Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Letter 2009

Me by me, signed by grand-niece Jadis on my behalf :-)

Thoughts About Celebrating the "Holiday Season"

It seems to me that the "holiday season" is celebrated almost in a frenzy. Besides the frantic "holiday" shopping (which usually includes many personal purchases--retailers count on them!) we engage in the constant creation of, purchase of, and indulgence in "holiday foods and beverages," accompanied by the din of holiday songs.

The intoxication comes to a screeching halt on the actual day of Christmas. As soon as the profit motive dries up, the frenzy stops, and a blessed peace descends.

I don’t have energy to put up a tree any more. The good news is the less I decorate and the more I avoid holiday celebrations, the more I treasure the four week cycle of Advent. I get thrilled by the Advent readings in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Masses, which remind me of the Love that was behind the First Coming and the anticipated Second Coming of Christ.

The partially self-chosen poverty of having an undecorated house, eating a minimum of pre-Christmas treats, avoiding holiday parties and cookie exchanges and the like, all lead me to a deeper joy when the penitential season of Advent is over and when finally we reach the proper time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Baby God. The Church gives us a long time to celebrate, until Candlemas on Feb. 2. So we can have our decorations and our feasting for 40 whole days. In this and many other areas of life, it seems to me, waiting only makes the satisfaction deeper and more meaningful. And that, after all, might be a very good reason for keeping Advent.

Review of the Year of Our Lord 2009

From the sublime to the mundane, an operation on my right foot January 28, was the start of about eight months of the worst surgical recovery I ever had, and I’ve had more than my share. Trying to navigate around my house with one knee propped on a knee scooter that had the turning radius of a Mack truck and not being able to drive my car for months was only part of the ordeal.
The offending scooter

And after all that frustration, the results for the January 2009 surgery are not much better than the previous foot surgery (on both feet that time) two years before.

The left foot also needs rework, but I’m not about to give any foot surgeon another whack at me! Much to be grateful for, however: once again, some friends brought meals and drove me to Mass after I was able to get out. Dear Liberty helped a lot!

I started work from home two weeks after the surgery and got immersed in a tough project with much stress. I thought I had an infection, but I didn’t have the time to see the doctor while the engineers and marketers kept changing the document I was working on, which dragged out to weeks of day, evening and weekend work. Finally I got antibiotics and recovered. And we got the document out.

I also started following my first cousin once removed Jerry and his wife Gretchen’s reports via email and Facebook about his deployment with the National Guard in Iraq and her adventures in Minnesota alone with three kids, who sometimes act out how much they miss their father. Hooray for Facebook! Who needs soap operas when real life touching dramas are unfolding every day before your eyes?

In spite of the gory story of my return to work after surgery, I still like my job and love my company, Data Domain. Remarkably, we still are getting regular bonuses (in lieu of pay raises). Part way through the year, I started work in the training group creating course materials, and I enjoy the trainers, who have to be more extroverted than tech writers. Data Domain was swept into a bidding war between two backup companies, until huge EMC won us with a 2.1 billion dollar offer that rival NetApp couldn’t match. The purchase had the fortunate side effect of raising a lot of employees’ underwater stock options above water, mine included!

We finally located a doctor who diagnosed a broken vertebra many years after Liberty started having pain in his back at 15 years old. On June 2 this year, Liberty had surgery and is still recovering. We’re hoping that he will now have relief from that lifelong pain and that it will give him a new lease on life.

Liberty had to wear a stylish plastic brace for months after surgery. Also note the lovely post-op stockings.

Continued restoring the house after the Great Advent Wreath Smoldering Ash Blowout two years ago. Just came across receipts from Country Curtains for their oldest style of white narrow ruffle curtains, which look just right in my old kitchen. Found imported lace curtains from Scotland for the living and dining rooms. Put white wooden 3” blinds on the bedroom and back porch windows. Got frames and springs fixed on the Victorian furniture from craigslist that had pretty much fallen apart the day I got it all home. Replaced the dining room table (which had two charred leaves) with a Victorian table, almost immediately regretting the replacement of the sturdy well-designed easily expandable ash table from a great American furniture maker (S. Bent) with what turned out to be a rickety old table from Scotland. Replaced carpet in the LR and bedroom with beautiful stained and finished oak (the finishing was just completed last week).

New floor, finally stained and finished

Now if I could only keep up with the maintenance! Got to get the date palm trees their yearly trim and get a new hole in the fence fixed, replace gutters, plus fix another fence that’s falling down, just for starters.

From November until Spring, while I was recovering, three painters that I’ll not so fondly refer to as the Three Stooges (Mendacity, Surly, and Slow) spent a few hours a day (on days when the winter rains weren’t coming down) month after month doing an exterior paint and patch job. I had signed a contract with them for $12,000, thinking they had the expertise to do a number of preliminary projects, such as divert a gutter downspout that flooded the basement, repair the picket fence, and paint concrete steps. They came highly recommended. So imagine my dismay when I discovered that their ineptitude was only exceeded by the mind-boggling level of BS that I heard during every conversation with the lead stooge. Not bitter, much, am I, as I survey the new paint peeling off the concrete, five window panes that they cracked, siding patches that are coming open, not to mention the hole in the fence, while Liberty is still trying to fix the flooding from the downspout? But it still looks nice, if you don't look too close. Liberty came in one day last week and said he overheard two women walking by, "What a beautiful house!"

The white paint I finally picked after agonizing about the choice for months makes my house stand out among the other homes in my neighborhood with their characteristically California-bright colors
A few roses still are blooming in the front of the house in December

Continued with: sponsoring my Godchild, Guadalupe, in Mexico, taking intermittent enjoyable Latin classes with St. Ann choir friends, singing Gregorian chant and polyphony with the schola connected to the Oratory of Our Mother of Perpetual Help in Santa Clara, where the Traditional Latin Mass is said exclusively, reading and writing and thinking and praying about Catholic dogma and about liturgy that uplifts people’s minds and hearts to God, and spending far too much time on Facebook. I love Facebook, because it has connected me with friends I’d lost track of, helped me make some new friends, and keeps me in daily touch with a community of sacred music enthusiasts and others with whom I have many interests in common. And it’s a good place to share my sketches, paintings, photos, short pieces of writing, and links to longer blogs that I write. Plus I get to see photos of my friends and relatives and their children. For example, one friend posts a daily sunrise photo over a Northern Minnesota lake, and a herbalist friend posts photos of plants from her Portola Valley, CA garden and describes their uses. Cousin Jerry posts photos from Iraq and Germany. I did mention all the charming photos of everyone’s kids, did I not?

Started singing with my schola at a weekly Mass at the beautiful Five Wounds Portuguese National Church (only 3 min. from my home in San Jose).
Five Wounds Portuguese National Church in San Jose

Helped get Vespers materials for our schola to sing Vespers at Mission Santa Clara. Also sang with the schola at Mission San Rafael and Mission Santa Clara.

My poster for the Mission Santa Clara Vespers with an Image from Fr. Catala's Grave Stone
Our Traditional Mass at Mission San Rafael

Now I’m helping with a project to create chant booklets for monthly Vespers to start in the New Year at Five Wounds. It’s an answer to prayer for me that the newly ordained diocesan priest who is the pastor has invited us to hold Vespers. I’m also inspired by the zeal of large home schooled families, many of whose children sing with the schola and whose boys serve Mass and processions, with a kind of reverence and intelligent innocence one doesn’t often see in kids these days.

In the choir loft at Five Wounds where we sing. Look at all the young people!

I recently started swimming again (which I had to stop after the surgery)..

Sad to say, my ex-brother in law, Jay Daly, my niece Eowyn’s father, died suddenly in May after surgeries that were supposed to prevent cancer cells from spreading. Poor Eowyn was the one who found him dead. Jay was well enough known for his writing and other achievements that the Boston Globe published a long obituary article about him. Eowyn’s young son, Thomas, will miss their weekly visits, dubbed by his grandfather as Tuesdays with Thomas.

A Tuesday with Thomas at Jay’s

I’m also sad that my dear Aunt Peggy who helped raise me and my two sisters has been hospitalized in Boston after a stroke, and her sons tell me and my sisters that my aunt doesn’t want visitors. My prayers are always with her.

For a birthday present to myself in October, I drove to Santa Cruz and watched the sun setting over the ocean. Another woman watching the sunset told me to turn around, and I was just in time to see the yellow moon rising behind us.

Then in November, for the second year in a row, I flew out to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving. I visited my sisters and their children (except for nephew Aaron and his family, who I unfortunately couldn't get to see).
Most of the family (sans Martha and Aaron) at the New England Aquarium
My sister Martha

Jadis, the eight year old daughter of my niece, Mary, is artistic, so we took a field trip to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, where we picked out a watercolor pencil kit, and for the rest of my visit, we spent hours drawing together. Gizelle, the four year old daughter of my niece Susan, also drew along with us.

Me by Jadis
Chrysanthemums by me

While everyone was back to school or work my last day in Massachusetts, I drove off on my own to Cape Cod.
Buzzard's Bay Train Station with the Cape Cod Canal Railroad Bridge

In Sandwich, MA, after a lobster dinner and a walk in the dusk on a silvered wood boardwalk, I came to the top of a rise while the red sun set behind me and the moon cast a silver trail on the Atlantic Ocean waves before me. It seemed odd to be looking at the ocean and having the sun setting behind me after years of experience with the Pacific Ocean in the West.

Other news: my daughter Sunshine/Lauren was working as a nanny in Canada for much of this year, but she moved to Cleveland a few months ago. She started a Facebook fan page for herself under the name Chef Raw La La then Sweet Raw La La. She has quite a following at her website, where she blogs and posts photos of herself and recipes and photos of her raw food preparations. Her website is evolving along with her eating, now it’s called Health Exhibitionist, since she has reintroduced some cooked foods into her diet. It’s amazing the gorgeous photos she can take with her Mac laptop. Here’s one:

Sunshine/Lauren

Following are some other images from this year.

May God bless you at Christmas and always.

Roseanne

Linda (my ex sister in law once removed) injured her foot about the same time, so we got together for a cast party
Linda's son, my nephew Jeff and his son Cole came too, and signed my cast.
Coworker Candice came to my home for a remote Data Domain Friday beer bust and snapped this
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