Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cleaning the Cosmic House

Last year we failed at having a "new" year. We found ourselves in transition mode all year, and not feeling particularly cheery about it. This is not to say that I actually believe that there is such a thing as a "bad" year, bad day, or bad millennium. I discourage my kids from chalking-up a series of seemingly crummy events to a "bad day."

"A day, an hour, a minute -- they're what you make of them, not part of a cosmic conspiracy." I tell my kids as I grit my teeth because I know what they mean when they complain about a bad day.

Instead, I have to assume that bad and good things seem to hang out in groups and descend upon people in clusters because of the expectations of people, not the nature of time. I've read the classicThe Magic of Believing and its modern, scientific equivalent The Luck Factor. These both talk about the nature of luck and the power of the expectations of people. Though I'm convinced in the power of positive thinking, I still have trouble being one of those super-cheery-look-on-the-bright-side types but I'm working on it.

Our traditional way of dealing with the celebration of a New Year is to make everything seem fresh and new. While I still stand-by what I say about labeling time periods as "bad," I believe that when you start on a new road, its length seems to resemble its beginning. As such, for a new year to begin I like to make everything fresh and newish. I root through closets and cupboards and take out stuff that we don't need and try to sort-of organize things. The time between Christmas and New Years is perfect for this because 1) I have slave labor since the kids are out of school and 2) having just received new stuff for Christmas makes it the perfect time to get rid of old stuff.

Last year our house was set upon by a barrage of illnesses resulting in a lackluster holiday. My youngest stayed up well past midnight because she was ill. Nobody went and did anything. We TiVo'ed the ball drop in Times Square, the traditional New Years bread was not broken and we just let things stay as they were -- kind of messy. And we regretted it.

My husband, who was on various medications to maintain his health because of previously aggressive arthritis turned yellow early in the year. The general malaise and nausea accompanying it were a concern. A blood test and ultrasound later revealed that one of his medications was inhibiting his liver's full function giving a similar effect to gallstones. It all turned out okay but he was yellow for a while. Then there was the eye inflammation which was later attributed to his arthritis. However, his opthamologist (now affectionately remembered as the Eye Nazi) decided she needed to see him at least monthly. Then she prodded him about every aspect of his life, however unrelated. She was, in general, rude and didn't seem to think it was connected to his arthritis. After doing a phone referral with another opthamologist/rheumatologist, she had Jason on another medication which drastically lowered his white cell count and did nothing for the inflammation. When Jason was finally fed-up with all of this, he stopped taking the medication and ignored his appointments with the Eye Nazi and it all seemed to right itself on its own.

There was so much more than happened last year. But it needs to be put behind us. We did our traditional New Years celebration. We cleaned house, organized, and planned a proper celebration. We broke the New Years bread (and I am happy to report that I got the penny). We had champagne and sparkling cider.

Just so you know, new year bread is a round loaf of bread baked for this occasion. I don't have a traditional recipe. This year, I used the one on the yeast package.
1. Bread symbolizes sustenance for the new year.
2. It is round to represent eternity (because the circle has no beginning or end)
3. It contains herbs to represent the spice of life.
4. It contains garlic to ward off evil (corny, I know).
5. A shiny penny (I prefer old ones cleaned with vinegar) is placed inside the loaf prior to baking to symbolize abundance. The person receiving this penny in their slice will experience particular abundance.

The loaf is prepared and the penny is placed vertically near the bottom to make it easier to divide the bread without revealing its position. It's baked. Then we determine the number of guests and score the top like slicing a pie so its divided between everyone there -- no leftovers. We present the bread and explain what it contains and what each thing symbolizes. It's sent around the table and each person tears off a piece. Once everyone has a piece, it's time to dig. Nobody gets to eat it until we know the whereabouts of the penny. When the penny is found, that person gets to gloat in their penny victory. Then we eat the bread.

Ok, I've rambled a great deal. I just want to post and state that I plan to be better about not letting life get me down this year. I also plan to post more. Or, as my friend, Dot, has said, I'll resolve the opposite of my intention (since we all break New Year's resolutions anyway). I resolve to refrain from posting. Lets see how that works for me.

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