Explore previous rambling installments here 🙂
My goodness, what a packed couple of weeks these have been! I feel like a stranger to my own blog!!! 😉
I’ve just finished catching up on some vital things (it was a super-productive Monday!) and am now currently pinching myself. Blogging? Am I actually blogging? Really? Is it possible?
There’s very little hope that I’ll do an adequate job of catching up on such an enormous amount of events in one post, but if any post series could come close, it’s 7 Rambling Takes . . .
Where to even begin, though?!? Christmas? All right, Christmas!
1. Christmas Eve
The week before Christmas, we decked our halls (while keeping the beloved Christmas lights unplugged). I tried my first true eggnog (that is, with the Something Extra in it), and after the first sip decided that it tasted like Tamiflu. Ugh. Three sips later, and I willingly sacrificed it to my parents and The Dash. For the first time since we’ve lived in this house, we decorated the area above our kitchen cabinets with garland, lights, red ribbon and our nutcracker collection (we’ve accumulated more than a dozen over the years). And then there was the tree, the Creche, the mantle, the banisters for our stairwell, and the other little odds and ends that are part of Christmas in our household.
A few days before Christmas, right after a wonderful, full day of learning how to make tamales from The Dash’s family, I came down with a cold . . . and felt awful, in more than one way. Physical awfulness doesn’t approach I-might-not-be-well-enough-for-High-Mass-choir awfulness. That is mental torture!
It was as if last year (back when “last year” was 2016 . . .) were happening all over again: the cold and the croakiness. I was having visions of becoming The Frog once more. I bore down on essential oils, some other medicinal remedies, and rest, diffusing and applying and swallowing . . . hoping and praying that my voice would be saved even as I moaned and sniffled in the middle of my vast throne of tissues, reading my favorite parts of The Fool of New York City. When I had the energy, I wrapped presents and made cards, these endeavors punctuated by frequent nose-blowing and coughing.
How many times, on this blog, had I mentioned choir work for the approaching Christmas Eve High Mass? Well, more than once, anyway! The music was so beautiful. I was beyond excited. We were practicing every week . . . and Lena and I would have impromptu practices with our friends in choir every time we saw them (which was often). The plaintive 15th-century chant, “Angelorum Gloriae;” the sublime, “Dies es Laetitia;” the playful, haunting, beautiful, “Personent Hodie;” and so much more.
Well . . . the eve of Christmas Eve came. And I felt precisely the same as I had on the eve of Christmas Eve 2016. My voice was as wobbly and as sputtering as a drunken propeller plane (not that I have experience with drunken planes . . . it just seems an apt analogy.) I flung myself onto my bed (sort of) and cried for a little while out of stubborn human resentment, and, sniffling, poured out my woes to the very sympathetic Dash. And then I resolved, as best I could and in order to not try Our Lord’s infinite patience any longer, to cheerfully and humbly accept my fate as to my upcoming role (or lack thereof) in choir for Christmas Eve. I ate countless spoonfuls of horseradish in order to relieve my congested sinuses. It did help some to release those excoriating fireballs into my skull. Agh. But I digress.
Christmas Eve dawned. I woke up achy and sweating, and running a low-grade fever (was an overdose of horseradish to blame?). I took a shower, dressed, and eventually felt somewhat more human. By that point, I decided that I wouldn’t be able to sing at all during the morning’s choir practice (how wonderful to have to go to Mass twice in a day! I wish it happened more often!), if I were going to have any hope of singing anything that night. So I sat quietly through the practice (that is, whenever I wasn’t in the back of rectory, blowing my nose).
Once we got home from the morning’s Mass, I changed into the most comfortable clothes I owned, ate something, began coughing more and more . . . and The Croaks set in by mid-afternoon, despite all the remedies I tried.
And so it was with an air of subdued acceptance that, as the time for High Mass approached, I dressed in last year’s Christmas Eve outfit. Black blouse, cherry-blossom skirt, black flats. I even recreated the same hairstyle I’d done. It prevented me from having too think too hard about what I was wearing, and instead think about How much am I going to be able to sing?
We arrived at our parish with time to spare. It was freezing. The Dash made it at the same time we did, however, which improved my spirits by 200%. Inside, the choir loft, nave, narthex and sanctuary were decorated so beautifully. Lights, garland, trees, ribbons, poinsettias, a glowing Creche scene.
I knew I was going to have to sit out (like last year) from the pre-Mass carols, except for “Verbum Caro Factum Est: Y La Virgen Le Decia,” since it was a two-part piece (all of which pieces I’d committed to at least trying to sing). However, right when they were about to begin the carols, Our Lady (no doubt) sent me the most wonderful grace of deciding that, if I couldn’t sing the carols, I would lip-sing them with a big grin on my face. And so Lena and I stood together, using the same hymnal; she sang like a bird while I cheerfully mouthed the words. And, how that brought on a holy Christmas joy in my heart!
I wobbled softly through “Verbum Caro” with the rest of the choir, and then High Mass began. My younger brother was one of the acolytes–his second time to serve as a High Mass acolyte since Easter–and I was swelling with pride just at the sight of him processing in with his brothers. The Mass was beautiful beyond description. Even if I had to go down to the bathroom and blow my nose several times during it.
Surely Christ’s gift to me this Christmas Eve was humility (which I, erm, prayed for throughout all of Advent . . . sigh, must prayers be answered? 😉 ), joy, and an opportunity to participate more interiorly in the High Mass. It was really hard not to be able to sing the glorious Mass IV (its soaring Sanctus and Agnus!) and most of the other hymns; however, I was able to sing “Personent Hodie” without absolutely crashing, and that was also a gift, since it was my cherished favorite of all the two-parters! Everything else, however, I wound up having to stay silent on . . . but I lip-sang and smiled while holding Lena’s hymnal, and the special sisterly joy we shared over the Nativity of Christ was something I’ll always remember, particularly in light of how it might have been Lena’s last Christmas with our family, depending on what God has in store for her this year.
Mass ended. The Dash and I went and prayed in front of the Creche, St. Joseph’s altar and Our Lady’s altar. We all attempted a few brave minutes out in the freezing night air to wish all our dear friends a Merry Christmas . . . but then we had to scoot. We all drove home and, at long last, ignited the Christmas lights and enjoyed some snacks and the simple joy of all being together, before putting our stocking stuffers in one another’s stockings and heading off (exhausted) to bed around midnight.
2. Christmas Day
Christmas morning, I was the first one awake, probably from excitement. I prayed in the quiet and sat waiting for my youngest sister to wake up and spread her ebullience through our room and, eventually, the house. After a while she woke up and we chattered until it seemed a decent time to rouse everyone else. We went downstairs and I did dishes (insatiable domestic . . . but they did need to be done!) while the coffee brewed and everyone else slowly woke.
At last, we gathered in the living room, offered a few morning prayers (I think . . .), and sang “Happy Birthday” to the Christ Child, like we’ve done since time immemorial. My ambitious Latin-geek self daydreams of how my future kids might sing “Adeste Fidelis” (in Latin) to the Christ Child on Christmas morning, but we’ll see 😉 We did stockings first, and we all took turns: my youngest sister, my brother, Lena, myself, The Dash (his stocking was hanging from the shotgun barrel, my Dad’s idea, quite naturally 😛 ), Mom and then Dad. For my part in the stocking stuffers, I’d enrolled everyone in the FSSP Christmas Novena and given them their own cards (my siblings and The Dash got holy cards, too), and I also took advantage of the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society and enrolled some of our deceased friends and family members, especially as a gift to Lena, Mom and Dad. But in everyone’s stockings were fun treats (like chocolate and fig bars) and thoughtful, useful little gifts (including my brother’s annual gift of new wall calendars)!
Once stockings were done, we ambled into the kitchen and cooked breakfast: a friend had given us homemade cinnamon rolls which simply needed to be warmed up; we also had eggs and sausage and put together a few things for the Christmas lunch we’d be having at my grandmother’s. It was all incredible (if something of a sugar overload.) And after eating, it was time for presents!
My youngest sister had drawn me this year 🙂 She got me a beautiful, feminine floral wallet, with all sorts of convenient pockets and zippers and cardholders. I would never have thought how much I would enjoy a new wallet until I had one!!! She also got me a new makeup pouch/small bathroom travel case, which is already coming in so handy. From Dad came a concealed carry purse. It is brilliant. I’ve had my license for a few years and have been making do with other purses. This one, however, is perfect, with a built-in holster and a zippered side pouch . . . the works. It’s also much roomier than my former purse (which was a great thrift-store find, even if not perfect), and this fact alone is destined to make a girl happy. From Mom came a stun gun (a total surprise!). I feel I am surely one of the most ultra-protected females alive.
From The Dash came particularly amazing dark chocolate (all of it has been gone for some time 😉 ), a (very appropriate to our relationship) Frank Sinatra Christmas CD, and–most amazing of all–a letter from himself to me, for each of the twelve days of Christmas. This particular gift left my sanguine self absolutely wordless and speechless. A more unexpected, touching and beautiful gift couldn’t have been contrived. Just when I thought traditional Catholic courtship couldn’t get any better (and when I thought The Dash couldn’t get any better) . . . it did (and he did).
I would love to go through everyone’s presents, but just realized am only on #2 and am already at nearly 2000 words! (Gasp!) Once all the presents were opened, we got ourselves ready and went to my grandmother’s house for lunch and her gifts to us. She has such a generous heart and always showers us at Christmas. This year, we siblings gave her three gift ideas for each sibling. Accordingly, I received a new copy of my beloved Sophia House (which I’d owned at one time but gave away to a friend 🙂 ); an FSSP 2018 calendar; and some new crocheting yarn which I am going to make into a baby blanket for a pregnancy center, hopefully starting this week. My grandmother also gave me some precious pictures from when I was younger, as well as a knife that belonged to my late grandfather. It was all so special.
After visiting with her, The Dash took my brother and I to his family’s house for a few hours . . . I was so very touched they had a stocking for me, too! It was full of some delicious treats and beautiful things like holy water, a rosary, and a homemade necklace . . . as well as an awesome collection of brightly colored Sharpies! It may sound a little silly to be so excited over colored Sharpies. However it was a perfect gift and something I would never think to ask for. They have been so useful, especially as I get ready to start tutoring my Grammar class tomorrow and I’ve been prepping some last-minute displays. I get excited just looking at them 🙂
The three of us arrived back home after dark (having to listened to some of our favorite songs on Spotify) to roast beef poboys and Christmas cake. We settled in to watch Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn . . . and that was our Christmas! The loveliest, best and most blessed one yet!
3. Octave of Christmas
I spent the Octave of Christmas getting well rather slowly. We all really just rested for the first few days, padding around and eating and reading things (and I got to read a new letter from The Dash each morning, which was indescribably wonderful!); but then things started picking up because a family we knew was putting on a formal Christmas Ball on the 29th, and had kindly invited us! So Mom hemmed our dresses and was, in many senses, our angel for a few days 🙂 I had been on the fence about what to wear.
An ivory-colored dress my mom had worn at 17 fit me perfectly, but a little too perfectly and was rather cumbersome (including puffed sleeves . . . ), and while I really loved the nostalgia of it, after some deliberation it was decided that it wouldn’t be the best thing to wear. So we’d gone to the thrift store, where we found my youngest sister a perfect formal copper-colored dress with a sheer black sweater (she was so lovely!), and a long, simple, shimmery navy-blue dress for me. That was what I wound up wearing, and it was honestly perfect in terms of comfort, dance-able-ness, and just feminine prettiness.
The ball was lovely, beautifully decorated and with delicious food that our hostess had made, and we all had a wonderful time . . . so many dances including plenty of waltzing, a Virginia Reel, and music to dance the Laendler to. My youngest sister and I were ecstatic to be able to dance what we’d learned of the Laendler together! And, of course, I got to dance quite a lot with a certain someone, which made for such a lovely evening 🙂
The next day we had The Dash’s family over for a laid-back Christmas celebration. We sang Christmas carols, talked and enjoyed one another, and I got to snuggle my Godson (I was finally well enough!!!); I’m pretty sure that his all coos indicated that he wanted to take me to the next Christmas Ball and have me on his arm. I happily complied.
New Years’ found us all home, as it’s been absolutely frigid (in the teens and twenties) for most of last week, with it only now starting to warm up, and as some of us were still sick in varying degrees and it wasn’t a Holy Day of Obligation (something I only realized on New Year’s Eve!), we felt it would be prudent to stay indoors. The rest of the week was pretty quiet, but Saturday was Epiphany! The Dash, Lena, youngest sister and I went to Confession and Mass early that morning, followed by choir. We are learning the Psalms for Holy Thursday Mass . . . sublime.
We came home, had lunch, and revealed our secret Kris Kringle roles. Lena had drawn me (which I had guessed, since I was being peppered with holy cards 🙂 ) and I had drawn Mom. It is so hard to do secret things for one’s mother! I wish I could have done more! But she was so sweet and very appreciate of the meager things I’d actually been able to do.
I placed my Magi with the rest of my small German Nativity set (which I’ve had for, goodness, several years now) up on my prayer altar . . . they had been “journeying” on my desk ever since I set up the scene to begin with, which was (shamefully) a day or two after Christmas . . .
Later that day, The Dash, Lena and I went out bowling with our good friends to celebrate Epiphany and the end of college break for the two oldest, and we had a fantastic time! I came in last place, as is my bowling tradition . . . cest le vie. However mildly embarrassing this may be, I am deeply happy to be that person who prevents everyone else from coming in last place. Leave it to a sanguine to not minding being the source of good-natured laughter 😉
We all groaned at the ghastly music (ghastly) and laughed at how much we wound up needing the bumpers. Afterwards we had supper together and played Scattergories and Taboo while listening to Hans Zimmer on Spotify. A wonderful time of celebrating our friendships in Christ!
I begin tutoring my Grammar-level class of ten girls at the Catholic co-op tomorrow! It’s a paid position, and as I’m picking up in the middle of the year, I only have two semesters and so it stretches through May. I’m so excited! I spent most of today getting the last bits of curriculum in order and organizing all my notes and moving parts . . . while I’m, naturally, a little nervous since this is rather brand-new to me, I’m more eager than anything to bond with the girls and enjoy helping them to learn (and learning with them)! It helped that I was blessed with such a productive day. Feeling more prepared equates with slightly less nerves 😉
But if anything would reassure me that this is part of God’s Will for my present life, then it would be the fact that the first bit of Latin I’ll be teaching them are the words, Benedic, Domine, Nos. I was floored when I realized it was part of the Week 13 curriculum! Isn’t that amazing!
6. Back to School
At home, my younger brother and sister started back school today, so it was back to English and literature with my brother this afternoon! Back to 180 Daily Teaching Lessons, back to memorizing the Last Gospel. Being finished, our beloved Men of Iron is now replaced with Enemy Brothers by Constance Savery. I received permission from my brother to attempt English accents . . . no German accents, though. Alas.
Even though it’s challenging for everyone, it is so good and rejuvenating to be back on routine. Something clicks and the day whirls by before we know it. Prayer and work! (We are back to Sarasota’s 8am Mass as well, which was so delightful. Their chapel is beautifully decorated for Christmas!)
I am so thankful for the blessing of a homeschooling environment, and especially for the blessing of being able to live in it past my high school graduation! I am just itching to help create my own homeschool one day 🙂 I feel this tutoring experience will be wonderful practice and a perfect opportunity for me to grow!
7. Four Months
And finally, today marks four months of courtship! I am so grateful to God for all the blessings and graces he’s showered upon The Dash and I’s relationship, especially through Our Lady. May God’s holy Will be done in all things!
Have a blessed remainder of your Christmas season! It’s lovely to be back 🙂 (And congratulations: if you’re reading this, you’ve survived a 3200 word post.)