Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent, 2008

This is my Advent wreath which is set up now on my dining room table.

I know that Advent will fly by and Christmas will come almost too quickly as it has every year of my life. In three weeks we will have the shortest day of the year and then the celebration of the return of the light in the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, the Light of the World.

With the help of a friend a few weeks ago I moved my Liturgy of the Hours from a high shelf in my bedroom that I could no longer reach safely to the bookcase in the dining room. Yesterday I got out the "blue" volume the one marked 1 for the first season of the year, Advent. We will see if I can get back to the rhythm of using it daily.

I also own the Divine Office in a three volume set with Latin and English. I should bring it out too and use them both. There is time for them and it is time to make time in my life.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the post Vatican II version of the Office and it is usually thought to be most accessible to lay people who do not have a background in Latin. (Since most of the people whom I knew with whom I first shared the Office--the chanting of Mass, as well as Vespers and Compline--were scholars of Latin among other subjects, that wasn't an issue.) I found that I loved the Office of Readings though because of the excerpts from the writings of the Fathers of the Church.

If I can find the materials on line, I will try to link here. I am grateful for this season and the readings.

A blessed Advent to all who read this blog.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

There are so many things to be thankful for even though this has been such a difficult year for so many of us.

One thing to be thankful for is that it is nearly over! The new year always brings a sense of hope and expectation and fresh start and I hope that will be so.

I am thankful for my family; for friends near and far and for this marvelous communication technology that brings us all together even when we are far away. It is hard to believe that I have only had email for a little over ten years and that the grocery delivery service that Papa and I originally bought an Internet ready computer for, Peapod, has been long gone.

So many ways to access the web and make it useful exist now that didn't exist then, that I can't help being grateful for them, too. (Even the game that I play compulsively on Facebook called Pathwords is something that I am grateful for.)

The weather is mild and beautiful and that is a tremendous blessing. I spend the winter living in fear of my heating bills, mostly because I never know until I open them what they are going to be. It would be nice to know, to have some sort of inside meter on the furnace or thermostat that would show me how I am doing and then have the rates clearly stated on the web so that it would be possible to plan a little better.

Since that isn't possible I am grateful for obsessive knitting in past years that has given me a wonderful pile of hats, scarves and mitts that keep me warm with lower thermostat settings. I am also grateful for polyester fleece and think it is cool that it is made out of recycled plastic bottles.

I am grateful that I am still able to live in my own house and that I can even have a bit of garden thanks to friends who share in that.

So even though I don't have a big Thanksgiving dinner in the works, I am grateful for my blessings and give thanks on this day of thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Counting Down to Christmas

It is hard to believe that Christmas is only a month away. Time to clean up the living room to make way for the decorations. My house has a holiday smell to it thanks to three big bags of rosemary drying in the front hall.

For the last few days I have been updating my Squidoo Christmas Countdown lens and bringing it up to date with fresh tips. It is now linked to the right. Advent starts on Sunday and this beautiful season should not be neglected in all the Christmas preparations.

I won't bake very much this year. The teeth are getting too old for sugar and the net fiddling that I do every day takes time so that will keep me out of the kitchen and away from the calories. Probably a good thing, too!

All the presents are ready to be wrapped and mailed. All that I have to do is do it.

Christmas cards have been waiting for years. Maybe this will be the year that I actually write some. I do like to send them as Christmas cards though--during the twelve days of Christmas and not as a friend says, "as Advent cards".

I have a Keep Advent design on Cafepress and would like to make a movement and see the recovery of Advent. I wouldn't mind selling some totes and buttons too(even sweatshirts and hoodies)--it gets cold in my house in December and January. So take a look at the links to the left, please and consider me for part of your Christmas shopping.

I am grateful for this time of year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Buckwheat Noodles

The buckwheat noodles are fabulous! Time consuming but simple nonetheless. They are well worth the effort and I will definitely make them again. They are part of an Italian recipe that includes potatoes and cabbage. I see a recipe variation coming here because I would like to try the cabbage and mushrooms. Of course I added garlic to the dish. There can never be too much garlic.

It would be an excellent meal served with pumpkin custard--I no longer make pie--and my favorite salad of butter lettuce, mandarin oranges and avocado with a light dressing.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and Advent is a week away. I hope to discipline myself to read the Advent readings this year, they are so beautiful, and to post about them, thus fulfilling the Catholic and spiritual part of this blog a little better than I have. It is a time of expectation and therefore of joy.

Today the sun shines in and warms my house, which was quite chilly this morning and I am grateful for that as well as the good food and the company of my friend who shared it with me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Counting Blessings

The stock market is dismal, the weather has turned chilly and grey and it would be so easy to lament and collapse into depression. (A five minute microwave chocolate mug cake comes to mind here.)

On the other hand, the furnace is working and I thank God for it. The lights are on; the space I am working in is relatively cozy and warm so what are my blessings?

To be alive in a warm dry place. To have food of my own choosing and to know that I am going to attempt to make homemade buckwheat noodles this afternoon for the first time. To know that I have so many projects I can pick one from the list and not be bored for a day or a week or a month or probably even a year.

In the last week I have rediscovered the pleasure of writing, working on a story that had not been touched for so long that it seemed to have been abandoned. Why? I can work on figuring that out too!

Thanksgiving is near and Christmas soon to follow. I love these holidays and I have everthing to celebrate Christmas without spending a cent. The tree lives in its box in the front hall closet for most of the year and the ornaments too. In fact, I have several Christmas trees with varying stories and of varying sizes. I am hoping to put them all up this year. So looking forward, anticipating celebration is part of my blessing counting.

My friend who befriended my yard several years ago was over yesterday and we visited. After she finished in the yard, she went into the garage to look for something for me and found tons of cardboard which I had forgotten that I had saved. Off the premises it went. Thanks be to my friend.

Sometime this weekend I will finally harvest the tomatoes and make fried green tomatoes for the first time. They sound delicious.

All in all it is not a bad day and I am grateful and reminding myself of the blessings.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Catching Up

I see that it has been almost a week since I have been here. It was a long week and threatening to be cold since the furnace quit twice. It seems to be running smoothly now, thank God and the young man who did such a great job of fixing it.

It has been unusually warm, beautiful weather and I hope that the winter is mild and filled with gentle rain. Next week is Thanksgiving already and then quickly after that, Christmas. Many of us will be glad when this year is over, I think and we hope that next year will be better and dread that next year will be worse.

It is up to us all really to take the dread out of it and make sure that it is better. It is a different kind of catching up; catching up to a more old-fashioned notion of community and economy that is built locally from the ground up or over the Internet by seeking out small businesses who are on the web because the local areas alone would not support them

Over the past decade I have extended my community to include used booksellers that I have found through Advanced Book Exchange and found books from all over this country and from Ireland. I have found beautiful yarn, hand-dyed by women who have set up their shops on Ebay and I have begun my own endeavors, my Mary Kay business, Cafepress shop and Etsy shop to add my little bit.

I like this idea of catching up to an older economy of small businesses and entrepreneurs by using modern technology--the Internet and long distance shipping companies to combine small with global. I could never have traveled to all of the places that I have purchased things from or that people are in who have purchased from me--my carbon footprint would have been enormous if I had done so.

We can all catch up to the economy and rebuild prosperity if we stop being afraid. Let's not dread the New Year, but plan how we can circumvent corporate jumbo businesses and support one another.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day, 2008

Honoring those who served makes me think particularly of my father, who served in the Navy in World War II and my Grandpa, who served in the Army in World War I. Neither told War stories while I was growing up. Both were good men who served their country because it was their duty to do so. Neither would have considered a career in the military, I am sure of that.

On the other hand, I have dear friends who did make the military their careers, one in the Navy and one first in the Marine corps and then in the Army. Another dear friend is a Marine from World War II.

The "greatest generation" tends to fill my thoughts when I think of Veteran's Day, but today's men and women deserve our prayers, gratitude and kindness too. Even though the war is unpopular, they should not be. The members of my generation who suffered through the war in Vietnam are a testment to that.

Several years ago, I made a design with words for Peace in about forty languages to honor my father, Fred. As I was writing this tonight, I realized that was Grandpa's name as well. It was his father's and his father's uncle (my third great-uncle, I think that the relationship is) who was also named Fred. That man served in the Union Army in the Civil War. I wish he had left a journal--I do have all of his Veteran's records of application for disability from NARA (National Archive and Records Administration) and I have no doubt at all that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. So my design does honor them as well.

To all of the veterans and those serving I wish you peace and joy and the return to your families. My prayers and thoughts go with you tonight. I am so grateful to you all and for you all.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It Happened, Obama Won!

I went to bed on Tuesday night praying that it would not be a mistake in the morning! I don't trust projections. But Obama really and truly won! I am so glad. He even mentioned the disabled in his acceptance speech--now I hope that won't be the last time that we are mentioned, and that there will be more hope and help for us too.

I haven't been thrilled by an election since I was thirteen and John Fitgerald Kennedy was elected. I remember thinking that I could hardly wait to be old enough to cast my first ballot.

Eight years later when that day came, it was after bitter fighting in the primaries and the candidate I voted for, Hubert Humphrey, was a compromise candidate and he didn't win. I went away from my involvement in politics with a sense of loss: loss for the idealism that had led me to get involved in the first place and loss that all the hard work had been for nothing. Tuesday night I felt that loss healed for the first time in forty years.

I hope that all the young people who got involved will stay involved. We need to have a record turnout for voting in every election and at every level.

I think that president-elect Obama didn't just win the Presidency, he gave us back and gives us back our idealism and our pride in Democracy. I am so glad for him and for us.

Now we all have to do it too--unite as a nation and build a strong and just economy. Unite as a nation to let the bitterness of the past fall away and heal.

More about that in another post. For now, I am just glad and grateful.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One More Day!

Only one more day and then we will see who is elected after all the hoopla and the longest campaign in history. I hope that the next campaign does not go on as long or cost as much.

I voted several weeks ago, so there is an element of anti-climax to the real election day. Wednesday will tell who the new President is and I am looking forward to that day.

I hope that we can all work together to bring about a saner, more stable and more just economy. I believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore that we all have talents, love, gifts and the ability to live productive and virtuous lives. We bring all of that to the table, so to speak; our economy should reflect that. If we think of the economy as the table, then it is a big table with room for all of us at the feast of prosperity and productivity that can be brought to it. There is room for sharing and caring at this table.

Social security disability needs to be overhauled so that we who are disabled have a place at the table; so that our talents and gifts and in some cases, as for people like me, our educations are not put on hold and wasted for a lifetime because of outmoded definitions of a bureaucracy that puts people into institutionalized poverty.

Health care needs to be seriously reformed. I hope that it will be and that no one will be excluded from care, or excluded from economic productivity because of insurance company formulas about who can be included. At the same time, we need to recognize, I believe, that health care is not a right but a need. Like shelter, water, food and clothing care in illness and injury is a necessity to life. We should provide that care. We should also expect to pay something for it and a system that has a sliding scale that makes government's role supplemental and as the re-insurer for catastrophic accident and illness would make sense to me on every level.

We need to put people back to work and we need to repair and rebuild much of our infrastructure, from levees in California and roads all over the country to bridges and perhaps airports as well. A new WPA would be timely and helpful.

We need to carefully and seriously question the profit motive, corporate capitalism and the whole laissez faire idea of the totally free market. We have just seen this run rampant and we are suffering the consequences of it. Even Alan Greenspan recognized there was a flaw. Oh yes, this amateur historian (although I majored in History, I don't make my living as an Historian) can see that flaw and spotted it about thirty-five years ago. (And it doesn't really require that other degree that I hold, the M. Div., to know that the flaw is called greed.)

We need, and I believe religious leaders have a role to play here, to bring the concept of justice to our economy. I have always believed in the motto, "If you want peace, work for justice". Let's make it happen. At the same time I have always believed that an economy based on community rather than competition would be one that was more just, less stressful and made room for every body.

So I am grateful for the right to vote, that the election will take place tomorrow and that on Wednesday, praise God, it will finally be over. We have work ahead of us that cannot not be undertaken too soon. I am grateful and I hope that we will seize the opportunity to truly dig in and do it, making a better world for all of us.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Beautiful Rain

California has been suffering from a drought since March. So to hear the rain falling is like music. Much of yesterday, last night and today the rain fell gently, sweetly watering our parched land. Snow has most probably fallen in the Sierra's, to the delight of everyone there--especially those who rely on skiers to bring them their livelihood.

We are dependent on the cycle of nature and as the days shorten and we draw within for winter activities, turning our clocks back tonight, it is a good time to reflect on how we are a part of that cycle.

Tomorrow is the Feast of All Souls, one of my favorite days in the Church calendar. The choir will sing the special Requiem for All Souls and that is a reminder of the cycle too, for we are here for a short time and then gone.

Today as I looked out at the light of a cloudy day in between the rain showers, I spotted a pair of hummingbirds dancing in air as they do from time to time. It is a thing of breathtaking beauty and I believe they are a mated pair, swooping towards each other, giving way to each other and circling, then flying off together. I have been watching them at the pineapple sage in the kitchen window too.

Gratitude is a major theme today. For the snug, well-lighted house where I sit typing; for the quiet that allows me to think and reflect; for the occasional plinking still of rain on the kitchen exhaust fan over the stove and for the hummingbirds and their joyous dance in the air.