Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year! The disc jockey on the radio station I listen to just said that he always makes a gratitude list at the end of the year. Here is mine.

I am grateful for
My family and the gift of digital photography that through Facebook allowed me to almost be with them this year. Seeing pictures in the same week made me feel so much more a part of Christmas.

Friends both near and far and for all the visitors that I have been blessed by this week--more to come.

Customers--several who at the last minute unexpectedly turned my Christmas cash flow positive.

Google for the opportunity to blog here and the great picture viewer, Picasa.

My DSL and that I figured it out for myself.

My garden which was work as well as blessing.

The memories I carry of my parents and family living in this house that I still live in and all the good times, festal and ferial that we had here.

The election that will return Democrats to the majority. Let's hope and help that they can actually get some of the things done that need doing.

Health, which is not the same as disability. I am a rather healthy disabled person.

For music and flowers and good food and rain and sunshiny days and so many other things that I can't think of right now. I'm sure the list could go on. I like this idea better than the resolutions list. So I am grateful to the radio announcer on KDFC who suggested it.

I am full of gratitude and hope for 2009. Good way to end and to begin. May you be blessed. Along with our to do lists in 2009, let's not forget to make gratitude lists.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Pictures

Here are pictures of some of my Christmas decorations. The first one is my main tree in the living room. Some ornaments have been with me since I was a small child and all are cherished; all have stories.

The red bird is one of a flock that decorate the tree each year. I love the red and green colors of Christmas and the hope that the birds symbolize. Even while the earth is fallow, Spring will come and flowers will bloom again.

The next bird is the newest ornament, the one that my sister stitched this year. She has contributed to my joy at Christmas with her patient, generous hand-work. (Now if she can just find a little time for herself in 2009!)

The next picture is a small tree that is decorated simply with peace cranes that my friend, who is a communion minister from our local parish, and I made in 2007. They seem especially appropriate and graceful. The Christmas cactus, a gift from a friend, sits in front of it.

There are two more small trees that I usually decorate, one with angels (the "angel tree") in my bedroom and one with small paper ornaments made by printing some Dover Christmas designs and cutting them out.

Finally, I have an undecorated small tree in my office near the printer and another on my Mama's vanity along with family pictures. Maybe next year, if please God, all goes well, I will decorate them all.

The sameness and yet difference of each year's tree continues to fascinate me. (Some people have told me that I should just have someone cover the tree and then uncover it next Christmas. I think that is funny, but wouldn't be much fun!)

Gratitude is still a major theme for today.

Christmas Vacation

It is just as it should be. Christmas week has been a time of visiting with friends, reconnecting, baking and eating. Yesterday after baking gingersnaps, I spent the afternoon visiting with friends, sharing their good news and company. Then too full of caffeine and sugar I watched TV for a time, catching part of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking on one of my local PBS stations.

This is not an original Conan Doyle, and it didn't seem like it was. Too dark, not noir dark but macabre. It was creepy and seemed like Sherlock Holmes meets Law and Order Special Victims. I do not find psychopathology entertaining. I do not find sociopaths interesting characters. I have long thought that it is a major flaw of our culture that we have become obsessed with these things as entertainments. (I find the fact that people watch these things on TV and or watch the news and then can't sleep without "sleep aids" to be so obvious. We wouldn't need the sleep medicines if we'd turn off the TV!)

Anyway, no one but Jeremy Brett can be Sherlock Holmes as far as I am concerned. The original stories had the finesse of Victoriana. I won't look for more of these new ones. (But I did double check to make sure that I had locked the front door before I went to bed.)

My daffodils are starting to poke through the dirt. The older ones will remind me of a neighbor who died Christmas morning. She had organized caroling in the neighborhood for many years and for the last several, while she fought her fight against cancer, there were no carolers. She was a passionate gardener who generously shared her skills, knowledge and plants with the rest of us. One year she bought a bag of daffodil bulbs, one hundred King Alfred daffodils, from our local Costco and emailed our list that she had bulbs to share. I was the lucky one who bought the extras so as they bloom each year I will remember her. I had not known that daffodils where fragrant or that they are a symbol of the resurrection. I have her to thank for that for these daffodils are fragrant and having them led me to research on the web. She will be missed and remembered.

I hope there will be something similar for people to remember me by when the time comes. It is up to me to make sure that there is, another reason to practice kindness, generosity and gratitude--perhaps selfish, but it is those acts that will keep our memories alive to others.

Today I give thanks for the neighbor who shared her music and daffodil bulbs and for the friends who are making my holiday season busy and joyful.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, 2008

A blessed and Merry Christmas to everyone. I need to clear the table for friends who are bringing me a share of their feast and their company later today. The Christmas tree and Creche are up in my living room, so I've been spending more time in there.

Nearly surfeited with eggnog and sentimental Christmas movies, too. I will be happy to hear Christmas music a little longer--although I think it will go away on my favorite radio station at midnight, so I will have to dig out tapes and CD's.

Gratitude is a big theme of this day. For the Christmas itself, I give thanks, for the kindness of friends, the sun shining now after rain and wind this morning and for the Pope's message, which I want to read in full and ponder. Thank you. I hope that 2009 will be a good year for all of us.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent

For just a few nights all four candles will be lighted and then it will be Christmas. Some people place a plain white pillar candle in the center of the Advent wreath on Christmas to signify Christ. My family has never done that, but I think it would be a nice thing to do.

Today I had a delightful Christmas visit from one of my dearest friends whom I wish that I could see more often. And then a leisurely and fun tea with my friend who will all too soon return to sea.

It was minus one today in Toledo, my hometown. I think of returning there to grow old among family. It is tempting especially on days when things break down and need to be repaired. Less so when I see that weather forecast and hear that the wind is blowing on the ice-laden power lines. I pray and hope that they will be safe.

It is time to pray for safety for travelers too, for all the friends and family members who are going out into this cold winter and flying to be with others. In a way, since Christmas began with the journey to Bethlehem, perhaps it isn't so strange that so many travel so far at this coldest, darkest part of the year. I am happy to be staying home!

I was looking for material about St. Joseph earlier in the day and was reminded that we think a good deal about Mary's yes, her Magnificat, but that we do not give the same credit to Joseph. If he had not said yes, he would honor his proposal, who would have cared for the child who grew up to become the Savior of Humankind? Indeed, fathers are so important and do not recieve the honor they deserve in our culture. Let us honor them this Christmas.

Still, I suspect that had they had the choice to stay home and not travel, the Holy Family would have been glad to have the baby born in their hometown and not in a stable. Much food for thought on a cold winter night.

I am grateful for the friends for stopping by and for my life this fourth Sunday of Advent.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Heartening Project

The other day, I think it was Wednesday, I was watching the News Hour on PBS while casting on the stitches for yet another hat. (This will be the third from this cache of yarn and by the time I run out of yarn, I think I may be able to knit the pattern in my sleep!). The News Hour featured a project in Denver, called the Women's Bean Project.


  • This is a project that puts women who have never worked and have been in trouble into a working project where they learn skills and move on to bigger jobs in the "real world". They package bean soup and baking mixes that are available on their web site. I commend them to you for your consideration.

    Their gift baskets look especially nice. It was also so good to see something positive in the news. I think that if all of the news programs would emphasize whatever positive things they can find, we would turn the economy around so much faster.

    I am grateful to see good news among the bad.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    More Christmas Preparations

    Yesterday as I was describing all of the ornaments I failed to enumerate some of the very best, the set of hand stitch3d ornaments that my sister has made, sending one each year. Here is a picture of an earlier tree that shows a fair number of them

    These have become my favorite ornaments for they are a true labor of love and gift of love. I just wish we could hang them together! More pictures will follow, since Christmas trees are like flowers! I haven't ever meant one that I haven't wanted to save and so I take endless pictures. I am always grateful for the beauty of the tree.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Monday, Monday

    Seems like the week and the winter is stretching interminably ahead at this point, but I know that it will soon be Friday! (Spring will take a little while longer, but that is probably good.)

    Three tomatoes ripen on the kitchen counter, which makes me wish that I had bagged them with labels so that I would know which ones are which! One has the deepest shade of red I have ever seen, so that may be Purple Cherokee. I thought that was a plum tomato, but I never saw any that were plum shaped.

    Yesterday I spent a frustrating time going through all the Christmas boxes for one small cache of musical instruments that are actually whistles that I have hung on my tree year after year. Part of both the magic and the comfort of the tree is the continuity of the ornaments. Some go back to my childhood, just after World War II and it is easy to tell by both their materials (plastic) and the colors (bright) that they belong to that era. I have tinsel garlands that belonged to my grandmother, that may be more than a century old and are still beautiful. Then there is a whole collection of lovely things that came from successive trips to Marshall Fields (along with Frango Mints, long gone now, of course)and from one memorable trip to the gift shop at the Oriental Museum at the University of Chicago when I was a graduate student. I remember the friends with whom I made these trips, including the time that we went to lunch in the Walnut Room and discovered that a person in a wheelchair was immediately moved to the head of the waiting line along with those who accompanied her! (We were so surprised!)

    Today my dear friend C found the ornaments for me and so the tree will soon be complete. I am waiting for my young friend M to come home from college to place the last ornaments for me, for she has been so instrumental in making my Christmases for the last six years. My tree is becoming a communal experience and that is good.

    For I am blessed now with friends who have the patience, and even encourage me, to tell the stories that go with the ornaments and that is part of what makes the tree so special. It is a memory tree, a ritual of recollection as much as a celebration of the season, which makes it even more special to me. One friend suggested that I should video-tape the stories and I may do that after Christmas, for I have a young friend in the neighborhood now who has the equipment and skills.

    Before I go to bed each night now until the tree is put back in its box--it was an Internet find the year that Papa died and I felt that he had led me to it for it had many years since we had a tree--I will go into the living room and turn on two lights, look at the tree and then turn out first one and then the other light and end the day.

    Christmas is one of my favorite times of year inspite of the fact that it is cold and there is no garden. It is the consolation for the cold and the short days. The light will shine again, but before it does in the changing seasons, the birthday of the Light of the World will be celebrated. In a few days the creche will be put up as well allowing me to think more of that great event, the Incarnation and the role that it plays in our lives.

    I will try to remember to take a picture of the tree after the last decorations are in place and post it here. Meanwhile, a blessed Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent to all of you.

    I am grateful.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    Cold Winter Blows my Way!

    North winds are indeed blowing and we are even going to have snow in central California! I am so grateful for modern plumbing and heating. The furnace has just come on as I began to type this and I have cozy space heaters along with fleece throws wrapped all around me. The space heaters take the place of fireplaces, which our ancestors would have had in every room. The new electric blanket is a very good one and a cozy fleece blanket in itself. I have that to look forward to shortly.

    I just finished watching an American Girl movie on Hallmark. I am always fascinated by period pieces, how everyone dressed, walked and talked in other times and the interior of houses. How they lived, warding off the elements in somewhat different ways, has intrigued me.

    One thing that they don't show is the long underwear. I can remember my Mama's descriptions of that and think that we could save considerable energy if we would not save our "long John's" and "long Jane's" for outdoor recreational activity, but bring them in and wear them regularly. After all we don't have to break ice on the water barrel, boil water and squeeze the clothes through a wringer to have clean laundry. Those machines worked well today too and earned their keep in my house.

    I am knitting hats for myself, so that I will have more than one and wearing a hat in the house saves a good bit of money for it allows me to turn the heat back substantially.

    In my Chicago days I learned to wear two pairs of socks in winter. That may be some of the best knowledge that I took away from the experience. A warm head and warm feet help a great deal.

    So while I do not cherish this cold spell, I am grateful for my blessings and trying to tell myself that it will be more like Christmas if it is cold.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Then There are Days

    Then there are days when I can't seem to spell my own name. Days when McAfee won't even let me access my own blog! Today was one of those days. Somehow, it seems that I take one step forward and then two back.

    I think the McAfee thing is fixed. I hope it is and that others are not having trouble coming here. My name in the Etsy link to the right is now correct.

    The Christmas presents that are going to Toledo are wrapped and I just need to seal the box. Next will be to re-invent printing postage from the computer--big step forward.

    Soon it will be time to go fix dinner--frozen salmon patties from Costco combined with green beans (actually one salmon patti) and this incredible horseradish sauce (Heinz in a bottle) given to me by a friend.

    Last night I indulged in multiple episodes of NCIS while knitting a hat. Not too bad a way to while away some portion of a winter evening. In a week it will be the solstice and then the days will get longer. I can hardly wait and can hardly wait for the new flower bulbs to bloom. First, though, I don't want to lose Christmas. So I will go savor my Christmas tree for a few minutes and see if there is room to stuff the one last forgotten item into my sister's Christmas box--I don't think that there is. A second box may have to follow after all!

    I am grateful for the beauty of the winter day and that small things are being accomplished. Sometimes the small things add up to big things and sometimes they lay the foundation.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Christmas Preparations

    I am behind in blogging as I have taken advantage of the kindness of friends who have had time to come and help haul out all the decorations and begin putting them up. My goal is to have everything in place by the third Sunday in Advent and then have time to just enjoy them. The main tree is up in the living room, which is still littered with boxes.

    Monday I also baked pumpkin muffins, which are so yummy and healthy that I almost don't feel guilty eating the carbs--and I no longer put butter on them.

    Monday was also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of the truly beautiful days of the Catholic Church year and so appropriate to Advent, which I always think of as Mary's time.

    After a year of struggling and limping along with just dial-up, today I completed the process of "re-inventing" my dsl. It was so easy, that I am almost ashamed to have put it off for so long! May all of our technological challenges be so simple.

    It is so good to sit comfortably at my desktop computer, in my office, instead of at the laptop on the dining room table. The sun shines in and the monitor screen is bigger and I have music and a space heater. And life is just good!

    More now that things can be done so much more quickly, I am sure. I am full of joy and gratitude. Now if I can set up the DVD/VCR-player/recorder--a much more complicated beast, I will be even more happy.

    Saturday, December 6, 2008

    Feast of St. Nicholas

    This is one of my favorite feast days of the whole year. As I wrote last year, when I was growing up we always had chocolate by our plates at breakfast following a custom that my mother grew up with. Decades later when I was doing family history research, I discovered that her German grandfather was named Nicholas. This clinched my love for this saint.

    In many European countries this is the day when children receive their presents. They put out their shoes or stockings to be filled with small toys and treats. If they have been good this is what they will receive. If they have been bad, Krankus, who accompanies St. Nicholas, leaves sticks and lumps of coal. I never heard of Krankus until I was well into middle-age.

    A great link for St. Nicholas lore and celebrations is the St. Nicholas Center ( which for some reason I cannot make come up in a link today. It is in the links list of my Squidoo lens on St. Nicholas, however.

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Feast of St. Edmund Campion

    Today is the feast of one of my all time favorite saints, St. Edmund Campion. Oxford scholar, English Jesuit and recusant martyr, he captured my imagination when I read Evelyn Waugh's biography over twenty years ago.

    The book was so riveting that when I finished it at some late hour of the night (or early morning depending on one's perspective), I looked up to find that my father had fallen asleep on the couch across the room and a section of the newspaper lay on the floor next to my footstool. I gathered that he had tried three times to get my attention and finally tossed the paper folded with an article he thought I would find interesting. His comment was, "That must be some book you were reading."

    It was. I had not known that Campion had been in Ireland for a time and written a history--that I still would like to read. His story reads like a terrific adventure complete with disguises and chase scenes and a passionate commitment to his religion. I wanted, at one point to write a screenplay but that will have to be taken up by someone who is younger.

    If you would like to read more, I commend Waugh's biography and this article on New Advent from the Catholic Encyclopedia, I am grateful for his life and for his feast.