Thursday, December 18, 2008

Here we come a caroling....

Last Saturday I attended a caroling party, and I discovered an unpleasant truth about myself.

I am turning into a Puritan, at least where Christmas is concerned.

The Puritans, you may recall, prohibited Christmas celebrations as being ungodly. I wouldn’t go that far, but clearly something has to be done.

To get back to the caroling party. We sang all the Christmas carols people remembered liking that were in the songbook. We sang a few non-religious songs (“We Wish You A Merry Christmas,”“The 12 Days of Christmas,” “Deck the Halls” and “Wassailing Wassailing”) But most of the songs we sang were Christmas hymns, beautiful and lyrical and deeply meaningful.

Except we left out “the depressing verses.” You know, the verses that dealt with sin and redemption or sacrifice or the need for salvation. The ones with actual theological content.

I knew very few people at the party. None of them well enough to ask, “why are you singing Christian hymns if you find the basis for Christianity so inherently distasteful and depressing?”

Christmas is not about babies in mangers. Babies are cute, sweet, nonthreatening. Christmas is also not (just) about goodwill towards all people – who could argue with goodwill?

Christmas is about God made manifest on earth in the form of a human being – an unsettling thought – who will sacrifice himself for the sins of all the earth. The enormity is difficult to grasp. (The resurrection? Beggars the imagination.)

That manger stands in the shadow thrown by the cross, from light reflected from the empty tomb. Christmas’s light is thrown out against that shadow.

Without the cross, all you have are babies in mangers. How pretty. How… meaningless.

Don’t get me wrong, I think generalized holiday cheer is great – as long as it is generalized holiday cheer. And I give and get gifts like many other people. But subjecting everyone – regardless of faith – to “Merry Christmas”? Just plain wrong, regardless of what Bill O’Reilly says.* I say, let's have more "holiday parties," because all of us need to do something at the end of the year to cheer up, not so many "Christmas Parties." Because no one should be subject to proselytizing when all you want is to have a good time. Unless you also want to have a hanukkah party (or eight!) for your Jewish friends, and a Solstice celebration for your pagan friends....

Season’s Greetings to you all.

*and before anyone brings it up, I do not think that the Great Commission in Matthew ("go forth and make disciples of all nations") requires you to cudgel people into saying "Merry Christmas," even if they or the person they're speaking to are not Christian.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Writing Exercise #1

[Note: This is the first of several attempts to make myself write whether I feel like it or not. It's pretty rough going. Feel free to skip.]

During the late campaign, Sarah Palin showed herself to be a thoroughly undistinguished individual, unfit to be just a heartbeat -- or a stroke, or a reoccurance of cancer -- away from the presidency. However, I though the Katie Couric interview in which she was unable to state what she read most illuminative.

Not because of what she read, but because she refused to answer the question at all, instead giving a generic non-answer answer.

I am not Sarah Palin. I am more than willing to answer what I read. It's not at all pretty.

I read the morning San Jose Mercury News, most mornings. I glance at the online edition of the St. Petersburg Times, the best newspaper in America. I, I am abashed to say, devour Entertainment Weekly the day it arrives at our house. I read the good parts (i.e., European politics, science, arts) of the Economist when my husband buys it when he flies places. (Is it just me, or has the Economist gotten much much more conservative in the part five years? Or have I gotten more liberal?) In doctor's offices I read Smithsonian, Time, or People, depending upon what is available and what sort of mood I am in. At the dentist's office I read Sports Illustrated, because she is the only office that has an SI subscription. (When I was growing up my father had an ironclad rule: I was never allowed to read SI before he was. Never. I have tried to instill the same ethic regarding the EW in my household and it has failed -- someone is always going off with it. I suspect my eldest son.)

Books? What are they? Every once in a while I will read another one of the Anne Perry Thomas Pitt mysteries, although I am pretty much done with them now. I re-read Pride and Prejudice every so often, because one must, if no other reason than to appreciate the expanded role of Colin Firth in the A&E miniseries. It also has one of the best opening lines in all literature.

And Connie Willis. In discussions of Science Fiction I almost always say "The only sf writer I read is Connie Willis.

I also read nonfiction "list books." These are not books with a thesis and a coherent argument, but collections of disjointed facts centered around one subject. I have a ton of those, and I love reading them. I adore dictionaries and histories of the world.

The vast amount of reading I do is online. Blogs, blogs, and more blogs. LiveJournal. Now Twitter. Not that I comment -- except irregularly at Making Light -- but just that I vicariously tap into other people's lives, either on a perrsonal level (LJ and Twitter) or intellectually (everything else).

I keep trying to think if this means I have too little time on my hand or too much, and it constantly amazes me the people who both seem to engage a great deal online *and read* a lot of books (excepting those for whom it is a profession. That I show a certain lack of intellectual rigor.

Methinks I need to work on this.

If for no other reason than it will make it easier to find something to write about.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Decisions, Decisions...

To work on my beaded Christmas/wedding presents...
Or do my necessary resume distribution for the day...
Or blow off both of those and go see Milk at the Castro Theatre with friends.

I need a Magic 8 Ball.

Reclaiming myself

I am going to engage in that most hackneyed cliche of bloggers: complaining how hard it is to find something to write about.

I pride myself on being a good writer. Good communication skills are part of my self-identification. Yet I have fallen out of the habit of actually engaging in any writing.

Part of it is time. When I was working, my tie was spent working and beading. Beading has an outside chance of being a money source, at least to the point of supporting my beading habit. Writing does not.

I have read that one should write three pages long-handed every morning. I can't do that. My fibromyalgia makes it hard to write more than a paragraph without experiencing considerable pain. I have no such problem when typing. But unfortunately when I type I spend a lot of time self-editing.

So the answer is a to write some every day here. The quality will be rough, and I may not have as many cites as I usually do -- they take time -- but maybe I can relearn the skills which are such a part of who I am.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


In response to my last post, Barbara requested pictures of Elvis. Attempts to scan the ad were unsuccessful, due to my lack of ability with the equipment I had at hand, but I do have a picture snagged off the web from the Fire Mountain website. (By the way, the same tree is also in the Fire Mountain Comprehensive Jewelry Maker's catalog on page 249.)

Elvis is made from copper wire and malachite beads and 6/0 transparent green seed beads. The ornaments are made from a variety of beads. The snowmen are Swarovski faux pearls.

Elvis was a finalist in the 2007 Fire Mountain Beading Contest. I think they used him for the ad rather than the Christmas tree which did better in the judging simply because it showcased a wider range of their products. In any case, it's cool: I think of it as the equivalent of having a short story published.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Good News

I realize that, because this blog has been nearly comatose, nobody is reading much anymore, but just in case you are ....

One of my beading pieces, officially named "Lilliputian Christmas Tree" but unofficially called "Elvis," is featured in a full-page, back-cover ad for Fire Mountain Gems and Beads in the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Beadwork Magazine.

Full-page. Back-cover. In a slick, nationally-distributed magazine. Hot damn.

Bad News

I realize that I had let this blog go dormant, primarily because I was working.

I have been laid off.

What this means for the future of this blog remains to be seen.