Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Handknit Gift: A Good Thing

Knitted dishcloths!
That's what I gave everyone this year. I wanted to share photos of them ages ago, but had to wait until after the presents had been given out so as not to spoil the surprise.
I came up with the idea because two years ago our library director learned to knit and presented everyone on the staff with all-cotton, hand-knitted dishcloths. I thought my dishcloth was too pretty to use at first, but once I did I was hooked. It was easy on the hands, tough on dirty dishes, and the perfect size. I preferred it over all my other dishcloths. Consequently, I completely wore it out!
Back in the fall I mentioned the dishcloth to my boss, telling her how much I loved it, in hopes that she'd take the hint and make new ones for us all this Christmas. Instead she helpfully offered to look for the patterns she used. Well, that backfired, didn't it? I had to learn to knit and make my own. While I was at it, I decided to knit them for my mom, sister and aunt.
I feel good about giving a personal, pretty, and practical gift. The best part for me, though, is that the entire time spent making a dishcloth my heart is focused affectionately on the intended recipient. And that, as Martha would say, is a good thing. Dishcloth photo by JulenaJo.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

May your travels be safe, your heart and home full of light and good cheer. Merry Christmas! Vintage postcard.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Nice Ice?

Santa brought me a present: a new camera (Canon Powershot A590). Thank you, Santa!
I'd been taking pictures with my cell phone or eschewing photos altogether ever since my beloved Nikon froze up on me. I'm not much of a photographer, but digital cameras are so easy. An ice storm last night gave me time (the Library was closed till noon) and opportunity to try out the new camera. Ice shots from the garden. Nice. Ice photos by JulenaJo.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Ages Impearled

I love old books of poetry. The wording is so flowery, so interesting and unusual. In this, a lovely Christmas verse from my latest "find," An American Anthology, 1787-1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed., we find the "ages impearled" by the light of the Christmas star. What a vision! I've never heard this poem before, but apparently it's a seasonal folk song. Enjoy.

A Christmas Carol
by Josiah Gilbert Holland

There's a song in the air! There's a star in the sky!
There's a mother's deep prayer and a baby's low cry!
And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

There's a tumult of joy o'er the wonderful birth,
For the virgin's sweet Boy is the Lord of the earth.
Ay! the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing,
For the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King!

In the light of that star lie the ages impearled;
And that song from afar has swept over the world.
Every hearth is aflame, and the beautiful sing
In the homes of the nations that Jesus is King!

We rejoice in the light, and we echo the song
That comes down through the night from the heavenly throng.
Ay! we shout to the lovely evangel they bring,
And we greet in His cradle our Savior and King!

Artwork: Albrecht Dürer
The Nativity, probably c. 1509/1510
Rosenwald Collection

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Memories

These are my most vivid Christmas memories:
My father's parents had an aluminum tree with the revolving fan light that made it change color. They lived next door to us, and on Christmas Eve, when grandma turned on the tree light, we knew it was time to go visit. The cousins and I got to drink Cokes from little glass bottles.
Mass at St. Augustine's. The full choir sang Christmas songs and the organ thundered so it felt like Heaven opening up. The music was so loud I was half afraid, and totally in awe, and I always thought, "This is surely how the shepherds must have felt when the angels proclaimed the good news."
The family Christmas at my mother's parents' meant the door to the formal living room would be opened up. The room was always cool and pale and beautiful--and strictly off limits to my cousins and me every other day of the year. A white tree glistened in front of the big picture window and the huge dining table where the adults would eat was set in sparkling Fostoria ware. There were dishes of ribbon candy and divinity that looked too pretty to touch, but no one ever told us to leave them alone.
My siblings and I went around in the weeks leading up to Christmas with our eyes trained to the sky hoping to see Rudolf. We knew Santa was secretly watching our every move, and we knew we were regularly naughtier than nice. But still, somehow, we knew that Santa loved us and was all-forgiving. The proof was in the presents, and none of us ever got the parentally threatened lump of coal--even though I was pretty sure one or the other of us deserved it some years.
The strain of a carol, the twinkle of a light, and it all comes rushing back. Thanks for all the Christmases past; thanks, too, for Christmases to come.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Open to Suggestions...

I've been grouchier than usual lately. All kinds of excuses for it come to mind. Seasonal Affective Disorder is definitely topping the list, but there are more. Holiday stress, menopause, an inherited tendency to depression, and poor coping skills are all factors. Yes, I admit to the latter. I'm not so good at coping with daily stresses. Snapping at people and overeating are my modus operandi. If a half dozen Christmas cookies taken orally twice a day could cure depression, I'd be healed!
For years I battled depression medically, using Prozac, Zoloft and the like. Then we had an insurance changeup, and I realized I might not have drug coverage in the future. I asked the pharmacist how much my prescription would cost me without insurance copay and was horrified at the response--over $400 a month. I tried quitting cold turkey at that time. Dear Readers, do NOT do this!
I suffered extreme dizziness, nausea, and whacked out thoughts. I thought I was dying. It took me a while before I realized I was experiencing withdrawal! How silly of me! I thought withdrawal only happened to junkies. Well, guess what?
I went back on the meds and started anew to wean myself gradually. It took weeks of tapering the dose and adjusting to each new, lower level before I was completely free. There were occasional dizzy spells even doing it that way. These are some powerful chemicals at work in the brain.
I found that symptoms of menopause are masked by using antidepressants. I never had a hot flash, mood swing or sleepless night. I do now. I also realize now that I did nothing in the way of learning new coping skills while I was medicated. So basically, it prevented me from growing and maturing.
This is the first winter and Christmas season in years that I have been med-free. I know I may require some medical assistance to regulate my brain chemistry in the future, but for now I'm not experiencing the crippling depression that sent me to the doctor in the first place. I'm functional and up to living. I'm able to work, and I'm knitting and writing to keep myself going. But this morning I snapped at my husband for no reason, and even to my own ears I sounded like a petulant, spoiled child. I'm not looking for perfection here, but at least some semblance of self control. I'm open to any and all suggestions for cultivating patience and coping with stress, but I am thinking that Nike might have the real answer to this (and so many other things in life, too): Just do it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Owl Moon

Recent nights have been clear, sharp, and cold. The frozen grass crunches underfoot and sparkles in the light of the full moon. When I take the dogs out for their 11 PM potty break I hear a Great Horned Owl hooting in the woods. My little dog, Roxy, who is far cuter than she is intelligent, barks like a ninny at the owl, completely derailed from her business. How can any creature get THAT distracted? It's amazing to me. You'd think as soon as that cold air hits her...but no.
Anyway, according to my guide books, the Great Horned Owl is one of the earliest birds to incubate eggs, doing so as early as late January. No wonder he's out there every night announcing his presence--he's seeking a mate. Good luck, Mr. Owl!
Recommended book: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. Yes, it's a children's book. Read it anyway. It will take you all of ten minutes and you'll love it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Beautiful Snow

I have had little time to write, so I instead share a couple of stanzas of a poem written by another. It's appropriate, though. I hope you love it as I do.


by John Whitaker Watson
from Beautiful Snow And Other Poems (Philadelphia, 1869)

O the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and the earth below!
Over the house-tops, over the street,
Over the heads of the people you meet,
Dancing, Flirting, Skimming along. Beautiful snow! it can do nothing wrong.
Flying to kiss a fair lady's cheek;
Clinging to lips in a frolicsome freak;
Beautiful snow, from the heavens above,
Pure as an angel and fickle as love!

O the snow, the beautiful snow!
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go!
Whirling about in its maddening fun,
It plays in its glee with every one.
Chasing, Laughing, Hurrying by, It lights up the face and it sparkles the eye;
And even the dogs, with a bark and a bound,
Snap at the crystals that eddy around.
The town is alive, and its heart in a glow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas Rose

Of course there are roses on our Christmas tree. These paper mache hearts are old-fashioned and sweet, aren't they? I love that they bring me roses in December.
The Christmas trees in the women's magazines every year are so gorgeous. Works of art, really. "Southern pine swathed in billowing gold chiffon, magnolia blossoms, and cut crystal icicles," or "fragrant balsam boughs bedecked with vintage mercury glass orbs of silver and gold." They remind me of women in elegant ball gowns, and a tree like that would be as out of place in my house as the designer gown. Our tree bobbles with little gourd Santas, grown by my husband and painted by his mother. A handful of ornaments made by the kids when they were in elementary school dust the boughs with glitter. There's a tiny stuffed rabbit, a pair of wax Santas, and crocheted angels and stars--each with a loved one and a story behind it. To hang any one of these ornaments on a House Beautiful Christmas tree would be like pinning a macaroni brooch on a Vera Wang.
So I'll flip through the books and magazines again this year, and I'll ooh and ahh over the pretty trees. But there's no more meaningful Christmas tree than the one set up here in my own living room. Christmas Heart photo by JulenaJo.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Penguins and Polar Bears Welcome

Sometimes we don't have snow until Christmas or later. Not this year. When I got out of the Library tonight at 8 PM the snow was shooting needles out of the west. One side of the car was frozen. Global warming? The penguins and polar bears can come to Ohio. There's no global warming here. Fortunately, little Roxy, our yorkie-lhasa apso mix, is a great footwarmer. An extra blanket and Roxy. Who needs more? Roxy photo by JulenaJo.