Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Merry Wonder, 2009.

Dear Ones,

We wish you a most Merry Christmas, and Happy Solstice and New Year – as we welcome more light into our days, prepare for the arrival of the innocent infant, and relinquish the old to welcome the new.

It’s the first year in many (despite not actually having sent most of last year’s out) that I simply decided not to do paper and photograph cards with postage. Following a particularly lean year in national and personal economic downturn, I felt it important to simplify and be better stewards of our resources. We as a family chose to forgo having a tree as well. Instead, we trimmed down our gift lists, and donated our extra warm layers to those who needed to put them to immediate use. We purchased bicycles for a family through St. Luke’s Community House Christmas giving program --we adopted a family with a few friends-- and have done a gigantic purge of toys and clothes and household resources, reallocating them to where the need is greater than our own. It feels more in alignment with the Season than other choices we might have made this year.

The Mister has continued to work two jobs, in the warehouse at The Great Escape (a record, comics, and collectibles store), and at WPLN Nashville Public Radio as weekend announcer, a post he’s held for six years now. Following some restructuring at the store-- which also entailed a reassignment and substantial paycut --came a lot of soul searching. The Mister decided upon a new career and life path: he begins a Masters program in Education – the Art of Teaching, K-6 – in January. The program is designed for non-traditional working adult students, so he’ll be rejiggering his schedule some, and in eighteen months, should be ready to lead his own classroom in elementary education. We’re all very excited for him, and proud of his high achievement scores on the Praxis exam. A recent trip to Costco prompted Ziggy to choose a bundle of socks from a display which featured a man wearing a backpack, “Oh, LOOK, Mama,” he cried. “School socks! We need to get these for Daddy, because he is going to school and will teach school! School socks are very important.” Of course, we made the purchase.

Mid year, I began a whole new life phase, working outside the home rather than from home or toting my child all the time. Ziggy and I finished up our 9 month program at RIP (Regional Intervention Program) in the nick of time for me to hold regular office hours. The progress we made at RIP with his separation anxiety and our mutual acquaintance with current schooly schedules and rule allowed Ziggy to enter a preschool program at a church with hardly a blink. Only weeks later did he tell me from his confessional seat in the back of the car on our commute, “I was a little scared when I started my new school, Mama. But now I’m not, because I got used to it.” I assured him that when I began my new job as Coordinator of the Nashville Peace & Justice Center, I, too, was a little scared. And yet we’ve both bravely faced our fears. I’m working more now than originally, which also means he’s in school more, and he does accompany me to work in the field and at the office with some regularity.

Now four and sporting newly short and “stylish” hair, Ziggy is having a very sweet experience at school. There he feels valued and loved and comes home with new songs and stories and craft projects to share. His teachers have grown dear to us, we love and appreciate them so. He’s made new friends and my intent to homeschool seems to have been bypassed due to circumstance. “I’m different than so-and-so’s kids,” Ziggy regularly says. Our fifty mile roundtrip commute from place to place affords us the latitude to enjoy music (Polyphonic Spree, Jason & the Scorchers and things that “rock out”) as well as audio books (Jigsaw Jones mysteries and the highly recommended The Secret History of Tom Trueheart) We also have a great deal of time for intensely inquisitive conversation which ranges from what boys like versus what girls like to how many Gods there are, to why the people lined up at the mission don’t have jobs or enough to eat.

We’ve joined the arena of organized sports, something Ziggy could hardly wait for, and the boy and I love our Open Doors membership at the Y for giving us this opportunity (as well as the outdoor pool all summer, indoor exercise classes and equipment all year, and access to hang out with some dear friends.) Soccer was in the fall, and was a hoot, as much an entertainment for the parents as well as a full-on experience for the boys and girls. The Mister lent a hand when needed to redirect kids on the field or to use our Coach’s video camera, and I somehow became “Mom” both on and off the field to even the coaches. Currently one evening a week and Saturday mornings are devoted to the dojo, Sensei Stonerock, and karate. Thus far, the physicality and the discipline well match Zig’s visceral and spirited athleticism and persona.

The Mister and I well enjoyed our New Year tradition of watching a series over several nights / weekends – this year, we borrowed Deadwood and loved it for its Shakespearian drama and dialogue and superb storytelling. We also made it out to a few events in a darkened theatre where we held hands and I ate copious amounts of popcorn. Hands down, our favorite of these was the This American Life Live!, wherein one of our most well loved public radio shows was broadcast visually, simultaneously, at theatres across the country. Other books, movies and things we’ve enjoyed individually or as a family this year include the Fantastic Four, pirate and other imaginary play, Pippi Longstocking, The Children of Noisy Village, Frank Bruni’s autobiography, Facebook, growing vegetables, playing board games, Farmer Jason shows, and church.

Yes, church. We began attending Belmont United Methodist Church last year, then took a break for a number of months, and are now back onboard, with imminent plans for Ziggy and me to become members. The Mister and I have been particularly pleased with Belmont’s work with immigrants through Justice for Our Neighbors, its Golden Triangle ministry, progressive stance on reconciling ministries and public opposition to the English Only initiative. We like the intergenerational family atmosphere at Belmont, the outstanding music ministry and the opportunity to participate. Too, the boy and I enjoy the weekly church suppers and programs, the mix of both tradition and progressive theology, and lots of families with children involved in service and outreach, something we long to share with others in consistent community.

Ziggy and I regularly visit with my folks --Papa and Diggy -- and my sister Dana and her family in East Tennessee. We head across the plateau, which is a three hour drive each way, every few weeks. The cousins play, we swim all summer, and the adults enjoy Scrabble, especially when brother Jeff and his wife Laura are down from Boston. Diggy came to Nashville a few times during the year, and Papa joined her on a trip to celebrate at Ziggy’s fourth birthday party, a big neighborhood community center all ages affair with old fashioned games and picnic foods and punch in a big bowl. We also conspired with Papa and Dana recently to give a surprise birthday party for Diggy! Occasionally, Ziggy and I meet Papa and / or Diggy at the Cracker Barrel in Cookeville to lunch and visit midway between our cities. I also get together regularly – in Chattanooga or Fayetteville -- with my “other sisters” collectively known as The Chicks. These are the friends made over half my life ago at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. We’re closer than ever before, and our children all know and love one another; Ziggy calls theme his cousins. What a blessing.

The Babcocks, too, are a blessing. Grandma and Grandpa came through town for a few days twice this year as part of their annual road trips. In August they got to spend time with The Mister and Ziggy in particular, while I worked, and then some special time just with Ziggy while his dad and I went out on a rare date. And we had a truly wonderful visit with them over a long Memorial Day weekend in which we harvested rhubarb, and Ziggy helped Grandpa raise the flag on the pole. This traditional visit also includes rousing games of croquet and eenie-eye-over with the extended Christenson clan. This year was particularly special, and in hindsight, bittersweet, as it was the last visit we had with Great Grandma Frieda. She passed away in November, at 93, after having suddenly taken a turn in health. The Mister was able to head north to Michigan to be with family for a full week, keeping his folks company and being a part of the family memorializing. His presence was of particular comfort in the absence of sister Ingrid who couldn’t get away from London quickly enough, and brother Kirk who awaits the imminent birth of his third child in Wyoming. The Mister led his cousins in carrying (Great) Grandma’s casket, and came home with lots of stories and warm feeling. He has written a beautiful account of his time during the week of Grandma’s death. I’m sure he’d be glad to share it with you if have interest.

Both The Mister and I entered the year heavier and tireder and more stressed out than is optimal. We’re working on that in myriad ways. We’ve both trimmed down a bit, he both more quickly and more substantially than me, and we partake in regular family physical activity as well as individual pursuits. Year after year, we enjoy the nearby Shelby Bottoms Greenway in every season, and this fall was particularly beautiful for getting out for hikes and time spent in nature, usually with the family dog, Bert, in tow. My gardens and our CSA shares for meat, eggs and produce keep us healthily fed; I continue to delight in cooking for my family and friends, who continue to enjoy good eating.

My year has largely been spent mothering, homemaking, gardening, blogging, volunteering, and working. I LOVE my job. I work three-quarter time, and so enjoy using my brain and my heart and my experience to both earn, and make the world better. I’ll be working in the coming year on development in particular, as well as creating actions, campaigns, educational and outreach programs as well as coordinating our member organizations.

I’ve also become recently aware that in all the years I wasn’t going to grad school and creating and impressive career path, I was learning how to form deep and abiding friendships, a treasure in my crown, no more an apology. (Also the very heart of the community organizing I’ve been doing these nine years in Nashville.) Today, in addition to full outer circles of community, I am more than blessed with a bounty of dear women friends (and often by extension, their families) – I just could not do it (as well, or cheerfully) without them. As a newer friend recently said, “How did I ever get such sexy, smart and spiritually wise friends?” Indeed. That extends from the oldest to the newest of “my girls,” who dwell both near and a bit far away. My husband wisely notes how these relationships benefit all of us and are a dear thing to behold. We take care of each other’s children, volunteer for each other’s organizations, drive across town or state or the region, and show up with meals, hugs or cups of tea when needed. We have each other’s backs in both joy and in sorrow, and often answer calls from one another late into the night and before the sun comes up. We’re not afraid to cry, but I’d venture to say we laugh far more often. We lean into each other’s companionship on the journey. My cup runneth over.

From our home to yours, we wish you joy in the Season, and peace in the coming year, along with a great deal of companionship for the journey.

With love,
Ms. Booty Homemaker, for The Mister and Ziggy, too


  1. Beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Merry Christmas, Ms. Booty. Thank you for the uplifting letter.