Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Food Fight

Yesterday on my food blog I shared a New York Times blog post offering a list of cheap, nutritious whole foods. I found it interesting that, in the comments section of the original blog, a reader glumly noted the advent of a backlash against healthy, whole foods.

Backlash? I thought. That's a strong word. I mean, Lord knows there's some self-cariacature in the foodie world -- rich folks who really have no genuine interest in home cooking, nutrition, sustainable agriculture or anything much beyond their own sense of entitlement and desire to trend-surf buying spendy "heritage" meats and poultry and organic produce mostly because they can -- but the people I know who are interested in healthy eating and supporting small family farms are persons of modest means; very often persons with family roots on the land.

When I think of my own family background, I remember stories of my maternal grandparents, who were forced out of Detroit during the Depression -- there was no work, and the family was literally going hungry -- and wound up sharecropping here in mid-Michigan. My grandpa was a very serious gardener, and my grandmother was an equally fastidious cook and canner. Because they had to be. Because the rest of the family depended on them to be. Likewise, on Dad's side of the family -- another tribe of farmers just getting by -- food was considered a precious resource because of my paternal grandparents' experiences in "the old country." Food quality was important to them, because to treat food otherwise was to disrespect it.

But it occurs to me that whatever "backlash" there will be against the current iteration of the slow-food/local food/healthy food movement will be orchestrated by the same folks who brought us Joe the Plumber and pitbull hockey moms -- in other words, manufactured class warfare as a tool of partisan politics. And a central assumption in this warfare seems to be that mindful living is a bad thing; that thinking and learning in general, and any lifestyle choices and changes that result from doing so, are suspect activities that smack of "elitism."

Well -- that's stupid. Which seems to be the point.

I guess we can only hope that wilful ignorance and mindlessness as personal and public virtues are headed in the "out" direction in 2009 along with bouffant hair and highwater pants.

Grown-Up Church

After two weeks of sickness, Christmas preparations and travel, I'm back in a blogging state of mind. I'll post some pictures too, of our holiday adventures, once I have a quiet evening to upload photos.

But in the meantime I wanted to share a conversation I had with our pastor Christmas Eve. Fellow Traveler and I, navigating the difficult weather that evening, wound up at church about 45 minutes before everyone else; when we stopped at the parsonage to drop off a present, our pastor and his wife invited us in for a glass of wine while they got ready to head next door.

We soon started talking church chat. And our pastor noted, wistfully, "I think next year it would be nice to, maybe once or twice a month, have grown-up church -- no pre-service singalong, no kiddie stuff, no "seeker-friendly" stuff; just some grown-up liturgy with some smells and bells. I really miss that."

Thank you, Jesus. I bet more people than the parties present that evening would be up for some grown-up church.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Hannukah!

There's something kind of kicky about decorating the Christmas tree to the sounds of Sirius' all-Hannukah-all-the-time holiday station.

It's Perfecting, Not Procrastinating

Just so you know...I'm still decorating the Christmas tree.

Only a Matter of Time

For all those appalled and dismayed by Pope Benedict's recent comments suggesting that humankind needs to be "saved" from gay folks...keep in mind that the Vatican tends to be a little slow catching up. Give it a few more hundred years, and maybe we'll be rehabilitated, just like Galileo .

And just for fun -- here's to you, Ben and the boys:

Friday, December 19, 2008

What I Hope I Don't Dream About Tonight...

Gordon Ramsay walking into the kitchen -- imagine the remains of Christmas baking, round one, plus the detritus of my two sick days and FT's emergency all-day episode with an elderly relative who wound up going to the hospital, all of which has kept us preoccupied this week -- and screaming, What the bloody HELL is this ****ing mess?!

It's going away tomorrow. Yeah, buddy.

"Imminent Arrival" Friday Five

This week's Friday Five is short and sweet:

So let's make this easy, if we can: Tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve.

Yikes. I don't know how anything can be easy in the next week.

1. I need to get my head in the game. In addition to Christmas preparations I am also 1) dealing, emotionally and practically, with my elderly aunt in her final days; 2) negotiating with neighbors who are going to purchase Cold Comfort Cottage -- that should be a good thing these days, right? -- whose timetable is going way too fast for me, whom I want to tell to back off until after the holidays; 3)with any luck, getting away for a long Christmas weekend; and 4)coping with work, which is probably grist for a blog all by itself but won't be. There's not a lot of room in my inn, if you get my drift.

2. We need to get the house decorated. I know; not a "need." But we want to do it. Our energies have been so wrapped up, if you pardon the pun, in getting our Christmas packages off to our out-of-town kin that we just haven't had time to do any household Christmas prep ourselves. You know the financial planners' favorite slogan about "Pay yourself first"? We tend not to do this at our house when it comes to holidays; we're the caretakers of everyone else's holiday, sometimes. (Visions of our respective therapists sitting, chin in hand, saying, "And how does that make you feel?" "Yes, but -- the point of the holidays is giving." "And what do you give yourselves?" "Yes, but...") Anyway...we don't have the tree up yet; which makes my Germanic self happy but my Americanized self panicky. And we need to merge my Christmas swag, which necessitates a trip to the Cottage, which means dealing with the neighbors who practically have the moving van backed up to the door...oy veh.

3. I need to tie some final strings in regard to our congregation's adopted Christmas family. This has been a very enjoyable endeavor this year, and our people have come through with flying colors for not only one but two holidays on behalf of this household.

4. I need to purchase some little stocking stuffers...like, right away. And another impending blizzard on Christmas Eve adds to the time pressure.

5. I need to find White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story on the weekend television schedule for Fellow Traveler, who is wanting to soak in some holiday spirit via film. I've already watched my obligatory annual A Charlie Brown Christmas, mouthing memorized dialogue as its being broadcast ("Isn't there anybody here who can tell me what Christmas is all about?" "Sure, Charlie Brown...")

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Naughty, Not Nice

What comes to mind when you hear the word "Advent"? I know -- slutty dolls that culture-benumbed parents give to their prematurely sexualized little girls.

Here is a picture of an actual Bratz Advent Calendar.

Strangely enough, though -- the liturgical colors are correct.

Cookie Mania

Good thing I finished the bulk of the Christmas baking before getting sick.

So far I've gone through over 5 pounds of flour, 2 pounds of butter and 1 pound of margarine; a half jar of peanut butter; a package of chocolate chips and a package of Hershey's Kisses; a pound and a half of nuts; a half-box of oatmeal; and a jar of Amish blueberry-rhubarb jam.

And the scary thing is...this is cutting back, for me. No sour cream cutouts; no chocolate pixies; no honey-and-mace drops; no walnut bars. I did try a new recipe, inspired by our local coffee shop -- I took the plain-Jane oatmeal cookie recipe from the bottom of the oatmeal box lid and added a cup of dried cranberries, a half-cup of chopped nuts and about a tablespoon of orange rind, with some extra orange juice squirted into the batter. You wind up with very tasty, portable cranberry bread, more or less; good stuff. The kitchen hit with my better half were gingersnaps -- this recipe has lots of spices in it, including black pepper and ground mustard. The dud of the year, and perhaps of my entire cookie-making career, was my modest attempt at spritz cookies -- cookies my mom used to make by the dozens when I was a little kid -- thwarted by an inadequate cookie-press apparatus (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and, after I did finally manage to squirt out maybe three dozen little almond "S's," the tag team of Mollie the cat and Gertie the dog -- at least from the evidence retrieved the next morning, one party appeared to have batted the cookies off the dining room table while the other party ate them. And even after all that, the cookie I managed to taste didn't taste like the ones I remembered, even using the same recipe. Oh, well.

FT (with relatives plaintively asking her if my cookies were done yet) graciously offered to help me bake Russian tea cakes, the favorites of our extended family, so one day while I was at work she did all the hand-molding and baking and powdered-sugaring...I think for maybe six or seven dozen or so. When I got home she hugged me (this was pre-illness) and said, "I feel like a husband who undervalues his wife's housework until he has to do it. I will never, ever underestimate the work you put into the Christmas cookies ever again!" I didn't know she had; but, hey.


I've been home sick for two days now, with That Bug That's Going Around. Actually around here I'm told there are two bugs floating around simultaneously: the fevery/achy/sniffly/scratchy throat bug and the barfy, bathroomy stomach flu bug. Mine is the former.

While "enjoy" is not a word I'd use for a sick day, there is something to be said for a quiet day on the sofa under a blanket.

Sickness seems to be synonymous with Christmastime. I know that part of this is simply a function of more shoppers and travelers swapping germs in busy public places; but I wonder if there isn't also a psychological element to it -- if at some point, if one is feeling overwhelmed by holiday obligations and "to do" lists and multitasking, the body eventually protests, "No mas!" and allows itself to succumb to a handy URI, just to slow the world down for a few days.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


We went to my aunt's nursing home yesterday to be with her during the annual Christmas party.

We genuinely enjoy these parties; even though a lot of the residents don't seem terribly engaged in the proceedings, and even though some family members present look and act as if they're waiting for their own executions. The staff works hard to create a pleasant, positive atmosphere; and I think that celebrations like this are a bright spot in their workdays, too.

When we got there my aunt was in her wheelchair, ready to go; quieter than usual, but communicative. (When Fellow Traveler started singing spontaneous Christmas carols, filling in missing words with strategic humming, my aunt responded, "Don't sing if you don't know the words!" -- then grinned.)

About 10 minutes into the program proper, though, it was obvious that my aunt had had enough and wanted to go back to her room. Her snacks sat uneaten on her plate; the cup of coffee she'd asked for was tipping precariously in her thin white hand. When we asked if she felt unwell, she responded, "No -- I'm just tired." And the way she said that, said the word tired, implied something much more existential than just a desire for sleep.

We stopped in today after church and she was a little more chipper, but she hadn't eaten any of her lunch, not even her fruit juice, and at times she seemed to be in a different place.

We're pretty sure she's getting done whatever she still needs to do in order to leave. Because, as she said, she's just tired, and wants to go home.


At our church we are always reminding the little kids of the importance of their baptisms -- that when they were baptized they were marked with the cross of Christ forever. When they come up through the Communion line we retrace that cross, and bless them and thank them for being part of the Church.

Today at Bible study our pastor shared the following story: One of our little kiddos got into an altercation with another little girl in daycare, and the other girl clocked this one right in the forehead. The injured party went crying to her mother: "Mommy! She hit me in the cross!"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Case of the Mystery Meat

We're pretty fastidious about marking freezer packages around here, so we were rather chagrined this morning, pulling out a half-gallon bag of frozen leftovers to toss in the crockpot for a hot weekend supper, to discover no label on the bag. We had no idea -- no idea -- what was inside. Except that it was orange, and lumpy.

We sniffed. No clue. We gingerly tasted icy flecks of whatever it was. Couldn't tell.

So in an act of faith we emptied the bag into the crockpot anyway, added a package of hamburger and a can of Progresso tomato bisque, and turned the thing on.

Several hours later, it smells pretty good. And we can now discern meatballs floating in the sauce. We added a splash of red wine and some herbs.

Ah, sweet mystery of life.

Our Advent Wreath

Here's this year's model of our Advent wreath. When I pulled my Advent stuff out of the Christmas chest at Cold Comfort Cottage earlier this month it was so musty and smooshed that I decided to begin at the beginning...and with updated liturgical colors. (The local Cheap Stuff From China Store and fabric store didn't have the exact ELCA regulation hue, but I did my best.)

Meanwhile...I love these Advent meditations from Creighton University. Enjoy!

It's History

Stepson #2, our Brooklyn boy, told his mom the other day that he thought he and I had a real bonding experience over the Thanksgiving holidays as we went exploring New York City. He said that he had no idea I was such a history bug, and that I gave him a great excuse to feed his own history jones; that otherwise he'd never take the time to visit the historical sites in the city by himself.

That's how it is with us history buffs. We're geeks. We know we're geeks. We have to be kind of circumspect about our passion for the past...you know, slipping cheesy romance-novel covers over Barbara Tuchman books; telling friends we're reading Twilight when we're really reading Bruce Catton's history of the Civil War; stuff like that.

Well...maybe it's not that bad. But still.

Anyway...I'm glad we had a bonding experience. (I'm still chuckling.) And if Stepson Number 2 has been very good this year, he may get a copy of Forgotten New York in his stocking.

Blue Christmas

I've been reading some interesting online meditations on Seasonal Affective Disorder. Beliefnet's depression blogger talked about Advent as a season that resonates with depressives. RevGalBlogPal Shawna Atteberry
shared some thoughts along the similar vein here .

I agree that depression's introspective eye can sometimes be even a beautiful thing. Last night, for instance, driving home in the dusk past dark silhouettes of trees and snow-covered farm fields, I was struck -- for just a second -- with a flash of momentary clarity that let me see how beautiful this place was, at this moment. I treasure those moments.

On the other hand...I was trying to describe what SAD feels like to someone not too long ago, and I used the analogy of waking up in the darkness of early morning, feeling comfort under the covers in this dark room -- and suddenly having a bare, glaring lightbulb shoved into my face, and the covers thrown back, and the radio turned on really, really loud...and having this sensation of shock and cold and noise and violation go on for the rest of the day, while my body and mind are crying out for a return to warmth and darkness and rest. That's what it feels like to be in a depressive episode, and what SAD can feel like on any given day.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Makin' Bakin'

The baking game is on -- on despite fatigue and funk and other tasks on the agenda.

So far I have made about five dozen oatmeal-cranberry cookies (inspired by a cookie I had at the local coffee shop) and a large pan of Toll House cookie brittle, which is basically flat shortbread studded with chocolate chips and nuts.

On the horizon: gingerbread (I'm trying a new, ueber-spicy recipe); a couple different jam bars; peanut butter blossoms; must-have sour cream sugar cookies. If I'm feeling perkier I might even try my hand at spritz cookies, which I haven't made in decades -- cute and fast.

This is all, by the way, for export only. We're pretty much over Christmas cookies at our house. Prime rib, on the other hand...

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

But wait -- they're in Amish dress!

That was my experience this evening on the way home from work.

There's an Amish-run bulk food store on the way home that I visit from time to time for baking supplies. Tonight as I entered the building I heard singing -- faint female voices singing a capella, in an unusual but pleasing harmony reminiscent of Southern shaped note singing.

Then the storeroom door opened and a young girl came out, humming. Behind her were about a half-dozen other teenage girls, singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." They smiled but quickly shut the door.

The Amish don't often share their singing talents with their English neighbors, so it was a real treat to hear them.

Friday Five: The Eyes Have It

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is about the windows of the soul -- eyes.

1. What color are your beautiful eyes? Did you inherit them from or pass them on to anyone in your family?
I have brown eyes -- unlike my parents, who had hazel eyes, and unlike many other extended family members. My paternal grandmother had brown eyes, though; and her particular branch of the family tends toward dark Slavic features, including almond-shaped brown eyes, hinting at places in Eastern Europe where Asian DNA became part of the local blend. Any geneticists reading this -- have at it.

2. What color eyes would you choose if you could change them?
Oh, I like my eyes just the way they are, thanks.

3. Do you wear glasses or contacts? What kind? Like 'em or hate 'em?
I wear geeky black-framed reading glasses. I like them. I like them so much that I'm constantly losing them.

4. Ever had, or contemplated, laser surgery? Happy with the results?
My mother had cataract surgery. The surgery itself was a pretty slick procedure, but Mom wasn't entirely happy with the result in one of her eyes. I think I'd have to be looking at (pardon the pun)a cataract or some similarly serious impediment to sight to let surgeons go poking around my eyeball.

5. Do you like to look people in the eye, or are you more eye-shy?
I am generally eye-shy. Ironically, this goes away when I'm mad. So if you see me glaring at you eyeball to eyeball, watch out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Big Lump of It in Their Stockings

I know that times are tough all over, and corporations are whoring themselves out like the hooker I saw plying her trade in the parking structure down the street from our hotel the other week. But this beats all:

Check out, if you dare, the delightful holiday video streaming on the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) website and elsewhere online, and spotlighted on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight.

If the idea of cynical ad-agency types coming up with the concept of Christmas-caroling lumps of coal doesn't evoke your gag reflex, the sacreligious reworkings of "Silent Night" and "Adeste Fideles" might send you fleeing to the nearest throw-up pot.

As a bemused Rachel observed, "Where are the 'War on Christmas' people when you really need them?"

On a brighter note, though -- there's a "Contact Us" link on the ACCCE website. So you can.

Mad Men

It hasn't been a good month, PR-wise, for corporations.

First we see Big Three execs flying private jets to DC en route to their hat-in-hand Congressional hearings. And now we have Burger King defending an ad campaign that combines cultural insensitivity, insensitivity to hunger issues and all-around dumbnitude. (You've got to love the Burger King exec's reference to "reverence" in the video below. Let's get serious; who the **** is he kidding?)

If the ad agency that created this campaign is also responsible for that scary-ass plastic-face Burger King, I'd recommend that the Burger King brass hire someone else; and maybe call the Intervention folks to confront their current ad men/women about whatever substances they're obviously abusing during their creative strategizing meetings. But you can draw your own conclusions:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Mr. Bean's Christmas

I thought of making this our church website's "YouTube Pick of the Month," but thought the better of it:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Small-Town Ugly

Tragedy struck our greater community while we were out of state: A little Amish girl was run over and killed on her way home from school, in whiteout conditions, by a driver who'd become disoriented and pulled onto the shoulder to wait out the windstorm.

What should be happening is an outpouring of sympathy for everyone involved -- for the child and her family and for the driver as well. I don't think any of us who live in the Upper Midwest can hear a story like this and not see ourselves in similar driving conditions, becoming involved in a similar accident.

What's going on instead is the blame game -- focused on the Amish community. Although the Amish have, I understand, been in regular contact with the driver involved, offering forgiveness and comfort through what must be a horrible time, I've heard grumbling around the local cracker barrel about "Oh, yeah -- those people talk a good game about forgiveness, but I heard that they'll just sue them in civil court." I've heard non-Amish citizens blame the children walking home from school for not walking against traffic: "Why were those kids over on that side of the road anyway?" (Maybe because little Amish children have the same degree of critical thinking skills as "English" children the same age?) Today I heard a store clerk speak approvingly about a town cop coming down hard on an Amish woman whose buggy horse had defecated at its hitching post in the large parking lot next to the store -- something not at all uncommon in an area with a large Amish population -- warning her that he was going to keep driving past that spot in the parking lot for the rest of the day, and if the mess wasn't cleaned up by then he was going to write her a ticket.

We don't have a lot of visible minority groups in our area. You kind of have to work at finding someone "different" enough to pick on. So, especially in anxious times, the Amish are a handy target.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Black and White and Read All Over

Today as I ate lunch at a local Subway -- uncomfortable because I had no newspaper at hand, as is my wont when eating alone -- I remembered a remarkable thing I'd noticed during my trip to New York: Everybody reads.

I've never been in such a literate city. Everyone, of all social classes, seemed to carry newspapers or books of one kind or other. We spent Thanksgiving morning not only watching the parade on TV, but passing sections of the Times and Post back and forth, and collectively working the crosswords.

It made me kind of giddy, all that reading in public.

I'm sure the pedestrian/mass-transit nature of travel in Gotham is one reason that the printed word seems to retain a healthy respect. But I wonder if there's also a different appreciation of information dissemination in general that we don't share in Greater Outer Podunk. If any students of rural sociology are reading this, here's some grist for study.

A Seasonally Hopeful Friday Five

Here's this week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five in its entirety:

"Imagine a complex, multi-cultural society that annually holds an elaborate winter festival, one that lasts not simply a few days, but several weeks. This great festival celebrates the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, the prince of peace, a man who is divine. People mark the festival with great abundance- feasting, drinking and gift giving....." (Richard Horsley- The Liberation of Christmas)

The passage goes on, recounting the decorations that are hung, and the songs and dances that accompany the festival, how the economy booms and philanthropic acts abound....

But this is not Christmas- this is a Roman festival in celebration of the Emperor....This is the world that Jesus was born into! The world where the early Christians would ask "Who is your Saviour, the Emperor or Christ?"

And yet our shops and stores and often our lives are caught up in a world that looks very much like the one of ancient Rome, where we worship at the shrine of consumerism....

Advent on the other hand calls us into the darkness, a time of quiet preparation, a time of waiting, and re-discovering the wonder of the knowledge that God is with us. Advent's call is to simplicity and not abundance, a time when we wait for glorious light of God to come again...

Christ is with us at this time of Advent, in the darkness, and Christ is coming with his light- not the light of the shopping centre, but the light of love and truth and beauty.

What do you long for this Advent? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What is your prayer today? In the vein of simplicity I ask you to list five Advent longings....

1. I long for a job that has meaning for me and for other people...that isn't just a paycheck...that enhances my quality of life and relationships instead of acting as a drag on them.

2. I long for inner quiet; the ability to be centered and still even in the midst of doing what I have to do on any given day.

3. I long for knowledge. This has been something of a revelation in the past few weeks, frankly I think because of the elevation of ignorance as a virtue in certain political circles popular in this part of the country. That attitude makes me want to go back and revisit the classics of philosophy and literature; reread the Church Fathers; be and do exactly the opposite of a certain political party's core constituency. Who knew that being intelligent, well-read and well-rounded were radical, countercultural values? Fight the power!

4. I long for a kind of personal metanoia in terms of seeing life as a glass half-full instead of half-empty. I understand that optimism/confidence and negativity/anxiety are personality traits that have a significant genetic component, as well as an environmental component that tends to become established early in life...but perhaps it's not too late to teach this old dog a new emotional trick or two.

5. I long for simplicity of space. Again, I realize that this is working against my natural grain as a right-brained, absent-minded, disorganized clutterbug who has great difficulty navigating in the spatial world. But I am so eager to shed the superfluous stuff in my life. The other day, as I tried to move some debris out of the passenger side of my car, and kept finding items I didn't know I'd lost, or had no memory of putting where I'd put them, I almost started to cry in frustration. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not a little ADD/AHD. White, minimalist rooms...Zen gardens...lots of emptiness. That's what's calling to me right now, in the place where I live and move and have my being.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Great Advent Calendar!

This calendar is wonderful.

Booyah Humbug

The Christmas season is becoming ever more understated at the office. Between the dismal economy and a looming restructuring here (one of the counties of our two-county agency service area wants to break off and go it alone, putting the job status of half the staff in jeopardy), spirits are not particularly happy and bright. An attempt by one of my more studiously cheerful coworkers to pull together an office decorating party after work tonight was unsuccessful. The agency Christmas party was cancelled due to a combination of expense, public perception and a precipitous drop in staff participation over the years. We're still having our traditional office potluck the day before we depart for the holiday weekend, but a kibosh has been put on office gift exchanges.

To all of which I say: Thank God. It's such a relief to be spared the distraction and expense and pretense of enforced workplace Christmas spirit.

Facing Off and Twittering

Fellow Traveler and I finally took the Facebook plunge, with our own separate pages, a couple of weeks ago at the behest of a couple of our offline friends. It's proving to be a very interesting social networking experience. We've both met friendly alumni from our respective high schools (my class valedictorian/Big Man on Campus at Outer Podunk High is now a big-city Buddhist with a delightfully serene avatar). And, contrary to recent op-ed pieces bemoaning the likeminded social bubbles in which we seem to be increasingly isolating ourselves, I find I'm developing a pretty diverse friends list. I can scarcely imagine going back to BI -- before Internet -- and living here in Outer Podunk, and not wanting to throw myself under the nearest tractor, or mud-bog pickup, out of sheer loneliness.

I can see where, in our busy lives, Facebook and its newer cousin Twitter are usurping the popularity of the blogosphere. Sometimes my infrequency in blogging is due to the sheer mental effort needed to craft a mini-essay I feel worthy of posting here for all posterity. The immediate, shout-out, "Yo, what up?" quality of Facebook makes it much more accessible during the course of the day.

An Advent Calendar For Grownups

Check this out. Cool. The entire website is most bookmark-able.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


As I noted on my Facebook page a few days ago, I feel most un-Adventy this year -- even after reading an essay by an Orthodox priest suggesting that Advent is a good time for depressives to enter into their feelings of sadness and emptiness, mourn their losses, gain some perspective through charity and service, and otherwise prepare themselves for the joy of Christmas.

That sounds very reasonable and therapeutic.

Meanwhile, I started assembling my Advent wreath (late, because of our trip) only to discover that half of it is still in my Christmas chest at Cold Comfort Cottage. I searched Pandora for Advent music, to no avail (although no real surprise there). Fellow Traveler is nursing an extremely painful eyeball that we think may be some kind of sty-ish/low-resistance infection thing, that is giving her a kind of Popeye appearance as she squints into the light. (She is now a partner in discomfort with Semi-Son-in-Law, who came down with shingles in one eye last month and spent the Thanksgiving holiday involuntarily accessorizing with a black eye patch; he tried to maintain a glass-half-full attitude by noting that his eccentric-possibly-insane-director appearance seemed to give him more professional gravitas wrangling Macy's parade entertainers.) My job appears to be starting the swirl down the drain of insufficient public funding and organizational regime change. And then there's...well...the news.

I'm waiting fot the "Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying" to kick in.

Another Reason Why I Hate Housework

A hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for this interesting article explaining how disorder attracts disorder. Except now it's making me even more anxious and neurotic about my own lack of organizational ability.