The Pang – and Danger – of Nostalgia

nostalgia-wallpapers_37124_2560x1920Although I have rarely been dissatisfied by the world at any age, I get this kind of pang a lot and perhaps more intensely because of it. In fact I tend to glorify the world of times gone by. Different things can trigger it: sometimes it’s an item I haven’t seen in a long time, or an old photo. It can be from my own childhood, or even from when my kids were little.

It can be triggered by something as simple and silly as seeing Christmas decorations or pictures well after the holiday is done and all the accoutrements are packed away (confession: this just happened to me again today – for like the 10th time since Christmas – when I saw a friend’s old posting on FB from Christmas-time).

For me, who has a tendency to relish the past, I have to exercise balance when and how I can.

For many years, I could indulge my love of the past in a purely historical sense, writing my heavily-researched but still highly-fictionalized medieval romances.

Then, when I started writing Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, I got to spend some significant time in MY past – a practice that was actually both painful but ultimately cathartic after my father died (I’d only written about 70 pages of the 420 page manuscript when he died).

Here’s a snippet from an actual letter Pa wrote to me years ago, that I ended up using in the later part of Moose Tracks. I like his philosophy and try to remember it as often as I can:

“What was it that Scarlett O’Hara said? Tomorrow is another day!? Here are some thoughts about that: You can re-live the past but you cannot re-live the future. We dumb humans (there is no other kind) get ourselves all screwed up with more than one time base. We are forced to live in the present with minutes and hours and days and years. Everything is pretty linear, and if we stayed in the present our lives would pass linearly.

When you are young, you have a little past, the present, and a lot of future. When you are middle-aged, you have a lot of past, the present, and a lot of future. When you get old, you have a real lot of past, the present, and a little future. Notice that the only thing that doesn’t change is the present.

When you are young, you waste time looking forward to the future. When you are middle-aged, you waste time looking both to the past and to the future. When you get old, you waste time looking to the past. The problem is you can look back more than once. There are some moments in my life from many years ago that I probably have spent hours re-living. But those hours were lost to my present, never to be given back to me. It’s up to me that any re-living of my past is worth the price of time in the present..

I’ve come to realize that you can only live now. Don’t get hung up on the past or wait for the future.

Living is only for now!

The more that can be true, then the longer you live. Think about it awhile.”

So when that pang of nostalgia hits, I try to follow this idea: to allow the pang its moment, and then remember that this moment, too, will someday be part of the past. I try to live it now and to its fullest and  not be too sad in missing what’s gone before.

How about you – do you struggle with nostalgia, or are you someone who loves to throw out the old to make way for the new?

Un-decorating…And Fresh Starts

happy-new-year-wallpapers-hd-2Yesterday was one of my least favorite days of the year for one reason: On January 1st, I un-decorate from the holidays.

It’s good to clear out after the holidays, but in my house, it’s a huge job that, like all things having to do with household décor, I get to do 99% by myself.

It’s my own fault. I love to create a homey, warm atmosphere, especially at the holidays, and I have a plethora of items with which to do that (remember my post about the bathroom tree? LOL. Yeah, as one of my friends mentioned, I might need a decorating intervention). 🙂

imageBut the result is that on un-decorating day, my dining room (where I gather all the stuff to put it away into specified containers, boxes, bags etc and haul them back down to the basement) looks for a while like a holiday yard sale. imageAs you can see from these two pics.

It’s an all-day process to remove everything from the rooms where I’ve decorated (which is basically the downstairs…I don’t do the upstairs), not to mention un-decorating the big tree (which is real and therefore I need to vacuum once I’ve gotten it out of the house).

At the end I have a strangely empty-looking house. imageMy dining room looks kind of sterile and imagemy mantel looks bare.

Overall, I’m glad when it’s done. It IS a fresh start, and it’s nice to have everything de-cluttered. Now if only I can keep it that way!

This will be a new year for me in that, as of February 3, 2015, I will have published a book for the very first time entirely through my own choices and arrangements of hiring independent contractors, rather than working with my traditional publisher (HarperCollins) or my former independent publisher (Cool Gus Publishing). Copyright M. Reed McCall, Mary Reed McCall, novel, writing, writer, author, book, Moose Tracks on the Road to Heaven, preorderMoose Tracks on the Road to Heaven marks a new phase in my life. After a long time away from the book scene, I hope to provide some enjoyment, provoke thought, and entertain anyone who decides to give the novel a try. Anyone here who wants to know more about the book in general can click the highlighted title above. To read an excerpt you can click on cover to the left, here.

So, Happy New Year to all of you. May this year hold many good things, times spent with people you enjoy, health, and success. Onward and upward, 2015! 🙂

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Is This Odd?

I love to decorate for various occasions as has been established. 🙂 But my husband has teased me about one of my decorations for several years now (though he admitted recently that he’s come to like it!)

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The tree with the bathroom lights on

I have a little Christmas tree in the downstairs bathroom.

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The tree with the bathroom lights off

It’s cute. Almost like a nightlight. I really enjoy it, and I miss it when January 1 rolls around and I have to put it (and all the other decorations) away.

How about you? Do you have an opinion about this – or an odd decorating place of your own to share?  🙂

Christmas at the Homestead…and A Stollen Recipe

ChristmasWell, I suppose the stollen could  be served anytime. But we always had it on Christmas.

It’s a little fussy to make and takes a few hours, between rising, baking and frosting, but the results are worth it and SO good with coffee. The pic above is of a later years Christmas morning at the Homestead…the entire living room used to be filled like this when all of us kids lived at home. My poor mother would be wrapping until 2:00am most Christmases. 🙂

Here’s the stollen recipe; it’s from a 1965 edition of Family Circle Magazine, and my mother has been making this every year for my entire life. Once I got married and started my own family, I began making it as well – though mine never turn out as nice as Ma’s do!

STOLLEN
BREADS — Yeast

Bake at 350° for 35 minutes…makes 2 large loaves

1 cup seedless raisins
1 cup (8-ounce jar) mixed chopped candied fruits
1/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine
2 envelopes active dry yeast
OR: 2 cakes compressed yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
5 cups sifted regular flour
1 cup chopped blanched almonds (I use finely chopped walnuts instead)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cinnamon-sugar (I use a lot more)

imageCombine raisins, candied fruits, and orange juice in a small bowl.

imageScald milk with sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter or margarine; cool to lukewarm.

Sprinkle or crumble yeast into very warm water in a large bowl. (“Very warm” water should feel comfortably warm when dropped on wrist.) Stir until yeast dissolves, then stir in cooled milk mixture, eggs, and lemon rind.

imageBeat in 2 cups of the flour until smooth; stir in fruit mixture, almonds, and nutmeg, then beat in just enough of remaining 3 cups flour to make a stiff dough.

Knead until smooth and elastic on a lightly floured pastry cloth or board, adding only enough flour to keep dough from sticking (this is the part that’s always tough for me…figuring out how much to knead it, because there are ingredients in the dough that prevent it from being “smooth” and so difficult to tell if it’s “elastic” yet. If the dough springs back a little when you poke it, then it’s good). 🙂

imagePlace in a greased large bowl; cover with a clean towel.

imageLet rise in a warm place, away from draft, 2 hours, or until double in bulk. I use my oven’s “proofing” setting, because it keeps it draft-free and just warm enough.

imageIt should look like this on the left when ready for the next step.

Punch dough down; knead a few times; divide in half. imageRoll each into an oval, 15×9; place on a greased large cookie sheet. Melt remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine in a small saucepan; brush part over each oval; sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar; imagefold in half lengthwise.

Cover; let rise again 1 hour, or until double in bulk. Brush again with part of the remaining melted butter or margarine.

imageBake in moderate oven (350°) 35 minutes, or until golden and loaves give a hollow sound when tapped. While hot, brush with remaining melted butter or margarine; cool on wire racks.

When cool, frost and decorate. imageI use a basic white icing (butter, confectioner’s sugar, a little vanilla and a couple tablespoons of milk), decorated with cut red and green cherries.

It’s really great with coffee…and with just the white frosting, you could serve it anytime!

Seasonal Images From My Home To Yours

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The tree and decorated mantel in my living room. My chair is the one closest to the shelves; my husband’s is nearest to the camera

Now that my grades are in for the five weeks (even though I just got in another eight inch stack to grade over the holidays) I have a little time to breathe and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. I thought I’d share a few images from around my house, since I’m a home body and I love to decorate for whatever occasion I can. 🙂

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A little glass of eggnog with nutmeg gets things going.

imageThis “mistletoe crystal” was a gift from a friend last year. I think it looks really pretty hanging from the chandelier in our dining room.

imageFor me, Christmas-time wouldn’t be complete without some old-fashioned, “clove” oranges. The tradition of using cloves stems back further than medieval times, but the use of clove-studded oranges for scent and sight became very popular in the Victorian era. I made these last weekend (it doesn’t take long) and used the old iridescent fruit bowl my parents bought for me at an old antique/second-hand shop a couple of decades ago, perched on the silver case my sister-in-law bought for my husband and me when we got married 24+ years ago.

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A close-up of the some of the lights and decorations on the mantel. I think this looks a little like a Christmas card design, don’t you?

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And a shot of our sweet English shepherd, Cassie, snoozing under the Christmas tree. So cozy!

I hope you’re getting some opportunities, whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, or nothing at all, to enjoy the different pace of the season.

A Blatantly Christmas Post and Music Video

As the title says, this is a post with an embedded video (just published this month) that I find incredibly beautiful, inspirational, and moving, with gorgeous music and images…and an ending that makes me tear up a little every time.

But it’s blatantly Christmas-focused (the focus is a traditional carol and the connection of the season to the history that inspired it), so if that is not your thing, or Christmas-related material bothers you, then feel free to go on to read someone else’s posting of the day.

For everyone else, I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. 🙂

 

The Juggling Act

superwoman4This is how many of us feel on a regular basis (or maybe it’s just me, but I’m going to phrase it like that because it makes me feel better to pull you all into my circus, LOL).

173093__new-year-new-year-holiday-girl-smile-mood-gifts-juggling_pThrow in some of this (because the holiday preparations are in full swing, with decorating, shopping, baking, cooking, and most important of all, spending time with each other, which is the foundation of good memories):

????????And this (because my five weeks grades are due Tuesday)…

 

Final Front Moose Tracks on the Road to HeavenAnd this (because final issues for the book always crop up and require attention, from setting up accounts to creating TOC lists, to creating cover letters and mailing out review copies and trying to build some promotional efforts)…

And I have brewing a perfect storm of craziness that quickly escalates stress to red-line levels. Like on a daily basis. Tempers can flare and cause reactions that definitely don’t add to the serenity of life. 🙂

perfect-mumsAs a mom (even though my girls are teens they still have a gazillion activities, sports, and social issues to navigate), it’s easy to start to feel like this:

What to do?

live-in-the-momentI don’t have any silver bullet, I’m afraid. All I can offer is an idea that occasionally helps me to slow down so I can process what’s happening. It helps me to deflate some of the intensity of stress when it begins to overwhelm: Just live in the moment.

Attitude affects everything, whether its the day-to-day grind or the challenges of facing illness and pain (when my father was undergoing chemo and treatment during his final illness, he reiterated that to me many times, and one of the moments he was most proud was when his doctor’s office staff pooled to together and gave him a little pin that said “Great attitude award”, because he had one of the best they’d ever worked with).

While we can manage some things (like schedules or what we add to them by saying “yes” to too many things), there is much we can’t control. Much that just has to get done and needs that have to be met.

They will be. It will all work out. Just consider what this poster says. It helps. It really does. 🙂

11568-Be-Free-Live-In-The-Moment

 

Anyone else have tips for getting through stressful times?