Thursday, November 29, 2012

24 Days of Christmas

I'm trying something new this year.

Yes, I'm adding yet another thing to my list of to-do's... because I obviously don't have enough to keep me busy, after all.

Here is the cabinet when closed.
A few years ago, I bought a little wooden chest of drawers as a holiday decoration. On the outside are some friendly looking snowmen, and when one opens the doors of the little cabinet, one finds 24 numbered drawers inside. Each is small--probably big enough to hold a couple of rolls of Smarties or something similar.

Here are the individual drawers...
That's what I've placed in the drawers over the last few years. Candies, tiny toys, or tiny toys with candy in them. But that's never really worked for me. And since my son doesn't really like candy, that hasn't really worked for him, either. And my daughter even got bored with that last year.

But I have a new plan. While candy is a bit iffy, both of my kids LOVE poetry. My third grader brought home an excerpt from Whittier's Snowbound last week, and I pulled out the bigger poem and read some of it to them. I think I was a little bored--man, but that poem is LONG--but they didn't want me to stop reading.

This year, instead of the stupid candies, I'm going to place a poem or little story into each drawer. Nothing epic, just something about the season. Each drawer has a different painted figure on it, so I've been planning out the ideas I'll deal with in each vignette. I'll post the first few here on the days they happen, but since I'll be out of town this weekend (O you magnificent friend who invited me to spend a few days in Florida! Bless you!) I won't be able to tell you about my kids' reaction to each one. Once I get back in town I'll include how my kids responded, even if they wrinkled their noses and said, "That's it?"

Check back all month for your online Advent Calendar. I hope it helps you count your way down to Christmas, making you a little cheerier (or at least more thoughtful) along the way.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful Things

I'm totally stealing this from another blogger (with a link to her site below), but it's such a great idea I had no choice but to steal. I've honestly never done this before, and I can't think why. Thanksgiving Day has never been about the food, at least for me (I like the term "turkey day" about as much as others like "xmas" being used for "Christmas"). Football also isn't a draw, as you probably know. But thankfulness, well, that's a big deal to me.

So here it is, my GRATITUDES, my top ten list of things I'm thankful for:

1. Other bloggers--like Sia McKye--think of fantastic blog topics so that I don't have to. And my wonderful fellow bloggers also encourage me, offer me fantastic advice, and show me that I'm not alone in the world.
2. My online and face-to-face community sees the world in new ways and helps me broaden my mind. They remind me what's important and also remind me when stuff is coming up locally (Thank you, Facebook people!)
3. My kids are both helpful, emotionally stable, caring people. They try new things and still take my advice, and though I know it's because they are not yet teenagers, I'm grateful they want my input and encouragement, even if it's just for now.
4. My sister and I are still friends, despite all the stuff we've both been through. Lots of stuff, pretty much all family-related. Yet she's never given up on me, never taken sides against me, never done anything but thing I'm great (and the feeling is mutual!).
5. I still have hope, despite taking off my rose-colored glasses more than twenty years ago. I don't pretend that evil isn't there, but I believe one voice can help, and I am strong enough to speak truth.
Isn't he cute? Here's the turkey
we won't be eating this year!
(Photo credit: NWTF)
6. I have yet to really feel any signs that I'm getting old. No creaking when I get up, no back pain. I'm more fit now than I was when I was half my age. I still have all my faculties, too--okay, so my memory is going, but that's been happening since I was twelve.
7. The hubby and I still care deeply about each other--after all these years, we are still best friends. He neatened the house last night and made dinner. Said it was because he knew I'd be cooking today, and he wanted me to rest the day before. He also said all he wanted for dessert on Thanksgiving was cookies--bless that man!
8. I don't have to cook a turkey. Hurray for being vegetarian! I get to start cooking around 11:30, and we'll be eating our tasty meal by 2!
9. I have time to do the things I love: paint, sing, sew, write, play piano. And though I still don't have enough time, I am not so overloaded with stuff that I don't have a chance to spend time playing.
10. Christmas is just around the corner, and since we don't do much for gifts at our house, I don't have to shop on Black Friday. In fact, I don't even have to enter a store at all. I can get what I need online.

There it is. I have a ton more to be thankful for--a TON--but today these are the gratitudes uppermost in my mind.

What are your gratitudes?

Have a fantastic Thanksgiving Day, people. And hugs to everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Great Books--Cinder by Marissa Meyer

I've found a great book! One of those rare hard-to-put-down-even-when-I'm-exhausted books. It's the beginning of a whole series, and I already can't wait for the next installment. It's Cinder by Marissa Meyer. (Do not confuse with another Meyer author--the writing is far better.)

The cover caught my eye first: a woman's foot with an obvious metal cyborg leg inside. Cinderella in a futuristic New Beijing. But a concept isn't enough to make a book good. Writing makes a book good--or bad, as I've seen far too often--but this one pulled me in from chapter one with meaning, characters, emotion, and drama.

The only criticism I have is that I saw the "reveal" at the end about 300 pages early--and since the book's only 387 pages long, that's pretty early. I tend to see those things coming anyway, so I'm not even sure that's a criticism. I can't remember the last time a reveal caught me off guard. It certainly didn't in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Everyone told me I'd be shocked by the ending, and I finished the book wondering what was supposed to surprise me.

But enough of that other over-hyped book (I've blogged about that one before, after all). This one draws from the fairy tale, and that's the first thing that appealed to me. I ADORE fairy tale spin-offs, unless they are lame, of course. But this one works. It's dark like the original sources, it's hopeful, it's smoothly written, and it might be one I buy the whole series to. The next one comes out in 2013, and two other books are planned after that.

That's all for now. I spent the whole of yesterday painting, and I plan to do some more today, in between bouts of exercise (I have GOT to get myself back into shape!). Have a happy Thanksgiving, don't eat too much, and I'll check back in with you soon. Oh, and read Cinder.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Unholy War
War is never holy
Holy is the warmth of held hands
Of a blanket given in cold weather
Of shelter found in a nightmare storm

Hatred isn't holy
Holy is the understanding nod
The freedom found in other points of view
Mercy and forgiveness of both enemy and friend

Fear is never holy
Holy is the sweet embrace
The touch of love bridging across time and space
The moving of one's self beyond one's prejudices

Killing isn't holy
Holy is the body beautiful
The clean, unbruised, un-holed, uncut skin
Of peaceful people

The hate and fear we feel cannot be holy
It is the barrier that separates us from our brothers
From the enemy we refuse to understand
From the friends who would be, if we would only let go of our assumptions

These feelings we call "righteous"
Are the indignations of petty selfishness and envy
The workings of the lowest, meanest thoughts
The thickened wall that separates us from our God

Monday, November 19, 2012

Brush Strokes

Just one stroke
Of cherry red on white
Then another

Not much, I know,
But the strokes add up
Faster than I could imagine

Filling in the space
With color, with crimson sharp
Against green leaf

A flick of brush
Isn't much at all
On its own

But when are brush strokes
Singled out one by one
Set apart


Though the brush strokes
Each are little enough
They become the whole

Be patient
Keep painting little strokes
And see the world form
Swirling into beautiful existence
Under your fingertips.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

To Make or Not to Make

It can't just be me. 

Surely other people find that DOING something productive can also be a load of fun, and sitting around doing nothing is a form of purgatory, at the very least, if not sheer hell. 

I've worked two straight FULL days on a single project, and I'm taking off in an hour to begin another full day, but I have loved pretty much every waking moment of it. Had I chosen to blow it all off and spend three full days in my pajamas catching up on all the recorded shows I have waiting for me, I would not have been half so happy. 

So, am I right? Or am I alone in this? I start my week of hardly any obligations tomorrow, but I have plans for it--and they don't involve pajamas and television watching. I have things to sew, things to paint, things to write and things to rewrite. 

Maybe it's just that I'm a "maker," as Orson Scott Card describes in his series starting with Seventh Son, a fascinating mytho-American set of novels. Maybe I was born to create, and when I'm not creating, not "making," I'm not happy. Even when I was a child, I was easily bored, but instead of asking the typical, "What can I DO?" to my mother, I always asked "What can I make?"

It was the right question for me. And I am salivating my creative prospects this week. 

What about you? Are you, too, a maker? Or are pajamas and boob tube watching your MO for any given Sunday?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Calm of Dawn

No panic
Just the first golden glisten
Of dawn
On the autumn leaves.

No racing heartbeat
Just the wet dew of grass
The tiny frog
Watching from the leaf pile

No fear
Just the rustle
Of bird, of breeze
In the thinning treetops

If I could bottle this
Could link myself to the trees
All day
The stress would never
Overwhelm me

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lights at the End

No, I'm not approaching a white tunnel. No near death experiences here.

But, in typical Shakespeare fashion, I've taken on a whole lot of stuff... for months. Two weekends ago, I finally took a Saturday off. I did end up doing dishes that day, but pretty much nothing else, and it was the first day in months that I'd taken off.

I'm up early to finish grading some papers and prep for class, and I already have a full day of meetings, tasks, and other stuff. Last night my day went from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and I am kind of tired.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is there. Some of the stuff will just end. Other stuff will end because I say so. I'm sort of a sprinter by nature, so I get all excited about something, do it to the hilt, and then let it go when I'm ready. Now I actually have dates in mind, though, and they help me know that all this rushing around isn't permanent.

So, what's ending? Here's a list, with real dates. I know you don't really care, but makes me happy to see it in real words, to pin all this down.

Novel edit (for writer back near Seattle): DONE (finished Monday, actually)
Preparation for local women's shelter open house culminates: November 11 
Last big project for the year is finished with the Firehouse: November 18
Children's Christmas Musical is finally performed: December 12
English Class ends and I turn in grades: December 13

Don't think I'm ending everything, though. I have two classes starting up in January, but by the time they take off I plan to have other stuff finished, too. I've only listed the definite dates. Next week is already looking completely scary, but I'm not too panicked. After all, it's only a week. Thanksgiving week is looking fantastic--Zumba and choir practice are my only have-to's and they don't really count, now, do they? I might even get back to some of my own WRITING that week. Imagine that! At the very least I'll spend a bit of each day playing Christmas tunes on the piano, painting, etc.

What lights do you see at the end of your tunnel? Any definite dates?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My Election Prayer

Now I lay me down to bed.
I truly hope I won't be dead
When I wake up tomorrow morning
And see the end of campaign porn-ing.

If I survive, by lucky chance,
My hope as wrinkled as my pants,
May I know who has won the race
To govern o'er this U.S. place.

But if -- alas! -- the race ain't through
If we have counting left to do
And cheating ballots pile around
So no one wins or gains much ground

I'll cry all in my coffee cup
And wonder what the hell is up
With all those people who believe
My choice is wrong, that I'm deceived.

Then comfort me, and help me see
Mine's not the sole humanity,
That other goofballs just like me
Believe and think, but don't agree.

And count me grateful, come what may
That one thing is for sure today:
No matter what these votes have meant
At least I'm not the President.