Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now

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st. nick, holiday happenings and joe, a former student of mine


St. Nick came by our place in similar fashion as last year, leaving a sweet treat and a note about the weeks to come. Last year St. Nick wrote about the beauty of the 12 days of Christmas and we had a wonderful time celebrating it–  our first in Colorado, beginning on Christmas Eve and ending on the Epiphany. We enjoyed it so much it was hard to accept it just wouldn’t work out this year. St. Nick was very helpful with this conundrum. His note informed us that we would be celebrating with gifts on Christmas only, but he asked us to give to others during the 12 days. Immediately the girls were excited by the challenge, not disappointed by the change, of giving to others for “all those days!”

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Perhaps it is my Catholic background or my attraction to the organization, but we’ve embraced the Advent calendar and candle ritual these years, too. I’ve come up with themes for the weeks of Advent- this week, the second, has centered around giving to others. St. Nick kicks it off, inspiring us to give to others on the heels of his gift to us.  We started in earnest –our happy crafting time, leaving handmade gifts for neighbors, signed “mystery givers” and baking cookies for those near and far. Last night we went to a homeless shelter in Boulder where we helped give out medicine, band aids, cough drops, etc. The girls asked lots of questions which I ultimately think is healthy, although it certainly made me wonder and question my decision. The folks at the shelter were friendly and while the girls have been well aware of the homeless situation in Boulder, this was a far more intimate and realistic dose.

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Whenever there are multiple trips to the post office, things can get stressful. Yesterday, our second day to the post office in a week, was no different! We had a pretty unhappy meltdown on our way home– and it left everyone feeling unhappy. We all had a quiet time at home and then came back together for lunch. I was still feeling uncertain about our afternoon (we had a lot going on in the evening) and how to smooth things out. It was gorgeous out so I suggested we get some balls and go to the park. We were excited about heading out, but as we finished lunch they got sidetracked with a handmade figure a former student of mine named Joe made for me, many years ago. Joe was a unique, wonderful student of mine in North Carolina who also happened to be on the autism spectrum. One day, early on in my knowing Joe, I found him completely absorbed in making tiny figures with paperclips and thread. I nearly stopped him, but stopped myself instead. I gave him a smile and on we went. His “crafting” with found objects didn’t seem to distract him from the importance of the Renaissance or the Treaty of Versailles. ; ) He was prolific in his work and soon I was finding these figures on my desk after class. There were spiders, robots, animals, people and even portraits of me! I was distinguished from the others by a scarf, which he managed to incorporate with thread or pieces of yarn.


It was one of these figures that the girls became curious about that diverted our afternoon, for so much the better. They asked lots of questions about the figures, Joe and my teaching. Can we make them? We pulled out paperclips and yarn and got to work. It was HARD and it left me with more appreciation for these tiny figures than I had before. Our fingers ached a little, but we managed to create self-portraits, paperclips only.

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Above: Joe’s figures

We staged our figures along with Joe’s and put some music on. Wednesdays, if we can get it in, we sing. With more activity and school this year, it has been harder to have a set, weekly singing time. Ah, but here we were! So we piled up on the couch and started singing! It was overwhelming in the most beautiful of ways. We were close and connected, present and soulful. We belted out our favorites– mostly gospel songs that are simple, powerful and beautiful– getting right to the truth of the matter.

We can do things, offer things, go places with our kids, but I know that times like these imprint deeply. They seem to fill the soul rather than create a specific memory. The feeling of closeness, singing these powerful words and the presence we all shared. These are the times I want more of, just sometimes they come after the stress of package making, post office tripping and low blood sugar, but I’ll take it.

One song in particular, “I’ll Fly Away” a hymn from the earlier part of the 20th century really spoke to me yesterday. With the passing of my cousin two days ago and today marking three years since my mother was diagnosed, I was left really wondering about it all…and full of gratitude that I got to wonder in the arms of these sweet little people.

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Twelve Days of Christmas

Oh here comes SantaThe weeks leading up to Christmas revolved around preparing our home for the season and crafting for others, as well as ourselves.  I enjoyed working with themes for each week of Advent and look forward to building on them in the years ahead. The girls continue to talk about our week of animals– making treats for our animal friends and spending time at the animal shelter. The UPS guy especially liked hearing the package I was sending to Red and Tweedy was off to two hens in North Carolina, saying: “that’s a first” with a smile. In the years ahead, I hope to expand our giving with each week of Advent. One can’t say to a child, let’s give more than receive, let’s enjoy what we share. We have to model and live it.

Celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas (from Christmas Day to January 5th, the Eve of the Epiphany) was very much a time for us as a family–it organically expanded the weekend tradition of meeting in our bed and spending much of the morning there together. Each day as the girls woke with excitement as to where they would find Santa’s gift, they would inevitably end up in our bed, gift or no gift. Some mornings were hard, having stayed up late and facing wide-eyed young children, but looking at it now I realize what a gift those mornings were for us.

A couple days in, I realized how little the actual gift meant to them. The girls are not very stuff-oriented–unless you’re talking .99 cent nail polish from the Dollar Store because they have a ton of that and are quite proud of it. They didn’t have a wish-list. In fact, had we asked them, they likely would have drawn blanks. The mystery, buildup,  the fact that this time stood apart from other times–that’s what was so joyful. Knit hats were met with as much gratitude as a new game. When the sled Stephen and I wanted to get didn’t materialize and we ended up short a day, we stuffed their stockings with candy canes. One of their most appreciated gifts in the 12 days? The candy canes!

We spent time cooking, baking, doing puzzles, crafting, hiking, dancing and lounging around. We spent a day on errands. I spent time reading and doing yoga.  We went to church and lit candles thinking of my mom– two years ago on the 26th, she passed away. In these last few days, the girls have been taken with making their first snow lady and puppy  with Papa.

Yesterday I started to feel the Sunday blues thinking of Stephen’s return to work , taking down the tree and decorations. I ended up spending time planning, making my calendar for the 3 upcoming months and finding the themes and activities that would define the 2nd half of the winter season. Peace truly returned as I recognized the upcoming celebrations ahead and the natural rhythm that flows from them.

Today is the Epiphany. I’ll tell the story of the three wise men and spend some time looking at a book of stars. In place of our tree we have our nativity set up and I made a little star to hang – a surprise for the girls. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (I touch on the themes of his life in a story I’ll tell about him, emphasizing love and forgiveness) is later this month and I plan on making some felted heart gifts. The girls really enjoyed felting this November–great sudsy, tactile, messy, warm experience. February will start off with a festive start as the days will begin to get longer and we can look forward to spring. At the end of February we will embark on our 2nd annual girls trip. I don’t think there is anyway around this adventure as they have basically demanded a 2nd year of “girls’ trip”. Last year my dad’s passing at the end of February led us to New Jersey for his funeral and a couple days in D.C. on the way home. The time spent in D.C. was quite memorable and eventually got dubbed “girls’ trip.” New Mexico is looking like a likely possibility!

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