Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Awakening

When my daughter Amanda was three months old, we scheduled her christening ceremony to coincide with a holiday visit to my family’s home. We gathered at my parents’ church for the small private ceremony, just our family, closest friends, and the godparents. With all the planning and preparations for Christmas, I confess that I had given little thought to the christening—-other than as one event among many that busy year.

As we assembled in the tiny country church, I suddenly became conscious of the fact that everyone my husband and I loved was present. The minister glowed in his vestments as he cheerfully prepared his missals and the font. Suddenly it seemed to me that time stopped. I could hear nothing of the outside world, but every detail in the church was distinct, each dust mote clearly defined in the sunlight. We were no longer fifteen solitary people—-but legion—-as all goodness coalesced in a sacred place for that instant of benediction. I perceived each word the pastor spoke as a flame—-warmth around which we gathered, just as cavemen must have huddled around fires against the uncertain night. The scene was primal, holy, cosmic.

Bewildered by the intensity of my emotions, I found myself weeping openly as the service progressed. Soon we were all weeping, embracing, and celebrating in a magic moment of awareness of the specialness of our love for each other and our belief that darkness will never triumph. It was a moment words are inadequate to describe, a glimpse into all that I wish to understand.

I am just as moved, even so many years later, to recall this special Christmas–the Christmas when unto us, as well, a child was given. We celebrated more than a birth that took place almost two thousand years ago, more than a ritual performed by mere men. We celebrated the magic of our very existence, and the potential for mankind that faith ever renews.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More Than Six Choices? Don't Ask Me . . .

Recently, I saw an amazing lecture about the downside of having a lot of choices. It was absolutely riveting. A lot of studies have showed that people like having lots of choices. But they were flawed studies, because they just assumed that because people liked three choices better than two choices, that it would always be preferable to add more choices. But this is wrong. It turns out that there is a point (and it's a pretty low number) where the choices are actually changing the quality of life for the worse.

Worse for a number of reasons, but the most interesting one is this: you aren't satisfied with any choice you make, because, with all those choices, you must have missed the best choice. Even in corporations, the more choices the corporation offers for retirements plans, the lower the participation in the plans! People are defeated before they even start, because they can't decide. They actually give up the free money because they can't decide. This holds true for making decisions about telephones, computers, blue jeans, entrees on a menu, and automobiles.

If we can hand over choice to someone else, even someone who doesn't know any more than we do, we are happier. Ask any wife. My own husband tells me that sometimes choosing among many options is physically painful to him! He shops for groceries; I buy everything else. Since there are 275 choices for salad dressing, I'm not sure he got the best end of that deal.

Right now, for instance, I have the luxury of some rare free time. But I am not sure whether to do my needlework, read, look at hulu, check my facebook page, study search engine optimization, check Twitter (in case John Lithgow sent me another twitter), or photograph some of my items for my shop on 1000 Markets ( So what am I doing instead? Writing about my inability to choose.

And now I thought of something funny that David Letterman did years ago. He went to a shop named Just Bulbs and kept asking for other kinds of things, until the old lady in the shop was ready to kill him. "Just light bulbs," she was yelling. "Just like the sign says, JUST BULBS." I think I will make it my mantra.

Just bulbs.

My So-Called Relatives

This is my downstairs bathroom wall. Every day I look at these people, imagining their lives, their thoughts at the moment of the photographer's click. Ironically, while I have several other pictures of ancestors on the walls in there, these two aren't even related to me.

The man came with the beautifully carved tramp art frame, all the way from Australia. I have named him Henry. I picture him as a man with a successful business, possibly an enterprise involving the making of fine woolens, or somesuch.

Penelope, there in front of the hotel, is having a much-deserved holiday. Her life isn't clear to me, but she does have a beau. They are very much in love, but there are some issues that need to be resolved in order for her family to be accepting of the match. This clandestine rendezvous is by far the most daring thing she has ever done.

I wonder who they really were. I can't help but wonder what they would have thought to know that they'd be images for a stranger's imagination. At the very instant the shutter clicked, the world I inhabit would have been unimaginable to either of them.

Their presence pleases me. In my own way, I honor them. It's not crazy, is it?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being the Change

Improbably, this innocent-looking pair of eyeglasses symbolizes a journey of personal growth. First of all, I have had these glasses far longer than any other pair in my life because I can’t afford to replace them. New eyeglasses have been demoted in priority. In the past, I took for granted the benefits and entitlements of The American Middle Class. No longer. I remember the woman I was, oblivious to the fragility of a paycheck, but that women is four years gone.

I wouldn’t want to have that old me back. She was more shallow than I am, she was more arrogant than I am, she was living with blinders on. She would have had a problem with the cobbled-together repair to the earpiece.

Yes, she knew the things that were really important—health, family, living honorably. Service to others, to her Town. She knew those things. But she knew them through a thick glass of material comfort.

I know now that comfort has a different definition. Once you are tempered by adversity—real adversity—your perspective on “things” changes, irrevocably. So, eyeglasses break and can be repaired many times. They can even be repaired with an artistic flourish. Who will care that my earpiece is tipped with a glob of seed beads? That other Alyson would have cared, would have felt deprived.

The current Alyson’s opinion:

Puhleeze . . . . Everything is relative.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Basket of Joy

I have been caught up in my task of creating a new market on, caught up in making the market come to "live" status---you know, using my brain instead of my hands.

So this morning when I glimpsed this basket of yarns, I came to a halt, took a picture, and resolved to set aside time today to make things.

And I did make things.

Wow, all this Village stuff has gotten me to consider my goals carefully, and try to meet them. I even made a crocheted flower of my own design and hung it up. It is useless, but it pleases me.

I have a slew of ideas for making things. I hope this week to get some of them off the page and into reality.

I admit I have been "sunning myself" in the good feeling that the market has brought. I have a million ideas for The Village, too. They have to get off the page and onto the screen!

But now I have a community to share all that with. I just love that. I feel like I have found "my peeps" here after looking far and wide for those who share my need---the craving to share with others about all life brings, not just the creative side of our lives, but all of the messy and wonderful and sad and frustrating things that show up along the way.

I can think of many analogies for this, but none better than that basket of yarn, full of expectancy, full of promise, just waiting to be brought to life.