Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seventh Day of Christmas Greetings!

I think.

I mean, when is it really Christmas--the Christ Mass?

Sextus Julius Africanus, an early historian calculated in 221 A.D. that the Incarnation took place on March 25, Nine months later would be December 25, conveniently four days after the winter solstice—the shortest day of the year.

But there is some evidence, based on passages in Luke, that Jesus was born in late September or early October. Other people claim that He was at other times during the year.

The historical western Church has celebrated Jesus' birth on December 25 since 273 A.D., and many western churches still celebrate twelve days of Christmas with the Feast of Lights (coming of the Wise Men) on January 6. Eastern (orthodox) churches, however, used to celebrate Jesus birth and baptism on January 6 -- and, according to, a few eastern churches still do so. Most eastern churches celebrate His birth on December 25 and His baptism on January 6.

Many Christians rightly note that the Incarnation of Christ -- His conception -- should take precedence over His birth.

Our consumer culture today would have us believe that Christmas begins just after Labor Day, builds in intensity over a three month period, and ends rather abruptly at midnight on December 25.

As a result, we're sick of Christmas by the time it arrives and we dread its return the next year.

How sad.

No wonder, in the words of John W. Peterson, we have:

"No room, here in the hearts of mankind.
No room, no cheery welcome to find.
No room. Surely the world is blind.
No room."

Ah, well. For me, Christmas is December 25 through January 6 -- all twelve days. Advent ("coming") is the time of preparation that includes the four Sundays before Christmas.

For me, Christmas is about Jesus being born within, not just about His birth 2,000 some years ago, so my preparation time begins in the summer when I begin preparing for the Christmas program at our church. In the writing and in the rehearsing during the fall, something new of Jesus is born in me -- a new understanding of this mystery, a flash of insight into His Word -- and something new of Jesus is born into our church family -- people from first service getting to know people from second and third services, a fourteen-year-old discussing Scripture with a fifty-year-old and an eight-year-old leading us in prayer.

My prayer is that something new of Jesus is born in those who attend the programs, usually held the second or third Sonday in Advent.

This year, our home Nativity set went up on the 20th. And, after years of not putting up a tree, I impulsively put up a table-top one on the 24th.

Both will stay up until January 6. And as long as all the packages and cards are in the mail by the 6th, I count myself as being on time with deliveries -- more or less. ;-)

But who's to say Christmas can't be February 10 or May 3 or August 19? Something new of Jesus can -- should? -- be born in us as often as He and we are willing.

Happy Birthday, Jesus -- today and every day!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mountain Mellow Thankful

Left: Loved this sticker plastered to the wall of a BBQ place in Asheville, NC. Check out Hebrews 11:13-16! (This is not a product endorsement--although I like their Web site and they may have a really great product. But I'm not a customer).

Decisions, decisions. Do I play catch-up with dated postings? Or do I leave vast chunks of my life unreported to my faithful readers and unrecorded for posterity?

Hmmm . . . oh, why not.

This last week of 2009 should be about tying up loose ends, right? Any left untied and that come unraveled after January 1st will leave interesting holes in the pattern.

Meantime, my last posting concerned our pre-Thanksgiving Circus of the Arts Pen Women conference in Sarasota.

We struck the circus tents around noon on Sunday, packed up and vacated the hotel premises. From Sarasota to Safety Harbor is about an hour's drive, and I arrived home at 2 p.m. to find Lee packed and waiting for me to unload the van, repack the bags, load up the other van, and head out. Which we did at 3 p.m. -- how's that for a quick transition?!

This time our destination was North Carolina and a week of mountain mellow with Lee's brother and sister-in-law. And Banjo. Can't forget their lovable Labradoodle.

Above: Dave and Lee enjoy a moment of brotherly bonding over a plate of BBQ.
(Mmmmm -- except we thought Dave liked BBQ and he was being polite. Wh
at a good brother.)

So what am I thankful for this season, this year? I'll let some pictures speak for me.

Left: Sign near Grandfather Mountain in NC.

Sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren who enrich my life in so many ways. Who can resist melting a bit when the eyes of a three-year-old light up in wonder when he puts a "CD" in a Sesame Street player, pushes a button, and hears music playing. This is the same grandson who played "have you heard this song before" all the way home from a Rays game -- and actually listened to each song I sang before answering 'yes' or 'no.'

And have you ever heard a five-year-old princess with the giggles? Or played clapping games with a nine-year-old? Or watched a thirteen-year-old play Ninja air hockey? 'Nuff said.

The beauties
of the earth above and below ground . . .

Left: Formations in Linville Caverns, NC

Right: Fall foilage in Asheville, NC

. . . and for the ones that come to earth from above.

Below: Fat, fluffy flakes of snow began falling just as we finished Thanksgiving dinner.

Left: Some of Lee's work as displayed at the Art Arbor Festival at Boyd Hill Nature Park in St. Petersburg.

Lee's continuing forays into the world of clay. Highlights of our trip to NC were visiting Highwater Clays in Asheville and attending a kiln opening outside of Boone. Read more about each of these adventures at Lee's blog, Formed & Fired Creations in Clay.

Left: Nancy's daughter-in-law, Shelley, and I put this puzzle together over Thanksgiving. One of the best designed puzzles I've done in a long time -- odd fittings and shapes. Not that I've had much time for puzzles lately, which made it doubly enjoyable.

Time to play . . .

. . . and time to reconnect with forever friends.

Right: We had lunch with Sandy Houser, a friend from our first days in Florida, and her brother Tom before heading home to Florida.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finding a Magic Island at the Circus of the Arts

Left: Laura Vaughan and I co-chaired this year's conference. See that fuzzy boa she's wearing? One of our members knit a boa for every attendee -- in an assortment of funky colors!
Photo by Helene LeBrun, Gainesville Branch, NLAPW

Clowns cavorted, word acrobats wrote guerilla poetry, improv artists created theater, jewelry sprang from the imagination, and music filled the air -- all at the Florida State Association of the National League of American Pen Women's 2009 Biennial Conference, Circus of the Arts!

Held November 19-22 at the Hyatt Regency in Sarasota, the conference allowed members -- professional women writers, artists, and composers of many types -- to connect with colleagues from around the state.

As conference co-chairs, Laura Vaughan, from the Daytona Beach branch, and I, from the Clearwater branch, reached across the state to organize the conference, held in a third location in the county south of where I live.

Talk about a three-ring circus!

The emails flew back and forth, and women from other parts of the state contributed ideas and elbow grease. In the end, it was so worth it.
One of our Clearwater Branch co-president's, Charrie Hazard Moscardini, displays the poster, featuring branch activities, we created for the conference's Parade of Presidents. Photo by Helene LeBrun, Gainesville Branch, NLAPW

We shared ideas about how to market our work, learned how to make our Web sites roar like a lion, and listened to musical compositions ranging from symphonies to songs for children. Our members-only contests drew about 250 entries total, and we distributed about $2,800 in prize money.

So what did I get out of the conference?

Aside from some new friends and great ideas, my most serendipitous moment came Saturday evening when the hotel miscounted the places they set. Instead of setting up six tables of 10, they set up six tables of eight -- needless to say, we had a bit of confusion when our state and national presidents and a dozen or so other members walked in to the dinner and had no seats.

Good humor prevailed, however, and the hotel hurriedly brought in an extra table and squished in other place settings at the already seated tables. But it meant that a few of us found ourselves with unexpected dinner partners.

I joined a table comprised of women from the Sarasota and Southwest Florida branches. On my right, was a woman who, for 18 months, sailed much of the world in a boat built by her husband when he retired. Imagine!

But it was while I was chatting with the woman on my left that I felt my stomach do one of those "Oh my" flip-flops. Readers of this blog will know of my passion for children's literature -- and this woman, Elizabeth Waterston (not the actress), turned out to be co-editor of The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery (five volumes).

Yes, THE L. M. Montgomery who wrote Anne of Green Gables.

Waterston also wrote Magic Island, published in 2008, a readers' guide to Montgomery's work.

Oh my, oh my, oh my.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Home Again, Home Again Jiggety-Jig

It's been a busy week in Lake Woe . . . oops, wrong show. Apologies, Mr. Keillor.

But it has been a busy three weeks in Writer-ville. A statewide conference in Sarasota -- I'll tell you all about it and, yes, that's a mustachioed me! -- a week in North Carolina and all the catching up to do once we returned home.

PLUS our church Christmas program is this coming Sonday, December 13, at 9 and 11 a.m., which means a bulletin and PowerPoint to prepare and all the last-minute costumes, mikes, and props to pull together.

Then there's my day job.

"Are you working?" people ask me. What they mean is, "Have you found a job working for somebody else yet?"


I'm a freelance, self-employed writer who works at least 40 hours a week and often more. I write ad copy, I'm in the second round of editing a travel guide to the Tampa Bay area, and I write short stories and articles, some of which get published and paid for. Other work I do is along the lines of promoting myself and my work through involvement with a couple of different organizations, and still other work is volunteer work for our church and elsewhere.

But it's all work and I work hard at what I do. I also happen to love what I do and working.

So . . . the next few posts will be to catch up my faithful readers on my whereabouts and activities as I've been gallavanting, cavorting and otherwise carrying on for the last few weeks. It's been a circus -- and more!