Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time. ~Bill Bryson

Very soon, I will be enjoying the one preposterously pleasant perk I receive for my pains as a teacher: two months off. I’m anxiously awaiting my travels this year, which include a trip back home to Ohio and my first trip to the Pacific Northwest with stays in Portland and Seattle.

Travel brings out the best in me, which is true of everyone else, too.

travel

Traveling renews our sense of our selves. The essential core of people—their inclinations, habits, and predilections—will emerge in full force once entirely engaged in vacation mode. Travel results in self-augmentation in every possible way. A “putzer” will be content to laze around a hotel room until 2:00pm. A shopper will battle the crowds and bazaars with zealous abandon. A night owl will be escorted from bars at 4:00am.

Many people erroneously suppose that they will encounter a life-altering experience whileHawaiitravel on vacation, but this is seldom true. While being on holiday may encourage each of us to let go of our daily routine, expecting a dramatic transformation will only result in disappointment. On your flight to Hawaii, you will not meet a handsome stranger.

I think too often vacations are sold (and bought) as “getaways” and “escapes” from everyday life. No matter how surroundings change, the traveler remains the center of the experience. Although people may leave some reservations behind when they go on a journey, the activities pursued arise from interest and desire, not a lapse of reason. Despite the brilliant marketing campaign, whatever happened in Vegas was intentional. I do not like Vegas (and will never go back) primarily because it is the antithesis of my life, to which I say, “No, thank you.” I do not understand the appeal of Las Vegas since in addition to being completely artificial it is also fundamentally depressing: the luxurious hotels and opulent casinos built on the foundation of lost money. Moreover, gambling with a group is unwise; a lesson learned when sitting at a roulette wheel with my oldest friend’s husband. Every time I won, he lost, and vice versa, which does not make for a pleasant evening among friends.

Holidays are trancroissant-d-or-seatingsformative when we allow ourselves to do and be what we want, thereby illuminating ourselves from within. I’m an early riser. After fifteen years of impatiently waiting in hotel lobbies for friends and fellow travelers, I recently started going to breakfast on my own and returning to collect my group. I fulfill my wish to explore the city and my friends get to take their time. In this way I have discovered remarkable spots, including the terrifically charming Le Croissant D’Or in the French Quarter, to which I will return if I pass that way again.

Ultimately, the genuine, open, engaged selves we display on vacation while exploring happily, accepting heartily, and indulging eagerly simply reveals the phenomenal people we already are.

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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

Of the many charming Lunt Family Holiday traditions, “The Cookie Exchange” is among the best. The cookie room is the cookie exchange’s attendant miracle: it manifests itself and disappears in a matter of minutes, just like Santa!

ImageMy mother is an excellent baker, and she taught all five of her daughters most of her secrets. My mom always liked to be friendly with the neighbors, too, and from that serendipitous combination of baking and friendly-neighborliness emerged the tradition known and the Lunt Family Cookie Exchange.

Lots of families coordinate cookie exchanges. The special ingredient in our exchange is my mom’s attention to detail and unwavering commitment to quality. Mary Ellen treats the cookie exchange with the utmost importance.

Thus, there are rules of the cookie exchange. Each participant (my mom, my four sisters, my sister-in-law, I and etc.) must bring at least two varieties of cookies. There must also be three dozen cookies of each variety (no skimping!). These aren’t the guidelines; these are the rules.

Clearly, we’re talking about a lot of cookies; six bakers contribute no less than six dozen individual cookies, quite often more as someImage of the sisters will make three varieties. The result: approximately 500 homemade cookies that converge inside my mother’s house on one day in December, transforming the family room for a few hours into “The Cookie Room.”

For at least the past 25 years, recipients of the cookie platters have delighted in the signature delights of The Lunt Ladies cookie skill set. My mom makes the difficult varieties because she is by far the best baker, and is the queen of sugar-coated self-sacrifice. Her cookies are the most beautiful, and most delicious. Mary Ellen makes the delicate lady locks, tiny fruit-filled kolatche, and miniature pecan tarts. My oldest sister, Betsy, has perfected the Hershey kiss cookie. They look absolutely flawless. Her other favorite to make (and eat, I believe) is the seven-layer cookie: a variety that includes chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, coconut, and four more equally sweet layers. Barbara bakes pecan puffs and oatmeal scotchies and buckeyes. Margo makes snicker doodles and brownies. Theresa contributes candy cane kisses and Oreos dipped in white chocolate and sprinkles. Sherry (a Lunt by marriage) is more adventurous and artistic, and creates new cookies every year, often intricately decorated. Someone makes pocketbooks. I bring my two signature holiday delights: fudge, which is the same recipe I learned to make with Jenny Couch when we were 16, and gingerbread a tradition I borrowed from my friend Ingrid’s family.

Constructing the cookie trays involves guidelines. The required amount of cookie trays is 24 (more precision!). Holiday music ought to be playing in the kitchen, but is not required. The lights and ornaments on the Christmas tree should be shining in the window. Ample plates and platters and clear plastic wrap and colorful bows must be gathered and distributed. Any person present in the Lunt house on cookie exchange day will be handed a platter and instructed to pile cookies on top of it, circling the room clockwise, selecting four cookies of each kind during the initial pass to ensure equal dispersal. Heavier, larger cookies are plated first; the prized lady locks always perch on top. According to my sister-in-law, all this exactitude results in a stressful evening, but I can’t imagine what she means.

Hand delivered to neighbors, friends, colleagues, and family, the spoils of “The Cookie Exchange” are an exquisite array of holiday temptation, lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty

Hark on Dudes and dudettes, you pavement pounding Flaneurs accompanied by all manner of Turtles, small, medium, large, and extra large–Hark on and let no buts, or howevers, or althoughs temper your wish to celebrate the holiday season or let a drowsy emperor fall asleep and skip a holiday TV special. Hark once again letting me remind you, you O So Busy Beavered Turtles, to make your lists and check them twice or thrice as shopping deadlines quickly close in on us Christmas celebrants, all wanting so much to so please our loved ones, colleagues, friends, baby sitters, hair stylists, door men and door women, and dog walkers, who make our quotidian days, born in woe and wonder, a little more lovely, a little more relaxed, a little sweeter, and a little funnier than the hurtling treadmill’s punishing pace otherwise makes mandatory.

For like Turtles and their Flaneurs, treadmills come in all manner of shapes and sizes with their own internally programmed demands on we treadmilled crazed sapiens each year getting older, perhaps a little slower, but also, should the gods deem it just, a bit wiser as well. What this wisdom consists of challenges our mind and at times may confuse our spirits for the wisdom we seek often seems to come in a strange blend of especially banal cliches we’ve heard many times before: Penny wise pound foolish. Better late than never. Honesty’s the best policy. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and also of course the early bird catches the worm. Nice guys finish last. Oh yes, and beware the Ides of March.

OK, but why call this wisdom? These lines seem, instead, boring and commonplace, certainly not the stuff dreams are made of or that will soon bring us dancing cheek to cheek.

And by the way, if the early bird catches the worm, is arriving late really better than simply skipping the event altogether? Something doesn’t quite compute here. Why not simply start fresh the next day? I think this makes more sense to me. But what about you, you ever sweet Turtle, dear dear wrestler of age old conundrums, carrying your heavy carapace day after day after day? What’s your take on all this?

Also please ponder for a moment comparing these wise sayings: nice guys finish last and honesty’s the best policy. Don’t we see a conflict here staring us in the face? If nice guys finish last and nice guys are noted for their honesty, it would seem to follow that honesty isn’t the best policy or in any event honesty shows every indication of guaranteeing you’ll fail.

Well, maybe the point here is for each and every one of us to try and put the pieces of this puzzle together as best we can giving pride of place to this seemingly innocuous sounding word– best. If it’s genuinely the best we can do, then that will have to be good enough.

But perhaps we should drown out our possible confusion and think, instead, how the meaning of the holiday season is tied to the everyday sound of bells made special, however, by the fact our familiar bells are tolling to celebrate the end of the year holidays. We can hear church bells, sleigh bells, a carol singing choir’s hand held bells swinging back and forth, and door bells will which will ring more than usual as our guests arrive and we arrive as guests pushing our families, and friends, and neighbors door bell to wish them a merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

bellsAnd whichever of these bells comes to mind first matters not at all for their message remains spot on: Have a very good holiday season. What makes this season so special–more special I believe than other holidays we celebrate, including Thanksgiving–is that the Christmas season asks us gently and sometimes, perhaps, not so gently to suspend our normal routines and transform ourselves and everything around us for a day, or week, or an entire month.

So start playing your favorite Christmas carols now that December is rolling in and hum them to yourself as you’re waiting in line to pay the nice, harried check out person at Target, or Best Buy, or Bloomingdale’s or Macy’s. Hum a few favorites when you’re at Speedway or BP filling up the tank. And hum a bit when you’re cooking dinner.

For the duration of the holidays, celebrate everything you think worth celebrating. Maybe even a few things you don’t quite think are worth celebrating. Remember that this is the time to give celebrating the benefit of the doubt. Celebrate that you’re alive and well, that your family’s alive and well, that you’re checking off your gift list, maybe buying your kids, or spouse, or significant other, or other family members and friends an extra special gift. Let no opportunity for celebrating get overlooked. The point is that celebrating at Christmas shines a light on our lives, on the many things we do and the significance of those things which in the rush and crush of daily living seldom receive the full recognition they deserve. This experience underscores something I find very odd namely, that celebrating small things and even large major league items often proves amazingly difficult to do.

Why this should be is hard to explain. It’s usually chalked up to the insanely frantic pace of today’s high octane existence but perhaps a better explanation lies in a natural discomfort human beings experience when they’re asked to appreciate– really appreciate– the things they do and the people they do them with. Taking them more or less for granted often seems easier whether the occasion is your kid’s birthday or your own birthday or wedding anniversary.

So remember as the wise song says there’s a time for everything– a time to be happy and a time to be sad, a time for giving and a time for receiving, and a time for celebrating things small and large, with a surge of enthusiasm, a sense of fun, a love for life and a joy born in recognizing the many miracles we create and the many we survey which surround us and miraculously appear created for us.