Thursday, December 27, 2007

Worn

       Been a hectic past few days, both physically and emotionally. The gray days are wearing on me. Work is wearing on me. I'm just worn. Can't seem to get enough sleep these days. Oh well, that's life, don't you know? Can't let the black dog take anything without a fight.
      Sometimes as I look around at other people, I wonder if they have this constant battle to get out of bed, go to work, keep moving. Some of them seem like they've never been touched. Maybe they hide it better. Maybe they don't whine. Maybe they're better than me. Maybe they can drown on swamp water. Slowly.
      Heh. I can always count on the contrary part of me to kick my butt when I need it. It rises up and looks around and says, "Hey, get up. Don't let them see you falter. Make them sweat, buddy boy. We're a match for anything. Anything." I can't tell if it's stubborn or stupid. Probably both.
      Going to call it a night now. Hope life is treating you well. If it's not, smile as you reach out, grab it by the throat and choke the living crap out of it. Night!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The day after Christmas

      I hope you had a good Christmas. I did. Of course, it was busy and hectic, but I also had some time to nap and relax. A good balance for once.
      I've had two of my regular readers mention that they just happened to find the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve by chance. If you're unaware, I posted 12 posts on Christmas Eve. The Posts include poems, Tales from Bethlehem, humor, songs (including me singing!) and more. You can scroll down and find them. They are titled 7.1 through 7.12.
      Well, Trixie tagged me with a meme so here's mine.

Rules
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Here are my Five Facts:
      1. I only do memes for friends because I generally dislike memes. I don't mind them occasionally, but too many people use them to avoid real communication. And also, I never think my answers are all that interesting. I live a fairly boring life.
      2. I have determined that I will live with hunger if that what it takes for me to lose weight. I'm sick of looking at me in the mirror and seeing this huge stranger. That persons isn't the me I see in my mind. For many years I didn't have mirrors in my house because I didn't like to see me. I've decided to stop being afraid of what I see there.
      3. I miss working with the theater group, but not the back-biting and bickering. I had wonderful casts, and I enjoyed directing the shows. That I miss, but not enough to go back.
      4. Of my possessions, I think I like my computer best, but probably wouldn't if I didn't have Net access. I mostly use it for email and news.
      5. I want an XBox 360. I can't justify spending the money on it, I have no other video game machines, it would waste my time, but I still want it.
      Trixie's Bonus Question: Why did I name my blog 51313 Harbor Street?
       Well, the 51313 you'll have to figure out on your own, but Harbor is because I wanted to convey that my blog was a safe, comforting place to drop by, and Street because I wanted to convey that it was busy.
      And now who to tag? I choose:
Crystal at Remnant
Gloria at Wry Words
Adam Huckeby at Adam Huckeby
Rain at Rainy Day Wonderings
Jean at Rantings and Ravings of an Insane Writer

      Don't blame me for this me. It's all Trixie's fault.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

To all


Merry Christmas!

 
 

Monday, December 24, 2007

HSCC 7.12

      This is the final post of our 12 Posts of Christmas Eve. I can think of no way more fitting to end these posts than with the glorious Christmas story.

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah:
for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.


      May God richly bless you and keep you in His love. Good night and Merry Christmas!

HSCC 7.11

Thank you
      We're about at the end of our 12 Posts of Christmas Eve. I hope you have enjoyed them. I'd like to thank my special guest Trixie who has hung around the whole night and offered encouragement and support. It's good to know someone is out there in the night.
      I'd also like to thank my friends Kevin and Jennifer who brought me food from their Christmas lunch this evening. Everything was delicious, and the bread pudding was fantastic!
      Another big thank you and lots of love to my family who drove up to see me these past couple of days. Lots of good food, conversation and laughter, and I love all my gifts.
      More thanks to my friends -- Eric, Gail, Kyra, Kent -- who always take my calls and support me in so many ways. And thanks to all my blogging friends. Your comments make this blog happen. Without you, Harbor Street wouldn't exist.
     And finally and most importantly, I am so immensely grateful that the Supreme Power of the universe choose to give up glory and be born as a babe so that we poor, sad, fallen humans could join Him again one day. There are not enough words in the world to express my gratitude. I am humbled and awed by His everlasting love.

HSCC 7.10

Tales from Bethlehem
The Tale of Humble Donkey


       It’s good to be a donkey. We’re stronger than horses, faster than mules, more beautiful than both of them and many times more intelligent. And so humble! We are the most humble animals. I myself am proud of my awesome humility.
       I explained it to my friend Dolores, the horse, as we chewed on some straw in our shed in Nazareth. “Dolores,” I said. “My humility is overwhelming. I amaze myself sometimes.”
       Dolores cocked an ear. “I’m often amazed by you, too,” she said.
       Clem, the dog, laughed then for some reason. I often don’t understand what he’s laughing at, but he’s cheery if a bit dim, and I’ve learned to tolerate him. After all, not every creature can be a donkey.
       “Queenie, you have a lot to be humble about,” Clem said.
       I flicked my tail and tried to puzzle out what he meant. I think he was attempting to compliment me in his pitiful way. Yes, that had to be it.
       “Thank you,” I said.
       In his joy of my acknowledgement of his compliment, he rolled on the stable ground in laughter. I do like bringing joy to the lesser animals.
       Just then Joachim and Anna came into the shed with their daughter Mary and a young man named Joseph. The chickens had told me that Joseph was betrothed to Mary, but the goat told Clem who told Delores who told me that there had been trouble when Mary returned from her visit to her cousin. Apparently — and don’t let anyone know you heard it from me because donkeys simply don’t gossip the way other creatures do — Mary was with child. Yes, that’s right, and hear this — it wasn’t Joseph’s child.
       I know it’s hard to understand, but parentage is very important to humans. I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because they have only two legs and don’t have a tail. They have to compensate in some way.
       Joachim said, “You can take the horse.”
       “Oh no, Father,” Mary said. “You need her for the farm.”
       “Don’t argue with your father,” Anna told Mary. “Bethlehem is a long way, and you’re in no …” She paused, and her face reddened. “It’s a long way.”
       Mary looked at the ground.
       “It is as Mary has said,” the young man said, moving to stand by Mary. “You need the horse. We cannot take it on such a long journey. If it broke a leg or was set upon by wild animals, we would be hard-pressed to replace it.”
       Mary looked up and shyly smiled.
       “Then please take the donkey, Joseph,” Joachim said. “It’s a poor excuse for a horse, but it can carry Mary. It’s old, stubborn, and doesn’t look like much, but if the wild animals get it, no one has lost anything valuable.”
       I looked around the stable, trying to catch a glimpse of the pitiful creature so described, but it must have been hiding behind my stall. They never could find it so that’s how I found myself on the road to Bethlehem.
       “Road,” however, is too kind a word for the trail on which we were forced to travel. Rocks the size of Dolores’s hindquarters forced us to take a meandering path. And there was no forage to speak of. I was lucky to grab a few mouthfuls of grass and a swallow of water. Not that anyone noticed how much I was suffering. No, that dolt Joseph only had eyes for his precious Mary. “Mary, are you comfortable? Mary, eat this. Mary, you should rest. Mary, how are you feeling?” Bray, bray, bray. But did he offer any concern to me? NO!
       And it was no joy carrying Mary, either. Oh, she was nice enough, quiet and sweet in her way, but she was near to her time so she was heavy, wearing me down. Finally, after too many days, I’d had enough. No more!
       We had stopped for the evening near a small stream. I fumed all through the night. I was not going to go another step, and if they thought I would, they had another think coming.
       The next morning, Joseph pulled on my halter. I rose, then settled my hindquarters back down. He pulled and pulled and pulled. I didn’t move. He found a limb and tried to lever me up. I calmly stood, took two steps, and sat back down. Even Mary found the look on his face comical. She giggled.
       Joseph glared at her. Then he began to laugh. They fell against each other, holding each other in helpless laughter.
       “Oh, Mary,” Joseph said. “What are we going to do now? I don’t think that donkey is going to move, not even if I beat on its sorry hide.”
       “I think I could walk a while,” Mary said. “If we went slowly. And surely we will soon meet others on the way.”
       They gathered up their belongings, pretending that they were going to leave me. Joseph even went so far as to remove my halter. He patted me on the side of my neck. “I guess you were just too old for this trip,” he said. “I wish we could wait for you to recover your strength, but I must get Mary to town before the baby comes.” He patted my neck again. “Beware the wild beasts.”
       They walked slowly away. I was wise to their tricks. Soon they would be back. I sat and watched them disappear over the hill. I became conscious of the sounds of the hillside, the birds calling, the rustle of the small rodents. I could no longer hear them. Surely they hadn’t left me?!
       I brayed in dismay and shock. What could they be thinking? Had the long days of travel totally addled their minds? I gasped. Of course! That was it. They had lost their minds! Two silly young people, lost in the wilderness, and I had abandoned them. I raced after them. Who knows what mischief they could get into? It was my responsibility to take care of them. It was clear now that I had been chosen to watch out over those two, to keep the poor dumb dears safe.
       It didn’t take me long to catch up to them. For some reason, they didn’t seem surprised to see me, but they did seem pleased. Naturally. After all, a donkey is the most pleasant ride, and for a woman close to her time, it’s the best there is.
       The next day, we joined a few other travelers. They were not welcoming, making a point to tell Joseph that we couldn’t share their fire. Their horses were particularly unkind, neighing loudly about Mary’s long ears and coarse coat. Fortunately she didn’t understand what they were saying. I ignored them. That is all you can do with the ignorant.
       Bethlehem was crowded with humans. The odors were quite unpleasant. As we went from one inn to another, it finally dawned on me that Joseph hadn’t made plans for a place to stay for us. Typical human. Not that I would want to stay in their inns. I glimpsed in the window of one and could barely see due to the smoke. And the straw on the floor was filthy. I wouldn’t set a hoof on it, much less let my dear Mary set a foot on it.
       Joseph was frantic, pleading with an innkeeper named Keloe for a place for Mary, but the innkeeper kept saying there was no room for them in the inn. I looked around and saw the stable. Perfect! The stable would be out of the wind and give Mary some privacy, except for the animals, of course, and what we don’t know about birthing isn’t worth knowing.
       But how to explain this to this lumpish innkeeper? Mary was still on my back so I stepped toward the stable. I looked back the innkeeper. He didn’t notice. I took a few more steps, pulling on the halter. Joseph tried to hold me back, his attention on the innkeeper.
       Mary gave a soft cry. I knew she was out of time, but the men kept arguing.
       I laid my ears back. Enough. My Mary wasn’t going to give birth on a dirty street. I headed for the stable. If Joseph didn’t let go, he was going to go with us.
       The innkeeper saw me pulling for the stable, and greed lit up his face. “You could stay in the stable,” he said, acting as if he had thought of it himself. Joseph agreed, being dragged along as I made my way. A stableboy showed up to lead us, not that I needed him.
       Soon we had Mary inside on clean soft straw. Exhausted, I found a place near a wall and laid down. A Roman soldier’s horse snorted. “Don’t be lying next to me, ugly donkey,” he said.
       I looked at him in surprise.
       “Yeah,” another horse snorted. “Not near me, either. Shouldn’t something as old as you be vulture food already?”
       The horses began to laugh. Although I knew they were wrong and that I was beautiful and ageless, big tears welled up in my eyes. I was so tired, and it had been such a long day. I lowered my head.
       Then a glow filled the stable. The horses stopped in mid-neigh. In the silence, a glorious Messenger appeared! His presence filled the stable. He was there to honor the babe, but he turned to me and touched my head lovingly. “Blessed are you, little donkey, for you have carried and will carry the King of Kings and Lord of Lords,” he said. He glanced at the horses and dismissed them as easily as that.
       Of course, you know the rest of the story and who was born that wonderful night, but now you know who carried His mother and then carried Him and His family into Egypt. I served Him all my life. I told you it was good to be a donkey.

Copyright 2007 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Tales from Bethlehem.

      I'll back in a couple of minutes for the eleventh post in the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street.

HSCC 7.9

      Silent Night is my favorite Christmas hymn. And yes, this is me singing it as good as I can. Enjoy the words if not the singer.





      If I haven't scared you off, be back shortly for the tenth post of the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street. See you then, I hope.

HSCC 7.8

Twas the Night before Christmas
(AKA A Visit from St. Nicholas)


By Clement Clarke Moore

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"


***************************************************
      I'll be back for the ninth post in the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street. Meet me here!

HSCC 7.7

A Christmas Prayer

We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
for the love that unites us,
for the peace accorded us this day,
for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
for the work, the health, the food,
and the bright skies which make our lives delightful
for our friends in all parts of the earth.


By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

      I'll be back shortly to post the eighth post in the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street. You stay right there.

HSCC 7.6

Warning: Christmas Crafting may be hazardous to your health

      It was a few days before Christmas, and I was talking to Linda on the phone. "Do you want to come over and help me with my Christmas crafts?" I asked.
      "Good heavens, NO!" she shouted. "I'd rather strip naked and run through a rose garden that's been sprayed with lemon juice."
      "What time will you be here?" I asked.
      "I'd rather to be strapped to the speakers at a Courtney Love concert," she said.
      "Is that yes or no?"
      "You're not listening," she said. "Rather than crafting with you, I'd sit through 'An Inconvenient Truth' again!"
      "I'm beginning to get the odd feeling that you might perhaps be reluctant," I said. "Why is that?"
      "Because it's dangerous," she said. "People get hurt when you do crafts."
      I sighed. "Is George complaining about his eyebrows again?"
      "Stephen, they fell off!"
      "Actually, they peeled off," I said. "And I told him not to stand over the chemicals when we were etching glass. Well, I meant to tell him."
      "And about Cynthia?"
      "That was an accident," I said. "I had no idea enough paint fumes had accumulated to explode. But she'll be out of the bodycast in a couple of month. Personally, I think she's enjoying the rest despite her threats and the attempts to have me snuffed."
      "Yes, there's nothing more restful than having nurses turn you every hour and orderlies feed you through a straw," Linda said.
      "So you'll come over?" I asked.
      "Not that I'm agreeing, but what exactly are you going to be doing?"
      "Just papercraft," I said. "There's nothing dangerous in papercraft. We'll just be tearing up paper and mixing the pieces with water and a few chemicals, most of which aren't toxic."
      "Well, I guess ... What do you mean most?! she snapped. "No, no, NO! Papercraft is out."
      "We could make Christmas candles," I said. "Those make good gifts."
      "Didn't you have a wax explosion a couple of months ago?" she asked.
      "No one was seriously hurt, and my kitchen has already been repaired," I said. "If I could just find my cat, everything would be fine. I tried to follow the smoke trail she left, but the wind was high and I lost her around Oak Street."
      "No candles," she said firmly. "Don't you do wooden projects?"
      I used to," I said. "But the police took away my electric saw after that regrettable incident when I was trying to help those nuns repair a pew and I sneezed."
      "Oh, yeah, I forgot," she said. "Do you still get hate mail from Sister Mary Margaret?"
      "Just hate postcards now," I said. "I think she's getting over her anger. I hope so. It can't be good for her spiritual growth."
      "What about painting?" she suggested. "I mean, watercolor painting. Yeah, watercolors are safe. I couldn't get hurt doing watercolors."
      "Okay, we'll do that," I said happily. "Come on over."
      Later that night as we huddled under a blanket provided by the fire department, she glared at me. "How oh how did the watercolors catch fire?!" she asked.
      "Well, I thought they looked a little thick," I said. "So I thought I'd try thinning them with alcohol."
      She didn't say anything.
      "I think short hair is a good look for you," I said.
      Fortunately they were able to pull off me before she could truly choke me. Because she's a friend, I didn't press charges.

Copyright 2007 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Floozy & Other Stories.

HSCC 7.5

One Christmas Star

It
does
not seem
much against
the darkness of this world
one light in a midnight sky, a pinpoint
of illumination seen by magi and lonely shepherds.
Yes, strange as it seems, nothing has
let us see as clearly as He
alone heralded
by that one
Christmas
star.

Copyright 2007 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved.

      I'll be back in a bit with the sixth post of the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street. Still with me?

HSCC 7.4

Tales from Bethlehem
The Star's Tale


      So I was hanging around the sky, when one of the Host appeared to me. I flared before I got control and dampened my corona. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I was a minor star, not one of the big reds or the blazing blue-whites. Bertha, a red supergiant in the system next to mine, liked to point out my complete insignificance in the general Scheme of Things. Bertha was older and positive that the whole shebang depended on her lighting the way.
      "You'll never be more than a dwarf," Bertha had told me more than once.
      "Ignore her," Clarence would tell me. Clarence was young, barely out of the nursery. He was blue-white and already carried a system larger than Bertha's.
      The seraphim drew close, its radiance overwhelming mine. "I am sent by the Source," she said calmly. "A great Task has been appointed unto you."
      The Messenger of the Source said the Source had asked that I Burn at a particular time to fulfill a portion of His mighty and unending work.
      "I am His to command," I said, frightened and puzzled. "But I have not the needed mass to Burn."
      "That which you need, you will be given," the seraphim said. She drew close to me. "Know you that The Rebel will oppose this. Be strong. Be steadfast. For the sake of love, the Source is bringing about a great work, and you have been Chosen to play a part. You are Blessed among the lights."
      "She smiled gently and went away, leaving me dazzled and dazed.
      "I can't believe she didn't talk to me!" Bertha fumed when she was certain the seraphim was gone. "I am more worthy!"
      "Congratulations," Clarence said, ignoring the big red. "It is a great honor."
      I was silent, thinking of the Source and what had been requested. Eons passed. The time approached for me to attempt to Burn -- even though I knew it was impossible.
      A Being approached me then. This one burned darkly, a rolling black nebula.
      "I am Serpenta," the Being said. "I greet you, little star."
      "I know who you are," I said, feeling my core quake. "Be gone. I will have traffic neither with you nor The Rebel."
      "Oh, little star, you wound me," Serpenta said. "I noticed your lovely light and came to bask in it. That is all." He paused. "I wanted to visit you before you Burned. It's a shame a beautiful star like you would be asked to do such a thing."
      "The Source asked me, and I am obedient," I said. "Depart."
      "Ah, but it wasn't the Source, was it?" Serpenta said. "He sent one of the Host, a lesser being to command you. If this is so important, why didn't He come Himself?"
      "He made me," I said. "I am His to command."
      "Of course, you are," Serpenta said, circling me in a lazy orbit. "And He did make you. But what has He done for you lately? Do you have children? Do you burn with fierce, fantastic heat? Do the comets give themselves to you in worship? No, my astra, no. He made and forgot you, just one among all the others. And now He seeks your Burning for the sake of tiny creatures that don't even worship Him."
      "What?" I gasped. "They don't worship Him?"
      "They are fallen," Serpenta said. "They ignore Him, they curse Him, they turn their backs to Him. To think that one as brilliant as you would be asked to make such a sacrifice just to mark His Son's birth! How dare He ask that of you!"
      "His Son's birth?!" Prominences flared across me.
      "Yes," Serpenta said. "He is allowing His Son to take the form of these worthless humans. He is heartlessly sending His Son away. You have no children worlds, no sister suns, nothing in the void, but if you had worlds, you would cherish them. You would give them light and heat, but He does not bless you, His faithful servant, while He blesses those who reject Him."
      "His Son," I breathed plumes of plasma, trying to understand why and how the Source would give up His Son.
      "Don't do it," Serpenta urged. "Don't give your approval to this folly. The humans are not worth a particle of your light." He drew close to me, his Being skimming my photosphere. "There is another Master in the sky," he whispered. "One who would reward you with children. Perhaps even a sister sun. You have everything to gain by refusing and everything to lose by obeying."
      "So your Master would give me all that I want?" I asked slowly.
      "Yes," Serpenta said.
      "And all I have to do ... is disobey the One who made me what I am!" I flared and sent out corona loops. My photosphere blazed and then darkened as I drew in my outer layers, pulling them toward my core.
      "You cannot Burn!" Serpenta roared, his black, jagged wings unfolding. "You will be nothing! You are wasting your light!"
      I did not respond. What I have, I give! I sent across the trackless void. What I am, is yours! And as the seraphim had promised, mass suddenly gathered in me, diving into my core, nuclear flames compressed into liquid fire, and then ...
      Then ...
      Then I Burned.
      My light surged into the void, a mighty river of gold, a glorious torrent that swept my unraveling essence beyond into the unbounded night.
      The Source turned and smiled at me. "Well done," He said, reaching forth His hand and cradling me.
      I fell into His limitless love.
      And that's how I became a seraphim. Sometimes I go by and see Clarence and Bertha. Clarence is always glad to see me.

Copyright 2007 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Tales of Bethlehem

      I'll be back a little later with the fifth post in the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street. Hope to see you then.

HSCC 7.3

      This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It's beautiful, but I can tell you that it's hard to sing. I had to sing it in choir many years ago, and we all needed a shot of oxygen when we were finished.

Carol of the Bells

Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say, throw cares away.
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song,
With joyful ring, all caroling
One seems to hear words of good cheer
From everywhere, filling the air
O, how they pound, raising the sound
O’er hill and dale, telling their tale

Gaily they ring, while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

On, on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home
Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say, throw cares away.
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song
With joyful ring, all caroling.
One seems to hear words of good cheer
From everywhere, filling the air
O, how they pound, raising the sound
O’er hill and dale, telling their tale

Gaily they ring, while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

On, on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home.
Ding dong ding dong


      Here's a beautiful version from the Tucson Boys Choir.


      I'll be back a little later with the fourth post in the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street. I'll see you then.

HSCC 7.2

      The Fab Frenzied Feline sent me this beautiful present. It was a wonderful surprise. (By the way, the decoration on the front of the package is the card I sent her and her family last year. Isn't that a clever way to recycle an old card.)



And this is what was inside!


      Thank you, Frenzied Feline! You're awesome! Merry Christmas!
      I'll be back with the third post of the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on Harbor Street in a little while. See you then.

HSCC 7.1

       Here are some beautiful cards that I received this Christmas. Where is yours to me?

From my friends Peggy and Tom


From my friend Bob


From my friend Barbara


From my Aunt Charlene and Uncle Harold


      I'll be back a little later with the second post of the 12 Posts of Christmas Eve on 51313 Harbor Street.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

HSCC 6: 12 Christmas Factoids

       1. One acre of living Christmas trees generates enough oxygen to meet the daily requirement for 18 humans. Approximately 1,000,000 acres are used to grow Christmas trees yearly.
       2. The top six Christmas tree producing states are: Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. About 30,000,000 trees are harvested in an average year. Two to three Christmas trees are planted for every one harvested.
       3. Mango and banana trees are Christmas symbols in India, where Christians use mango leaves for holiday decorations.
       4. The poinsettia is named for the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, botanist Joel Roberts Poinsett. Poinsett introduced the plant that would become known as poinsettia into the United States in 1829.
       5. The word yule, from Middle English, means "to cry aloud."
       6. More than 3 billion Christmas cards are mailed each year in the United States.
       7. With some 50,000,000 copies sold so far and still climbing, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," recorded in 1942 by Bing Crosby, is still the best-selling single in history.
       8. Geographically speaking, the North Pole is the point on Earth that is the true top of the planet where all lines of longitude converge. The Geomagnetic North Pole is the point on the Earth that marks the northern focus of the geomagnetic field that surrounds the globe. It lies in Greenland, 78 degrees 30 minutes North, 69 degrees West. Compasses, however, point to the Magnetic North Pole, which is about 1,000 miles south of the geographic North Pole, near Ellef Ringness Island in northern Canada. A lesser-known North Pole, the Northern Pole of Inaccessibility, represents the furthermost point in all directions from any coastline. About 700 miles from the nearest land, this pole is located north of Alaska at 84 degrees 03 minutes North, 174 degrees 51 minutes West. By the way, illustrator Thomas Nast was the first to put Santa Clause's home at the North Pole. In 1882, he drew Santa sitting on a box labeled, "Christmas Box 1882, St. Nicholas, North Pole."
       9. There are about 5,000,000 reindeer in the world. They are threatened by habitat loss and global warming and are seeing their population drop yearly.
       10. Making popcorn garlands is one of the few Christmas traditions born in the United States.
       11. The post office handles more than 70,000 letters each year addressed to Santa at the North Pole.
       12. The Twelve Days of Christmas traditionally started on Christmas. Many European counties still keep this tradition, particularly parts of Spain and France.
Sources: The Christmas Almanac, The National Arbor Day Foundation, The Association of Popcorn Producers, The United States Postal Service and MTV News.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

HSCC 5: 12 Great Things About Christmas

      1. Presents. I like getting them. I like giving them. Here are some inexpensive gift ideas: Candles, candy bars, six-packs of favorite soft drinks, chocolate-chip cookies, small picture frames, bookmarks, Christmas ornaments, decorative computer printer paper, hand lotion, etc. We have a tendency to think that good presents have to cost a lot of money. They don't. Something to show that you're thinking of them this holiday season is all that is needed for your co-workers, friends, etc. It's not about the money.
      2. Lights. I love Christmas lights. I like to drive around my town and see all the displays. I appreciate the hard work that went into them. I like the way the way the lights gleam in the night. It's a metaphor for what Christmas really is about.
      3. Shopping. It's where I catch the bustle and hustle of the season. Yeah, it's hurried, and it makes my feet hurt. But I like thinking of people and what they might like.
      4. Christmas bags. Oh, I still wrap a few gifts, but otherwise, brightly colored bags have freed me of hours of wrapping.
      5. Carols. I like singing them. I like hearing them.
      6. Church and school Christmas children's programs. Nothing is as sweet or as funny. Makes my heart melt. No apologies for that.
      7. The way people will give more during this time to the needy. It's like we're reminded of how blessed we are and how much we really have. So we share. Some people say that it's guilt. I don't believe that's true for most of us. I believe it's compassion. It's where we show that we have incredible potential as a species. It's where we justify our existence.
      8. Food. I love turkey and dressing, pineapple adorned ham, fluffy garlic and chive mashed potatoes, fresh green salad, golden pumpkin pies … Hmmmmm ….
      9. Get-togethers with friends. We're all busy, we're all tired, we're all broke, but we all enjoy sharing time and raising a cup of cider together.
      10. Family time. They make me crazy at times, but I wouldn't give up any one of them. We're connected by blood and history. We're loud, opinionated, funny and brash. We love as hard as we fight. We're family. And that's that.
      11. Quiet, worshipful Midnight Masses and other church Christmas services. It's a time of quiet in this incredibly busy season. I remember sitting in the local Catholic Church at Midnight Night Mass a couple of Christmases ago as the day became new and listening to the silence between the prayers and songs. I felt renewed in spirit and grateful for the many undeserved blessings in my life.
      12. Nativity scenes. The heart of the mystery. The God coming to earth in the form of a babe. Remembrances that we were loved enough for someone to give up glory for us. The beginning of a journey that would change a world. A light in the darkness. A star in the ebony sky. A gift to humanity.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Black dog come around

      It's been five days since I posted. I apologize about that. I'll explain as much as I can in a moment. But none of you have commented about me not posting so you're probably fine. Are you? Or are you like me: so overwhelmed with life that it's hard enough to function, much less thinking about posting?
      It's not the holidays. People always like to think the holidays are depressing. I like Christmas, okay? And I'm totally cool with New Years. Of course, I am behind in my projects. The December family newsletter will be mailed tomorrow ... if I'm lucky and productive tonight, and the Christmas cards with their Tales insert will be mailed Thursday. So that's a bit later than usual. But that's okay. People should still get them before Christmas, which is the point. And yes, I still have some Christmas shopping to do. And some Christmas mailing. But it mostly seems manageable at this point, and I will be off work Thursday afternoon when I can finish up some nagging details.
      Murder by the Acre, however, is on hold until after Christmas. I can't seem to muster the concentration necessary -- or the enthusiasm to be honest -- that it requires. That's okay. It will wait, and a bit of time away will only help me approach it with vigor when I return to it. I've already thought of and jotted down notes for a couple of scenes that I think are going to greatly improve the flow of the story as well as give Bernard a vital clue about what is really going on and who's killing who and why. So that's okay.
      If all of this is true -- and it is -- then why has the black dog come around? That's what Winston Churchill called depression: the black dog. I've always thought it was a particularly apt description.
      Probably the lack of sunlight. I miss the sun and warmth. I definitely do not like winter. It drags on me. Weighs me down. I have one of those natural light lamps, an attempt to end or at least moderate this Seasonal Affective Disorder. I can't tell that it has helped much if at all.
      Or maybe bottled anger. I've had many, many, many of my friends who have supported Murder by Dewey Decimal. They have bought the book, attended my book signings, and generally shared my joy in this accomplishment. I appreciate them more than I can so. But then there are other "friends" who have given lip service to being my friend for years, but who didn't buy the book, don't ask about it, who basically refuse to give it any attention. It has dismayed me. And regrettably, there are family members who fall into this category, too. Look, I know it's not War & Peace. I know it's not Harry Potter. But it's my book, a part of me. It's my baby, misshapen as it might be. If a so-called friend can't be happy for me, can't support me and my dreams, then why am I bothering with them? They're not my friends. I don't what they are, but I don't want to waste any more time on them.
      It could be grief. My Uncle Everett's passing left a hole in my family. My aunt, who is doing amazingly well all things considered, struggles daily with his loss and will for some time to come. We have talked several times since and will continue to do so. Sometimes it's hard to listen to her grieve, but she needs someone to listen, and that is something I can do and am proud to do so.
      Or how about health worries? My blood sugar is not doing like it should. Control is proving more elusive that I had hoped. It's frustrating to eat the same things every day, to do all the right things that the experts suggest, and my blood sugar still remains high. Or drops so low that I'm sick. And now I apparently have a stress fracture on my left foot. No treadmill for a while. I have to figure out an alternative form of exercise that I can do. And afford. We have gyms in town with plenty of equipment, but currently I can't afford their fees. Or maybe I can't afford not to.
      And then there are financial worries. Money remains tight. But I'm on pace to pay off another credit card this month. Then in September or October of 2009, I'll pay off another one. Then in June or July of 2010, I'll pay off my second mortgage. And finally in 2011, the first mortgage. So, assuming nothing changes and I continue to receive a paycheck and my health doesn't worsen and so on, I'll be out of debt in 2011. I'll be broke, but I won't be paying outrageous interest to anyone. So there's progress, but it's wearying, this constant penny pinching, this never-ending mindfulness.
      Let's not forget the worries for the world. We humans are incredibly short-sighted, and it doesn't seem to getting better. We wage war, despoil the environment, abuse the weak, worship the rich, cheapen the spiritual, teach prejudice, abhor honesty, and generally behave as if ... sigh. Enough of that.
      Or maybe I'm just a whiny butt who needs more rest. I hope things are going well for you. We'll resume our Christmas countdown tomorrow. Night!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

HSCC Day 4

      Some photos of my Christmas village. It looks better than these photos. I need Michelle to come to Oklahoma and use her amazing photography skills to capture its glory.









Wednesday, December 12, 2007

HSCC Day 3

Merry Christmas in 37 Languages & then some
Afrikaner: Een Plesierige Kerfees
Argentinian: Felces Pasquas y felices Ano Nuevo
Arkansas: All y'alls have a mary Christmas ya hear
Armenian: Schernorhavor Dzenount
Bohemain: Vesele Vanoce
Bulgarian: Chestita Koleda
Bush: Santa has WMDs
Chinese: Kung Hsi Hsin Niene bing Chu Shen Tan
Computer: 01001101 01000101 01010010 01010010 01011001 01000011 01001000 01010010 01001001 01010011 01010100 01001101 01000001 01010011
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Danish: Glaedelig Jul
England: Cherrio! Hav'a cuppa, goven'r! Happy yules
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Finnish: Houska Joulua
Flemish: Vrolike Kerstmis
French: Joyeux Noel
German: Froehliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christougena
Dutch: Vrolyk Kerfeest en Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Iraqian: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Italian: Buon Natale
Japanese: Meri Kurisumasu
Jugoslavian: Cestitamo Bozic
Gore: Christmas lights contribute to global warming so turn them off and have a dim Christmas
Klingon: (Nothing because they’re not real. They’re fictional. The Federation doesn’t exist. Get a life.)
Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
New York: Shut up and get out of my way, you freak
Norwegian: God Jul og Godt Nytt Aar
Oklahoman: Merry Christmas, y'all
Polish: Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese: Boas Festas y Feliz Ano Novo
Ridiculously inoffensive: Happy non-specific occasion
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele
Russian: S Rozhdestvom Kristovym
Serbian: Hristos se rodi
Slovakian: Vesele vianoce
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul
Texan: Merry Thankgivin'
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian: Chrystos Rozdzajetsia Slawyte Jeho
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

A short commercial break: Right now, Amazon.com is offering a sale on Murder by Dewey Decimal! You can purchase MBDD (softcover) for only $14.95 (saving $2), and it still qualifies for Free Super Saver Shipping! How awesome is that! It's a limited time offer so head on over and take advantage of it now! (Click anywhere in this announcement to be taken to Amazon.)

Nifty Christmas Tips
Say No!
      Say no. That's right. Say no. You can only do so much. Obligations abound. Friends, family, church, clubs, work ... There are limits to what you can do. You deserve some rest this Christmas. Cut back on your projects. Say no that one extra job. Don't over commit yourself. They will find someone else. Understand that you are human, and give yourself a break. Christmas should also mean peace. And that's a good thing.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

HSCC Day 2

A short commercial break: Right now, Amazon.com is offering a sale on Murder by Dewey Decimal! You can purchase MBDD (softcover) for only $14.95 (saving $2), and it still qualifies for Free Super Saver Shipping! How awesome is that! It's a limited time offer so head on over and take advantage of it now! (Click anywhere in this announcement to be taken to Amazon.)

Nifty Christmas Ideas
Salt Dough Ornaments

      Salt dough ornaments are easy to make and will last for years with care. To make them, you only need three things:
            4 cups of flour (not self-rising)
             1 cup of salt
            1 1/2 cups of hot tap water.
      Mix water and salt together for one minute. Mix in the flour slowly. When all the flour has been absorbed, knead for two minutes. Roll out on a lightly floured board. You want the dough to be about 1/4 inch thick. Form the dough into various shapes with cookie cutters and molds. Place on a cookie sheet that's covered by foil. Be sure to make a hole at top of the ornaments that will allow a hanging thread or wire to go through. (You can't add the hole after baking as the ornaments will break.) Bake at 325 degrees until firm (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). The larger the ornament, the longer it will take to bake. Let cool completely. (Naturally you should not eat the ornaments.)
      Varnish the ornaments with an acrylic varnish, or use acrylic paints to decorate them, and then varnish. The varnish is important as it keeps the ornaments from deteriorating. Be sure to varnish both sides. This is a great family project.

12 Annoying Things About Christmas

      I love Christmas. I love it like some people love chocolate. But even I will admit that there are a few things about it that make me want to hit Santa upside his head with a shovel. Here's twelve:
      1. People who talk about the commercialism of Christmas like they're being sophisticated. Look, back in the 1920s, they were bemoaning the commercial aspects of Christmas. It's nothing new. We live in a crass, profit-oriented society. Less than 48 hours after 9/11, companies were selling "commemorative" items. That's just the way some people are. Get over it. Don't give them any airtime. And don't use the commercialism of Christmas as an excuse for your lack of generosity. There are a lot of soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other charities that always need your help. Rather than just talk about how everyone has lost the true meaning of Christmas, why don't you go out there and show it to everyone.
      2. The whole Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas mess that has been reported exhaustedly by TV, newspaper and bloggers. Seriously, do you think saying Happy Holidays makes anyone forget it's Christmas? Do you think calling names and generally behaving like a jerk makes anyone feel like it's Christmas? Do I think it's right for retailers to remove mention of Christmas? No, but I don't expect retailers to spread the Gospel. Guess what? They're trying to make a living. If I don't like their policies, I don't have to shop with them.
      3. People who get upset by Nativity scenes on public property. Don't they have any real problems? We've got starving, poor, homeless people who are sick and need help. We have children going to bed hungry in the United States. We have rampant drug use that is decimating our young people and draining society. And you want me to be upset because your poor little eyes were offended by a Nativity scene? What complete, utter nonsense. Our courts should be ashamed to even hear such cases.
      4. Anyone who doesn't give to a charity because they've decided that charities are corrupt. Here's a lesson in the real world, my naive little bunny: Charities are ran by people. Some people are corrupt. There will be corruption in any human endeavor. That's the way of the world. But you can do a bit of research and discover what charities give more of their donations to their causes. You can make sensible decisions about your charitable giving. But if you still want to hang onto your money, then once again, haul yourself to your nearest homeless shelter. Make the world a better place that way. (Side note: I particularly detest people who decide that the homeless are lazy and deserve to starve. A lot of the homeless, a third at last count, are children below the age of eight. Exactly what did they do to deserve to starve?) (Another side note: Anyone who justifies not helping the poor because the Bible says the poor will always be with us should be beaten. I don't have words to express my contempt for that lazy, selfish, smug attitude.) (One last side note: If you're broke, you're broke. Give what you can when you can. We can only do what we can do. But we should do that.)
      5. Rock, rap and pop stars who insist on singing carols but have to add their own special touch. While driving to work today, I heard a pop star sing Silent Night on the radio with many moans, ahhh's, soft sighs and general all-around grandstanding. I wasn't sure if she was singing a carol or giving a mating call. Then I heard a hard guitar version of Come All Ye, Faithful. I turned off the radio. I won't turn it back on until it's safe.
      6. People who sing the praises of snow. It's cold, wet, makes roads dangerous, kills animals and people. I rate it up there with the flu.
      7. Speaking of wet, cold and dangerous, why don't people slow down when it's icy? WHY? Four-wheel drive doesn't make you invulnerable, folks. SLOW DOWN.
      8. Any more animated specials about Santa's early life. We now have The Adventures of Santa, Young Santa Claus, The True Story of Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Santa and His Reindeer, Santa and the Magic Flute, The Year Without Santa Claus, etc. Next up: Santa VS. Alien and Santa and The Wise Guys. Enough already.
      9. Christmas cards without return addresses. Don't make me look it up. Put the return address on the envelope. That's all I'm asking.
      10. Surly clerks. I know your job isn't fun at the holidays. I'm sorry about that. But don’t take it out on me. It's not my fault. Just let me make my purchases and leave and no one gets hurt.
      11. Anyone who has to share the pagan origins of Christmas like they're imparting some new earthshaking wisdom. That's old news, folks. Not very interesting news at that. Recently a pastor I know spent his Sunday morning giving us the pagan putdown. I debated several times about walking out, but annoying good manners kept me in the pew listen to him babble on about what things meant centuries ago. It doesn't really matter what they thought in the 9th century. It matters what we think now.
      12. Bloggers that produce lists of things that annoy them about Christmas. That's the most annoying thing of all.

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Habor Street Christmas Celebration begins

This officially begins the Harbor Street Christmas Celebration.

Nifty Things to do with old Christmas cards
      1. A friend of mine shared this cool idea with me. She wanted to send out Christmas cards, but couldn't make the time to address them each year. So she purchased a box of labels and handwrote each address on a label, adding embellishments and black and white stickers. Then she took them to a copy store and had the labels copied in various colors. Nifty! She also took colored pens and filled in some of the stickers. Of course, she could have used a computer program like PrintShop or PrintMaster to do this, but she liked the handwritten look.
      2. You can buy blank cards at your local office supply store, print your message inside, and then paste the front of old cards as the front of the new cards. Another friend actually takes the front of the old cards and uses it as a postcard by drawing a dividing line down the middle, writing her greeting on the left, and placing the address and stamp on the right.
      3. You can decorate with old cards by arranging them on your mantel or by punching holes in them and stringing them as a garland or by creating a Christmas card tree on an undecorated wall by arranging the cards in a tree shape. You can also cut old cards into gift tags for presents or cut them into interesting shapes to paste on gifts wrapped in white craft paper.
      If you have a Nifty Christmas Idea, please share it with us!

Christmas Facts
(Some Of Which Might Be True)
       Kissing under the mistletoe dates back to a 17th century English kissing game. Back then, a berry was removed from the mistletoe every time a kiss was made, which meant no more kisses when all the berries were gone, and then everyone would just laugh and laugh. Yeah, I know, but you have to remember that they didn't have TV so they had to fill their time as best they could. Mistletoe, by the way, was used by the druids in their secret ceremonies. The druids, a cheery group, used to place mistletoe wreaths around the necks of their victims before the victims were sacrificed by having their entrails nailed to an oak tree. You don't see that on a lot of Christmas cards, do you?
       Christmas trees started in Germany in the 16th century. On Christmas Eve, Martin Luther was walking home under a starry sky, which was so beautiful that he wanted to recreate its beauty for his children. He decorated a large evergreen with lit candles. He followed his creation of the First Christmas Tree with the development of the First House Fire Caused By A Christmas Tree.
       Since 1947, the people of Oslo, Norway, have given a Christmas tree every year to the city of Westminster, England. The gift expresses Norway's gratitude for Britain's help during World War II, despite the fact that the tree is never on Britain's Christmas list. Britain would prefer a gift card.
       The first president to decorate the white house Christmas tree in the United States was Franklin Pierce. This is the only notable thing Pierce did while in office and as such should be remembered, but not by me. I've already cleansed it from my memory.
       Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down after Epiphany or whenever the husband has been nagged beyond endurance.
       "The Nutcracker" is the most famous Christmas ballet and was used by the Chinese to break the wills of political prisoners. It is outlawed by the Geneva Convention as is the playing of "Jingle Bells" more than 1,754,322 times during the holiday season.
       If you received all of the gifts in the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," you would receive 364 presents, none of which you could return. By the way, why are there so many birds in that song? Doesn't it seem rather fowl?
       Holly berries are poisonous, which does explain why holly berry cookies aren't popular even though there was a heavy marking push for them during the 1950s. It joined the ranks of other failed food products: stone ground hemlock bread, foxglove fajitas, poop pie, and of course, green tea.
       In 1843, "A Christmas Carol" was written by Charles Dickens in just six weeks. Many of us feel he should have taken more time with it and added some spaceships and several hot alien females.
       The first state to recognize the Christmas holiday officially was Alabama. Afterwards, Alabama had to lie down and wasn't able to recognize other things for years, which is one of the reasons they lagged so far behind in civil rights.
       Christmas became a national holiday in America on June 26, 1870. When the news was announced, many retailers swooned, but got right up as their floors were dirty.
       Coca Cola was the first beverage company to use Santa for a winter promotion. This would be the beginning of a lucrative career as Santa signed endorsement contracts for all sorts of products, including gardening tools (Hoe, Hoe, Hoe!), pies (Whole, Whole, Whole!), dynamite (Hole, Hole, Hole!), and even laser removal of facial disfigurements (Mole, Mole, Mole!). And no, we're not going to do a Viagra joke here.
       The government actually once banned a Christmas tree decoration. Tinsel was once made of lead. (It's now made of plastic.) The tinsel maker's jingle of "Decorate your tree with a silver rain; You'll be laughing as you damage your brain" was remade into a hip-hop hit in the 90s.
       "Rudolph" was created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930's for a holiday promotion. The rest is sheer greed and marketing history.
       The Christmas card was started in England in 1843. Louis Prang, a Massachusetts printer, printed the first Christmas card in the United States in 1875. There’s more to the story, but I'm tired. Feel free to look it up. Merry Christmas!

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Living past it

       You get past something bad simply by living past it. I don't know any other way to do it. I appreciate all the concern, the prayers, and the phone calls. And now it will take time. Wish I could rush the process because I don't like feeling this sad, but time goes as time goes. And that's that.
      I have done a few things this weekend. I got my Christmas village set up. I'll take some photos of it over the next few days. I started working on my Christmas cards and will finish them this week. Some housework, and that sums up my weekend.
      Anyway, I hope things are going well in your world. I'm going to call it a night now. Take care, particularly if you're on the icy roads in Oklahoma the next couple of days. Night!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Obituary - James Everett Bearce

James Everett Bearce
November 10, 1940 - December 5, 2007

Mr. James Everett Bearce, 67, former resident of Muldrow died Wednesday morning December 5, 2007 in Tulsa.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in the sanctuary of the First Assembly of God Church in Muldrow. Burial will be in the Muldrow Memory Gardens Cemetery under the direction of the Ninde Funeral Home, Tulsa.

Mr. Bearce was born on November 10, 1940 in Ft. Smith, Arkansas to Clyde Olen and Katherine Marie (Ragsdale) Bearce. He and Annetta Bagley were united in marriage on September 6, 1963, in Muldrow. He was associated with the McDonnell-Douglas aircraft manufacturing from 1966 till his retirement in 1994.

He is survived by his wife Annetta of the home in Owasso, one uncle Dale Ragsdale of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, several cousins, and many nieces and nephews.


Please keep my aunt in your prayers. Thank you all for the concern and sympathy you've shown.
 

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Yesterday

Yesterday I hated my job. I sat there listening to the customers, taking their payments, showing concern about their problems, smiling at their jokes, being helpful or funny as the situation called for it, being what they expected, and inside I hated my job, hated being at the office, hated listening to them, hated pretending that everything was normal while my aunt sat in her home in Tulsa and tried to make sense of her devastated life.

Later my boss's son and a couple of people who work with him dropped by, and I was so funny. I made them laugh, made them shake their heads at my ability to wisecrack, made them think that I was happy. Until they were leaving and I blurted out that my uncle had died in a car accident and they were shocked and said they were sorry and they glanced at each other not sure how to deal with this tragedy that had suddenly intruded in their pleasant afternoon. They left soon after, and I finished my day, closing out the accounts, rolling the phones to our answering service, closing the safe, making the deposits, and I drove home after a long, hard day at work. Because I'm a working man, a paycheck slave, and that's what we do.

Last night I sat in my recliner and channel surfed, trying to find anything that would absorb my attention, something that would require me to focus on something besides loss. There was nothing on. I got up and finished decorating my Christmas tree. I had thought that I would follow some sort of theme this year, maybe only use the gold or silver ornaments or only the college-themed snowmen and football helmets or the ornaments featuring attractions around my town. Instead I put everything on, nearly every branch receiving some sort of ornament, snowman, bow, bell, star, angel, globe, icicle, until the tree groaned with the weight. Then I sat out my Nativity sets, careful to arrange the figurines so that everyone could see baby Jesus if, of course, plastic and wooden eyes could see. I cleaned up the mess and put the empty boxes back in the garage.

Then I went to bed and lay awake for a long time, not thinking or trying to not think, and fell asleep sometime after midnight. I didn't dream. Or if I did, I don't remember them.

Today I went back to work and opened the office. I mailed a card to my aunt and ordered a plant to be delivered to her house. Because that's how we deal with death, you know. We send plants, cards, bring over casseroles, dress in black, cry, weep, and somehow get up the next day and go to work because life doesn't stop, life doesn't care, it keeps going no matter how much we scream for it to stop, to give us a moment, a breath of time to recover our sanity.

My Uncle Everett thought I was funny. He thought I was bright. He thought it was great that I had published a book. He was family and he loved me.

And I loved him.
 

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Prayer request

UPDATE - 10 p.m. The funeral will be Saturday at 2 p.m. in Muldrow. There will be a memorial service Friday in Tulsa.

My sister just called me. My Uncle Everett was killed in a car accident this morning in Tulsa. He was broadsided by a dump truck. Please pray for his wife, my Aunt Annetta. She's my favorite aunt. This is going to be so terribly hard on her.

UPDATE:
This is the story from the Tulsa World.

A 67-year-old man was killed Wednesday morning when his car collided with a dump truck on a Tulsa street.

The accident occurred about 7:15 a.m. at the intersection of 46th Street North and Mingo Road. Witnesses told police the man was attempting a right-hand turn onto 46th at a red light when the westbound dump truck struck the car on its driver's side, Tulsa Police Officer Ron Neal said.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was pronounced dead on the scene.

The intersection will remain closed while emergency crews are clearing the accident
.

I spoke briefly with my aunt. She's in shock and struggling to comprehend what's happened. Please continue to pray for her.

Wednesday is today ... whee ...

      Sorry to be gone so much lately, but this cold/flu has really beat me down. After I got home from work yesterday, I collapsed in my recliner and didn't move until time for bed. Look, I'm so tired that I'm not even getting on the computer so you know it has to be bad!
      But a few things are getting done. My roomie put together the Christmas tree (thanks, ETC!) and I've slowly been putting a few ornaments on it. I'm terribly behind in my Christmas shopping -- of course -- and intend to Amazon like mad tonight.
      I've barely started the Christmas family newsletter -- which is a larger than normal issue -- and need to work on it. I haven't started my Christmas cards at all. Sigh.
      The goals tonight are to finish the tree, order most of my Christmas list, and work on the family newsletter. (Mostly my Tales from Bethlehem story, which is needed also for the Christmas cards.)
      Speaking of Christmas, I saw The Nativity Story a few days back. An excellent movie. I know it received some criticism for its portrayal of Mary -- people objected to her being so human -- but I thought it was well done, and what teenager wouldn't be frightened to discover she was carrying a child before marriage in that day and age where unwed mothers could be stoned to death? By the way, Doctor Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine played the angel.
      I was supposed to start a food journal on Sunday to track what I'm eating so that I could learn how certain foods affect my blood sugar. However, I haven't because of being ill. Trust me, I don't ordinarily live on a diet of clear liquids, chicken broth, rice, and bananas. But I'm hoping to slowly start eating "regular" food today. (You know, I used to like chicken broth and rice, but I'm tired, tired, tired of it. I'm -- finally -- out of chicken broth in my cabinets so I'm taking that as a sign.)
      What else? Well, Murder by Dewey Decimal continues to sell on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I have about 20 bookplates left. If you've bought a book and need one, email your snail mail address to me. If you haven't received your bookplates yet, email your snail mail address and number of books purchased again.
      How many have I sold? Don't know. I don't get figures like that until January, but I've had several people tell me that they have ordered it so I'm trusting it's still selling. I've got to keep doing my part by flogging the book to the public. Yes, a bit tiresome, but nothing -- and I do mean nothing -- has ever been built without someone somewhere nagging relentlessly. And in the case of MBDD, that's me.
      And now I need to drag my sorry carcass to work. Whee. Have a good day.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Alva Newspaper Story

      If you click on it, you can read the story. But you probably knew that.



      I returned to work today. Still not feeling my best, but better. I hope the recovery continues rapidly. I'm tired of being sick. Hope things are going well for you. Night!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Alva Book Signing 3

      I sold four books to customers and six books to my family who are donating two to the local library and using the others as gifts. I didn't quite pay for the trip, but that's okay. I had a wonderful time visiting with my family, and Alva is a lovely community. The Great Indoors is an excellent store with beautiful merchandise. I was very impressed with it. Here a few photos of the store's merchandise.

















      This is only a fraction of what they have available. So if you're in Alva or the surrounding area, visit
The Great Indoors
422 Flynn St.
Alva, Oklahoma, 73717
580-327-5337

      And here's a photo of my table.



      And that's basically my trip to Alva. I'm still fighting the cold, which may actually be the flu. I had a terrible time with it both Friday and Saturday night. I mostly slept all day today. I feel somewhat better. I'm hoping I feel much better tomorrow.
      That's what I've been doing. What have you been doing? Let me know. And now, good night.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Alva Book Signing 2

Not going so well, but the people are friendly, and the store is beautiful. Not a bad way to spend a morning. Here's a photo of my new banner. I think it looks pretty good.

Alva Book Signing

Here I am at Alva, Oklahoma, at the Grand Opening of The Great Indoors Home Furnishing, 422 Flynn. The wind is blowing like crazy, but people are still showing up.



Come on by if you're in the area. I'll be back later. I hope.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The cold lingers on

       The cold still lingers. Not much fun. Sigh. I did get a lot of writing done on Murder by the Acre at the doctor's office today. It was a new scene that I think will help the story along immensely. I just have to find a place to put it. It also gave me a hint about why the story isn't jelling quite right: I'm not putting my heroes in enough danger. The stakes need to be higher. And I think I can see several ways to do that.
      I was going to post a photo of Mikey, but Blogger won't let me right now. I keep getting an error. I'll try tomorrow. And now I'm going to call it a night. Hope things are going well for you. Night!

Monday, November 26, 2007

MBTA update

      How is Murder by the Acre going? Well, the book is mostly done except -- and that really should be EXCEPT -- for a few problems areas. Particularly Chapter 3, 7 & 9 with small clean-up problems all over the book. I know what should happen in each of those chapters, but so far what I have isn't very good. Well, they're not bad, but they're not as good as they should be. I know all along that those chapters were rough, but I wrote past them, intending to fix them later. It's later now.
      The real problem is Chapter 3. 7 & 9 are basically connected to 3. If I could fix 3, they would or should follow in kind. The clean-up errors are also related to 3. And the trouble with 3 is that I haven't got the story and the murders firmly in hand. It's important that the murders make sense from the inside (the murderer[s]) point of view however baffling they might be from the outside. And currently they don't. I mean, there are motives everywhere, but what drove our killer(s) to finally cross that line? And why did the killer(s) think that the murders would be better than the alternative?
      In real life, murderers often make random and bad decisions -- as we all do -- but in a "cozy" mystery, the murderer is supposed to be clever or very lucky. And since I'm writing the murderer(s), I have to be clever, too. It's like a game with the reader. I want to make sure the readers have enough clues to solve it if they're clever and pay attention. It's like composing a crossword puzzle: you want the clues to take effort, but not be so hard that the puzzle solver gives up in frustration.
      I'm also trying to raise the bar with this book. I want it to be better than MBDD. I want it to be funnier, smarter, more mysterious. I've grown as a writer since MBDD and MBTA were written all those years ago. While I was content to polish MBDD, I want MBTA to reflect my writing and the world now.
      Of course, Ryton is a rural town so it will be behind the curve, but they have cell phones, the Net, and all the other things that mark them as living in this century.
      And I am making progress. Every day the book grows. I learn more about the characters and their lives. There are answers for the problems presented in Chapter 3, and I will write my way to their solutions. I have faith in the process. I have faith in my writing. I have faith.
*
      This Friday I will be in Alva, Oklahoma, for a Murder by Dewey Decimal book signing at the grand opening of The Great Indoors. I'm looking forward to it. I'm also nervous. I hope I sell a few books and get MBDD into more hands. The more people who read it, the more word of mouth is generated. And that's the best advertising.
      I still have a handful of book plates left. If you want one for your copy of MBDD, please let me know. Oh, and you can order an autographed softcover copy of MBDD directly from me for $21 (book $16.95 and postage and box $4.05).
       E.T.C., Crystal, and Gloria all posted reviews of MBDD on Amazon.com and/or Barnes & Noble.com so they will be receiving the first chapter of Murder by the Acre soon by snail mail.
*
      We had an absolutely good time with Mikey. And I was told quite seriously that I was his "best uncle." I'm no relation actually, but I'll take that designation. I just hope his real uncle never hears about it! (Sorry, Todd.)
*
      The cold is really kicking my butt. So I think I'm going to take my beaten behind and go to bed. Talk to you tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ouch

      Well, OSU was beaten by OU. Pounded. Slaughtered. Murderized. Pick the sports slang of your choice as long as it conveys that my beloved, kind, intelligent, good Oklahoma State University was defeated by the evil, rude, ugly, mean, stinky University of Oklahoma. Sigh. Sometimes the Dark Side wins. Next year, Darth Stoops, next year.
      It's wet, chilly and dreary here. And I have caught a head cold. Only bright spot is that Mikey will be returning later this evening. He is a wonderful boy. Wild with energy and as funny as he can be.
      Don't have anything else to tell you. Take care. Have a good night. Talk to you tomorrow.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The news such as it is

      I had a good Thanksgiving. I hope you did, too. And if not, I hope the day after was better.
      I'd like to say that I've spent the past two days being productive, but I can't. I should be doing all sorts of things -- the list is long -- but for some reason, I've been shut down the past week or so. Don't know why. Maybe the lack of sunlight. I hate the shorter days of winter. Not a fan of winter, period. Or maybe exclamation point. I like long warm sunlight filled days. Love spring, worship summer.
      Mikey did come to visit for a while. He and his Papa are gone now to visit his great grandparents out in Western Oklahoma. They'll be back Saturday evening. He sure was fun while he was here. So lively. So smart. So utterly wonderful.
      Otherwise, don't have much to tell you. I'll be back tomorrow with -- I hope -- good news concerning the Oklahoma State University and University of Oklahoma football game. I'm rooting for OSU, of course.
      Night!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The first Thanksgiving ... sort of

(I actually wrote the following for Thanksgiving a few years ago and intended to fill in the tiny historical gaps by doing credible research. But what with the knitting and handgun lessons, I haven't had the chance. Still, no notable historian has challenged it so here it is.)

      I hope if you have to travel tomorrow that you drive carefully. Or if you take public transportation, ride the bus or train carefully. Remember only you can prevent forest fires. So stay out of the forest! The chipmunks don't want you there. They and their henchman squirrels plot against you.
      I should really write something about Thanksgiving, but most people know the story of the Pilgrims and their long perilous journey across the ocean. To tell something new about them, one would have to do months of hard research and consult learned scholars. Instead, I'm going to use an easier way that nonetheless is prominent in today's society, particularly among Democrats: I'm going to make it up.
      The Pilgrims left Plymouth, England, in 1620, crossed the ocean in the Mayflower and landed at Plymouth, America, two months later. How lucky is that? They left Plymouth and ended up at Plymouth.
      The Pilgrims were fleeing religious persecution from the governments and churches in Europe. The European establishment was a bit looser about sin, considering the Ten Commandments to be the Ten Suggestions and the Sermon on the Mount to be a Chat with Tea. The establishment, however, was steadfast in its beliefs, burning heretics at the stake. What a happy time was had by all, not including the burnee, of course, who sometimes complained loudly.
      The Pilgrims were led by John Alden or maybe Miles Standish. I'm a little unclear on this. It could have been Flappy Slapdashy. Look it up. On the trip over, several sailors died. This could have been seen as a bad omen, but the Pilgrims didn't believe in omens or baths, either. No, this part is true. They thought baths were sinful and should be taken only once a year -- say for instance when your undergarments were capable of walking to the water by themselves -- and you were never to enjoy them.
      Some modern-day scholars have taken this to mean that the Pilgrims were dour, sour people, like Republicans these days, but this simply isn't true. In 1637, Warwick William "Willie" Wipingnose smiled in public at a Pilgrim gathering. Twice. He was immediately flogged and pilloried, but he did smile.
      Soon after the Pilgrims arrived in the New World, they discovered, due to bad planning, all the supermarkets were in the Old World. Food got scarce. Several Pilgrims disappeared but were found in various cooking pots in the Donner home.
      The winter was cold, the wolves were gathering and the pantry was bare. Disease struck the colony. The colony tried to strike back, but Disease was too quick and dodged and ran around town, skipping and singing, "Climb Every Mountain."
      But help was just beyond the horizon, or actually just inside the woods. Chief Acornugger of the Whatchamacallit Tribe had met the Pilgrims some time ago. He hadn't liked them, finding them "stinky and dour." His medicine man Pokeineye had warned him of the white man, saying, "They come in long ships to take our forests and our lands and will drive us before them. Do not let them. Invest in casinos. Sell them plenty of smoking weed."
      For a while, Acornugger led his brave braves against the white man in daring raids, taking tools, clothing and an entire case of moist towelettes.
      Once he or some other chief captured several white men and were putting them to death by cutting off their heads. (Although he wasn't a member of the European establishment, the chief was sympathetic to their methods.) The last victim was a man named John Smith (possibly not his real name). They pushed Smith down on a tree stump and started to chop off his head when the chief's daughter Pocahontas threw herself on top of the captive. The chief was overcome by this display of emotion and ordered Smith released, although Pocahontas kept insisting that she had just tripped.
      Anyway, Chief Acornugger saw that the white people were starving and felt his heart swell with pity, but it turned out to be just gas. A completely different tribe led by some other chief actually brought food, including corn and Twinkies, to the famished Pilgrims.
      The Pilgrims and Indians gathered for a goodwill feast and slam dance, giving thanks for the food and friendship shared by all. The Pilgrims were so grateful that they didn't steal the land of that tribe until 45 years later.
      And that's almost exactly not the story of the First Thanksgiving.

© 2007 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Floozy & Other Mishaps.