Bits of Christmas Light


My Jewish friend once said he felt left out at Christmas, that the sparkling lights on the trees and buildings “are not for me.” A teacher we both knew told him about the pagan origins of the festivals of light celebrated around the world at the darkest time of the year. “The lights can be for you if you want them to be,” he wisely said. But what if all is not peace and light?

It’s a fraught time of year, I find, with trapdoors of angst, regret and disappointment. If I’m not careful, I fall in. Flashes of memory come and go. Dear faces I’ll no longer see. Sweet voices I won’t hear again.

Some years, I was so lonely I couldn’t wait for the holidays to be over. Other years were so frantic with shopping, traveling, and family dysfunction, I was too tired and anxious to be full of good cheer. A close relative used to joke with me about wanting a Thanksgiving table like the one on the wine commercial – big, happy family, everyone getting along. Then we’d laugh and say: “Those people are actors!”

This week, as I dug out my fancy salad recipe for Thanksgiving, I remembered my mother working hard in her kitchen. She was a good baker, but got pretty strung out when she put on a holiday feast. I wish I could have understood her better when she was still alive. Next month, when I bring out my vanilla-stained cookie recipes, I will think of my mother-in-law and her son’s favorite peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the center. I wish I could talk to her now.

I’ve come to realize that these winter holidays can be just what we need “if we want them to be.” No one knows where the path may lead, but there are things we can hold on to regardless.

Often, it helps to write or read about them. In the absorbing new novel,  An Uncertain Path, by Sandra Carey Cody,  an unexpected and tragic accident links the lives of two young women, unknown to one another, and sets them on a path they never imagined.

We had an unexpected loss in our own family this month, and our path through the holidays will feel different. But that’s okay. These days, Change is my new middle name. My perspective has shifted quite a bit. I focus on the things I love about Christmas: spending time with friends and family, making and sharing traditional food, listening to special music, driving around to see the lights, attending a Christmas Eve service.

I don’t care anymore if my holiday season is as good as anybody else’s, or like the ones gone by.  In the fullness of time, they all run together anyway.  My wish for you is that these short days are filled with all the peace, love and warmth your heart can hold.

Now it’s your turn. What’s the most important part of the winter holidays for you? What can you do without?


Post a comment and I’ll put your name in the drawing for a signed copy of An Uncertain Path.  


The winner of last month’s drawing is Donna Galanti, a wonderful writer herself! She gets an autographed copy of A Time of Fear and Loving by Alice Orr. Congrats, Donna!

Authors In Bloom Giveaway Hop

The contest has ended and the winner of my giveaway prize is:

YJ Wang

who will be receiving a signed copy of my memoir, Off Kilter, and a package of imported Polish candy.

Congratulations to YJ! And a big thank you to everyone who took the time to stop by here and enter the contest. I hope you enjoyed visiting all the authors’ pages.

I’d love for you to follow me and also visit my website for news about my memoir classes and the progress of my new book, a time travel novel about an ancestor from 19th century Poland.

Happy Spring!

And here’s my Gardening Tip:

Since I like to write about my Polish heritage, I’ve decided to give you some spring gardening tips from the Poland of yore. In days of old, there was a folk belief that the egg brought life to the field and assisted in the growth process. Polish farmers placed an egg between vegetable rows to protect against insects. Some buried an egg near fruit trees to increase their yield. Egg shells thrown on the field were thought to increase the yield of rye and protect wheat from blight. Women buried the shells of colored eggs in the garden where they grew madder, its roots used as medication for colic. 

Of course, you can also use the half-shells to start seeds indoors. Just be careful when you crack your eggs open, raw or hard-boiled, so you have two nice-sized halves for a bit of soil and a seed or two.

I’m going to try the egg shell routine in my little garden beside my townhouse. Can’t hurt, can it? So after I eat my Easter eggs (not the chocolate kind), I’ll save the shells and place them in the soil where I hope to plant a few annuals next month. Have you ever done this? Let me know if it works, please!

Now, here’s something for your taste buds:

I’m posting the following recipe, in her own words, in honor of one of my favorite Polish American relatives. If you’d like to read more about her, and see her photo, check out my essay, “You Have to Eat Lunch,”  in the latest issue of  bioStories. 

Ceil’s Potato Chip Cookies

Cream together 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup Crisco and 1 cup margarine.
Add 1 egg and beat well with cream mixture.
Add 3 cups flour, 1 cup nuts or coconut, 1 1/2 cup potato chips and 2 tsp. vanilla.
Mix well and drop by tsp. on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake @ 350 for 10-12 minutes.

Please don’t forget: UNgreased cookie sheet. There’s plenty of grease in these cookies already! 

Don’t forget to visit the other authors involved in the hop, 
conveniently located on the link below:

Authors in Bloom