The Weekend Dish-Christmas Quiz

You know that golden moment we dream each holiday will hold? The one where we’ll pause for one beat, inhale the scent of cinnamon and cloves, look around in candle glow at the family gathered around, listen to laughter and stories, and say this, yes this is what Christmas spirit feels like.
079I know this feeling is something that doesn’t come in a box from the mall and yet, like a hamster on a wheel, at some moment in December I find myself wandering from shop to shop wondering what the people I care most about want or need.

It was after one of these seemingly futile ramblings that I developed the Christmas quiz, a short fill-in-the blank opportunity for the entire family to reflect on gifts of the year while also offering glimpses into what might be treasured under the tree.  I tried to cover multiple topics – learning opportunities, gifts of time, ways to have fun, needed or desired things, ways to make memories and guidance on how to make another feel loved.  These lists guide me, not only as a shopping list, but as a way of discovering how to spend special time together in the coming year.

      The Christmas Quiz

I only wish I could learn to…
I wish I had time to…
A long-term fun goal for me is…
If I had one whole week off I would…
The best Christmas present you ever gave me was…
If I could have one new item of technology it would be…
If I could have one new item of clothing it would be…
If I could have one new toy it would be…
If I could have one new item of self-care it would be…
If I could have one new thing for the house it would be…
My favorite date this year was…
I would feel very loved if you…

My family teased me at first and wondered why we couldn’t just exchange lists like “normal people.” But after the first year, we looked forward to taking a moment to really reflect, not only on the many things that we dream of, but the many ways we do gift each other in ordinary time.

I wish I’d saved these lists from year to year. If I had it to do all over again, I would.  I recently discovered those dated December, 2004 and I’m amused and amazed at how these quizzes offer a snapshot and time capsule.  What was important once, still threads through the things we like best.

When my son was 17, he wrote that he felt very loved when “you keep providing me with food.” My daughter treasured Disneyland trips as her favorite date, and J wished he could “learn to play the piano.” Funny thing is, nine years later, I still show my son love by cooking when he’s home, still know that my daughter’s favorite dates are to the Magic Kingdom, still remember the year I gave J piano lessons because he plays the piano – quite well – all the time now.

You want to know one more funny thing? In 2004 I wrote, “If I could have one new toy it would be an art easel.”

This year, I again asked for an art easel, thinking it was some random new tangent, me wanting a space to create images as well as word play. I’d entirely forgotten my previous desire, but they say if you write something down, set a desire as your intention, that eventually it will work its way into being.

Some times repeat gifts – of time, love, and attention – are perfectly fine. In 2004, my daughter wrote, “I would feel very loved if you do the same things you always do.” So I guess once again I’ll pull out the Christmas quiz. Want to join me this year?

~Catherine

The Weekend Dish

Pritzker Pavilion Millenium Park

One of the many things I have learned from my visits to Chicago is that when the weather  warms up the slightest bit, people come outside. They will be out walking, riding bikes, roller skating and running. So in summer, it goes to reason, they are out in droves. This past week, I was one of them enjoying many of the outdoor activities that city has to offer. As my daughters and I sat on the lawn of Millenium Park on a Friday evening relaxing, enjoying a picnic and listening to the sweet sounds of the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, it struck me how nice it is to just be outside. When the concert ended, I wasn’t ready for it to be over. So we sat there being entertained by all the other lingerers, not yet ready to move on, until it was almost dark.

Pritzker Pavilion Millenium Park

Another night we went to a movie in one of the many parks. Nothing makes it feel like summer, to me, more than getting outside and watching a movie or experiencing a concert. Now that summer is officially here, the opportunities to get out and play are numerous in many, if not most, cities. Chicago has parks galore. Several of them are the sites of events during the summer such as movies in the park. There are festivals, parades and markets and the Chicago tourism website is a wonderful resource for locating an activity.

My hometown of Los Angeles offers many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities during the summer months as well. Saturday night is movie night throughout summer in Exposition Park. Street Food Cinema, features food trucks, a band and a movie. The Getty museum hosts music on certain Saturday evenings through their Saturdays off the 405 series. Jazz at the LA County Museum of Art  can be found on Friday nights as well. Of course, one can’t forget the quintessential outdoor venue in LA, the Hollywood Bowl. Or, check out the lesser known Ford Theatre, right across the freeway from the Hollywood Bowl, for a smaller venue and eclectic mix of events featuring acts from Los Angeles County based artists. To find many al fresco activities all around LA try the Eye Spy LA website. I bet you can discover outdoor activities in your city too. Let us know maybe we will stop by for a visit.

Now go outside and play! Happy Summer!
~ Sue

Butterfly Days

Butterfly by Susan Greene

I’m rereading The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby because I’ve just introduced it to my students.  You’ve never read it? You must. And no, the film is no substitute because watching a man with Locked-In Syndrome go throw the motions of surviving isn’t the same at all as holding in your hand the book that he transmitted, letter by letter, to his physical therapist by blinking his left eyelid.

“In my head I churn over every sentence ten times, delete a word, add an adjective, and learn my text by heart, paragraph by paragraph.”

Sparse.

Urgent.

Elegant.

It’s everything that good writing is and it never fails to inspire me to write a little more diligently.  Plus its wickedly funny at times.

Prescriptive, favorite chapters, in no particular order:

When I wonder if its worth the time to write a note to a friend, to carefully choose my words, to share the thoughts which well within and rattle my heart, rather than let them lay in the stall of my core, I turn to “The Vegetable.”

When I feel trapped, when I want to write what I dream and when I wonder if life is a dream and does that make dreaming as real as bone and none of this is metaphor, I read and reread “The Dream.”

When I want to be snide and sarcastic, even though I detest those traits but sometimes it seems as essential as breathing to point out stupidity, I remind myself to be more graceful and revisit “The Wax Museum.”

And speaking of museums, The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, in our own backyard, opened its Butterfly Pavilion this week.  I haven’t gone yet. But maybe if you get a chance to visit you’ll let me know how it is.

Thanks for reading.  It’s alright to keep the back gate open and tell your neighbors to drop on by.
Ciao, Catherine