Monday, December 28, 2009

Was Christmas Canceled? Not Quite.

Sure, there were a few challenges thrown at us this Christmas (particularly, the crashing of my computer, frigid temperatures, and a blizzard that brought down 15 inches of blowing, drifting snow to Omaha -- the photo at left shows my buried Oldsmobile with rabbit tracks on the top of the car!) but we managed to have a serene and very enjoyable holiday nevertheless.

Plus, we were able ro re-schedule every one of the Christmas social events that the weather forced us to postpone. It all made for a merry Christmas indeed. And since Claire and I celebrate all Twelve Days of Christmas and Epiphany, we're just getting started!

The first item to be affected by the snowstorm was our traditional Christmas Eve breakfast down in Lincoln. Because the sleet and freezing rain of Wednesday brought travel advisories throughout our area, we decided to skip the 24th and have the breakfast sometime this week.

Then the snow really hit hard. By Christmas morning, Omaha was pretty well shut down. We called off our visit to Mom's nursing home and also our Christmas dinner party for which we had 17 planned. There was just no way to safely pull off either function. However, we were able to schedule Christmas with Mom on the evening of the 26th and the Christmas dinner (with even one more attendee) on Sunday night the 27th. More on those in a sec.

So Christmas Eve was spent quietly here at home. The computer had broken down so we enjoyed reading, music, conversation, and a couple of Christmas movies. On Christmas Day, as we sat between the brilliance of the Christmas tree and the burning logs in the fireplace, we caught up with a few "listening projects" we had fallen behind on. First up was listening to Petula Clark's first-ever Christmas album (purchased just a few weeks ago). Then we played a talk given by James Woodruff at the American Chesterton Society Conference a year and a half ago. Terrific. I had listened to the presentation ("Chesterton and Pascal") once before but it was in the car and so I hadn't got the full effect. I had long had it on the "to-do" list but I'm kinda' glad that we didn't get around to until Friday because it made a really neat part of our Christmas. James' talk was very informative, funny, insightful, and moving. His diction, inflection and timing (being on the radio all those years makes me notice that kind of stuff) was flawless and the ways he tied in these two Christian heroes was fascinating.

But, trust probably don't need the fire or the Christmas tree to make James' presentation really worthwhile. So go on over to the ACS web site and send an e-mail to Dale Ahlquist asking him how you can obtain James' talk. It will be worth the trouble.

Next up on Christmas Day was listening to the music of my old friend Dave Mirro. These too we had listened to previously but it was in the car on our way to and from Colorado in October so we wanted to have an opportunity to hear them again. Like with James' lecture, the tree, the fire, the scented Russian tea, and the sounds of the blizzard outside made the most splendid atmosphere for listening to Dave's music (mostly hymns and worship songs). We are really grateful to both James and Dave for making our Christmas brighter and more interesting. We were kinda' shut off from the world that day (except for numerous phone calls to family) but your CDs brought a nice warmth of friendship into our midst. Thank you.

The rest of the day involved books. One of my Christmas presents to Claire this year is to read at least one in the Mitford series that she loves so well. I began with the first one and so far find it very pleasant and touching.

And, oh yes...we had saved "Christmas in Connecticut" for the evening and we loved it every bit as much as the last 2o times we've watched it.

On Christmas Day Two, we had a nice party of sorts over at the Life Care Center, visiting residents and opening presents with Mom. She got new nightgowns, a stuffed squirrel, candy, a cool animal pictue puzzle, scarf, and a few other items from my sister Linda's family in California; food items, notepads, bedspread, stuffed animal chain, and so on from my sister Sherry's family in Kansas; and a few presents from Claire and I. We brought along a tape player and so Bing Crosby sang Christmas carols throughout our visit.

Of course, I should mention that travel on the 26th was still awfully difficult. And we couldn't even get out of our driveway until more than 3 hours of work with snow shovels and my fabulous Yard Man snow blower. I know my Presbyterian friends talk about the "dominion mandate" more than I do -- but until they've taken this snow blower to a snow drift, they don't have a full understanding of what the term means. The accompanying photos will illustrate our driveway and sidewalk experience.

When we got home later that night we found that Chet Thomas had called and left a message asking if church services were still on for the next morning. We called back and said we were sure they would be. But just to be certain, Claire turned on the TV. And, sure enough, KETV was saying that Faith Bible Church would be closed the next morning! We checked a few other news sources: one said the church was one of the many that had canceled services but others (including the religious station KGBI that is usually used for these things) had no such postings. We made a couple of phone calls to other church folks but they hadn't heard anything either. Was it is a mistake then? Yes, the roads were still very bad but we thought it just too strange that the leaders would cancel church and not bother to inform the preacher!

We eventually learned that an e-mail had been sent round. But since many in our church don't check their e-mails regularly and since some in our church don't even have home computers, this system isn't very efficient. But we've been assured a phone tree will be put in place to rectify the problem. There probably won't be a need for it for another 20 years...but when more than two feet of snow has already fallen in December, we might need that phone tree sooner than we think.

So no church on Sunday morning. But we felt confident enough to go ahead with our Christmas dinner rescheduled for Sunday night.

And it turned out to be a wonderful evening. Delicious appetizers provided by Allen and Cindy Nelson kept our guests' appetites at bay until we finished our preparations. And then with kids settled in at a card table in the living room (Claire and I sitting alongside them), we squeezed in the adults for a repast of ham, potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, cranberry relish, and pineapple/cottage cheese fluff. Ice cream sundaes with a whole gang of toppings available were served for dessert but only after a lot of conversation and the festive singing of Christmas songs from Burkina Faso (performed mostly in French but one or two in Mòoré). And then coffee and tea, more conversation, some word games, and finally some more serious Christmas reflections and prayers. So Christmas wasn't canceled after all. In fact, the awareness of how close we came to missing it perhaps made our fellowship all the sweeter.

As I mentioned earlier, we celebrate Christmas throughout December and for all 12 days of the Yuletide so we still have plenty of activities before us. The Christmas dinner made the fifth party we've held so far with a few "Santa runs" where we take the party to individual friends thrown in for good measure. We've got a few more of those left on the list as well as 4 more "official" parties scheduled.'s been a grand start to Christmas (despite the weather's attempt to snow on our parade) and things look swell for the next round too. Merry Christmas!