Sunday, November 12, 2017

And getting ready

*I did buy a new tree yesterday. Went to Home Depot, found an unlit, takes-apart tree that is probably skinny enough. It's 7 1/2 feet tall, which is a bit more than I was anticipating, but I can make it work. (my ceilings are the standard 8'). I did also buy more lights (I have, I think, six strands of 60, which isn't QUITE what they recommend for a six foot tree, but maybe that's people who do the super-intensive "wrap them around the branches" thing, rather than the "drape them" thing, which is what I do.

I'm not sure what to do with the old one. It's not perfect, but it's not totally worn out yet. I don't quite want to just put it to the curb (though perhaps someone would pick it up) but I don't think it's quite good enough to donate, other than maybe to someone I knew really well. (If the college youth group wants a small tree and puts out a call for one, I can do that....)

I confess, buying the tree, and more lights, and more ornaments, my Inner Calvinist popped up and reminded me that I could just as well be giving that money to some group that helped the poor. But I don't know. Perfectionism is something I struggle with a lot - I do tithe, and I give small amounts of money other places as well. You could literally give away every penny that you didn't need to stay alive....and it still wouldn't eliminate need, I don't think. And a lot of people don't give as much as I do.

(I will note in passing seeing many children in the Target whining for toys yesterday, and thinking of how my parents would sternly remind my brother or me that (a) Christmas was coming, so if we REALLY wanted it, we should put it on our list and (b) (When we were really young) "Do you want Santa's helpers to hear you acting like that?"

Of course, most of the toy-whining is "I want it now" not "I want it enough to put it on my Christmas list"

* I also went to Kopper Kettle on the way home, and finished up the last of my for-family shopping - I bought a fancy bread mix and some gardening stuff for my sister-in-law to go with what I already had for her (she likes both baking and gardening) and I bought a tiny pack of heirloom popcorn for my brother.

I also bought this, for myself:


Yes, I know. But it's really nice, it's like a snowglobe that shakes itself - there is a tiny paddlewheel down in there (it runs on batteries) that agitates the water or glycerin or whatever is in there and keeps the "snow" moving.

There's also a light in there (LED, I presume and hope: so it will last better) so it works almost as sort of a nightlight or little ambient additional light. The shop had two; the other one showed the Holy Family but I bought this one on the grounds that I can leave it out into January, since it's just plain "Winter"

* And my Christmas gifts for family are ready to go. I finished my mom's hat this morning:


It's made from Felici Worsted, a striping worsted KnitPicks briefly made (maybe they are bringing it back?). The hat is knitted vertically, using shortrows to shape - it's sort of a clever idea, and works well with these chunky striping yarns. (Yes, it looks small. It stretches A LOT. It will fit her).

It came out looking more "rustic" and less-sophisticated than I envisioned it but I think she will still like it, and anyway, there's not time to get a fancier yarn and try a reboot - I still have one to make for AAUW (I am going to try a Caron Cake type yarn for it - but am concerned the changes will be too slow for it to look right, I will have to see).

* After piano lesson, I spent some time cleaning my bedroom (it NEEDED it). Am going to change the sheets next, and I realized: hey, it's not too early now to put my Paddington Bear Christmas quilt on. This is a quilt I pieced some years back, very simple (just four patches with alternating plan squares) made of three different Christmas fabrics with Paddington - a green background, a red background, and a white background. (The white background has the most interesting detail, so I used it for the big squares). The church quilting group my mom belonged to (which sadly no longer exists) quilted it for me, so I kind of treasure it. But I use it every year because I figure there's little point in treasuring something if you can't (carefully) use it.

And anyway: Paddington is one of the Good Things, I think. I have on good authority that the 2015 movie about him was good (and I have ordered a dvd of it) and apparently another one has been made, and has at least opened in the UK (I hope we get it here, or at least on a dvd that will work in American machines).

I admit I was apprehensive about the movie because I see there is far too much of a modern trend in movies to make them "hip" by putting in rude humor - or feeling that there has to be bathroom humor to appeal to kids. (Oh, how recently that was not so....) I saw an ad for the re-imagining (I am not calling it a remake) of "Ferdinand the Bull" and apparently they have put in flatulence jokes, and....yeah.

I mean, yes, sometimes I laugh at immature humor like that but I tend to feel that children's "classics" should be left more or less intact. (I wonder if they even kept the pacifism message that the book originally had).

But yes. I've rewatched that Marks and Spencer ad that is apparently a clip from the new movie, and remain convinced of its goodness - it is really a short story about redemption, in a way. ("Thank you, little bear.")

And oh, I think that's something some of us need to hear so much. Or at least I need to hear it, right now. I've said, too many times this fall, "The human race is irreedeemably bad" (Well, the Gospels would argue with me on that). Or "I wonder if God has turned His back on us, finally, and we're being left to our own devices in this universe." Because it is easy to turn cynical in the world today, when there is so much cynicism around.

I think one of the things that's changed for me this fall is that I've been watching more news, and I shouldn't do that - I need to watch more cartoons, for one thing*

(*Part of the blame lies with how the channels that show cartoons do their programming. The thing now is rather than regularly scheduling stuff, so, for example, if it's Thursday night, you know it's We Bare Bears, they do blocks. So it's hours and hours and hours, endlessly seeming, of something you don't want, and the stuff you do shows up at random times, so unless you have an "alert on your phone" or some such or dvr stuff, you miss it. Which is slightly unfair to us Luddites who don't want to constantly be pinged by phones or who don't want to pay another $15 a month for the privilege of recording stuff....)

And I've been watching the Hallmark Channel. I've talked about this before but I do think the thing I love in the Christmas specials especially, is it does suggest there are chances at redemption and reconciliation: the person who dislikes Christmas because of unhappy past holidays learns the joy of it; the family member who is estranged comes back into the fold. People get their happily-ever-after, whatever form that may take.

And while I may no longer believe in a literal Santa Claus, or in the possibility that everyone has a "soul mate," or even that everyone gets to have a love of their life, I do want to believe in happily-ever-afters, whatever form that may take. I suppose they don't exist in the earthly world, or at least not for some people, but I want to believe in them as a POSSIBILITY.

Hope is so important. I realize that now; this past year - well, really, since fall of 2015, when some of the budget stuff here started hitting the fan - I've felt my hope diminish. I thought "Maybe this is actually what midlife feels life" or "maybe this is the "Is that all there is" that Peggy Lee sang about" but maybe it really was just being too plugged into the cynical and disappointing side of life.

And even if the hope is false hope, it's still nicer than the alternative. (I think of Puddleglum, in that scene in "The Silver Chair," where he tells the Green Witch that even if Aslan was a lie and a game for babies, that "lie" beat the "real" world all hollow, and yes, I can see that. And I wonder if there isn't a sort of....nihilism, the false sophistication of snarking at everything and not enjoying - and trying not to let others enjoy - the simple things and the sweet things and yes, the things that are maybe a little bit corny. But sometimes a little corniness is pleasant, and it takes the harder edges off the world.

* Possible further proof God has a sense of humor: This week was the first week we did a "lockdown" on the church, where all the doors were locked but the main one, and that one was locked once services started.

The Scripture for today (in the lectionary): Matthew 25: 1-13. That is: the parable of the foolish bridesmaids (or the "foolish virgins," in some translations) - the girls who didn't have enough oil for their lamp, so they had to go out and buy oil, and wound up locked out of the wedding celebration.


I admit, I'm still not convinced we're doing the right thing but maybe it's the only thing we can do; maybe some people would avoid coming to church on the grounds they didn't feel "safe," I don't know. I do know our main front doors are glass, so a determined wrongdoer could get in, but it might buy a minute or two for people to get out or get under cover.

What a world we live in. (Again: I wish the real world were more like Equestria. Or more like the towns shown in the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies...)

At least it seems (said with fingers crossed), we've got through one Sunday without some kind of major atrocity being reported in the news...

* Which is why I like the simple escapism of some of the Christmas specials, and of cartoons, and of Christmas stories. I have a book called something like Mistletoe and Holly, and where it has some of the familiar ones in every compilation (like "The Story of the Goblin who Stole a Sexton"), there are some less-familiar ones. I read one the other night called "Christmas Jenny" - set in early to mid 19th century (I am guessing) New England, where the "Jenny" of the story is a woman who lives alone on the side of the mountain in a cottage. She makes a meager living selling vegetables she grows (during the summer) and evergreens and things like ground-pine (a club-moss) during the winter. She's seen as "odd," in large part because she never married (she is described as having become "love-cracked" - she loved a young man, thought he was going to marry her, and he threw her over for another girl). She also loves animals (part of the "love cracked" thing, as one character explains: apparently her ability to love humans was hurt, so she transfers that love to creatures of the forest) and works to heal and release ones she finds injured, and a lot of the money she makes goes to buy food for them.

But of course, because people are suspicious of those who are different from them, the rumor gets around that she keeps the animals captive under horrible conditions, and that she also has a little "deaf and dumb" child she keeps as a slave. And so the parson and the deacon - largely at the deacon's urging - go up there to confront her. (It is in its way, almost a more-modern witch hunt). While there, they find instead, the animals are well-cared-for, the child is clean and content. And then they are confronted by Mrs. Carey - a woman who knows and likes Jenny, partly because Jenny is one person who can talk Jonas Carey - Mrs. Carey's husband - out of his "tantrums" (when he sits down and refuses to move or do anything). Mrs. Carey is of the opinion that not only is Jenny not harmful, she is a force for good....and the minister and the deacon wind up somewhat cowed under Mrs. Carey's commentary. And the next day, when Mr. and Mrs. Carey go to pay a call on Jenny (on Christmas day), they find her well-supplied with food, and provided with a new calico dress (she had been planning on getting one, but spent her money on food for the birds instead, there being a cold snap). The implication is the deacon and minister arranged it...

And again, it's just a nice story. The idea that this woman seen by "the world" as odd and by some as possibly slightly dangerous is, in fact, a force for good and a loving individual....and that some of those who suspect her have their minds changed.

And yeah. Maybe it's simple, maybe it's unsophisticated. But I need stories like that - the hope they give, the reminder that even though I am, in some ways, a bit like Jenny (and I KNOW there are people who have viewed me with a jaundiced eye because of my single state), I can still be a force for good and really, what matters is what is in my own heart, and not what others might think.

(I think that's another problem I've had this fall: once again getting into the mindset of letting what other people think of me - or what I think they might think of me - affect me too much, rather than being the person I know I am and not worrying about it).

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