Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Frosty Morning

Garden gate in winter
Most of the snow came on Christmas Eve, and some the next day, but on Monday morning we were greeted by the sight of this - do I dare say it? - winter wonderland.  Frost covered every tree and bush and almost every building.   Winter is my least favorite season, but I have to admit there is a sort of rough beauty to it, especially on a frosty morning.

The other morning I woke up with a song going through my head and knew it was about time to put away the Christmas CD's. Does that ever happen to you?  It wouldn't have been quite so annoying if it had been one of my favorites: "What Child is This?" which my mother loved because it is set to the tune of her beloved "Greensleeves," or the "Carol of the Bells" which was performed so beautifully by the church choir on Christmas Eve.  No, it was none of these heavenly sounds which awakened me, but rather,  the raucous strains of:

"Just hear those sleigh bells jingling
Ring ting tingling too.
Come on, it's lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you."

Now I hope you don't think of me as  some kind of Grinch. I really have nothing against this song, it is a lovely sentiment and sleigh rides can be cozy and romantic - a great activity in winter. But it isn't one of my favorites, and not something I really associate with Christmas carols, and certainly not something I want running through my mind at six o'clock in the morning.  I don't even remember it specifically being on any of our Christmas CD's, though it probably is,  as it does appear in 9 out of 10 Christmas collections. Whenever I had heard it this year, it seems to have planted itself firmly in my brain and I will have to work very hard to get it out of there.  Eventually it will be replaced by something equally annoying.  Maybe I will just hibernate the rest of the winter and hope for an early spring. 

I hope that wherever you are, you can find some beauty in this day and that your heart is filled with joyful music.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Last Tree of Christmas

And the best one of all...

This tree was given to us by the Pastor in charge of Asian Ministries in our church and his lovely family. Today, on the day after Christmas, we celebrated with a potluck dinner in the church basement. So many delicious, exotic  foods, so many joyful people, it was a wonderful day!  But it was not your usual church potluck, certainly not like those in the Lutheran Church where I grew up.  I can not tell you the name of most of the dishes.  No salads made with Jello or mayonnaise, no ham balls or chicken  noodle casseroles. not even any pies for dessert.  There was one cake, brought by Larry and me, just in case the younger children might like it. At least it sounds like a good excuse.  Actually I wouldn't have had the courage to try to do anything else. Although I do love doing an occasional stir-fry, I know it is very American, not at all authentic, and would not stand up next to anything created by our Cambodian friends.  But of course, if I did, they would all be very polite and encouraging, because that is the kind of people they are. 

Before the meal, the people sang a song that brought tears to my eyes.  Both words and music were completely unfamiliar to me but it was beautiful.  This is the song they sang, written in Khmer, the language of Cambodia.

Wish I could translate it for you, but I don't speak Khmer.  My husband and I teach the children in Sunday School, they are third and fourth generation Americans, so we get by with just speaking English.  Being together with the large group. adults and children,  always reminds me of the lines of a song sung by Sandi Patti a few years ago.  This one will probably be familiar to you.  It is called "Love in Any Language,"

We had a pretty quiet Christmas this year, not much family around, but today we got together with the Family of God. What a blessing and an honor that was!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Two more trees of Christmas...

This is the tree that sits in the bay window of our living room.  It has no particular color scheme or even a theme, except it says "family."   There are tiny red stockings. baseball bats, and musical instruments, all bearing the names of our children - a trumpet for Andy and a saxophone for Aaron. There are handmade ornaments given as gifts from students and Sunday School students. There are the special ornaments that Larry and I purchased on our anniversary trips to Kansas City.  And there are some that take each of us back to the Christmases of our childhood.  Though somewhat eclectic, they all fit together to tell the story of our family.

Then there is the Teddy Bear Tree. I am not so sure how this one began.  Probably it was my love of all things furry and cute that caused people to give me stuffed toys. Teddy Bears seemed like the perfect theme for a Christmas tree. although technically there are other creatures hiding in the branches - a couple of poodles and other puppies. a velveteen rabbit or two, a polar bear and  a reindeer - but I call it a Teddy Bear Tree anyway.

This tree always makes me want to sing the old song, "Teddy Bear Picnic." If you remember that one, then you are probably almost as old as I am.  I love the sentiment on this little guy's foot...

"Love Bears All Things."    That says it all...

Have a Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Family Collage

 What an odd looking bunch! Not my latest work, but I will share it anyway.

I have been writing about my Christmas commissions a lot lately. This is not one of them.

I can't show you my completed portrait commissions.  My clients want them as Christmas gifts and each one is meant to be a surprise for someone.   While I am fairly certain that none of the recipients ever read my blog, it is best not to take chances at this time of year. Instead,  I am posting a drawing of my family I did several years ago.  (You are viewing the drawing through glass, as it is framed, even though the frame was cropped out of the photo.)  As I remember, this was something of an experiment. Most of my commissioned work is much more formal - parents in the center, children arranged around them according to age - but I wanted more of a "collage" look for this one of my own family.  I rummaged through some old photos, candid shots taken when we were children.  My husband found a  photo of my two older sisters standing in front of a picket fence and wanted me to paint it. I had always loved the photo of my brother with his pet pigeon and I was really into dolls and teddy bears as a child. The drawing was more about how they all fit together in a composition than about our birth order.  In the ten or eleven years that have passed since the drawing was finished, I have grown as an artist, I hope my skills have improved, though my style is still pretty much the same.  I would crop it differently now, of course, less background and more attention to the faces.  It would probably be a whole new picture.  As a matter of fact, I think I will do another one soon - start from scratch and see what happens this time. That will be one of my goals for 2011.

Now that my last Christmas commission drawing is finished, and all that must be done is printing copies and framing them, it is time to get ready for Christmas in earnest. Not much time left, but that is the way it usually happens in the Burgus household. We are sometimes wrapping presents right up until midnight on December 24.

Still have some decorating to do and hope to share photos with you.  Hope it is a lovely season for you. I love Christmas!!!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Shiny Brites and Bubble Lights

The Second Tree of Christmas

This year Larry's tree sits on our dining room table.  No plans to have guests this year, so that seems like the perfect spot. My husband loves all things antique and developed a special interest in blown glass ornaments, often called Radko or Shiny Brites.  They tend to be rather expensive, especially the antiques, but there are many replicas out there so we can enjoy them guilt free. Even better, new ones are always purchased after Christmas during the "75% Off Sale."

The old fashioned ornaments remind us of days gone by.  Christmas trees were actually that - TREES - and they were chosen with special care and for a few weeks became part of the family.   We bought ours from grocery stores or special lots run by groups like the YMCA or Knights of Columbus.  Actually the"Y's Men's X-Mas Trees" lot is still in operation. (I am not responsible for the bad pun, or the contraction of the word Christmas.)  To us, the tree was Christmas, and we would not have been content with anything artificial.  Well, actually, I was fascinated by those aluminum trees with different colored spotlights shining on them, but of course my family would never have thought of having one.   We used the same ornaments and lights year in and year out, replacing them only when they were broken beyond repair, and occasionally those that had been given to us as gifts. That was before the era of those tiny disposable lights that you see everywhere these days.  Ours were bigger and the bulbs were replaceable.  I don't really know when or where they were purchased, as far as I can remember, they were in the household before I was. There were even one or two "bubble lights" in the set, which I assume had been purchased as replacements.

Christmas is a good time to remember and a good time to look forward, but the best thing to do is celebrate the "now" of our lives. To spend time with those we love, remembering that life is fleeting and that we have not been promised anything beyond this moment.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Angel Choir Tree

The First Tree of Christmas

We are very, very late with our decorations this year. Too many responsibilities, too many people demanding our time. By the time we finish, it will be time to take them all down, but we remain undaunted. This is the tree in our gallery, the "Angel Tree."  All white, all angels and doves. I love this one because it reminds me of the time a few years ago when I was in the hospital with congestive heart failure brought on by a virus,  It was not long after Christmas.  I called a dear friend and mentor, asking her to pray for me and she took the request very seriously.  She told me that angels had been sent to watch over me, I have never forgotten that prayer. 

A bit of a disclaimer here. I am well aware that most scholars believe that these decorations do not resemble angels in any way.  Of course they don't, because angels are spirit beings and don't resemble anything we can see or even imagine. But to me, these are symbols of God's loving care, of the joy that is in heaven and of the wonderful gift of Christmas. I don't worship them, pray to them or expect things from them, but when I look at them I remember and thank God for his blessings.

There are a few other "angels" and a nativity scene that are usually under this tree, but they haven't been brought up from the basement yet. When I find them, I may take another photo.  The painting above the tree is my pastel of Christ on the Cross, and may be more appropriate for the Easter season, but it is also a good way to remember the reason for the season. Besides the painting is really heavy and I didn't want to move it:)

Close up of my "Angel Tree."

On a much sadder note, we had to say good-bye today to a very special man and a good friend. We came to know John and his wife Christine through the Asian Ministry at our church, where we all taught Sunday School. He was only 54, and died after a three month battle with cancer. He had three beautiful grown children and two grandchildren. The memorial service was a tribute to this kind and gentle man, and a testimony of his great faith. We all miss him. But as the Bible says, we "do not grieve as others do who have no hope," And for that hope, we can rejoice, even through our tears.