Link Love: Holiday Edition

December 13, 2013

I'm the only ornament this tree needs...

We don’t have as many holiday decorations up this year as usual, partly because I don’t have the energy or desire to decorate the house from top to bottom (I’m wearing shorts and sweating and that’s just not conducive to putting up holly and evergreens), and partly because Prudy thinks we put up the Christmas tree for her private and exclusive use. She treats it like a jungle gym, and climbs to the top daily (not unlike her sister)—and this is without ornaments and lights. So we won’t be displaying our fancy (breakable) ornaments this year or putting the tasseled runner on the mantel (I’m sure she’d pull it and everything else down on top of her). But it’s all good. We’re expecting a cold front, Nick will be home for winter break, and I’m planning a little personal stay-cation from the usual routine after Christmas.

I hope your holiday preparations are running smoothly, and that the weather, whatever it’s doing where you live, isn’t keeping you from enjoying the season. Here is a special holiday edition of Link Love for you to enjoy in between all your activities:

Artist Susan Branch offers free downloadable holiday desktop wallpaper, stationery and other fun stuff (I especially love the bookmarks) here.

Christmas movies can be more than just happy little distractions—many of them, even the cheesiest ones, remind us of lessons worth remembering. Dani at Positively Present reveals some of her favorite movies and their accompanying lessons here.

For the book lovers among us, Belle has some ideas for end-of-the-year book “housekeeping.” 

What are your favorite Christmas traditions? This post lists 50 (!) Christmas traditions for a merry little Christmas. Some of my favorites from this list are listening to Christmas music,  turning out the lights to admire the Christmas tree (well, usually—see above), and making cookies (though I make molasses sugar cookies instead of plain ones).

A very cool thing an airline did for its passengers:

And last but not least, some tips for relieving holiday stress. No matter how hard we try to simplify, it always seems like we need these.

Ho, ho, ho

December Notes

More Snow Promised

December 11, 2013

Many of us keep journals, but while doing so few of us pay much attention to selecting the most precise words, to determining their most effective order, to working with effective pauses and breath-like pacing, to presenting an engaging impression of a single, unique day. This poem by Nebraskan Nancy McCleery is a good example of one poet’s carefully recorded observations. [Introduction by Ted Kooser.]

December Notes

The backyard is one white sheet
Where we read in the bird tracks

The songs we hear. Delicate
Sparrow, heavier cardinal,

Filigree threads of chickadee.
And wing patterns where one flew

Low, then up and away, gone
To the woods but calling out

Clearly its bright epigrams.
More snow promised for tonight.

The postal van is stalled
In the road again, the mail

Will be late and any good news
Will reach us by hand.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Reprinted from Girl Talk, The Backwaters Press, 2002, by permission of the author. Copyright © 1994 by Nancy McCleery. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.


Endings and Beginnings

December 09, 2013

“We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”
—Joseph Campbell

The year is winding down and though I’m having a hard time realizing it’s nearly Christmas (because it’s 85 degrees here), it’s nearly Christmas! And nearly the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.

Endings and beginnings have been on my mind lately. This year has had more than its share of them. My son graduated from high school and started college. My niece got married, and two beloved family members died. We’re all adjusting to our altered roles and circumstances. Life keeps flowing by faster and faster, with beginnings and endings—change—nearly a constant. Here are some thoughts that have helped me negotiate the tricky emotional terrain of beginnings and endings.

When something significant is ending, whether it’s a job, relationship, or stage of life, we should recognize and accept that the ending is taking place—even celebrate it. Don’t struggle against it because that will only make it harder. Even though I’m thrilled that my son has moved on to college, at first I felt a certain loss of identity—I no longer had a child at home, and all the physical and emotional energy I poured into that role suddenly had no place to go. I was surprised at how much impact that had on me. Celebrating the real accomplishment of raising a child to age 18 and getting him through public school and into college helped me adjust.

Endings can shock us into remembering what’s really important. When something ends, it’s a good time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go. How can we move forward? What positives can we take from what just ended? What types of feelings has the ending stirred up? It’s OK to feel angry or to grieve when faced with an ending. It helps me to repeat the phrase, “Let it happen, let it go.” (And breathe. Don’t forget to breathe.)

Endings are merely times of transition between what was and what will be. Each one is a new beginning—and most people think of beginnings with excitement and anticipation. Something fantastic might be just around the corner! Keeping that in mind can help us accept what ends in our lives, learn from it, and look forward to what comes next.

Is something ending for you? Is something beginning?

Affordable Christmas

Giving Tuesday

December 02, 2013

You’ve heard of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday—how about Giving Tuesday? Tomorrow, Dec. 3, marks the second annual Giving Tuesday (#GivingTuesday), a movement to create a national day of giving on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. Families and individuals are encouraged to be generous in whatever ways they see fit, by volunteering or donating to a favorite cause. Last year, there was a marked increase in charitable giving on Giving Tuesday, and organizers hope for an even bigger impact this year. You can read more about Giving Tuesday here.

Every year as part of our holiday tradition, we like to choose one or two charitable organizations to donate to, and this year, we’ll start by participating in Giving Tuesday with a donation to Affordable Christmas, a program that allows lower-income families to purchase new Christmas gifts for their children at 1/10th of the retail price. 

What are your favorite holiday charitable activities?