Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Banishing the Shadow

 Our kitchen has two types of lights: recessed incandescent lighting (mounted in an annoying structure that reduces overhead space) and a fluorescent ceiling light in the middle of the room. Because of their position, neither lights the back side of the counter directly. If one is standing at the counter working, one is usually casting a shadow on the work area.

In the darkened hours of winter, the window above the sink does a poorer job of eliminating this lack of illumination. So the area at which we spend most of our kitchen time is enshrouded in a perpetual shadow of grey (not improved by the overcast climate in which we live):

Sara, fed up with peeling, pouring, and scrubbing in penumbral grey, asked me to pick up an under-cabinet light fixture to mount above the sink. After weighing the benefits of fluorescent (brighter but harsher light, medium-life-span bulbs) versus incandescent (shorter bulb life, warmer light, cheaper bulbs) versus LED (medium harshness, Methuselah-like bulb life, lower consumption, muy expensive bulbs), I chose the LED model. After a hunt for my drill and bits that took longer than the installation time, we now have a bright sink area:

On a side note: during lunch, out of the blue, Gwendolyn announced that there were "two lights for each sink." I had to ask to clarify if she was talking about the new LED lights we were going to install today. She said yes. Sara picked up the bar of lights and showed me that there were indeed four lamps on the bar.

I think the preschool program she's going to has been teaching my daughter division. As if I didn't have enough to keep up with!

~ emrys

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas I

Today we visited a fundraising event put on by the Bektash Shriners of Concord, New Hampshire, called the "Fez"tival of Trees. Every year one hundred and fifty persons, businesses, and organizations decorate Christmas trees and place them in the large Shriners' hall. Patrons purchase tickets (the price of which will go to the Shriners' charity work), and with their tickets can bid on their favorite trees. At the conclusion of the event, tickets are drawn as a raffle and the decorated trees go home with the winning patrons.

Gwendolyn and her grandparents had a ball taking in the lights, colors, and shapes adorning the trees. The Shriners put together a scavenger hunt for kids that Grandad and Gwendolyn completed before we put up our feet with hot chocolate and cider. To a three-and-a-half-almost-four-year-old the event was better than an amusement park.

I strolled around the hall, my infant son in his seat ogling quietly at the lights and colors. We passed trees decorated in snowman themes, others trimmed as shameless business promotions (an office of dentistry decked its tree with toothbrushes and toothpaste), and at least four streamed with red, white, and blue in patriotic fervor. One tree hosted a pile of tools beneath its boughs, the crown of which was a DeWalt chopsaw; next to that tree was a puddle of drool from all the men whose raffled tickets had gone into its pot. Some trees were gaudy, others garish, and many gorgeous.

None of them was Christian.

I noticed early a lack of images derived from the original meaning of the term "Christmas" ("Christ's Mass"). The sole icon of Christianity I saw was a four-by-three-inch creche ornament hung on a tree labelled "Classic Christmas Tree"; the same tree's branches held CDs of Beethoven and a boxed set of VHS "Lord of the Rings" films.

I should not be surprised. Yet by sheer probability (there were one hundred and fifty trees, remember) I anticipated a few that would honor the definition of Christmas as the arrival of Jesus the Christ into the world. But there was not a one.

I try to avoid the tired lament I hear too often in churchy circles about "putting Christ back in Christmas." It seems to me that this cry can hide a misguided desire to get mainstream culture to validate our faith by civil subscription. But I found the sentiment rising up in me out of this vast tide of Christmas-like decor and nearly finding its way to my lips. The bait-and-switch character of the "holidays" to which we are exposed around every winter solstice has begun to impress itself upon me. The dissonance has begun to make the teeth of my soul grind.

The solution? I am suspicious that shouting "Christ!" ever more loudly into the cacophony of holiday Masses may do nothing but irritate further everyone involved. Silence makes for a better resolution to dissonance.

Perhaps it is time for the Church to reclaim her story by the silence she knew for the first millennium of her existence. Perhaps it is time for us again to abstain completely from Christmas.

~ emrys

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Next Joan of Arc

Setting: At the supper table, three days ago.
Cast: Emrys, Sara, Precocious Three-And-A-Half-Year-Old "G"

G: Daddy?

E: Yes, My Lovely.

G: [points at huge FedEx box that arrived two days before, and has been sitting in kitchen] When are we going to open your package?

E: It's work stuff. I'm sure you would find it totally boring.

G: [slowly, deliberately, loudly] Is it paperwork?

[E & S laugh until they cough, then recover gradually]

E: I don't remember teaching you that word. Who taught you that word?

G: [nonchalant, returning to her meal] God.

E: [aside] I hate it when my kids go over my head.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


At a gathering this morning I asked for prayer that my residual back pain from my incident 20 months ago be taken away. As of that prayer time, the twinges of pain are gone. God is still doing awesome things through Christ.

~ emrys

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Le plus ca change,

le plus c'est la meme chose.

The latest alteration to our home's configuration is the migration of the "guest bed" (which is usually where Sara and I sleep when family guests sleep in our room) to what used to be the "office." A couple weeks ago I moved the "guest bed" out; in order to give it some small modicum of privacy, we decided to hang curtains to partition off the space. Here is the old "office" with "guest bed" taking up most of its floor space:
 Yes, you see right: that's my three-and-a-half year old using the studfinder on the wall. I think she was concerned about the arrangement of pictures on that wall.

Two curtains and one curtain-wire from Ikea, three holes in the wall, and about an hour later:
Voila! A guest room with a little privacy. We're dreaming of putting a Murphy bed on the left wall, so that we can use the floor space until guests arrive. But at present the Murphy bed is beyond our budget, and the curtains within it. So there we are.

~ emrys


To celebrate my mom's birthday, we had her up to our place and treated her to supper out at our favorite rural-meets-urban restaurant: the Main Street Grill & Bakery in Afton. Since Chris lives only ninety minutes away for the time being, he popped over to join the fun.

~ emrys