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A New Year, more Christmas, and a surprise visitor (7 Quick Takes)


Happy New Year! I have never had much success with resolutions, but I do love setting the tone for the year.

I let Jen Fulwiler’s Word of the Year generator choose a word for me—Hospitality—and her Saint of the Year generator pick a saint for me—St. Margaret of Antioch. Hospitality seems to bring its own challenge at this point in the pandemic, but last year I did open our deck and backyard to friends and colleagues. Maybe this year I am called to embrace hospitality in a different or deeper way.

St. Margaret of Antioch is new to me. She is one of the 14 Holy Helpers, which I had never heard of. Having the ear of one of the Holy Helpers seems like it can only be a good thing.

I feel a little conflicted about this year that seems to be starting with such a cloud over it, but I do love new beginnings.


The one year in recent history when I did well with my resolution was when I resolved to eat more avocado toast.

That was a good year.

If I were living out true hospitality, I would invite you over for avocado toast.


It’s not really the Christmas season until you boil a can of chicken and rice soup on the stove while singing, “Canned Soup We Have Boiled on High.” Wait, what? That’s not a thing at all?

Maybe it should be.


Throughout Advent and Christmas, I have been pausing to look at the name tags of store employees who were helping me so that I could really try to see and remember them. I wrote about Isaiah shipping my packages for me, but the names have been so meaningful this season.

Mary has twice been my cashier at the grocery store, Maria gave me my booster shot, and then the other day, Angel rang up my groceries. Elizabeth delivered our Instacart order, and I had to smile. I picked up a food order for our family, and the man who carried the bag to the car was named “Mass.” On a day when I can’t get to Mass, Mass comes to me?

Last Christmas my groceries and other orders landed on my doorstep from mostly nameless people who waved a friendly greeting, but this year I’ve been trying to see the people who are with me in the stores and recognize their service. It has been such a gift to think of how they are part of my Christmas story and maybe I am part of theirs. We are in this together, even with our masks and distancing and anxieties.


We hit some kind of new pandemic low and distributed some of our gifts in trash bags this year. They were wrapped beautifully inside—really they were.

In one exquisitely beautiful exchange, our friends sent back their gifts in the same trash bag we had sent to them the day before, crossing off the name and writing ours on the piece of paper taped to the bag.

Truly, even with all that everyone is carrying, there is so much beauty to this time—and plenty to laugh about, too.


John came home with a bag of apples the other day and told me they would be good for baking. After 17 years of marriage, I know that if he comes home carrying a bag of baking apples, he has something in mind.

So, that night, I baked an apple pie.

For Christmas, he also gave me one of those Edge Brownie Pans I’ve had my eye on since my family loves the edges of the brownies. I am looking forward to a beautiful snowy day that requires some hot, fresh brownies.


Earlier today, I was thinking about how few family members we’ve seen this Christmas season. Then, while I was on the phone with a friend, my younger son came running to tell me, “One of our uncles is outside!”

I looked out the door, and I saw my brother—who lives outside Philadelphia—standing near the street. He had driven more than two hours one way to place a bottle of wine on our porch—and to take wine to my parents and my sister Treasa and her family.

I was stunned. I don’t think I’ve seen him in person since December 2019, when he and his family came to Baltimore for a Christmas gathering. I grabbed a mask and went outside, and we chatted. It was the best impromptu visit. I even had time to go inside and throw together a gift to send back with him for our niece and nephew. I assume most people keep a couple of extra stuffed Chinese tigers on hand, just in case.

Anyway, it was so, so wonderful. We have experienced many beautiful memories this Christmas, but it hasn’t been a usual Christmas. We still haven’t really been able to be with the people we love outside our core quaranteam. Seeing my brother standing outside at the end of our driveway will always be one of my favorite memories of 2022.

I hope you’ve made some good memories this Christmas, too. And I hope the year ahead is full of many blessings and much health and happiness.

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