Friday, December 23, 2005

Jeremiah and My Top Ten Christmas Memories

I watched this TV movie called Jeremiah last night because I'm a newly minted Patrick Dempsey fan. He's in Grey's Anatomy. I love this show. Well, I don't always love it, but it records on my TIVO. Into You Like A Train was a great episode. I needed a whole box of tissues. The part I love about this show is that it faces the fact that humans are people of faith, that we are much more complex, wonderful and terrible at the same time. This show also has a wonderful soundtrack.

Well, on to Jeremiah. I'm not going to review the movie, it was better than 95% of most biblical epics. The thing is I connect with this story on so many levels that it doesn't have to be a great retelling. It's like I don't think art has to be what folks call "great" to be great. Well, as this story unfolds, Jeremiah watches his world go up in flames and is treated like a wild man and a criminal for telling the people to surrender to the King of Babylon. That didn't seem to make sense, but I have found the truth doesn't always have to be the logical thing, it's always the right thing. Then as things go from bad to worse, Jeremiah begins to preach about the restoration and regathering of Israel. This was where I felt truth, knew truth. I've lived through the days of the world going up in flames. Many have. The idea that God is going to restore this mess; that's peace on Earth for me. Ah, this is absolute comfort and joy. This is the answer that I should have heard in hard times. Few even alluded to it (Kudos to Tom K.). I've found that there are many Job's comforters out there, not many Jeremiahs.


1. Walking outside my house on icy cold Christmas morning and hearing the calls of tens of thousands of snow geese. They had landed in the cornfield by our house.

2. Waking up with sisters (A and L) on Christmas morning, running into my parents' bedroom, ready to see what Santa Claus brought. None of that wrapped stuff for us. We just got a load of gifts with a personal, hand-signed note from Claus himself. We went down the hall to living room and had 5 minutes of squealing, screaming, dancing girls. It was 3 a.m.

3. The year Santa Claus failed me. I asked for a beanbag chair. I went down on Christmas morning and nada. I started wailing and ran to my room. NO beanbag chair, the inhumanity!
My mother came to me. She said that Santa might not have been able to fit the chair down our cardboard chimney. Yes, we didn't have a real fireplace, but we had this cardboard one to hang our stockings on. She told me to climb up into the attic. The only way up was one of those fold-down rickety wooden ladders. Sure enough, Santa had left the beanbag chair in the attic. My faith in Santa Claus was restored.

4. The year I tried to not celebrate Christmas. I protested it as a pagan holiday that had been cleaned up for Christians and labeled with the name of our Savior to keep us from running outside on the winter solstice and sacrificing to false gods. People came to my house to explain to me the error of my ways. Neighbors, friends. It was like a zoo. My mother came to my house, unwrapped the presents and shouted at me, "It's just stuff I'm giving you". Note to self. NOT celebrating Christmas does not bring out Christian charity in the people around you.

5. The Sears Christmas Book! I remember spending hours pouring over that thing every year, circling all the important stuff - the Chemistry set , Buddy Bear. I always wanted a Barbie doll house, but it was too expensive. I never circled it. There were live animals, too. Once we got the real live quail eggs and the incubator and sure enough we raised quail.

6. My dad burned up all the Christmas presents one year because he tossed a cigarette into the back of the truck on the way to my aunt's house. This led to one of the best Christmas presents ever; my dad never smoked another cigarette.

7. Thankfulness. Seeing my daughter open her first American Girl doll. Her eyes were so big and she screamed so loud my ears hurt.

8. Jack opening a gift from my sister. He went on and on about how cool the box was. So big, so rectangular, perfect. He kept saying it was the best present he had ever had. He shook the box and hugged it. When he opened the box, he tossed out the stuffed animal and continued to play with the box.

9. As a teenager, I would walk through the streets of downtown Waller with my friends and we would sing Christmas carols. We would sing at every church nativity scene. Folks would give us cups of hot chocolate, oranges and candy canes. I held hands with a boy for the first time. A local restaurant gave us dinner for free. We were all so happy and lighthearted. We sang until we were all hoarse. I didn't know at the time that this was some kind of wonderful, rare and precious.

10. Last year, I had surgery for uterine cancer the week before Christmas. On Christmas eve, eve (That's one year ago today, BTW). I learned I was cancer-free and going home for Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Music of the Spheres

I love to sing. I just like to turn off my head and sing loud. It just creates this storm of happy in me. There is poetry in the earth and music, too. I always hear it. There is a simplemindedness in me. Singing just connects me to the poetry and music that I feel all the time. My best memories usually involve being with someone playing music. As a writer, I work it out alone mostly. I yearn, ache inside, to share my stories with others. Perhaps it's the music of the spheres within me.

"The heavenly motions... are nothing but a continuous song for several voices, perceived not by the ear but by the intellect, a figured music which sets landmarks in the immeasurable flow of time." John Banville: Kepler, (Minerva 1990)

I went to a party tonight and there was old fashioned Christmas carol sing-a-long. I just felt joy. The same joy I knew as a little girl with my face pressed to a radio, the same joy I knew as a teenager when all the kids at the high school gathered together and walked the streets singing at all the nativities in my home town, the same joy I knew when I was in college and George played the guitar and Darlene sang, the same joy I know when I pull out my flute and play every hymn I know. I could never name all the events that create this cord of the joyous constancy of music in my life.

"Everyone sing. Together we sing."

My prayer from a song from the 12th century, O come, O Come, Emmanuel.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Every year I write a Christmas Poem, so here goes.

I wanted to cry tonight
As I sang an old hymn from a millennia ago,
A voice speaking across the gulf of time,
breaking the barriers of now and then.
"Bind in one the hearts of mankind."

O sweet Savior,
Take the cord of truth.
Wrap it around us all.
Pull it tight and tie a knot.

I dream of peace.
I hunger for it.
I'd die for it.

So help me, Lord,
Make me a peacemaker.
Teach me to teach others
of Christ our peace.

And kindly
help me remember --
We will laugh.
We will sing.
We will all see peace.

My prayer
this Christmas
and forever.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Contracts! Scoring Tests! Retiring at 41! Rewriting!

This has been a way busy month for me. I signed my contract with West Cambridge for my little Harcourt social studies book. My book title is News Travels Fast and it is a quick history of communication for first graders. I also was asked to write 5 more books for PLC. That gives me a grand total of 18 books either published or under contract.

I've started work on my next administration for Pearson. I score the written portion of a certain standardized test. Fun, fun and more fun. I was getting ready for cancer surgery last year at this time, so I have no complaints.

I retired as the RA of SCBWI Western Washington this year. It's been a blast working for SCBWI the last three years, but it's time for me to focus on my writing. I so love the beautiful silver necklace that I received as a parting gift. The turtle crossing a book is oh so cute. I also can not wait to spend my Secret Garden Bookshop certificate.

I'm on the last chapters of the rewrite of Fractals. It has been an odyssey but I can see the end of the tunnel. At this point, creatively, I feel like a watermelon rind that has had every bit of pulp munched and nibbled off of it.

"I see now" said Winnie-the-Pooh.
"I have been Foolish and Deluded," said he,"and I am a Bear of No Brain at All."
"You're the Best Bear in All the World," said Christopher Robin soothingly.
"Am I?" said Pooh hopefully. And then he brightened up suddenly.
"Anyhow," he said, "it is nearly Luncheon Time."
So he went home for it.

from Chapter III of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne