From the archives: A Christmas Story

I first posted this story in November 2010. I needed to read it again, and thought others might enjoy the trip in the Wayback Machine.

There were two women waiting together for their order at a coffee shop on a sunny afternoon, just a couple of weeks after Halloween. The shop was already decorated for Christmas, with red ribbons and sparkling lights strung throughout the crowded space. Muzak-ed Christmas carols could be heard under the din of coffee grinding and espresso brewing.

One of the women complained about how annoying it was to be bombarded with Christmas music and Christmas decorations and all the Christmas marketing before Thanksgiving could even be thought about, let alone celebrated.

The other woman had lived in Spain for a time, where, she said, not so much was made of Christmas – it was a day, not a season. One of the things she said she missed the most, and most enjoyed when she returned to the States, was all the lights and decorations and music that is so much a part of Christmas here.

The first woman listened to this story and wondered, “Who said that Christmas decorations should wait until December? Who said that this season of joy and good will should be limited to a week before Christmas? When did sparkling Christmas lights and decorated doors and shop fronts lose their magic?”

She looked around her, really seeing the twinkling lights draping the menu boards and window frames, taking in the sight of the baristas in red Santa hats pulling espresso shots. She could hear the melody of an old carol under the noise of people ordering drinks and milk being steamed. She inhaled a deep breath of air spiced with coffee and gingerbread, and smiled as this little bit of Christmas magic entered her heart.

And still this Christmas season, the sights of houses outlined in colored lights, yards festooned with inflated snowmen and Santas, Christmas trees viewed through neighbors’ windows, and the sounds of Christmas music both old and new make her smile; make her happy that this season of joy, peace and goodwill begins earlier and earlier in the streets and storefronts and in her heart. All because of a 30-second conversation while waiting for two cups of coffee to be poured.

We rarely get to know how what we say influences a life, how our story helps rewrite the story of another, or what gifts our words may become. To my friend, waiting with me in the coffee shop, I say, “Thank you – for your story, and the warmth of that cup of coffee, and the delight in Christmas that returned to me on that November day.”


Holiday Lights at the Garden 2016

I made my annual trip to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden to see the holiday lights last night. The night of my visit last year was uncharacteristically balmy. This year it was just plain hot-67 degrees at 6p.m. No fumbling for the camera through coats and mitten-encased fingers required.

The new light exhibit this year is called Blue Arches. Come enjoy the garden with me!


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My Christmas Tree Is Full of Stories

I know many people who view decorating their Christmas tree as an art form. Their Christmas tree is the centerpiece of their home for the holidays. Perhaps all their tree lights are white, or only one color of ornaments hang from the branches. Or maybe there is a theme – Santas, or snowflakes, or even favorite sports teams.

That’s not for me. Anything that glitters and can be held by a hook might find a place on my tree. And so, my Christmas tree is full of stories. Every ornament has its own memory, its own story that it holds in safe-keeping year after year. These are a few of my favorites:


My first grade teacher, Sister Mary Cecelia, gave all the children in her classroom a music themed ornament for Christmas 1958. Sister Cecelia was my introduction to music. Because of her, we sang in school every day, and learned all manner of music via call-and-response and Kodaly. My first grade class sang Gregorian chant in Latin before most of us could read “Run, Spot, run.”

This little angel holds her bow with her palm facing upwards, which means she is playing a member of the viola de gamba family. Fifty years later, I begin playing early music in a recorder ensemble and hanging out with a vexation of viol players. If only Sister Cecelia could have known what seeds she planted.



My college roommate gave me this tiny crèche the first year we roomed together. It hung over my desk while I was in college. It has hung on my tree every year since, reminding me of that sweet friendship so long ago.





My first Christmas out of college, my housemates and I were much too poor to buy a tree or ornaments. We found a discarded Christmas tree at an elementary school that was closed for the holidays. (In the ancient days before fire codes, classrooms could have live Christmas trees.) With a couple of dollars worth of felt and embroidery floss, we stitched our own stars. The Grinch is right – Christmas doesn’t come from a store.




My niece and nephew, aged 6 and 4 in 1990, made applesauce and cinnamon ornaments and mailed them to us from Birmingham. The cinnamon scent of Christmas faded away long ago, but this one ornament remains intact, telling the tale of tiny hands wishing their Aunt a Merry Christmas from far away.





Christmas is different in the Southwest. Santa might wear a cowboy hat and bolo tie. Coyotes, not reindeer, roam the range. And Spirit Bears help Christmas wishes come true.



What stories can your Christmas tree tell? Please share your tree tales in the comments section! And on this Christmas eve, I wish you all a very Happy Christmas!





Holiday Lights In The Garden – 2014 Edition

After Christmas I made my annual trip to see the holiday lights at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. This year the Garden really stepped up their holiday offerings. There were outdoor fires where you could make s’mores and enjoy adult beverages, carriage rides, live music, and model trains large and small. The  variety of orchids in bloom in the conservatory was amazing. But the lights were still the best part of the Garden. Come take a look!

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If you would like to see how the Garden lights have changed over the years, check out my Holiday Lights posts from 2011, 2012, and 2013.


Holiday Lights at the Garden – 2013

Even though last night was not the coldest night of the Christmas season, I made my annual trip to see the lights at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Come see the magic of the garden with me….

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Holiday Lights in the Garden

Every year Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden fills the garden with lights and music. I’m sure that by now there are millions of lights outlining trees and creating holiday scenes.

One of my Christmas traditions is to go to the garden after Christmas and stroll the grounds on what usually turns out to be the coldest night of the year. But last night was almost balmy, so I could tolerate ungloved hands to take photos of the light displays. Here’s a few of my favorite shots. Click on a photo to enlarge it to a full-size view.

Happy Third Day of Christmas to everyone!