Monday, December 24, 2007

Finding joy. Spreading love.

It is cold and icy in Iowa. On the news, between political commercials, the weather forecasters warn us not to drive, so for the most part I don’t. When I first got here, I got my hair trimmed and did some shopping, buying a dress for New Year’s Eve, presents and craft materials to make presents. Now I stay off the road.

I decided to make trinket boxes for my friends. I was going to use oil pastels on paper boxes, but found little wooden boxes with hinges for the same price. I tried to oil pastel the boxes for a rustic look, but Mom suggested a switch to acrylics. She was right! I picked color combinations and designs to match each friend’s personality. So far I’ve finished a red and black box for Madrid, a blue and purple box for Riza, a black and green box for Jenny and a blue and white box for Kelly. It's been so long since I painted. It's fun, but for some reason, my face gets tense when I do it.

To relax, I spend time reading, watch a little TV (especially holiday movies and specials) while petting Hooligan, jump 45 minutes a day on Mom’s trampoline and occasionally play in the snow with Scooter and Mac. The sunsets are gorgeous and make me thankful to be in Iowa, to have my camera and just to be alive.

Today I’ve been wrapping presents with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular (starring the Rockettes) on in the background. The plan was for us to go to a party at Alice’s house tonight, followed by the Christmas Eve service. There was just one catch. Dad had to work today.

Last night, he said, “But I should be off sooner that yesterday, because there shouldn’t be many packages.”

“There shouldn’t?” Mom asked.

“Well,” Dad said, “surely people should have all the packages they’re expecting by now.”

“Actually,” Mom replied, “I’m still expecting some things.”

“Me, too,” I added, “So if you can gauge by us, you’re in trouble.” And he was. By the time he got done choring, it was too late. (Oh, cityfolk, choring means doing farm chores like feeding and watering livestock.) We had a quiet dinner at home. Then it was time for church.

I’ve always loved the Christmas Eve candlelight service at my church. It was always so warm and peaceful and beautiful. The pastor would briefly tell the Christmas story. He would remind us of the joy of Christ’s birth. Mostly we would sing, carol after carol. At the end, we would light our candles and sing “Silent Night,” followed by “Joy to the World.” Then I would go home to bed.

This year was not like that. The new pastor is a nice guy, and quite smart. I like his approach to religion, but I do not like his preaching. His voice is nasal and LOUD. He used to be a theater person, and I think he forgets that he’s wearing a microphone. It was so painful that I kept flinching! I finally ended up fashioning earplugs out of tissue, which I hid with my hair. (I didn’t want to look rude.)

The earplugs did help, but the man proceeded to do a complete church service. It was a really long one that lasted past 10 p.m. even though there were lots of little kids there and no one working the nursery. Oh, well. At least the singing was good.

I came home and watched the Muppet Christmas Carol, which is my favorite version of Dickens’ story. Michael Cane’s performance is amazing, and the songs are really beautiful, especially “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” and “It Feels Like Christmas.” Suddenly, it did feel like Christmas.

It's funny how that works. Christmas starts as a religious moment and extends to a spirit that revives faith and family. It spreads, person to person, by rituals and lights and songs. It spreads. Keep spreading the joy, faith and love.

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