Monday, December 14, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

Well, it's that time of year again.  It's time for Christmas.  People are putting up decorations, cleaning the house, buying gifts and trying to remember the true meaning of the season.  And while Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, it also has multiple different meanings for different people, and it's important that we remember that what might be important for us isn't important for everyone. 

For me, Christmas is all about tradition.  When I was younger, every year my family had a tree.  Often obtained last minute (once we cut it down from our back yard on Christmas Eve), it was nonetheless filled with a hodgepodge of ornaments and lights.  It would fill the house with the scent of pine, and would light up the living room in the evenings.  A few ornaments I remember specifically (and still have); like the Ukrainian spider web and baby's first Christmas.  Others are lost somewhere in the recess of my memory, but they all come together to form a beautiful tree.

Then, every Christmas Eve after Mass my mom, my dad, and I would head over to Baba's (my grandmother) and enjoy a small feast.  Sometimes we'd share this feast with many other people, sometimes with just a few, but the priest was always there.  We'd enjoy a wonderful cucumber, tomato and onion salad, followed by Borscht and finished with Pierogies.  You see, Catholics don't eat meat on Christmas Eve, so we had a potato dinner.  Sometimes I opened a present or two at Baba's house, but typically I'd just sit and admire her small, potted tree.  At the end of the evening Mom and I would go back home while Dad would go to Midnight Mass (something I always wanted to do). 

Christmas morning would find me just like any other kid, awake at dawn and ready to open presents.  I'd tear open gifts from Santa, Mom, Dad, and grandparents and feel like I'd just hit the jackpot.  There are a few gifts that really stick in my mind (mini gardening set, a certain stuffed animal, etc.) but really I just remember the excitement.  At some point after the gift opening, while Mom and Meemaw (my other grandmother) cooked, Dad would pick up Baba, and the priests would arrive (one from the Ukrainian church, one from the Roman church).  Oddly enough, even with my love of food, I can't for the life of me remember what we ate.  I'm sure there was stuffing and sweet potatoes (a lot like Thanksgiving), but I don't remember the main course.  Discussion over different cultures and foods and Christmas in general would ensue and we'd all have a lovely meal.  At some point after dinner, everyone would go home and the family would relax.  After that my memory's foggy, but I do remember being tired and satisfied...and extraordinarily happy.

Around the time I turned 10, however, that all changed.  Like any divorce, this one ruined all the traditions.  I'd still go to Baba's on Christmas Eve, but Mom wasn't always there.  Only a few short years later, Baba decided she couldn't cook for Christmas anymore and that tradition died too.  I'm fuzzy on when the big Christmas meal stopped happening, but I'm sure it was around the same time.  With less money, we couldn't afford a Christmas tree (and we'd already cut down the one in the back yard).  Everything was different, and with a world already torn apart I was looking for things that were the same.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not trying to blame my parents.  They tried as hard as they could, but things were still extremely different.  Eventually, I decided to spend Christmas with my friend Jessica, because she still had her family traditions.  If I couldn't have mine, I'd at least adopt hers for a while (something which I still do for Thanksgiving).

Now, it's my turn for Christmas.  I get to plan it and see it goes off without a hitch.  I'm blessed by the fact that Hans has very similar traditions to mine.  It really helps things out.  I've also started to realize that Christmas doesn't have to be celebrated on December 25th.  Yes, I'm doing something special that day, but the real celebration will be on the 28th.  And yes, I'm still having a pierogie dinner on the 27th. 

Sometimes I wonder why my parents aren't as eager to keep things exactly the same (and why I have to remind my dad that ribs on Christmas Eve is a no-no), but I suppose the change in traditions wasn't as big for them.  Sure, I'm certain they felt the difference, but they were adults when things changed.  Plus, I'm sure their Christmases had changed before.  I'm just happy that after fourteen years of fighting and struggling to get back my Christmas it looks like it may actually happen.  Yes things will be different.  I mean, I'm married and have in-laws.  That's a huge change right there.  However, it will be the closest thing to a Christmas that I've had in years, and I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Merlin- A Photo Essay

Yes?  Are you taking a picture of me?
Is this for an adoption thing?

Please will you adopt me?

I will love you forever! Pretty please??

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Joy of the Theater

As you hand off your ticket you see the sign reading, "No Food or Drink Allowed in Theater" and you think, "We're not in the movies anymore Toto."   You pass through the glass double doors and see and hear the rows of people.  Some people are hugging, others blowing kisses.  You laugh at the children trying to read the program upside down.  If you're lucky, you see someone you know, and you walk over to them and tell them how wonderful it is to see them.  You mean it.  It IS wonderful to see them.  You look at your watch (or phone as the case may be) and realize there are only 5 minutes left, so you bid farewell to your friend and go find your seat.  Five minutes later you sit there as the lights go dim.  The music swells, the curtains open, and the show has begun.

Having a husband who works in the theater means we go to the live-action theater much more than we go to the movies.  Yet, somehow, I always forget the magic of seeing a show.  Sure, movies are a great escape, but there's something to be said for dressing up for a night on the town and sitting in a 100 year old theater and watching live people act out shows that numerous other actors have done in numerous other ways. 

You can watch a movie a hundred times and see the exact same thing every single time.  A live-action show, however, changes with every single performance.  Sometimes an actor just says something slightly differently, other times there's a "mistake."  It doesn't really matter, the material stays fresh no matter how many different times it's performed.  If you're lucky enough to know someone working on the show you'll be told where each of the differences are.  If not, you'll just have to think, "Wow!  That was different from the last time I saw it."  Either way you'll enjoy the night out.

For those of you who go to the theater on a regular basis, Yay!  For those of you who don't, I highly encourage you to get involved.  Find a local, community theater.  Shell out the money for a big show.  Actually audition and perform in one.  It's up to you.  You can go to an opera, a ballet, a musical or a plain ole' play.  Just, please, try to see something other than a movie for once.  Oh, and for those of you in the Richmond area,  I highly recommend A Christmas Carol at Theatre IV or Putnam County Spelling Bee  at Barksdale Theatre.  Both are wonderful shows.

Enjoy your night out!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I do not need another dog.  Cody is all I have ever wanted in a dog.  I do not have space for another dog.  I'd be lying if I said I don't have time.  I'm a dog trainer.  I always have time for the dogs.  That being said, there are plenty of reasons that I shouldn't want to keep Merlin, yet every time I look in the big, hazel eyes (yes, they're hazel) I can't help but think how hard changing homes might be for him.

Merlin is slowly adjusting to life here, and I wonder if he'd do well somewhere else.  I know how he was at his old home, and while he wasn't unhappy, I don't think he was particularly happy either.  Don't get me wrong.  His foster mom was wonderful.  I just think he needs a lot of structure in his life.  Not all dogs need so much (Cody gets away with a lot), but he definitely needs it.  And the more I work with him, the more affectionate he becomes.  Will his new owner treat him the same?  Will they be able to recognize the signs when he's sick?  Will they be able to notice when his hips hurt a little?  Will they be able to walk him and keep him on a good heel? 

I keep hoping that a friend or family member or even a client will adopt him.  I mention him to everyone I see, but part of me is kind of hoping I can keep him.  The other part of me feels like I'm cheating on Cody.  Of course, if it came down to Cody or Merlin there wouldn't be any question.  Cody is here forever and ever, no matter what happens.  I am, however, growing quite attached to Merlin.  Oh, and Cody seems to be enjoying him too.  Every evening the two of them will play and play and play.  Merlin doesn't play as long as Cody wants him too, but he does seem to enjoy the play time.  Plus, I watched yesterday as Cody briefly licked Merlin's face.  It wasn't long, nor was it overly affectionate, but it was cute. 

Over the past few days, I've watched Cody transform from stressed and hyper to jealous over another dog to just down right relaxed.  That makes me happy.  Would that transition have happened if Merlin hadn't been here?  So here it is blogland:  I need help!  Please adopt Merlin or buy me a house so I can keep him.  Actually, scratch the adopting part.  A house would be great for everyone.  :P