first thought was to pray through the apprehension around me. My mother and I linked hands.

This is Your Captain

“We are having mechanical difficulties.”

Headphones off,

passengers alert,

mechanical difficulties?

The video screen shows a map of the east coast,

Atlantic Ocean and Europe.

The tiny plane marker is a quarter of the way over the Atlantic

on the USA side

Shivers and shakes mark the minutes

Turbulence grows strong,

“Due to these difficulties we are adjusting our plans…”

speaker crackle, then silence

“We are redirecting to Washington Dulles airport..”

several murmurs, what’s, why’s

“Redirecting is necessary, we are over the ocean,

too much space to cross..”

people stand, anxiety floats,  babies wake

zippers open, purses readjust, whispers abound

The plane tilts to the left,

breath catches in throat,

Another dip, a rumble,

tremors beneath our collective feet.

“Please…oh no…”

fingers grip seat arms,

our bodies shift to attention

to appease the quaking thunder
“Crew take your seats,” the pilots voice is strong,

direct, like a father saying “Kid’s stop it.”

Passengers glare, foreheads pull down,

lips squeeze over tight teeth.

The plane dips,

a roller coaster for half a second,

“oh…ahh…shit… no,”

escape from parted lips no longer pink

gasps that feed fear fill the air,

babies cry.

We returned safely to Dulles, went through hours of rescheduling while listening to rude passengers yelling to the customer service agents about the delay and the fact that we had to stay in a hotel overnight.

I didn’t like it either, but compared to what could have happened I was easy-peasy.  My mom sat in her wheelchair and dozed while I took care of business.

I’m certain she was still praying.