The Christmas Sock Part 1

I have long suspected that Rebecca still *believes* in Santa Claus and it was confirmed this year.

I say suspected because I am too chicken to ask outright if she does or does not believe and I am not going to be the one to watch the look in her eyes if she is told pointblank that Santa is not real. Once, many years ago, the subject came up amongst the family and the look on her face when the possibility of No Real Santa dawned was too much for me. I quietly packed up all the phrases I had thought might be helpful and beat a hasty retreat.

Yes, I am a coward sometimes.

So we have muddled along each year and Santa has continued to fill the Christmas socks. Why only socks now? I explained to her that once one became more grown-up Santa no longer left gifts under the tree (after all, only little kids sit on Santa’s lap to ask for presents); this logic made perfect sense to her, and each year her Christmas sock would be brought out and placed so the jolly old elf could find it. I saw it as an act of faith in a world that was normally filled with IQ testing and limitations; struggles and uncertainty. The confidence that the sock would be filled seemed somehow to embody the inherent goodness present in all of us, “peace on earth, goodwill to men”, the possibility of magic and the promise of chocolate. And when my daughter Sarah started quietly filling a sock for me, I knew it was all true.

I have great kids.

When Rebecca moved to her own apartment she always came home for Christmas Eve and made sure her sock came with her. With the addition to her household of her most spoiled cat Twinkle, the cat had to have a sock, too. However, on Christmas Eve only the sock travelled; importing Twinkle to my home which was already occupied by a cat and dog had all the attraction of inviting the killer rabbit from Monty Python’s Holy Grail to tea, and the outcome would have been similarly messy. Twinkle stays home.

So Santa filled both socks. Rebecca never questioned how I knew what the items in the socks were….maybe it was part of some Santa/parent/omnipotent being reasoning she subscribed to. I don’t know; she can’t explain it, wouldn’t understand what I was asking if I asked it and I will just have to add it to my “questions for God after I die” list if I want an answer.

This year when Rebecca brought her sock over it didn’t register with me that I did not see Twinkle’s new sock and in the wee dark hours of Christmas morning…uh oh…. Santa had to put the cat treats into Rebecca’s sock. When we got up that morning, had our coffee and started opening gifts, she dumped out her sock and picked up the treats. She looked puzzled and mentioned that they weren’t the right flavor for Twinkle. I said something like “the elf must have told Santa wrong” and offered to exchange them at the store. I thought I had recovered gracefully enough and gave myself a mental pat on the back. We continued with the festivities, had a delightful day and all too soon it was time for me to take her back to her apartment.



I helped her haul her stuff up the stairs and I was already in the living room when she made it through the door. My back was turned and I heard an uncharacteristically small voice from her; “Oh…..Santa didn’t leave anything for Twinkle…..”.  I looked up and sure enough, there was the sock Rebecca had made the week before hanging on the wall, flatter than Florida.


Solstice 2012

The world as we know it has not ended.

I will not be staying up until midnight local time to be really sure and I will just have to trust that either I will wake up with the cat on my bed in the morning or……the cat and I will both be gone.

I am good with either outcome.

But now I am snuggled on my couch in front of my fire with said cat and the dog (who does not like to get on the bed), all my Christmas lights lit and favorite Solstice music playing. Today was a glorious day; bright blue and white, sunny and cold. Tonight is cozy by any standards and I am blessed beyond measure, having come safely through the fire of the last 18 months. It is a perfect night to set intentions for the New Year.

I have been disenchanted with the concept of New Year’s resolutions for quite some time….maybe 20 or 30 years. They seemed to be an object of ridicule; a feeble auntie trotted out in her finery only to be made fun of.  I think it became a game of how quickly they could be abandoned:  “So, Sue, how long did it take you to break your New Year’s resolutions?” “Oh, mine were in shambles in 2 weeks.” “Well, I’ve got you beat….I broke mine within 6 hours!”


Resolution: |rezəˈlo͞oSHən| noun

1 a firm decision to do or not to do something.

I think part of the problem with “resolution” is it sounds so….dictatorial? Unforgiving? Puritanical? Certainly not very friendly. Anyway…it just wasn’t working for me.

A few years ago I read somewhere, or it came to me in random musings while I was hypoxic during a run, or I otherwise hallucinated it, but somehow the idea of the practice of setting intentions got into my brain. The phrase itself brings a comforting sensation to me…..nurturing; allowing for the ebb and flow of the tides of life; adjusting the sails; rolling with the punches and all the while keeping one’s eye on the prize.

Intention: |inˈtenCHən| noun

1 a thing intended; an aim or plan.

And so I began setting Solstice Intentions:

I intend to continue to progress.

I intend to laugh every day.

I intend to begin to make the 1 anonymous good turn part of my mental health practice.  

These were made in the dark and dwindling days of my marriage and I was struggling big time. They buoyed me, kept me going, gave me permission to miss the mark and keep trying. I just had to breathe and re-adjust my aim.

This year I am a bit more concrete:

I intend to publish my book this year.

I intend to continue doing anonymous good turns; “pay it forward”. 

I intend to practice my music at least 3 days a week. 

Now they are out there and you know them, too. I know you know. There is power in writing these down, kind of like expecting that your homework will be checked.

To celebrate I am going to take my dog out for a walk in the clear, cold night. After all, Orion is waiting in the winter sky and it is already midnight on the east coast!



A Winter's Soltice

by Windham Hill Artists

Song of Solstice

Celtic music for midwinter by Jennifer Cutting’s ocean orchestra


Seriously? A Bucket List?

The last few years have afforded the opportunity for much revelation. Stuff I never wanted revealed, mind you, but when presented with something rather like a large, cold, wet fish flopping about your feet and splashing water all over, it seems best to address the situation as it stands. Or flops.

I felt like one of those fish out of water when Rebecca turned 30; how could this be? My daughter, my kid, my forever-young child was THIRTY. Time snapped into perspective; I was responsible not only for my bucket list, but hers too!

I was stunned.

Rebecca….one day would be…..old? Well, yes…..if we’re lucky that’s the way it works out. Now, how to wrap my mind around this and more importantly, what memories could I help her make?

She had said for years that she wanted to swim with dolphins. She had always been fascinated with them and had dolphin wind chimes, switch plate covers, toothbrush holders, figurines; you name it. So, after some homework I settled on SeaWorld’s Dolphin Interaction Program and I gave her the certificate for it at her birthday dinner. She was amazingly underwhelmed but as it can take a while for information to sink in I was not surprised when the next day she called me almost in tears when she realized what her certificate meant. Once she gets it, she gets it.

Our first day at SeaWorld began with “Breakfast with Shamu”. The food was great, poolside seating was deliciously up close and the trainers were informative and interactive with both whale and people. Rebecca is a shutterbug and a point and shoot digital camera is something she really enjoys. It’s easy to use and she likes photos as screen savers on her computer as well as hard copy in albums. She also has a phone with a camera on it and figured out how to shoot video with it long before I did. She has a knack for photos and seeing what she thinks important enough to preserve in a picture gives me some insight into how her brain works.

The Dolphin Interaction took place our second day. She positively glowed as she stepped into the water. I watched from poolside as Toby the dolphin did her stuff and I silently blessed her little dolphin heart for being there for Rebecca. It was pretty amazing. I splurged and bought the CD of the professional photos taken by the SeaWorld photographers; it was worth it to watch her enjoy it all over again while looking at her album back home.

The rays were the surprise of the park; both the “Manta” ray roller coaster ride (we did that 3 times) and the bat rays that could be fed and touched. Rebecca probably spent $30 and 3 hours feeding them. I am still not sure why she was so taken with them but I swear they knew her after a while and seemed to follow her when she moved to different areas of the pool. I, however, was not so anxious to hold the little food fish and let the rays eat out of my hand, but she didn’t hesitate and I realized that sometimes she is the bravest person I know.

Room service was our big splurge (twice!); for an extra $3 our order was delivered to our room and we sat on our beds and enjoyed leisurely meals. We felt quite decadent and as I had never experienced room service, it was something off both our bucket lists! She still likes to remind me that it was HER idea!

It was a *perfect* trip; no sunburns, great weather, nice people and exotic animals. A cloud shaped like a whale tail waved us home and we watched it until we flew out of sight.

Cloud Whale Tail




Hello world!

Rebecca is my special needs daughter. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but spend a little time in conversation and you start to think “Hmmm……something’s not quite right here”. I’ve always thought that if she was much better or much worse things would be easier, clearer, less frustrating, more defined.

After flailing about in that line of thinking for a while when she was younger I realized it only lead to more frustration and I abandoned it as a Way To Navigate Through Life; it makes much more sense to play the cards you actually hold. Every so often, though, the curtain opens for a second and I catch a glimpse of my daughter without her disabilities, and I daydream about knowing her when she is clear all the time.

But I digress.

She is 30 now and our lives have taken a remarkable turn; stuff I wouldn’t have believed had someone told me when I was younger but that’s kind of the way life is, n’est-ce pas?

Our most recent adventures were in Virginia and North Carolina and the Segway Tour at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina was a complete success.

Rebecca is able to ride bikes and horses and loves Biltmore so this seemed like a reasonable activity to attempt. And if it proved to not be the best choice we would, as my friend Beryl said, “shelve the idea gracefully and wander into different activities”.

We arrived at Antler Village at our appointed time, signed releases, were issued name tags and met our guide Lindsay. Off we went to the Segway corral for our orientation. I was the first to test drive the Segway that day…a sturdy steed that was eerily responsive to shifts in weight and position; kind of a combination of skiing, bike riding and something out of Star Wars.

Rebecca was next and Lindsay provided the perfect learning experience; calm, patient and encouraging. Initially Rebecca tensed her whole body and her legs just shook but when reminded to breathe and relax into the Segway she caught on quickly. After we all rode the practice track several times we were deemed fit to travel and off we went across the meadow road to the river.

We spent an enjoyable 2 hours cruising the not-often-seen-by-the-public grounds of the estate and learned that part of “Last of the Mohicans” was filmed there, how canola is grown, harvested and used to help the estate be self-sustaining and where the herds of sheep and cattle live. Oh, and the vineyards. Biltmore is home to a winery that is so popular they use all the grapes grown on the estate and must buy from other vineyards. The wine is quite enjoyable, the labels are aesthetically pleasing and the “Century” bottles make an attractive olive oil container. Rebecca had gotten the hang of riding (driving?) her Segway and she zipped along with the rest of us.

We had lunch at “Cedric’s” (named after the Vanderbilt’s family dog) and then walked through the main house as we had never seen it decorated for Christmas. When we reluctantly emerged we found that while we were inside, hundreds of luminarias had been placed along the drives, walls, fountain and stairs. The tree was lit and as the sun went down the lights glowed brightly, giving a soft golden glow to the sky and grounds. We headed off to the path to our car and Rebecca said (as she always does when we leave), “I want to live here!”