At times, days and weeks go by before my dad ever comes to my thought. Lately I have had strong remembrances of family, my mom, dad, and grandma. Usually it comes stronger at the holidays, especially thoughts about my dad. For some reason he loved Christmas. The funny part is I am not sure he did much to make Christmas happen in my house. My mom bought or more likely made our gifts, staying up many all nighters to get them done in time, wrapped them, and put them under the tree often at the wee hours of Christmas morning. She made the cookies, desserts, and homemade gifts for friends and teachers. To top it all off, she also made a meal for Christmas eve, our Christmas morning breakfast, and a big meal on Christmas day. I think my dad was into the decorations. The Santas, elves, sleighs, and nativity scenes.
In January, my dad will have been gone for 15 years. We put up our Christmas tree on Sunday, and somehow I have convinced Chris to keep white lights in a tree outside our living room window year-round. My dad would probably smile knowing that I am trying to keep that Christmas spirit. I think about him as I watch my niece grow up and wonder what it would be like for him to have his first grandchild coo and crawl all over him. Next weekend he would have been 73. I see him (when I notice) as I walk down our hallway of family photos. I am pictured at my niece’s age, head full of curls and he, covered with a beard in the late 1970’s. I think about him when I find a favorite childhood book and remember my reading to him. Those were those moments when I remember he was most calm and patient.
I wonder at times what it will be like when I have kids of my own, and how many times I will wish there was a contact in my phone that said: Mom and another that said Dad. Would they text with me? Would they meet up with old friends on Facebook? It is so hard to know, they have been gone for so long that I no longer know who they would have grown to become. Yet, I will do what I can each year to continue the Christmas spirit in my own way, however it may feel right each year. Whether that means to dote on my niece who does not have my mom and dad to dote on her, or whether that means to donate toys to kids in my community.
What I think my dad wanted was to feel apart of something bigger than himself. We can all do that in so many differing ways, all keeping with the Christmas spirit of giving.
“Over the past two decades I’ve delved deeply into the literature of what makes greatness. The surprising answer is that, fundamentally, humans want to be great. People want to do something purposeful—to make the world, even if just in a small way, a better place. The key is getting rid of what stands in their way, removing the impediments to their becoming who they’re capable of becoming.” Page 229
Remove the impediments. Excuses. Frustrations. Battles between co-workers. Difference of opinion. Lack of budget. No leadership support. Not enough time. Not good enough. The list can go on and on as to why we cannot finish, arrive, or show up. At times I believe we are blinded by what is standing in our way. Even if we do not see the road blocks, they’re there, so we need to remove them and move to greatness.
If you have not had the chance to watch an episode of Silicon Valley, here is an excerpt that has a funny rant about scrum.
I heard someone say this yesterday: “I got swagger.” I thought to myself: “I got swagger, maybe not today, but I got swagger.” Yesterday was a strange day. I felt an array of emotions, from anger, frustration, to laughter, sass, and yes swagger.
How do we keep our swagger? I think of all the people who I have looked up to in my life. Those that have inspired me, made my jaw drop, or just had me often say: Wow. They are the people who make us think differently. A professor in college had swagger. She had a way of making you enamored with her. You wanted her opinion, craved her attention, and missed her when she was not around. She had swagger.
My niece has swagger. I have been watching kids on and off since I was nine. From all the kids I have taken care of, to the 6 week old and up children I took care of at a day care during college, to my friend’s kids, my niece has got it. Of course I am biased, how can I not be, but that kid lights up a room, makes you laugh, and has something very special about her. I mean look at this photo. (She is the blond at the back of the circle of girls that all want to dote on her.) Swagger.
My husband has swagger. I cannot handle frustrating customer service situations. I have lived in that world too long, that when I have a shitty experience I go volatile and cannot handle the fact that I get sub-par service. He handles it with poise, firmness, and patience. That man has swagger.
A friend is going through a hard time in her marriage. She is working it through in her way. She is so selfless at work and with her child. She makes us all laugh, keeps it real, and tells it like it is. She has swagger.
I tell it like it is almost always (I do have a tiny filter when really needed). I suck the life out of my day. I love people, helping them, listening, and doing what I can to be there for them. I am a bit sassy. I got swagger.
I love learning new things. It is actually one of my favorite things. What is not to love about growing your mind with information and letting your universe grow a bit each day? Even if the new knowledge is a bit on the random side. A few days ago I learned something new about jeans. Some of you may say: Wow, how clueless you have been all these years, how could you not know about it? Yet, it is a fascinating dilemma for me. I have known folks that dry clean their jeans and others that iron their jeans… but this is different:
Freezing your jeans.
Yes. I mean it. I mentioned something to Chris the other day about fading jeans and he said: “Maybe you should freeze them.” Huh. I was a bit stunned. He said he knows someone at work that does it. How have I been on this earth for well over three decades and I have never heard of freezing your jeans? It is real. No joke. There is an entire movement around not washing, but freezing your jeans. Seriously. If you do a Google search you will find countless articles about how and why you should freeze your jeans. They are quite descriptive. Levi’s has even been promoting it.
Maybe I am old school but it kind of grosses me out. I think about all the places we sit, I think about the crotch, and I think of all the places we eat and that our jeans often absorb the smells of our surroundings. I would want to wash them just as a sort of detox from where my jeans have been. Not to mention that I wash them because after one wearing they get stretched out. A wash brings them back to the shape that I want, and while my many washing might mean the color eventually fades, what is wrong with that?
Who thought of freezing your jeans? Have you ever tried it? What is next… the microwave?
Holiday traditions. I am a bit of a Scrooge. My sister and dad were always so much more into the holidays, and somehow that gene did not find its way into my veins. Call me crazy, or extremely practical, but oftentimes the holidays are just another day in the grand scheme of things. I appreciate them as a day to relax, recharge, and be slow.
So, having said all that what’s your favorite holiday tradition? We both love to sleep in (who does not whenever possible). Maybe it is because we do not have kids yet, but we do not really have many/any holiday traditions. The one thing we often do is make my mom’s coffee cake. I like it, Chris likes it, and it is easy to make. It is nothing fancy, just a Betty Crocker (Picture Cookbook circa 1950) recipe that I doctor and adapt to my own liking, but something about it reminds me of my childhood. Somehow my family (and often my grandma) split a 9 x 9 pan of coffee cake (how did we ever do that!)? We would get up on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning and have it right away (before presents or anything). I have my mother’s Betty Crocker cookbook copy. The hole punched page has ripped out and the page itself is worn and splotched.
Stir together thoroughly:
3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup unsalted Butter (or shortening):
Note: I only use butter and it should be soft
1/2 cup Milk
Sift together and stir in (I never sift though):
1 1/2 cup Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Streusel Mixture: 3/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon 2 tablespoons melted unsalted Butter
Set oven to 375 degrees
Spread batter in greased and floured 9″ pan. Sprinkle with desired topping. Bake until wooden pick thrust into center of cake comes out clean. Serve warm, fresh from oven.
Baker note: I go on instinct for the amount of brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon I put together. I sprinkle it on top of the batter and then cut tiny sized chunks of unsalted butter and place them randomly all over the top of the streusel. It makes for more of a crunchy, yummy topping. It is my adaptation. Also, I use the above topping, there are other options for toppings in the cookbook.
Recipe note: Be sure that your “wooden pick thrust into center of cake comes clean” (who uses the word thrust)?