January 13, 2009

L'arte d'arrangiarsi

Have you heard of the book "Eat, Pray, Love?" I love the pure honesty in the author's writing and wanted to share with you a quote from it that I read yesterday- it made me sit back and reflect on Christmas (and how I should get on blogging it too) but firstly here is what the author had written...

" Generally speaking though, Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from theme parks to malls, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment. Americans work harder and longer and more stressful hours than anyone in the world today, but we seem to like it. Alarming statistics back this observation up, showing that many Americans feel more happy and fulfilled in their offices than they do in their own homes. Of course, we all inevitably work too hard, then we get burned out and have to spend the whole weekend in our pajamas, eating cereal straight out of the box and staring at the TV in a mild coma (which is the opposite of working yes, but not exactly the same thing as pleasure). Americans don't really know how to do nothing. This is the cause of that great sad American stereotype-the overstressed executive who goes on vacation but who cannot relax."

...then the authour goes on to describe the Italian culture compared to that of American life. But I want to pull one quote in particular from this next section:

"L'arte d'arrangiarsi"- the art of making something out of nothing. The art of turning a few simple ingredients into a feast, or a few gathered friends into a festival. Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich.

This past Christmas I experienced that happiness. True happiness. The kind that comes from spending the whole morning outside running in a soccer game, or from watching your children pretend to make African meals from sticks and soil, or being busy in the kitchen with 8 other people cooking together- frantically grabbing utensils, flipping crepes, and sectioning fruits in busy preperation for Christmas day brunch but feeling a complete sense of togetherness in the small space and frantic pace of working together. It really does not take much. An afternoon of wagon riding, an evening of having Racheal make rounds of peppermint hot chocolate for all the chaperones, movie nights, hours of wrapping Christmas presents for the kids over eating appetizers. A small Christmas Eve service- probably the first one I ever attended that you didn't need to come half an hour early for just to get a seat. It was barely half full- but because of that it left room for our kids to lead out the Christmas carols they knew for the people there, and the intimate setting allowed for a lot of time of personal reflection on the holiday. The simplicity of it was wonderful. With all my usual Christmas traditions far away at home I spent a Christmas with the focus shifted from myself to blessing the children- but in return being equally as blessed by their reactions to finding their stockings and gifts.

They jumped up and down when they received sparkly gloves from Wal Mart and tried to wear them to bed that night with the excuse that their hands were always cold! They forgot about the second half of their stockings after finding pictures of their families taken in Uganda before leaving and being so excited to show us and remind us of their parents, Aunties, and Uncles whom we met last August.

All week long we enjoyed cooking and baking together- I got to share a few recipes from home and even make the Christmas turkey with help from Sarah, Andrew, and Martha Stewart. I attempted to make gravy like my Dad's which (to be expected) still needs perfecting on my part or just plain practice- and later that night ladies from Uncle brother Doug's church brought over an assortment of homemade pies to enjoy. A lot of time was spent in play, singing, dancing, devotions, cooking- but most of all, and most importantly just together. That is one of my most lasting impressions of this holiday- the time to be together, relaxed in pure simple pleasure as a tour family enjoying the simplicity of everyday as it came.