Tuesday, December 30, 2014

One Word for 2015: Today!

It's time to think about the new year. Reflecting on my 2014 journal entries, I noted a negative pattern: too much emphasis on trying to manage my future.

Four months before the event, I fretted about summer vacation plans.

I catastrophized during an up and down business negotiation.

I dreamed about a teacher training that wouldn't happen for another two months!

But how to change it?

I don't believe resolutions work.   Newton told us a body at rest (or perchance an entrenched attitude) tends to remain in that state unless an external force causes it to change. And even then, the body at rest (me) exerts a counter-force, kick-back. So it doesn't look promising that I can expect to change myself by my will.

Instead, this year I'm going to try the "one word" approach.  I will focus on one word throughout the year, making it a constant prayer: Teach me to concentrate on today.

I have a plan. I'll study what other bloggers say about practicing being present. I'll read what the Bible has to say about this day, versus tomorrow and yesterday. Before bed I plan to review my waking hours and be grateful, instead of fretful. I thus hope to preempt my mental wandering through the future and the adrenaline-producing anxiety it causes.

The theory is that concentrating on a theme, like today, will heighten my awareness and begin a gentle process of change.

You know how it is when you hear about about a hot new book. Reviews show up in every newspaper and magazine you read. Or you look up an unfamiliar word and suddenly you hear it used everywhere.

I'm going to tune my antenna for a focus on the present, turning it toward the strongest signal, like the old metal contraptions that sat on our rooftops and had to be adjusted to bring in a good picture.

How would you like to be different next year? What one word would sum it up?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grandma's Christmas Wish

Most any grandma will tell you all she wants for Christmas is time with her grandchildren.

This grandma (and grandpa) relished a visit to Washington, D.C. with one of ours. We crammed as many new experiences as we could into four days.
We were eye witnesses to Sam's first cab ride and time on the Metro. He licked his lips after his first crepe, nibbled at a buffalo burger. He piloted us through loop-de-loops in a flight simulator.

Together we were awed by the White House, hoping to spot an Obama family member. (Somebody left the White House in a short procession of black SUVs, but we don't know who.)  

We toured the Capitol building, and Ford's Theater. He listened carefully. He had his photo taken standing where MLK stood at the Lincoln memorial. 

Grandpa-the-historian fed Sam snippets of information and answered his questions.

I think bits of history now ricochet around his brain like balls on a pool table. Eventually he'll place them in the right contextual pockets. 

All of Sam's maturity, curiosity, energy, audacious auditory memory, and   mimicry were ours for those days. 

We are so blessed. Our adventure has woven our lives more tightly together.

 I wish all of you Nanas, PawPaws, Mimis and Gampys some of the same! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tackier than chewed gum

I shouldn't be pointing any fingers on this one because I have mixed results as a decorator and crafter--mostly on the down side. 

My Christmas tree is not color-coordinated, does not have a theme, and some of the ornaments are 60 years old. At least. And cheap looking.

One year I tried to string the old fashioned giant bulbs around my front door frame and down the metal hand rail on the steps. 

From the sidewalk it looked like someone had thrown glowing red, green and yellow eggs at the front of the house. 

We stashed them back in the basement.

There was the time I shellacked chestnuts and glued them to a styrofoam Christmas tree form. It weighed about ten pounds, was out of balance, and kept tumbling over. I tossed it in the brush for the squirrels.

I'm relieved to have found proof that I am not the only member of the tackier-than-chewed-gum club. 

 I must applaud their effort because they are older and slower than I am.

But what were they thinkin'? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mixed messages at Christmas

Where do you stand in the cultural tug of war between secular and sacred winter observances?  

It's not a new phenomenon. I bet the Druids took sides when Christians slid Jesus' birth into a competing time slot with their mid-winter rituals.

The battles (County of Allegheny vs. ACLU, 1989) about who gets prime billing for the holidays isn't just a result of ornery humanists spotting a creche in a public place. Much of our society is schizophrenic about the significance of "Christmas."

Even here in the Bible belt the messages are mixed. Is this family
celebrating a holy day, or simply a holiday? 

Are we morphing towards a scene where Santa scooches between Mary and Joseph;  will Jesus get bumped right out of the picture? 

When "Silent Night" and "Here Comes Santa Claus" compete in my head I hear dissonance.

Are you repelled by the antithesis or have you resolved it?

Are you a purist--pure fantasy or pure Nativity ? Or have you created a "blended" family?  

Chime in. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Heard the Bells...

Bells are frequently incorporated into our Christmas decorating. 

During the Christmas season we hear the high jangle of the Salvation Army ringers, carols about bells (click on the link to hear a jazzy Carol of the Bells),  and musical arrangements that use bells. Some churches include hand bells during services. 

Our bells are more symbolic than essential. In Europe bells marked time, called people to hear news, bear arms, or come to worship.   

The few opportunities I've had to hear huge bronze bells have been thrilling. 

One hot summer day I climbed the steps of a large German church. I climbed out of the tower door onto the roof just as the bells rang out the hour  (motorized, no ringers necessary). The force of the sound was palpable.  I clapped cupped hands over my ears to muffle it and staggered in its path. The sound waves pulsed right through my body. 

Denver Catholic Register photo by R. Linn

 In 1993 the Pope visited Denver for a World Youth Day rally.  Blackhawk helicopters had been flying overhead for the week ferrying His Holiness from our local high school lawn to his appearances.  I was lucky enough to be in my backyard when he performed the mass at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, about a mile away. The bells had been repaired for the occasion and pealed for over a minute. I only heard their magnificent call that once. 

What a thrill it would be to hear some like them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Sometime I hope to make a trip to one of the several churches with bells in the southeast US (two in NC), or during visit to Denver.

I can't imagine another instrument with such a grand sound, worthy of announcing Emmanuel's birth. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Advent: Decorating the Mailbox

Is your mailbox ready for Christmas? 

 I can only speculate on the purpose for decking the box along with the halls. 

1) It's to cheer up the postal worker who has to deliver the abundant wish books (and earlier-than-usual seed catalogs.) 

My father in-law, a USPS rural carrier, groused about circulars and any holiday that generated more mail. The bright red bow wouldn't have turned his "Humbug" into "Ho-Ho-Ho." 

2) The homeowner hopes the gussied-up mailbox will make Christmas cards feel right at home. 

3)  It's a gimmick to make the neighbors think the inside of the house must be Pinterest perfect too.

4) All that greenery will take the sting out of the credit card bills that pour in after the shopping sprees. 

What's your theory? Why do you decorate your mailbox?

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mouse in the house

zoom in to see it more clearly

My grandson Sam can now text me and he introduced me to emoticons. They are one of the "languages" on my keyboard.

Can you decipher the emoticon story above? 

The recent mouse encounter had a happy ending--for me.  

When the weather turned wintery we had a rodent refugee. We discovered its presence when some insulation from the sides of the dishwasher spilled onto the floor beneath it. We didn't even have to guess at the cause.

We first encountered mice in a very similar situation thirty years ago.

We were living in a rural area outside of Denver, Colorado. There, like here, our house was isolated and surrounded by open fields. When temperatures dropped the vermin squeezed their way into the warm house. We saw evidences of the unwelcome visitors and set traps, put out poison, and stuffed steel wool around the pipes coming up from under the house. We caught some, then caught some more, and then they got cheeky. I actually had one grey head pop up through the shallow metal pan under the stove burners!

One very cold night we turned on the seldom-used oven to prepare dinner. As it warmed emitted a nasty smell. We checked the diaper pail. (Back then we had to wash the cloth diapers). We checked the garbage. The oven neared the desired cooking temperature and the stench forced us to turn off the stove. But the odor had filled the small rooms and we opened the front door even though it was 20 degrees outside, to let in fresh air.

When the landlord came to check out the problem, he discovered numerous nests in the insulated side panels of the stove!

So this winter's sifting insulation tipped us off. A greedy little bugger, the mouse quickly followed his nose to the peanut butter baited trap.  As my story describes, the old man (my husband) caught the mouse. I ( the little old woman of emoticon language) was very happy.  We haven't seen any other mice since.

I hope you have a winter, with 

Share your skirmishes against the rodents.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Advent: the Tree

cut in Colorado
The day after Thanksgiving we join millions of others cutting their own Christmas tree. Last year we were with our kids in Colorado, and helped them cut their trees. 

a very locally grown tree

When we got home, I wanted my own tree. It was so late in the season I just sent Bill out because he had told me he'd seen " a hundred good ones". He was back in ten minutes. 10 minutes! 

locally grown, but sparse

This year, I had my heart set on something splendid, full, tall. We liked the idea of cutting something local and free. With our friend's permission we cut from his land, not quite a quarter of a mile from home. Most of the better trees were tall, and we'd have to cut off 4-5 feet of trunk. Bill rejected my first choice in favor of this.  

Five minutes of drilling holes and forcing limbs cut from other trees into the holes I gave up. 

fresh and full!

We ventured out and chose this one.

We're both pleased. 

Do you feel the same childlike excitement decorating the tree that you did fifty years ago? Why do you think that is?