Saturday, December 31, 2005

End of the Year

I don't have a very good history with New Year's Eve.

Up until now, I'd say the best NYE celebration I've managed (since I've been old enough to do anything interesting, at least) was the year I was 18. I watched a Godzilla movie marathon with my brother, who was 4 at the time. And if a giant radioactive dinosaur can't brighten up someone's New Year's Eve, I don't know what can.

But now 2005 drifts away quietly, washed away softly into the river by the rain that's been falling all day. I can't say I'll be sorry to see this year go.

Of course many good things happened to me this year. Falling in love was certainly not the least of those. But so many bad things happened as well, especially early in the year. So much turmoil, so much change!

If I'd written such a thing on New Year's Eve 2004, it would have looked completely different. A year ago, I was still married, though the tensions which would eventually bring the marriage to its breaking point were beginning to grow. A year ago I was settling in for a rather mundane life, believing that it was all that there was.

Come to think of it, it could easily be argued that New Year's Eve of 2004 was the beginning of my realization that the marriage could not last. There was a horrible party, a horrible fight, a horrible drive home, all ending with me sitting up until 2 or 3 AM alone because I was too stuffed up from crying to sleep yet. All alone, pouring out my tale of woe on the snopes message board, because I had no one else to talk to.

Oddly enough, other snopesters were still awake, and offered me a glory of cyber comfort and tried to make me laugh until I felt better and could go sleep. Tirithien was one of those friends. Kindness to virtual strangers can have very long-lasting and unforeseen effects, apparently.

The ex and I patched up that New Year's Eve fight, but nothing was ever quite the same between us again. Trust had been broken, and never quite healed up.

This year, I swear will be different. 2006 is a year of great possibility, full of magic and hope, and I will see it in quietly, nestled safe in the arms of the man I love.

And that's all I ever really wanted of a New Year's Eve celebration anyway.

Happy New Year, friends. :-)

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More Dreaming

“My child, my love, I need your voice. I need your words. They have forgotten the truth. Tell it to them.”

So has spoken the Being of Light in my dream. For two nights in a row now.

The first time I woke full of trembling.

The second time I woke sobbing with loneliness.

Why can’t I just have normal dreams?

I don’t even know why I’m posting this, except that I feel like I’m about to fly apart and need some place to put the story.

Those of you readers who pray, please pray for clarity for me. I am in sore need of it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Boxing Day: The Aftermath

No, I did NOT go out and hit the post-Christmas sales! I was quite thoroughly worn out from such a long musical program on Saturday and not too much chance to rest on Sunday, so I spent most of Monday hibernating. Ah, hibernating! I only ventured out to get some dinner and check my mail, and that was plenty good enough for me.

I did get my new TV hooked up: my family all joined in together and got me a nice 20-inch flat screen TV to replace the little 13-inch TV/VCR combo I'd had since my freshman year of college. And I hooked it, the cable, the VCR, and the DVD player up without the first glance at the instructions-- and they all worked on the first try! Technology, I vanquish thee!

My brother, for some strange reason, loved his Christmas Armadillo. Why? I don't know! I just can't figure that lad out. And my mama loved her truly strange ornament of a scuba diving Santa riding on seahorse-back. I was hoping my brother would have at least a hint of indignity about the armadillo, after he got Tirithien and me matching badgers. Eeek! And from the tag on my badgers, I discovered that real badgers weigh about 22 pounds; if I'd known they were that big when the unseen badger chased us out of the woods last summer, I'd probably have fainted dead away! But the badgers my brother gave us are really very cute. I named mine Belshazzar, after one of the kings of Babylon when the Israelites all were imprisoned there. No real reason; I just thought Belshazzar Badger was a very cool name.

Meanwhile, Tirithien loved the gift I gave him: a Scottish knife, a sgian dubh, with his clan's crest on it. (The internet is a wonderful shopping tool!) And I truly love the gift he made for me. Out of a block of oak wood, he carved for me a chalice, something like unto how the Holy Grail may have looked. We are both history buffs and very interested in the Grail legends, so this was a VERY cool gift!

And today I am back at work. Hardly anyone is here; the company is only open three days this week. I am doing mundane secretarial tasks for a boss who isn't even here! Argh. Oh well. At least it's not as bad as the stretch between Christmas and New Year's last year. Last year during the long weekend, a rat got into the building, nibbled some wires, and fried itself. The smell when we came back in was.... interesting, to say the least. *shudders at memory* This year everything smells fine, which makes work a much more tolerable place to be!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

'Twas the Night Before Christmas....

And I finally finished wrapping presents!

And I must say, my living room looks very festive. :-)

And here is a closeup of the ornament Tirithien and I picked out together. Could they possibly be any cuter? :-)

My singing of "O Holy Night" went very well. I felt great about it. There was only one problem. Right in the middle of it, a little 3-year-old girl started yelling that she needed to piddle. Now, when I am singing a solo, especially a solo in church, I don't notice anything except the music, so I actually did not hear this. But her mama told me about it afterwards and apologized. Well, things at Grace Church are never perfect, but they are always good. :-) I will sing again for the 10:30 service, and there probably won't be any little kids at that one!

The thing I always love most about the Midnight Mass, though, is not the music, but the sense of expectant joy. When the service is done and I come outside, it's as if the whole world just for a moment is waiting in perfect silence and perfect joy. The hush of the snowy night wraps us all in peaceful stillness as we wait once more for the Child to be born.

Merry Christmas, my friends. Peace and joy to you all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Holiday Odds and Ends

My boss gave me a small Christmas gift—a little silver ornament shaped like an apple, with different color crystals on it. It’s very cute. But the odd thing is that when I thanked her for it, she beamed and said, “As soon as I saw it I thought of you!” Huh? I mean, I don’t really make the connection between me and an apple. I’m not a teacher. I don’t eat a bunch of apples. I do usually make apple crisp for company potlucks, but that’s maybe twice a year. It’s very strange.
Yesterday I had a rather pathetic experience. I had choir practice earlier than usual last night, so I figured I wouldn’t go all the way home in-between work and choir, but would instead stop at the mall and get the Christmas Armadillo for my brother (I think this is probably the kind of gift we will wind up passing back and forth for years), and then get a little bit to eat before practice. So the Armadillo was obtained, and I decided I wanted one of those big soft pretzels. With cheese sauce. Yummy! The pretzel place had a deal where you could get the pretzel and a 32-ounce pop for … um … I forget how much. But it was cheaper than buying them separately. I was sitting on a bench, enjoying my pretzel, but when I went to pick up my pop, I discovered that apparently the lid didn’t fit the cup exactly right. I wound up wearing about 16 ounces of pop. Yuck! Most of it got on my coat, so at least I didn’t have to feel that cold stickiness right next to my skin, but some got on my jeans, in my hair, and on my glasses.

Pop is not easy to clean off of glasses. And of course I can’t just throw my coat in the washing machine; it has to be dry cleaned! And this is going to be a trick, seeing as how it’s too bloody cold to go without it while it’s being cleaned! Argh. Maybe I can get some of that Dryel and borrow my mom’s or auntie’s dryer.

On the plus side, choir practice went well, in spite of it being the last rehearsal before Christmas Eve. (Most years, this entails much wailing and gnashing of teeth.) I have a solo for Christmas Eve, too—“O Holy Night.” Only the most beautiful Christmas song ever!

I have all my Christmas shopping done. At least I think so. None of the gifts are wrapped, though; they’re all strewn about my apartment still in the shopping bags. I don’t have to work on Friday, though, so guess what I’ll be doing! Unlike Clew's experiences, wrapping paper and I tend not to get along. I usually tape myself to a package at least once. *sigh* But soon it will all be done. I still have Christmas cookies to make, too!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Light of Mid-winter

This is one of my church newsletter articles, which seemed appropriate to put in here this week. :-)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.—John 1:1-5

I seem to wind up talking to a lot of people on the internet, and this is usually a very good thing. This way I manage to meet people I otherwise wouldn’t because they live on the other side of the country or of the world, and I hear viewpoints I might not otherwise hear. I manage to get into religious discussions with many of these online acquaintances, and for the most part, they are very respectful. We all listen to each other’s perspectives, ask questions, and explain our own understandings of God.

This time of year, though, one of the things I often hear from my non-Christian friends is a bit of good-natured ribbing. “Well, the church just stole a pagan festival and named it Christmas. It’s not really Jesus’ birthday!”

Historically, there is much truth to this. When the early church wanted to set a date to celebrate the birth of Jesus, they had no real idea what that date had been. They weren’t even entirely sure of what year it had occurred. So they had to pick a date and go with it.

Some of my online friends will insist that the early church leaders chose December 25th simply to take away from the Roman festival of Saturnalia—that they didn’t want people celebrating that pagan feast anymore, so they would give the people something to take its place. I don’t deny that there is some truth to this. There is much historical evidence of church missionaries co-opting local pagan customs and adapting them to the new faith. Holy days were set at certain times. Local deities were reinvented as saints.

However, I also believe that in their search for an identity, the early church made use of a beautiful and symbolic truth in setting Christmas in December. The Winter Solstice is the longest, darkest night of the year, and nearly every ancient culture had a celebration of it. They celebrated not because of its darkness, but because it is the time of a profound shift. On the Solstice, the Earth crosses an invisible line in its orbit around the sun. Suddenly the tilt of the Earth’s axis, which had been causing the Northern Hemisphere to tilt away from the sun, begins to face us towards the sun instead. The nights begin ever so slightly to become shorter, and the days to become longer. It is the return of light.

The actual birth date of the historical Jesus is a matter of curiosity, yet it in the long run, it makes no difference. The old Christmas carol “Do you hear what I hear?” contains a phrase which makes this quite clear: “The child, the child, sleeping in the night, he will bring us goodness and light.” The child Jesus is the light itself.

Historians and folklorists have a saying: “Truth passes into legend, legend passes into myth.” On the level of the truth of the spirit, hard cold facts come to matter less and less. The mythical truth is what counts. On the darkest night of cold winter, light returns through the stately turning of planet and star. In the darkest night of a human life, light returns through the long ago birth of a child.

Truly, symbolically, there could be no better time of year for our joyful Advent waiting and our celebration of the child’s birth. The birth of Jesus and the return of the sun’s light symbolize the very same thing. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it, for it is a light God has set for us to follow and find our way home.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Dreaming Weirdness

As I was waking today, I had a very strange dream. As someone who's performed on stage and given speeches before, I'd almost be inclined to call it a nightmare, if it hadn't been so amusing to me after I woke up.

See, one of the ways I help out at church is by doing readings during the service. For each service, there are two Eucharistic Ministers, and one of them reads the Psalm and one of the Bible readings, while the other reads the Prayers of the People later in the service. Then both of them help the Priest serve Communion. During Advent season, there's also a script the two EMs read from at the beginning of the service, during the lighting of that week's Advent candle. So now that you have the background....

In my dream, I was the EM for the fourth Advent Sunday, which is tomorrow. (In reality, I am not supposed to be!) I processed in with the choir, as I usually do, but instead of taking my seat with them, I stayed out front to do the script-reading and candle-lighting. Now, for some reason, there was no other EM with me, and it wasn't like someone had forgotten and was hurrying to the front-- in the context of the dream, I was supposed to be the only one up there. Everyone was looking at me expectantly, so I started to read from the script.

It was absolutely unreadable. The words were in some foreign language with non-Roman letters, the letters/glyphs were blurry, and the things were moving around on the page! I'm sure there must have been a look of abject horror on my face. The actor's nightmare! Even worse, there was no one around who could help me out-- the Priest and Parish Coordinator were nowhere in sight (and why on earth I'd be up there without them around is a mystery too strange to contemplate), and none of the other choir members seemed to understand my gestures to let me look at the script in their bulletins. (you know, in case maybe mine was just defective or something!)

Apparently my dream-self is much more poised and self-possessed than my real self would be, because I started giving a completely off-the-cuff speech about the end of our Advent journey, and the quiet waiting in Bethlehem for the Child to be born. It was really very lovely and poetic, and I wish I could have remembered it when I woke up! I gave this beautiful speech, lit the fourth candle, and went to sit down in my usual seat in the choir stall.

There were no seats available in the choir. In real life we have seven members and twelve chairs. In the dream, every seat was taken! Eeek! So I wound up having to walk across the front of the church in my blue choir robe, all the way across to the chairs where the Priest and the non-choir-member EM would have been sitting. You know, if there had been a Priest. Or another EM.

Luckily for me and my stage fright-induced heart palpitations, I woke up as soon as I sat down over there and thus didn't have to worry about trying to continue the service!

So, any amateur dream interpreters care to take a try at this one?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Colin the Guinea

This is Colin.

He was just about 5 years old. I'd had him for 4 1/2 years. He was very soft and liked to nuzzle up under my chin when I would hold him, and when he was happy he would make soft squeaky purring noises that sounded like a tribble from Star Trek. When he was hungry, he would squeak loudly until I fed him-- and he knew exactly when mealtimes were, so I'd better not try to delay, or my eardrums would suffer. He weighed over 3 pounds, which is enormous for a guinea, according to the vet.

About a year and a half ago, Colin developed a strange scabby sort of cyst on one of his front feet. It didn't seem to hurt too much, but it was nasty. The vet had me treat it with oral and topical antibiotics, but it never would heal up. It was usually scabbed over pretty well, but I would bandage it up when it would ooze or bleed a little.

Last night, Tirithien and I left my apartment to go grab some dinner at about 8:00. Colin was fine then. He looked at us while we were leaving-- his cage is right by the front door, and I scratched his little velvety nose through the bars and told him we'd be back soon.

We made it home around 10:00 (the roads were awful, plus we'd had to stop at the store).

Colin had died while we were gone. He was stretched out in one corner of his cage, very still. He didn't respond when I shook the cage, or when I reached in to touch his soft guinea fur. His body was limp and lifeless. There was blood across the bottom of the cage, and when I rolled him over to see what had happened, it looked as if his cyst had maybe ruptured or split open.

We put him into a shoebox for a coffin, and we're going to bury him in my mom's back garden when I get home from work today.

Sleep well, baby guinea. I will miss you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas Tree

I got a lot of my Christmas shopping done last night, so I feel better about that now. Just a few things left to pick up! I still have to write out some cards to send and to give to people at work, but I’m coming to a point where I don’t feel so overwhelmingly behind. (And this feeling of overwhelming behind-ness without even having kids to think about!)

I found myself looking longingly at the toy stores while I shopped last night. I miss when my brother and cousin were young enough to actually want toys. It was so much fun to shop for them! And of course I’d have to wander through the toy aisles, pressing the buttons on the toys that make noise, picking up the teddy bears to see if they were as soft as they looked. Last night I found such an adorable one—a baby’s snuggly doll, so impossibly soft, which looked like the “classic” Winnie the Pooh, wearing pajamas. I mentally ran through and through my gift list, but unfortunately I have no one for whom that would be an appropriate present this year! And of course my little Brendan is FAR too many years in the future for me to buy him a soft Pooh Bear, no matter how adorable.

(Mom, if you’re reading this, please do NOT take the preceding paragraph as a hint! I don’t want it for myself, really!)

My tree is up and decorated—my tradition is to put it up on the first Sunday of Advent. (For purists who complain about fake trees, I’ve always been in apartments where real trees are against the fire code, alas.) Tirithien helped me to decorate it. It’s a smallish tree, 6 feet tall, and after several years of use it’s become a little wobbly, but it’s still fully functional and looks quite nice, as long as you don’t look from the angle of its crookedness.

It’s never been any sort of fancy designer tree like department stores display, nor even one of the elegant trees with lights of all one color. I have two strands of regular multi-colored lights, because my tree is too big to use one strand. It is also too small for two strands, so the end of the second string always gets woven strangely in with the other, and the lightbulb density is much higher at the top of the tree. I got a new garland this year, a beaded garland with silvery and iridescent beads, so it went weaving in and out with the branches and lights.

Then the ornaments. The interesting thing about my ornaments is that some of them are nearly as old as I am, and I remember them from my very earliest years. I would tell Tirithien about them as we hung them up, and he listened to all my little stories about all my little ornaments, all these tiny treasures from Christmases past. And oh, how beautiful that softly lit tree was when we were done!

We’re going to go and pick out an ornament together sometime soon, some new and special piece which is just for us. His idea, a new tradition for a new time for us both. :-)

Monday, December 12, 2005

More Adventures in NW Ohio

On Saturday, Tirithien and I braved the World’s Scariest Mall, Franklin Park Mall in Toledo. It’s BIG. And it’s SCARY. It’s so big it has parking garages! And like any mall at holiday time, it was too warm and too full of perfume scents, and FAR too crowded. Malls are not my friend! But we had to go there, because it has the best movie theatre in Toledo. We saw The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Oh wow. Oh wow. It was done incredibly well. It was extremely true to the book, with the exception of a few minor details that must needs change to make a book flow as a movie. Nothing at all that detracted from the original, though. The CGI was absolutely beautiful. The casting was just about perfect. They made no changes whatsoever to the Christian allegory; in fact, it seemed even more pointed by seeing it rather than reading it. I absolutely loved this movie, and highly recommend it to anyone!

After the movie, we tried to shop for a special ornament to hang on my Christmas tree, but we didn’t find anything which we particularly liked, and the mall crowds were grating on us both, so we went to dinner.

Then after dinner, we went to see the “Lights Before Christmas” display at the Toledo Zoo. Oh, so very beautiful! Millions of points of light, shining out over the snow. There was this one particular gigantic pine tree absolutely dripping in colored lights. It defies description.

But then we had a problem. We wanted to buy some fudge from the candy vendor there. I wanted chocolate-peanut butter fudge. Well, apparently in Ohio, pretty much anything of chocolate-peanut butter flavor is called “buckeye” flavor. Now, as a Michigan resident, I can tell you that the idea of eating anything with “buckeye” in the name grated awfully. But…. it was chocolate-peanut butter fudge.

But it was Buckeye Fudge.

Tirithien seemed highly amused by my consternation. (Yes, let’s see how it is if we ever find some tasty treat called Wolverine Fudge. Then you’ll see!) “Oh, I want to hear YOU order it,” he said. Thanks a lot. :-P

So I ordered it.

And I ate it.

I ate Buckeye Fudge.

And it was as tasty as it looked.

I felt so dirty. :-P

Then on Sunday, I was sick most of the day. Hmm. Coincidence? Or can people from Michigan simply not eat “buckeye” items without ill effects? (And never mind that Tirithien claims this is the beginning of my “Ohio assimilation!” That’s just crazy talk.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Prodigal Boy

I’m still waiting to get the digital pictures from my mama. And I’m still kind of sniffly. And it snowed WAY too much last night. And it’s very cold in my office today. So I don’t have too many updates for anyone, at least not fun happy vacation ones. But here is what happened to me when I went to Meijer on my way home from work last night.

I pushed my cart around one corner and discovered a small boy, no more than 5 years old, if that, sobbing as if his heart had broken. No adults anywhere nearby. I asked the little boy if he needed help, and he darn near flew to me and wrapped his arms around me. "I lost my dad," he cried. So I gave him a quick hug back and told him not to worry, I'd help him find his dad. My plan was to take the little guy up to the service desk and have the dad paged.

Well, before we got very far, a large man came around another corner and started yelling at the boy for "running off." He was so busy yelling that he didn't see how relieved the boy was right at first-- we'd found his dad, yay! Then the bastard of a dad started yelling at ME. "What the fuck are you doing with my kid, bitch?"

Well, my jaw about dropped. I was trying to help the poor kid who'd been crying, and I was getting cussed out for it? I mean, I know no good deed goes unpunished, but this seemed a bit extreme. To my great surprise, though, I did not feel the least bit intimidated and responded very calmly, "He was upset and I was trying to help him find you. I suggest you keep a closer eye on him in crowded stores from now on," and walked away.

So, I'm really hoping the dad was actually more scared than angry. My heart aches for the kid, though. It seemed even sadder to me, though, because when the dad was yelling at the boy, he called the boy Brendan. And that’s my own dream-baby’s name. Somehow, that just made it all seem that much worse. :-(

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sniffle, sigh, ack.

Okay, I'm home!

And my sinuses officially hate me for dragging them back north! I had SUCH a miserable headache today. I seem to be readjusting to northern-ness, though. The headache is faded.

I really had a great time in Florida. The best parts were when my Baby Brother and I would run off on our own for awhile. Whee, rides! We went on Space Mountain four times!

It's funny, but when I was a kid, I was actually scared of rides like that. Now when Baby Brother says, "Let's do it again!" I say, "Okay!" And then we run around in Tomorrowland hiding behind walls and humming the Mission:Impossible theme.

I think I'm actually a 10-year-old in an adult's body.

I will have some pictures to share once I get hold of my mom's digital camera and upload them, and some more details about the trip once I get them sorted out from the fragments in my travel journal. There's plenty of good stuff, including Baby Brother breaking the bus, and me getting stopped by airport security. Yikes! Stay tuned!