Monday, December 27, 2010

"And ransom captive Israel..."

We went to church on Christmas Eve afternoon with Jeff's mom, and it was a simple, lovely, musical service. There was a band, maybe five musicians, and the service began with everyone standing to sing a few well-known hymns. Then everyone sat down, there was another song or two, and then a woman came to the microphone to do a short reading from the Bible.

I'm not a religious person, and I've really never been a religious person. But, I have my moments -- thoughts and situations that truly move me, often on both a spiritual and a human level, if that makes any sense. At Christmas Eve mass, the reading from the Gospel was about the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary, telling her that she would bear a child even though she was a virgin, and that her Son would change the world. I listened to the reading as a mother of two young sons. Imagine being pregnant, and being told that your baby will grow into an amazing and incredible person, someone who will have a positive impact on people's lives, even hundreds and hundreds of years into the future. Whether you believe the prophecy, or you think you must be losing your marbles, it's got to be overwhelming to think that the baby who won't stop kicking you and who makes you have to pee every half hour, will grow into a man who will change the history of the world.

It's probably no big surprise that, having these kinds of thoughts, I began to get teary-eyed during the reading. Right after the reading, it happened: one or two of the musicians started playing "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," one of my favorite hymns, dating back to my Roman Catholic childhood. It did me in. I was mouthing the words even though the musicians weren't singing, and tears were running down my cheeks. I was sitting on the end of our row, and Ryan was next to me. He'd been leaning on me sometimes, or holding my hand. When he saw that I was crying, he kept looking at me, touching me, and once he wiped the tears from my face. The band started singing the hymn, but I don't remember if everyone sang; I don't think so, I think it was only the musicians.

Thinking of the years I went to Catholic Church always reminds me of my dad. Thinking of motherhood made me think of my mother, too, and that she only passed away 14 months ago. I wondered what my sons will be like when they grow up. Ryan didn't ask why I was crying, just leaned against my arm and held my hand. (There's some hope yet, maybe he'll turn out all right!) And Jeff, ever the caretaker, yet seemingly unaware at times that his wife's thoughts and emotions are too complicated to explain, began to whisper, "Are you okay?" and "What's the matter?" Thankfully we were in the back row of the balcony, where few people outside my family would notice me -- and the church was mostly dark anyway.

So it was Mary and Gabriel, Jesus the Savior, the two beautiful yet frustrating boys whom Jeff and I brought into the world, the mother and father (now gone, both of them) who brought me into the world, and Grandma without Papa, and the idea that the only reason Jesus was born was to die, that He died so we could live, so hopefully our loved ones aren't really gone, but are waiting peacefully for us to join them... It was ALL of those things that did me in, and this:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Those who are in pain, who are imprisoned, whose lives are constant struggle, who grow closer each day to losing all hope: Rejoice! You will be saved, your suffering will end!

I'm not a religious person, not really, but the message touches me deeply, and I try to believe it. And I've always, always loved that song.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

News & notes: books, housecleaning, fixing the PC, Black Friday

I took today off work to get some things done that I hadn't gotten done last weekend, since I was fighting a cold and not sleeping well (due to stuffiness, etc.), and though I got some extra rest in the morning after the boys left for school, the rest of my day was spent dusting and vacuuming. Yes, my house desperately needed my attention, more than my blog, more than my backlog of e-mail, and what have you. I listened to two old episodes of That's How I Blog, a Blog Talk Radio show hosted by Nicole, from the book blog Linus's Blanket. It made the dusting part of my day very enjoyable. But alas, I didn't do any reading. Or blogging, or blog-hopping and commenting. And I didn't spend any time on LibraryThing. :-( I really hope to catch up on LT around the holidays, when the boys will have no sports, no school, no homework, and we'll have a couple more days out of work.

Books I've read the past couple weeks: Push by Sapphire, which was often disturbing, ultimately inspiring, and so good; A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict by John Baxter, which was a really fun read; and I've started reading the very well-reviewed novel The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, and am enjoying it so far. As you can probably tell because I said I listened to podcasts today, I don't have an audiobook going at the moment ... but soon, I'll decide which one to go with next.

I spent a lot of time during last weekend -- the long Thanksgiving weekend, when I was sick with this cold -- backing up the boys' computer and re-installing their Windows Vista. I'd never actually done that kind of thing before, only re-installed Windows XP on our machine a few years ago when our hard drive croaked and we had to get a new one and sorta start from scratch. The whole backing up wasn't too bad, but every damn time I tried to restore their system from the backup, Vista gave me an error message, "The Backup and Restore, blah blah, has stopped working." So I couldn't select the extra hard drive (they have a C and a D, two partitions, I guess), and when I saved MOST of the 66 backup files from D onto a blank DVD (checking every single damn file to see which ones were most critical, since I would have needed two DVDs to get all 66 parts), I couldn't select the DVD drive either --- it just kept giving me that freaking error message. So finally, I just started copying pieces from the backup files over onto the now-mostly-clean C drive -- moving documents, favorites, etc., folder by folder, or file by file. I wish I'd just checked with a computer-savvy friend or co-worker to fix it for us, but I was obsessed with getting it done ASAP. I must have done more good than harm, because the thing that was driving us crazy -- the endless "installing updates" on shutdown, that wouldn't actually install the updates OR shut down the computer, so we'd finally give up and push the power button -- has not recurred since then. AND, copious updates have been installed or re-installed without hanging up the system.

Black Friday: Kyle went out shopping with Jeff and Stacy to Wal-Mart, and that lucky kid got an iPod Touch 4th generation. I also got an iPhone for Jeff as an early anniversary gift, so Kyle spent most of the weekend trying to "FaceTime" with his dad. It's a little goofy making "FaceTime" calls to people who are in the same house. I'm staying with my 2nd generation Touch since it has all my apps, e-books, data, music, & podcasts on it. I mean, like I really want to start over with a new period calendar app after last month's period from hell. (See post about Coumadin, a few weeks ago. On the 13th day, God had mercy on Marie and the period finally slowed down & stopped. Marie was overjoyed, but is not looking forward to the next period & expects it to be just as bad as the last.) Jeff and Kyle both went with me to Hastings later in the morning, where I didn't go TOO hog-wild over books: I got two used books for me, 40% off of each, two used books Ryan had requested, plus two new copies of young adult books because all the kids' & YA books were buy one, get one free, with a 4-hour coupon. The used books I got were The Autograph Man by the superb Zadie Smith, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the book group's selection for January. (We're taking December off.) The YA books were Before I Die by Jenny Downham, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

I have to take a minute to thank Jeff. He had a basketball game tonight, and because it was an early game (630pm), he let the boys go with him so they could watch his game. After they came home, he said he'd take them out to get gas in the car, and stop by Grandma's so they could visit, while he brought her van over to the gas station to fill it up. There's no way I could have written this post -- and it surely wouldn't have been this lengthy -- if he hadn't taken the boys out tonight, TWICE. I told him I'd be done when they got back, so I'm going to close here to get a head start, before the garage door signals their return. ;-)