Tag Archives: holiday

Ring in the New

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In case you had forgotten or hadn’t noticed, today is the last day of the year. Just FYI.

It had been a wonderful year. More wonderful things have happened this year than I have space to write about. Or time.

You see, I am off on an adventure with my Adventure Buddy. I’m getting to meet his family. So far, fun people in fun places. Everything really is bigger in Texas. Once you get here, the state won’t let you forget you’ve arrived.

I have nothing special to say to welcome in the New Year or say farewell to the old. All I have to say for the past is it’s been a good year. All I have to say about the future is my hope it’ll be even better than the last.

Happy New Year, one and all. May yours be blessed.

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O Holy Night

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Here’s the thing about Christmas.

Christmas exists because the Son of God was born as a human child. You can get your britches in a tangle over it all you want to, but the fact is that’s where it all began. In a manger. In Bethlehem. No, Jesus probably wan’t born on December 25th. He probably wasn’t even born in the bleak midwinter. But He was born. There’s a lot of history to back me up on that.

Christ became a man so He could live like us, suffer like us, be tempted like us, but never fail. He was born to be perfect. People hate perfect; people hate good, so they killed Him and thought that would be the end of it. But because He was perfect, He could carry the wickedness of the world on His shoulders and pay for every last bit of it. That way, we wouldn’t have to.

Don’t try to tell me sin doesn’t exist. We wouldn’t have the headlines we do if it didn’t.

But He has the power to take all of that away.

And He didn’t just come for anglo-saxon protestant people, either. He didn’t just come to earth for people born into certain families or for people from certain backgrounds or for those who adhere to specific political parties. He came to die for all of us.

To God, all people matter.

Born-again Christians sometimes misrepresent Him. They fail to give the Gospel the way the Bible tells it. They fail to walk the walk that matches Christ’s teaching. I know I do. I know I fail God all the time.

But I believe God can work through my imperfections. He’s done it before.

So if you’re reading this tonight, taking a break from the festivities to read a blog post or two before midnight, perhaps wondering what all the fuss is about, I’ll tell you.

The fuss is about hope. Hope in the form of God become man. Hope in the form of God as a tiny child. Hope in the form of a man who would die to give us the greatest gift of all: redemption and eternal life.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
O night divine, O night, O night divine.

Who Will Buy

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Christmas shopping. Such a delightful activity. There’s decorations in every shop window, Christmas music filtering down from the mall speakers, and lots and lots of discounts.

I shop maybe three times a year. Once in the spring to get fall clothes on clearance, once in the summer to pick up odd hippie clothing and a few Christmas gifts, and once a few days before Christmas. The Christmas shopping experience is always the most intense. I’m buying for other people then, not for me, which makes me think twice as hard. I know what I like, but figuring out what other people will like is both extremely fun and extremely nerve-wracking.

That process is not what I’m here to talk about today, however. I’m going to talk about advertising.

Walking around a mall is exhausting. Number one, there are tons of grumpy people everywhere. Not just people–being around people is exhausting enough, speaking as an introvert–but grumpy people.

Number two, the advertising. The advertising is exhausting. Online and elsewhere. A thousand larger-than-life images of photoshopped men and women, ersatz stock photo families, shiny gadgets and gizmos, story-tall displays of whatnots and whozits.

All of these posters and displays say the same thing: buy this, or you won’t be happy, healthy, successful, beautiful, desirable, lovable, whole…

Online, it’s even worse. Take a few moments to scroll through the health and beauty page(s) of any online news source. A thousand glistening, digitally altered images show you “perfect” skin, “perfect” eyebrows, “perfect” eyelashes, “perfect” everything–perfection that can be yours if you buy this product, watch this tutorial, purchase this brush, invest in this brand.

Not like the site was paid off to write those kinds of reviews in the first place. Not at all.

The greatest irony of American culture–or any culture, really–is its insistence that we’re all good enough just the way we are while simultaneously insisting the opposite.

Advertisements of an aggressive nature operate similarly to the TLC show What Not to Wear. In this show, concerned family members of someone who dresses according to her (or occasionally his) personal taste and comfort enlist the help of two expensively-dressed and overpaid snobs to tell their loved one that their life is a mess because he or she doesn’t dress according to current fashions. These “consultants” convince this previously happy person that he/she is in fact unhappy and ugly and take the person on a shopping trip to buy her things that will make her feel pretty and happy again. They also change her hair and how she does her makeup to make her look acceptable to their standards of beauty. At the end of the show, there’s a “big reveal” party to show all the person’s loved ones the glorious results of a simple wardrobe change. Everyone cries. The recipient of the makeover is crying because the emotional journey of discovering her new, conformed self is over. Her family cries because their loved one is finally “normal” and “pretty.” The consultants cry because…well, pretty sure they keep onions in their blazer pockets for such occasions. I cry because I don’t like shows that take advantage of people, and I could have spent the last thirty minutes of my life a little more wisely.

Some advertisements do the same thing as this show, or try to. Before I encounter the add, I’m content–with my face, with my hair, with my wardrobe, with my figure. The advertisement, however, presents me with an Ideal. The advertisement makes it obvious that I don’t measure up to this Ideal, and I’m suddenly tempted to feel inadequate. Why can’t I look like that? But the advertisement assures me that with the purchase of the product it presents, I can be returned to my previously content state and live happily ever after. At least until I run out of or wear out the thing and need to buy it again.

Advertisements create the problem they promise to solve.

Now, lest I trigger any knee-jerk reactions, I realize that not all advertisements are like the aforementioned. Most advertisements (store displays, etc.) give you polite reminders like “Hey, that thing you already like or genuinely need? It’s on sale this week! Just thought you’d like to know” or “This thing here might solve a problem you already know about, but you can take it or leave it, no biggie!” This kind of product promotion supports both consumer and producer.

But a lot of advertisements–and ladies, let’s be real, you know what I’m talking about–say “You’re clearly inadequate. But if you buy this thing, you will become adequate.”

I understand why companies advertise the way they do. People get degrees in advertising. It’s a science. The science of selling things. Despite my concerns about how things are advertised, I am grateful that people buy things, because every time an item is bought, someone somewhere gets paid and can feed himself or his family, pay the rent, pay the heating bill. That’s important. That’s very, very important. People gotta eat.

However, a day of shopping at the mall, the typical hive of more aggressive advertising tactics, leaves me mentally exhausted. All day long my subconscious has been grappling with image after image of what I should look like and be compared to what I do look like and am. I buy several items and my mother (the best shopping buddy ever) buys several as well. A few items she bought are early Christmas presents for me.

And I put them on and looked in the mirror. Yes, they make me feel pretty. And look pretty. I am deeply grateful for them. But, as my mother assured me today and assures me daily, I was pretty before I even knew those items existed. And I’d still be as pretty without them. Things, after all, are things, and they can’t fill a hole. They can’t make a person. The clothes do not, in fact, make the man.

The thing is, I am in possession of something no money can buy. I have a deeper contentment than any trinket or bauble could ever bring me. I’ve been given other goals besides looking like the fictional people in the catalogs or having what they have.

Christmas time is more than “a time for paying bills without money,” but “a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open up their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

Contentment oughtn’t to rely on the procuring or possession of things. Not at all. Contentment, properly planted, finds its roots in heaven and grows downward. Then the heart is free to buy (or sell) for the benefit of others, with the knowledge that the best gifts are yet to come.

Gratitude

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I am grateful for salvation, a God who loves me, and a relationship with Him.

I am grateful for my parents, who made my childhood magical.

I am grateful for my sisters, my closest and dearest friends.

I am grateful for my Adventure Buddy, who flew with me to the moon and back and makes every day an adventure.

For a loving and delightful extended family.

For the highest possible quality of education for my entire life.

For being raised in this country. It’s a good country, and I love it, warts and all.

For regained health.

For a strong body.

For all the items checked off my bucket list.

For miles of happy memories.

For wonderful pets, past and present.

For books.

For a fantastic job that I enjoy and pays my school bills.

For a nice apartment.

For an awesome roommate.

For food.

For the bumps on the road in my past.

For happy endings I never foresaw.

For laughter.

For libraries.

For Broadway musicals.

For technology.

For electricity.

For sleep and plenty of it.

For the Christmas season…which has finally arrived.

She’s Back

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Autumn is never punctual around here. The first day of fall rolls around, but it’s still hot and muggy and the crickets are chirping and the cicadas are singing. This continues until November. That’s just the way Anytown is.

(Actually, Anytown tends to go through all four seasons in one day, but that’s another post in and of itself.)

This morning, however, I stepped out of my apartment building into cool, chill air and a mostly clear sky. The wind rattled through the leaves and made it sound as if the trees were laughing. The crickets were silent, having all gone to bed for the next few months.

I was wearing short sleeves and a thin skirt. Autumn, clever trickstress, had come on time for the first time in my life, giggling as she blew my hair and my skirt into tangles.

Oh, but I didn’t care. I threw my head back and laughed. I cried a little. I miss people and seasons. When they come back after being away for so long, the happiness pours out of my eyes in little streams.

Autumn’s back, everyone. Autumn’s back.

Alternate Timelines

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It’s funny how vacation can make you feel as though reality has been suspended, if only a little. Time runs differently in your head, and a day feels like a week, a week feels like a month, and a month can feel like a year.

Take Croatia, for instance. I go to Croatia for a couple of weeks at a time, but it feels like a year has passed by the time I get on the plane to leave. I’ve done so much and seen so much in those two weeks that it feels like I’ve been there far longer than I actually have. But when I get back, suddenly I’m aware that only two weeks have passed back home, and I’ve got catching up to do.

My vacation to North Carolina this year was more like a long weekend than an actual vacation. I was there half of Friday, all of Saturday, and most of today. Now I’m home, but I feel as though I’ve been gone a month. Not nearly rested enough to have been gone a month, but still.

I’d love to know what my mind is doing in these alternate timelines. I wish that, if I were really gone a full month like my body seems to think, that I could’ve done a bit more with it.

 

Too Soon

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And tomorrow, vacation is over.

Monday I start my first big person job. I am grateful to have one–others are not so lucky.

I had a few simple goals for this vacation. One was to read a book–one that wasn’t a textbook, and was a novel of my choosing. I am two-thirds of the way through the first novel I’ve been able to touch since White Fange, which I read in April.

Another goal was to find salt and pepper shakers. My parents and I are avid antique-store perusers. Antique stores have tons of salt a pepper shakers, but very few would actually fit my taste. I found the salt and pepper shakers, which will be adorning my apartment kitchen table soon enough.

I also set out to find a quilt for my bed at the apartment. No luck there.

I didn’t intend to look for one of these, but I found a cool doormat, too. Mow my guests will be colorfully welcomed into our humble abode.

Another goal was to sleep a lot. I did–about nine to ten hours a night. I feel fantastic, thank you.

I also wanted to write a lot. I did. I wrote in a blank book. I wrote several pages. I’m happy with what I have written. The end.

And I wanted to hand feed wild deer. I did that tonight. They weren’t eating out of my hand, but one brave buck got within three feet of me nibbling on corn I had dropped. His head was at my elbow from where I was sitting on the porch steps.

All in all, I’d say this was a profitable trip. I feel well-rested, fairly able-bodied, and ready (sort of) to take on my new responsibilities.

Sort of.

Where the Wild Things Are

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The advantage of staying in the middle of nowhere is that you get to see things you’d never get to see otherwise.

In the suburbs, I never see deer. Deer-sized squirrels, maybe, but never deer. Here, in the gated mountain neighborhood where we’re staying, deer are everywhere. It’s protected area, and they know it. There are too many people living on the mountain to justify permitting hunting. The deer population is allowed to do as it chooses.

When we first visited here when I was 11, a deer sighting was a rare event. I’d always ride in the car with my face pressed up against the glass, scanning the woods for the flash of a white tail, the curve of a graceful brown neck. We’d see one deer, maybe two at the most. And you could forget about them coming up to the house.

This year, however, enough generations of deer have been raised under the knowledge that people won’t hurt them that they’ll wander out in the open, in broad daylight, going about their deery business. We saw five of them by our back porch today: a yearling buck, four does, and a tiny fawn that scampered about in the shadows. My mother tossed corn at them from the porch steps as they watched her warily, but without real fear.

I realize that deer are common creatures. We hunt them. They taste good. In numbers too great, they can damage a local ecosystem and become pests that destroy crops intended for human consumption, not for the nibblings of wild tings. Hence the hunting. There is nothing really that exceptional about seeing one. Not around here. They’re as common as squirrels.

But they are so beautiful. They carry themselves with almost unearthly grace. Their eyes are wide and fathomlessly dark with long lashes that lend humanness to their elegant faces. Their bodies are sleek, their hides the color of autumn. Their females are vigilant, their males protective. No wonder legends tell of fairies and wood elves riding through the forests on the backs of deer.

Some people go on vacation to have an excuse to watch untold hours of television or lose themselves in a mountain of books. While I have been losing myself in the book that I brought to read on this trip, I find greater delight in sitting on the porch, watching the forest’s residents silently treading the hidden highways beneath me.

Naps

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There’s naps…

…and then there’s naps

Foggy-brained, body-too-heavy-to-roll-over, bizarre-dreamed, out-for-hours, rainy-outside, noiseless-day, buried-in-a-blanket, can’t-move-after-waking-up, too-drowsy-to-care, paralyzingly invigorating naps

They always occur on Sundays, even if you got extra sleep the night before. They happen best on rainy days, after a carb-heavy meal, and when you have nothing major hanging over your head that’s due the next day. Like homework. which you don’t have to do right now. Because you’re not in school.

And won’t be for months.

Those kinds of naps are the absolute best.  

Family

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So far we’ve discussed health, real estate, Obamacare, farming, dogs, cats, hunting, children, food, and now we’ve gotten to writing. This is the extended Rambler family, doing what we all do best:

Rambling.

I only see my father’s side of the family once a year. The day after Christmas, we drive down six hours to spend four days in a rickety historical home, sitting around the fire and swapping stories.

There are twelve of us here, creating a merry chaos as we crowd into one room for warmth, talking about whatever occurs to us to talk about, playing board games and eating like it’s a holiday or something.

This is the first time we’ve been able to have internet while we’re down here. Now I don’t have to type all my posts in advance. That’s thanks to my cousin and her husband who paid for a hot spot so everyone could get connected.

But we are connected anyway. We’re connected to each other for the first time in a year. For four days, we’ll review each other’s lives, share laughs, and make memories.

And ramble.

It’s genetic.

Rejoice, Rejoice

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The stockings are empty. The tree looks a little more barren now, but no less cheerful. All the surprises have been discovered, joy has been shared, food has been eaten, hugs have been given, and all are tired.

I know I am. It’s been a joyous Christmas. A peaceful Christmas.

That’s the way it should be. After all, we’re celebrating the arrival of a good and gracious King. We’ll have to wait a little longer for His eternal reign of peace to begin. But it will come. It will come when it’s supposed to.

In the meantime, here’s to a silent night. Here’s to all being calm and bright. For we only get each December the 25th once. We only get each day once. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come. He’s come to give us the greatest gift—the gift of eternal life and unending days.

Merry Christmas to you all.

With all my love,

Risabella Rambler

One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas

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I’ve finished my wrapping. The Carpenters are doing what they do best over our speakers. I have a cup of spearmint tea, and the lights on our tree are simply lovely.

I watched two versions of A Christmas Carol today. One with Muppets and the other with George C. Scott. I enjoy both equally, but for different reasons. The Muppets version makes me glow inside. The George C. Scott version gets me teary for all the right reasons.

The Muppets version has this darling little song called “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas.” An appropriate song to hear today, since tomorrow is that day of days, the day around which the entire kid year revolves. I’m no longer a kid, much to my deep regret, but my year still revolves around Christmas.

And it’s tomorrow.

I wish you all a good night’s sleep—

That you’ll dream dreams you want to keep.

But before you crawl in bed,

I know you want to—go ahead—

Lean out your open window. Try

To see if reindeer really fly.

Then hit the hay and dream away,

For tomorrow’s Christmas Day. 

The People of Walmart

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School ended later than usual this year. The late hour forced the entire Rambler family into last-minute shopping mode, which did nothing to heal the nervous twitch over my left eye.

Somehow I ended up at Walmart, people watching while waiting two hours for my one-hour photo pickup.

I have never seen so many Santa hats being worn by women who mistake leggings for pants. So many beards that could be mistaken for living things. So many deliberately hideous Christmas sweaters. So. Many. Pajamas.

Normally I’ve found that shopping at Walmart is a pleasant experience. I walk in, I find the aisle where my desired purchase is located, then I proceed to one of the two open checkout lines and buy said item. Christmas, however, seems to bring out the crazies. The normal amount of wailing children is multiplied by ten (and as a result the number of children I want to have decreases to -10). The amount of yelling adults increases by twenty, which really makes me not want to be an adult anymore. And the happiest looking person in the place was probably me and the guy out front manning the Salvation Army bucket.

Suddenly I realized why shopping at the last minute is a really, really bad idea. Especially someone with stress-related health issues. Like me.

I tried to turn myself into an island of calm in a sea of calamity. I smiled. A lot. At people. I made eye contact, which was probably dangerous business. I whistled. I tried to be as imperturbable as possible, since everyone around me seemed very likely to be easily perturbed.

I noticed I got friendlier service when I was friendlier. I noticed I was happier and less stressed out when I made an effort to not be angered. It took an effort. It took a huge effort, and a lot of deep breaths. But I made it through the day without misrepresenting the One who started Christmas.

That’s the greatest irony of  last-minute shopping. One, last-minute shopping doesn’t always result in the most thoughtful gifts. God had the advent of Christ planned before that plan was even necessary. Two, people get angry when they can’t get what they want when they want it. Christ was born into poverty, and had to wait about thirty years before the climax of His ministry arrived. He has to wait even longer for people to decide they need redemption. Three, we—and here I mean Christians—lose our tempers and our testimonies in the name of…Christmas. The irony is too much for me to handle.

I kept my cool this time. I don’t always. In fact, I rarely do. But around Christmas, I have to smile. I smile because I can’t help it. I smile because I’d rather say “Merry Christmas” than shout at someone for being in my way.

Now, if I can just keep that mentality all year long.