Sunday, December 28, 2008

New hobby

Or, I won't quit my day job...

Or, or, sometimes I am woefully over-confident.

Santa brought me a knitting book and some basic knitting starter tools. Here is what took me an hour and a half to create.

Does it get easier? Will my stitches look better (at some point)? And in the meantime, any suggestions for donating/recycling my crappy first efforts at a scarf, if I ever finish?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,

Alles schläft; einsam wacht

Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.

Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

(The original lyrics of the song Stille Nacht were written in German by the Austrian priest Father Josef Mohr and the melody was composed by the Austrian headmaster Franz Xaver Gruber.)

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining.

Till He appeared and the Soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!

O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Truly He taught us to love one another,

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.

And in his name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His name for ever!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

(The words and lyrics of the old carol 'O Holy Night' were written by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847. The music for the poem was composed by Adolphe Charles Adams. It was translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893).)

It's in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It's in every one of us
By and by

(sung by John Denver (and The Muppets) from the album, John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together. Lyrics by D. Pomeranz )


I'm off work for the next week, and I really need a break. Still, I find it really hard to unwind and relax. How can this be? I've been looking forward to this week since August. It's been the carrot in front of me for the whole semester. My entire being has yearned for this. And when it's finally come, I have to tell myself to relax. I have to resist filling my days with errands and household chores. I'm so stuck in my rut that I feel uneasy if I'm not doing, doing, doing.

How do I break this habit? How can I unwind and let the unending chore list alone? Where does this need to stay occupied come from?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas is about giving...

...So today I gave myself the day off! No shoulds, no ought-tos, just what I wanted to do. Which turned out to be pretty productive, and I still have most of the afternoon and all evening to kick back.

After running out to Target for the umpteenth time (and LAST, I swear it), I wrapped presents. But because I'm an organizational weirdo and can't do just one task at a time, I had to sort out the boxes of paper, wrap, and bows. With the result that it looks like a Hallmark store threw up in my guest room.

After a short break (fortified by lunch and some See's candy), I moved on to baking.

The two cookies I must make each year are honey shortbread and springerles. The honey shortbread is a recipe I found years ago in a holiday cookie magazine. I tried it once, and my family went nuts over it. It's so easy, it almost doesn't count. Butter, honey, vanilla, and flour. Done. The springerles are a legacy from my Grandma Frances. When Grandma sent us the Christmas package every year, there would be a box of springerles in there. These are easily my favorite cookies, but I only make them for Christmas. They are anise-flavored and very crunchy. Yummy. My mom managed to snag Grandma's hand-carved springerle board and got the recipe from her (orally, of course) before she passed away. And now I carry on the tradition.

Baking must be accompanied by music. It was time to whip out the John Denver and the Muppets cd. Which reminds me of my childhood, and always makes me sentimental (which means laughter and tears).

And now, being done with my tasks, I plan to relax with a good book and some hot cocoa. Aaahhhh.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Deep breath

Holy cow. I've been so freakin' busy - concerts, parties, work (finals week), and trying to hold it all together. But now, all that's left on the agenda is baking and wrapping presents.

That'll be tomorrow.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ramblings on Hope

Since this summer, I've felt alternately discouraged, anxious, depressed, worried, and uncertain. Since the holiday season has begun, I have felt hope. Hope is such an interesting and enigmatic phenomenon. A very little bit (the proverbial "mustard seed") is enough to counter all the cynicism and pessimism in the world. A tiny spark of light can illuminate a roomy space.

Lately I've been more attuned to hope in my heart and in the world around me. I don't know what belief system you subscribe to; regardless of your spirituality, I think you may recognize what I'm discussing. It's a coming-together, a synchronicity, a blessing, a one-ness, an acknowledgement of a higher power, an enlightenment. For me, I feel like God has answered a prayer that was so deeply tied to my psyche, so important to my state of being, that I didn't even recognize it was there. It was an emptiness, a tiredness, at a deep soul level. Slowly, surely, this emptiness is being filled. I've been noticing more kindness, more goodness, more light. I am comforted. I am hopeful.

And the light goes on shining in the dark; it is not overcome by the dark. -- John 1:5

This time of year is full of references to light. The winter solstice approaches - the time when the earth tilts, and the days lengthen, and the light increases. Hannukah is a festival of lights. The celebration of light is one of the best parts of Christmas for me, and I'm glad the early Christians borrowed the pagan customs. The importance of light to life is primal. The way that Jesus, light of the world, comes to us in the guiding light of the star, is such a great narrative echo of God's decree to "let there be light."

This mystery, this connection, of light and hope - how strong the light of a single candle is, how tenuous hope is - thrills me to my very core. It's how Christmas is real to me this year. It's what makes me feel connected to humans and Christians across the ages. Hope is real, and more powerful than despair. And now I know this for myself. And I hope you feel it too!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's beginning to look...

...a lot like CHRISTMAS!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My head is about to explode...I think.

My dad sent me this article on how scientists have manipulated the brain's perceptions of its physical self. It's tripping me out.

"In one experiment, the team fitted the head of a mannequin with two cameras connected to two small screens placed in front of volunteers' eyes, so that they had the same view as the mannequin. When the mannequin's camera eyes and a participant's head were directed downwards, the participant saw the mannequin's body where the person would normally have seen their own body. The researchers created the illusion of body-swapping by touching the stomach of both the mannequin and the volunteer with sticks. The person saw the mannequin's stomach being touched while feeling (but not seeing) a similar sensation on their own stomach. As a result, the person developed a strong belief that the mannequin's body was actually their own."

This is very weird, sci-fi stuff. And yet, it's also fascinating how the mind can be tricked.

Dinner with friends

Good friends Emily and Darin are visiting from France! We met them for dinner last night, and to get caught up on what's new.
Emily is sporting a beautiful, expanded belly! Their little boy is due in March.
Jen, Em, and Darin grinning after stuffing themselves with Mexican food.

It's always good to see Emily on her visits back to the US. And this time, we got to see her "TH," Darin! They're gonna be great parents. Cliff and I will just have to go back to France and visit, after the little one is born. We're good friends, like that.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm just sayin'.

It really chaps my hide when smokers throw their cigarette butts (still lit) out of their car windows. A trifecta of illegal, and disrespectful, and dangerous.