Happy Christmas Eve! What a great day of anticipation and wonder! Even though, isn’t it interesting, the first Christmas Eve was completely unknown to the world, outside of expectant mother and father as they awaited their son’s birth. I thought I might share some origins of different customs in the Christmas universe for you today, to help you prepare expectantly. My hope is that as it is every Christmas, you would be caught up, not in the trappings that lay on top of the story and the event, but that you would be again in awe of just exactly what God has done for you, and for this world.
Also, I wanted to let you know that after over four months straight of writing (besides one day), with over 480 pages of a column, I’m going to take a little Christmas vacation for this next week. Cheri is off work at noon today, and I want to spend some time spoiling her rotten. I’ll drop in before the New Year, but I thank you in advance for your indulgence, and I pray your Christmas season (which goes until January 6, remember!) will be truly blessed.
The work of going out into the forest and chopping down a tree to bring inside the house at this time of the year belongs to the Germans, although the first Christmas tree lot in America opened up in 1851, probably because folks were tired of people chopping down their landscape… by the way, the tradition of “trimming the tree” did not mean you cut branches down. It’s from the Middle English, trimmen, which mean to put in order. We trim the tree just as we have all the “trimmings” of the feast, which helps to round out and make things more beautiful.
One crazy tradition that goes back to the 1800s was to place a glass pickle as one of the ornaments on the Christmas tree. Apparently, although the Germans don’t know what we are talking about, FW Woolworth imported glass ornaments, including pickles from Germany, and the tradition was that the first child to find the ornament on the tree would get another gift. I hope it wasn’t a pickle.
The lighting of a Christmas tree has many legends. The oldest perhaps is that Martin Luther coming home from church, was struck by the beauty of the stars seeming to twinkle in the trees, so he went home and tied lit candles to the branches of his Tannenbaum. Risky business. For many folks who carried on that tradition, on Christmas eve, they would gather folks around the tree, light the candles on the tree, sing a song (like O Tannenbaum), and then blow out the candles quickly so they didn’t set fire to the tree. The first electric lights for a tree came into being in 1882 in America. Again, they were not the cute tiny amped little lights that are part of most trees today – they were hot and bright, and were supposedly only lit with people around on Christmas eve and Christmas morning. That’s a little different than our tree, which spends hours lit so the cats can sleep underneath in a nice warm Christmas cat look.
When the Brothers Grimm wrote the terrifying children’s story of Hansel and Gretel, who are one shove of a witch into the oven away from being supper themselves, the tradition of making edible tasty houses began. Made of gingerbread, they really had nothing to do with Christmas, except for the gingerbread and tasty part.
Once again, the Germans came up with the Advent Calendar, right around 1905, to keep the children occupied and anticipating throughout the Advent season by opening a door that revealed some kind of treat or Christmas scene. When I think of the fact that Mom and Dad wouldn’t put up our tree until around December 21st, since it would set off the four-day anticipation with seven kids, I can’t imagine yanking the old Advent calendar out, thinking it would calm everyone down…
The tradition in the church of having the retelling of the Nativity story, with living members creating the scene around the manger is very old. It’s reported to have begun around 1223ad. That’s nearly 800 years of people dressed up in bathrobes, carrying boxes and bottles to give to the plastic baby Jesus. Back in the early 90s, at Faith United Methodist, they would offer a Live Nativity scene on the lawn of the church. The apparent tradition was that when it was scheduled, the weather would show up like this morning in the Dakotas -- -8 degrees, with a windchill of -30. Everyone in the scene looked pretty sturdy and well-fed, due to the fact that their would wear parkas under the costumes. I was always given the role of 2nd king. Aaron was frequently disappointed that I only carried frankincense (whatever that was!) and I never got my hand on the gold. Ah, gentle Christmas memories.
By the way, the creation of Christmas wreaths was to create the circle that represented eternal life. The holly and ivy attached was a symbol of Christ’s crown of thorns. One of our crown of thorns blew off the front of the house yesterday in our blizzard, and son Adam bravely went out and retrieved it from the front lawn…
Finally, in 1670, a choirmaster in a German town became fed up that year after year, as they were holding the Christmas eve service with Live Nativity, that the children of the congregation didn’t know how to keep quiet, so that, of course, the beautiful music the choirmaster led the choir to sing could be heard. He came up with the idea of asking a candymaker in town to make some “sugar sticks” that he could hand out to the children to suck on during the service, and therefore keeping them quiet. I’m not sure how thrilled the parents were to then get hopped up kids with a sugar high to go home and get to sleep with visions of sugarplum dancing in their heads.
Apparently, to justify handing out candy to children for worship, the choirmaster had the candymaker put a crook on the end of the stick, supposedly to remind the children of the shepherds watching their flocks by night. The colors, eventually red and white, came to symbolize both the purity of Christ, and his sacrifice on the cross. Suck on that, you little imps.
I’m sure you have your own family’s traditions. One that I have carried on from my father was that he had to go into the living room first and “check and see if Santa had come.” We found out later it was so he could turn on the tree before the hoard came rushing in. After his task, he would come back to all of us lined up in the hall and announce, “Well, Santa didn’t come – we might as well go back to bed…” which was met with a resounding “NO!” and the racing of the kids into the living room to witness the sight of what could only be described as parent’s love and Christmas wonder.
As I said, my hope and prayer is that you – wherever you are – will know that you are loved by the One who made you, and who brought the Son into this world for your sake, and for your eternal life. The greatest gift of Christmas, surely, has already been opened and shared. May Joy be in this world, and may you find your home this Christmas in the light of God’s powerful and tender love. Merry Christmas – we’ll see you soon.
Word for the Day: creche. You know how it’s pronounced – you can make it fancy and have it sound like its origins in French, but today apparently we leave off the accent to the last “e.” Anyway, “creche” sounds much gentler than “feeding trough,” or “fodder bin,” which is what it originally meant in the 13th century. Spelling was kind of an optional art at that time, so sometimes it would be called a “cratch,” as in “She brought forth her firstborn son, and laid him in a cratch…”
When I toured Israel, in Jerusalem, they showed us a manger. It was a big block of limestone, which was the building material there, that had the top hewn out to make a place where the straw or hay could be dropped in for the cattle. Up in the Galilee, we saw another, but since that area has lots of volcanic rock, it was a black manger made of that material. Quite the different image than the alpine logs nailed together! I also expect the cattle were lowing because the baby was in their food dish…
I think we may lose our outdoor wreaths, but I’m not going back outside to try to take them down.
They – that is, the folks who spend their days looking at all sorts of maps and magic charms, and then tell the rest of us what the weather is going to be like over the coming days or weeks – have been saying for a few days that right before Christmas, we could be in for a storm that would pretty much look like the one at the North Pole on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with tinsel blowing off the trees, and packages getting unwrapped. Nobody wants one, and nobody needs one, even if it will give us a white Christmas.
Well, yesterday – and you will understand its importance in a minute – I decided it was time to clean out the refrigerator, in preparation for the feasts of Yuletide. Actually, I had been looking at the thing for a number of weeks, and trying to figure out just how many different condiments one family could possibly claim. All sorts of things that go way beyond the ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and ranch dressing, we have had things in our refrigerator that have sat there for a long time. A long time. So I decided to move out the stuff one shelf at a time, and check the expiration dates on the things like duck sauce, and vinegar dressing and other items that were purchased for one meal at one time, and then retired to live comfortably at the back of the frig.
It always drives me nuts, because with all those items, there is no room to put anything of significance. Plus, if you do need one item, it’s usually hidden behind the mass of other sauces, liquids and four year old quick yeast.
So off I went. It’s amazing, at the end of 2020, how many items have been stored in our refrigerator since before their expiration in say, 2018, or even 2016. I started stacking them on the counter, and then it spread to a second counter, and pile on top of each other. Of course, I took the opportunity to clean off all the now-empty shelves, and to put back in the refrigerator the very few items that remained. The thing really looks great, with regained capacity, and without knowing it, I heard from my beloved that I had given her the best Christmas gift she could think of – a clean refrigerator.
That being done, I still had the task of actually throwing out the pounds and pounds of useless stuff. I found a big black garbage bag, and carefully dropped it all in there, which was fine, until I tried to lift it. Garbage weighs a lot! Finally, using both my hands and most of my strength, I hauled it into the garage.
The city had announced that due to the holiday week, all trash pickup would happen one day earlier than normal. I saw this as my chance. I opened the trash can, and what to my wondering eyes – it was just about completely full with pizza boxes, and Styrofoam order in lunch containers and such. Almost defeated, I then recalled the physics of a trash compactor. No matter how much is in a container, when downward pressure is exerted, there is usually room for more. I took three deep breaths like a weightlifter, and cleaned and jerked the black bag up and into the garbage can, letting it drop a good three feet. Remarkably, the trash including the bag now only took up about half the can, with enough room to put the other trash in, which also somehow weighed a ton this week.
Normally I put the trash out the morning of the pickup, but listening to the forecast, I figured I would get ahead of hauling it out in the wind and snow and park it at the end of the driveway last night. Brilliant, because it was really heavy, and to try to push it through snowdrifts would not have been fun.
About 3am I began to hear the wind. The wind is really an interesting thing because it’s invisible, and the sound it makes comes from nowhere. Early this morning, it didn’t matter where it came from, but it came! The wind right now is blowing straight out of the north at 45mph, with gusts over 61mph. Respectable. So, when I awoke for the final time at 6am, away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and looked at the end of the driveway to see the condition of the garbage can. In our neighborhood, it is not uncommon to see cans in a wide range of conditions, with the lids off, turned cockeyed, and some blown clean into the middle of the street by the wind come sweeping down the plains. I looked out the window, and there it was, standing like the Washington Monument, unmoved. Sure, the lid had been slapped open, but between the heavy bag of normal trash and the monster black bag, I doubt any wind shy of a Cat-5 hurricane could move the garbage can!
My only concern, of course, is that as our blizzard continues to rage until tonight at midnight, whether the sanitation engineers have made the strategic decision to punt trash collection day, one day early, and kick back and watch the extreme winter weather. We will just have to see.
But the weather magicians were right this time. The threat of the weather, and then its onslaught meant that schools in Fargo are closed today, which gives an extra day of Christmas vacation. Actually, the concept of learning anything the day before Christmas break is pretty far-fetched, so I would guess the school officials just decided to punt it, I’m sure to the delight of the parents in Fargo who now had to figure out what to do with their children while they tried to work. Fortunately, with lots of things still shut down, people are working from home, so it’s just a matter of throwing food at the little darlings, turning on the TV and shutting the door.. Merry Christmas.
Of course, my dear wife, as a women’s health nurse practitioner, still had an open clinic today, so at 7am, her chauffeur, having warmed up the car, drove her the few miles to her work. What a mess. The only good thing is there were about 6 other cars on the road at that time. Still, you have to wonder why any woman would go out in this weather to go to the clinic for an appointment, especially two days before Christmas… Oh yeah – that’s right – school’s out and the kids are home. Time for Mom to go to her appointment… I’ll be back in a few hours or so…
So – let it snow. We live our lives in the midst of whatever the world brings to us. To believe and expect it will always be 72 degrees and sunny with a light breeze is pretty silly, unless you live in Hawaii, I guess. Actually, that’s something to consider. Anyway, it’ll be better tomorrow – a low of -10 and the wind will still be around, but it’ll be better, and it’ll be Christmas Eve!
Word for the Day: umbriferous. Pronounced um-BRIFF-er-us. Latin, of course, and when you hear where it comes from, it makes perfect sense. Umbra, meaning “shade,” and ferre, “to bear.” So the word simply means, “shady.” However, we find a couple of other words that come out of these first ones. “Umbrella” is Latin by way of Italian which means “little shade.” Now, you might think that “ferre” takes us to “ferry,” as someone is borne across a lake or river, but that is actually from Old English and German, meaning the very same thing – to carry or transport. Either way, most likely if you are in an umbriferous location, you won’t need an umbrella.
(Just so you know, I’m the hero this time…)
So, it’s Christmastime in the city. It’s also really dark in the mornings, until about almost 8:45, and tomorrow, we get to have our first big winter storm, with high winds and wind chills down past -30. It’s Christmastime in the city.
So, with Cheri getting her CoVid shot on Saturday (she’s doing well, thanks…), that meant we needed to pretty much shelter in place on Friday and Saturday so she wouldn’t be inadvertently exposed to anyone, which would scuttle her chance to get a shot, and push it back to the middle of January. So, our plans to make a quick trip to Grafton to deliver Christmas presents and peanut brittle to the family up there ended up not happening. They have also had a pretty strong outbreak of the virus in the entire northern region, so even to head up this week was ill-advised.
I finally decided late Sunday that I would just mail the packages via UPS on Monday, and if they didn’t arrive in time, it was ok – peanut brittle tastes just as good the week after Christmas. So we wrapped and packed and went through the same stuff I went through two weeks earlier when I had to mail all the packages down south. One issue about peanut brittle is that as tasty and thin and wonderful as it is, with just a few unprotected knocks or tossing of the package into a bin with other packages, because the package frankly doesn’t belong to the person tossing it, and so they really don’t care if it gets destroyed along the way, the peanut brittle, I have found, can turn quickly into peanut brittle dust, good for only putting on top of ice cream. That is an incredible taste by the way, but it defeats my purpose of trying to send large pieces for people to delight in.
For more than a decade, I have worked to find out how to keep nice thin candy from being obliterated. My best results have come from packing the brittle in a number of small packages, well cushioned both inside and out, and then putting it all in a big enough box that you can fill with almost a year’s worth of plastic grocery bags, by far the best and most economical source for packaging. It also lets you get rid of almost a year’s worth of plastic grocery bags, so it’s a win-win. Anyway, the packing went along swimmingly, and all sealed up, the final shake produced almost no brittle noise whatsoever. But that’s not the part where I am the hero. Stay tuned.
Monday morning brought a flurry of tasks for someone who is retired, and should probably just sit back at the dining room table and look at the backyard with a cup of coffee in hand. If you can believe it, I had THREE things on my list! Oh, how will I ever get through? I took Cheri to work, across very icy roads, and then went around to the other side of the clinic to have blood drawn for my blood tests. Always one of my favorite activities, in part because since they don’t really know who I am, instead of calling, “Mr. Cross,” they call “Randolph?” Now, yes, that’s my legal name, that my mother loved in part because it reminded her of Randolph Scott, the cowboy star, even though my middle name isn’t “Scott” – it’s Martin. It used to be that the only time I was called Randolph was when Mom was mad at me, but with her passing, it now only happens when I go to the drive through in the bank, and when I go to the clinic.
So, tie off my arm with a piece of bicycle innertube, pump up my veins, stab me, push the needle in further when you shove the little plastic vial on to the needle, fill it up, pull it out, band aid, and I’m on my way. That meant two task down already!
I then drove across the wide avenue, avoiding the cars that were late for work, and popped into the UPS store, conveniently located. I grabbed my package, opened the door without touching the handle, and sure enough, two people were in line ahead of me at 8:05am. Getting closer to the hero thing…
The first customers could have fooled anyone to think this was the first time they mailed anything. Instead of bringing packages, they brought bags of what appeared to be all sorts of Christmas cookies. After some negotiation, the exasperated UPS agent got them to understand there would be a charge for UPS to both pack and ship the goodies. Apparently that was fine, and after deciding which bags were going to each of three destinations, they were weighed and calculated, and the cost at a bit over $100 was reported. The couple then decide to figure out how much cash they had instead of using a debit or credit card. The husband started pulling $20 bills out of his wallet, and handing them to the wife, since apparently she was the one who was to pay for the bill. Only, he didn’t give her $100 – he gave her $20 at a time, waiting to see what she would produce out of her purse. She found a $20, and he matched it, and so on it went for a good five minutes. I can’t imagine what their financial accounting was like. Finally, she handed a wad of money over to the agent, who counted it out, and then told them they had given her $20 too much. As she stretched out her hand to give the bill back to the wife, the husband threw out a very impressive ninja snatch and returned the bill to his wallet. Silence for a moment, and then they completed their transaction, and shuffled out of the store.
This left me one customer away from doing what I came to do. A large, tall fellow had a small box, and handed it over to the agent. She said, “It is scheduled for delivery on Wednesday, but it may be next Monday or Tuesday.” He stood utterly amazed that, simply because he decided to mail a package across the country three days before Christmas Eve, that it might not arrive in time. He recounted that to her, that he had gone online and on line told him that it would be there on Wednesday, and would only cost a fraction of what she said it would cost. Try it again. She said it indeed showed that normally the delivery would be on Wednesday, but with the enormous amount of things being shipped this year, it may not make it until after Christmas. Silence. She again said it would hopefully be there by Wednesday, but there was nothing she could do.
Now, I don’t know if he was suspicious that she was holding out on a Wednesday delivery slot in Utah or something, but he tried again. But the online said Wednesday. Yes, that is the scheduled time, but we can’t guarantee it. But it could be there on Wednesday. Yes, but more likely it will be delivered next Monday. Silence. She then offered that the only way it would be guaranteed by Christmas eve would be next day air. (Now, if you have ever sent something overnight or next day, you know that it requires you to cash in a number of bonds or stocks to pay for it…) He then asked, “How much is that?” She punched in a couple of buttons, and said, “That would be $227.60.” For a little box. Standing 6 feet away, even I laughed at that idea. Unless it was a human heart, that’s a lot of money!
He finally said, “Well, let’s go with UPS ground. It’ll probably be there on Wednesday.” It was good that the agent at this point was wearing a mask. “it could be there then, but most likely next Monday.” She didn’t add, “Idiot” to the statement, which was a grand gesture of her discretion. He finished and walked out, probably displeased that UPS had not decided to carry the box on a plane to its destination.
Finally, I was next. Here’s the hero part. I walked up and said, “Well that was fun.” Her eyes initially told me that I was completely wrong, even as a joke. She checked my package, and asked how I wanted to send it. I told her no hurry, that UPS ground was fine, and I knew how busy they all were, and it would be just fine if it got there next week. She then looked at me, and I think I saw a smile under her mask, and she said, “Well, it looks like it will be there by Wednesday…” She said it was only going 120 miles away, so they might even deliver it on Tuesday… I just laughed, and paid for the package, and signed my name, and then I said – here it comes – “You know, I want to thank you for your work. Even right away this morning, I can see that this is kind of a rough time of the year for you.” She looked at me with twinkling eyes, and replied, “Yes it is, Dear.” I told her to just hang in there, and come Friday, it’ll all be over. Once again, as I started to leave, she said, “Thank you, Dear – thanks for a good way to start my morning.”
Now, besides the fact that it was a little uncomfortable to twice be called “Dear” by a young woman who could probably be a daughter, I could tell two things: one, she was happy, and her day was changed because I bothered to say something, and two, I was happy, and my own day was changed because I bothered to say something.
So – say something today. Intentionally take two more seconds, and recognize the work and effort someone is doing to take care of you, or the pain and irritation they have endured while trying to care for someone else. It costs nothing, but it is such a valuable thing. We all enjoy and need a hopeful thankful word. When it is done intentionally, it changes the day, and changes the world, actually. See how many times you can take that action before today is over. Who knows? You may become a hero like I am…
Word for the Day: habile. Pronounced HA-bull, it might be a word you have heard before, or at least you know it’s younger sister. It of course is a Latin word, coming from the Latin habeo, which means “I handle.” The second person active subjunctive of this word is “habeas” from which we have “habeas corpus,” or the fundamental legal right in this nation to come before the court if one is arrested to see whether that arrest is legitimate. The words mean “Handle the body,” or “produce the body,” so that one can’t be simply thrown in jail with no hearing.
Habile, however, is a little different. The word actually means, “to be skillful, or deft.” If you say the word out loud, you will almost hear its sister, which has become far more used. If I am “habile” to do something, I also most likely will be “able” to do that same thing. Today, if you use “habile,” folks will probably think you are just mispronouncing the more common word.
Just a short word for a short day: today is the Winter solstice, the shortest daylight of the year, or if you like, the longest night. Things have been shrinking, daylight wise, since way back on June 21st, when it was light up north way past 9pm, and we enjoyed sitting outside, and grilling, and basking in the heat of the summer, also knowing that we had another 1 ½ months before fall set in. Now, we can expect a good three months – or more – before Spring sets in. That’s life. The word solstice breaks down into two Latin words – sol, which means “sun” and sister, which means “to stand still.” This is the day when the sun no longer falls low in the sky, but stops and turns around. At least, that was the myth before modern, or even medieval astronomy helped us figure out that we were not the center of the universe.
Anyway, enjoy the short day, and the long night. Four days until Christmas!
Now, on to today’s story. As I have written a number of times, one of the nice past times Cheri and I have enjoyed is that on the weekends, we build jigsaw puzzles. We currently have one on the table – not finishing it this weekend – and five more stacked by my file cabinet. We also have two more coming from Springbok, so that will certainly get us into the new year. We work together pretty well, and we are also the kind of puzzlers who, when we have worked on a puzzle for way too long, and are finding only about one or two pieces per hour, that we are not above simply returning that puzzle to its box, and perhaps we will work on it some other time. The year of CoVid does not need to be any more frustrating than it is already, right? The message for this year is “Be kind to your self – there’s enough other garbage to go around…”
The thing about doing jigsaws is that, while we are listening to Christmas music, and we are concentrating on colors and shapes and allowing our brains to fine tune into solving 1000 pieces into one big piece, when we have nothing else to do, it’s easy for time to get away from us. I’ve noticed some afternoons that when we finally say, “Let’s take a break,” it has been sometimes two or even three hours that we have been working on the thing. It’s kind of hypnotic, at least as long as you are getting pieces put together.
This is where our safety switch comes into place. His name is Thor. For some reason, our Siamese wonder-cat has made it his mission to make sure we don’t spend too much time getting lost in any particular project. That’s a fine reason for the brochure about life at the Crosses, but the cold hard truth is that it doesn’t matter how warm it is in the house, Thor is going to be cold. The best remedy for a cold gray cat? An extended stay on his human mother’s lap. Often when I wake up later than Cheri (and I think that even the early birds wake up later than Cheri) and stumble out to the dining room to get my cup of coffee, I’ll notice that Cheri is working on charts and patients for the day, and then a closer look will see a small gray head poking over the top of the table, as Thor has found his way onto the lap, and gets both her warmth and the heat from the laptop.
So, when we working on the jigsaw puzzle, eventually out of the blue we will hear the whiny complaint of Asian feline. Unfortunately, an alarm using only the sense of sound is not sufficient. Thor likes to do a two-step jump onto one of the chairs, and then smackdab onto the middle of the not-quite-assembled puzzle. When a puzzle is not fully put together, that means there are all sorts of little pieces, and barely connected pieces lying around. This is the perfect mix for Thor. As he is whining around, he also is walking around on all the pieces, pushing them back and forth since they are slippery under his paws. At the same time, he has a jet-black skinny tail that is perfect for flicking pieces onto the floor at a very impressive speed. In short, Thor is like what Rocky’s boxing coach said about Clubber Lang/Mr. T: “This guy is a wrecking machine!” In moments from his arrival on the table, chaos ensues. Sometimes he will try to sharpen his clawless claws on the border of the puzzle. Other times, when all else fails, he will simply flop down on the entire puzzle, the way that Siamese can flop, flinging his legs and tail and head in all directions, usually shattering what recent progress we made on creating a beautiful puzzle picture. It’s all putty in his hands.
The final stroke comes as Cheri or I try to carefully remove the intruding cat from the middle of the puzzle by actually lifting him up and out of the way. Realize that this action happens mere moments from his take-no-prisoners raid. Whether it is a learned move, or just an evolutionary trait of Siameses, but as he is lifted up, he moves all four paws as quickly as possible, sort of like a mixer on high being lifted out of the batter. I honesty can say that there have been times when we ended up with more pieces on the floor and under chairs than we did on the table.
And then he’s done. You can almost see him slapping the dust off his paws and putting his little black villain cowboy hat on as he rides into the sunset, or at least to the back of the sofa, where the sun is beaming in. We then are left to try to put the pieces of a broken experience back together, which means we usually just say, “Let’s try this a little later – I don’t have the heart to start over like this.” Which means, of course, that Thor wins…
He honestly is a sweet cat – he’s just a terror if you aren’t paying attention to him. That’s probably why there are practically no Siamese running wild in the forest or jungles. They need an audience.
Now, do I believe Thor is actually intentional about his trashing of the jigsaw puzzle? You betcha! We could bring in the FBI to assess clues, and they would bring back a blue-ribbon report that would simply say, “Yep – you betcha…” And like I said – it works.
Oh, that you and I were as firmly committed to doing good and loving things in this world, as Thor is to committing mayhem on the breakfast table! There are many times when we may even start off well, but either get distracted or grow weary in the good we are called to do. Our intention fades like a watercolor in the sun, and instead, we often find ourselves just going through the motions, and not really focused on sharing love in an excellent way – we just sort of do nice things.
During the Christmas week, let’s give the world a gift. Let’s intentionally love, without ceasing or even slowing down – let’s the sadness and the brokenness from this world in the same say Thor can clear a table – and let’s do so, remembering what God has first done for us with a Love that will not let us go. Let us love, and change the world.
Word for the Day: locuplete. Pronounced LOCK-you-pleet. This just seems to be impossible to guess, unless you took that high school Latin. Indeed, from the Latin, locuples, which is defined as “rich, wealthy or in abundance.” This is broken down to locus, meaning “place” and pleo, meaning, “to fill.” It’s sort of like if you were to stand in one place, and the room around you gets filled with riches, or at least Christmas goodies.
So, if something is locuplete, it is fully stocked, amply fulfilled, fully abundant. It is my hope and prayer that you would experience a locuplete Christmas! And that you would find a way to make someone else’s also that way…
Just wanted to point out that it’s 12-20-2020. That’s a lot of twos.
I’m happy to report that the 2020 Peanut Brittle Campaign is winding down. After a batch tomorrow morning, we will have surpassed the annual 20 pound allotment, and with boxes shipped off to sisters and brother, and others wrapped up for delivery, I’m guessing that once again we will have a few pounds left over – hopefully it will keep. That’s the trouble with making a lot of candy – it’s like going through a buffet and each dish looks great, and so you end up with having to put side wings on your plate, and wheels in order to get it back to your table…
Back when we lived and served a church on the north side of Fargo, we decided it would be fun to decorate the house and make tons of goodies and invite the church members over for an open house on a Sunday afternoon in Advent. We accomplished three things with that: we got the house all ready for Christmas, and we also were able to count it as the annual walkthrough of the parsonage. The third thing that happened, besides being able to enjoy our friends packed into the parsonage, is that we also finished all the baking and goodie making for the season! We were much younger at that time, of course, but I think we probably put together 20-30 different kinds of salty and sweet, sugary and chocolatey yummy things. It was also lots of fun.
The trouble of course is that once you get in the habit of making goodies (we ended up doing it for 12 years in two different churches), when Advent rolls around, it’s hard to hold your horses, and go back to making a reasonable amount of Christmas goodies. Year after year, we ended up making a ton of stuff – for the four of us. Besides the peanut brittle, we made toffee, chocolate nut rolled townhouse crackers, party mix, little cream wafers, peanut butter blossoms, sugar cookies, peppermint balls, and chocolate covered nearly everything, from peanut butter wheat thins, to peanuts, to sunflower seeds to pretzels to broken bits of peanut brittle, and on and on. It was pretty much a diabetic coma in the making…
Finally last year, after we finished building the Christmas Castle of Sugar with all the different kinds of goodies, for some reason they were not displayed for all to eat. Instead, “someone” decided it might be better to just store them out in the sub-freezing garage on the shelf/shelves. Great idea, except for the old maxim, “Out of sight, out of mind.” We made a ton of stuff, but they pretty well sat in the dark garage from the day after Christmas until we threw them out that first warm day of Spring.
There are times in life when you come to a resolution. I remember that one time when I was heading down a ski slope that was probably two levels above what I should be skiing, and I came to the realization that indeed, I could die, or be at least seriously maimed for life on that very slope. Common sense, maturity, and a good dose of fear ended my skiing for my lifetime. The same or similar revelation came like a flash of insightful light as we were throwing all those wonderful goodies in the trash last Spring. The insight was, “Randy – don’t be stupid.” That’s all. Short and sweet.
So this year, as Thanksgiving came and went, and we began four week march to Christmas, we got intentional. So, set the peanut brittle off to the side – I am bound to feed our extended families with it, so I have to make a lot. However, we made the decision: there are four people in the house, and so each person can select a – one – single – no more than one – goodie that they would like made for Christmas. This amounted to close to an 80% drop in goodie making. Sugar futures plummeted, I am sure. And so that’s just what we did -- sort of.
We made peanut butter balls, which are created by mixing Rice Krispies and butter and stuff into balls which are then dipped in chocolate. We made the chocolate wheat thins, which as I mentioned are created by slapping some peanut butter between two wheat thins, and then dipping them in chocolate. Perhaps you are finding a common theme. We did deviate a little when we had a small amount of chocolate left, and so we made some peanut brittle crumb chocolate balls.
The third thing on the list were a little number called Scotcheroos. This is made by mixing Special K with peanut butter and butter and butterscotch chips and then smashing it into a layer in a buttered glass pan, and then pouring a mixture of chocolate chips and more butterscotch chips over the top and letting it cool. I think there is a warning label attached to that one. Finally, we brought out Randy’s favorite, known in most circles as Christmas wreaths, where you take Corn Flakes, and mix then into melted marshmallows and butter, which is infused with green food coloring to look like a forest. They are then topped with red cinnamon hots, and left to cool. Over the years, I have found unnecessary effort needing to be used to make actual little sticky wreaths with a hole in the middle. Doesn’t work, first of all, and it just makes a mess. I have adapted the recipe by calling them Christmas bushes instead. Just drop a nice pile of the green stuff on the parchment paper and toss some red hots on and we are good. Tastes exactly the same, but half the mess.
So there you are! Cross family Christmas goodies Lite. Except that we also made Puppy Chow, where you take Crispix cereal (I am sure that the folks at Kellogg’s ought to write us a thank -you note) and mix it with peanut butter, butter chocolate and butterscotch chips – the whole shebang, and then, just when you think you are done, you pour in nearly 4 cups of powdered sugar and shake it all up. To tell you the truth, I can’t eat it. It hurts the glands at the back of my jaw with the unbelievable sweetness.
And that was that! Except for the triple batch of Party Mix, with a nod to the folks at Chex cereals. And we also got in the mail the big box of fruit flavored candy that we order each year, along with a special candy cane peppermint chewy thing.
I think that’s all. After all, there are only four of us, and …
It’s a tremendous amount of work to be intentionally disciplined to refrain overdoing anything. Especially in this CoVid time, our human nature wants to reward and indulge just for making it through one week after the next, and hearing that indeed, it could be spring before “normal” becomes more than something wished for. “I deserve” is always a dangerous claim to make, since it doesn’t come from any perspective than our own brains. So, an intentional way of thinking slows things down, and considers whether indeed I have or do deserve what I believe I do.
I like to say, “Don’t believe everything you think.” An internal balance is the best tool for intentionality in this world – even if it is over something for Christmas that is chocolate covered…
Word for the Day: apoplanesis. Pronounced apo-plan-EE-sis. If I were to demonstrate the word, I would end up doing anything but doing that, and instead, I would spend my time telling you about something quite different, like the way we set up the Santa figurines on the mantel this year, and put them with the matching reindeer next to them. When you turn the light on over the mantle, it makes for a really nice display, but you know how important light is during this time of the year. Especially up here in the north, even with the northern lights, the days are so short and we have to make the light ourselves. I know a lot of people who use those “White Light” fixtures to get past the winter blues. If that is a problem for you, I would recommend you see your doctor for help.
So, “apoplanesis” really means “leading astray.” You tell someone you will address and issue, and then you simply never do by taking the conversation into a far off field. Politicians are great at not answering in a straightforward manner. I think they get how to do that from both teenagers, cheating spouses, and five year olds…
Two things are absolute truths in our home lately. One is that, outside of Cheri having to go to work four days a week, everyone in the family total has about four appointments, or must dos each week. It’s just not very busy, given the way things are right now. Two – none of us will tolerate being late for something. In fact, it seems like the opposite is true. If we have an appointment at 1:00, and it takes 20 minutes to get to it, we will probably leave about a half hour early, and end up sitting for ten minutes. This of course varies greatly from other members in our extended family on both sides, who keep the philosophy that they are never truly late – they just might not quite be on time, and never early, and usually 10-15 minutes late. By the way it’s also true that the more important the event, the greater the chance they will be later and later in coming.
But enough about them, and back to today’s near-tragedy. Even before CoVid, for my entire life, my hair has grown very fast and very thick. Now, when I was a groovy teenager in the 70s, long thick hair was the thing, and my high school graduation photo shows me having probably 10 pounds of hair on my head. It was beautiful. Of course, as the decades changed, and I changed too, my hair was still thick, but I made the incremental decision to cut it more frequently. I didn’t quite have my dad’s military haircut, but I sure didn’t wear the rock star tresses of old. That is, until March 10, when for us, everything shut down. I probably needed to get my hair cut on March 11, but it was probably June sometime before things opened up enough for me to get the bush on top of my head trimmed up. My then, I was heading to retirement, and most all of my meetings, even those over the internet, and so I got, let us say, a bit lax in making sure things were trimmed up, close to that time as well, I found myself going even a week without shaving – since who cares? – and finally, I let the facial hair go, and ended up growing a rather fashionable beard.
Well, really, I looked more like a mountain man wanna be, just a shaggy old guy. But again, who cares? Cheri didn’t complain, and she is the only one in the world who has sway over my grooming. So, instead of haircuts every 3-4 weeks, I slid into haircuts every 8 or 9 weeks. However, coming into December with Christmas less than a week away, I decided to make a 6 week trip to my haircutter, just to look nice for Santa. I made the appointment online and with various reminders, I knew I was going to get my haircut on Saturday. I wrote it on my computer calendar, and saved the emails, reminded me to git ‘er done.
Cheri asked me almost every day this week when I was getting it cut – I think it was beginning to wear on her sensibilities – and I told her clearly and surely that my appointment was set for 12:30 that Saturday afternoon. In the meantime, she suddenly had two other appointments that cropped up for her – what a busy family we have become, with THREE things to do in a day! So, in order to coordinate, and since I was going to drive her to get her CoVid shot, I once again told her I was set for 12;30pm.
It was all fine and good this morning, as we did some things in the kitchen and then spent some time working on yet another jigsaw puzzle. Cheri said her eyes were bothering her, so she was going to instead take a shower, and I decided, since I had about an hour before my appointment, that I would check my email and the internet.
Now, I get a lot of spam and unwanted ads to buy something new from every website I have purchased anything from lately, from cat food to college sweatshirts to who knows, so I am continually deleting emails as they come in. After deleting one email, my appointment reminder was the next in line, and so it popped up. Yep – that’s right – 12:30 pm. No WAIT! The reminder said my appointment was at 11:30am, and the current time was 11:22AM! I quickly changed clothes and yelled to Cheri that I had the wrong time, jumped in the car for the 15 minute drive that I needed to somehow make in 8 minutes… now is the time for an airplane car…
Well, I zoomed out of our development – almost, as I had to wait for about 30 cars in the busiest traffic on the street for a month. I turned up 25th, and the traffic light that only turns red when a car wants to enter the street (something we don’t have at our entrance!) indeed turned red. After turning green, I zoomed up to the next corner, which has just turned yellow. As a rare act, I shot through on yellow, right behind a large family van. For some reason, they must have decided to save gas by going 20 mph in the 30mph zone. (Grrrr) They finally turned at the light, which had also turned red. After it went green, I zoomed three blocks. To the next red light. I then zoomed another four blocks… to the next red light. By that time, it was 12:31. I turned right on red, and zipped along on the 40mph street, up to the place where I needed to turn to get to the parking lot – and it was red. Finally, it turned green, and I made it to my appointment – 10 minutes late.
Now, that might not be a big deal to you, but I was mortified. The gal who cuts my hair just laughed, and said, “I wondered what happened – you all are always early…”
I brought along a load of peanut brittle for her family for Christmas, so there was no problem, but it spoke to me again of living intentionally versus living accidentally. It was no biggie, but I had just assumed that I had the time right in my head, and never was intentional about double checking. Actually, it was by accident that I made it there just that late! Now, I’m not trying to build the case for obsessive compulsive behavior, but there is virtue in being sure, and being focused on the details surrounding our lives. It may be that I’ve just gotten out of the habit of having to keep a calendar, but I think it also speaks to the fact that any of us – even those of us who hate to be late! – can accidentally, mistakenly, do the boo-boo.
So, even before New Year’s, I once again make the resolution to at least double check and be sure about the responsibilities I have before me in my life. If nothing else, it save embarrassment and not a little frustration over red lights…
Word for the Day: galilee. Pronounced GAL-li-lee. No, this is not the geographical region in northern Israel where Jesus and the disciples spent most of their time. New to me, but the galilee was/is an actual part of a church, especially in medieval times. It was the porch on the west front of a church (and also called a “paradise”). It was actually where the non-baptized, penitents would stand and wait to admitted to the church – often, there was a baptismal font to baptize them prior to entry. It was also the place, in monasteries, where clergy (always male) would receive women who had business with the monastery.
As larger churches were built, the use of “galilee” faded, and instead was replaced by “narthex,” where actually there were two porches, or entryways – an “esonarthex” inside the building itself, and an “exonarthex” which did exist as the front porch.
When you see your pastor next time, exclaim how you always have enjoyed walking through the galilee to get to church. They will of course scratch their heads….
I’ve talked before about my interest in family history, and the work I’ve done exploring so many different lines of my ancestors. That’s the thing about genealogy – it’s not fair, and certainly not complete to only try to find out who is in your family line that includes only your own surname. When you look at your parents, you already have two different limbs of the tree – in my case, the Cross line and the Luboski/Jorgensen line (I’ve only really explored the line of Mom’s birth father, and not her step-father). As soon as I take one more step, however, and look at my four grandparents, then I have four lines; looking at their parents, only three steps up the tree, there are eight different tree branches to follow. Since I am able now to look at relatives who are 15 generations (and more!), the number of relatives becomes exponentially greater, with all sorts of wives and husbands and such. Some of the lines, like the one of my great-great-grandmother, Clara Carson, goes one more generation to her parents, and then, up to now, I have found absolutely no information about their lives. They lived in the early 1800s, but their story is still a mystery.
Other lines take me back centuries. The wonderful thing about Ancestry.com is that I have hundreds of family members of all different branches each searching out their ancestors, and then posting the information they have found for me to gobble up and put in my own tree. Info like death certificates, and residences at different times, and census info – it’s all there for the taking. However, I quickly learned the old saying, “Trust, but verify.” There are some assertions about our history that are just wrong. One glaring one came as I researched the Pierce line (my great-grandfather’s mother). Now, our own history legend said that President Franklin Pierce was a three-great uncle of ours. First look at the research could lead you to believe that, since in my tree, I have a Benjamin Pierce, and ol’ Frank’s dad was also Benjamin. However, it happens that Frank’s Benjamin was about as famous as Franklin was – he was a general in the Revolutionary War, and later was elected governor of New Hampshire. With that pedigree, there is a lot of reliable information about his family and descendants that is public knowledge. When I looked at that Benjamin, I quickly found that, despite his having nearly 10 children, none was part of my line, which would have made Franklin a brother, and therefore the uncle designation.
I had to instead break it down, and I found from other research that Benjamin is a common family name, and that my relative’s line connected with the other Benjamin two generations earlier – grandparent – and so indeed, Franklin is a relative, but more like a distant cousin than a direct ancestor. It’s a fun way to use up enormous amounts of time! At this point, I have over 1900 ancestors in line, and I haven’t hardly begun to explore all the branches. Most of that, as well, is only the history of my wide family’s time in America, going back to more than a dozen different lines that had ancestors landing – mostly in New England area – between 1620 and 1660.
One part of the study that I really enjoy is being able to put some meat on the bare bones of who occupied one generation slot. For instance, my ninth-great-grandfather was Thomas Pierce who came over from England in the early 1630s. That’s a fact. What is fascinating, though, is to find out he occupied a status that I learned about in elementary school of early America. His father was from Kingston on Thames, and Thomas, the information shows, was “bound” to a Thomas Trench for four years in Maryland -- he was an indentured servant, selling his freedom to another person in exchange for a passage to America.
Recently, I came across a transcribed will of one of my older ancestors to America – Henry Dow. Henry was born in 1605 in Runham, England, and it appears that soon after his father’s death there in 1617, that Henry made his way – probably around 1630 – to America. After he got to the Essex County area in Massachusetts, he married Margaret Cole, and they apparently moved to New Hampshire.
Henry and Margaret had a bunch of kids, but then Henry died in 1659 at the age of 54. That was probably an average life span, but it’s important to note that he left Margaret with small children, one of whom was a son, Thomas, who was my 7th great-grandfather, being 6 years old at the time of his father’s death.
The will is fascinating, partly because it shows that spelling was a optional choice in the early 1600s, and also how things were distributed. Thomas was not the firstborn son, and so his part of the will states that “Give unto my sonn Thomas and my sonn Jeremiah 5 pounds a peece and bee payd to them att the age of one and twenty years…” That would be the equivalent of not quite $1000 in today’s world, but Thomas would have to wait 15 years to get his inheritance.
The oldest son, Henry Jr was named executor of the estate, and made off much better. That’s that dumb tradition of giving the oldest the greatest share, as though the accident of their birth means they win the lottery. As I said, as a third born – dumb. Brother – Henery – got “one fether bed wch He useth to ly upon and all the Bed Cloathes thereunto Belonging and the middlemost Iron Pott.” Plus, Henry got all the planting ground in the East Field, and 17 acres of the Salt Marsh. Lucky.
Of course, all that property and wealth has vanished from the ancestral lineage over the generations. I can’t imagine how much money was made and lost by my family over the centuries. Billions, I suppose. Or at least a few million.
But what I am left with – and it sounds corny to say so – is something much more valuable. My inheritance, when I am able to uncover it, is the priceless story of my family’s history. In unraveling these facts and figures and accountings, I know who I am. You see, once again, there is an intentionality to all life. Knowing all of this doesn’t change what I do, or my status in the world, but it does change a bit of my interior. Instead of accidentally surviving on this earth, my lineage and my history matters, and means something, at least to me. My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather traveled to what for him was a new land, and made his home here, like all the others in my family. Just having that knowledge roots me, and allows me to know that I fit into another place in history, just as my two sons, now with a 9th great grandfather as an immigrant, they can carry on a line, or lines, into history.
Word for the Day: negaholic. Pronounced neg-uh-HALL-ick. It’s amazing how many words that begin with “n” have something to do with noses, ships, birds or something negative. Today’s word is not different. From Latin, neg or nega, meaning “no” and holic, a recent word meaning “addict.” A negaholic can’t help but take on “no” as a way of life. That person has an habitually negative lifestyle and approach to the world. He or she sees the cloud in every silver lining, and when it’s a beautiful day outside, or a wonderful gift gets dropped in the lap, manages to peer into the future, and see only thunderstorms and the chance of losing what has been gifted. It’s a pretty horrible way to live, and unfortunately, we all know folks who make that their life’s work. I hope that doesn’t describe you!
When Aaron was about two years old, we gave him a Fisher-Price medical kit for Christmas. It had a little stethoscope, and some fake Band-Aids, and a fake thermometer and some other items, but the most fascinating to Aaron, and the most used by the mad physician, was a little plastic hypodermic needle with a plunger and a little round plastic end where thankfully it replaced an actual needle.
It was apparent, as Aaron would ply his medical craft, that at two years old, he had not been to any kind of medical training. When he would examine us, it always came down to each of us having to endure a shot from his “needle.” Now, he knew the basic mechanics of putting it in the arm and plunging the plunger to infuse the medicine into our system, but the problem was, Aaron seemed to believe that the only way for that to happen was to grind the plastic end of the needle deep into our arms. You’d be surprised at the pounds-per-square-inch force a two year old can inflict with a little plastic hypo! He basically would push on it until we would scream, and then he would be satisfied. Strangely enough, but also strangely appropriate, he didn’t call it a needle – he called it a “shotter.” I have had significant other shots in my day that paled in comparison to the pain level of Aaron’s inoculations. The biggest problem came, of course, when after he finished with Cheri and me, the only other patient was Adam, who at that time was about three months old. If the hospital authorities were not vigilant, Aaron would make his way over to the blanket on the floor where the unsuspecting patient would lay, and without concern for the comfort of the soon-to-be-victim, Aaron would commence grinding the end of the needle into a sweet little soft arm of a little brother. With his commitment to the medical arts, it didn’t matter how often we told him he couldn’t do that to Adam, I somehow think Aaron’s motives were a bit more sinister than simply making sure Adam was safe from childhood diseases…
We, like you, have had lots of shots over the years: preschool vaccinations, with the seemingly cruel practice of putting one in each arm of a little kid; the tetanus shot I got the evening I ended up in the emergency room after jumping over a couch to get away from Aaron and his plastic sword, and I ended up gashing the top of my head open on the low-hanging beam. That was fun. Most all the shots that have come have been to preserve somebody’s body from an icky or dangerous intruder. A pinch and a little bit of a sore arm, and it’s over.
I’ve mentioned that Cheri works in women’s health at a clinic here in town, and every year, the workers are required to get a flu shot, or else, they would be required to wear a face mask all day. Cheri has said that was enough of a deterrent for her to make sure she got the shot, but with the events since last March, she has had to wear a mask all day anyway, so she felt a bit ripped off as the con game…
I received a text from my beloved yesterday while she was at work. We had talked a bit about it, so it wasn’t a total surprise, although I expected it would be closer to a few weeks before it would arise. Her text said that she was eligible as a front line healthcare worker to receive the CoVid shot, and she wondered if she should get it.
Have you ever had a moment when your mind comes to one resolution, and then immediately the opposite plan makes complete sense as well? I wrote that yes, she should get it as soon as possible! Then, I recalled that the vaccine was barely a month old, maybe less, and no one really knew what it might do either short term or long term on the human body, especially one as petite and cute as Cheri’s. She also has a tendency to nearly overdose on the normal dosage of medicine she has taken for whatever reason. She responds to medicine like a 12 year old, who is sensitive to meds. It’s a bit crazy that she should take a dose of any med that is the same dose I would take. So, I ask – could she get a child’s dose? Of course not – it was all or nothing.
It may be a blessing, but by the time we went back and forth – and she was also a bit hesitant – the slots for yesterday were all filled, and the next available would be Saturday late afternoon.
Please understand: we are not in any way anti-vaccinators. We both believe in the incredible value of today’s medical abilities. It’s just that this nasty, fiendish disease is so new. You may get an entire shopping list of terrible symptoms, including even amputation of limbs, and death – or you may get absolutely nothing. That’s a pretty huge spread of possible bad things that could arise if you were to contract the virus. So, it makes all sense that you would take or receive anything that might boost your immunity.
The trouble is, and you know it – as knew and novel as this virus is, the vaccine is even newer. Yes, it has had tons of tests, mostly, and it has seemed successful, mostly. I just don’t want to be the part of our historical time that reports, “The vaccine seemed to be a near wonder drug at first, but…”
But nothing. My greatest fear over these months was not that I would get the virus. I spend 90% of my time at home, and the other 10% are with a mask, and going as quickly as I can to accomplish my tasks, and then back home. I am a poster child for quarantine. No, my fear has been from the outset, that my dear partner for life, in committing herself to a profession that allows her to help people at a fundamental level, would ever be exposed, and somehow be caught up by this horrible disease. So, if there is anything, even something new and not totally tested, that could somehow help her to avoid the consequences of that happening to her, then she needs to do whatever it takes – even getting a shotter.
I’ve said before that we all live in a pretty accidental world. Stuff happens all the time that we never plan for, or expect. Therefore, the only sensible course is to become as intentional as we can. To live, just kind of hoping it won’t happen to me, but if it does, it does, so I’ll just roll the dice and hope I don’t lose it all – well, that’s just, I’m sorry, kind of really stupid. We have the ability to make good decisions, so why would we ever decide to just let the world make the decisions for us?
So, Saturday afternoon, Cheri will “get the shot,” and while that is happening, and before that time, and after, I will offer to God my fear, and my hope that she will be protected and in turn, be able to be part of protecting the rest of our world. Believe me, this is one person we can’t afford to lose…
Word for the Day: manuduction. Pronounced man-yuh-DUCK-shun, it is a beautifully simple, although outdated Latin based word. Coming again from two important Latin words, manu, like manual, means “hand,” and ductio, meaning “leading.” Manuduction is literally, “leading by the hand.” It means a method of careful guidance, of walking someone through an operation or task. Earlier this month, I served as a “manuductor” (not “conductor,” which means one who leads with), to my son Aaron, and I “led him by the hand,” through the intricacies and important steps in making the world’s finest peanut brittle. The word is probably the best and purest way of teaching.
In the spirit of full disclosure – well, not full, but mostly – a few years ago, I had a fairly significant heart issue. No blockage or bypass surgery or anything like that, but it did land me in the hospital for a few days, and set me on the path of yet another doctor’s care. And here is my other full disclosure: I hate it. Not like I hate lima beans, or being forced to do yoga or other stupid things in front of people – it’s worse than that. Now, Cheri is a nurse practitioner in women’s health, and the nurse practitioner I see for my heart stuff is a great person, so it’s not at all a matter of conflicting personalities. It’s what I have mentioned in the past, when it comes to teeth or haircuts or anything like that. Cheri defined it well. She said, “You are just a very private person.” That’s a good description, and it fits well. I am an introvert by nature, who has managed to act in public pretty effectively, as I have led meetings and workshops and studies and such. However, when it comes to me and my own personal “stuff,” I would far rather not have to engage, and especially have anyone other than my loved ones lay a hand on me. After more than 40 years in the ministry, I came to believe it’s wiser not to hug than to initiate one. Part of that involves avoiding any hint of clergy misconduct, but it also has been just a good standard to keep.
But all that goes away today. The clinic is up in Grand Forks, so that’s 80 miles away, which isn’t bad, except, of course, today it’s going to snow. Grrr. And then, I have to wear a mask, and check in and say out loud for everyone to hear my birthdate, and be asked yet again if I have dipped my toes in the CoVid river. I know, I know – it’s all very terribly important, and I’m being just a big baby about it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it at all.
The only thing I hope happens is that with minimal tests, and minimal probing and examining and such, I can receive some kind of pill that will take care of my symptoms, and I can get back to life without all that business.
Yeah – as I read back what I just wrote, I guess I would fit in rather well in some obscure religious sect, except I enjoy computers and televisions and such. Just get rid of the medical, and all will be well.
But I also know that I have people who love me, and who care about me, and who need me, and so that means I have to intentionally go against what I’d rather do today, and take care of the issues, and like I said, hopefully have some good results. But I will do this because I am also intentionally part of a family and a cluster of people who care, and it is not private – it is selfish – to refuse to live a healthier and better life.
So – if/when you find yourself in a similar situation, realize that your own best intentions can and should include setting aside your own discomfort or dis-ease and just go ahead and do what needs to be done. And it will be ok – really it will. If I say that long enough, I might even start to believe it….
Word for the Day: laetificate. Doesn’t this one just sound like a Latin word? And it is – pronounced lay-TIFF-i-kate. It breaks down into two words: we know the last one, facere, which means “to make.” The first one is leatus¸ which gives us “I delight, I cheer, or I gladden.” The word can be used to talk about what we do, or how we feel ourselves. So, it’s I bring gladness to another person, or cheer them up, or, I am gladdened, and filled with joy because of something that happened. It’s alright to laetificate someone today… By the way, the woman’s name “Latitia” means gladness.
I bought my first car in 1978, when I was 21 and one year out of college. It was a new Honda Civic hatchback which, when the wind was right, would get me about 42mpg on the interstate. Of course, the speed limit at that time was 55mph, which worked well for the Honda’s performance ability. Still it was a great little car and took me up and down the center of the country a number of times.
We have owned 19 different cars since then – that actually sounds like a lot of cars, except that we went from one to two to three to four cars all under the umbrella of Cross-owned. What I have never owned, and have refused to own, is a junker. There are just some things in life that I want to take for granted, that they will perform and be dependable and just not keep me up at night worrying about them. This includes anything in the plumbing family, and actually most any appliance or electrical device – and cars.
In 47 years of driving, I have had three flat tires, and numerous dead batteries (don’t get me started on them again…), and an assortment of water pumps and leaky gaskets and such, but all within the tolerance of a “dependable” car. Now, when these things have happened, I have reacted like any reasonable person would – I get mad and disgusted that something I need to count on has failed me, and by extension, our entire family, and most of the free world. It’s really kind of a bit of a sick feeling, because it’s totally what I did NOT expect to happen. You know, some people drive vehicles that they must know are going to let them down – so much so that when indeed they do go to pot, it’s not really a letdown. It’s just a matter of timing. But I take cars in faithfully for regular oil changes, and check overs, and tire rotations and all sorts of things. And I drive safely, never speed – ever – and enjoy getting into a car that I believe is a quality ride.
Now, in recent years, the auto industry has gone a bit off the deep end in the technology aspect of a vehicle. Our latest purchase has heads up auto speed that is projected on the windshield, as well as two different blind spot detectors, automatic cruise control slow down and even stop if I drive too close to another car, a rumble vibration in the steering wheel if I get close to leaving my lane, and a backup camera that shows everything behind me, and even – somehow – an above the car 360 degree view as I pull into a garage or such. There are gauges and lights for every conceivable condition that may arise. If it could only fly, I’d be a supremely happy guy.
However, there is one warning light that has bedeviled me from the day they decided to invent it. I’m sure you know which one I’m talking about. It was actually invented in the 1980s and went on luxury cars in Europe, the first being a Porsche. In the US, it was actually part of a federal law for cars built beginning in 2005, so the technology has been used widely for 15 years. It still remains a cursed warning light.
I’m talking about Mr. Low Tire Pressure Light. It’s created to somehow magically detect if you have a tire that is a little low, air pressure wise. The moment that happens, a shrill warning siren goes off and an orange or yellow flashing flat-tire-looking light shoots out from the dashboard. It reminds me of those airplane movies where suddenly the fuel tank is empty or the oil pressure has dropped, or the ailerons have failed, and the plane goes into an immediate nosedive until the hero is able to pull up on the stick and bring it seconds away from crashing into the mountain.
It happened to me yesterday morning, as I was taking Cheri to work. I backed out of the driveway and drove ten feet, and suddenly, we were crashing into the mountain. It flashed and rang, piercing the not-yet-dawn drive. Now please understand: over the past number of days, I have driven nowhere near a construction site, and I am very careful to swerve out of the way of road debris, so as not to poke, puncture, slash or slit any tire of any car. The tires were fine when the car was pulled into driveway the night before.
The only thing that happened – and this is what makes the warning light so insidious – is that the temperature went from a high of 43 degrees to a low of 4 degrees overnight. If you remember your 8th grade science class, you will recall that the “hotter” the air is, the faster the molecules move and the farther spread out the molecules are, so that warm/hot air is less dense than cold air. This meant, of course, that my nice warm 43 degree air sitting my tire after it had been rotated and checked for pressure in November overnight became a dense 4 degree air, which didn’t nearly fill the tire as well. Cue Mr. Low Tire Pressure Light.
Here are the other two things, though. First, I have four tires, and one warning light. What it seems to say is, “Do you feel lucky, punk? One of these tires is not like the others – or maybe two of them are dense… You can’t risk just guessing which one is low, can you? And I’m not going to tell you, either. You just have to check every stupid tire to make sure they are all ok, since my light will glow on the dash until it drives you crazy.”
Second – and this is the pits – when does the air in the tire get dense, again? That’s right… when it gets stinking cold outside! And there is no way you can push a button from inside your car, and have it automatically increase the pressure inside the tire, so that it’s the right pressure, and the dumb light goes off. No – what you get to do instead, on a cold December morning when the temp is hovering just above zero, and of course it’s a day when the North Dakota winds pick up from the north, and blow an arctic blast down the back of your neck, is to drive your car over to a gas station, and wrestle with the 40 foot long air hose – and hopefully you have an air pressure gauge that works, and not the little silver one that your dad used to use, which if you pushed on it just wrong would only bleed even more air out of your tire, which may have indeed been the one that originally didn’t need filling, but now it does…
I drove all yesterday with the light glowing, hoping it would just correct itself. Call it my grown-up Christmas wish. It didn’t.
However, I am here today to give testimony to a blessing. I had promised that this morning I would give Cheri a ride to a medical appointment clear across town. It just so happens that the auto service center I use is also clear across town. It came to me in a dream that after I dropped her off, I could simply drive over to the place, and drive inside where it is warm and have them fill the tire, or tires, for me. Which is what I did. And sure enough, all four tires were equally “dense,” and each needed about five pounds of pressure added. In five minutes time – free, I might add – I was filled and driving off the lot, and in moments, Mr. You-Know-Who shut off, and I’m now fully prepared for winter driving.
Oh, and I did put in a bottle of Iso-Heet to keep the gas line from freezing, now that the warmth of the sun has gone away until March.
Life happens to us every day. There are an incredible number of ways to be disappointed or let down or become fearful of life in general. Or, instead of reacting, as I did, it is also possible to take a deep breath when the bad or irritating things happen, and respond to what needs to be corrected, or fixed, or “un-densed” as it were. We always have that choice. Sometimes it takes some time to get there, but if our goal will be to respond to this world without going off the handle, we will increase the level of peace and joy in this life. That would be my hope and recommendation this day. I’m also hoping my tires stay inflated…
Word for the Day: idioglossia. Kind of a fun word. Pronounced id-ee-yo-GLOSS-ee-ya. It’s from Greek, completely, and the words are ideo, meaning “personal” or “private” and glossa, meaning “tongue.” It refers to a strange phenomenon of having a private language that only one or two people speak. It’s often the case in the secret language shared by twins, where they have gestures and words that are inconceivable to even parents sometimes. Actually when it is a shared twin language, it is more appropriately called “cryptophasia” which means “secret speech.” A lesser form can exist in families where one or two words are specific to that family alone. In our family, the boys early on would watch me wash and squeegee the car windows, and they took to calling the tool a “carper.” To this day, we will use the “carper” and not think twice that no one else would have the slightest idea what it means. And we really don’t know its etymology either. Odd.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.