Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Stealing: The Christmas Meme

From Sunday Stealing
The Christmas Meme

1. Do you send Christmas cards?

A. Yes. I sent out about 60 cards this year.
2. How soon do you start shopping?

A. September.

3. Who do you shop for?

A. Friends and family.
4. Do you put up a Christmas tree?

A. Yes.
5. If so, is it fake or real?

A. Fake.
6. Do you like tinsel?

A. We have it on the tree.
7. Do you use homemade or store bought ornaments?

A. Store bought.
8. Do you put Christmas lights outside your house?

A. We didn't this year but we have in previous years.
9. Do you put lights on the tree?

A. It came with lights.
10. How about popcorn and cranberries?

A. No.
11. Is there a wreath hanging on your door?

A. Yes.
13. Do you hang up your stocking?

A. Yes.
14. Does your family read "Twas the night before Christmas?"

A. No, but sometimes I recite just for fun. I know most of it by heart.
15. Christmas movie?

A. It's a Wonderful Life
16. Character from any Christmas Movie?

A. Scrooge
17. Christmas Song?

A. Do You Hear What I Hear?
18. Christmas Memory?

A. That time I asked for a BB gun and nearly shot my eye out. No, wait. That's a movie.
19. Give or Receive?

A. How about both?
22. Ham or Turkey?

A. Either. I don't really care.
24. White Lights or Colored Lights?

A. Colored lights.
25. Blinking lights or still lights?

A. Blinking.

26. Were you Naughty or Nice this year?

A. I was nice. I'm always nice. I'm so darned nice that nice just falls right off of me in the middle of the parking lot.
27. What do you want for Christmas this year?

A. I didn't really ask for anything this year except for a food laminator. That, my dears, is what I call a food vacuum sealer thingy.

28. When do you open your gifts?

A. Christmas morning, for the majority. But some I open early, with friends or family members. My brother and I have a tradition of exchanging presents on Christmas Eve.
29. What's the best gift you've ever gotten?

A. Well, it won't be a food laminator, even if I get one. My husband gave me pearls last year and I really liked those.
30. What's the worst gift you've ever gotten?

A. Well, it won't be a food laminator, even if I get one, since that is what I've asked for. I don't know that I've ever gotten a bad gift; I am always grateful for whatever anyone cares to give me. Now the worst Christmas bonus I ever received from an employer was a measly $2.00, which I considered a terrible insult at the time. I'd have rather he'd gone out and bought me a box of chocolates, which at that time he could have done for that amount of cash.
31. Who gives you the most gifts?

A. My husband.
32. Have you ever had a secret Santa?

A. Not in many years.
33. Do you like wrapping gifts?

A. I don't anymore. I used to enjoy it.
34. Do you put change in those red buckets?

A. Sometimes.

35. Do you burn a yule log?

A. Nope.
36. Can you name all the reindeer?

A. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, and Olive the Other Reindeer.
37. Do you bake cookies?

A. Yes. I also make darned good fudge.
38. Have you ever seen your mommy kissing Santa Clause?

A. I'm not going to answer that.
39. Have you ever gotten a kiss under the mistletoe?

A. Yes.
41. Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights?

A. Sometimes.
42. Have you ever left Santa cookies?

A. I'm sure I did when I was quite young.
43. Have you ever sat on Santa's lap?

A. Yes.
44. Who do you celebrate Christmas with?

A. My husband, my family, my friends.
45. Where do you celebrate Christmas?

A. My house, my in-laws house, my father's house, sometimes. In restaurants with friends. You celebrate Christmas wherever you are when you're with people you love.
46. Have you ever had a white Christmas?

A. Yes.
47. What part of Christmas do you look most forward to?

A. The end of it, at least, this year. I'm feeling a little less happy this year than I have in previous ones.
48. Have you ever had your picture taken with Santa?

Yes, I have.

Me with Santa in 2012. (That's my
father in the red suit. Really.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays!

Saturday 9: Happy Holidays!

1. As you can see, Sam (the author of this meme) loved giving her annual wish list to Santa. Yet some children are reluctant to climb into Jolly Old St. Nick's lap. Did you enjoy the tradition or were you shy? Or did you by pass it altogether -- either because you wrote him a letter or because your family didn't celebrate Christmas?

A. When I was quite small I think Santa scared me, but after I aged a bit I didn't mind. I don't recall ever really writing letters. Also, I had figured out by the time I was five years old who Santa really was, which rather took the fun out of it. I was too smart for my own good.

2. Are you currently on the Naughty or Nice list? How did you get there?

A. I would hope I'm on the Nice list. I am there because I am good to my husband, kind to my friends, and polite and moral to every one else. I try to treat people like I want to be treated.

3. Did you ship any gifts to friends and family this year? If so, which one traveled the farthest?

A. I sent my grandmother, who is 94 years old and has dementia, a card with a letter inside it. I hope someone reads it to her and she has some moment of clarity wherein she understands some of it. She lives in California and I am in Virginia. But the gift that traveled the farthest went to England, to my friend, Inga.

4. Did you buy yourself a gift this year?

A. Actually, yes. I purchased two sweaters that were on sale on Black Friday because the price was terrific, and I am cold all the time. The sweaters are very warm. 
5. What's your favorite holiday-themed movie?

A. It's A Wonderful Life, although I am also partial to versions of A Christmas Carol. And it isn't Christmas without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

6. Thinking of movies, Christmas is lucrative for Hollywood. Have you ever gone to a movie theater on Christmas Day?

A. Not that I recall.

7. Have you ever suffered an embarrassing moment at the company Christmas party?

A. I haven't been to a company Christmas party in years, since I'm a self-employed freelancer. 
8. What's your favorite beverage in cold weather?

A. Hot chocolate.

9. What will you remember most about 2014?

A. I imagine most of my readers know the answer to this one: my husband's terrible farm accident wherein he caught his arm in the hay baler. That was an eye-opening experience for us both. We are hoping for a better 2015.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Brilliance of Tolkien

Every year since the movies came out, I revisit Tolkien's world in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. I have the extended versions of each movie, which has scenes not viewed by the majority in the theatrical release.

This go-round, I was struck by the scene in Return of the King where Sméagol becomes Gollum. You can see a short clip of it here.

As the Ring takes Gollum, the former Hobbit-like being says, "We forgot the taste of bread, the sound of trees, the softness of the wind. We even forgot our own name."

He is so busy worshipping his new god, The One Ring, that he loses sight of every thing else. In the beginning, he weeps to be so alone, but eventually, he is more comfortable alone.

And so I began to wonder, are we all now Gollums, trapped here in our capitalistic society, where we worship not a single empowered ring but instead are so busy chasing after the worshipped manna (money) that we, too, have "forgot our own name."

You are saying, "Of course I know my name," aren't you? But it is not your given name that I speak of. I am speaking of your sacred name, your secret name, the name that life blessed you with. The name you would know if your feet felt the earth, the wind touched your skin, and you foraged for your own food. The name that you would own as yours, had you been given the choice. It's probably not the name you use now.

We have stepped away from simpler times, built ourselves concrete mansions and roadways, shied away from all that is natural and good, have we not? Our ceremonies are staid affairs, boring and culturally inclined - because we risk ostracism if we burst forth from societal norms and dance naked beneath the stars.

Our lives are singular now, built around devices that sneakily suck us in as creating connectedness. Instead, they make us more alone, so that we are fornicating with ourselves in the dark instead of making love with great passion to someone who has touched our soul. We sit in crowded coffee shops, a person to a table, or a group not speaking. Does anyone talk any more?

Today's society is built upon a past that apparently we decided, at some point, we must outrun, not embrace. Every morning my Facebook page, my newspaper, and my other information outlets have news foul enough to send me weeping into the farthest corner of my house, where I might crawl into a fetal position and hide my sorry head. I read it, as do you, as if it means nothing, as if the deaths of others do not diminish me. But we know that they do. We must know that, somewhere in our core.

We seem to have forgotten that each of us, no matter how small, can make a difference, and that our presence and our present matters to the future. We are living only for the next coin. How, I must ask, can this be healthy?

As we ravage nature, destroy her wonders, and plunder the earth, what exactly are we losing? Are we not losing resources as well as ourselves? I wonder if we are moving beyond that which is human, and evolving into some other creature. And if so, what kind of creature will we ultimately become?

We are not detached from this world. We are not Gollums hiding in caves, worshipping our golden rings. We are part of the universe, the greater good, and society as a whole. Why do we act then like Gollums, speaking riddles in the dark, knowing there is no one to answer?

It is time, I think, for a new revolution. We are free people but we have enslaved ourselves with consumerism, our passion for ownership, and our desires for more. We have no idea what it is like to dance naked beneath the stars, to feel the grass beneath our feet, to taste the tender softness of an apple plucked fresh from the tree. More worrying, most of us don't care about what we have lost, because we are so far removed from it. We don't miss what we've never known.

Christmas, alas, is the ultimate consumerist holiday, teaching our youth from a very young age how to ask for what they want, not how to give in return. I'm as guilty as the next person, I'm sorry to say, except perhaps in saner moments like this one in which I am writing. My eyes open occasionally to let Gollum go, freeing him to seek his Precious elsewhere. But the fell darkness that we have created doesn't take long to cover up whatever light I may stumble upon. My eyes darken.

I want this revolution, if not for the world, then for myself, and for you. Open your heart. I want to open my heart. I want to remember what it is like to love with yearning, to not ask for more than I need. In a world that is full of more, I want to learn how to do with less.

Am I strong enough to resist the call of The One Ring? Are you?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday Thirteen

Today I thought I'd list 13 people I am thankful for:

Me and my #1 Dude
1. My husband. He is my number one dude, my best friend, my boon companion, my provider, comforter, lover  - all rolled into one big cuddly package. He is the best.

2. My brother. He is the only other person in this world who shares my childhood memories with me, and has any chance of halfway seeing them from my point of view.

3. My father. We don't spend a lot of time together, but he's still my dad.

4. My doctor. I have a wonderful primary care doctor. She listens, spends time with me, and gives really good hugs. She doesn't hesitate to say she doesn't have all the answers and will send me wherever she thinks I need to go to find those answers. She's not in with any of the big health care providers because she couldn't spend the time she wanted with her patients. She told me once she had been constantly fussed at by the bean counters for a big facility she once worked for because she wasn't in and out of a patient's room in 10 minutes. She will spend 40 minutes with me if I need it. Isn't that real health care? I think so.

5. My physical therapist. I have a terrific physical therapist who is caring and an expert at her job. She gives a lot of thought to my issues and comes up with inventive and creative ways to help me deal with my very weird and somewhat unusual pain and abnormalities. We laugh a lot together, too.

My friend Leslie
6. My friend Leslie. She has been my friend for more than 30 years, and how many people can say they have had a friend that long? We met when I went to work at the same law office, back in 1983, and have been friends ever since. She's a gentle and kind soul, and I am delighted to have her in my life.

7. My friend Brenda. We've been close friends for over 15 years now, which is also a long time. She keeps me on my toes and is always ready to lend an ear when I need a chat. She's a dear person.

8. My friend Teresa. She's a relatively new friend - we've known each other for about four years now, and been good friends for two. She has helped me tremendously with this health situation, and she was beside me when my husband was seriously hurt this summer. She's super sweet and I am grateful she's in my life.

9. My aunt, Carolyn. I don't see her much because she travels all over the country (and out of the country, too!) doing specialized computer stuff that I do not profess to understand. She's always been there when I needed her.

10. My mother-in-law. She has been a good mother-in-law and she raised my husband, so she must have been a good mother, too. She is going strong at 81 and living an enviable life for her age. She's in great health, too. I admire her ability to make a new life for herself after the death of my father-in-law, and how she just goes on and does what she wants to. She is a good role model.

Chris & Emory
11. My nephews. A three-in-one here, with the boys all grown young men now. Emory is studying medicine, Chris is a certified welder, and Trey is in college studying to be a nutritionist or something like that. I am very proud of all of three of them. They are fine fellows, and while I don't see as much of them as I would like, they do drop in occasionally to check on their ol' aunt and uncle.

12. My niece. She's a spiffy teenager, now. A beauty pageant queen and a dancer, Zoe' is the light in her father's eye.

13. Santa Claus. Ha! Fooled you on that one, didn't I? But what would this time of year be without that jolly ol' elf, and the lore surrounding him? All that eye-twinkling and cherry red checks stuff, and ho ho ho-ing. Isn't it fun? Doesn't it make for a splendiferous and remarkable bounty of color in an otherwise drab and dreary time?

And last but not least, I am grateful for you, dear blog reader, whoever you might be, wherever you are. I don't know who most of my readers are, but I know some of you, and I appreciate each and every one. Thank you for visiting me and spending part of your time reading my words. I wish you much joy and great festivities during this holiday season.

Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here. I've been playing for a while and this is my 374th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Christmas Letter

We send out about 60 cards this time year, wishing folks a joyous holiday and Happy New Year. I write personal notes in some cards, particularly to those folks whom I haven't seen in some time, or am not friends with on Facebook.

I enjoy remembering these people with kindness and love, sometimes with a story or a prayer when I think of them. However, we do not send out a holiday letter. My husband hates them and shudders at the mere mention of one. He doesn't read the ones we receive, though I do. I don't mind them. I like knowing how folks are doing and what they are up too, even if half the time I don't know who or what they're talking about.

Most folks know I am a writer of sorts, so I occasionally am asked why I don't send out something with my cards. The above would be the reason - I don't override my husband's protests (except on really important matters). The other is, I don't think we're that interesting. But if I had written a letter to stick in the cards (which have all gone out in the mail), it would have read something like this:

The year's nearly over, time's running out quick
It's been 18 months now since Anita's been sick.
It's been a rough time for this Firebaugh clan.
The summer went sour when James injured his hand.
He fought the hay baler like a knight on a steed,
but had to cry, "uncle" when the thing made him bleed.
His angel was watching, the doc saved his arm
by September he was back working the farm.
For six months, physical therapy filled up their time.
"Growing old sucks," Anita's been heard to opine.
She uses a cane now, thanks to a bad foot
And while she's still writing, she's not touched her book.
They both have gray hair, (what hair James may have)
and each morning starts out with some smelly joint salve.
Such creaking and groaning, these two when they rise
they sound like Rice Crispies, that childhood surprise.
Though the year's been a hard one, they put on bright smiles
and send you good wishes from across the miles.

Happy Holidays, whatever you do,
may your upcoming year be the best one for you.

Or maybe I could have written something like this:

Dear Friends and Loved Ones,

What a year we've had! James, as most of you know, caught his hand and arm in a hay baler on July 5. I will never forget that awful day, the way he drove himself home on the utility vehicle and then told me he'd just "cut himself" and needed stitches at the Daleville urgent care. The look on the poor doctor's face when we removed the old sheet James had wrapped around his arm would have been laughable had I not at that moment realized the extent of the injury. Needless to say, the doctor called an ambulance.

After two surgeries and five days in the hospital, James came home. I have to give a big shout-out and thank you to my brother, who was very helpful throughout this ordeal. He even changed the hot water heater elements for us, which unfortunately went out on the day James came home (and he was so longing for a shower, poor man!). Also many of you (you know who you are!) stepped forward to lend a hand, either helping with farm chores or bringing us a meal. I'm grateful.

James was housebound most of the summer - and that is not a good thing for a plow boy, I must say. He was diligent with his physical therapy, though, and was soon back at work. I am happy to report that he has recovered most of the function of his hand. He grinned from ear to ear just this past week when he was able to work the throttle and brake on his motorcycle. Oh happy day!

As for me, in January I went to UVA for my abdominal pain, but no one had any advice except to find a pain specialist. I had a CT Scan in the spring, which showed nothing, and a visit with a local surgeon produced no tangible results, either. An endoscopy in September indicated that my multiple bleeding ulcers (diagnosed in October 2013) were better. Though not quite healed, they certainly were no longer the concern they were the previous fall. That was my personal best news all year (James' recovery, of course, took the cake.)

I began physical therapy in April, and have been going consistently since August (there was a break there when James was hurt, of course). The PT has helped a little, but unfortunately, I developed a weird issue with my right foot. (Of course it's a weird issue, it's me!) My gait changed, and my foot turned outward. One theory is the adhesions in my abdomen (that's what the diagnosis on the pain is, scar tissue build-up) pulled my pelvis out of alignment, causing me to walk incorrectly on my foot and ankle and damage a tendon. I see a specialist on December 31 about that. Way to start the New Year, eh?

I also went to UNC in August for additional diagnosis on the belly pain. UNC has a Women's Hospital and I had no idea they had such a huge facility there. They couldn't help, either, though.

The cows are good - James likes the new paddocks and water troughs he installed the summer of 2013. That is working well for him. He continues to stay busy with not only the farm but also his septic tank installation work and his work at the fire department. He would like to retire from the fire department soon, but like most folks have found, health insurance is an issue.

I enjoy watching the deer out the window. Sometimes they come right up and look in the house. They are curious animals. I have also been doing a lot of reading. Current events make me sad.

The rest of the family is well. As far as I know, both of our immediate families are doing okay. We're very proud of nephews and our niece. They are growing up to be fine young people.

Hope your year has been blessed and wonderful, and that 2015 is a joyous one for you.

The Firebaughs

Anyway, that's why we don't send out letters in our Christmas cards.