Saturday, February 8, 2014

Christmas 2013/ Candlemas 2014

Dozens of hand-mailed cards still adorn the entryway of my home.  I have looked over them for a couple of months now with an odd combination of fondness and guilt.  No, it's not just you, so please don't feel left out.  I didn't mail one card this year. :(

I'm late.  I know.  I had several false starts at writing.  I had a nearly completed letter that was deleted when my two year-old tapped my phone at exactly the wrong moment.  But I am writing within the octave of Candlemas, the feast of the Presentation, the "old school" end of the Christmas season.... right?  

If Baby Jesus is still involved, it must still be Christmas, right?  (Right?)
(Incidentally, I already received a gift of candles due to my mention of this somewhat obscure feast in my last post.  Given this, I feel it necessary to inform everyone of the even less known feast of "Chocolatemas" which occurs on the Sunday after Candlemas.  This is the feast where readers give chocolate (the darker the better) to their favorite bloggers. It just started.  Gotta love Pope Francis.)

Yes, I know that's a ridiculous excuse.  But I do have others.  Such as: But but but we just took the tree down! Because my two year old loved it like a pet, and showed it to everyone who came in with the greatest of pride and self-importance.  Her righteous anger at her father bringing the beloved pile of sticks outside (wa ha ha) is voiced frequently.  

Now picture this with no green.  You got it.
Also: my laptop was broken for a month and ate the first version of this annual letter, and the Norovirus raged through our home in December.  I'm sure the first version was the best too...

But those aren't the best reasons.

The truth is.... Traditionally I write humorous letters for Christmas.  I try to pull out all the stops to make people laugh at the antics of the Dancause family.  And that's just harder to do when you find you're looking back on the worst year of your life.  I delayed and hoped to find the words to make things more cheerful.  Now it's February, and... we gotta move on or it will be Lent. (Doesn't "Pre-Lent" start next week? Anyhoo...)

So here's the quick and dirty version I don't really have the heart to fully humorize: 2013 began and ended with illness. It started with moderate to severe morning sickness, continued through the slow renovation of our house from five rooms to a decadent sixth: all to welcome a little someone who never got to see it.  Spring began with a death, a pregnancy ended with the presentation of a white satin, rectangular box, buried with rose petals and I don't know how many tears.  

Summer wore on while I learned to ride the tidal wave of grief, and found meaning by working in a hospital helping others deal with loss.  With a strongly renewed sense of "why wait?" I pursued my love of theater in the fall, and was happily selected to play Mrs. Crachitt in a local and quite large Christmas Carol production, with my daughters as fellow Crachitts and past, future, and present tense ghosts. 

My girl (Annemarie) is the smiling boy in the hat (Peter Crachitt)
In the winter, I went directly from the show into the worst stomach bug I've ever encountered, going through my family on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and putting me into the hospital the day afterwards.  I got out just in time for 2014 to begin, and have battled chronic pain ever since... getting slowly and steadily better.  I did have a quote chosen for a calendar, and an abstract art painting was done to illustrate it. Here is August 2014's rendition from Small Bird Studios:

So... I've had better years.  

Now to bring some light to the lighter things: Annemarie

is at that blessed age where she's old enough to be really (really) helpful.  And for someone with inborn super-maternal instincts, that age is 11; she's quickly making up for my long months of seclusion while she was a preemie.  No, that's not why I started homeschooling her this year but... let's just say we are all thriving with this new education set-up.  She has already had several offers to be a mother's helper; when I get tired of her help, I'll let you know.  ;D  She's joined a hand-bell choir and is thoroughly enjoying two homeschool "co-ops" that teach stuff I'm nervous about.  Like chemistry. 

Sweet and just as dear 10 year-old Claire is in public school--just to assure I am totally diverse-- and is acing everything there with all her loomed jewelry-clad friends... she's turning out to be the trophy-collecting type

After her latest ballet performance
(By "acing" I humbly mean her report card says, after all the "exceeds expectation" marks, "Claire is an inspiration."  Wondering what this might mean, I congratulated Claire, and didn't put it on my status because it sounds worse than "My honor student trumps your honor student." So I just saved the news for my "Candlemas" letter.) In other news, she sings opera-style, and plays the harp... which sounds so lovely even while in practice mode...  Which is a good thing.

Cecilia is loud.  And four.  Mostly loud.  

She likes things that are loud, like tap shoes and microphones.  A hedonist who needs to be coaxed out of sweatpants and a princess who adores all things pink and sparkly and all creatures small and tiny, Cecilia has a huge heart to go with her strong will.  She's a handful of hilarity.  And yes, this is would be considered a normal "pose" for her:

Fliss complements her perfectly, and is the quiet dainty companion of her twice-her-size and age older sister. 

With a absurdly detailed vocabulary, Felicity holds her own as the youngest.  Whenever I return home from an appointment, she says, "Mom, welcome to my house!" her tiny hand making a sweeping gesture.  Gracious, and gentle, and all that is sweet, Fliss has been such a comfort to me during a year where I really needed a small someone to hold. 

This year, I feel led to also mention that I have a five year-old named Gabriel and and 5 month-old named Perpetua who have successfully completed their earthly tasks, kids I'm also very proud of and who look after us solicitously from their most excellent viewpoint.  And that aspect of this reality is really, really cool.

Rights purchased from the wonderful CarlyMarie
And we busy, tired parents of six?  Dan works in Providence and will soon vacation in Williamsburg with the rest of us.  He's rapidly becoming less and less of the man he once was, since he braved an extreme hospital-run liquid diet.  We are very proud of him. 

 Okay this is him in college (on the banks of the Jordan River, actually), but wait: actual "after" pictures to come!! :D

And it seems I'm one of those poor but artsy sorts now.... Though I can't actually draw to save my life.  This doesn't necessarily stop my from trying.  Like this charming illustration:

Primarily a dish-washing, laundry-driving, mini van-driving mom, I also play writer, editor, photographer, and philanthropist.  Mostly I blog here, but I do freelance the occasional article, was recently called upon to edit a book (!) and spend quite a bit of time in various meetings, informational sessions, and training events at Women and Infants Hospital, working towards making it a more sensitive place to babies who don't have time to stay.  I'm also very casually a distributor for the non-toxic Ava Anderson products I'm passionate about using now (feel free to buy a lip gloss or glass cleaner and make my day right here, using party # 21945), and very actively into theater these days.  Seems I'm trying to repress my inner hotel manager... that's the field my high school career test indicated I should pursue.  HA!

Speaking of theater, if you interested, kindly ask me about tickets: I'm required to sell a certain number for an "Annie" musical in the first two weekends of May, where I'll be playing Grace Farrell.   My children will be maids, Hooverville citizens, and "the lovely Boylan sisters," while my husband (oh it's really too awesome!:) will be Daddy Warbucks.  We are now "that" family that sings musical numbers while dancing around with brooms and feather dusters.  Just did that a few minutes ago actually.  I will thoroughly enjoy playing the personal secretary of a billionaire, on stage, with my tuxedo-clad husband.  

This is not us.  Yet.
Feel free to give us the opportunity of showing off our talents and/or making complete fools of ourselves for your amusement.  Either way, it will be fun.  

Already, this year looks so much better than the last. :)

I'm very proud of what God has led me to do and grateful I can do it; despite the hardships of this year, we have very much felt His love and caring presence even in--actually particularly in--the dark times.  I hope this letter finds you proud, grateful, and well as well, launched into a 2014 that will be much better than what came before.  May you feel how close He is: Emmanual, every day of the year.

In Him,
The Dancause Family

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