Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas Letter 2007

Christmas 2007
Dear Friends and Family,

As I head into December, totally unprepared for Christmas, I blame the brutally hot summer that lingered so long that I was still wearing sandals in mid-October. Yes, I know we’ve already had Thanksgiving and consequently I should be thinking about putting up the tree… but it just seems so premature. My ingrained indolence is putting up a fight this year to keep me from the usual Christmas activities and traditions I’ve collected over the years. I haven’t bought any presents yet, have no ideas of what to give anyone, and this makes me cranky and seasonally discouraged far sooner than I usually am! I have no Martha Stewart illusions of decorating and food preparation, but I do usually love getting out the ornaments and tchotchkes. This year? Well, maybe a good night’s sleep, lots of caffeine, and a continual cycle of the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack will get me through the process.

I learned a new stitching concept this year called "motifs." You will see them most often in Quaker and Dutch samplers; a motif is usually a small but elaborate pattern, all in one color. Here is an example of one:

Motifs have become my favorite style of needlework for several reasons; they're visually striking (like toile fabric... ummmmm, toile...), they are finished quickly, and they are beautiful on their own or as part of a larger group. But they are also analogous to the way I tend to look at life sometimes. As my life rolls on and I make new friends and have new experiences and activities, those parts of my life are like separate motifs on a larger piece of linen. Each one has a different color and quality.

The Christmas letters I send each year used to be primarily about my nieces and nephews and the various activities in my life. But as I continue on with my hobbies and interests, it becomes harder to speak of them without being repetitive. And there are only so many ways I can talk about the different personalities of 7 children between the ages of 4 and 14! So I find it easier to separate them into motifs.

Business is booming; rather, it WAS booming until October when it started a very gradual decline. I can't seem to figure out exactly WHEN my busy season is so I can take a proper vacation! It's been a very productive and enjoyable year of taking care of people's computers and home networks, and it gets easier each month. Now, two+ years into having my own business, I've adapted to the regular uncertainty of waiting for the phone to ring. One of the best things about it is the new clients I meet each month. There are a lot of really nice people out there!

The nieces and nephews (niblings) are all well and happy, and growing up faster than I care to think about. I wish for another baby in the family since the youngest is now 4, but I am assured by Elder Sister and Younger Sister that disappointment is a part of life, and I should learn to accept it. Fortunately, I am in a group of friends who gather weekly on Sundays and are beginning to pop out babies at a fairly steady rate, so between them and running the Baby Room in my church nursery once a month, I am able to get an adequate supply of squishy little babies to hold. I am most grateful to the friends who indulge me in this, as well as Babies MacKenna, Hattie May, Laura, Lucy, and Rithika (even though I can only hold her metaphorically).

I sang a few times with a rock band this year. Really! A friend of mine from church choir asked if I'd sing backup for her with a cover band, and it was a BLAST. I sang songs by bands that I never had the least interest in listening to‑Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd, etc.‑and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm hoping to do this again many times in the future. I'm still singing in my church choir, and like it better each year.

I started taking English Country Dancing this fall. (Yes, that sounds a lot more like me.) It's not country line dancing, but old dances from the 16th-18th centuries. You often see it in Jane Austen movies. It looks rather simple and lazy, but it can actually get quite speedy and is an excellent cardiovascular workout‑quite a few of us come in gym clothes! I've been wanting to do this for years, and then a friend told me about the classes at the Cohn Adult Learning center on Monday nights. And they have balls, and entire weekends of dance, with live fiddlers. I think I'll be doing this one for a while!

I'm still stitching‑I've been working on a huge reproduction Tennessee sampler for almost 2 years now, and really must get the thing finished! But I have gotten myself seriously overcommitted‑I need to make prayer shawls for church, finish quilting a baby blanket for a friend, and get this huge sampler finished in time for an exhibition next year. If it weren't for the fact that I can watch TV while I stitch, I would never get anything completed.

Justice Campaign
As many of my friends and family are aware, I have been working for the last year trying to help out with the campaign to free Eric Volz from Nicaraguan prison. His mom is an old friend of mine. Eric's ex-girlfriend was murdered last November, and he was tried and convicted of the crime in a kangaroo court, despite no evidence and 10 witnesses who place him 2 hours away at the time of the murder. It is probably one of the messiest, most appalling travesties of justice I have ever heard of. He has been in jail for a full year at the time of this letter, and his appeal has stretched out well beyond legal limits. I know it is something of a downer to bring this up in a Christmas letter, but this has been probably the most important thing I have been involved with this year. If you would like to know more, you can visit the website that I have been honored to help update for the family –

This Year's Media Favorites
TV: "Pushing Daisies" I have rarely fallen so hard for a new TV show. But the pilot and following episodes have caught me like love at first sight. It's a sweet, funny, clever series reminiscent of Amelie and Harry Potter. Rich colors and retro styling throughout, it's a modern fairy tale and I find it deeply romantic in a way that I haven't seen accomplished in a TV show in years.
"Burn Notice" and "Psych" on the USA Network. I mention these two in the same breath, because I think this is the future of TV programming. These "lesser" series on channels like Bravo, SciFi and USA are apparently following the British model for hour-long dramas‑only 12-13 episodes in a season. And as a result, the quality of writing and plot is more concentrated than most other American series. They are funny, very watchable, and I look forward to their next seasons.

Books: Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A really sweet, simple memoir about 2 girls who go to New York to work for the summer, and luck into a job at Tiffany's during WWII. Great for nostalgia fans, and a home front view of the war.
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling. Wow. Just amazing. Not that I expected her to stumble at the end of the series, but she really made the whole story tie up beautifully. And for fans of Christian symbolism, the book is positively riddled with it.

Audiobooks: "Areas of my Expertise" by John Hodgman, "I Am America, and So Can You" by Stephen Colbert. Both of these books are hilarious, but are made even richer when read aloud by their authors. Both comedians are able to amplify the Funny beautifully, and I can listen to these books over and over again.

bookmooch.com has become a continual source to refine my current library. You list books you are willing to give away online, and people request them. You mail them out at book rate, and get a point for each book, which you can then use to mooch books from other Bookmoochers. I have gotten rid of many books I never even read, or had no further interest in, and have gotten dozens of books I've had on my wish list for ages! I haven't exactly read all of the ones I've received yet, but it is rather nice to thin out my shelves.
cuteoverload.com. As you might imagine, as a computer geek I do spend a great deal of time online, and cuteoverload.com is most definitely one of the high points of my day. Photos of bunnies, puppies, kitties and other adorable animals in glorious profusion. A lousy day is always improved, at least marginally, by a visit to this site.

Podcasts: “Agatha Christie Radio Dramas”/BBC. Someone has begun posting podcasts of many BBC Agatha Christie serialized radio plays, and they're just wonderful. I had listened to several of them as audiobooks from the library, so I was delighted to find that there were so many more of them. So far, it's just Hercule Poirot stories.
“Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me”/NPR. I save this one for special occasions. It's funny and clever, and is a great pick-me-up when I'm having a bad day. For those unaware, it's a weekly quiz show with pundits, comedians and call-ins answering questions on current events.

Music: Jonathan Coulton. In the grand tradition of not being able to categorize exactly WHAT I like to listen to, I stumbled over Jonathan Coulton's music this year and was entirely enamored. He writes some of the funniest and most clever songs I have come across in a long while.
Polyjesters, "Ka-Chunk!" Love these guys too. Like Coulton, they steal lavishly from a variety of genres, write clever and often hilarious songs, and are irresistibly catchy. Their website, polyjesters.com has streaming audio if you want to hear samples of their music.

I am running out of space, so farewell to 2007. May you have a Christmas that is far better than you hoped for, and a peaceful 2008!

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