Thursday, December 23, 2010

Relax and enjoy a few silent nights

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — After the holiday stretch of FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season), things quiet down around this time of year.
It’s been a great year for fiestas throughout the state, especially in our part, FTFS ground zero. Winterfest and its spin-off progeny, Winterfest II: La Fiesta de Las Luminarias, are behind us now, part of a holiday superweekend that included the debut of La Casa Bazaar in its new Las Cruces Convention Center location.
A Saturday pilgrimage date this year and balmy December weather made Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations one for the book. Many concerts, art shows and exhibits, and traditional plays and pageants are history now, along with luminaria displays from the shores of Elephant Butte Lake to the village of Doña Ana, the streets and lanes of NMSU and finally, Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza.
Now, the (relatively) silent nights begin. This week is a time for family in the Mesilla Valley.
Play with your presents. Write thank you notes.
Eat leftovers, then plan some walks around the neighborhood to see the lights and decorations or head for the fitness center to lift some weights, swim some laps and work some of it off.
Next week is New Year’s resolution time and maybe this is a time to hold the line, catch up on your naps and make the make the best of what’s left of 2010.
I figure I’ll feel a little better about that Jan. 1 weigh-in if I pile that leftover turkey on a bed of mixed greens or in a veggie stir-fry or soup instead of in a triple-decker sandwich or what I really want, green chile turkey enchilada casserole.
Still, It’s hard to feel too deprived the week after Christmas, after a month of treats that seem to appear mysteriously upon plates, despite your best efforts.
It’s a good time to ponder where you’ve come from, where you’ve been and where you hope to go. Without the pressure of those holiday newsletters, it’s more comfortable to take a honest inventory and ponder some fresh starts and course corrections.
I haven’t seen many studies about office productivity in late December, but unless you’re working the returns desk at a major shopping center, probably things aren’t really hopping for you.
Even in some of the highest stress, 24-7 deadline professions, from law enforcement to medicine to, yes, journalism, things seem a little more laid back this time of year, and real crises, if they happen, have a surreal sense. Even amid violence, tragedy and mayhem, there’s a lingering, if sometimes wistful, sense that peace on earth and good will toward men might just be possible, somewhere, someday, somehow.
When I started asking people about their resolutions for 2011, I was surprised to find that many people told me they were thankful just to be here and hoped to get through another year.
It’s apt that the symbols for the changing of calendar years are an elderly guy and a newborn. Even if we’ve had a pretty good time, all in all, we’re weary of 2010 and ready for a bouncing baby 2011.
Those of us who are parents and grandparents may not be able to entirely suppress the knowledge derived from long experience. With that new hope and fresh start also come diaper changes, feedings, demanding cries and other assorted around-the-clock responsibilities.
Still, there’s something appealing and very human about the chance to see life and the weary world through new eyes, with a fresh prospective.
I hope you and your loved ones enjoy the last of 2010 and have a chance to make plans and savor hopes for a wonderful 2011.
Happy New Year.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas creativity

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — The spirituality of Christmas is what means most to me. No matter how hot the hype and siren lure of commercialism, it’s really about love, hope, faith and the joy and promise of new beginnings.
For me, and, I’d say, for my loved ones, the path to those joyful conclusions has had a lot to do with the creative journey.
I’ve known times both lean and lush and I’ve been fortunate to get some pretty opulent gifts over the years, including things I really, really wanted.
I can remember the sensation of yearning and that it was sometimes fulfilled, but I’m hazier on just what those highly coveted gifts were.
What I remember most vividly are the creative components of Christmas.
Music fills my Christmas memory bank. There were the songs I sang with my family on car trips to visit my grandparents or snowy treks to our riverfront acreage in northern Michigan, where we often sang while choosing, cutting and dragging back a scraggy white pine in the dense forest.
Then there were the more elaborate arrangements in school bands and choirs. I still remember first time I heard “O Holy Night,” and the milagro tingles it sent up and down my spine, along with the day our maturing high school choir finally had the skills to get those powerful chords and crescendos right.
But equally impressive were the first times I heard my son — and then my grandson — warble their childhood renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.”
Not a dry eye in the house.
My sense memory banks are filed with the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas kitchens. More singing. The feel of gooey dough stiffened by just enough flower to prepare it for our holiday cookie cutters. The smells of dates and cinnamon and peppermint and gingerbread. The sights of bright neon sprinkles, raisin eyes on snowmen and reindeer confections.
Decking the halls has always been a sure route to Christmas sprit and major memories. Ornaments seemed more precious and rare in the old school days. We cherished the heirlooms and debated just where to and how to position the lighted angel, our personal fave. But making decorations was even more rewarding: strings of popcorn, clove-studded oranges and the loops of colored paper that we hung on the tree, with an extra chain of 25 loops to hang by our bed and tear off each day until the magic date arrived.
There were the Christmas literary traditions: Santa tales told and read by dads and granddads, with more exotic permutations in Charlie Brown TV specials and holiday movies.
The real Christmas story somehow always came through, in some fusion of song, literature and hall-decking, in celebrations in church, home, schools and shopping centers.
The crèches always offered a creative touch, too. At the top of my memory smorgasbord are the annual arrangements of a little carved stone nativity set I shared with grandson Alexander the Great during his Las Cruces years, ages 3 to 10.
I told him the story of the little family and their journey to Bethlehem that first toddler year and a few years later, he was telling it to me. Some years, a few latter-day superheros and action figures joined the gathering and a sheep or horse sometimes ended up perching on the church and manger roofs with the angels, but I was surprised by how quickly he grasped the essence of what the holiday is all about.
Creativity and spirituality are a potent mixture.
It’s a smooth transcendent step to the most powerful fusion of all: love, hope, faith and miracles.
Have a creative holiday season with those you love.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Remember the troops on the holidays

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.
It’s sounding pretty good to me about now.
The morning e-mail included two shots of my toddler nephew’s first visit to Santa Claus. It came on the same day his dad was shipping off to Afghanistan.
In this long, long, war, just about all of us know someone who’s “over there.”
As a parent, grandparent and aunt, I mourn for all the moments those brave moms and dads will miss with their kids. First steps and sentences, first dances and days at school. Christmases. Birthdays. Sunday dinners and summer picnics.
We pray for their safety and their swift return. And a world that can somehow find alternatives to war before these kids grow up and have kids of their own.
In the meantime, you can brighten the holidays just a bit for servicemen and women far from home this year.
My brother, father of a recently deployed troop, has been researching procedures to ship off packages to his son and recommends visits to the post office for guidelines. He said he’s found helpful information on this toll-free number: 1-800-ASK-USPS (275-8777).
It’s worth some time to investigate procedures and be sure your have the exact address correctly written on all cards and packages, not just for the holidays, but year-around, when morale reportedly can take a leap or a nose dive, depending on the mail call harvest.
Another great resource is the Let’s Say Thanks program at, a web site that lets you send a free printed postcard to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas. You can’t specify who will get the card, but you can select your favorite designs from a touching assortment of cards created by children. The easy, three-step process continues by entering a message with your name and home town (write your own or choose a message that best expresses what you want to say from a group of suggestions). Then press send and you’re done.
You can also check out the site to see messages sent by others and the response from servicemen and women.
“Thank you for sending the postcards to our unit! While soldiers routinely grab all the snacks, toiletries, magazines and books out of care packages, it is the letters, cards and postcards with heartfelt messages that mean the most and truly remind us that the folks back home care and appreciate what we do,” said a military policeman.
Another, who signed as simply “a soldier,” sent “thanks for this outstanding effort to make our Military personnel feel a touch of home wherever they are. I have been deployed several times to various parts of the world. No matter what is going on around us, when we get encouraging words from home, it seems to make a difference that is beyond description. Something as simple as words. Something as common as a crayon drawing. These things can mean the world when you are a world away.”
Others said the colorful little postcards “made my day” and report that they read and share them with others.
It’s a big payoff for a free service that takes just a minute of your time and could make a world of difference for a soldier you may never meet.
You can also help out with a tax-deductible donation to the USO, which is “committed to supporting our troops wherever they serve — from free phone cards to care packages full of much- needed items and entertainment tours to just a simple hug,” according to That’s the source to donate online, or call 1-800-876-7469 or send a check, payable to USO to: USO, P.O. Box 96322, Washington, DC, 20090-6322.
And it’s always a good time to greet a soldier. When you see a man or woman in uniform, a pretty common sight in our military hub, even if you can’t get within handshake distance, you can make eye contact and pat your left hand on your heart to express your appreciation and support.
If you’re close enough, offer a verbal “thank you” and a handshake.
And your prayers and wishes for peace on earth.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Find and spread some seasonal joy

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — The hard part is done. From now on, it’s all tree trimming and candy canes, carols and gingerbread, reverence and pageantry, love and wonder. Blessings and joy.
I love the holidays and more than half a century amidst Scrooges, Grinches and seasonal depressives (some of them, alas, bah-humbugging in my own circle of loved ones) have not been able to beat it out of me.
I’ve learned to get most of my gift list filled by July and my presents wrapped and shipped off before Thanksgiving, thus avoiding my least favorite thing — shopping in frantic herds of stressed-out holiday hunter-gatherers.
I cut myself out of that bipolar (or is it North Polar?) herd and opted out of the madding throngs decades before it became a blood sport, with obsessive, acquisitive Olympic shopping kicking off on Black Friday. And no matter what the spin doctors say, I don’t believe for a moment that the “black” refers to the fact that merchants move their annual financial tallies out of the red and into the black profit margins that day.
I’ve worked retail during the holidays and I KNOW where the black references come from, and have weathered the black and blue bruises and moods that really inspired dour and punishing Friday’s moniker.
But all that’s behind me, now, and I hope it is for you, too, or will be soon.
Maybe this can be the year when you can streamline your gift list a little. I find many of my older relatives, especially those who live far away, are happy and relieved at suggestions to exchange e-mails and phone calls instead of hefty packages. I give priority to kids, people who’ve moved to new areas or who are having tough years or are prone to holiday blues.
More and more, I’m finding that close friends and relatives are happy to substitute visits or lunches or dinners for other gifts. Or we agree to make a bigger deal of gift-giving during birthdays, when we all seem to have more time for up-close-and-personal celebrations.
With some of the pressure off, we can find more time to enjoy the season, especially important, I’ve found, during years like this when work or economic issues prevent many of us from managing to gather with distant loved ones.
I make it a point to put as much light in my life as possible, stopping to witness every luminaria display I can. And every year, I try to catch at least one local pageant, concert or holiday event, particularly something I haven’t experienced before, pretty easy with an escalating amount of intriguing options in our territory.
This year, after seeing some inspiring YouTube videos, I’m working to field some guerrilla caroling groups. Jerry Ann Alt, director of NMSU Choirs, seems ready to rally for some random acts of Christmas culture. So don’t be too surprised if you find yourself in the middle of a “Hallelujah!” chorus when you least expect it. Actually, we hope you will be surprised. And delighted. And inspired to join in.
Start your own impromptu caroling group at home, at the office, in your neighborhood park or in line at the supermarket or post office. Recruit a friend or two and before you know it, you could be part of a caroling conga line.
Invite someone who will be alone over the holidays to join you and your friends and family for a brunch, lunch or dinner. Give to those less fortunate. If your budget is tight, give yourself. Volunteer to help. It’s a pretty reliable cure for the blues — theirs AND yours.
If you’re alone, make it a priority to get out and sign up for a holiday craft class or go to a seasonal fiesta, movie or concert. You could make a friend who’s looking for someone to enjoy a stroll or a drive to see the holiday lights and displays.
Whatever your beliefs or your resources, we can all use some joy this time of year.
Go to a church or synagogue or take a long walk on a sunny December day and ponder spiritual meanings of life, love, hope and new beginnings.
May the season bring you a bumper crop of joy and the wherewithal to spread it around.
Happy holidays.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450