Archive for December, 2009

Of Guinea Pigs and The Days Between the Years

The days between the years are the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, sometimes extended to my birthday on the second of January. For many years my vocation has allowed me to allot unused holiday time to these days.

In The Magician’s Nephew, C.S. Lewis writes of the Wood between the Worlds,

“It’s not the sort of place where things happen. The trees go on growing, that’s all.”

These days are my “Wood between the Worlds”.

Often the kids have been home, sometimes from boarding school, to enrich them. This year they left on Boxing Day and almost simultaneously Red Deer became wrapped in fog and exquisite hoarfrost and quietness. Sunday morning we were still getting over the Christmas flu and found that the trunk light, from a trunk ajar, had drained the car battery. We happily cozied up.

I have lesiurely restored much to rights, set up another jigsaw puzzle, shopped minimally for a half-price calender and a handful of Christmasy stuff for next year, nibbled on Christmas left-overs and baking, slept in, stayed up late, answered emails, played on this blog, and renewed my study of Prayer Book Hebrew.  Yesterday we took in a matinee- the visually spectacular, story line satisfying, spiritually dangerous, escape film “Avatar.”

In The Magician’s Nephew, Polly and Digory travel between worlds and find themselves in the woods.

“What do we do now?” said Polly. “Take the guinea-pig and go home.”

“There’s no hurry,” said Digory with a huge yawn.”

“I think there is, said Polly. “This place is too quiet. It’s so- so dreamy. You’re almost asleep. If we once give in to it we shall just lie down and drowse forever and ever.”

“It’s very nice here,” said Digory.

“Yes, it is,” said Polly. “But we’ve got to go back.”  She stood up and began to go cautiously towards the guinea-pig. But then she changed her mind.

“We might as well leave the guinea pig,” she said. “It’s perfectly happy here, and your uncle will only do something horrid to it if we take it home.”


Leave a Comment

Magpie Song pick

(Same song, same singer, but with lyrics not worship video.)

Leave a Comment

Until January 6th

Leave a Comment

In sickness, and in health, doesn’t just refer to marriage

We’ve had a number of Christmases in a row now where sickness was the major feature.  Five in all.

In some ways the first of them was the worst.  My father was suffering from a yet undiagnosed brain tumor.  My mother held together until the day after I came home from Africa, and then fell to pieces emotionally for the next month.  My brother who had lived with my parents for many years was, in addition to his usual difficulties, totally stressed to the gills by it all.  The Magpie was in Ghana.

The kids coped up to the crisis.  They bought gifts and stocking fillers, and drove down from Edmonton. They rented a motel room as there was no room in the family inn. They took me to see the Narnia movie, and we went to the Christmas Eve program at the church.  We drove around to see the Christmas lights to lengthen the evening a bit.

The next morning I got up at 5:00 and with gritted teeth said, ” We will do Christmas, regardless!” as I stuffed a large turkey for the oven.  And somehow we pulled it off for all.  Dad always did love a Christmas spread.

The next year my Father died on December 8th- just a handful of days after Mom was moved down from ICU, still with a tracheotomy tube in place.   They were one room apart.  Hospital regulations would not allow them to share the same room because they both had resistant staphylococcal infections.  I didn’t understand it.  But the staff were kind, hoisted Mom up in a sling, rounded up portable oxygen and wheeled her down to spend time with Dad. On his last good day they sat with her hand laid on his, drinking up each other’s eyes.  Mom was still in hospital over Christmas and longer.

The next year she lay in yet another coma on Christmas-after fighting back to eight pretty good months at home.  We had been keeping one person at her bedside around the clock for two weeks.  On Christmas day the kids took the early shift while I prepared the turkey and then for one brief hour, we pulled everyone from the hospital and all sat around the table together and ate. She died Boxing Day evening.

Last Christmas my brother had a crisis and was in the hospital for two weeks over Christmas.

This year no one died in December, or seemed about to die, or was hospitalized.

I shopped, and baked, and cleaned house.  Our daughter and her husband and little one were to come Sunday night.  The boys were expected on Tuesday.  Christmas was basically a pre-event because our daughter’s family had to travel on Boxing Day.

Monday, my son-in-law did indeed come down with a stomach flu the rest of the family had had earlier and we thought he’d dodged.

By Wednesday night my husband showed symptoms.

And on Christmas Eve, just after Santa had tiptoed around delivering stockings, first one son, and then the other, and then I, were hit  with the heave and trots bug. In a moment of calm, around 3:00 a.m. it was actually, “Just too funny!” Come Christmas the house resembled an infirmary littered with prone bodies and strategically placed ice cream buckets.  And indeed, Janet was left with preparing the meal.  She served it as late as possible and still there were loads of left-overs.  Personally, I didn’t even consider the option- just pass me another glass of ginger ale, will you?

We were together though.  Nobody complained.  And so far, knock on wood, my brother seems to be immune.

My son-in-law would be excused for wondering what he married into.  “Is Christmas in crisis the norm for your family?  Is this a necessary tradition?

Comments (3)

Vipers and Rat holes

I was reading in Isaiah this morning when the boy came to mind.

I don’t remember his name but I do remember the day they brought him to our house in the middle of a work day afternoon in Ghana.

He was about 9 or 10. When they removed the cloth covering his arm I saw that it was nearly swollen double and covered with pus-filled cavities. Whatever caused it had not happened yesterday. The family wanted money to take him to the local clinic

I highly doubted that our local clinic could handle it, so shortly after they had left I sent one of the translation team to the clinic after them. Sure enough, the child had been returned to a relative’s home with no action taken.  We packed him up,  took him to the local hospital, and paid his expenses. They, amazingly enough, pulled him through.

He was sent back still needing daily dressings and we offered to pay the cost of his food and the dressings if the family (who came from an outlying village) arranged for him to stay with relatives and he went down to the clinic daily to have his wounds re-bandaged.

When healed he came with his father to say good-bye.  I was rather taken aback when the man said, ” Thank-you for what you have done for my son. Now, what are you going to do for me?”   Somehow I had considered the two synonymous.

And how had the boy arrived at such a state?  He was hunting bush rat, stuck his hand down a likely-looking hole and encountered a snake, probably an irritated Gabon viper on a similar mission,  instead.

God’s promise in Isaiah is  that when the Messiah comes

“The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

A day to anticipate.

Leave a Comment


Christmas is a time of traditions, surely nothing unless “sex,” is so set about with customs designed to set the mood and make it happen.

I started thinking about this after reading a post on a blog I’ve been following.  Very evocative as he recalled a difficult time and a family tradition started then.

It encouraged me to comment back:

In our early years in Ghana we did not have a tree, though we did have a small one later that my mother-in-law brought out. It made it, fully decorated, to a couple of the High School Christmas pageants- and we stayed late because of the many who wanted a photograph taken in front of it. My foster son did not understand why something that lovely wasn’t also brought out to grace Easter.

But every year, treed or not, we set up our eminently packable Advent Wreath, and sang family carols around its light every evening of the season. To our children that is now far more central to Christmas than a decorated tree.

(We use purple candles for the wreath, other than the white one for the Christ child- a colour not always easily obtained. I had plenty in Ghana though, because once, in the early years when not much was available in stores I chanced into an establishment that had one long aisle given over to one kind of toilet paper, and another stocked entirely with boxes of purple tapers. Go figure. I immediately laid in a supply that lasted us for years.)

Every year, as we sang, one of the boys’ favourites was always:

So, I’m asking, “What makes Christmas happen for you?”

Leave a Comment

Too awful not to post

A Politically Correct Holiday Greeting

Best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially
responsible, low stress, gender-neutral, winter
solstice holiday, practiced within the most joyous traditions of
the religious persuasion of your choice , but with respect for
the religious persuasion of others who choose to practice their
own religion as well as those who choose not to practice a
religion at all; plus… A fiscally successful, personally
fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the
generally accepted calendar year 2010, but not without due respect
for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions
have helped make our society great, without regard to the race,
creed color, religious, or sexual preferences of the wishes.

Disclaimer: This greeting is subject to clarification or with-
drawal. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement
any of the wishes for her/himself or others and no responsibility
for any unintended emotional stress these greetings may bring to
those not caught up in the holiday spirit.

from Robin Steele

p.s  Wishing you a Blessed Advent Season, Merry Christmas, and God’s richest blessings in the Year of our Lord 2010.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »