Empty Chairs

There were empty chairs at the Christmas table. Some temporary, some permanent. Some have been empty a long time. Some we are still getting used to.

Others might think thirteen around the table to be a grand-sized party. The table was full and crowded. But the empty chairs were obvious to me.

I sat in my father’s chair. It made sense, as the only one of his children present. But the burden of taking that place felt heavy.

The party was congenial but I missed my natural allies.

Little things were difficult. A discussion of family likenesses to those not there. The bottle of wine my father always bought for Christmas. Traditions replaced by new alternatives.

The grief has been hard this year.

Things were wrong and there was no way to make them right.

I went to the ocean. I felt the cold water on my body, the sting of salt in my eyes and I let the ebb and flow of the pounding waves carry away some of the pain.

But still next year there will be empty chairs at the Christmas table.

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Christmas Morsels

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it “Christmas” and went to church; the Jews called it “Hanukka” and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Hanukka!” or (to the atheists) “Look out for the wall!”
~ Dave Barry

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It’s going to be 35 degrees on Christmas Day. That’s in Celsius, by the way. As in, Bloody Hot. Needless to say, lunch will not be a hot roast. And you can keep your pudding and brandy custard. Ice cream all the way, baby.

Now, I can imagine my Northern Hemisphere friends are trying to wrap their heads around a Christmas Day with sunshine, heat, a cold lunch and flies. And why wouldn’t you? It’s not the common conception of Christmas, is it?

See, we here in the Southern Hemisphere have the advantage of being able to simultaneously understand both a hot and a cold Christmas given the plethora of snowy Christmas TV specials and movies that abound in the global culture in conjunction with our actual experience of Christmas. Pity, then, those in the wintry Christmas lands who are spared the equivalent televisual experience of a baking Christmas (and I’m not talking about cookies). I imagine one can count on one hand the number of Christmas movies set down south of the world.

So you may or may not understand this song.

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I do like Christmas on the whole…. In its clumsy way, it does approach Peace and Goodwill. But it is clumsier every year.
~ E.M. Forster

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Last year someone suggested to me that I should be developing my own Christmas traditions rather than just perpetuating the ones from my childhood. I found this mildly confusing as I thought that was the whole point of tradition. Also, given my boys were already teenagers, it seemed a bit late to be starting new traditions.

Then, at an event this year, we were asked to bring along something that represented a Christmas tradition for our family. Uh oh.

I conveniently forgot to take anything.

But a few days later, as we decorated the Christmas tree, I realised that we had established a new Christmas tradition. Introduced two years ago, we have our own special tree-topper that minds our Christmas tree each year now.

Why have a standard star or cutesy angel on the top of your tree when you can have one of the most terrifying monsters ever to come out of Steven Moffat’s frightening head? #ChristmasWeepingAngel #WeAreNotInsane

I can’t wait for the next opportunity to share that Christmas tradition.

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In a wonderful book I was given for Christmas by a dear friend, I learnt that you can learn the twelve cranial nerves to “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. It might be my new favourite carol.

On the first nerve of the cranium,
my true love gave to me:
My sense olfactory.

On the second nerve of the cranium,
my true love gave to me:
Two eyes a-looking,
And my sense olfactory.

And so on, the last verse being:

On the twelfth nerve of the cranium,
my true love gave to me:

Twelve lovely lickings, (Hypoglossal)
Eleven heads a-tilting, (Spinal accessory)
Ten heartbeats a minute, (Vagus)
Nine quick swallows, (Glossopharyngeal)
Eight sounds, and balance, (Auditory)
Seven funny faces, (Facial)
Six sideways glances, (Abducens)
Mas-ti-ca-tion! (Trigeminal)
Four superior oblique muscles, (Trochlear)
Three cross-eyed glances, (Oculomotor)
Two eyes a-looking, (Optic)
And my sense olfactory. (Olfactory)

Just because.

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Santa knows Physics: Of all colors, Red Light penetrates fog best. That’s why Benny the Blue-nosed reindeer never got the gig.
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Half the parcels I’ve been waiting on (stocked full of Christmas presents for the boys) haven’t arrived. It’s a common phenomenon apparently.

Sucks to be a postie at this time of year.

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Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas.
~ Johnny Carson

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To all my friends, family members, fellow bloggers, and random strangers who came here by mistake, I wish you all the appropriate greetings for the celebration of your choice and hope that the coming year brings all of the things you want and none of the things you don’t. And may we all find peace on earth.

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I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: “Why, this is Christmas Day!”
~ David Grayson

 
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Dear Father Christmas

Dear Father Christmas,

I know that I’m probably too old to sit on your knee now (unless you are that kind of Santa in which case I have to tell you I’m not that kind of girl) but I hope it’s not too late in life to write you a letter asking you for what I want for Christmas.

My Christmas Wish List

1. My own bed. No, not a new one. There’s nothing wrong with the old one. No, I just want to sleep in the one I already have. Because I think I’ve done enough training for sleeping in a Business Class airline seat. Especially considering I’ll never get the chance to use it anyway.

Broken Ribs Sleeping

How one sleeps with six broken ribs.

2. A Business Class airline ticket to my chosen destination.

Business Class

Business Class passengers actually sleep better than I do.

3. The ability to drive. No, I don’t mean a voucher for driving lessons. I already have my licence. No, I don’t need a car either. I’ve got one. I just want to be able to physically drive it. Because being stuck at home is tedious.

Freedom

Freedom

4. A trip in the TARDIS with the Doctor. Because every list should have something impossible on it.

"Come with me."

“You. Come with me.”

5. A Lego Death Star kit. Because every list should have something possible on it.

Lego Death Star

6. Free unlimited postage between here and Lura, Nepal. So I can send whatever I want to the children of Lura who have so little but deserve so much.

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7. Pride in my country. I lost the other one sometime in the past few years and I haven’t been able to find it. It might help if you put a large box of compassion under the Christmas tree for every politician.

8. My last one is not really just for myself. If I’m allowed to put in a bid for something on behalf of others, can I please have some peace? Five minutes peace for frazzled mothers, half an hour of peace in the fresh air for stressed office workers, an hour of peace from pain for the sick and, most of all, as much peace as you can rustle up for those who haven’t seen any for many years.

Peace Dove

Thanking you in anticipation.

Not-So-Little MOSY

 

 

 

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The Flying Beetroot: Comedi, Bibi, Cuccuri

Julius Caesar didn’t know how easy he had it. Maybe he did come, see and conquer but at least he had an army full of Romans to wash his togas, cook his wild boar and clean the chariot. And I bet he always put off an invasion until a couple of days after an orgy.

When one has had to prepare the house to host the In-Laws on Christmas Eve, when one has stood slavishly in the kitchen half the day preparing food for both Eve and Day meals, when one has laboured late into the night to clean up and to help Santa wrap presents for under the tree, when one has not exactly eaten and drunk the most appropriate intake for healthy living, then it is somewhat unreasonable – wouldn’t you say? – to expect one to get up the next morning and run nine kilometres.

Bloody spreadsheet.

But if I had to run, then a special Christmas-themed running playlist was required. Here’s a running version of an old favourite:

Angels We Have Heard On High – Relient K (Let It Snow Baby, Let It Reindeer)

The Flying Beetroot Christmas

The Flying Reinbeet

One of the positives I take from my runs is the interaction with other lunati….er….runners, always giving them (and the walkers and cyclists) a smile as I pass. Or possibly just a grimace, depending on how the run is going. It’s always interesting to see what I get in return. Most manage a smile but some try not to make eye contact while some do but don’t smile back. I always wonder what is going on in their lives that it’s too hard even to return the smile of a stranger.

Christmas Day seemed worse than usual. By halfway through the run, I was wishing I’d worn a pair of reindeer antlers or a Santa hat so it might have raised a smile in the sombre ones. Christmas is hard for some for all sorts of reasons.

I thought about skipping a couple of runs so I could give you a Christmas-coloured spreadsheet of red and green but Obsessive Compulsive Me wouldn’t allow it. She’s been having some huge arguments with Reasonable Me, mostly to do with various hurting bits of anatomy and whether I should be running. There have been tears. Runner Me just ignores them both and finishes the run.

Training runs 5

To mix it up a bit, I ran last Sunday’s 12km down on the waterfront. It had been a hot day and though I didn’t head out until 6.30pm but it was still a very uncomfortable run. A sign of things to come. I’ll admit I also had to stop only a short way into the run while I tried to get over a stitch. It’s hard to see where you’re going when you’re doubled over in pain. Still ran the whole 12 kilometres because… well, you all know why.

Anyway, who wouldn’t want to push on in this environment?

Waterfront 2Waterfront 1To finish, here’s one more off the Christmas Run playlist because it’s very…er…non-traditional but appeals to my weird sense of humour. Welcome to the silly season, folks.

Santa Claus Is Thumbing To Town – Relient K (Let It Snow Baby, Let It Reindeer)

 

(Need a translation for the post title? I ate, I drank, I ran. It’s my new Christmas motto.)

 

 

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It’s A Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Christmas

It all started with an angel.

A weeping angel to be exact. Well, a Weeping Angel. One that needs capitalisation.

Back in 2007, Steven Moffat wrote an episode for Doctor Who called ‘Blink’ and introduced probably the scariest monster the series has ever seen. The Weeping Angels. If you’re not familiar with these gorgeous creatures, check this out:

And then, this year, the ever-increasing Doctor Who merchandising machine introduced a Weeping Angel Tree Topper. You heard right. One of those to put on top of your Christmas tree.

I wanted one.

Well, because we do things a bit differently in the MOSY household.

And we’re not the only ones. I waited too long and they sold out. Seriously.

Devastated, I frantically searched the interwebs for anywhere that may still have one. And then I stumbled across a blog post explaining how to make your own Weeping Angel tree topper.

Oh, that’s more like it. We love a craft project in this house.

I can’t show you a photo of the angel I started with because, believe it or not, I don’t always do things with the thought, “I’ll blog about this.” I was just keen to get started. Needless to say, the $3 angel I found was crappy, all gold and white and serene-looking with ribbons and weird, fat, fabric wings.

Ribbons and wings removed, some new wings (courtesy of a pipecleaner and six ragged feathers found in the craft drawers), a can of granite-effect spray paint and…

 

But, really, if you’re going to put a Weeping Angel on the top of your Christmas tree, it only makes sense that the rest of the tree should match.

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So, have yourself a Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Christmas and whatever you do, DON’T BLINK!

 

PS: Yes, it freaks me out when I have to go past it in the dark. It’s especially bad when the lights are flashing and you’d swear it moved while the lights were off…

 

 

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Cheese Pies And Shortbread – A Christmas Tradition

For some it’s Grandma’s traditional plum pudding. For others it’s Dad’s secret roast turkey recipe. Maybe for you it’s Great Aunt Maude’s famous fruitcake.

Christmas food traditions are as much a part of the celebration as the tree and the gifts.

In my family it has always been cheese pies and shortbread.

The shortbread makes sense. Descended from Glaswegians on both sides, the Scottish favourite is a given.

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It was always made into petticoat tails when I was growing up but I’m rather partial to a cookie cutter.

But cheese pies? I’ve no idea. They’ve just always appeared at Christmas time. Childhood memories of helping to make them are not only mine but belong also to my nephews and sons.

The Christmas baking bug finally bit last week. The Eldest Son had received his final year results, everyone was happy and relieved and it was finally time to focus on the upcoming festivities.

Blessed with a cool day and with Christmas music blaring, four batches of cheese pies and two lots of shortbread were churned out.

The smell of fresh-baked cheese pies conjured memories of Christmas past, bringing peace in the grief of Christmas present.

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EDIT: If you have come looking for the Cheese Pies recipe, I am afraid it has had to be removed for personal reasons. You’ll just have to drool over the photograph.

 

 

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Never Make A Christmas Cake With Baby Brain

Merry Christmas 2

It was a week before Christmas and the MOSY household had only a few weeks before been blessed with the birth of a son. Another one. To match the pair they already had, aged two and five. Life was…busy.

For some reason, Mother Me had offered to make the family Christmas cake. [1]

For some other reason (or possibly the same one), she had also decided to ice the cake. Despite the fact that it was usually left plain. Despite the fact that she had never iced a fruit cake in her life. [2]

So just before Christmas, on a hot summer day, when the baby had gone down for a nap and the other two boys were occupying themselves upstairs, she set out to tackle the challenge.

After a while, it occurred to her that the house was a little too quiet. Going upstairs she found the two boys in the bathroom, standing on a stool together, playing in the basin.

“At least they’re amusing themselves,” she thought. “So they might get a bit wet. It’s a hot day. What’s the worst that can happen?” So she left them to it. [3]

Some time later – a time that was filled with swearing, tears and cries of “why the hell did I decide to do this” – the cake was finished. It was hardly masterful – she’d tried to hide a patched corner with a sculptured bit of icing holly – but at least it was done.

She went into her bedroom to check on the baby. Hearing a faint noise, she leant on the bed to try and work out what it was and found it wet. Very wet.

Huh?

She ran upstairs. Even from the end of the hallway, she could see the large spreading dark stain in the carpet outside the bathroom door.

The boys were standing on their wooden island in a sea of water. They had made the scientific discovery that if you put the plug in and leave the tap running, eventually the water volume will exceed the capacity of the basin. They’d obviously decided to test the theory to extremes.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t as much water on the floor as there should have been. ‘Unfortunately’, because most of it had run down the heating vent in the floor. [4]

The nearest exit was the vent in the ceiling above the bed.

As she set the two miscreants to mopping up the mess with every towel she could find in the linen closet, she went downstairs to call the Maternal Parentals to come and collect said horrors so that they might live long enough to see Christmas. Or even dinner time.

Going back into the bedroom, she discovered not only was the bedding wet but the mattress, the mattress base and the floor. So, quite a bit of volume versus capacity testing, then.

She had, of course, just changed the sheets on their bed the day before, so she hauled the doona off – cover and all – and lugged it outside to the clothesline.

In the midst of gardening works, the rotary clothesline was not in its usual hole in the ground but leaning against a brick wall and tied to a couple of stakes where it had been functioning quite normally for a number of months.

She threw the sodden doona onto the clothesline.

It fell down. [5]

She started to laugh. She laughed and laughed until the tears flowed freely.

What else can a mother do?

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Postscript:

On Christmas Day, she proudly cut the Christmas cake that had caused so much havoc. It was raw in the middle. She’d doubled the recipe but forgotten to increase the cooking time and had not checked to see if it was cooked before taking it out of the oven.

She’s never made a Christmas cake since.

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1. Those who have read this blog are not surprised.

2. All together now, “Of course she did!”

3. I know, I know.

4. Honestly, who puts a heating vent in a bathroom floor??

5. Of course it did.

 

 

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It’s In Every One Of Us – A Muppet Christmas Memory

One of my fondest and strongest childhood memories of Christmas involves not a man in a red suit, a Christmas tree and presents but a green frog, a determined pig and a country lad in glasses.

My favourite Christmas album was (and still is) John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together. It’s how I learned the story of Silent Night, it’s why I can never sing the ‘figgy pudding’ verse of We Wish You A Merry Christmas without the urge to start yelling “Won’t go!!” and it’s why whenever I sing The Twelve Days of Christmas and get to Five Gold Rings, I have to stop myself from adding “Ba Dum Bom Bom”.

My favourite song, though, is It’s In Every One Of Us. I’m not sure if I understood the words when I was ten, but it was lovely to sing. It’s still lovely to sing and now the words hold so much meaning in an adult life of searching for the right way.

It’s in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us
By and by

It’s good to be reminded to look inside myself for the answers I seek.

Wishing you peace, joy, hope and love in the Christmas season.

 

 

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