Tag Archives: Holidays

The spirit of Christmas

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Two young boys, huffing and puffing, drag a Flexible Flyer up worn wooden steps, banging and scraping. The boys are dressed like dark woolen snowmen from their watch-capped heads to their over-sized snow boots.

Mother stood over Little Sister, dressing her for the occasion – knitted cap tied under chin with a scarf, multi-layered clothing, and hand-me-down boots.

The three siblings slurged through heavy snow in the driveway, past the mint and white Chrysler with its push button start, into the snow drifts. The children are on a mission; they have their assignment.

They trudged a couple hundred yards – past the now-bald monkey ball trees – until they set foot on the school grounds, then ‘round the back to the dumpsters.

The school’s Christmas tree adorned the large lobby of Lora Little Elementary. After final classes marking winter break, the tree was dragged from the lobby and tossed unceremoniously out the loading dock doors. The tree is forlorn now, marked by several bent and broken branches and bent and wrinkled tinsel.

True to the elementary school tradition, this tree is twelve feet tall and wide as a 1950’s Buick. The Flexi Flyer is a scant few feet long, but none of the logistics mattered. If they did not rescue this tree, they would have no tree.

The three siblings dragged the tree past the sledding hill where one brother would break his leg, past dead weed-choked fencing where the other brother would contract poison oak, past the school’s towering metal and chain swing set where sister would jump, fly!, and dislocate her elbow.

Out of the schoolyard and down the home street, sliding down the driveway, around the house and into the back yard.

Much like Paul Bunyan, Older Brother dispatched his Boy Scout ax from its leather pouch and commenced to chop the tree to a manageable height so it would fit in the rec room.

They set the tree in a teensy, dented tree stand. They re-arranged the leftover tinsel then added their own stored decorations. Paint-flaked ornaments with misshapen hooks, delicately and laboriously placed upon bent and broken branches, until the tree brought the spirit of Christmas into the home.


Filed under Personal Articles, Uncategorized

Being Quiet, Listening, and Creativity – by Mickey Baxter-Spade

MIckey Crimson GraceWe take on so many roles and it gets complicated and crowded. Most of us keep our lives full. Mine has been that way. It seemed quite “normal” after all – mom raised eight kids and I seldom saw her take a break.

Over the years, it has become abundantly clear to me how important to my creativity it is to be quiet and listen. The more quiet time I allow myself, the calmer my life becomes. Little things have more importance. As strange as it may seem, I get more accomplished. When I work, I’m more focused. And when I play, well, I play.

I find that I paint because I must. It is an important part of making my life worthwhile. No doubt about it, painting is the best way I know to express what is important to me. Sharing the abundance I see in nature through my painting is a visual statement of my celebration of life.Mickey card

When I paint, it is not only the interpretation of a flower, a landscape, or a still life that brings joy. It is also the interaction of watercolors. Each pigment makes its own contribution to the whole – each color can change. Yellow with blue becomes green, red combined with blue creates purple, and yellow and red meld together as orange. By adding cool, clear water they are transformed into delicate translucent tints of those colors. A vibrant red can become a delicate pink. A glorious purple can be a soft lavender. So many combinations, so little time. When using acrylics, I prefer to work in multiple layers of translucent color layering until I have the depth of color that pleases me.

Mickey ornaments

When a painting emerges (like magic!) consider for a moment the difference between creating a painting, planting and nurturing a garden, writing from your heart, preparing a healthy meal to share with family and friends. Is there a difference, really? Doesn’t each nurture the soul? When creating, I believe we leave an essence of our love and passion for what we do.

Tomorrow morning, as you open your eyes, look at your day as if you were seeing for the first time. Notice the incredible colors around you. Note the gifts in your life. If there is work you need to do, do it. Enjoy every minute. Take breaks, breathe deeply, and exhale slowly.Mickey card 2

Make time for you, it could be taking a walk, reading a book, dancing, or meditating. In less than fifteen minutes you could do something for someone you love. Send a hand written note to say “Hi,” emails don’t count. Put a note on your spouse or child’s mirror telling them how you appreciate them. Bringing happiness to others through your creativity has a way of lifting your heart as well as bringing joy to the recipient.

Now turn on your favorite music and begin your creation, whatever that is for you. Here is a little mantra to help, “Thank you for another beautiful day to create.”

Wishing you beauty everywhere you look.


Mickey Baxter-SpadeMickey Baxter-Spade is a self-taught artist who began her career by opening her first teaching ceramist studio at age twenty-four. After fourteen years of teaching and a move to Colorado, she changed the direction of her art and began painting murals. Her clients are primarily residential but also include five-star resorts, hospitals, churches, and commercial settings.

Mickey’s art career now includes a line of greeting cards, fine art, and hand-painted heirloom Christmas ornaments. She has also found joy in writing her blog and a bi-monthly newsletter (sign-up on her mailing list!) in which she hopes to inspire others to take a chance and follow their dreams.

Connect with Mickey on her website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and on Pinterest.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

Bring peace to the holiday tug of war

DSC01855I’ve posted this article a few times, usually after people start talking “holidays” or when I  hear Bing Crosby in TV commercials. I even got paid for it once when it was published in the print version of Valley Living for the Whole Family, Winter, 2011.

If you have a lot of family to plan your holidays around, this article may be helpful.

Holidays of yore

During many a holiday season – when I was in my 20s and a new mom – I spent an hour in the car getting to my mother-in-law’s house for Christmas Eve. On Christmas day, my husband and I would pack up the car and the toddler and drive to my mom’s house in the morning and then to my sister-in-law’s house in the afternoon.

Not the holiday I dreamed of

After the holiday, I was wiped out and angry. Every year I vowed next year would be different. I was not having the Christmas I truly wanted, and I was frustrated. But, I didn’t know how to talk to my spouse about my holiday dreams.

Why do we run run run?

But why do we do this? Why do we run run run during the holidays? According to Kim Leatherdale, a licensed counselor and therapist in Oldwick, New Jersey, women are naturally pleasers. We want everyone to be happy; we want everything to run smoothly. As a result, we rarely get to relax and enjoy the holiday. And we rarely have the opportunity to form our own family traditions. Many of us have not had the Christmas we dreamed about since we started our own family and succumbed to all the family pressure.DSC01721

The holidays are coming!

Talking about holiday dreams and preferences is not something most couples discuss before a relationship develops or even after you say the “I do’s.” But as the holidays approach, you hear little snippets about what others continue to take for granted. Your mother-in-law might hint about the menu for her Christmas brunch or you might overhear your mom on the phone with your sister planning the Christmas Eve dinner.

Talk now

Perhaps now is the time to discuss holiday plans with your spouse. Decide on a time to sit down and talk about it – just the two of you – before the invitations and expectations start to pile up.

Sit down with a checklist 

Communicate – According to Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, Wexford, PA, don’t imagine that your spouse is a mind reader. Sit down and talk about what you liked and did not like about last year’s holiday and discuss what’s important and not important. Be willing to listen and compromise. Be open to each other’s ideas of how to handle the holidays, demanding relatives, and a demanding schedule. (Fifty percent of the responders to my survey said they felt pressure from a spouse more than anyone else.)

Start your own traditions – When you are living at home with mom and dad, that’s your “bubble.” Once you are married, that should be the most important relationship – you need to move your bubble to surround you and your spouse. According to Kim Leatherdale, if you want to start new traditions in your own home with your spouse, do it.

Tune in to the kids – Be aware of your children’s needs and desires, within reason. If your teen daughter wants to see her BFF on Christmas Day, allow an opportunity for that to happen. Invite the BFF to visit on Christmas Day and talk to her parents ahead of time.

Be aware of feelings – Leatherdale suggests you be aware of others’ feelings but don’t feel responsible for them. Understand that your mother-in-law may be upset with this new plan, but you are not responsible for making her happy – she is. And once you and your spouse decide on a plan, sit down with the families and discuss it together.

Take turns – Has the holiday schedule of visiting been a little lopsided? More time with one family or the other? Decide to take turns – this year we go to your mom’s house for Christmas Eve, next year we go to my mom’s for Christmas Eve. And every year we spend Christmas Day at home!

DSC01723De-stress the day – Wake up, grab the mug of coffee, relax and open gifts, and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”Ask visitors to drop in after 12:00 (or at a time designated by you), and ask them to bring a covered dish like a brunch casserole, a crock pot of chili, or a pan of lasagna or enchiladas. And why not use paper plates? You are de-stressing your holiday – don’t ratchet it back up by having to cook and clean up all day. If you must cook the big turkey, do just that and ask everyone else to bring the extras.

Recession adjustment – Are you feeling the pinch from recession or a lost income? Perhaps it’s time to start a tradition of having a family gift-giving pool or purchase gifts just for family members under a certain age. Or use this time to teach children compassion – collect the money usually used for gifts and make a contribution to a local charity. Or collect the kids’ old toys no longer used and give them to a homeless or women’s shelter.

Have a sourpuss?

I polled about 30 people – young and old, parents and children, husbands and wives. I found that a handful of responders had family members who sulked because they weren’t getting their own way. Again – you are not responsible for that person’s feelings. If it’s necessary to spend part of a day with that sulky person, have an out – plan to go for a walk or to the park for an hour or plan a visit to the local science center or museum (check ahead for holiday hours!).

Complications from divorce

After a divorce, you need to be even more flexible. Add to that a new blended family or additional in-laws. I celebrated many holidays and birthdays a week before or a few days after the actual date on the calendar. I would remind myself that it’s not the date that’s important, it’s the people I spend time with. Don’t push and pull your parents or children into knots just so you can have the same Christmas morning that you’ve had for the last twenty years.

Holiday dreams

Communication and a little forethought is all you need to plan a holiday dream. And may all your holiday dreams come true.



Filed under Personal Articles, Special Events

The English Rose give-away winner

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On Christmas Eve Day I posted The story behind The English Rose with an announcement for a special holiday give-away.

The winner of the holiday give-away for $20 worth of The English Rose pens/pencils is Esther Miller. Congratulations, Esther!

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It’s never too late

Even if you didn’t win the give-away, you can still connect with Collette on Facebook or email The English Rose at englishroseest2011@yahoo.com.

I hope you enjoyed the holiday posts. Next up – a special four-pack of guest blogging tips.

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers