The Worst Tradition

I like the look of wrapped presents. I know there are people who eschew it for giftbags – lazybones, they are! My aunt Delphine, who is has a wonderful eye for flower arrangements, created some of the most beautiful wrappings I’ve ever seen. When I was seven or so, she taught me how to curl ribbon. (Like the skill of swirling a stack of cocktail napkins without using a highball glass, it’s been strangely useful.)

Over the years, I developed a good eye for judging how much paper to use. I can create a “box” with heavy paper and sharp folds. Crafting tags and flowers out of scraps of paper and ribbon is my specialty.

Please don’t think I’m bragging.

I HATE wrapping gifts. Although the results are lovely, it’s tedious work. When our family’s Christmas gatherings were bigger, it took HOURS.

Somehow during my college years, my father created a tradition of me being his personal wrapping helper. And by “helper,” I mean that I do it myself. At first he used to quietly lead me to the gift-hiding place for the gifts he bought my mother. He would hold the ribbon down with one finger as I tied it and filled out the tags. Somehow it morphed into him lying in wait until I bring in my bags and take off my coat – at which point he directs me to the basement hidey-hole.

One year, he surprised me with presents already wrapped. A group of teenagers were raising money by gift-wrapping at a popular mall. But malls have gone the way of the dodo and Covid-19 has destroyed any group fund-raisers.

Back to the Old Ways it is!

12th Day of Christmas 2015

“Get out a piece of paper or pull up a fresh document and write down every goal you intend to accomplish in your literary lifetime. Write down all your ultimate dreams and then try to write your way to them.” 

-Katz, Christina. “Diversity As You Go.” The Writer’s Workout: 366 Tips, Tasks, & Techniques from Your Writing Career Coach. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2011. 42. Print.

One of the fun things I did this past weekend was taking six books off the shelf and putting them in a bag for the library. A few were guilt-inducing books of writing exercises; they brought me no breakthroughs or epiphanies.

I considered getting rid of Katz’s book but when flipping through, a couple entries caught my eyes. This was one. I like to think of having a lifetime of writing in me, loop after loop of story like a thread spooled somewhere in my heart. Endless. Full of colour and promise.

It reminded me of reading Ray Bradbury explain that he wrote a list of story titles and then wrote the stories that went with them. It took him years, but he did it. Sometimes he had no more than the germ of an idea when he started, but somehow it grew.

 

 

11th Day of Christmas 2015

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” – Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

When I returned from my hometown to La Casa de Tontería, I started thinking about  returning to the Factory. Anxiety about work is part of everyday life, and I started feeling it in anticipation of my first day back.

Just like snuggling into my familiar bed and quickly falling asleep, I find myself returning to comfortable – if unhelpful – habits.

Everyday concerns are like everyday spills; you wipe them first. Other things – hobbies, relaxation – are like dust bunnies lying unnoticed except when a deep cleaning draws them to light. At leisure, it’s easy to think about Big Things that are lost in the daily grind.  Grind? Grinder? Oh, coffee! *scribbles on list*

 

10th Day of Christmas 2015

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.” -J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone

Poor Dumbledore. I’d like to take them off his hands. I didn’t get any books as gifts this year, although maybe that’s good. I’ve been working on organizing what I have.

As a bibliophile, I’ve long been captivated by libraries. Many years ago, a friend invited me to a fundraiser at Meadow Brook Hall, a Tudor-revival home.  That was my introduction to a private library (and a gorgeous one at that). Continue reading

8th Day of Christmas 2015

For the first day of the New Year 2016, I decided to link to one of the interesting websites I read during my DIY Writer’s Summer Camp: Writing-World.com.

I am a relative newbie at writing fiction, so I had little idea about what attainable goals in writing would look like for me (as opposed to some professional writers whose advice I sought). So the post “Setting Effective Writing Goals” was eye-opening.  Here’s a taste:

And that, perhaps, is the most delightful thing about goals: You can change them. They are not graven in stone. They are not chains, meant to lock you into some sort of writer’s bondage. Quite often, they change themselves before you realize what has happened…. (…) The key is to remember that goals are not your destiny. They are simply highly effective tools that you can use to reach that destiny.

 

7th Day of Christmas 2015

Wanda, my octogenarian neighbor, spent some time in the hospital this fall. While there, she adopted the finches of her nonagenarian roommate. The poor woman’s fear was that relatives would set them loose, and her darlings wouldn’t survive cold autumn nights, let alone winter. So Wanda took them off her hands.

But Wanda had her own troubles, including finding someone to care for them when she’s under the weather. (Her daughter-in-law suffers from ornithophobia, the fear of birds.) As much as she loved the birdsong, she started asking people if they’d “adopt” the finches.

If just so happens that one of my new colleagues, who works with impaired children, keeps plants and animals in her room.  The children especially love taking care of the fish and birds. Sometimes they responded to the animals more freely than to other people.

Sadly, the male finch died. Continue reading

6th Day of Christmas 2015

This is from an older Christmas letter of Mons. Alfonso Carrasco Rouco, Bishop of Lugo in Galicia, Spain. Below the quote is my translation:

  • “En el Niño Jesús se nos hace visible el inmenso Amor divino que nos da el ser. Él nos desvela que cada uno de nosotros somos amados desde lo hondo del corazón de Dios, y que Él vencerá todo aquello que nos niega y nos destruye: la desconfianza, el desamor, la indiferencia, el odio y la violencia; y la muerte misma, que parece proclamar lo poco que valemos nosotros y nuestra vida, nuestros amores más verdaderos.”

Continue reading

5th Day of Christmas 2015

Perfectionism is an all-or-nothing attitude; and ruled by it, you will nearly always end up with nothing.

-Mundis, Jerrold (2011-09-14). Break Writer’s Block Now!: How to Demolish It Forever and Establish a Productive Working Schedule in One Afternoon (Kindle Locations 346-347). Wolf River Press. Kindle Edition.

You might wonder why I use this quote for the Twelve Days of Christmas. I think it ties in nicely with this time of year.

Perfectionism ruins Christmas preparation for many people. Just take a look at the women’s magazines displayed at the market check-out!  It also taints giving and receiving Christmas presents. In year’s past, I worried about giving the perfect gifts. And I’ve been really saddened annoyed when recipients verbally or physically rejected my gifts. (NOTE: It’s difficult to ruin El Día de los Reyes Magos. Who expects the “perfect” gift to fit in a shoe?) Continue reading

4th Day of Christmas


Back home again. Didn’t really want to leave my parents’ house – I even put up with The Rack (also known as the guest futon) – but the forecast calls for freezing rain today. So I got on the road after breakfast in a local restaurant and the final search for personal effects.

It was the shortest drive I’ve taken between my birthplace (aka La Cuña) and La Casa de Tontería. Usually it takes 3.5 hours, not including those time distortions caused by seeing the flashback of my life – and that of the driver behind me if it’s a life-flashing double-feature – when an SUV decides to switch to my lane without warning. Continue reading