Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

"The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world." So begins the laugh-until-you-cry story of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson.
Any of us who have ever watched, directed, or been in a church children's Christmas pageant will Love this story. Every thing that happens from the first moment the horrible Herdmans' herd slouch into church because they thought there would be refreshments will resonate with church members. 
You can tell by looking at my picture that this is a well-worn copy. I used to perform the story which is told from the point of view of an 11 year old girl. It is so funny that I really had to be in character to keep from joining in the laughter from the audience. Until of course they began to cry. Then I had to be careful too as my character wasn't crying.
Before I ever posted this, I received a comment on the previous blog asking why I hadn't included the Herdmans in my list of stories. Only because I got started later than I had planned and also wanted to give the pageant its own blog. Just imagine what it would be like if you had never heard the story of Jesus' birth, what would you think? Would you be amazed that there was no room in the inn? If you were a wise man, would you bring ointments and balms or maybe something just a little more practical? The Herdmans' view of the Nativity story opens our eyes and hearts to the story as it just might have happened on that star lit night in Bethlehem. Enjoy the read. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Never Too Late to Read

Thus beginneth the twelve days of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas (Correspondence) by John Julius Norwich with illustrations by Quintin Blake is a perfect balance to all the times we have heard the song sung, played and otherwise parodied over the last month. The book contains the thank you notes from the true love who is the recipient of all the gifts which keep multiplying as the days go by. Starting with loving gratitude, the correspondence slowly degenerates into irritation, frustration (what do you Do with all those pear trees??), and recourse to a lawyer. Fun read. 

One of those little tiny books that make nice stocking stuffers, Bear Hugs for you at Christmas is clever and cuddly with the cute bear being in every picture. The book means more because of the friend who gives it to you so for that reason I read it with pleasure every year. 

Here's the classic! How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss is for young and old alike. And no matter how many times you have seen the cartoon or the movie, there is nothing quite like reading the original. Although delightful to read on your own, this one  really needs to be read aloud with a circle of children at your feet or snuggled next to you on the couch. And of course, it can be read and enjoyed any time of the year. It is always good to remind ourselves that Christmas means so much more than boxes and bags. ~ Christmas blessings all year round, dear readers. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Wee Bit of Christmas Humor

I was almost 2 or almost 3. Old enough to have heard the Christmas story and seen the pictures at Sunday School and on my mother's knee. So I was "reading" the story to myself. My version, according to my mom's diary, went something like this:
"And they found the baby lying in a manager, wrapped in swaddling clothes, trying to wiggle but couldn't." 
Merry Christmas to all who drop by here today. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The First and Best Christmas Story

I bought A Baby Born in Bethlehem retold by Martha Whitmore Hickman and illustrations by Giuliano Ferri, because of the illustrations. I know the story. However it was retold, and it is retold with great love and affection, I could tell the story. The pictures looked like this might just really be a Jewish family from the middle east. I was to read the story at a children's Christmas Eve service at church and I wanted special pictures for them to see. This version was perfect. 
The children's service evolved into the children being enlisted to take part in the pageant so they were listening and being the characters rather than watching the book as I read. Still I used this version. Although I am no longer leading the service, when I pulled the book this year, there were my notes, what carols to sing where in the story, and my instructions to the crew when to send what characters down the aisle. 
As much as I miss the telling of the story to the children, my favorite memory of this book is watching our Chinese daughter-in-law read it one day. It was her first Christmas in the States and she had no idea what the fuss was all about. I shared some of the books with her but told her she had to read this one first. And so she did. This is after all the first and best Christmas story.

Even More Christmas Books

As many of you know, I love mysteries and so it should come as no surprise that I have a number of books whose mystery is focused around Christmas time. Christmas Ghosts, An Anthology Selected by Seon Manley & Gogo Lewis, includes those most famous Christmas ghosts of all, Past, Present, and Future from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It is a shortened version that Dickens used when he gave readings of his most famous story. Charles Dickens is a hard act to follow which may be why his story is toward the end of the book. The other stories are fun, scary, familiar and easy to read at your fireside with your cup of cocoa on a cold winter's night.

Anne Perry writes the Victorian, Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries. Anne Perry's Christmas Mysteries includes two holiday novels. The first, A Christmas Guest, is about Charlotte's irascible Grandmama who learns a number of valuable lessons over what starts out to be a dull, boring and terribly unsatisfying Christmas holiday. While learning about herself, she also learns the answer to a family mystery and in doing so frees several people to live their intended lives. 
The second, A Christmas Secret, brings Dominic and Clarice Corde to fill in for the suddenly vacationing vicar of Cottisham. Except, of course, nothing is as it seems. The Corde's unravel the mystery and learn about themselves as well. Anne Perry writes wonderful characters and all her books are worth the read. I am very glad she chose to indulge a little in Christmas. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

More Christmas Books

When I married Dean it was early December and so shortly after out came the Christmas decorations. Among the ones that were here was The Santa Claus Book by Alden Perkes, Ph. D. S. (I believe that means Alden has a Ph.D. in Santa!) This book is certainly authentic, having a brief statement of approval in the front, signed in red, by Santa himself. The book is a composite of all the things we might ever want to know about Santa: how can he live so long, how does he get all those toys in the bag, how do reindeer fly. There is a sketch of the aerodynamics of antlers. We even learn why Rudolph's nose is red. This is a delightful book for all ages. I read it without a grandchild in sight ~ and will be glad to read it again when they arrive. 

In a totally different vein is a book I have had since 1965, the inscription from my friend says. American Christmas, edited by Webster Schott and Robert J. Myers, is a compilation of poems by 48 American poets celebrating the beauty of Christmas. The scope of their lives covers 150 years and so we read of the promise of the Nativity at various times and places. All the poems deal with hope and birth, gifts to the soul. I would share the entire book but that I will leave to you. For now, two verses of my favorite poem, one that I would read to every pregnant woman, at the birth of every child; one that speaks of the hope we all carry with us regardless of the darkness around us. 
from For Another Birth by Louis Untermeyer

The miracle is now. The place is here.
No angel's wings. No throne. No diadem.
Yet, in this hour locked and rocked with fear,
A birth may mark another Bethlehem. 
* * * * *
Some clild unborn may rescue us, for still
The wise men come with promise of release:
The myrrh of hope, the gold of men's good will, 
The fresh and precious frankincense of peace. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Speaking of Books

Every Christmas I put out a selection of Christmas books and stories. This year Trinity helped me design the table. Here they are for anyone to read and enjoy. Sometimes I am anyone.

The first book I usually read is by Sandra Boynton, Christmastime. It is full of her delightful and fun drawings and off beat clever humor. She starts by reminding us that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ and that she might have a better chance of hitting this spiritual center if she didn't aim directly at it. 
Given that understanding, her wit and humor remind us of many Christmas times and all the festivities, parties, shopping, singing and gift giving that surround that center. I love Christmas, and I love how Boynton tells the story. 

This is a very old book. Not just by publication date but because I was read to as child from this very book. The Tall book of Christmas includes a number of stories from the Biblical story itself to the story of Giant Grummer, who was a "very bad giant" ~ and as children we learned to know when those words were going to show up and we would all recite them very loudly and with great glee. When I became an adult I wrote to the woman who read to us from this book and asked the name of the book. She sent me her copy - the very copy from which I had learned the story of Giant Grummer. In later years, I discovered it one day in book store and bought several copies, one for each daughter and for some of my grands as well. The tradition continues. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Good News!

Many of you know that one of my daughters is a writer. Well, check this out:

Now all three books in the trilogy are available in Kindle format on Amazon.

RIGHT HERE! In time for Yule. And Christmas. And New Year's. And just because.

With a special hat tip to Rose, who helped her learn the Amazonian ropes. Books by Rose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Do We Have to Ask?

I had planned on a blog about my Christmas books but my intentions were over come by one particular event. The question: Where Was God? The answer from the people who seem to be asking the question is that we have taken God out of our schools therefore the children were killed. 

Actually what we did was uphold our constitutional separation of church and state saying that public and government institutions will not promote any particular religion. 

We certainly have a lot of audacity to think we have the power to take God out of anywhere. God, Goddess, Spirit, The Divine, Allah, Yahweh, The Universal Source, whatever name you choose to call your Higher Power is Present, in the moment, in the Now. And on Friday that Being was weeping with the children of earth and welcoming the little ones into Love and Light. 

Being a Christian, I am rather amazed that it is mainly Christians who are asking this question. Our God says, “I Am”. Simple. Clear. In Christian tradition, our God also knows what is like to lose a child to violence. So let’s not politicize the issue. Because it really is a political question, not a spiritual one. God is. And God was there and is there and holds those parents and loved ones in arms of love and caring. If the lights of the Menorah, the Advent wreath, the Solstice, Kwanza have any meaning at all, it is in this very time of pain and tragedy when we need the Light to shine in the darkness which shall not overcome it. ~ blessings as you follow your Light

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Once in a while I will ask a friend what she is reading. About a month ago one recommended The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. What a delightful story! 

Written in letter form rather than straight narrative, the book tells the story of the people of Guernsey (one of the Channel Islands) during their German occupation in WWII. The historical research is impeccable and although a novel, you know you are learning true experiences. 

I was very appreciative of the maps at the start of the book. I “know” where the Channel Islands are - but not really. Seeing the maps helped me understand the Guernsey experience in greater depth. They were so close to England, where their children were, and to France where some of them were taken to German prisons, and yet they were totally cut off: no mail, no radio, no news for five years. And they survived. 

Their story is written with caring and humor. Of course there is sadness. This was not a happy time in the world. The authors found ways to incorporate very human humor into the narrative and the present day story which flows through the history is a delight. 

Well written. A really good read. And because of the letter format, it is an easy read. I have already promised to lend it to a friend and I will make certain she returns it because I already know I will read it again . . . and again. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Certainly a Possibility

My friend Ralf Weiser posted a statement on FB this morning: “ ‘I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.’ Resist being reigned by fear. Celebrate love.” 

Do you suppose this could be what Jesus meant when he said we must become as a little child? “Let the children come to me” -- maybe not just the children in chronological age, but also children of Wonder. Minds open to all the possibilities of love and compassion, of diversity and probability. Children of the Heart who challenge fences and stone walls, plunge into the latest video games and the rush on the soccer field with no fear, just the possibility that they can do it. Children of Love who walk the way Jesus walked with the poor and oppressed, in the soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and tent cities; who walk with all the marginalized of society without asking any proof in return. 

Maybe, just maybe, those are the children Jesus hoped would come to him, be allowed to come to him. Children of Wonder, turning no one away, open to every soul without judgement or fear. Maybe, just maybe, that’s what it means to be a Child of God. ~ blessed be

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We Wish You a - - - What????

Merry Christmas!
Happy Hanukkah!
Merry Kwanza!
Happy Yule!
Blessed be! 
Happy Holidays!

If you care enough about your tradition and my person, even if we have just danced around each other in the grocery aisle, to wish me any one of these, Thank you! I appreciate your blessing and your intent to make me happy. 

Even though I am a life-long Christian, I try to offer a suitable blessing to the person I am addressing. If I have no idea what their tradition might be, I do say Happy Holidays or have a blessed season. The return of the light at the Solstice, the eight miraculous days of light at Hanukkah, the birth of the light of Christ, the light of peace and love of Kwanza have all had their beginnings at this time of the year. We all celebrate the return of the light starting with earliest humans recognizing that one day (December 22nd) had just a little more sunlight than the day before. Why separate ourselves when we have So Much in common in the coming of the Light? 

Offer your blessing. I will offer mine. May we recognize genuine caring in both. ~ Have a blessed, merry, happy season whatever you call it! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bits and Pieces

Know this wonderful little device? I have used it for a long while when traveling. It makes things easy. I finally decided this week that it also made things easier when used at home. All the pills go in on one day and for a week thereafter, I only need to open one lid to take all my supplements. Nice.

The most comfortable sneakers I have ever worn. Brand: Ryka. Made by women for women ~ with a narrow heel and broad base. So much for trying to save money on shoes. I will buy well-fitting shoes from now on even if they cost more than I have been paying. I can buy my clothes on sale.

Speaking of which: cable knit sweater. I have four of them now: white, red, purple and teal. Blouse underneath was also on sale so I have this one with the black stripe and a plain white one. Another one in cream allows all sweaters to have a blouse. They match with 5 pairs of pants which were also on sale over the last year. Two jackets from Costco. I am Set for winter in Tahoe! As daughter says, "It isn't dressing UP, mom. It is just dressing."

First Christmas tree since the year before hip surgery. Thanks to my family who helped bring it in from the forest and decorate it. I like to wait until dusk to turn on the lights and now I am turning them on by 4 o'clock. I'm ready for the solstice. 

Until then, there are plenty of candles to light ~ blessings to you all

Monday, December 3, 2012

On Turning 40 ~ all those years ago

There has been a headline on CNN for a while: Don’t Freak Out over Turning 40. The accompanying picture is of Carmen Diaz, all the other pictures are of women and the article is written by a woman.  I really didn’t know women freaked over 40 any more. Before I ever turned 40 nearly 30 years ago, Gloria Steinem had famously said, “This is what 40 is supposed to look like.” 

I celebrated my 40th in the lead of Forty Carats, the show in which the 20 year old man falls in love with the 40 year old woman and she with him. We invited friends to the Sunday afternoon matinee and then had a great party. A good time was had by all and I certainly didn’t freak out over anything. As I am on the cusp of the baby boomers (having been born during rather than at the end of WWII), my 40th was followed by lots of articles titled “Look Who’s Turning 40” ~ with lots of pictures of really good looking women who certainly didn’t look like they were freaking out either. And that was 30 years ago. To give them credit, the women under the same head line in this article don’t look like they are upset either. 

My 40s are all turning 70 now. And we aren’t freaking out about that either. Age is such an illusive concept. It helps us know things like what size clothes to buy our 4 year old, and (sort of) what our first grader should be able to learn before heading into second grade. It gives the government a guide to when we are smart enough to drink, drive, vote and fight. All of those guide- lines have been changed off and on over the years however and people mature and learn at different times and speeds. Fashions make our girls look like women and women look like girls and techno-geeks with no fashion sense at all are millionaires in their late teens because of their understanding of computers and the internet. 

Why in 2012 should that headline or that article be at all relevant? You are who and what you are regardless of how many full moons have passed since your birth. No need to be upset about any of it. Live it. Enjoy it. Be in it. And be blessed ~ 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Us!

Eleven years - we’ve started on our second decade. Yesterday I said, “Tomorrow is our anniversary.” Dean: “It’s been a good run, Sweetie.” Me: “We’re still on the track, right?” Dean: (Big Laugh) “Of course!”

Well, sometimes you just want to be sure. 

I was married 36 1/2 years before my first husband died and very often we would spend our anniversary simple talking about what made us a couple, how we were now, and what our future looked like. Not all anniversaries need big dinners or fancy celebrations. 

Today will be spent in front of the fire, wind and rain lashing the windows until the snow level drops to meet us. We will be grateful for each other, for our new tightly fitted windows and for being safe. Sometime this morning he will make waffles. Later in the day he will grill pork chops and I will prepare whatever we decide goes with them including my homemade apple sauce. We will watch tv and Netflix, read books, write in journals, play with the dog and be with each other. Oh ~ and keep looking for a camper so that our camping times which we both love will become just a little easier to manipulate. Sounds like a good way to start a new decade together.