Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas, knitting, and Wii

My determination to knit all my Christmas gifts wasn't enough for me to actually complete them all exactly on time. I owe Elliott another fingerless mitt (unless he has some dreadful accident requiring amputation of an arm in the next few weeks) and my dad his fuzzy slippers. But on the whole it was a lot of fun to knit gifts for everyone and I'm very pleased with the slippers. Here's a pic of how they turned out (credit to Malda for being my foot model).

Here are a few more gratuitous pics from our Christmas, and a priceless video of my Mom and Dad playing tennis on Em and Elliott's Wii (note how my mother shamelessly gloats at the end).

me, Brent, Leroy, Malda and Clare at Rockefeller Center
Brandon's hat & mitts, knit by yours truly

Clare hugs her baby doll

Clare loves her baby doll!
Mom's gift to herself (photo by Em)

stockings were hung by the chimney with care...see Clare's stocking on the left? and mine so heavy the loop broke and it's on the hearth behind Dad...

Emily. Loves. Butterscotch.

only decent pic of me all season. Nifty hat & scarf, right? I'm not the only Christmas knitter around...Thanks Ma!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Scrooge: the rich man and Lazarus re-written

In my Christmas Cartoon Canon, alongside Grinch, Charlie Brown and Rudolph (all three of which Richard Beck at Experimental Theology has posted on in a lovely series on Christmas cartoon theology), is Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol. There are multiple classic versions of this Dickens story, of course, and the Muppet version is also part of the canon.

The Magoo version stands out for several reasons: there is a lot of dialogue verbatim from the original Dickens story, a possibly off-color pun on the name Dick at one point, occasional jokes worked in about Magoo's nearsightedness, and a quite extended scene with "the laundress, the charwoman and the undertaker" (see below)--an element quite often deleted from adaptations of the story as it is both narratively superfluous and kind of gruesome. (I inevitably wonder every time I see this part of the cartoon about the implications for estate sale practitioners...) And the whole third ghost sequence is undeniably kindof scary for a kid's cartoon. (Not a cartoon for Sophia, Joe!)

But mainly what I've been wondering lately is how deliberate Dickens might have been in crafting this story as a retelling of Jesus' story about the rich man and Lazarus the beggar. Remember that one? The rich guy ignores Lazarus, begging at his gate, and then they both die and in the afterlife are separated by an uncrossable chasm; the rich man, now in hell and who therefore understands that he should have been a lot better person, asks that someone go talk some sense into his five brothers so they don't end up in hell too. And the answer comes back: if they haven't listened to Moses and the prophets to begin with, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

And of course, that's the exact plot of Dickens' Christmas Carol: Marley comes back from the dead with a message to Scrooge to repent, or else. And Scrooge listens. And so the Carol is a mirror image of Jesus' story, where the answer is essentially a denial of the possibility of a Scrooge repentance. If Scrooge hasn't listened to Moses and the prophets, why should he listen to Marley and the three ghosts?

It's a hard answer and one I don't really like. I prefer the Dickens story, with the optimism and hope that everyone, even the most hardened and greedy and awful of us, can change given the chance...and that that chance will always be there. I guess the question is, which one is more true to life?

Monday, December 03, 2007

christmas tree

I'm not one of those people who thinks the day after Thanksgiving is the mandatory time for pulling out the Christmas decor, or who hums carols to herself all day long, or whatever. I have been watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer more or less constantly since last Christmas, but that's Clare's fault. I was totally horrified one night, nearly a full week before Halloween, to see that the local Duane Reade already had a Christmas display up in one of its shop windows.

But I do love Christmas trees.

Our tree is a pathetic $16 Wal-Mart fake we bought the first year we were married, nothing to get real happy about. I hope next year we will finally be settled enough and have space enough (wherever we are) to upgrade to some kind of decent Christmas tree. I am totally envious of people who can buy one of the gorgeous, sweet-smelling real trees they're selling just outside the seminary. (I am going to console myself by purchasing a $10 wreath.)

But I love our Christmas tree anyway, even though it is a dreadful fake that sheds plastic bits, has a broken stand, is consequently precariously wobbly, and was purchased long ago from The Evil Empire. Because our Christmas tree, like the very best Christmas trees anywhere, is totally ours.

We have three "first Christmas together" ornaments (this is what happens when you get married a week before Christmas). These are always the first things on the tree. Our basic glass ornament sets--in gold and white--are from the tree we decorated for our wedding reception, and these are the next things on the tree. Then the antique ornaments from Brent's mom, Malda, from her own treasured store of beautiful things gathered from estate sales over the years: Brent's favorite, a little elf that sits in a nook (or a cranny, depending on my mood), an antique glass ornament, a little rocking horse, assorted Santas, and my favorites, a pair of pink glass clip-on birds that perch jauntily on the ends of branches. A picture frame ornament, from my Aunt Nancy, with Clare's Christmas picture from last year in it. A set of Charlie Brown Christmas ornaments I bought last year while shopping with Ally. Some dainty woven ornaments that Sarah & Andrew gave away as party favors at last year's Christmas bash. A set of little Chinese dolls from keyrings that I don't remember acquiring in China that make much better tree ornaments than keyrings...

Underneath our tree this year is a quite respectable collection of Christmas storybooks (especially considering Clare doesn't read yet), all gifts from people who love her. And a beautiful white plush teddy bear in red scarf and stocking cap, her "Mimi bear." But no presents. And there won't be many, this year. But--except for the fact that my eye is of course trained to behold Christmas trees without presents underneath as "naked"--that's not the point of Christmas trees. It's all about the history--what each little item says about who we are, and where we've been, and who we love and who loves us.

I love that on my parents' Christmas tree there are still, every year, things from our childhood. The ceramic mouse ornament that I cast and painted in the 6th grade. The drummer boy drum Ally made in 4th grade (that has Denessa's name on it too from when she tried to steal it). The preschool picture of Emily glowering at the camera like she wanted to shoot the photographer in the butt with a BB gun. I can't wait till Clare gets old enough to start making hideous additions to our Christmas tree history every year. I want the construction paper, the scribbles, the glitter, the smeary glue, the sullen I-won't-smile-for-you-right-now pics, all of it. And I especially want an elf head with a scary crooked grin and a paper clip hook stuck in him sideways, made out of dried playdough.

Sunday, December 02, 2007


So, as you can tell, for the second year in a row I have not been a NaNoWriMo winner. I did better this year than last, but even so, didn't even make the halfway mark. You can see from the graphic to the right that I didn't write anything for the last few days of November. Too sick to care. Midnight November 30 came and went and I was awake but not even thinking about NaNoWriMo; mainly I was thinking about my sinuses. Maybe next year I will finish this novel, or maybe not. In any case...big loser.

Also after like a month of dragging my Facebook Scrabulous stats up by finally winning some games with my mom, about a million people challenged me to games all at once and I am losing ALL of them. I have decided that four person games suck, in general, and in particular I never want to play with GKB, Scott and Travis ever, ever again. Hear that guys? Next time I'm just resigning. Last time I held on to "jeez" for like the entire game angling for a triple word spot, which I could never this time, I played "quoit" right away, but again--the prime spot I was hoping for got blocked by someone else's word and quoit didn't get nearly the points it deserved. After that I decided I was going to lose anyway and quit trying...big loser.

Plus I'm still sick and that really sucks. I could go into detail about all the snot but that would be gross.

So I'm just feeling bad. Big snotty loser, signing off.