Why I Say Merry Christmas...and it may surprise you!

I just did a quick Google search for religious holy days and holidays in December. I found 14, and I'm sure there are a few more that I'm missing.  For a point of reference, those of us who trace our faith roots back to Abraham; that means anyone who is Jewish, Muslim or Christian--we all have celebrations in December. One of the world's oldest monotheistic religions, the Zoroastrians honor the death of their prophet, while Buddhist friends celebrate Buddha's decision to sit under a very special tree waiting for enlightenment--which he did receive. All of these celebrations are poignant, beautiful and special to each faith tradition.

 As Catholics, we have a unique strong hold on December, in addition to Christmas, we celebrate a special holy day devoted uniquely to Mary on December 8th, we have a whole bunch of saint's feast days, and if that wasn't enough, we take all four weeks leading up to Christmas and call it Advent.

Despite what the advertisers tell you,  for Christians, the Christmas season isn't our holiest of times--no we save that for Easter.

But that said, I'm a big fan of Advent, I love that we are reminded to prepare for the birth of the Christ child. We need to make our hearts ready, we are also required to pray... To slow our lives down and be open to hearing the voice of the Divine. Those requirements are a tall order in a world fueled by consumerism.

Advent begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Often folks are still celebrating with family when we all roll into mass. For Christians, it's a our New Year, our calendar begins again, and it ushers in a time of reflection, repentance and preparation. Each of the four weeks of Advent provides Christians a chance to refocus our gaze on a stable in Bethlehem and the birth of our Messiah--not on Santa, and our ridiculously long shopping lists.

As parents, its hard... Let's just be honest.

To raise humans that are focused on the "real celebration" of our holy days and not the pursuit of stuff.

We are all also striving to teach our children about gratitude. Being grateful comes in many forms; one of the best is to say, "thank you". This year in an effort to assist in the focus--both of the Beauties are writing four letters. The idea is that each letter represents a week of Advent.

As a family, we sat down and discussed who would be the recipients of the letters. Our requirements were simple, each letter was to be to an adult, someone over 18. They needed to be someone the Beauties admired and were instrumental in helping them on their path to adulthood.  They could be a couple or individual, teachers, family member or adult wisdom figure (insert awesome family friend). What captivated me was as the Beauties assembled their list (of the 8 letters) only two are being sent to Catholics. Which is why the letters are so exciting. My children are being raised in faith, but the people who influence, challenge, and love them-- offer a beautifully full picture of the world. We remind the Beauties all the time, you are constantly building your tribe, the people who will stand with you in the storm and eat cake and toast you in times of celebration. That is an awesome job, so it's our job as parents to help you (them) identify the qualities that they will need in their adult tribe.

Which gets me back to the reason I wish folks a, "Merry Christmas".

In our culture, we work very hard to create a world that is more respectful of diversity. In doing so, we have turned away wishing friends specific holy days, instead we turn to the generic:

"Happy Holidays."

I'm not a fan but, when someone wishes me a "Happy Holidays," I say, "thank you," with love in my heart.

I'm what you would call a multi-cultural friend, I love celebrating holy days with others. I have celebrated oodles of holy days with friends who aren't Christian. I've celebrated Passover, enjoyed lighting candles for Hanukkah (Norah's best friend's menorah is beautiful). I have been wished the joys of the Hindu celebration of Diwali by my friend in London. She wished me prosperity, the joy of hope over darkness, and the removal of negative forces from my home and life!  If had been lucky enough to be in London; I would have feasted on delicious food, seen her home illuminated with candles to remove the negative forces from her home and her life-- I would have gotten to celebrate the joy of her holiday.

Don't you wish you were wished a Happy Diwali?!?!

NOTHING makes me happier, then when one of my friends wishes me the joy of their faith's holy day!

Have you ever stopped to think how much love comes from someone when they share the joy of their tradition?

So if I were in a shop and someone wished me a Happy Hanukkah; I would say thank you!  I would be delighted that someone would wish me the joy of their Festival of Light!  When I wish someone Merry Christmas, whether your Christian or not, I'm wishing you the sentiments of my holy day and my faith tradition which is Peace, Joy and Love.

Let me be clear about what I'm not saying:

I'm not saying, sorry your messiah hasn't come and mine has. Nor am I saying that because I'm a christian and maybe your not, you are destined to some ring of hell; because you don't believe what I do.


I'm sharing with you that I meet the Divine through my Catholic tradition. And in December it's a special time for me. It is a beautiful season that by its very origin celebrates love. It is a holy and special time in my faith. So when I want to share that love, that joy, it's not me being unkind--it's me trying to be gracious, loving and thoughtful.

In the same token, when my friends wish me the joy of their holy days, I'm humbled, touched and deeply moved that they would share the very love of their tradition with me.

As I have shared in earlier post, the world has been showing profound ugliness of late. I will be the first to share that my faith tradition has done some horrible deeds in the name of religion. The humanness of the world is painful in all its forms. I know in my heart that the Divine shares that pain and sorrow; when as humans we spread darkness, hate, evil-- not light, peace and most profoundly LOVE.  I stand by my assertion that the world is full of way more beautiful people (because I have meet so many of you)!  When you surround yourself with the goodness of the world, it then becomes our duty, as the good ones, to stand even taller and share our love and light with others.

AND I will further add....

No one who has wished me the joy of their holy day has ever tried to convert me, disparaged my faith tradition or my families....or told me my traditions are wrong or another faith is superior.

That has NEVER been my experience--ever.

Along with my family, we will attend a program at Norah's school called a Festival of Light, where we will go and experience other family's holy days for the month of December. What makes it so special is that afterwards, we come home and discuss the commonalities of our other friend's faiths. My Beauties will then explain that some of their friend's celebrations are way better than our traditions. Where we remind each other, it's yet, another reason why we like to celebrate with our friends!

As you hustle and bustle this year; share your love and light... And to everyone who is expecting my Christmas card, consider this post your card. Here's hoping, I'm less disorganized next year!

With all the love I have, I wish you and yours the blessing of my tradition; the beauty of a season filled with peace, joy and love.  I send this wish by saying the simple words, "Merry Christmas."

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you, today and always.




photo credit: Katrinitsa

Christmas balls




Advent Candles...

 A long time ago, in a state far, far away...

My Pilgrims, how I miss you. I have been keeping an unbelievable pace since my trip back East at the end of October.  Each and every activity has been filled with many joys... I thought I would take this third week of Advent to share them with you.

Some people call the third week of Advent, "Pink candle week," but its actual name is Gaudete Sunday. The word "Gaudete" comes from Latin which means simply "Rejoice". That seems like a spectacular idea for this post. To offer some hope, some joy and to just rejoice this Advent and Christmas season.  Here are a few of the times thus far, I've been able to "Rejoice" and see the Divine this Advent.

I remember telling Jeff before we had the Beauties, that we wouldn't be "Santa" parents. That we would be raising our children so they would understand that Christ was the ONLY reason for the season. Ian was born in August, the first Christmas card we sent was a photo taken at home with Ian in his baptismal gown. (The gown made by a dear friend from the fabric of my wedding dress.) First year was amazing, I patted myself on the back.

Then along came year two, when Ian was a chubby toddler. I put him on the back of a little tractor with a Santa hat and Christmas tree.  I fell down the Santa hole and haven't turned back.  Both my Beauties believe Santa brings their gifts and that Jesus is what we are celebrating.  Since the second Christmas card, Santa and Christ have been a part of every Christmas... The greatest lesson I have learned with time, and Jeff's patience, is that you can create the Season that offers a multitude of gifts. Not just the ones that you thought you needed. Once again, with the grace of the Divine, I have learned their are oodles of reasons to rejoice this Gaudete Sunday.

As a family, we like having the traditional southern Sunday afternoon dinner, just like the one my grandmother used to host. While I will never master her friend chicken and gravy.... If only. We have created a space where Sunday is for God, family, a little football, and dinner at 4:30. That is Sunday in sunny Cali. Last weekend we were a disaster, all of us going in different directions, and Jeff made the executive decision that what I needed was hot tea, a bowl of soup and my bed. So in lieu of Sunday dinner, Jeff whipped up a kiddo dinner. Our rental cottage is tiny. You can roll over in your bed and all of us can hear you. I was sitting in the living room and Ian was in the kitchen and I heard Ian singing. He was singing the closing song from the family Mass. And he was something! Belting it out from the kitchen. You can hear in some churches the clapping, and swaying and just belting out in song... Ian offered us that from the kitchen.

"Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Soon and very soon,

We are going to see the King;

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,

We are going to see the King."

I said Ian, you sound great. Ian's reply was a classic. "Mom, I've got an ear-worm and when you have an ear worm... well you just need to sing." An ear worm for all of you who don't know, is that song or commercial that gets stuck in your head and you can't shake it.  As a mother, nothing is more gratifying that hearing that your child has a religious ear-worm stuck...

A classic Advent moment to rejoice.

Last Monday, Norah and I were invited by our dear friends to light the second nights candles of Hanukkah. Norah's classmate and her family are our soulmates, we share the beauty and love of God. Norah and I each got to light the candles of the menorah and to celebrate with joy the miracle of God's unending love.  It is so affirming to share the deep love of faith with good friends. The children singing, playing with the dreidel and of course the yummy food! Our friends were gracious and loving hosts, opening their home to us to love and worship together. It will always be a special part of our Advent season to rejoice and celebrate Hanukkah with such dear friends.

Friday, I met with my prayer group, I made a simple box lunch for each of us and we had some egg nog and prayed together in our special little room at the Mission. Whenever I'm with my little prayer group, it is never lost on me that this was how the early Christians gathered. They ate, prayed and celebrated the joy of small faith communities. Having never visted the Holy Land, living in Santa Barabara often makes me feel closer to the world Christ lived. With our sunshine, the ocean, the terrain filled with fruit and olive trees. Many of my friends who have visited have also commented on the similarities.

But even more, I'm left to realize that in all parts of the world, individuals just like us are gathering to light the candles of Hanukkah, or light an Advent wreath and pray. Many of us take for granted that we can worship in the open.  But, across the globe, far too many worship in places that are not safe, where persecution is the norm, where safety is not guaranteed.

A powerful reminder to be the best of your faith tradition. Don't hide it, wear it with love, honesty and be willing to share your faith, your traditions.  Less fear, more love.

That friends is what is at the heart of a stable in Bethlehem.

My prayer for you is simple, may your face be washed in the love and light of the Divine. May you recognize it and rejoice in all the moments.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.



Does The Sun Ask Itself...

Does the sun ask itself…

So my guilty pleasure, nothing to do with my faith, but the marketing merchandising part of

myself… The materialistic part of myself, the part that loves stuff…. Yep that girl, high heel ponytail girl! LOVES, like crazy loves TKW (That’s Ted Kennedy Watson). He owns three shops in Seattle.

First and foremost we share a love for the same champagne, Ted writes a fantastic blog, scored a great book deal to which I can’t wait to  pay full price to delight in all things Watson Kennedy, and he gets write-ups in House Beautiful and Elle Décor. He loves Ina and knows her, really like they talk and what not. (Ina is the Barefoot Contessa  to those of you not on a first name basis with her). I love Ina and Jeff loves her too, but he is also a fan of Giada

Listen, can I digress for a second..., I love Giada, but Jeff L.O.V.E.S her, and that’s why I'm such a fan of Ina, she eats, drinks and doesn’t do as much for Jeff… we have tons of Ina’s cookbooks and Jeff regularly makes something delish from them, but Giada, see where this is going…can we talk about Giada’s breasts for a second, I mean good lord they are beautiful… I will never, not in this life or the next have her body, she was on the Today show with Martha on Thanksgiving morning… she looked like an angel next to Martha…. And she was so smart the way she deferred to the Marthaness of it all. Anywho, back to TKW…

So, Jeff occasionally needs to travel to Seattle and I always beg Jeff to stop by one of the stores when he’s in town.  TKW is my retail nirvana. To torture me, when he is super proud of something he has bought, he has it wrapped and places it somewhere in the house and just smiles like a cheshire cat… he did that for about three days with my 10 year anniversary band. I mean really would you have done that to a materialistic pony tail girl! So right now is a sweet little box on my mantel from TKW, waiting for Christmas… Now in that box could very well be the receipt for the lovey little card he bought at the store, but no matter, I got a gift of my very own from TKW. It is the best treat ever… 

So in addition to the box on the mantel, Jeff gave me this card that he picked up too. Jeffrey the man of few words, loves the written word, so when he writes something down he means it, and when he gives me a card the words really spoke to him…

I love this card. Despite everything I have discussed, and as proud as I am of all my accomplishments, I still struggle with whether I’m good enough… 

I love the quote from Andrea Dworkin, because it reminds me that the sun is just too busy to be worried about it… it just “burns and shines” and really that’s all we need to focus on... 

Are we burning and shining for our nearest and dearest?  Are we shining the light of our faith?, our truth of who and what God made us to be?, are we loving our beloveds in the best way?, are we speaking the truth of the wrongs in our family (be that our nuclear family or that of my beloved church) sans consequences?, are we burning the truth?…

During the season of Advent we sometimes forget, that it is a season of waiting... Waiting for the birth of Christ… and while we hustle and bustle, and drink our cider and champagne, we need to remember to pause, to wait, and to burn bright and shine… 

To not be distracted or worried about the small stuff...  

We can all use a little more heat and light...


Obi-Wan and Other Unrelated Topics...

Saving the universe, Obi-Wan and other unrelated topics….

I’m currently in recovery, the Thanksgiving weekend nearly killed me. I was on the couch from Friday till well I’m still on the couch…

Harvard said on Thursday that my lungs on the x-ray looked better than me… again WITH THE SH### BEDSIDE MANNER…. And we love him, like the way I love my Godfather Sandy, who sadly passed away when Ian was a baby, and even worse never met Norah.  The way he said my name, it made me smile, he would look at me and say KT in the sweetest most loving way, another amazing man who taught me with the smallest acts of kindness, how I deserved to be loved…

All you Dad’s out there, you are on notice, this is your job, to teach girls how to be loved.  By the example of how you love your wife, how you treat your Mom, how you treat your little girls…

Sorry for the side-bar, needed to get that out, back to recovery… So Harvard, is still working on fixing the lungs, it’s a drag because the best way to slow the pain and the f-ing cough, is with this high powered cough syrup, (and associated other drugs) that by late in the day is knocking me out...

So today, I’m listening to Paul McCartney singing chestnuts roasting on an open fire (the Christmas song) it is really very sweet, McCartney singing xmas classics…and its crazy foggy outside and I’m on the couch as my peeps get ready for Mass. I haven’t really talked about Mass and my faith life…it hurts my heart that I can’t attend Mass on a more regular basis.  I can't due to several factors, temperature, my cough, the way my body is behaving, how much Mass can tax me for the whole day… it’s a litany of issues.

I love being a Catholic, being Catholic is like being in a dysfunctional family. That’s exactly why I love it…. You have your crazy relatives who say totally inappropriate stuff at the wrong time, you have relatives that behave badly, really badly, and you have no words to express your disgust or outrage, but every week you head off for family dinner and get the reassurance that you are family. That the good outweighs the bad. You share an amazing meal with your family of origin, all dysfunctional and messy but steeped in what you hold dear in your core. The meal that is familiar and frankly the one you need in your soul, the meal that is only fulfilled with Christ. That’s why I’m a Catholic. I do messy, I do uncomfortable, I do soul nourishing, I do my faith…..

One way I take the edge off not attending Mass is by having some of the girls I love most bring me communion. The other way is I read a ton! You know my girls are Eucharistic ministers, an approved job for women in the church… but I will stay silent on the role of women religious and other wise because, we are just girls after all….. Any who, sorry for that one too.  I read a slew of blogs, email subscriptions and various web sites.  My favorite is my daily email from the Henri Nouwen society…. If you don’t get this daily email, you should… three minutes of love for your soul. Feeding your soul with grace, it’s the best thing…

I've found that feeding my faith is a big piece of why I’m still here….my work is not done. I have a husband, children, and a whole lot of doctors to still impart with my own brand of foolishness…so if you don’t get it… get it. Henri is the best of the best…. a Priest who remained celibate as he struggled with his sexuality, a man who yearned for love, a humanitarian, an amazing writer, and yep a Catholic. He so would have been at my family dinners… Read him. Seriously!

O.K. back to the daily stuff. So my Clive Owen look alike, Jeffrey has had a hideous several days since Thanksgiving. Two days in class at AU, a marathon trip to Seattle, home for 10 hours most of them sleeping, heads to Antietam to walk the battle field for a leadership class all day Saturday, in the F-ING bone chilling cold, to talk LEADERSHIP at Antietam the most f-ed up, bloodiest day in our history. Then my sweet husband rolled back home to spend a miserable dinner with (us) his loving family, where we all complained, bickered, whined and glared…. Through the first lighting of our advent wreath that was so missing the love of Christ.  Christ didn't join us at the table that night….then miraculously we all kissed, hugged and went to bed to make Sunday oh so much better….

Which gets me to Obi-Wan. So after I sent myself to bed for displaying fantastic table manners, winning personality and frankly just being steeped in love... I watched two hours of a terrorist series on Cinemax and realized that I was just cold and tired…

And in blows Ian… “Mom, got a second for a quick snuggle?” YES I’m MOTHER OF THE F-ING YEAR…. “Of course lovie, come on in...What’s up?” ”well mom, sorry about dinner, I went through all my Lego stickers and made you this card of Obi-Wan, you know he is your favorite Jedi Knight,” “ Gulp, thank you sweetie,”….” and look Mom he is strong, powerful and always does the right thing…”

Now my sweet Ian is so right. First off Obi-Wan, take your pick Sir Alex Guinness or Ewan McGregor, hello nice eye candy. Lucas made the best character of all time, honest, trust worthy, the best friend, fearless… and of course trying to save the galaxy…. I looked at the card with tears in my eyes, and all arms and legs Ian tried to curl up on me while I coughed and just smelled his clean soapy little man smell and just remembered…. We are fine, just all a little tired, all just ready for daddy to be home… just ready to hunker down and have our family schedule back. We do have Christ here, we are all good…

So, Jeff and I are up early Sunday trying to pull life together as he leaves again for a few hours for Norfolk till Wednesday… I’m forbidden from church since I sound like something between a barking seal and a dying  fish, who’s mouth just keeps moving! Any who at one point I say to Norah, "hey sweetie quick question", she is sitting at the island on the computer, “Mom, listen can I get back to you, I’m a little busy", and you know what she is doing?  "I’m saving the galaxy Mom!"  Well you go girl! You can never have too many Jedi!

May you find Christ in the small and large this first Sunday of Advent.

My prayers are for more Jedi, more patience, more peace... And a whole lot of family dinners, however you can…

Namaste, my brother and sisters…Namaste