Monday, November 30, 2009

Beginnings, Advent 2009

Yesterday was the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of one of my most favorite liturgical seasons. I love the music for the season, the sense of growing expectation as Christmas nears and the sign of waiting. I also believe this is one of the few places in the Church's year when she recognizes the contribution of the feminine. Mary's yes, as much as her virginity and her motherhood are so vital Christian life.

Sometimes we say a wild, passionate yes to what we believe that God calls us to do when we are young and have no idea where that will take us. The road less traveled by sometimes, the hidden way some others. (St Therese of Lisieux did not not live long enough to see where her yes to the hidden way--her phrase--of the cloister would take her. She would be astonished, I think, to know how she is revered and I wonder if any of her writings contain any meditations on Mary.)

Sometimes that yes takes us into marriage that endures and is celebrated for decades.through all the trials of family life. Many of us have just given thanks for Thanksgiving and along with the turkey and leftovers have looked around at our families and given thanks for them. Expectation has been in the air on Thanksgiving too.

Yesterday was Stir-up Sunday. Time to get out the big yellow bowl and stir up the pudding or the fruitcake. This year, I will do that in memory only. Time to reminisce about the Christmas baking of yore. (One year I baked eighteen kinds of Christmas cookies, including two kinds of miniature fruitcakes. They were all delicious and I think I am still carrying some of them around on a body that is weary of carrying that weight.) There will be some goodies, but not nearly so many.

Time to get out the Advent wreath and the blue volume of the Liturgy of the Hours and to see what treasures it holds. Time to update my Advent lens on Squidoo and my Keep Advent group on Facebook.

I heard recently of an idea that I really like for an outdoor Advent wreath. Three purple balls and one rose one are hung in sequence on an evergreen wreath on the door. Next year, perhaps, I will do that or else make poufy ribbon bows for I have the wreath stored away in the garage.

I wish you a happy, holy Advent, time of expectation. May joy be at the end for all of us when we come to Christmas Eve.

I am grateful tonight for manifold blessings and for this season of waiting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fall Activities

Today was crisp and clear after a day of rain yesterday. The sky was blue as blue and the leaves, sparser on the trees now after the storm, ran the gamut of yellows, oranges, and reds that make Fall such an outstanding season of light and color.

It is cold enough to think of a cozy fire, of baking and cooking slow steaming things like pot roasts and soups. My activities were more prosaic, setting up shop for my small business. Here are pictures.

The picture above shows my I Keep Advent banner. (Other banner designs are on the rack behind it.) My cards, the peace design that I have written about, designs for Christmas, and all occasion blank notes with many, many flower images comprise the offerings here along with a basket of lovely cards from my friend and colleague, Fe Langdon.

Above one of my hand knitted shoulder shawls, that can also be worn as a head scarf is draped on a wig stand. Two more are in plastic bags next to it. The yarns are soft, hand painted natural fibers.

More banners in the photo above, this time with the peace design on top of the stack and two baskets, one holding peace buttons and gift tag sized cards, the other holding sachets sit on another small table. It is fitting to display the peace design, which I made in honor of Papa with the sachets for herbal crafts were part of the business that he helped me with when he was alive.

Next, in the photo above are a selection of the hand made boxes that I began making last summer. They are fun to make. Some are printed with the same designs that I am using on other items; some are fabric over paper. I love making them almost as much as I love to knit, although arthritis and post-polio syndrome are slowing down my hands. (Some days I feel as though I live on Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen--well and of course, chocolate.)

Finally on the kitchen counter, I have arranged a display of my Mary Kay products. I was disappointed with the picture though, because I had the brilliant idea to use my Pampered Chef cooling rack to display some of the items and it works really well.

I am grateful for how pretty my things look all nicely displayed, for the customers who do find me from time to time and for my dear friend who came and swept all the leaves away and neatened and tidied the front walk way and the patio so that all would be ready for people to come.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fall for Sure

It was 59 degrees inside my house when I got up this morning. The electric blanket had quit doing the job--for some reason the newer blankets take their cue from the ambient temperature of the air above them rather than from the control setting. Probably will have to break down and learn to use that other technology that I insisted to my late father that we had to have when we put in the "new" furnace--eleven years ago. That is the programmable thermostat. The one year I used it though, I hated it. It came on way too early, went off too early in the evening and I had to keep remembering to reset it anyway in between, just as I do now. Still it did keep the furnace from coming on at night and blowing 60 degree air at me.

It is time to bake bread and make soup--warm the kitchen with the cooking projects and be comforted by "hot cooked food"--an expression of Papa's that I love. I do wish that I had a winter garden and hope to have one next year.

Rain is on the horizon, but this is the fourth week in a row that we have had that forecast and we haven't had much more than enough drizzle to dampen the ground. We would give thanks for a good soaking rain or three or four.

The sun is definitely at a lower angle these days and I find myself counting the days until the winter solstice and then the light will come again. It is a good time for drawing in and being grateful for home and hearth--which I surely am.

Very hard to believe that next week is already Thanksgiving. (Sorry about the typos that I just corrected.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day, 2009

Today I think of all of those who served and are serving. Family members going back to the Union Army in the Civil War, coming forward through WWI and WWII who included my Grandpa and Papa. Many friends too, have served and are still serving. Today is the day that we think of you and thank you.

I no longer wear my patriotism on my sleeve as I did when I was a child. Although red, white and blue is still one of my favorite color combinations of all time. Still if I could, I would be flying my flag today--it is one of those things that I can't quite manage from my wheelchair.

I think of this as one of the November Feasts, feasts of remembrance that make the whole month of November special. I look forward to it every year. It precedes Advent and then Christmas. Maybe it is part of the reason that I love the Fall so much.

This Veteran's Day is tinged with special sadness, both because we are still at war, eight long years, longer than any of the others in our history and because of the events last week at Fort Hood.

At the same time there was a very special segment on the news last night about therapy dogs coming to the aid of veterans who are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was a lovely sight indeed to see the dogs with their people and hear the testimonies. This is a good use of our tax dollars indeed. Dogs have a special way of knowing when they are really needed and devotion to their people that is both comforting and healing.

I am grateful for all those who have served and are serving and say a special prayer for the safety of those still in harm's way that they may come home safely to their families and friends.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What is Blooming in Garden Now

Now is November, 2009. We have had a string of sunny days, although today is cloudy--it is supposed to drizzle. It is colder today, too, but yesterday I had the opportunity to stick my nose out and observe what is blooming.

The first and most stunning thing is the Christmas cactus--two months early! It has apparently liked its spot on the garden shelf and it has been watered, perhaps a bit too much. So here it is in all its glory

I have written about the pineapple sage--nature's hummingbird feeder--in previous posts. I can't get around to the back to photograph the huge plant, which is the mother of all the smaller ones. But here is one of the smaller ones in the front patio

Thanks to my friend, K, who has been keeping my yard in lovely order I also have a collection of oxalis plants to compliment my principle one, the shamrock from St. Patrick's day some years ago. The one that is blooming now is purple with pink flowers. I apologize for the blurriness of the photo. This comes from talking and taking pictures at the same time

Finally, there are roses blooming! I may have roses for Thanksgiving--much as I had tomatoes last year.

The roses do deserve more attention than they have received this year. Perhaps next year will be better. More rain will lead to a better garden. So I wish the drizzle would be rain.

I am grateful for these blooming plants which quietly persevere even when I give them minimal attention. Grateful too for a nice warm place on this winterish Fall day. Hard to believe that the year has gone so fast and is nearly over.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

All Saints, 2009

Today is the Feast of All Saints in the Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Instead of commemorating them one by one, today we think of all the saints in the aggregate. Somewhere, I think in my Catholic childhood, I received the idea that this feast was also about those not in the calendar, all the household saints, our ancestors whose lives were lived privately. I remember as the Litany of the Saints was chanted adding silently, "All ye holy Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Great-Aunts and Great-Uncles and ancestors in any way." Now I think of my parents, too, for they have gone on. In fact, we have been without them for too long.

Tomorrow, on All Souls, I will pray for their souls. I think this is called hedging my bets, something that Catholic tradition makes room for in other ways too.

Today, with the sun shining in and the bread baked, the smell of patchouli mixed with cloves and rosemary filling the air and reminding me of incense, I prefer to think of them as saints.

My parents taught me my prayers when I was so young that I don't remember a time that I did not know them. I do remember my Mama lifting me up so that I could dip my fingers in the holy water font as we entered the church to "make a visit". This also always included lighting a candle--real flames and real matches, no electric or battery operated votive lights then. The church was always dark and mysterious and had that smell of left over incense and candles burning--the potpourri I have been working with today is very evocative of that.

Most of the saints made it to heaven by simply doing that daily work of keeping themselves alive for as long as they could. Without all the medical and media rigmarole that we possess some of them had good enough genes--and luck--to make it into their 90's. Other dropped where they stood doing the housework on a Monday after attending Mass on Sunday, a massive stroke or an embolism or something else that they may not have recognized taking them instantly out of the mundane and into the sacred. (I think of heaven as the sacred and afterlife as the culmination of this one.)

The ancestors that I have traced did not, for the most part, die in hospitals, but at home. There were some exceptions. My father remembered that he was four years old when he was taken to the hospital and watched his maternal grandfather being wheeled down the hall on a gurney. He never came back. (Later, my family history research yielded up this man's death certificate and the information that he had died of stomach cancer.) His youngest daughter, my father's aunt told s the story of how her father led the family to church every Saturday afternoon for confession. They where Irish. One Saturday, instead of going to the Irish church they detoured to the German one. There they were told to go to their own church. Which they did. I am sure this same man led this same procession on Sunday to Mass.

They all "kept the Faith". Confession on Saturday, Mass on Sunday, fish on Friday. Rosaries at wake services, Gregorian Chant, the Dies Irae, and all the other lovely music of the annual cycle. And when there lives were completed they were laid to rest with the Requiem Mass.

I remember them with joy and thanksgiving, grateful for their lives on this earth and all that they passed on to me, my cultural heritage as well as my DNA. I am grateful for them, every single one and hope that they are all rejoicing in heaven. Today I rejoice in the beauty of the sunshine streaming in my window on this glorious Sunday.