Monday, December 23, 2013

Rump-a-pum pum…phooey

Let me stay right off that I do like Christmas music. I like the old-fashioned carols. I think it is wonderful that young musicians are writing new Christmas music. And I understand that each generation of singers likes to modernize and upgrade the old classic songs. I get it.

I normally listen to a Christian music station that plays contemporary “rock” style songs, but lately? The station began playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving. At first this was just occasionally, but now that Christmas is upon is, it has reached a crescendo. I do not want to hear one more upbeat “rock” style version of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” and so I am pushing the button quite a bit more often.

The Carol of the Drums (Little Drummer Boy) is beginning to become especially irritating. One wonders how many singers and groups of singers have done that song since the first early recordings of it. Some of the new groups that are doing this songs are amazing. And some are not and one would like them to just stop.

But, I do recall one particularly beautiful version of the song that I heard a long time ago – in fact I remember watching this on television back in 1977. Two men with beautiful voices and with very different careers—David Bowie and Bing Crobsy— singing a duet. David Bowie and Bing Crosy? You betcha.

The video on YouTube does not play in sync very well on my computer and if it does not on yours either, then just listen…

And Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 16, 2013

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

People often have a difficult time coping with holidays after someone they love has died. It is particularly hard if the person has died during the holiday.

In the months after our son’s diagnosis, we were given a few streamers of hope to hold on to:

Perhaps God would reach down and heal him….

Perhaps the melanoma specialist in St. Louis would be able to enroll him in the clinical trial for the new drug that was showing so much promise…

But as December advanced, our grasp on those streamers became more and more tenuous.

I tend to think of December 13 as the day marking the beginning of the end of our son’s life, because that was the day he went to the hospital for a palliative operation to remove the tumor in his abdomen and was so sick that the surgeon cancelled the procedure.

That was the day we were told any further surgical treatment would be futile. The day the streamers of hope were jerked out of our hands. Our son’s physical life came to an end a few days short of a month later.

Last year grief settled heavily on my shoulders, like a heavy winter coat. I was not expecting that to happen; it was, after all, the second Christmas since his death. The surprise of it hit us like a 2 x 4. I barely functioned. I had little enthusiasm for anything. I don’t think I sent a single Christmas card.

I can feel it happening again this year, but not nearly as bad, perhaps just a windbreaker instead of an arctic parka.

We almost never cry anymore. If one accepts the definition of mourning as outward expressions of inward grief, then our time of active mourning appears to be coming to an end. Another stage in the process of adjusting to the new normal in our life and moving forward.

After every snowfall, the huge state dump truck with the plow on the front comes down the access road and scrapes the snow to the side, leaving a huge berm of snow right in front of our driveway when it turns around. Depending on how much snow was on the road, we could sometimes just drive through it, but on other occasions, we would have to go out with a pickaxe and shovels and break through the barrier so we could get out. This year, God bless them, our new neighbor got into his handy dandy little Bobcat machine and cleared the ridges of snow away from both of our driveways.

When it comes to grief, however, there is no helpful neighbor to clear it away…
I have learned that if we are to heal we cannot skirt the outside edges of our grief. Instead, we must journey all through it, sometimes meandering the side roads, sometimes plowing directly into its raw center, Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD
So, while acknowledging that the grief at our loss will never go away, it is indeed becoming less painful. The center is becoming a little less raw.

And this year, on December 13, the sadness was balanced a bit by my being able to share the joy of someone I love very much who was finally able to get married, to her companion of 26 years, in a happy celebration surrounded by her daughters and grandchildren and friends.

Being a conservative Christian and a political liberal often sets up a conundrum, and for me this is one of those occasions. I cannot set aside what I know the Bible says, but given that the situation with her is what it is, I am also so pleased for her that she now has the legal protections that everyone else is given under the law.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Not taking a walk...

On most days, the folks on Post Oak Road can set their clocks by me. The dog and I make the right turn from Willow Road on to Post Oak Road at almost the same time in the afternoon every day. On weekdays, a white car carrying two teenaged boys pulls into the sheriff's house just as we pass by. On the way back, a school bus stops in the middle of a right hand turn at the junction with the county road of lets a child off, and and the driver always waves.

But not Thursday or Friday afternoon, or today.

I walked myself and the dog at the park Thursday morning under threatening gray skies. The sleet and freezing rain started just as we reached the car. I managed to get the errands done without slipping on the pavement, which was becoming slicker and more treacherous by the minute, or running off the road.

A little later in the day the snow came… and came… and came… and now, about 10 inches are on the ground.

Since then, I have left the house only to put seeds out for the birds and take the Mollynater out for bathroom breaks.

Richard, however, did go to town and came home with a beautiful pork loin roast. Some of which is perfectly suited for…

Pork With Steamed Spiced Sauerkraut
2 lbs sauerkraut, drained, washed, and squeezed dry
½ cup chopped onion
1 tbsp margarine
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups cold water
1 large raw potato, grated
6 pieces of pork loin (18 ounces)

Place in a teaball or cheesecloth bag:
5 whole juniper berries
6 peppercorns
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp caraway seeds
1 whole allspice

Preheat oven to 325F. Brown onions lightly in margarine, add sugar, water, and sauerkraut. Toss with a fork until well separated. Add grated potato. Put sauerkraut mixture in a 2-quart casserole, burrow a hole in the sauerkraut and bury the spices. Brown the meat and place it on top of the sauerkraut. Cover and bake for 1½ to 2 hours. The cover may be removed if the meat needs browning. This can also be cooked in a slow cooker.