wide-eyed at 4am


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It’s in the Singing

Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World, Angels We Have Heard on High, Away in a Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear….these are familiar carols of the season. Ones that take me back to childhood.

Music is such a big part of Christmas for me.

We sang in the car – even if we were just coming to Greenville back from my Aunt Frances’ house in Pelzer. We sang many favorites including the ever-popular She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain When She Comes. I was the ‘littlest’ so I always sat in the front between my parents. My mom has a pretty, very clear voice, so we would ring out every song – loud and clear – except Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We used our soft voices for that so we wouldn’t wake up the stars.

While Christmas shopping uptown, running from Belks to Iveys and Meyers Arnold, we dodged (or sometimes didn’t successfully dodge) the old parking meters as we excitedly ran from store window to store window to see the decorations. In the car, I distinctly remember looking at the lights and bells strung across Main Street and singing Silver Bells with my mom. We quickly transitioned into White Christmas, It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and The Christmas Song…

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We always had music in our home. I remember my mom and my grandma – who just played shaped notes – banging out tunes on the old upright piano.

My brother and I each took piano lessons. It was like torture for me but my brother was the master of the it. His hands flew all over the piano playing what was written and whatever he thought appropriate to improvise in. We had all of the Christmas sheet music and books. We would stand around the piano for hours – him playing and me singing every song. Precious memories. I wish we still did this when we visit “home” at Christmas.

If my mom couldn’t find me during the holidays, she would know that I was sitting in the chair beside the Christmas Tree listening to my favorite Christmas album. One side was a collection of my favorite carols and the other was a narration of The Night Before Christmas and some other readings about the nativity, Jesus and the Christmas Star. I would let my mind wander and the lights blur in my eyes. I suppose you could say this was how I dreamed of sugar plums…

I’ve been in a choir since I could stand up to sing. Mary Did You Know in every arrangement possible was my fav

orite after I got old enough not to be singing about the donkeys going clop clop clop…

There is so much beloved music at Christmas – Sussex Carol, Magnificat, In the Bleak Midwinter …. whether we’re singing Bach, Brahms, Byrd, Duruflle or Handel, amazing memories, imagery and emotions are annually reborn.

Much of our Christmas mood centered around our choir music even more than usual since we didn’t decorate and weren’t home for several of the December weekend days. I really enjoyed the altar and Chrismon tree in our church. I found myself gazing at them as I used to do our family tree as a child.


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This Holiday Season

This has been a very interesting holiday season.

Let me start with Thanksgiving. Because I was quick about it and got my Thanksgiving decorations down as I put my Halloween ones away (in the attic), I had my house decorated with symbols of our need to give thanks and ones representative of the first Thanksgiving – and the Fall season in general.

Not much reaching and lifting was involved so a few days after my Nov. 2 surgery, I did my decorating.

I thought that by the weekend after Thanksgiving, I would feel up to getting Thanksgiving put away and Christmas out.

Not so much.

I did manage the dismantling of Thanksgiving, but the twisting and turning bending and lifting in odd positions it would take to get the Christmas decoration bins and boxes down – much less up – was going to be quite impossible.

Unusual Moves

Don’t be misled. I had been working out with our trainer and my strength and flexibility was good. I was even beginning to do some core strength exercises to engage my abdomen muscles. But the positions required to get the… hmmmm…perhaps 25-30 bins of Christmas décor to the disappearing attic stairway and then hand them down to Dennis… made me a little dizzy from the “discomfort” of twisting with weight.

I had never imagined that harvesting fat from my abdomen to insert into “gaps” in my chest and underarm would be sooooo painful and take soooo long to recover. There are actually a couple of places that are still a little tender today – just a few days before the New Years – when I lift things in certain ways.

This is only relevant because it means that we had no Christmas decorations up for the entire season except the Christmas towels on the oven door handle.

Despite the lack of holiday symbols around our home, there is still joy. Joy in what the season’s all about and joy that all of what we were facing last Christmas is behind us.

Not Even the Wreath

Why not just get the wreath for the front door? Well – the wreaths for the doors are stacked to the side of the 25 or so bins. And I can’t get to them without moving a bigger part of the bin collection. I also had no time to bake so the aromas and fun of creating delectable holiday fare for friends and family just couldn’t happen. We were out of town the first two weekends of December (12/3-4 and 12/10) and had heavy duty performances of special music on the “free” Sunday (12/18). We finally began our Christmas shopping during the week to 10 days prior to Thanksgiving and had to continue it around the trips and music.

A Different Kind of Holiday Stress

In addition to these factors entered the sudden workload increase imposed by the exit of two key employees with my key customer….this happened between 12/1 and 12/6 which is my birthday.. Yeah right…happy birthday.

My November was stressful in trying to get back into the swing of things from what should be my final step in breast cancer surgeries and treatment (except for my tattoo date on 2/2/17). It took me longer than I wanted it to. I have had interesting soreness, interesting sleep pattern disruptions and continued side effects from radiation and chemo. (At least my hair is really cute!)

Just as I thought the stress level would dissipate, the opposite happened. Stress of picking up the slack for things that I’m not familiar with and have skeletal instructions for, just hasn’t been fun. Facing quick deadlines that couldn’t be moved that forced me to force someone else to join me in sacrificing parts of our days on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to see challenging projects through ‘til the end… was no fun and nothing but stressful. Today, that project is complete but we’re on to other things that are jumping up and surprising us that were previously on someone else’s plate.

Work That Is Neverending 

Even on this “vacation” week between the holidays, I’m working on things that I didn’t think needed “doing.” What is it they say “No rest for the weary?”

It WILL get handled. It WILL all get done. If you know me you know that’s the way I am. Luckily I have compatriots who are just a anal and OCD as me.

One thing at a time, one day at a time. That’s the way you eat the elephant. Sounds sort of like the way you have to get through the breast cancer ordeal…only a smaller elephant to eat.