Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Well, my folks and I had some olie bollen and egg nog, and we watched the ball come down in New York at 9:00 p.m. our time. We channel surfed a little, watched a little of Mary Poppins on CTV and part of a mass on EWTN. My folks have gone to bed, and I may go soon. It's about 11:30 but I don't feel any obligation to stay up till 12:00. I do feel an urge to eat another olie bol, but I am fighting it.

I went to church earlier this evening. It was a communion service. At one point, we wrote down a sin we'd like to be free of a piece of paper, and then we went forward, lit the paper on fire in the Christ candle, and threw it in a bowl to burn. Then we took communion. There was time to think about what to write, but while the pastor was just explaining the procedure I already wrote down three. Yeah, there's that much room for improvement.

Tomorrow being Sunday, there's another church service in the morning.

I felt sleepy around 5:00 p.m., was worried whether I'd stay awake at church (no problem), and then got a second wind from about 8:00-10:00. I'm a natural night owl, which is not a helpful personality quality in the workaday world. But I'm starting to feel a little sleepy, so I guess I should take advantage of it.

Happy New Year to you. We sang this great hymn at church:

Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
In working or in waiting, another year with Thee.
Another year of progress, another year of praise,
Another year of proving Thy presence all the days.

Another year of mercies, of faithfulness and grace,
Another year of gladness in the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting, of quiet, happy rest.

Another year of service, of witness for Thy love,
Another year of training for holier work above.
Another year is dawning, dear Father, let it be
On earth, or else in Heaven, another year for Thee.

Frances Havergal, 1874.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dinner at the awesome restaurant

Tonight my Dad treated the local family to dinner at "the awesome restaurant." That's the Old Country Buffet. That name comes from a few years ago when we went there when my great-nephew was still a little boy. He went to the salad bar and returned with a plate of croutons, which is what he liked. When I told him that he could go back to the food counters as much as he wanted and just take the food he likes, he said, "This place is awesome!"

Tonight the cute thing was my two little great-nieces, who are 6 and 4 years old. They found out where the desserts were, especially the soft ice cream, and then whenever anyone else was ready for dessert, one or both of them would show the way. It was pretty sweet to see them take my parents' hands and lead them to the desserts.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Dark

Wow, heavy rain and poor visibility again on tonight's commute. It's so dark, the wet streets are so reflective, and in so many areas the stripes on the road are difficult to see. Kind of unnerving, yet, for all that, I struggled with drowsiness. I'm feeling particularly tired this week. I think it's because it's the darkest time of the year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Rain, rain

Rainy, dark drive home this evening. Terrible visibility. It seemed as though there was a lot of standing water on the road near the Nooksack River. I looked online to see if there was a flooding warning, but I didn't see one. I did see an alert for this area for "Rainfall"! It warned of "significant rainfall." Well, okay, then.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Boxing Day

Well, Christmas Day has come and gone. I know that liturgically there are still ten more days of Christmas after today, but in the culture in which I am enmeshed Christmas is over.

The contorted filbert
I looked for a photo to use for today and picked this one from the day before yesterday. The weather was much the same today, and I had another quiet day at home. I did a significant amount of laundry. I wanted to accomplish more than I did; specifically, I wanted to sort through my closet and take out anything I no longer wear and put it in a box to donate. Really, that would have been such a suitable occupation for "boxing" day, but I didn't get to it.

Perhaps if I go to bed on time tonight I'll have energy after work tomorrow to do that. Maybe if I went to bed on time every night, I'd have more energy in general. I seem to recall making a New Year's resolution to that effect at the beginning of this year, and I kept that resolution ... several times. Well, perhaps I'll try again. After all, it's painless enough to make resolutions. I oughta know.

Emmanuel

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:16)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Quiet and green

Here is the view out my living room window this afternoon on Christmas Eve day. It's going to be a green Christmas in Lynden this year. I looked back through my blog, and it was 2008 that we had a white Christmas.

I'm looking forward to a quiet afternoon and evening, and I hope my expectations are met. I need to finish wrapping presents for the family gathering tomorrow, and that's really my whole agenda besides just enjoying being at home.



Tomorrow will be the celebratory day with church, a family get-together, and opening presents. That will be nice, too.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Tweny Years After

Having finished The Three Musketeers on the Kindle, I walked right into the sequel, Twenty Years After. As its name implies, it takes place twenty years after the earlier adventures. An interesting twist is that now the four companions, though still loyal friends, are on opposite sides of France's civil unrest. The "great cardinal" Richelieu is dead and his successor, Cardinal Mazarin, an Italian, rules France through the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, as Louis XIV is still a child. The action occurs during the Fronde. D'Artagnan, as a member of the King's Musketeers (the others have all gone on to other things) upholds the authority of Mazarin and the Queen, while not respecting them much in his own heart. Porthos joins him in the hope of receiving a barony. Athos and Aramis are Frondeurs, and there is a new young hero, Athos's secret and natural son, as well as a new villain, Milady's son. I am interested to see how it unfolds.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Healthy, wealthy, and wise

Last night I couldn't get on the internet, so I went to bed early. Now that I've been to bed early and risen early, I should become healthy, wealthy, and wise. Looking forward to it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Turn the world around

I gather that today or tomorrow should be the shortest day of the year. The moment of winter solstice, when my hemisphere is tilted furthest from the sun, should occur at about 9:30 p.m. my local time, if I understand correctly. Then it will start slowly tilting back again, and the days will get longer. I'm for it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Late and early

Company Christmas party. Late getting home. Now late getting to bed. And tomorrow morning is early. So it goes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Angels' Candle


And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2:8-14)


Well, what else is there to say, really? Except maybe this:


One more week until we celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to be God with us.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Swashbuckle

On my Kindle, I'm re-reading The Three Musketeers. (I bought a big compendium of Alexandre Dumas works. Interestingly, on the Kindle, buying "the complete works of" or the like is often the cheapest way to get a novel by an author.) Possibly the last time I read The Three Musketeers was in high school. That's about when the Richard Lester movies came out -- I still love those movies (The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers). I probably was attracted to the movie because Michael York played d'Artagnan, although Richard Chamberlain as Aramis might have been a draw, too.



It's serendipitous that while I'm reading this book, my mom returned to me a clay sculpture I did in high school during my interest in things Dumas, which I called "Aramis":

Aramis
From the side, it's not too bad, for a high scholar's work, although obviously I had no patience to provide any detail in the hair and perhaps used the Prince Valiant type of hair style to avoid having to make ears.

As I recall, I was most interested in the face. I was trying to make an attractive face, but apparently I lacked knowledge of realistic proportions of facial features. The eyes are extremely large, the nose long, and the top of the head narrow:

Aramis
It looks rather primitive, although I can see it also bears a resemblance to figures in Orthodox iconography, which is also a type I am attracted to.

12th-century icon of Archangel Gabriel from Novgorod,
called "Golden-Locked Angel",
currently exhibited in the State Russian Museum.
This is a faithful photographic reproduction
of an original two-dimensional work of art.
The work of art itself is in the public domain
because its copyright has expired.
I may have had a little crush on the character Aramis. If I were going to have a crush on a character from The Three Musketeers at this time of my life, it would more likely be Athos (played by the gifted Oliver Reed in the movies I liked). But I don't think I'm capable anymore of getting crushes on characters in novels. I wonder when I passed that milestone.

As I re-visit the book, I'm struck by what a good adaptation the Lester movies are, by the way. Very true to the book.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The apple of his eye

I particularly love that line in the hymn: "Dear as the apple of thine eye, and graven on thy hand."

Deuteronomy 32:9-12 has this description of God's care for his people:

For the LORD's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.

He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:

So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.

Isaiah 49:14-16 has this dialogue between God and his people:

But Zion said, "The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me."

"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me."

Huisbezoek

Huisbezoek is Dutch for house visitation. I have only heard it used in a church context, when church leaders, generally in pairs, visit the households of the church, but when I googled it I gathered that in the Netherlands today it can also refer to the visits of social workers and government types.

Anyway, tonight I had huisbezoek with my district elder and deacon. The old stereotype of huisbezoek was that you cleaned your house within an inch of its life, put on your Sunday clothes, and sat stiffly in the parlor hoping no one asked you a particularly difficult doctrinal question. The real purpose is to make sure you're in good relations with your church, find out if you have needs -- spiritual or physical -- that the church can address, and generally let you know that the church does care how you're doing.

The huisbezoek my church leaders are engaged on is, they have publicly announced, specifically to find out if you are involved in a small group or if you would like to be. I shared with my elder and deacon that I have been trying to improve my prayer life and I would like to participate in a small, intimate group focused on prayer -- praying with each other, encouraging one another in prayer, and providing accountability so that we could make progress -- but that I really didn't know where to get started. They suggested two names of people I know that I might want to talk to about it.

We talked about other things, too, and it was a pleasant visit. It's gratifying and encouraging to have two people visit for the sole purpose of seeing how you're doing. It makes you feel cared about.

I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord
Words: Tim­o­thy Dwight, Psalms of Da­vid, 1800.
Music: St. Thom­as, Aar­on Will­iams, The New Un­i­vers­al Psalm­o­dist, 1770

I love thy Kingdom, Lord,
The house of thine abode,
The church our blest Redeemer saved
With his own precious blood.

I love thy church, O God:
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye,
And graven on thy hand.

For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be giv'n,
Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heav'nly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

Jesus, thou Friend Divine,
Our Saviour and our King,
Thy hand from ev'ry snare and foe
Shall great deliv'rance bring.

Sure as thy truth shall last,
To Zion shall be giv'n
The brightest glories earth can yield,
And brighter bliss of heav'n.

As sung by the choir of Fort Massey Church (found it online by googling for the hymn):

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Knowing the secret

Today at work we had a presentation by the people who administer our retirement plan. I don't have a brain for finance. They talked about growth funds and bonds and other kinds of investments I don't remember because I didn't understand them. They talked long. As I sat there I thought, I have learned when preaching to keep my sermons to twenty minutes, but now I've been listening to someone talk for an hour.

I tried to breathe deeply, but not audibly, while synchronizing my breathing to the Jesus prayer. I tried to remember how to recite, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21) and, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:12).

When they seemed to be winding things up, a co-worker kept asking them questions and prolonging the meeting. I tried to look at him in a way that pled, "Please, please, stop asking questions." But he did not receive my non-verbal communication. As a friend of mine once said, "Drink to me only with thine eyes, and I won't have to wash a cup."

Now, I respect their knowledge and their ability to think about and take an interest in the stock market. For some people, that's their gift and they should use it. Moreover, they're using it for my benefit in caring for my (extremely young and small) retirement account. I'm thankful for them and their work for me. It's good stewardship that I should try to amass a retirement account so that when I am old I have less likelihood of becoming a burden on others. But basically my understanding of money is my bank balance and whether that will pay my bills.

I do pray for grace to care about more than preserving my middle class lifestyle.

There are things I wish I had money for -- travel in particular. I would like to be able to go to Italy, multiple times so I could see various regions. And I'd like to go to Vienna, Austria, Germany, and France. And to England again. But travel is a luxury. If I can't travel abroad in the remainder of my life, that is not a hardship. Many people in the history of mankind have lived most or all of their lives in the same region. If I can provide for my needs, for food, clothing, and shelter, then I have no reason to complain.

No one can say money is not important because you're a Christian. The Bible talks a lot about money. It's useful, it's necessary, and it's dangerous. It's a tool and, like any tool, can be used for good or ill purposes.

It's easy to feel that I don't have as much money as I wish I had, but really I have more than enough for my needs right now and thus am highly blessed. My next big travel indulgence (deo volente) will be to Grand Rapids, Michigan (known to members of the Christian Reformed Church in North America as "Jerusalem") to my alma mater, Calvin College, and the wonderful Festival of Faith & Writing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deep thoughts

I wonder what my dog's name for me is? In Peanuts, Snoopy refers to Charlie Brown as "That round-headed kid." I hope it's "The food-giver," or "The one I like to sleep by," or "She who takes me for a walk," rather than reference to any outstanding (ahem) physical feature.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Third Sunday of Advent - Shepherds' Candles

Also known as Gaudete Sunday because an introductory part of the Catholic service includes Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice"; in Latin: "Gaudete in Domino semper iterum dico gaudete."


I had a good but busy weekend but now am tired out and need to conclude my day soon, so I can face the work week tomorrow. On Saturday night, my mom, my sister-in-law, my niece, and two great-nieces went to The Nutcracker, performed at Mount Baker Theater in Bellingham, Washington, by the Northwest Ballet company. I've seen this company perform The Nutcracker at least four years now, maybe more, and this was the best performance yet. They improve every year, and this year were really excellent. Also, in past years they used recorded music, and this year they had a live orchestra, the Starry Night Orchestra, which performed excellently as well. The whole experience took a quantum leap in quality.

Four generations of women in my family
attending The Nutcracker ballet.
Afterwards we stopped at the Denny's restaurant in Ferndale, which is on the way home for some of us, and has become our traditional stopping place for a treat after the ballet. That made for a late night.

Then today we got together again, with even more of us -- including my dad, my great-nephew, and my youngest great-niece -- and went to a you-cut Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree, bring it to my house, set it up, and decorate it. Then we ate pizza for dinner and had birthday cake in my niece's honor.


Family is a blessing.

Missed the eclipse

Yesterday I blogged about what a beautiful full moon we had the previous night, but I didn't realize till later that there had been a lunar eclipse visible from the West Coast early in the morning, 6:00 a.m.-ish. Not that I wanted to get up that early on a Saturday, but it never even occurred to me because I lacked information.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The weather report

Last night was clear and cold, and the moon was full and bright. I saw the moon when I got out of my car when I got home from work and it made me remember a scene from one of the Narnia Chronicles -- think it was Prince Caspian -- where Aslan lies awake all night and he and moon just gaze joyfully at each other.

Yesterday in the morning it was frosty here in Lynden. Every plant, leaf, and blade was outlined in white. As I drove to work I could see the bare trees all drawn in white. Then as I got closer to Bellingham I drove into a heavy fog and drove in the mist the rest ohe way to work.

This morning it is frosty again, but overcast.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter night

Last night was decidedly cold and I was decidedly sleepy, so I decided to throw an extra quilt on the bed and crawl under it at an early hour. That was a good decision.

It's decidedly cold again tonight.

This evening on my Kindle I finished a novel called Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. I chose it because the author wrote a lovely novel called Gilead and a fine companion novel called Home. Although Housekeeping is good literature, I did not enjoy it as much as the other two. It was a downer for me. It put me into the mind of a sad, lonely person in unfortunate life circumstances. I wanted a happier, more hopeful resolution than I got. I can recommend the book as well-written (although I'll admit I skipped some descriptive passages) but not as likely to lift your spirits.



Gilead, on the other hand, will make you feel that you are a better person for having read it, and Home is satisfying.

Now it's time for me to crawl under that extra quilt again. My hair is wet. I may wrap it loosely in a towel to keep my head warm. "Mamma in her kerchief ... settled down for a long winter's nap" ('Twas the Night Before Christmas).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Very pretty

A couple of my Facebook friends have linked to this article, "How to Talk to Little Girls," by a woman named Lisa Bloom. Her premise is that you should not compliment them on their looks because that will teach "girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice," which "tells them that looks are more important than anything." Instead, she says, talk to them about what they're reading.

With all due respect to my friends who linked to it -- who are sincere, wonderful, good people -- I find that article annoying. Why?

Well, first and foremost, the author is a killjoy. I know a couple of little girls who love to be told that they have on a pretty dress or that their hair is pretty and that they look pretty. Why should I withhold that when I know it delights them?

Another thing is, why does it have to be either/or? You can compliment girls on their looks and encourage them to read. It's not like once you say, "What a pretty dress!" you're not allowed to mention books thereafter. What's wrong with being smart and beautiful? The women in my family do it all the time.

And, finally, the author is so smug and sanctimonious about her own conversation with one little girl. She withheld any remarks about how pretty she was but got involved in talking about and reading the little girl's favorite book, even though in her heart she disapproved of the little girl's choice ("Alas, it was about girls and what they wore"). The little girl, of course, was happy to have a grown-up paying attention to her and reading with her -- all to the good. But the poor naive little thing didn't realize this was not someone genuinely showing interest in her but a woman making a "statement" and preening herself on it:

So, one tiny bit of opposition to a culture that sends all the wrong messages to our girls. One tiny nudge towards valuing female brains. One brief moment of intentional role modeling. Will my few minutes with Maya change our multibillion dollar beauty industry, reality shows that demean women, our celebrity-manic culture? No. But I did change Maya's perspective for at least that evening.

Get over yourself, lady.

I do agree with her in deploring the sexualization of children -- that it's wrong and sick for little girls to worry about their figures and for teenage girls to want cosmetic surgery -- and I don't have an answer as to how to eliminate that sickness from our society. I think parents can probably have some effect by monitoring and limiting their children's consumption of popular culture, and I suppose if enough parents did that, the culture would shift.

So I appreciate her concern, but I will still tell little girls (and big girls) that they are pretty whenever I feel like it.

Because they are pretty. So there.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Beautiful music

Ah! I finally found the source for beautiful traditional Christmas music online. Through some Facebook friends, I connected with a website, or an app, or whatever, called Spotify. I clicked on a friend's choice of music and now am listening to the Worcester Cathedral Choir singing Christmas carols.

Joy to the World. Once in Royal David's City. I Wonder as I Wander.

Those ethereal boys' voices. Lovely.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second Sunday of Advent - Bethlehem Candle

My Advent candles did arrive, so now I can use a picture from today instead of from a previous year (as I did last Sunday).


I googled "Bethlehem song" to see if I could find a nice song, possibly, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but maybe another. "Mary's Boy Child" came up because it starts out, "Long time ago in Bethlehem." I like the Boney M. version, which mixes "Mary's Boy Child" with another song I don't know from anywhere else, "Oh, my Lord." It almost makes me cry.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ho, ho, ho


Image courtesy of DailyClipArt.net
I did a whole bunch of online Christmas shopping this evening, but I did not click any check-out buttons yet. I'm leaving everything sitting in the virtual shopping carts while I sleep on my purchases.

One change I made already was to take things out that I wanted to buy myself. Sometimes when I chose something for someone else, I'd think, I'd like that, too, so I'd make the quantity "2." But when I saw the total prices, I changed them to "1" and figured I'll get my own later.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting Midwintry

Time again for a favorite Christmas poem. It's cold and frosty outside where I live, although the wind does not make moan right now. The earth my be like iron and water like stone, but snow has not fallen, much less snow on snow.

But it's close enough.

In the bleak midwinter
Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Asymmetry

At home I have an icon of Christ Pantocrator, a copy of a 6th Century icon in St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai, in Egypt. I also have a small card-sized copy of it taped to my keyboard tray at work.


This is one of, if not the, oldest images of Christ in the world. Some speculate that it is the most likely of any icon to portray Jesus' actual appearance, and they also say it has the same facial features as the Shroud of Turin. We can take that as we will.

Pantocrator is a Greek equivalent for Almighty. Christ blesses us with one hand and holds the Gospel in his other hand. The blessing hand, I've read, has two fingers raised symbolizing the two natures of Christ -- human and divine -- and the other three fingers touch each other to represent the Trinity.

What is striking, of course, is the asymmetry. The eyes are different from each other, as are the brows, the two sides of the mouth, and the cheekbones.

Here is one side:



And here is the other:



I've read that this, too, is a reflection of his dual nature. Hm. All of us have asymmetrical faces, just not always as noticeably. Here is a series of myself:



One side:



And the other:


I don't know that this says anything profound about anything, but it's an experiment I wanted to try. I thought how wonderful it would be if someday I could recognize Jesus from his picture. And if he looked at me from behind a door or pillar, I would see one side or the other of him.

I like to have a picture of him at work, just like I have pictures of some family members (and, okay, my dog) to remind me of the love I receive from him, my parents (and, okay, my dog). I have to turn away from my work to look at my family pictures, but while I am working I can see the picture of Christ by my keyboard and remember that he is present with me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Egg nog

What is it? Eggs, sugar, milk, cream, and booze. I saw Martha Stewart make some on TV once that looked mighty good.

Who thought it up? I googled "egg nog history" and found dozens of articles saying the same things in almost the same words. Obviously there is one source somewhere for this information--if it is information and not invention--but I don't know the source and don't know if someone researched this or made it up. Most of what I read all over the web is present in this Wikipedia article.

That article also links to an article on advocaat, a Dutch drink or dessert topping that is much like egg nog. According to my sister-in-law, who is closer to her Dutch roots than I am to mine, advocaat was a ladies' drink--for her parents' generation anyway. Ladies had advocaat and men had jenever, a drink similar to gin.

Cheers! or if you're having advocaat or jenever: Proost!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Insert profundity here

Earlier today, I had an idea for a humorous yet somewhat profound blog entry. Wouldn't you like to read that? So would I. I can't remember what my idea was.

I looked back over old posts this weekend. I blog a bit too much about my sleep patterns: that I'm sleepy, that I want to sleep in, that I slept enough, or that I haven't slept enough.

Oh, well. It could be worse. I recently finished a biography of Martin Luther and it seems much of his personal correspondence was taken up with complaints about and updates on his constipation, hemorrhoids, kidney stones, and the like. No wonder the Great Reformer needed so much grace.



Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent - Prophet's Candle

Well, my four-day Thanksgiving weekend is almost over. I did not accomplish as many household tasks as I had hoped, which is certainly a shockingly unexpected outcome that no one could have foreseen, unless they knew me at all. But I did do a couple things, which is better than nothing.

One accomplishment was changing three light bulbs in two ceiling fixtures. I have quite low ceilings, so I stand on the lower step of a two-step ladder, less than a foot off the floor, but it still makes me quite nervous. I have to unscrew a little knob (after some googling, I believe the term is finial) and remove a frosted glass shade, then replace the light bulb(s), then hold the glass shade in place with one hand while twisting the final into place with the other. And somewhere in the process I also usually rinse out the glass shade with water at the kitchen sink because there are always dead bugs in it. Gross.

Another accomplishment was to put seed in the bird feeders in the back yard and hang out a couple of suet cakes nearby. Sometime this year I fell out of the habit of filling the feeders, which needs to be done pretty much every week. I've had two bags of birdseed lying around my house and suet cakes in the fridge for some time now. But today I finally got them out where the birds can eat them. And the squirrels. We get lots of squirrels at our feeders.

This morning in church we sang two of my favorite Advent/Christmas songs: "Of the Father's Love Begotten" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One last bit of Thanksgiving

Before Thanksgiving ends and Advent begins, I want to sneak in this traditional Thanksgiving hymn. We didn't sing it at my church on Thanksgiving, so I found it on Youtube.



We Gather Together

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

Words: Theodore Baker, 1894
Dutch folk tune

Tweede Thanksgiving

"Tweede" in Dutch means second. The Dutch often do celebrate a holiday for a second day: Tweede Kerstdag is Second Christmas, for example. So we had our "Tweede Thanksgiving" today with those who couldn't be there for Eerste Thanksgiving on Thanksgiving Day.

Sitting nicely at the table. Also, keeping hold of Thanksgiving
specialties such as a pumpkin and a glass of apple cider.
Note to followers in the Anglosphere: In the U.S., "cider"
is non-alcoholic apple juice. If it had alcohol, it would be called
"hard cider."
I joked the other day that we had had our quiet Thanksgiving and implied that this one would be our noisy Thanksgiving. There were a few noisy interludes, caused by inter-sibling conflict (who would guess that two kids would want to sit in the rolling desk chair at the table?), but also a lot of pleasant time together.

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for sisters to color
together in unity.
Thanksgiving Day, we had  rainy, windy weather, but today it was just rainy.

I'm glad I still have one more day before going back to work. Tomorrow will be the First Sunday of Advent, which is the beginning of the church year.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Day After Thanksgiving

Yesterday, my parents, sister-in-law, and I had our "quiet" Thanksgiving. Tomorrow we will have a Thanksgiving get-together that will include four much-beloved children. It's likely to be less quiet, but even more joyful.

Today, as the day after Thanksgiving, is the first day of the pop-culture Christmas season in the U.S., as opposed to the catholic church year, in which the Christmas season doesn't start until December 25. It so happens that today is exactly one month before Christmas. I got out a nutcracker and my Nativity set for decorations. I already have a rosemary "tree" that I bought at the grocery store earlier this week. It's a potted rosemary plant cut into the shape of a Christmas tree. I hung some small Christmas balls on it and put it on my kitchen table. I hope it lives. It won't get much light.

My full-size Christmas tree will wait a while longer. I get a cut tree from a tree farm and set it up on a weekend approximately two weeks before Christmas. This year it will be exactly two weeks before Christmas. It's good for a couple weeks and then by New Year's or thereabouts when I take it down it's getting dried out. The local Boy Scouts usually do curbside pickup of trees on the Saturday after New Year's, but I wonder if this year they will do it the day before, since New Year's is a Sunday.

I have Advent candles on order from Monastery Greetings. I hope they arrive before Sunday, but I don't recall exactly when I ordered them. I know I didn't pay extra for any kind of speedy shipping, so if they're late, they're late.

It's nice having a four-day weekend. I met a Bellingham friend for breakfast at a restaurant (Hilltop Restaurant) and we caught up with each other. We both hoped to get lots done around our homes this weekend. We'll see how that goes.

I have Pandora playing Christmas music. I started with "Folk Holidays," which I generally like, but then a song came on that I don't know, when what I want are the old traditional songs. So I switched to "Joy to the World" radio where I had to give a "thumb down" to the first selection because it was some type of new, different way of singing one of the old traditional songs. The next two have been okay. It's so hard to find the perfect station. See, when I listen to Christmas carols, I just want people to sing them, not interpret them in some unique way. Please don't sing Christmas carols as they've never been sung before; please sing them exactly the way they've always been sung. Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

It's Thanksgiving morning, and I'm thankful to be here.

I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I (don't really) love a rainy night

I finally remembered. At a certain stoplight on my way home (at the corner of the Guide and Smith Road) I often see a big building, like a huge quonset building, that says Ural Northwest. I wondered if it sold Russian goods because I had a vague recollection that the Urals are in Russia. In a sense I was right, but it turns out Ural is the brand name of a motorcycle.

Tonight, however, I did not see that building down the road. I could barely see the road. It's dark outside now when I leave work, and this evening there was heavy cloud cover obscuring any of the lesser lights that rule the night. To complicate things further, rain covered the pavement with a sheen of water that created lengthened reflections of road signs, traffic lights, and car headlights and taillights. During the part of my commute that lay on Highway 5, the car tires kicked up spray so that it was a little scary to travel at highway speed. In spite of my tension over driving conditions, I struggled with drowsiness.

I struggled with drowsiness again just a few minutes ago when I tried to play Facebook Scrabble. I looked at my letters and started to doze off.

Tomorrow I work, then two days off (a four-day weekend) for Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wild night

It's a wild and windy night out there. I can hear it blowing. I should turn off my computer when I go to bed, in case we have a power outage. I should have turned off my computer at work, too, but I didn't think of it.

Will I feel cozy or sad when I lie in bed listening to the wind? I think I've written before how when I told my dad that hearing the wind at night made me feel ... and I paused, he said, cozy, but I was about to say, sad. He feels how nice it is to be warm and sheltered when he hears the wind. Right now, with the lights on, I don't think much about it, except that the power could go out. But when I lie in the dark I tend to picture a poor stray cat trying to stay warm out there. And the vast darkness with things moving in it.

When I thought of how wild it sounds out there, I knew there was a poem by Emily Dickinson about wild nights. It's fairly suggestive for a woman of her era, or so it seems to me.

Wild nights - Wild nights!
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

Wild nights - Wild nights!
Were I with thee
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port -
Done with the Compass -
Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden -
Ah - the Sea!
Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Early to bed

Going to bed in a timely fashion tonight because I want to keep getting well. Heading into a short work week. Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Reading on the Kindle:



Waiting in the wings on the Kindle:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Frightful

We are getting some precipitation in the form of the infamous "frozen mix," aka "wintry mix." Just what the doctor ordered. Not.

If you google "frozen mix," you will get a few links about weather but more about blended margaritas. This weather is less fun than a margarita.

So, the weather outside is frightful, but it's not letting it snow.



Oddly, there are no songs (that I know of) about wintry mix. Let it slush, let it slush, let it slush.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Much better

Lots of aspirin/Advil and a good night's sleep have helped. I still have a cough, but that's about it. Maybe a little tiredness, but that might just be the result of a day in the life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What ails me

I started coughing Sunday night, continued Monday, last night could feel it in my throat and chest, coughed a lot today and feel achy. And I feel cold. Driving home from work, I cranked the heat in my car so it got so warm and toasty in there. I was as snug as a bug in rug. I thought of stopping at the drug store to buy cough syrup, but I couldn't stand the idea of getting out of my warm car into the cold, cold air any sooner than necessary.

Necessary was at the bank because I got paid today and I had to deposit my check at the ATM. It was imperative that I replenish my coffers, lest I stage my own private financial crisis.

When I got home I had to feed and walk the dog. His walk is necessary as the great outdoors is his restroom facility. I didn't even take off my commuter coat, though I did add a headband to cover my ears. I took him for the shortest walk possible that still accomplished our mission (if you know what I mean).

Then I went through the house turning up heater units just a little higher than I normally put them. I changed my attire to: long johns, a flannel nightgown, a flannel robe, cotton socks topped by wool socks (I cannot wear wool next to my skin because I am a delicate flower), and I currently have a shawl-like small blanket over my head and shoulders.

The microwave just binged that my Marie Callender's chicken pot pie is heated up. I'm hoping after I eat to work up enough energy for a hot shower. I very much want to go to work tomorrow because missing a day is more bother than working while sick, and I know if I go to work I'll want my hair to be clean. Then, unless I'm completely stupid, early bedtime.

I suspect this is the most exciting blog on the internet tonight. Top my adventure, if you dare!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A title

Reading on my Kindle: Wait for Me! -- a memoir by Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, the youngest sister of novelist Nancy Mitford, and the 10th Duchess of Devonshire.



I love Nancy Mitford's novels The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate.



Every one of the daughters in the Mitford family was unusual in some way. The oldest, Nancy, was a talented novelist and biographer; the next, Diana, married Sir Oswald Mosley, the leader of the British Union of Fascists; Pamela farmed and cooked and had a blue Aga stove to match her eyes; Unity Mitford idolized Hitler and tried to kill herself when England and Germany went to war, but only succeeded in inflicting brain damage on herself; Jessica Mitford went left where her sisters went right, married and became a true communist and wrote The American Way of Death; and Deborah, the youngest, married a duke's younger son, became a duchess, and helped preserve a great estate.

I've read a good biography of them, The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family, but you would have to be quite interested in the Mitfords to read it. (I was.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Too soon!

In the 7-day forecast, a week from today, there's a 40% chance of light snow!

The age meme

I got an e-mail from Facebook telling me a friend has a birthday and also how old he's turning. I thought, "Huh, he's older than I am." Then I realized, "No, wait. I'm older than he is."

Sometimes I forget how old I am.

Also, I'm not good at math.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baby face

People around me seem younger than they used to. On Northwest Cable News (NWCN), every time I see one news anchor, I think, "What? Are you even a high school graduate yet?" Evidently he is.

A friend of my dad's, who's in his 80s, told my dad, "The older I get, the older 'old' gets."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hymn sing

For some reason when I'm driving, one of two hymn tunes will come into my head, not necessarily my favorite hymns, although good hymns. I will unconsciously start humming either "How Great Thou Art" or "My Jesus I Love Thee." Other hymns require a conscious effort to produce.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thursday is the new Friday

Tomorrow is the Friday of my work week, although it's the Thursday of reality. I'm happy to have just one more day to go. I'm anxious about how much I need to get done tomorrow. The down side of a 4-day work week is trying to squish 5 days worth of work into it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

50%

My work week is half over. Two down, two to go.

I'll be checking final election results tomorrow morning.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Monday

Worked my work day and did a decent amount of work.

Filled out my local ballot this evening. It's due tomorrow. I could mail it, but I think I'll bring it personally to the Auditor's Office. Or maybe I'll swing through the Lynden Library on my way out of town and put it in the drop box.

I am particularly interested in the results for sheriff, county executive, and auditor, and for Initiative 1183 -- concerning "hard liquor."

How did I vote? That's my secret.

It's great to live in this great Republic. Voting is both my duty and a privilege.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Sunday

A beautiful but cold autumn day. Some good hymns at church. Kind words and some talk about dahlias with a good church member. Visiting aunts and uncles. Pumpkin pie. Put more plants away. Laundry. Sandwiches for the coming work week.

It's a four-day work week, Monday through Thursday. Friday will be Veterans Day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Herbsttag

Today I took down my hanging plants, which had been lightly nipped by frost this week, and swept the shady side of the deck. It is the beginning of clearing and straightening up the deck for winter.

Tonight we turn the clocks back, and now for a few months I will not see much of my deck and yard by daylight during the work week, only on weekends. I feel some melancholy about that but not an excessive amount. I will probably start seeing more light in February, and start thinking about and possibly buying (although it will be too early) new plants in March. Today I feel the value of a season of dormancy and darkness, although I may tire of it by next February.

Here is a good poem, originally written in German (below) and translated into English:

Autumn Day

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore.
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

Translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann, "The Essential Rilke"

Herbsttag

Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr gross.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren lass die Winde los.

Befiehl den letzten Fruchten voll zu sein;
gieb innen noch zwei sudlichere Tage,
drange sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Susse in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blatter treiben.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, Paris, Sept. 21, 1902

Nonsense

I was watching "Gardening with Ciscoe" while browsing the internet, and I muted during commercials. So while my attention was distracted, "Ciscoe" ended and another show started. What caught my attention was the closed captioning:

video

Huh?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Anniversary

Today is the 5th anniversary of my oldest brother's death. Today, I reviewed some of my memories of that day, but I can't share them publicly. It would somehow feel disrespectful.

I'll just share that as ALS took his physical strength away, the verse he repeated was from 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just the usual

Well, I told the doctor about my knee. He checked it out and didn't see anything unusual. He didn't have a magic pill (darn!), but he did allow as how if I wanted to keep taking Advil I could, as long as it didn't upset my stomach. He referred me for an X-ray, so we can either diagnose or rule out arthritis. I also received a 'flu shot and a booster shot for tetanus and whooping cough, so I am well-inoculated.

Shots have come a long way in my lifetime. Medical professionals used to come at you with a terrifying hypodermic and an inch-long needle, but today's shots were minor prickles, and once I took off the Snoopy band-aids I could hardly find where I had been injected. I don't know exactly what type of tool they used for the shot because I averted my eyes from the action. I cannot watch a needle go into myself (or anyone else). I don't think I would faint, but it would horrify me.

Dave Barry once wrote about how when he was a kid in Armonk, New York, whenever his mom took him to the doctor's office, he was always anxious to leave as soon as possible because the longer his mom and the doctor chatted, the more likely the doctor would suddenly decide to give him a booster shot. Probably not in the arm, either.

In other news, I went to work and did my job. On my Kindle I downloaded the complete Anthony Trollope. That's a big file. At home, I am reading a thick biography of Beatrix Potter, which I bought on Saturday at the Katz book store in Lynden--a used book store.



What with walking the dog, microwaving a TV dinner (as they were called in the misty past of my youth), and brushing my teeth, I'm quite dizzy from the excitement of my day!

That reminds me that yesterday I was driving to work, when I started to think of things I could complain about, instead I named some things to be thankful for, and sang a rousing chorus of "Count Your Blessings." At work, a co-worker asked, "How are you doing?" I turned around and told her, "I'm counting my blessings." She found that amusing, in a good way. She also is a church-goer, so I think she caught my allusion. She even offered a suggestion, which was that coffee was a blessing. I heartily agreed.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Snap, crackle, pop

The title of this post signifies the sounds my joints make when I move around. Well, specifically, it's the one knee. After I sit a while, when I first stand up my knee hurts badly. After a few painful steps, it snaps audibly and then it still hurts but not as badly.

Tomorrow afternoon I have a doctor's appointment. I say that to anticipate my sister's question: When are you going to see a doctor about your knee?

Think they'll have a pill that will fix it?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Catching up

Oops. I last wrote Saturday and now it's Tuesday. It was a busier weekend than usual for me. I shopped on Saturday afternoon for a gift for my nephew's birthday. Saturday night I went to a Harry Potter-themed party. Sunday afternoon was my nephew's birthday celebration.

Last night, my niece and her kids came over to use our house as a base for trick-or-treating. They live in the country, where the houses are too far apart and the roads too dark and lacking shoulders or sidewalks for kids to trick-or-treat. So they come here and trick-or-treat in our neighborhood.

My youngest niece, age 4, was not along. She was sick -- sick to her stomach -- and had to stay home with daddy while her siblings went trick-or-treating. I heard she was very, very sad about this and shed many tears. I don't blame her. Just think, no Halloween again for a whole year. For her, that's 1/4 of her whole life! That would be like 12 years for me. Poor little sweetie.

Here she is with her mom on a happier day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Everybody's working for the weekend

This morning I put on a pot of coffee before I took my dog for his walk so that when I came home I would smell the coffee when I walked in the door. My plan worked perfectly.

It was a pretty walk, though cold.  It was just getting light and the eastern sky was yellow. It was a little misty, and red, orange, and yellow colors were scattered through the neighborhood on the trees and bushes. When I came back into our cul-de-sac, I wished I had brought my camera because the maple tree looked so gorgeous. This is a picture from last week Saturday. It's like this, only more so.


It's such a pleasant, relaxing feeling to sleep until I wake naturally, get up gradually, take my walk when I'm ready, then come back in and be able to stay home and potter around my house. When I was spooning the coffee into the brewer, the line of the Loverboy song came into my mind, "Everybody's working for the weekend." I do feel, sort of, that my weekends are my reward for my work week. I work for a living Monday through Friday, then on Saturday and Sunday I live my living.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Excitement

How sad is it that a major high point of my week is sleeping in on Saturday morning? I am so looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Deep thoughts

A bottle of Pepto-Bismol is sitting on my counter. The "Pepto" is writ large, while "Bismol" is small. A old roommate of mine occasionally had recourse to Pepto-Bismol, but she didn't like the taste. She called it "Dismal-Bismol."

I don't mind the taste. Not that I would drink it by the cupful as a pleasurable beverage, but in its recommended dose it's quite tolerable. Peppermint flavored. I used to think the "Pepto" referred to peppermint, which is good for your stomach -- that's why Dutch people often eat a peppermint after a meal, particularly a spicy meal -- but I think it really refers to the word peptic, as in peptic ulcer. According to Merriam-Webster, the word pepsin derives from pepsis, the Greek word for digestion.

"Bismol" refers to the active ingredient, bismuth subsalicylate.

Anyway, the label reminded me of the Pepto-Bismol commercial that was on TV in my mis-spent youth, where someone would hold their hand to their mouth and gurgle, "Indi ... (urp) ... gestion," then the announcer would reply, "Pepto ... Bismol." While the person was burping, their picture would be all distorted like a fun-house mirror, but at the name "Pepto-Bismol" they would return to normal. That was quite explicit for its time about the problems Pepto-Bismol treats.

Then they went a little further. A man in the commercial would ask in a confidential manner, "Do you mind if I talk to you about ... diarrhea?" My dad would always yell, "Yes!" He minded. That commercial was also quite "out there" for its time.

Now, there's nothing you can't say on TV, and they sing and dance about stomach problems.



I wish I could say that I am shocked, disgusted, and dismayed by the vulgarity of this commercial, but I can't. It makes me laugh.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Medium

Well, the work week is more than half over. It's neither the fastest nor the slowest week I've had. Just medium.

This morning there was frost on the ground.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A couple little thoughts on prayer

Looking for time to pray. If I want to spend significant time in prayer, what's necessary is that I should like praying more than I like the other things that take up my time. Or at least that I should value it more. What we really spend our time on shows what we really value.

And trying to pray well. I can start by praying badly. I do some of that already  -- why not even more? It may be that the fruit of my unskillful, bumbling prayers will be better prayers.

Now I remember

Every now and then I have a night where I'm so sleepy that I crawl off to bed early and forget that I even have a blog until the next morning. That was last night.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Turning leaves

On a sunny fall afternoon, even the parking lot of a grocery store can be beautiful.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A fall Saturday

Earlier today (before the downpour), I went to see my great-nephew playing soccer. Here's a pretty good action shot of him.


He's the one with the yellow shirt and the long hair. I spotted him in the field while I was still driving around looking for parking because of his hair.

Here are his mom, my niece, and his "granny," my sister-in-law.


Afterwards I stopped off at Muddy Waters Espresso drive-through for some hot, caffeinated beverages for my folks and me.


At this time of year I enjoy seeing this bush around Lynden. It puts on some brilliant fall color. It is appropriately called a Burning Bush or Fire Ball.


Some local trees are also getting red leaves ...


... but it seems to me that yellow or golden leaves are the more typical around here.


The big maple in our cul-de-sac is starting to turn yellow. (I'm pretty sure it's a maple, based on the shape of the leaves.)



I love this tree's massive, bumpy, mossy trunk and limbs.


This is the kind of tree that could have been an ent.