Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Holiday Greetings ...

Those of you who know me may know that each year, finding the right holiday card is more chore than cheer. I typically trudge from store to store grumbling, "What? Do I have to make my own cards, too?"

I'm very fussy about cards. Not just any cards will do. They have to be the right cards. They have to offer the right message.

This year, I was in my basement rummaging through boxes of Christmas accoutrement and compiled all my piles of cards from Christmases past that had been sent to me by family and friends. I brought them upstairs and flipped through them and one from my friend Elida struck me as particularly lovely. (No surprise. Elida is the particularly lovely type.) I flipped it over, saw that Brush Dance was the maker, and headed over to its web site, where it took me about a half a second to find this year's cards.

Each year, I look for a "peace" card. I don't send out Christmas cards, specifically, nor do I send out Hanukkah cards, or any other wintertime holiday cards. Peace, I reason, applies to us all. And so this year's card reads simply on its front, "Peace on Earth," and the inside, "May all your days be filled with peace."

I tuck a letter inside each card – yes, I'm one of those people. Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will already know the goings-on of my life this year, but for those who are new to this space (Hi, Mike!), this is what I had to say:

November 2008

Family and friends:

It is snowing today. Powdered sugar continues to fall from the pearl-grey sky. As I sit in my comfy chair, writing by the glow of my tree, I am profoundly grateful for yet another year. But lest this letter get maudlin, let’s proceed to a zippy review of 2008:

January: I headed to Dallas for a company meeting. Not Dallas proper, but somewhere off of a highway near Dallas. At a Courtyard by Marriott, the epitome of generic business travel. My friend Ethan met me at the airport. It’s good to have a pal who knows you well enough to know that your idea of sightseeing is wandering around Central Market and ogling the cheese case and the gelato bar.

February: As a mid-winter treat, I booked myself into a little suite at the Hard Rock Hotel for a weekend that included wine, a friend’s birthday fête, and ice-covered steel stairs. Miraculously, a trip to the ER was not part of that combo. But I learned a valuable lesson that night: I need to drink more wine. I also had the privilege of editing my friend Jeff Zaslow’s drafts of The Last Lecture, the book project borne out of Randy Pausch’s final presentation at Carnegie Mellon University.

March: I hopped a plane to New York (Hi, Patty and Barry!) to see my friend Ciarán on Broadway in “The Seafarer.” Backstage, Ciarán introduced me to his co-star (and fellow tall person) David Morse (a k a George Washington in HBO’s “John Adams.”) He looked a bit surprised as he shook my hand. I said, “It was just exceptional,” to which he replied, “Hi, I’m David.” I think he must not be used to meeting women who can look him in the eye.

April: Since I hadn’t gotten my fill of Courtyard by Marriott glamour in Dallas, I picked another city that started with D and headed to Denver with a couple colleagues for a project. There I met George and Brian who were partnering with us on our latest IT escapade. George is a fellow foodie and we became fast friends. I also ventured back into the studio to polish up a few tunes. The Last Lecture arrived in stores and online, as did Hello, Cupcake! by the adorable Karen Tack, whom I’d interviewed for a story last year.

May: During my first full week of vacation since I’d started my job in 2005, I met up with Karen at Sur La Table. She invited me to stay for her class. We made cupcakes that looked like sharks, dogs, sunflowers, and spaghetti and meatballs. Also on my vacation, I took a road trip to Cleveland to see Gemma and Dave and meet their oh-so-adorable daughter Rita. When I came home, I met my friend Cheryl’s little boy, Charlie.

June: In an amazing concert two-fer, I went to see The Swell Season (the cute couple who won the Oscar this year for Best Original Song, and their band) at the Chicago Theater, then Robert Plant and Alison Krauss at Ravinia the next day where the temperature was approximately 20ªF. I now own a Ravinia sweatshirt. Later in the month, I met my friends Chris and Ginger’s little boy, Charlie.

July: July went by in a bit of an unremarkable blur. The weather was nice for my annual 4th of July party. And I ate a lot of peaches. That’s the story for July: “The nation turned 232 years old. Beth ate a lot of peaches. The end.” Oh, that’s right: I saw Coldplay, too. I did not, however, meet any babies named Charlie.

August: Questioning the sanity of walking 60 miles in Chicago in August – again – I embarked on my fifth Breast Cancer 3-Day and met Amy, who has become a good friend. We hope to walk together again next year. One day, perhaps all walkers will be followed on the route by hunky men who fan us with giant palm fronds and feed us frozen grapes.

September: September, too, went by in a bit of an unremarkable blur. The most interesting things I noted on my calendar were the debuts of the TV shows I thought I wanted to watch this season. But I’ve pretty much given up on TV. At least until THC (The “House” Channel) comes along to offer up all Hugh Laurie, all the time. I have a thing for accomplished British actor/musicians who play fictional curmudgeonly American diagnosticians who walk with canes, have compromised quadriceps, addictions to Vicodin, and fears of commitment. See why it’s so hard for me to find someone? But seriously, this year, there was a boy, briefly, but he turned out to be one more “no” on the road to what I hope will one day lead me to my “yes.” It’s too bad things didn’t work out. He’s 6’9”. I could have considered the possibility of wearing heels around him.

October: October kicked off with a Ray LaMontagne concert at the Chicago Theater that was quickly followed a few days later with a road trip to Columbus with Doreen to see Springsteen at an Obama rally. October wrapped up with an Obama rally in Highland, Indiana. In between, I worked my last day as a full-time employee. For the time being, anyway. Now it’s time to start writing the next chapter of my life. Toward that end, I spent a day at the Chicago office of the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation to take a battery of aptitude tests. Turns out, I’m well suited to be an engineer or an architect. Hmm. No thank you. I think I’ll stick to writing, and baking cookies.

November: I turned 39, which means it’s time to start planning my 40th birthday party. I found an interesting job on a Monday, applied on a Tuesday, and went for an interview on a Wednesday. All in the same week. It didn’t pan out, but it was nice to have a bite so soon after going fishing for a job. Here’s hoping that the job fish keep biting.

And lastly, this: Earlier today, I happened upon a holiday card sent to me years ago by my friend Charles. In his very distinctive hand, he signed the card: “The best, always.” He is no longer with us, and I miss him every day, but his sentiment warms me. The best, always. Because always is forever. And we hold all those we love in our hearts.

The best, always. And my love to you and yours.

The happiest of holidays to you and yours. And, as ever, peace.


Blogger Martwork said...

Nice post! Love the recap--I can barely remember what I did yesterday!

9:09 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Oh, I totally refer back to my desk blotter calendar pages when I write my holiday letters. I can't remember what I did 10 minutes ago!

9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you save "piles of cards from Christmases past". What would Dawna Walter (of BBC "Life Laundry" fame) say?

Besides "INTO THE CRUSHER!!", that is.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

OK, how about "stacks"? And smallish stacks, at that.

For what it's worth, I sorted through them and tossed a lot. But some are special to me, from people who are no longer with us or cards with special notes inside.

You'll be proud of me for going through my filing cabinet over the past two days and sorting out a lot of stuff. The recycling bin will be full, the shredder will be busy, and I'll have eco-friendly packing material for the Christmas presents I need to ship!

10:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elida here. Thanks for the kind words. I don't remember the card from that maker, but I was struck by your card this year. Very nice. I, too, usually seek out peace cards, especially in these times. In recent years I've added the caveat that the cards also have to represent some sort of charity. I love to send cards during the holidays, though I worry that it's a dying tradtion. And, oh by the way, I still have my 2006 and 2007 cards sitting in a basket.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Hello, friend. You are most welcome. (It's an Elida day. I was cleaning out my filing cabinet earlier and ran across a letter from you from 1994. I guess I don't clean out my filing cabinet very often!)

I like the idea of supporting a charity of some sort through cards. I found some that fulfilled that mission this year, but they were a bit pricey. Next year, though, when I'm working again around the holidays, that'll be the route I take.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a friend who saves my letters because she thinks I'm going to be famous. She's crazy! Hmmm ... 1994? I must have been in Minnesota.

3:25 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Yup, you had just moved back to take (re-take?) the job at the Strib.

As for being famous, I don't have a lot of friends who own Emmys but you're one of 'em.

3:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know that even though I have never met you, I believe you would be an excellent friend. I'm glad Dave had a link to your blog on his as I love reading what you have to say. Regards.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

That's very kind. Thank you.

7:25 PM  

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