Gently Green What I Love Please Join Me
Gently Green

Christmas with Grace

Christmas with Grace   Holiday House tree large 687x916

What does Christmas mean to you? For me, it is a season of secrets, of rustling bags filled with tissue snuck into the house when no one is looking, of cookies and candy canes, and everywhere the scent of pine. As a designer, I can’t help but decorate every room, adding fresh cedar boughs and glittering lights here and a crystal bowl filled with red roses there.

Christmas with Grace   christmas chandelier

As enchanting as this holiday is, it also brings with it memories, some delightful, some more painful to recall, and as the years go by, all stir my emotions, and fill my heart. My recent book signing at Holiday House in New York City brought me back to a Christmas long ago, the last one I spent with my mother, Grace.

Christmas with Grace   christmas1 687x457

Holiday House, a designer show house, was founded by Iris Dankner, a breast cancer survivor, in 2008. Iris wanted to combine her two passions–interior design and fundraising for breast cancer research–when she saw a lack of high profile interior design events in the New York City area benefitting women’s issues. Thanks to her vision, talented designers from across the country arrive every fall to transform the historic Academy Mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side into beautiful rooms highlighting a holiday or special moment in life.

Christmas with Grace   holiday house iris 687x916

Me with Iris Dankner, December 2, 2014

I lost my mother when she was only 51, to breast cancer. I immediately knew I wanted to help the Holiday House mission in any way I could, even as my thoughts turned to a Christmas season long ago.

Christmas with Grace   christmas snow 687x581

My mother was in the hospital, and realizing that her time was growing short, she was focused on me with a singular intensity. On one visit to her hospital room, she greeted me with excitement, and showed me a gift she had painstakingly created for me the night before. I walked to her bedside, and she handed me  a simple brown paper bag.

“Look!” she urged me. I saw the bag was empty, and for a moment I was confused. Then I saw her handwriting on the bag, up one side, and down the other. From memory, in the dark hours of the night, my mother had written down our family tree on the only paper she had. She wanted so much for me to remember who I was, and where I came from. I gazed down at the names written on the bag, marking marriages and children, year after year after year.

Christmas with Grace   family tree 687x457

I found it hard to focus. There were tears in my eyes. We were members of the Daughters of the American Revolution, but that’s not what the bag was about. I understood that this was family, blood thicker than water, the people from whom I came, and the cousins, aunts, uncles, and other connections that surrounded me still.

I was an only child, and my mother knew that when she left my side, my world would be a little bit lonelier place. But she wasn’t finished.

“Over in the corner, there’s a gift for you. Bring it here,” she told me. I did as she asked, carrying a bulky package to her bedside.

Christmas with Grace   christmas present 687x457

“Open it!” she urged me.

I shook my head, imploring her. “No, not yet.  Let’s wait for Christmas. You’ll be home by Christmas, and I’ll open it then, under the tree.”

My father stood by my side, and added his voice to mine. “That’s a much better idea! You’ll be home, Grace, and Trudy will open it on Christmas morning.”

I felt my mother’s disappointment, but to my relief, she acquiesced with a smile.

Mom didn’t make it home for Christmas. She passed away on December 6th, with me and my father by her side. In my grief, I had forgotten the gift that waited for me under the tree. But on Christmas morning, it was there.

I slowly unwrapped it, wanting desperately to stop time, knowing I was opening the last gift I would ever receive from my mother. As I pulled away the last bit of paper, a soft, warm quilt tumbled into my lap. Made by my mother’s hands in my favorite colors, and in her final days assisted by my aunt, Elysa Knight, she had sewn a Double Wedding Band quilt to cover my bed. I smoothed my hands over the fabric, amazed at her handiwork, already feeling the comfort she had left behind, and the love that went into it.

Christmas with Grace   graces quilt 687x515

I always thought of my father’s family as my “artistic side.” My dad was an engineer and inventor, his brother a furniture designer, his sister an artist. I had somehow lost track of the artistry created by my mother and her side of the family: the crocheting, embroidery and hand sewn goods that filled our home all through my childhood. I knew then that I was doubly blessed with artists on both sides of my family. I was already working as a interior designer, and cherished the creative work that filled me with passion and my days with joy. Now I knew more clearly where my gifts came from.

I only have one regret–that I didn’t open my mother’s last gift to me in that hospital room, where she could have witnessed my delight. But perhaps it was better that way. Instead of letting her watch me unwrap the gift, I think I shared with her my hope that she would return home one more time, to spend one more Christmas with my dad and me.

Christmas with Grace   firelight1 687x458

Although she didn’t leave her hospital bed again, she was at home with me on Christmas Day. She had been with me every day since I was born, and on Christmas I was wrapped again in her love as surely as I was wrapped in her quilt. It was my last Christmas with my mom, and she taught me her last lesson. By making her final gift to me something that was unique, made with her own hands, she showed me more than I realized. As the years go by, I know that the last gift wasn’t only a quilt. It was how to live life, and how to fill it with light.

Christmas with Grace   christmas candles

It was how to celebrate Christmas. But even more than that. It was how to celebrate Christmas with Grace.

Christmas with Grace   mothers hand 687x514

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please Join Me

A Barnyard of Blessings

A Barnyard of Blessings   heifer 1 687x369

Here’s how to make a difference in the world, the way Heifer International does it: Start a cycle of positive change. When you think about it that way, it’s simple, isn’t it? That’s why Heifer International has been my charity of choice for holiday gift giving for many years. I  celebrate all the goodness in my life and the success of Dujardin Design Associates by doing what I can to end poverty and hunger.

A Barnyard of Blessings   heifer 2 687x530

None of us can change the world, but we can change the life of one person for a day, a week, or more. Heifer International’s mission is the same one behind “give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” The way Heifer founder Dan West saw it nearly 70 years ago, don’t give a hungry child a cup of milk, give her a cow. Or maybe a pig.

A Barnyard of Blessings   heifer 3

Heifer helps to bring sustainable agriculture to communities with a long history of poverty. Heifer animal gifts provide both food and much needed income, when turned into products such as eggs, milk and honey.

A Barnyard of Blessings   heifer 4

This year, Dujardin Design Associates has purchased two Barnyards of Blessings, with gratitude to our clients and friends who have made this donation possible. If you’re looking for a charity to support this holiday season, I encourage you to consider Heifer International. The goal of every Heifer project is to encourage self reliance by providing the tools communities need to sustain themselves.

A Barnyard of Blessings   heifer 6

We can’t change the world, but maybe we can change a village. I hope you’ll join me!

What I Love

Green Gifts

Green Gifts   green gift 687x459

Finding the perfect gift for the people we love is always a challenge, but so many of us enjoy the blessings of a good life that the task becomes more difficult. What to get for someone who has everything is a common problem, but no one truly has everything. On the contrary, even people who have many material comforts will always find their lives enriched with a gift that honors nature, wildlife, and the earth.

That’s why I love the Natural Resource Defense Council’s list of “Green Gifts.” They’re easy to purchase online, and come with either a print or online card sent to the recipient. Here are a few of my favorites.

Green Gifts   NRDC QueenBee 0 0

Bee a Hero: I’ve written about the plight of honey bees before, and I used to keep bees myself, so they’re near and dear to my heart. More important is the fact that they’re an indicator of the general health of our ecosystems, and today they’re dying at an alarming rate. One third of the human food supply depends on bees for pollination, which is why more beekeepers are being called upon to travel with their hives to orchards and farms to help the process along.

For $25, you can buy a “buzz worthy” gift offered by the NRDC in conjunction with Seedles, a company dedicated to promoting bee health. Seedles will donate bee-friendly wildflower kits, including seeds, pots, compost and instructions, to classrooms which will plant wildflowers.

Green Gifts   NRDC Seedles bee

And in honor of these sweet pollinators, you can buy a Bee Love greeting card from Seedles for just $2.00, drawn by artist Sunny Solwind.

If things that fly are your gift of choice, consider Butterfly Beauty, and add a gift of a half dozen milkweed plants–

Green Gifts   NRDC product butterfly beauty lg

the one thing Monarch Butterflies need to survive–for another $25.

Still feeling generous? Add $25 more, and save bees, butterflies and birds with Save a Songbird. Protect Canada’s boreal forest, our continent’s most important songbird nesting area.

Green Gifts   nrdc product save a songbird lg 2

All that for under $100!

Green Gifts   nature conservancy aaa appalachians splash 640x40

The Nature Conservancy has their own program. One of the most popular is the “Adopt an Acre” gift. For $50 (or more if you choose), you can help protect some of the world’s most beautiful and diverse habitats. The Nature Conservancy has Adopt an Acre programs in Africa, Australia, Costa Rica, the Northern Rockies, the Appalachians and the Southern Forests of the United States. Pick one and your loved one will receive an adoption certificate along with a fact sheet listing the wildlife you’ve helped to protect.

Green Gifts   Christmas garbage 687x457

Still need convincing? According to RecycleWorks.org, household waste increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We throw away four million tons of gift wrapping and shopping bags in America, and buy 2.65 billion holiday cards. With an average of $800 per household spent on holiday gifts, imagine the good we can do if we support earth-friendly organizations.

Green Gifts   christmas dogs 687x461

Don’t forget about your four legged friends! Since 1997, Planet Dog has been recognized as one of the leading socially responsible canine products providers. With their motto “Act locally, think doggedly” to guide their corporate vision, they develop and create premium non-toxic, recyclable “chomped” chews, squeaky toys, leashes and more.

Green Gifts   snowshoe hare 687x608

Make this the year that you give less stuff, and do more good. The whole wild world will thank you.