I remember Thanksgiving. It was yesterday. The season has never gone so fast, with Thanksgiving being so close to Christmas. Taking care of my sweet little granddaughter in the afternoons was a wonderful, quiet interlude in an otherwise swirling-with-events December, complicated by AdventureMan and I both catching terrible colds and lacking energy during the middle part leading up to Christmas.
I wouldn’t pass up the babysitting part for anything. My little granddaughter is the sweetest little baby ever. If she fusses, she doesn’t fuss much, and it is easily covered by “change my diaper” or “feed me” or “I really need to sleep” or I’m bored, walk me around a little until I fall asleep” or “Now I really really need to go to sleep!” Every now and then she fools you with an “I’m too hot! Take some clothes off!” but that makes me laugh, because once you do she is so grateful she just gurgles and coos. She is also beautiful :-)
We had a wonderful Christmas, colds gone, great houseguests, fun family times, including taking our grandson to his first Nutcracker. Just after Christmas we rushed off to a family wedding in south Florida – a horrid 13 hour drive down – so I grabbed a few Christmas photos before it all gets taken down:
Here’s what I love. We have so many decorations loaded with Christmas baggage – you know the kind. “Oh! We got those candlesticks the year we moved to Wiesbaden!” “Oh! Remember that palm tree from our CENTCOM years?” “Look! Our creche!” “Oh! Our Damascus ornaments!” It is wonderful, and it is time consuming, and with a short Christmas this year, and a lot going on, I did something I have never done before. I saw some ornaments in WalMart, I call them “bang-for-your-buck” ornaments, sparkling snowflakes and stars, 20 for $2.98.
I bought a lot. Maybe about $25 worth. A lot of twinkling little stars and snowflakes.
The tree was all silver balls and silver stars this year, with an ivory cross on top.
The stairwell was all silver snowflakes. It was magical. It was also quick and easy and inexpensive – I grinned every time I saw it.
I did pull the Nurnburg angel out; I don’t think I can do Christmas without her and she provided a pop of red against all the greenery and silver and white.
The little silver reindeer are easy; stored all together in a box that says “Early Christmas” right along with the suction cups that hold them up – if it takes me five minutes, it’s a slow year, LOL.
It is the sweetest, quietest morning in the year; the Qatari Cat awoke me early – well actualy, he awoke me often as the temperatures have dropped dramatically and he wanted my body heat. He is a BIG cat, and takes up a lot of room wherever he stretches out, so I end up sleeping cramped much of the night, LOL. He is such a sweet cat, who can complain?
Yesterday, our church started a new service, a noon service, to help drain off some of the 4:00 and crush of good Episcopalians wanting to start Christmas with a moment of holiness and order before the chaos. Noon was a perfect time for me, and it was a perfect service, full of great readings and music, a goodly crowd, many people I know, and cold enough to wear one of my vintage German coats, coats I considered ‘investments’ when I thought we would be living in Seatte after retirement. If I get to wear them one day each year, they still look new at the end of this century.
A little later in the day, the festivities began, friends arriving from out of town, a family gathering and Christmas Eve dinner where my beloved daughter in law made some of the best crab cakes with Remoulade sauce I have ever eaten, the children were adorable, and the conversation full of laughter and memories. This morning has dawned clear and cold, the Qatari Cat is fed, AdventureMan still snoozing, and I have a few minutes to share a Psalm from today’s lectionary with you. Life is sweet.
Happy, happy Christmas to all!
1 Why do the nations conspire,
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and his anointed, saying,
3 ‘Let us burst their bonds asunder,
and cast their cords from us.’
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord has them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 ‘I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.’
7 I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, ‘You are my son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron,
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.’
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
with trembling 12kiss his feet,*
or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Happy are all who take refuge in him.
We stopped by a different WalMart in Pensacola a few days ago, and I was blown away – they had thousands – I am not kidding – thousands of bikes. It was like Santa’s workshop on steroids:
We had no idea when we left home this morning that when we got to the school, all the parking spaces would be full and it would be almost impossible to find a seat in the auditorium. It was only 8:45 in the morning, and it was only the Pre-K 3’s who would be performing.
We had forgotten – Pensacola is like the Middle East. Family first, and time off for a Christmas Pageant – well, of course!
Pensacola is not like Seattle, or any of the larger cities. While spread out, it is only around 50,000 people, and the worst traffic is never that bad, not if you’ve driven in Amman, or Seattle, or Qatar, or Kuwait. You may not have to stop while the shepherd and his sheep cross the road, but you can get to downtown Pensacola from almost any part of the city in under 15 minutes.
The parking spaces were GONE. The auditorium was PACKED. Friends were greeting friends, all dressed in the reds and greens of Christmas time.
And then the children marched in, and it was barely controlled bedlam as these young stars spotted parents and grandparents and yelled “Grandpa! Here I am!” and angels and sheep and shepherds and wise men all were carefully lined up to sing their songs and tell us the Christmas Story as only 3-years-old can. Oh, it was not to be missed!
We love it that Pensacola is not a city with a lot of rushing about; people have time to go see their children in the school Christmas pageant, that the teachers take the time to herd these cats so that they can sing the songs, do the motions, and probably, if asked, give a rough outline of what happened on that first Christmas.
It’s all a matter of priorities. Pensacola, like our homes in the Middle East, places a high value on family activities, family time, and a balance of work and family where family time has a cherished place.
Once again, Hayfa, you have found a total winner. Wonderful music, wonderful surprise for the museum visitors :-)
Thank you, friend Hayfa, for sending me this wonderful website. It kept me spellbound, made me laugh, and left me in tears of joy. You can see that the givers were enjoying it as much as the receivers.
Tomorrow is the day I’ve been waiting for – a crisp, cool, dry day when I can make thin, delicate rosettes. We have so many special occasions coming up and I want to be able to share them with others.
The weather here is so erratic – from hot with high humidity and fog to sudden cold and clear. I knew the weather was changing last night when the Qatari Cat came running in to snuggle up close to me. Today I ran errands so I would have tomorrow all to myself – it takes a major portion of the day; you make the rosettes one at at time. Bless his heart, AdventureMan will take care of the new happy baby for me tomorrow afternoon so I won’t even have to rush. :-)
Sunday got warm, and yesterday, when we had a huge physical task to complete, lugging bags and bicycles from here to there and then out-there, it was hot and humid, and we were drenched with sweat. Even last night, leaving Darling Baby, it was hot. And humid. And foggy. It was horrible. Then, this morning, suddenly it is 46° again – still cloudy and foggy, but it feels lighter, less humid. I checked good old Weather Underground, and here is what the temperatures looked like through the early morning:
It dripped 20° from 4:23 to 7:10. This is very strange weather, and a lot of people are getting colds, or having trouble breathing, or having migraines from the air pressure or changes. It is bizarre weather!
The temperatures went back up today. Yesterday was it – and I am so thankful for the low temperatures.
By the grace of God, we got through the first week of December. By the grace of God, we managed to enjoy our first week in December!
The first week in December this year followed directly after Thanksgiving. Often, there is a weekend between Thanksgiving and December, but this year, December started on Sunday, and there goes one weekend before Christmas. You might wonder why this is even important, but for some reason, there are so many things scheduled the first week of December, on top of the normal things scheduled for the first week of every month – you know, small things like bill paying and making sure your finances are in order :-)
So we had our normal first week of the month – Book Club, babysitting, exercise classes, bible study – AND. And we had a house guest, a very old friend, a friend from all the way back in Tunis, when we were all studying languages, our guest and my husband learning Arabic and me learning French. Our guest and I sang in the community choir together, and he was very much a part of our small expat family. Having him in our home was so easy, we came and went, fortunately at different times. On top of all this, we also had a couple of annual Christmas related events, social events, we had to attend. By the grace of God, it all went smoothly, and – this is the mercy – enjoyably. We weren’t stressed.
I was stressed a little yesterday. The last two days have been horrible for me, in terms of climate. You know, I like NO air conditioning, I like temperatures in the 60s and 70s (F) but the temperatures were almost 80 and HUMID. Bad enough I had to turn on our A/C last night so I could sleep, and feeling so grumpy. I really need to get the Christmas decorations up this weekend so I can get on with my December, enjoy the Christmas ambiance and not have to stress about getting things done. But how do you get Christmas decorations up when you are hot and sweaty, it just isn’t right.
Major mercy – when I woke up this morning, I was wrapped warmly in my quilts and . . . I wasn’t feeling hot or sweaty. As as matter of fact, overnight the temperatures had fallen into the 40’s! Woooo HOOOO, out came all the Christmas boxes and tubs; AdventureMan got busy putting up the lights, I pulled out the other things and we got busy. Around lunch time we had a wonderful lunch, and then went searching for more light; I hadn’t bought enough to cover the length of our porch. After four fruitless stops (the lights had to match or it was all for nothing) we came home empty handed and I checked online for where this brand was sold. It was Home Depot, the one store we hadn’t stopped at because I was so sure I hadn’t bought them there. Wooo HOOOO, one quick trip and we have all the lights we need and AdventureMan got them all up.
AdventureMan is more scrupulous than I am about some things. He . . . . read the instructions on the lights. Have you ever done that? Like where it talks about amps and resistance and fire warnings? LOL, I love a lot of lights, and will string lights on lights on lights. Somewhere in the dim recesses of my mind I sort of knew it might be dangerous, but AdventureMan takes those things seriously. The good thing is that we are still married, and much more safely wired than when I was doing it.
I can hear my son scoffing when I say that today was God’s mercy on me, but to him I say God makes it to rain on the righteous and the unrighteous, and as undeserving as I am, today he gave me exactly what I needed – a chilly, Christmas-decorating kind of day. Thanks be to God.