The old year ends and a new one has begun. For me, 2011 was a thoroughly mixed bag. I turned 30 and broke a bone for the first time about a week later, which resulted in a month away from work — not exactly the sort of vacation I had in mind. In March, I returned to work and began a two-month-long regimen of physical therapy. Some ongoing family issues continued to be troubling.
On a more positive note, we made an offer on and bought a house in a nice neighborhood, just a few doors up the street from a good friend from work. We took a week’s vacation in the mountains of western Maryland in October, just as the autumn leaves were at their prettiest. We celebrated our first Christmas in the new house with a live tree and good food.
I resolved last New Year’s never to make another New Year’s resolution ever again, and while it remains to be seen whether or not I hold myself to that commitment for the rest of my life, I did keep my word this year. There are things that I would like to accomplish this year: a few upgrades to the house, a more positive attitude towards both my domestic and working lives, lose a little weight, and, maybe, make the first steps towards taking the graduate-school plunge. I’m not going to hold myself to any of this, though. Sometimes life intervenes; sometimes you just have to go with the flow.
Make a list for the contractor. You’re more nit-picky than I am, so you’ll be more thorough.
Since we moved into our new home in May, we’ve made note of a few minor problems that will need to be corrected, as well as a few cosmetic — but not necessary — changes that we’d like to make. We noticed some water entering the attic roof a couple of weeks ago — not a lot, and only when we receive a really heavy rain — and that meant that it was time to call in one of the more popular local contractors.
Aside from taking care of the minor roof leak, there is some tile-work around the living room fireplace that needs a little restoration, and we’re curious what it might cost us to have at least the living room floors sanded and refinished. The contractor stopped by today around 1pm, and he’ll provide us with a quote for all of the work, though I think we’ll probably have just the leak taken care of for the time being.
Rattling off the last few days’ happenings in reverse, we met one of S’s old friends from high school, Jerry, and his wife and children for lunch yesterday. S. and Jerry hadn’t seen each other for six or seven years, and I’d never met him, but I managed to conquer my vestigial social phobia and actually had a nice time. It was good to meet them, and they stopped over at our house for the 25-cent tour before heading off to another social engagement.
Christmas itself was great — very low-key and informal. We cooked our turkey on the 24th, so dinner preparation on The Day itself was quite easy. Aside from turkey, we had mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, roasted brussels sprouts, dried corn, leftover homemade cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving (which had been frozen), baked pineapple, and dinner rolls. We exchanged gifts in the morning (hint: I’m typing this on one of my gifts) and took the dogs for a walk on the trail in the afternoon after dinner.
Working at an academic institution, we receive quite a bit of time off between Christmas Eve and New Year’s, and because of the way the holidays fell this year, work is closed for nearly two weeks. I used a couple of vacation days to extend my break to a full two weeks, and I could really get used to this being-paid-not-to-be-at-work gig. There will be plenty to do once we reopen, though, so I’m sure to fall back into my old routine quickly enough.
But let’s not rush that along just yet.
I’m a (very) liberal atheist, but I’m not ashamed to say that I love Christmas — and always have. I’m a bit less abashed about my fondness for the holiday this year — spurred, I think, by the fact that we’ve moved into a home that I’m far more comfortable decorating, and, last but certainly not least, because I’m happier than I’ve been in recent years.
While I’m certainly not a practicing Christian, I come from a culturally Christian background, and so I celebrate the holiday with a Christmas tree, stockings, a traditional Christmas dinner, Christmas baking, Christmas music (including music of a religious nature), and, some years, I even set up a small crêche. For me, though, the use of the term “Christmas” is purely a matter of semantics. Many of the origins of Christmas date from pre-Christian times (see Saturnalia and Yule), and I’m perfectly happy for someone to wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or a Joyous Julfest.
I find it very difficult to find evidence of “The War on Christmas” (which Fox News commentators seem so gleefully to decry). The majority of the country, it’s true, is comprised of Christians or those who are culturally Christian, and most of the winter-holiday celebrating I see and hear seems to be of the Christian/Christmas variety, but is it so difficult — or so awful — to wish everyone Happy Holidays? It’s an all-inclusive greeting that encompasses everything that late-year festivities can be to Christians and non-Christians – practicing and non-practicing alike. If I know that you’re a practicing Christian, I’ll very gladly wish you a Merry Christmas. If you’re a practicing Jew, I’ll likewise wish you a very Happy Hanukkah. But if I don’t know your religious affiliation, or if you haven’t one, I’ll wish you Happy Holidays, and that’s what I wish to you, my readers, tonight.
Central Ohio received its first seasonal snowfall of any real significance yesterday. (We had a few flakes last week, but no accumulation.) It was just enough to be pretty, but not enough to be dangerous — which is exactly how I like snow to be. We were supposed to spend the afternoon/evening in Columbus yesterday, but that fell through, and, aside from a quick shopping trip today, my only contact this weekend with the world outside my house was through the newspaper and Facebook.
Facebook’s new “Timeline” seems to be hitting more and more users these days, and I’ve noticed a lot of worried murmurs. Some have even gone so far as to deactivate accounts that have been in use for years, only to reactivate a new, sanitized account. For my part, though, aside from finding the layout a bit puzzling, I don’t really understand all the commotion and panic surrounding Timeline’s rollout. Timeline appeared for me earlier this week, and Facebook tells me that I joined the site in April 2005 — which was shortly after my alma mater became part of the Facebook network, and only about one month before I graduated. Back in those days, of course, Facebook was limited to educational networks, and I didn’t do much with it again until 2007. Drunken college party photos never appeared on my Facebook profile (not that I ever really attended any drunken parties to begin with), and the most embarrassing things I can find were posted during my blog-whatever-comes-to-mind phase, during which I must have assumed that my friends would find my coffee-drinking habits to be breathtakingly interesting.
Nevertheless, my Facebook posts have long been limited to friends — and, sometimes, to subsets of friends — for the simple reason that I look at Facebook as a communications tool. It’s an email exchange in photos, or a telephone call in one-to-three sentence exchanges. I wouldn’t want my ‘phone calls in the public domain, so why would I want to open up all of my snapshots and mundane comments about daily life for public consumption? Any default privacy settings that you’ve selected should still be in effect once your Timeline is activated, and if you’ve exercised reasonably good judgment in regards to what you’ve shared on Facebook over the years — and if you’ve taken responsibility for maintaining your privacy settings — you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Might want to delete some of those old “I’m drinking coffee” posts, though, because, trust me, noöne cares.
For those of you who are lucky enough not to have seen Rick Perry’s latest television ad, let it suffice to say that it’s such an over-the-top piece of bigoted whining that I had to watch it four or five times in order to realize fully that it’s not a parody. It certainly looks as if it would be right at home on “Saturday Night Live.” Perry’s message is about as unambiguous as it gets:
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school. As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again. I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.
In case Mr. Perry hadn’t yet noticed, most Americans polled supported repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (the figure given here is 67%; I’ve seen figures as high as 77%), and I see plenty of people openly celebrating Christmas this month. I’m also not sure how Mr. Perry came to the conclusion that President Obama is waging a war on religion. Not only does Obama belong to a Baptist church, he also invited an evangelical Christian to deliver the invocation at his inauguration in 2009. Rick Perry seems to have grossly misjudged the values of all but the most rabidly right-wing of the voters in this country. That he appeals to a small fringe of voters is rather obvious when you see how unpopular his “Strong” ad has been among Youtube viewers.
It’s been a long week thus far, and, I have to say, I’ll be really glad when it’s over. I’ve so many little personal projects to accomplish before Christmas — shopping, cards, planning some sort of Christmas dinner — yet little motivation to do any of it on account of an oddly coördinated week at work. One thing I did manage to accomplish today during my (late) lunch hour was a letter to a distant cousin in Germany. We stumbled on each other about three years ago during one of my many spates of genealogical research, and have kept up a sporadic correspondence ever since.
My German, while not perfect, is better than his English, so we conduct our correspondence (his typed, apparently, on a manual typewriter — he’s 80) in German. Each time we exchange letters, I’m reminded of how much easier it is for me to read German and to understand spoken German than it is for me to write in German. No matter how well you understand another language, it’s always a challenge to express yourself in a tongue that’s not your own. Nevertheless, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to feel that I still have a connection, however tenuous, to an ancestral Heimat – for my cousin still lives in the town my grandmother’s great-grandfather called home until 1849. My German-American family last traveled there in the 1930s, and it is possible that my cousin (as a very young child) met my more immediate ancestors on their last trip home.
It seems remarkable to me that the American side of my family remained in contact with the German side of the family for nearly 90 years. I wonder if they would have stayed in contact had the war not intervened, or if distance and a language barrier would have eventually eroded the link anyway.
In October, we made our annual pilgrimage to western Maryland for some hiking, leaf peeping, and fresh air. We hiked a great deal around Cumberland, and spent a day at Catoctin Mountain Park — near Camp David — as well.
One spot we never neglect to visit is Dan’s Rock, which is a few minutes south of Frostburg. It’s at its best at sunrise, which is when I took this photo. This is just a cell phone shot, but I might post more after I sort and process the ones I took with my SLR.
There are things I like about Tumblr, and things I don’t like about Tumblr. While there is some original content to be found there, Tumblr seems to be the place for incredibly hip young people to repost (“reblog,” in Tumblr parlance) the words and images of others. At 30, I find that I’m just a bit too old to be both incredibly hip and young, and, thus, I’ve once again opened the door to this: my long lost home on the web. (A hint from another former Tumblrite, Amador Square, provided the final nudge I needed to look for the key.)
So here I am. How I’ll set up housekeeping again remains to be seen, but I’m here, and, just maybe, I’ll stay a while.
From a distance, I thought he was shirtless but wearing shorts; after all, at 85 degrees, this was the first really hot day of the year, and college students sometimes wander around campus half-dressed. That’s how they roll. By the time I got to my car, however, I realized that there were no shorts at all — just a loin cloth. A back pack and a loin cloth, worn by a student ambling casually down the lane. In all other ways, today was a typical work day on The Hill.
After work, I met a friend for coffee, though I ended up ordering iced chai instead (sweet, vicious sugar!) and we spent an hour catching up on each others’ lives and complaining about Republicans.
And since this was the first truly hot day of the year, I finally broke down and turned on the window air conditioners this evening. I forget every year how loud they are, and I will be so glad to have central air again when we move into the new house!
When you’re waiting for something to happen, time has a funny way of speeding by while somehow managing simultaneously to stand still. I never realized before just how time-consuming the home-buying process could be, but, in just under two weeks, we will finally have the keys to the house.
And there’s still so much to do, not the least of which is to finish packing. I also need to compile a list of people and businesses to notify about my new address; I’ve started this at least three times, gotten distracted, and then felt the need to start all over again. Each time I think I have a complete list, I realize that I’ve forgotten something.