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23 December 2009

Bailey kinda likes the snow ...

Welcome home to CNY

After a long drive north, we made it to CNY. And we were greeted by freezing cold temperatures and blowing snow.

The "Blizzard 2009" prevented us from driving north on our originally scheduled day. Because Virginia and Maryland got such bad weather, we forced to drive on Sunday morning. It was only a day lost, so it wasn't horrible. We felt confident that leaving mid morning on Sunday would guarantee decent weather, dry roads, and manageable traffic. We were absolutely correct until about twenty miles north of Richmond. We expected some heavier traffic driving up 95, but we were shocked by what we ran into. The traffic was backed up for 80 miles outside of DC!! It was an absolute parking lot from Richmond to DC. We went 6 miles in two hours. There was no way that we were going to be able to do that. We decided to turn around and head back to Richmond. From there we cut across the state on 64 to take 81 north. We thought that it was a brilliant idea.

Not so much. The entire length of 64 - all 80 miles of it - was only plowed in one lane!! The other lane was a sheet of three-inch-thick ice. Both The Boy and I were dumbfounded. The storm had passed almost 24 hours before, but the roads were still horrible and cars were still abandoned on the side of the road. As we drove we saw that the "snow plows" being used were actually farm equipment fitted with plows. Having grown up in CNY, I was totally amazed at the inability to handle the storm. I knew that the south was ill-equipped, but I had no idea how ill-equipped. Happily we made it to 81 safely (two hours later!!) and the north-bound lanes were clear with hardly any traffic! Thankfully we were headed north because the south-bound lanes looked like 95 outside of Richmond.

Out normal 9-hour drive north actually took us 12 and a half hours. We made it to Mom and Dad's safely and without major incident. Mom and Dad had our room all set up, and we immediately crashed. It had been a loooooooong day. The next morning we were greeted by this ...

I love my family and am thrilled to see them, but the bleak and barren landscape in CNY's winters can take a lot out of a girl!

17 December 2009

I heart Happy Christmas Surprises!

Today I received the surprise of my life. Our last day of school before holiday break is tomorrow, so, of course, the festivities begin today! The 6th grade parents' group organized a Hot Cocoa service for all of the 6th graders, and they also distributed the gifts to the 6th grade teachers. I've received gifts from students before -- hoemade cookies, Barnes and Noble gift cards, lotions ...-- so I was expecting the usual (despite my colleagues advising me otherwise). When I heard that the 6th grade parents were doing a group gift for each teacher rather than individual gifts, I figured it would be a gift certificate or something of the like. When the parents came by my room to hand me my card and wish me happy holidays, I figured that my suspicions were correct. I opened the card to display it with my other cards and out fell $300 CASH in hundred dollar bills!!! I almost passed out! Every 6th grade teacher got the same! That's a TON OF CASH! I NEVER want to leave this job! :)

Of course, the money went directly to the mechanic because I needed some minor work done on the wheels before the trip north (although this stupid looming winter storm may throw a wrench in my plans!). But, because the money was TOTALLY unexpected, it was almost like the car repairs were free!! Not really, but kinda ...

Happy Christmas!

16 December 2009

(One of) My Favorite Christmas Hymns

I discovered today that one of my favorite Christmas hymns was originally a poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Of course I will share.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth,
good-will to men!

And thought how,
as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth,
good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The Carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said;
‘For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!’

13 December 2009

My Kick-A** Boyfriend

The Boy came over this week from Wednesday thru Sunday to have a little break before his finals. He had two exams last week - Monday and Tuesday - and he has two exams next week on Monday and Wednesday. We haven't spent all that much time together since we got back form Spain since we both have been crazy busy, but the little time we had together this week was pretty great.

When I got home from work on Wednesday, he had a cocktail waiting for me at the door and a fire started in the fireplace. We had a little picnic on the floor in front of the fire, eating awesome cheese and drinking wine. He made some gnocchi from scratch (yum!!) and watched some the oldest and newest Terminator movies.

Friday night was even better! After a quick trip to Target (I hate shopping during this time of year!!!), I came home and The Boy had drawn me a bath!!!! I haven't taken a bath in FOREVER! (Obviously I have showered often!), and it was so sweet. He made me a cocktail, had loaded the bath with tons of bubbles, and let me relax after a long day at work for a while before dinner. When I was done with my bath (Ahhhhhhh ...), he had started another fire and dinner was ready. It was fantastic!

He can be so sweet and wonderful sometimes! I'm pretty lucky. I won't lie. :)

08 December 2009

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Today, December 8th, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church. Today is the day when we give honor and praise to Mary, the Blessed Virgin, who was born without sin and lived a sinless life in preparation to become the mother of God. It is an important holiday for us Catholics, especially given that it comes during the Advent season.

Advent is all about preparation. We are preparing for the coming of Christ; we are preparing for our salvation; we are preparing for a new liturgical year when we can renew our conviction and faith as Catholics. Mary's Immaculate Conception reminds us that God has a greater plan. We may never see that plan unfold in its entirety, but He does indeed have a plan.

His plan for our salvation required that Mary be born sinless. This special priviledge was granted to her and has never been granted to another before or since. Mary lived a life devoted to God, following His will even when it brought her close to banishment and death. It could not have been easy for such a young, meek girl to willingly submit to this seemingly crazy plan (I mean, really, angels told her that she was to have a son without ever having laid with a man?! You'd be crazy to believe it!) knowing that the penalty for adultery was stoning and worse. But she knew in her heart that God knew what He was doing and He would be beside her throughout it all. And she did it. Despite the sideways looks and not so subtle rumors about her and her illegitmate child, she did as she was asked. She willingly took on that burden because God had willed it.

How many of us - Catholic, Christian, or Jew - would do the same if the situation presented itself? I would like to think that I would, but I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have strength to do so (aside from the whole "I-wasn't-born-without-sin" thing). I don't know if I would have the strength to face the disappointment (albeit short-term) on the faces of my loved ones and betrothed nor could I readily face the disdain and persecution that she was exposed to. I like to think that my faith is strong, but I'm not sure I would have the conviction in such circumstances. I mean, I have enough trouble listening to God's will in an everyday settings, so I'm pretty sure that I'd drop the ball if any real requests were ever made of me.

And that is why honoring Mary is so important. She did as she was instructed without questioning or hesitation. She believed in her God and had a strength of faith that allowed her to readily follow His command. I wonder if there is anyone in this world who has that much strength of conviction and faith about anything let alone God.

06 December 2009

What Christmas means/does to me

Christmas has always been a difficult time of year for me. It is filled with such joy and promise, but that joy is bittersweet because along with that joy comes sad memories. Every year, for as far back as I can remember, I am filled with sentimental and melancholy feelings that creep up out of nowhere and leave me sobbing in my car as I listen to Christmas carols.

Happily, Christmas is mainly joyous. It is a time of expectation and joy and promise of renewal and salvation. While so much of the world has diminished Christmas to be little more than a commercial holiday about who can give/get the most/biggest/most expensive presents, this time of year really is about love and devotion and joy. Despite the rumors that the holiday is a secular one, it is actually a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christmas celebrates the promise of our eternal salvation and is cause for joy. While Christmas does have a long-standing tradition of gift-giving, our retail-focused society has turned that outward sign of love and affection into an opportunity to make a quick buck. But watching a young child tear open a much-awaited present and seeing their face fill with joy and elation is a wonderful sight. When you’ve searched high and low for the perfect gift for the ones you love and, as they open it, you know how happy and surprised they will be … that is a wonderful feeling. This time of year is so much more about giving than getting, but we too often lose sight of that.

While this is a happy time, for me, it is a not so gentle reminder of my sin and need for salvation. Being reminded on the amazing sacrifice that was made for unworthy soul is humbling. Knowing that someone loved me so much that He was willing to send his Son to Earth and than sacrifice him makes me feel all the more unworthy and emotional. This usually starts the tears.

Christmas also brings sometimes overwhelming feelings of melancholia. It is so hard to explain these feelings to anyone who has never had them. It’s a mix of mourning, reminiscing, and something else I can’t quite put my finger on. The mourning is easiest to describe. Christmas is a reminder of all those who failed to make it to this point in the year. It can be loved ones who have passed in the last twelve months or it could be those who have passed many years past. The most difficult for me is the memory of Sarah and Jenn and knowing that they should be here today, celebrating Christmas with their families … especially their own children. But, because they were taken too early, they will never have families of their own or celebrate Christmas by seeing the joy on their children’s faces. The guilt of being able to celebrate year after year while others cannot is sometimes too hard to bear.

Reminiscing about Christmases past is both happy and sad. It makes me happy to think of all of the wonderful Christmases that I have shared with those I love. Every Christmas that I get to spend with my loved ones is precious and special. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. I have loved watching my nieces and nephews grow and develop, and I look forward to being with my brothers and sister every year. But with those happy memories comes the foreboding knowledge that these magical Christmases are numbered. Every year that passes is one less that I will have with my mother and father, two people who have been such strong and loving influences in my life. I know that it is morbid, but the feelings come and I have no control over them.

There’s also something else that I can’t put my finger on. I don’t know what it is, but it hits me every year just after Thanksgiving and lingers until after the New Year. During this time, every song on the radio and every Christmas movie makes me want to cry. Maybe it is the parts of the whole coming together, or maybe it is something all of its own; I’m not sure. But, whatever it is, it makes Christmas both the happiest and the hardest time of year for me.


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