The advent of the holiday season

"Cats and Christmas trees don't mix well.. baubles are a constant fascination, designed, of course, for cats. The pine needles are perfect for scratching cat's backs as well (again by design, naturally) and the lower branches will thus be bare within a few hours ;-)"

I must prepare for this! Last year we didn't put up a tree because the kittens were six weeks old, and it seemed like too much temptation. This year we're getting brave.As for my lack of comments lately—you know, brain death after a workday can be pretty vicious. For about the past week or two, I've been banging my head pretty hard against a couple of designs that I've got to get out to clients, and every night I'd go into the computer room, look at the computer, and think…

"I don't want to touch a keyboard."

So I've read myself to sleep every night—quite early, usually. It's helped me keep my head above water.

Last night I got my first reminder that it's the beginning of the holiday season. While stopping by Publix to pick up some food for last night's dinner, I walked smack into a holiday demo-fest. (I wondered why there had been so many cars in the parking lot.) When I walked in, the first thing I heard were Christmas carols—played by a middle-aged woman sitting at a white baby grand piano.

After shaking my head at the incongruity of a baby grand piano in a supermarket, I got the required meat, milk, and munchies and headed on my way home. As I walked out of the store, a gust of chilly wind blasted my face. With a sudden shock, I realized it was November. This year has gone by so quickly; when stepping outside I still expect it to be June or July—maybe September at the most.

Where has this year gone? The last month of the year is always one of reflection for me. Every year now, I add one to the tally of years in my life since my grandfather died. This year the number is four. Every year I ask myself the same questions: would he have approved of the woman I have become? what would he think of my life? Though I don't talk about it much, there are few days in my life that go by without my thinking of him.

Until he died, I never realized how integral a part of my life he was. His death in the summer of '96 is the demarcation point between childhood and adulthood in my life.

Like a lot of people who have lost someone they care about, the stretch of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas are always the toughest part of the year for me. It can be little things—hearing a voice like his or thinking of a particularly persistent memory—that send me off on an ocean of introspection.

I've got friends coming over on Friday night to help me decorate the tree. Somehow that makes it easier. At home, I was always the one who decorated the tree—with a bit of help from my mother. Having friends over and music playing and other distractions will help me focus on the happier side of the holiday, instead of just dwelling in the past.

(Note: I've also added new pictures from the Atlanta trip.)