Advent: Midway

We’re about halfway through Advent now, and it’s time to take stock. It’s been a bit chaotic over here, even more than some years, and I’m not sure why. I haven’t taken many pictures the past few weeks, despite having a camera in my pocket literally all the time, so I’m illustrating mostly with pictures from the past.

Here’s the score:

Holiday albums listened to: 2. At the beginning of our first holiday trip, we enjoyed both Barenaked for the Holidays (Silas: “That title sounds…inappropriate”), and a CD of holiday bluegrass with some klezmer influences that we picked up at an event last year.

Public festive events attended: 0. We missed holiday parades, schedule-wise, everywhere we were. It’s too bad, I love parades! I think we’ll make up for it this weekend, though–we’re going caroling with a T-Rex on Sunday evening (locals, HMU for details), and we might also check out the Mennonite-Brethren Heritage Center’s Christmas event.

Truly hilarious phone calls initiated: 1. “Hello, I need to make an appointment for Hairy Pawter to get a rabies shot.” Once the receptionist caught her breath, we got that taken care of.

Hairy Pawter

Theater work: a bit. I did a Shakespeare workshop at a high school last week, which was fun (I probably need to tone down my 1-hour version, though, I think I pack too much in and their heads are kind of spinning by the end of it). And I have some text coaching coming up as well.

Different high school students, but similarly..intense.

Long-anticipated births: 1. We have a new niece, Elsie Charlotte, born to Katie and Jeremiah on Dec. 1. Everyone said she was going to be a November baby, but she clearly had other plans.

Extended family holiday events: 1.We got together with JC’s extended family in WV last weekend. I enjoyed getting to spend time with everyone, especially seeing the tiny people getting bigger and more capable. I’ll post about that later, I haven’t even pulled my photos off the camera. But it was fun!

Church work: Transitioning. I’m ending my time as chair of our church council, after two years (and I was vice chair the two years before that). It’s been a challenging couple of years for our congregation. Lots of big decisions. People keep asking if I’m glad to be ending my term, and the answer is definitely yes. I learned a lot, and I felt like I did an okay job, but I think this particular kind of leadership role is not one I’m suited to. And that’s fine! I learned a whole lot about the different types of leadership roles, and that experience will help me make better choices about what I take on in the future. But tonight I had a meeting that connected to a lot of the hard, good, work that we’ve done in the leadership of our church over the past several years, and I left the meeting feeling incredibly grateful for both my congregation and this opportunity to help guide it through the kind of situation that churches split over–and we haven’t split. If anything, we’re stronger and more committed to each other than ever.

Colds: 4/4. All of us had the sniffles on the first Sunday of Advent. It took me and Petra a week and a half to get over them.

Day job work: a lot. I have a number of great contracts–the clients are clear communicators and friendly people, the work is interesting, and everyone is paying me adequately and on time. It’s just that I’ve had a bit extra to fit into my schedule for it. If you need me, I’ll be in my corner, writing unit tests.

Flu-ish?: 3/4. Silas was the only one spared whatever particular brand of miserable we brought home from WV. Due to weather, we left a day earlier than we had planned, and I’m grateful for it, because at least most of us weren’t sick until we had our own beds to whine in. JC’s sister and brother-in-law were less lucky, and had much less fun than the rest of us did. I’ve heard that if you get the flu shot, you still might get the flu but it will be shorter and less horrible. That’s my theory for what we’ve had. We’re all on the upswing now. ::fingers crossed::

Thanksgiving tablecloth: on track. I had an idea that it would be a lovely Advent practice to do the embroidery on our Thanksgiving tablecloth during Advent, rather than putting it off all year and cramming it into the space between Halloween and Thanksgiving next year. Reflecting on everyone who was at the table and their gratitude has been a good, centering practice. I’m about halfway done with this year’s.

Christmas movies watched: 0. The kids watched something at their grandparents, but we haven’t done a movie night together. On Friday the 13th, we’re probably going to watch Nightmare Before Christmas, because obviously. I’m trying to figure out what new ones to introduce the kids to. Watching them experience Home Alone for the first time a few years ago was such a pleasure. I’d like to have an experience somewhat like that this year, if I can think of the right movie.

Plays seen: 2. I saw Caesar and Cleopatra and Antony and Cleopatra at the Blackfriars on closing weekend. Not very Christmas-y, but that was my Christmas present to myself!

Christmas books read: A bunch at Marmee and Poppy’s, none at home yet! I literally haven’t even gotten the box out. From under my bed. I don’t even need a ladder or anything, I just need to get out this box and carry it downstairs and somehow I haven’t done it. Maybe I’ll put that on my goals list for tomorrow. This may be the clearest measure of what a strugglebus Advent I’m having.

Podcasts published: 2. Silas has started a podcast called “Kutelopes of the Wild.” I somehow ended up editing it. It’s becoming A Thing. I don’t have time or energy for like…most things right now, but somehow I’m editing a podcast. At least the episodes are only five minutes long. The most recent one is even shorter–but features an adorable a capella rendition of the theme song, it’s worth a listen.

Weird family improv: 1, but it’s a good one. Since JC and I were in high school, we’ve found ways to amuse each other. We’ve been known to entertain each other on long car trips by describing household items as if they are in the J. Peterman catalog, coming up with punny domain names for his fake phishing emails (my latest one: “yosemitespam.com”), and arguing over whether we’d be better off finding a treasure chest full of gold or a treasure chest full of Nutella (you may be surprised to know I argued strongly for the former. Did you know, gold can be (indirectly, these days) exchanged for goods and services? Such as Nutella. You can buy about 22,000 pounds of Nutella with a pound of gold, so even though it would be more of a process, you’d come out way ahead in terms of Nutella).

Well, one joy of my life is that our kids have picked up this same habit of collaborative improvisational entertainment. This evening, I happened to mention to Silas that the US has about 40 million pounds of bacon stockpiled–a fifty-year high–and thus began a plot brainstorm for what began as a D&D campaign but quickly turned into a heist movie about raiding whatever the bacon equivalent of Fort Knox is (“I would imagine it would be easier than raiding the country’s gold reserves,” I offered, “given that it isn’t guarded, as they say, like Fort Knox.”). Teach your kids to play “yes and” and you’ll never be bored. We make our own fun.

A good creative team.

Long, planned conversations with beloved friends: 3. Although I’m an intense introvert, I do very much need deliberate, focused connection with the people who matter to me. Now that I work from home, it doesn’t happen if I don’t explicitly plan it. Nobody is stopping by my desk to ask if I want to take a walk. There is no desk. I’ve been working harder at making plans. Despite all the craziness, I’ve had three of those wide-ranging, time-losing conversations–two in person and one by phone. Worth the effort of arranging.

One of those friends.

Surprise letters from semi-famous strangers: 1. I wrote Brian Selznik a letter last summer after I re-read The Marvels, just because I loved it so much and I had a few questions related to the theater history in that book, and promptly forgot about it. Yesterday, the mail had a hand-written card from Brian Selznik! I’ve gotten the occasional form letter or personal email from authors I’ve written to over the years, but this was the most personal and direct response I’ve ever gotten. So that was very cool, and unexpected.

Christmas decorations: ~0. I had good intentions of putting up decorations on Thanksgiving weekend, when we really had nothing going on and I could have done it. But I didn’t, and it’s still not done. We haven’t even strung popcorn for the bird tree yet, despite Petra asking about it several times. Maybe that will happen tomorrow? Or… not?

Advent candles lit: 2. Did I get a wreath happening? Nope. Did I even manage to get the kid craft chaos cleaned up off the table? Also no. But repurposing the floating-wick candles we made for Thanksgiving? That, I can manage. Let there be light in the darkness.

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