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This is the holy night, my religious holiday. But I don't believe that God takes attendance at the services. I don't belong to a church here, for several reasons. So, I make my observations on my own.

I went for a drive tonight. I listened to a recording of Lessons and Carols from Kings College in Cambridge, England. I turned down side streets I'd never explored, looking at the lights and following the luminaries.

As surely as if I were in a pew in a candle-lit church, my car became a sacred space. For wherever and whenever I hear the familiar words, "In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus..." I am hearing it the way I have for decades, the way my family has for generations. I hear the music and it sings to my soul. O come, let us adore him. Glory to the newborn king.

I pulled into the garage, and shut off the car, and sat for a moment in the silence before going inside. On this silent night, this holy night, everything stops for a time. I did, honestly, take a moment to pray for peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Also for my loved ones and their loved ones, for all our concerns and needs.

Tomorrow the world will start again, with things to do and lists and deadlines. But for tonight, none of that matters. I, at least, will sleep in peace.
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-- I can now say with confidence that I have seen all episodes of the original series of Star Trek. I'm going to watch the movies over again, too. And I've put the animated series on my Netflix queue. If I'm going to be completionist about this, I might as well go all the way, right?

-- Last night I was wrapping presents in front of Star Trek. Usually I do that to holiday movies. Most years it's Desk Set and Love Actually while wrapping, A Child's Christmas In Wales with breakfast Christmas morning, and then some combination of White Christmas, Fitzwilly, Donovan's Reef, and We're No Angels in the afternoon and through the rest of the season.

-- Tomorrow: clean entire apartment in preparation for two days of guests (friends Saturday, parents Sunday), check in on B&K's cat, and do whatever baking I'm doing this year. Speaking of which: Last year at Arisia, I somehow got trapped into an interminable conversation with an older woman who told me all about her multitudinous health problems, and then all about her rumballs. The rumball part at least had some interest for me. She told me she does different batches with variations on the ingredients. And this inspired me for this year. My mom used to do some with bourbon instead of rum sometimes. I'm thinking amaretto, creme de menthe... I'll have to see how inspired I get, and how they turn out. But, if they're good, I may be giving/sending sampler packs to anyone who's interested. Watch this space.
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I'm struggling with Christmas this year. I know I'm not alone in that. I've seen a lot of people saying the same thing. I'm getting everything done, slowly, but I feel like I'm just going through the motions. With everything I do, I'm asking myself why I'm doing it, and whether it really matters.

I sent out 36 Christmas cards this year. So far I've received two. I know the season's not over and I'm not the only one running behind. I never expect anywhere close to the number I send. But... two? I advertised my open house, but I don't know if anyone other than Amy and Craig will stop by. So I'm having trouble getting motivated on the cleaning and shopping and planning. I haven't baked any cookies at all. I'm not sure if I'm doing any of these things for others, or for myself. If no one else cares, and I'm not into it, why am I even bothering?

Christmas spirit has a way of slipping in past negativity, though. I know that one of my cards brightened someone's day. If I made a difference, no matter how small, then it's worthwhile. Amy's hairdresser asked her about the cookies. [livejournal.com profile] daernhelm told me tonight that he's trying to figure out if he can manage to visit for a little while on Christmas. I know it's not really practical and it isn't likely to happen. I won't be disappointed. It's enough that he's thinking about it. That makes my whole Christmas, right there. All these little things add up to bring me the magic.

I still believe in the magic of Christmas. When I come downstairs on Christmas morning, I'm holding my breath to see if Santa filled my stocking. I believe I'm going to get kissed under the mistletoe. I hope someone unexpected will stop by to see me. It doesn't matter that I haven't hung a stocking or so much as seen mistletoe in close to ten years. The hope and anticipation doesn't go away. And every year, there's something special and surprising and beautiful at Christmastime.

So, this year, even if I'm struggling, I'm sticking with it. The magic's still there. I just have to hang in there and let it happen.
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As usual, I will be At Home* on Christmas Day. If you have nothing better to do, or if you're passing through the area on your way somewhere else, feel free to stop by any time from noon until whenever the party breaks up! There will be fun and frivolity. There may be seasonal music and/or movies. There will be presents. There might even be cookies. (However, I have no plans to make buckeyes this year. Sorry.)

If you expect to be there for dinner, please let me know so I know how many I'm planning for. Please also let me know if you are bringing someone I've never met. Otherwise, I don't need a response.

Whether you can come or not, I hope you have a day of merriment and joy.

____________

*In the old-fashioned sense of at home and receiving visitors.
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It's good to spend time with family. We have the same sense of humor, the same love of word play, the same desire to learn and fact-check. We know each other's quotes. And, although we're trying to be social and make the most of our time, there's not the same pressure as when visiting other people. I've napped through most of the afternoon for each of the last four days. I know I could still use more sleep. I've eaten well, too. Turkey, of course, but also pizza on Friday, rolled beef tonight, that pecan pie I've been looking for since August.

I'm reading an anthology of steampunk stories, with the title of Steampunk, so my dad asked me what steampunk was. Good question. I'm still working that out myself. I did the best I could to explain.

I went to church with my mom on Sunday. That's like visiting extended family. I grew up in the church, in the choir. I came in, and was greeted with hugs and brought right in. They rearranged seats so there was room for me in the loft instead of the congregation. I joined the rehearsal, and they would have been perfectly happy for me to sing with them on the anthem. If it hadn't been so many years since I was singing regularly, I would have; it was one I remember. But without practice, I've lost much of my range and don't trust the rest.

My parents have been cleaning out a little bit at a time, including their books. I'm coming back with a great number. In addition to all my dad's gaming stuff, I've got a bag of SF and a bag of other books. Some of them are references and classics, at least. I'm going to have to do another purge on my own books before long, because I think this is going to put me out of shelf space again.

It's been a good, long visit, but I'm looking forward to going home again. I want my queen bed instead of a twin daybed with a foam mattress. I want to catch up on TV shows I like, instead of an endless stream of football games. (Sorry, Eagles fans, it's my fault they lost. I was paying attention to that game.) I want my lap desk so I can use a mouse instead of this blasted touchpad. I was very happy to come home -- but now I want to go home.
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Halloween is really a non-event for me. My mom didn't enjoy trick-or-treating, and we went to fewer houses every year. My brother didn't care much for it either, and by the time he was ten he refused to do it any more. I continued to go with friends for a couple years beyond that, but at that point I was coming up with my own costumes, which were pretty dreadful. The low point was undoubtedly the year I went as a trash pile. I'd like to say it was inspired by Fraggle Rock ("The Trash Heap has spoken! Nyeah!") but I'm pretty sure it wasn't. These days, I dress up only if I've got a party to go to, and I only have good costume ideas about every five years. So check back in 2013.

I wasn't home, but I assume we had no trick-or-treaters. The previous two years we didn't have any, even the kids next door. At Amy & Craig's, we had three kids from one family. Amy took Alex, the black cat, to the door with her. Alex is the one with my personality, shy and anxious, and he was cranky all weekend, probably in pain since he was moving gingerly. He was already panicky from the doorbell ringing. When Amy took him Near the Outside! With Strangers! Making Noise! he started climbing up her shoulder frantically. I went to his rescue, but arrived too late to get him safely. Instead, claws out, he launched off Amy's shoulder, bounced off my outstretched hand and rocketed all the way up the stairs and under a bed. Amy swore, possibly ensuring no trick-or-treaters at all next year. Murphy, the other cat, who used to like to try to escape, didn't even move.

Now that it's November, I am reluctantly willing to admit that it's getting chilly. When I left home after lunch, I took my coat out of the closet for the first time this season. It's also the start of NaNoWriMo. I don't participate, partly because my fiction is crap and I don't think I have a novel-length story in me, but mostly because November is usually bad timing. However, my brother is doing it for the fifth time, and my mom's cousin is giving it a try. I wish them luck, as well as anyone else doing it.

Tomorrow is Election Day. As usual, I strongly urge everyone to get out and vote. As someone who works closely with the municipal government, I feel that every election is an important one. The results directly impact my future, a great deal more than the state or national races ever do. Besides, voting annually is the only way to renew your bitching license.

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Apr. 21st, 2010 01:01 pm
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Happy Administrative Professionals (formerly Secretaries) Day!

Take a moment to recognize the hard work of the people whose job it is to keep everyone else on track. Tell them you notice. Our jobs are usually thankless, and we want your love.

If you don't have administrative support at your workplace, I volunteer to receive your appreciation. ;-)
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I wonder why it is that so many people who are not of Irish heritage are so enamored of St. Patrick's Day? Is it the excuse to get stupid drunk, or the peculiar preoccupation with redheads?

All I know is that I'd better find something green to wear tomorrow, or I'll hear about it all day long, in this very Italian town.

I'm always tempted to wear orange instead. I am Protestant, after all. But I'd have to explain it repeatedly, and then take the harassment anyway. Besides, green looks good on me and orange does not.
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...and I was preparing all day long. Finally, all the gifts are wrapped and downstairs looking pretty. Gingerbread men, rumballs, and buckeyes are all finished - I still have three more kinds of cookies I want to bake tomorrow, but they're the easier ones. The apartment isn't as spotless as I usually try to make it for the holidays, but at least it's neater.

I'm tired, and my shoulder and neck muscles are aching from looking down at the counters all day long. I'm looking forward to sleep. As I walked upstairs to my bedroom, the clock changed over to midnight. Now it's Christmas. Everything I did today, and over the past few weeks, feels worthwhile already. Over the next week, I get to give away the presents, and the cookies, and smiles and hugs. I hope I'll be able to give as much joy to my friends as I'll feel in the giving.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
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Toni and I put up the Christmas tree at work. It seemed as good an excuse as any to bring in my new camera.

pictures behind the cut )
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How can it be December already?

Once again, I've failed to update for almost a month. This last year, it's been hard to find the time to babble much.

So, here's the good, the bad, and the somewhat surreal: )
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A week or so ago, my cell phone rang while I was at work. I checked the number, and it was my brother, so I answered immediately. A very incoherent conversation followed, until we managed to figure out that I was not in fact the person he had been trying to call. ("Why would I know where to find diesel fuel? Where are you?")

This afternoon, I received a personal call at work that was much stranger and much more unexpected. This was in part because it was on the main work phone number, so it took a little bit just for me to change mental gears, and in part because to the best of my recollection, I've never spoken to the caller on the phone before. It's holiday related, so I can't go into the details here at this time, but anyone who's interested should remind me after Christmas and I can fully describe my confusion.
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I still haven’t finished typing up my account of my trip to Rome. This is particularly irritating to me, since I was writing it while I was there.

thoughts on holiday preparation )
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How the time does fly... )

In summary: It may not all be good, but at least it's good enough.
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Dear friends and family (ok, so the family isn't reading the LJ, but still):

I love you all. This is why I want to buy you presents. However, I am a terribly uncreative person, and I rely mostly on wishlists. If you keep an Amazon wishlist, please update it, for my sake and that of anyone else as boring as me.

I do update my wishlist regularly, and I do use the priority labels. I know there are some things on it that I put there in 2000, so I certainly understand that on others' lists. But if there's nothing in the last year, it's hard to know if it's still current.

Meanwhile, if anyone has any idea at all what I can get for [livejournal.com profile] oidhche, or what my office could get for my boss, please let me know.
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Today is Veterans' Day, another on the list of holidays that are only partially observed. Banks are closed, the mail is closed, and in some states school is closed. Otherwise, business goes on as normal.

I wonder how many people are really remembering the veterans today? I am. ) They are thousands and thousands of individual real people, each with their own story. And I remember.

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