December 2007


If you are reading this as it is posted, you are the first on your block to spy the annual family Christmas Epiphany Card photo.  Some years cards have gone out as late as Easter, and once, as late as the following Christmas, so we aren’t as behind as we could be.

From Top to Bottom & Left to Right:
Mr. Boy, age 7; LP age 5; the Bun, age 3; myself (Jennifer); the SuperHusband; and SB, age 1.5.

The pink house behind us is not our house, it’s the neighbor’s house, the green castle being tucked between the two yards, out of view in this photo.  We’re standing under the Other Maple, the one that is neither the Syrup Maple, the Miserly Maple, nor the Sickly Maple.  Mr. Boy is shown somewhat lower than his preferred position in the tree.  The Bun is wearing her usual attire of late. 

(Readers who are familiar with the Bun’s many name changes will be interested to learn she has a new name as of this morning: "Cow Jumped Over the Moon".  To those who were not aware, her previous names have included Winnie-the-Pooh, Baby Einstein, Bunny Blanket, Fishie the Bird, and Sweetie Pie Amby-Lewis.  With occasional forays into "Derlin" when her preferred name was put into time out for bad behavior.)

***

Pretend tree is up (and has been since, ahem, the week before Advent — a certain Protestant in the family was chief-of-decorating this year), and presents are acquired.  Egg nog and stollen are queued up for feasting purposes.  

An assortment of GI & respiratory illnesses may be eased enough to get away with going to grandma’s house for Christmas eve.  Or not, we’ll see.  One does not, generally speaking, consider bronchitis to be the most appropriate of gifts for one’s favorite 80-something relatives.

***

In holiday intrigue, rumors abound that a certain popcorn-addict has warped the Good Pot with her popcorn-making.  Evidence is purely circumstantial, and no reliable witnesses have come forward.  The only  expert witness has been shown to have a marked anti-popcorn bias.

Nonetheless, as we acquired a glass-top stove this fall (when the original 1983 Harvest Gold stove arced the second time, after the attempted repair — but gosh, the oven was still good, we could have just put a hot plate up top and called it good . . .), warped pots are very unpopular here.  

So it may happen that the three kings will be obliged to bring the SuperHusband a shiny new popcorn-free-forever pot.  Which would involve some brave, selfless person going out to the least objectionable national-chain mass merchandiser the day, or so, after Christmas.  

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    Something I discovered unintentionally, and with some concern:  An effective way to see where one’s hope is placed, is to see what disappoints.

    –> Concern, because it showed I was putting my hope in things I ought to have known better than to trust in, by now.  I suppose this is not unlike my slowness-to-learn in other areas, such as the years it took me to realize dinner must be served, every night.   You would think this sort of thing would be obvious, but some of us are slow this way.

    This morning’s first reading offers a correction:

    I, the Lord your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, "Do not be afraid, I will help you."

    And then continues with a funny consolation:

   Do not be afraid, Jacob, poor worm, Israel, puny mite.  I will help you — it is the Lord who speaks —  the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.

    This is good.  Compared to the kind of help that sometimes get offered, the sort that goes, "If you would just ____________, then God would . . ."   Yes, well, I don’t just ________.  I need the poor worm and puny mite kind of help, thank you very much.

      
   
    The other thing I was thinking about this morning is the psalm (which I am too lazy  busy to look up right now) that goes along the lines of, "Some trust in chariots and horses, we trust in the Lord".   

    Something that had always bothered me about the psalms in this genre, is that the Lord doesn’t always come through and defeat the enemy’s chariots and horses.  You can trust in the Lord and still get trampled.  And then this morning I realized that the promise isn’t that you will get what chariots and horses have to offer — you will get what the Lord has to offer.  Which, in the end, is the peace and happiness and joy and comfort of an eternity spent in the presence of God; but, in the meantime, yes there may be some amount of trampling in the process of getting there.

    But not to worry; any trampling is a temporary inconvenience, on the way to something much much better.  Miserable while it is happening — our Lord gives the example of how to manage, with not only prayer but a certain amount of weeping and pleading and sweating of blood — but in the end, yes the Lord will redeem us, and even we of the wormy and mite-like persuasion can trust in Him.

***

    On an very indirectly related note, I feel the need to observe:  PBS’s Curious George show has been a really good friend to me.

    Grandma day again.  Rode out to St. Francis Catholic Shop to do the annual buying of gifts for the godchildren.  There was an incident on I-26, and I got to detour along Broad River Road, the section between downtown Columbia and St. Andrew’s road.  Been ages since I’ve driven that particular neighborhood, and I was struck by just how seedy of an area it was. 

    But I was even more struck by the measure of seediness.  It was not run-down-buildings, or loitering disheveled people, or the relative infrequency of late-model vehicles, that drew my attention.  It was all the instant-loan places.  Car title loans, payday loans, check-cashing services, pawn shops.

    I’m not sure quite what this says, but it definitely says something about our culture.  That there could be dozens of businesses making their living on the issuing of high-interest loans to people who urgently need more cash. 

    Anyway, something to think about.

***

    Bread & Comments  A reader notes that the bread at Heather’s Artisan Bakery really is very very good, and wishes for more bakery hours.  Wish granted: as the farmer’s markets close up for the winter, Heather is doing more in-store sales.   Check her website for details from week to week.

    Re: comments: the comments are not, at this time, moderated.  Which means that I don’t get any notification when they are posted.  I try to check down for comments on older posts — this is not one of those speedy blogs, so there’s no reason a topic should get out-of-date too quickly.  But for the record, if you want to be sure I see your comment, you can put it in one of the more recent entries (or just note there that you’ve commented farther below).  My e-mail also works, though I don’t check it as consistently as some think I ought.

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    In mystery ailment news,  the PT tells me, "Get thee to a neurologist".  Um, okay, I’ll add that to my list.  Apparently when an arm takes to acting like the beleaguered leg, we can neither blame it on a nasty backache, nor shrug it off as solidarity.  Certainly the femur is innocent of this one. 

    She also informs me that there is no way to turn around (standing) that does not involve using the pelvis.  In other words, no it isn’t my imagination that housework is an aggravating activity.   Experts are still debating on whether one can properly call an ailment "suffering" if it requires, in the name of treatment, the avoidance of household chores.

***

    I finished reading Spe Salvi.  Can’t recommend it enough.  A lovely and very encouraging document, and full of interesting historical and theological points.   And if you are, like me, just a junior member of the lay faithful, not one of these people who can speed through encyclicals the way the rest of us read the Sunday comics, it’s probably just as well.  It is worth taking the document paragraph by paragraph, and reflecting on one bit before moving to the next.

  I think it would make a good small-group study, in that one somewhat-informed leader could walk interested readers through it section by section, perhaps giving some background information, and then moving to a discussion of how the general principles apply to daily life.  So much fodder for reflection.  Something to consider for Lent, perhaps.

    Naturally I had to do like all the other hot catholic bloggers, and go quick read Spe Salvi.  Okay, not quick.  I’m about halfway through. 

    (And no, I don’t aspire to be a hot catholic blogger, so, everything’s fine.  When you are a purely recreational catholic blogger, it can take you a week or more to read the new encyclical — you can even have doubts about how to spell "encyclical", and it’s okay.)

    I think I must have hit on the mysterious "reading level" that everyone always wants to know about.  People mostly ask that about my children ("What is your son’s reading level?"), though once I had a Barnes & Noble employee gush over my purchase of a Wall Street Journal, on account of that newspaper being written at a twelfth grade reading level.  Being a person who had graduated high school, I was really quite relieved to have passed that assessment.

    So if anyone asks me now about my Reading Level, I can tell them it’s officially at the Lay Faithful level.  The pope wrote me (and a billion of my closest friends) a letter, and I can read it.   I have to pay attention — it’s a bit more elevated than Jeeves and Wooster, which has been my other reading of late — but as long as I am actually thinking about what I am reading, it all makes sense. 

    And, I might add, it is really, really good.  Poor SuperHusband, I kept interrupting him last night to say, "You would love this!  Oh you should read this!  Oh this part is so good!"   It’s going something like the answers to the final exam (essay-type) of a class I would have loved to take, and might have even done pretty well in, if only I could have kept up with all the reading.    Church Fathers, Lives of Saints, Economic Theory, French Revolution, and much, much more, all in one great package  – a whopper of a class.

    Not, as I say, a class in which I would have actually excelled. I am person who knows what Karl Marx thought and taught, more or less, but have never personally read much more than an excerpt or two of the man’s writings.  But I’ve never let this shortcoming keep me from pondering economic theory, so the whole little study of how the hope of Communism compares to the hope of Christianity has me going "Yes!  Yes!"  

     –> Somehow I have resisted breaking into impious cheering for the Holy Father. But a few earnest prayers of thanks and "Please let this man live to write the third installment," most definitely.

    All that to say, it’s good reading.  Nice and meaty, but still readable.  Helps to be widely read, but I stand as proof that you don’t have to have actually read the Great Books, only the general summaries of those Great Books.  (A knowledge of the New Testament and a fearlessness about Greek word study, yes, you need that, too.  But if you listen at Mass every week, you should have that by now.)

    And it’s good, by the way, not merely in the sense of "keeps the intellect amused", but because it really hammers home the very Good News.   So, encouraging stuff.

***

Reminds me, by the way, that next up in the Living Wage discussion is going to be a look at the concept of "structures of justice".  Nothing down on paper yet, though, so don’t hold your breath.

In mystery ailment news: No news is no news.  Orthopedist looks at blood work, takes x-ray, shakes head.  More investigating to follow in ensuing weeks.  Meanwhile, children are getting quite good at doing the dishes.