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Pass the cookies… the ones I haven’t yet baked

December 19, 2014

You know that magical, mystical month of preparation that is wished for between Thanksgiving and Christmas? The one I keep hoping will appear before the end of this week? Um, yeah. Today is Friday and I’m gradually realizing that my dream of such a month is only that: a dream.

2011 December 117  wreath

The funny thing about Christmas is that it comes with exceeding regularity every single December 25th, whether or not I am prepared. In this way, Christmas is like a military moving day, which — as my husband is want to say — comes whether or not a person is ready for it.

In the past few weeks I have continued on in life much as I do the rest of the year:  going to work, taking a bit of time to waste hours on facebook in an effort to avoid reality spend with friends and other loved ones. My days as “Christmas Wizard” seem to have gone AWOL. I no longer set aside the many hours (hours often stolen from other parts of life) to make the Christmas Magic happen. I actually do plan to have the kids set up and decorate the tree with only minimal participation from yours truly. My handling of ornaments is relegated to unwrapping each one from its tissue-paper swaddling cloth. I am content with this job.

I am, quite possibly, too content with the fact that Christmas comes in 5 days. I have yet to mail a single package. I have yet to finish a single sewing project (let alone begin 3 additional projects conjured up in the past 2 weeks). At some point, panic will set in and I will pull some marathon hours in an effort to complete a single project in time to wrap it and put it under the tree. And the Christmas letter that I envisioned sending out several weeks ago? Not yet written.

The panicky side of my brain tells me to GET AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER ALREADY and to start scurrying about like a headless chicken. The practical side of my brain tells me that running in circles isn’t an effective plan. The panicky Self insists that Christmas is coming — and SOON — whether or not I am ready for it; the practical Self replies, “Yes, you are correct.”

Now if only that additional month of preparation would suddenly appear this weekend…

12-13-14

December 13, 2014

DSCN5292  birthday

Happy (late) 19th birthday to Humorous Juniorous, in person!

He managed to miss his bus home on Thursday by oversleeping (a $40 mistake) and then nearly missed his bus on Friday as well. Apparently one must prepare for a trip via Greyhound much like one must prepare for an airline trip: pack ahead of time and get there early.

The second bus trip was more scenic than the one he had first planned, stopping at more small towns along a ’round-about way toward home. At one point I received a text telling me that one town was prepared “for a festival and/or a tourist trap.” One of his honorary aunts is there today for the Christmas Lighting Festival, something I’ve long wanted to experience but have not yet done; however, I decided to not disown him for his opinion of my favorite Bavarian village here in our fair state.

Now that we have [belatedly] celebrated H-J’s birthday, he and his younger brother have assembled* the Christmas Tree and SuperDad strung the lights. I’m hoping that tomorrow afternoon Miss K (H-J’s girlfriend) will join us and the 3 teens will decorate the tree with ornaments.
I’ve got a busy week coming up with work meetings, band concert, choir rehearsal, and book group. My secret plan is to have ingredients and recipes strategically placed in hopes that teenagers will get the urge to bake Christmas goodies… if that doesn’t work, I’ll beg. :)

Honestly, I could use another month between Thanksgiving weekend and right now. I could also use another quilting retreat in that extra month. We could call it the month of Preparation. Does anyone have a time machine?

 

My Town Monday: Bach to Bach

December 8, 2014

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Zuill Bailey. Last night I had the opportunity to hear him and observe him playing his cello yet again at a pre-festival winter concert. The venue was at a winery and tasting room located in an historic building in downtown Spokane. Thick wooden columns rose from the wood floor to wood ceiling, candlelight flickered on exposed brick walls that were hung with a variety of artwork. But most importantly, there on a small stage was one of the premiere cellists in the world, along with a concert pianist, playing 3 concertos I might not have heard if I hadn’t been there that evening.

I have blogged about him before here and here. I heard and saw him perform in 2 different yet small, intimate venues last December, on back-to-back evenings (hence the title of this post which I had started 12 months ago after that experience) then was sadly side-tracked by the busy-ness of Christmas at work and home.  I couldn’t pass up the chance to see him perform for a fifth time and my husband surprised me by agreeing to come along.

We almost missed the beginning of the concert. It was my fault: I thought I knew where the winery was located, but I had us on the wrong side of the river near the site of the former railroad yard.  The old rail yards were turned into Riverfront Park and the site of Expo ’74. While there is a nice venue in the lower level of the Flour Mill (now shops and restaurants), that was not where we needed to be. It turns out that Railroad Avenue is next to the raised railway that runs through downtown. (You’d think I’d know that after living here for 4 years!) I was stressed nearly to the point of tears as we rushed to the correct address, parked, and walked hurriedly to the building, a full 5 minutes late. We barely made it to our seats before the concert began. I sat perfectly still, upright, with my hands on my knees, and peeked between heads and shoulders to see. It was serendipitous that the first concerto was intense and difficult to play in the designated key: it matched my mood exactly.

When Zuill Bailey plays, you can hear the layers of music and emotion build throughout the piece. His cello sings, weeps, exalts, triumphs, whispers, sighs, and dances. When you see him perform, you experience it even more so — layer upon layer, ever changing. His facial expressions, his entire body language, becomes part of the musical experience. This is, perhaps, due to how he internalizes the music when he memorizes each piece. Yes, he played all 3 concertos last night from memory.  And yet despite having such focus in his playing, there were times when there was a few measures of rest and he listened to the piano accompaniment only to hear the building rumble from a train going by… and he would look up to the vibrating wooden ceiling and smile.

By the final concerto, I was spending half my time watching my husband watch the cellist. SuperDad was clearly enjoying the experience and amazed at Zuill’s mastery. I think it’s safe to say there is another Zuill Bailey fan in the house.

Luckily, we will continue to have opportunities to hear Zuill Bailey play his cello: he is the artistic director of the Northwest Bach Festival and has expanded the festival to include opportunities to hear great music in a variety of settings everywhere he goes: schools, prisons, places that serve lunch to the underprivileged, along with smaller venues like the one I had tickets to last night.  He enjoys educating people about music and sharing his love of it everywhere he goes. If you ever get the chance to see him perform, especially if you at all enjoy classical music and the sounds of the cello, I highly encourage you to go!

Blog’s not dead… but barely alive

December 5, 2014

Five Friday thoughts:

  1. Any day I do not have to go somewhere in the early morning (e.g., work or a physical therapy appointment) I sleep until 9:30am.  This happens even if my husband tries to wake me up multiple times (and occasionally I sleep even longer). My body is always trying to make up for nights of insomnia.  Perimenopausal women understand.
  2. Gray, grey, grǽg, grau, gris — it doesn’t matter how you spell it, that is our weather: cold and overcast, with a “wintry mix” precipitation falling from the sky.  I walked our sweet boy Moses on a layer of semi-frozen slush this morning — and no, that is not redundant: it was freezing rain that had partially thawed and then been rained/rain-snow-mixed upon. (Yes, that was a grammatically awful sentence. You’re welcome.) It was slippery and crunchy at the same time under our feet.
    DSCN1287 chilly Moses, resizedEven the fire department thought it was a bit slippery out today:
    DSCN1283 fire truck tire chains
  3. I have plenty of beading supplies and some earring designs in my head (one inspired by the latest death-by-police, as depressing as that is!) but this dull weather makes me feel dull and uninspired to actually sit down and work. I was nearly finished with a special order lanyard until I saw it in good daylight (sunshine!) a few days ago, when I realized the colors were “off.” I learned the hard way to wait to crimp and finish until I’ve seen my work in various kinds of light. Now I need to restring the entire 34 inches of beaded design. *sigh*
  4. Even actual work (i.e., my job for which I am paid) was difficult yesterday. It was a 2 steps forward/one step back sort of day. It wasn’t the end of the world and I had almost no interruptions — I just took at least twice as long to accomplish tasks. Most days are not like that, and I am grateful.
  5. Today is my son’s 19th birthday. He’s 300 miles away, taking finals at his university, but he’ll be home next week for triple chocolate cake and 4 weeks of vacation. Hooray!
December baby

Humorous-Juniorous war in Deutschland geboren.

What has been keeping you busy lately? 

 

Extremes

November 23, 2014
Happy hour

Happy hour

Two weeks ago, I was sitting on a hotel patio in Tucson. The sun was out, the beer was cold, the chips were salty, and the guacamole was a true treat. I had painted my toenails a turquoise blue to match the water in the pool and the color scheme of my warm weather wardrobe. The weather was perfect: beautiful 82°F  sunshine with a light breeze weather…  sandals weather, skirt weather, sit outside for breakfast and happy hour weather.

Looking up during happy hour

Looking up during happy hour

I returned home to weather that was 40 degrees cooler and steadily dropping. We didn’t see temperatures above freezing for nearly a week.  My favorite gloves — the ones I use for driving and everyday wear in winter — were nowhere to be found.

But apparently the weather wasn’t quite cold enough yet for us because spending all day at a cross-country meet in freezing temperatures was on the agenda for the following weekend. The things we do for family!

SnakeMaster runs at the Nike Cross-Country Regionals

SnakeMaster runs at the Nike Cross-Country Regionals

DSCN1263 Tanner Anderson, 4x6We cheered on our boy who is new to the sport, was rather overdressed for the race and failed to bring his spikes (needed for every race but especially one with these conditions).  And then we cheered on his cousin who runs several minutes faster with his team from another school. And finally we cheered on a runner from our high school who happens to be one of the fastest XC student athletes in the nation:  go, Tanner!

 

Now we are at Thanksgiving week here in the United States. Next Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent. Christmas decorations have been on display in some stores for nearly 2 months already.  My house is decorated for fall but it feels like winter outside: an inch of snow on Thursday morning and icy streets overnight most nights. The steering wheel of my minivan is frigid by the time I drive home from work. I still haven’t found my gloves, but there was a spare pair in our supply of winter gear that my husband kindly gave to me. I had those plus my mittens, hat and scarf with me in Idaho at the NXR. And then I somehow lost my keys when we were leaving the race site. We’re waiting on the new key fob but at least I can unlock the door and drive my minivan. As long as the locks don’t freeze, I’m okay.

pink clouds at sunset, resizedThis evening  — if evening can possibly begin at 4:00 pm — I admired the pink sunset clouds and changed into pajamas. I had been at church for more than 6 hours: setting up my craft booth, rehearsing with choir, staying for the worship service, and hanging out by my booth to answer questions during a Thanksgiving dinner… followed by packing up my booth and being semi-useful to those who were decorating the sanctuary for next week. (Okay, mostly I watched other people decorate as I rested my sore feet.)  I was out of craft fair shape; I hadn’t tried to sell my wares for an entire month.  I still need to finish putting my supplies away before packing up for a quilting day tomorrow at a friend’s house. I might have multiple crafting personalities. 

 

I hear the tapping of a computer keyboard in another room. EB is home for his Thanksgiving break. MusicMan and Rapunzel will be spending Thanksgiving with her parents, and H-J will hopefully have Thanksgiving with relatives who live near his university (his break is too short to drive the 11-hour round-trip twice within four days). I’ll soon be posting pictures and descriptions on my Etsy and facebook pages of the items I hope to sell on Small Business Saturday and into December.

What are some of the extremes and changes in your life at this time? 

This is Fall

October 29, 2014
DSCN5147  This is Fall RESIZED

autumnal street scene

DSCN5153  overachiever, RESIZED

overachiever

DSCN5164 red & gold, resized

illuminating
kisses of light, colors glow
afternoon sunshine

DSCN5161  red-gold, resized

 

DSCN5166 cropped and resized

the gentle glow fades
replaced with subtle color
in waning daylight

Lives in the balance

October 27, 2014

DSCN4736  Reflection, CROPPED to 4x6 and resized for web

My heart is heavy with sorrow.

Gunshots can’t be heard from 300 miles away, but the reverberations of the shootings of 6 young people at a high school not far from my hometown are felt in my heart.

The shooter was not bullied and he was close friends with his victims.

One of those victims is the daughter/niece/cousin of 3 of my former classmates.

Yes, it hit close to home. This could have been my own son’s high school. It could have been any school. It could have been your own kids or grandkids, nieces or nephews.  And things like this keep happening all over the country.

What has happened to us as a society, that such tragedies are almost commonplace in recent years?

I think it boils down to two things:

1) When we were kids, cartoon violence was obviously not real (think Road Runner, Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry). Now, kids are growing up playing video games that MAKE violence occur — from obvious cartoon violence like Mario’s SuperSmashBros. to computer generated, quasi-realistic situations where gamers play at war. Instead of watching things occur and laughing at them, computer games INVOLVE the player and make them PART of the violence… with no consequences.
I’m not saying that people can’t tell the difference between reality and the game; I’m pointing out that we “play” at violence as a society, as well as watch it in movies and on television. It becomes something we DO on a regular basis.

2) This was so well-written that I’m quoting it directly from an unknown source (a commenter on an article):

Welcome to the United States the NRA hath wrought. Put a gun in EVERY hand, and everyone will be safer. Well, do YOU feel safe? These are NOT criminals or gang bangers. They’re your neighbors and classmates. The equation “anger + gun” NEVER works out to our benefit.

My libertarian friends believe that everyone would be safer with a gun to protect themselves and their families against “the bad guys.” What they don’t seem to understand is that it doesn’t have to be a “bad guy” — anyone can become a killer in an angry moment if there is a gun available.

The same commenter quoted above also said this:

You never know what button, pushed, will send ANYONE postal. The important thing is that there not be a deadly weapon right there at hand when he goes off. ESPECIALLY not one that would allow him to kill multiple people in a short period of time – even at a considerable distance. There’s no way an innocent victim can defend him or herself from a bullet, no matter what silliness you see in the movies.

And I, for one, am tired of crying over senseless deaths of young people.

 

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