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Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Dark Side of the Holidays & a Little Comfort

21 December 2012

How are your holidays going?  Perfect?  Ozzie and Harriet?  I hope so, but I am sure most of us have our own tales of holiday stress, with maybe family drama fit-for-reality-tv thrown in as well.

I'm very much feeling the dark side of the holidays this year.  I suppose we are all a bit raw and emotionally vulnerable due to recent horrific events in Connecticut.  For many of us 'sensitive types', just walking through the stores and seeing bright and healthy 6-7 year olds is enough to send us into tears.

That's what happened to me yesterday while shopping and struggling to get into the holiday mind-set.  I was left numb by the materialistic trappings and could not, for the life of me, eek any joy out of my holiday shopping.

I could only think of the suffering of parents who had probably already done shopping for those beautiful children and for the adults lost as well.

Having been a substitute teacher in our local school system for 8 years, and having drilled many lock-down situations, I could fairly easily put myself in the shoes of the substitute teacher who was killed at Sandy least the initial moments.  I have struggled with trying to stop thinking about her.

Couple this with renewed drama in our own family and I could feel my impending melt-down hovering just under the surface despite my best efforts to insulate myself from the constant coverage of the horror....I knew it would hit, and when it finally did, it was hard and fast.

Today, I am left with that dull, drained, I-cried-the-big-ugly-cry feeling.  But, since the world didn't end this morning, I am also left now, with a glimmer of determination that I feel growing.

Many of our holidays resemble something closer to the scenario in the Hollywood-depicted dysfunction-to-the-10th power of "Home for the Holidays", one of my favorite 'holiday movies' starring Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr., than anything Ozzie or Harriet would approve of; still, we needn't despair.

Afterall, these holy-days, or holly-days, depending on your preferred historical source, are just another series of 24 hour blocks of time in our life.  We are free to create and live those hours, more or less, according to our own direction, discretion and predilection. 

It's been said that the best revenge is to prosper and to move forward despite whatever maelstrom may be swirling around you or despite negativity leveled in your direction. 

In a vat of white pearls with a single black stone, the eye is continually drawn to the takes a real force of will to pull attention and resolve away from the distraction.

But it can be done....and should be. 

Those that have perished in such violent and abrupt fashions cannot be brought back.  But we can live, and we can live well, according to our own wishes.  We can flourish in spite of the trauma, the drama and the horror that we sometimes find firmly planted in front of us.  And we owe those souls be the best we can be and to counter the hate in the world with the only thing that will dissolve it.....and the solution isn't more hate.


After all of that exhausting shopping and expenditure of emotion (and a nasty storm that I drove home through), I was craving some comfort.  I decided my favorite soup was in order.  Sweet-potato-spinach soup.  This is from Robin Robertson.  (  scroll down to bottom of page)

A little foccacia bread would be nice to go with that.  I just whip mine up really quickly.  I dissolve yeast in some warm water, let sit for a few minutes.  I add in some more water (probably about a cup) and a squirt of agave and a sprinkling of salt.

(File this in the easily-amused category....I just love the bulk agave now available at Whole Foods...see  Note:  appliances are not as clean as they appear in the photos.)

I add in enough whole-wheat flour to have a still-moist mix, but not gooey.  And I knead until it starts to feel elastic.  After years of baking my own bread and always struggling to get good results in Ohio winters, I finally discovered the secret....cover the rising bowl first with a towel that has been wet in warm water and wrung out, and then another dry towel over that.

For foccacia, I don't let it rise a second time, but after it has about doubled I ease it out onto a pizza stone, take a fork or knife and perforate the surface here and there and bake at 325-350 for about 20 minutes or so. hit the spot and warmed me from the inside out.

Listen, life is tough and sometimes downright ugly.  All we can do it weather the bumps as best as we can, melt-down when we have to, learn and start again.  Sometimes we take a bit more with us and re-evaluate how we spend our 24-hour chunks of time.

My husband and I are having a couple of dear friends over this evening, for the sheer joy of spending time family obligations to fulfill; I won't be judged because my hair's a mess (it is), or my house isn't clean enough (it isn't), but I will be loved for who I am.  And this December, we all could use some more love.

However you choose to spend your holidays, I wish you peace, I wish you the hope of the new year, and above all, I wish you love.

Sue, thriving, in Ohio

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