You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2012.

…because seriously, who has time to write or read an entire year in review? Let’s just do a month, shall we? That’ll be plenty.

This month I:

* Got a Christmas tree, along with most Americans and a surprising number of Iraqis. They tend to decorate rooms with coloured lights year-round, so it makes sense they’d enjoy hanging even more lights, not to mention stockings. I got given a music box Santa that plays “Silent Night” at a demonic speed–seriously, faster even than the Chipmunks. But I digress.

We live in Oregon, near to the edge of the Urban Growth Boundary (which I adore. Cuts down on sprawl). I’ve mentioned how I’m 10 minutes away from fresh berries in the summer; that also equals 10 minutes away from a plethora of Christmas tree farms. We were on our way to one, where a friend’s son was working, when we saw the sign for $10 Nobles. “Let’s check it out,” we said, so we drove over hill and dale to a very large farm where they apparently haven’t quite worked out the whole economy thing yet, although they’ve  been open since the 50s at least. A very charming 8-year-old explained it all to us. “Welcome folks!” he started out, and Ilsa and I exchanged glances of pure joy. He was so cute!

Our choice was simple. We could select our own Noble, cut it down ourselves, and let them shake it and bind it. This would cost, for an 8-10 foot tree, about $100. Or, we could go over to where some trees they’d cut themselves just an hour ago were lying on the ground, and pay $10. But, they cautioned, they wouldn’t shake it for us. We were on our own.

The choice seemed simple to me. So we got ourselves a large, 10 foot or so, Noble tree for $10. I love Oregon.

e and tree

Here it is on the car. I haven’t mentioned that a friend backed into my car recently. It’ll be fixed soon.

tree on car

In addition to very reasonably-priced trees, this farm also had free hot chocolate, some very fat goats and donkeys in a petting zoo (Abel at the top of his lungs: “I wish Mauritanians could see how fat these animals are!”), and Santa. I forced my children to sit with Santa for a picture. Forced is the word, yes. But I will be kind to them and not post the picture I took. Instead, here is one of Abel decorating:

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And one of the angel on the top.

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* Hosted a party for over 250 Iraqi refugees and yes, it was totally crazy. This is what happened. Donn and I said, “Let’s have a Christmas party for our friends.” Then one of his friends said, “Can we invite the whole community? We’ll help do the food.” And we said yes, and asked our church to loan us a room, since our house is ample for a family of 5 but not really for 50 times that.

Planning this party took some time. I enlisted a lot of people to help. A friend went shopping with me, others helped me put goody bags for the kids together. Others donated funds, and one lady offered a ham, which we turned down since most Iraqis are Muslim. A group of high-schoolers volunteered to do crafts with the kids, and another group volunteered to help with clean up afterwards. It was still totally crazy.

Donn and a friend read the Christmas story while in the back, people discoursed happily at full volume and the kids ran in circles around the tables for sheer joy. It was chaotic, but I pictured a time when Jesus walked the earth, and I imagine that the crowds who listened to him weren’t all in rows like Sunday morning. Instead, I picture kids running wild, shouting and chasing each other, and the mothers in the back leaning in to each other for a comfortable gossip, while only those close to him could actually hear what he said. And everyone had a fantastic time, and there was food for all, and presents for most. I was most impressed with the high-schoolers who gave up their Friday evening to help, just to be kind–especially the ones who vacuumed. I was really happy I didn’t have to vacuum. It was a huge success. Not only was it the largest gathering of Iraqis in Portland, several told me,  but we also set the record for most cigarettes smoked at our church!

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* The day after the party, I woke up feeling rather as if a cement truck had run over me. But it wasn’t to be a day of rest–the inlaws were  coming for Christmas, and arriving that evening, and thanks to the party I’d had no time for prep. So instead it was a day of shopping and cooking and cleaning. They were supposed to arrive at 11:30 but instead their flight came in at 2 a.m. They showed up at my house around 3:30 and it was after 4 before we were in bed. Next day was busy though, as was the next and the next. They were here a week and left on Saturday, and I’m still tired. My goal for 2013 is more sleep.

We had a lovely Christmas though. The day itself was mellow. We ate breakfast around noon and supper around 7, and in between we opened presents and listened to music and relaxed.

One day we took them down the Columbia River Gorge. It’s ages since I’ve gone there in winter, and I’d forgotten how much I love it when the trees are bare and the air is frigid, and the pastel light speaks of sunset throughout the day.

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The inlaws enjoyed it, although they didn’t neglect to let me know how cold they were. They were always cold, poor things, their blood thinned from years of living in Southern California. In vain did I point out that the temperature was actually lower in their desert town than in our damp and windy city.

photo (4)

I apologize for the poor quality of these pictures and remind you that I took them with my phone.

How was your month? Year? And what are you most looking forward to in 2013? Me, I’m hoping to figure out this whole life/work/family/rest balance thing, and get more sleep. Wish me luck!

HAPPY 2013!!

The computer was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of the burial was undertaken by Donn, who collected all the screws in the lid of a jam jar, and bound everything in plastic, and called Best Buy to conduct the actual burial. The old computer was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that the old computer was as dead as a door-nail.

That night I went up to bed, not caring a button for the darkness, and woke when a car backfired. It was 1 a.m. I saw a vision of happier days when the computer was new, arriving fresh and sweet-smelling in its little cardboard box in 2007. I saw Elliot using it to do his homework, it moving with us to Morocco, traveling to Spain and the UK on various trips, crashing and being reborn. I fell asleep again, smiling.

The next night, I’m sure, a car backfiring woke me again. 1 a.m., said my phone when I pushed the button. And again, I saw visions of my computer. I saw it older, with many issues, but still my own computer, with speakers that didn’t work and dead-slow starting times. I saw it crashing and losing lots of my stuff, because I do back up but not as frequently as I should. I lived again that fateful day, saw as in slow motion the coffee cup missing the table and emptying its contents into the very bowels of the computer.

I saw the computer, valiantly holding on though senile, asserting that the date was Jan 1, 2007, telling me it had 116 hours left on its battery, although I knew it only had 2 minutes. I saw myself making a back up as soon as it came back on. And I saw the day Someone (I know who it was but I’m being kind) sat on the cord and it came unplugged, and the computer died, to be revived no more.

I slept again and woke on the 3rd night to an awful vision of myself with no laptop. People sent me emails that I missed. The children pulled rank and did homework on the 2nd laptop we have, while I sat and bit my nails. It was a dark time, filled with gnashing of teeth. “Spirit,” I whispered aloud, “Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life.

In the morning I awoke with my alarm clock, which showed me that all these visions had been in one night! I came downstairs with an idea. A few weeks ago, a friend of Ilsa’s gave us a laptop which, he assured us, was “a really good computer except it needed a new hard drive.” This computer was younger and stronger than my old one. Could it be resurrected?

This is where we swerve from Dickens to Mary Shelley. Donn took the old computer’s brain (hard drive) and removed it and put it in the “new” computer. We installed many things. Each day the computer became better. It learned to play videos. It learned to print. It learned to accept incoming mail from 2 of my 3 email addresses.

I learned that the last back-up I did didn’t save. Why? How? No idea. I did a back up and it didn’t back up. So I’ve lost about 3-6 months worth of stuff.

However, I am a happy woman. (I won’t mention the extreme frustration this computer causes by suddenly skipping the cursor around which really messes up one’s typing). I am having Smoking Bishop, I am becoming a second father to this computer, and my own heart is laughing. It is always said of me, that I know how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us, and all of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

Two great loves in my life are coffee and my laptop. Given that I spend hours drinking one while typing or reading on the other, it’s amazing I’ve never tried to combine them before.

On Saturday Ilsa was sick, and she and Abel were watching some show on Netflix, can’t remember which, and I was looking at the TV as I set my cup of coffee on the stool that serves as an end table. Just below was my laptop, sitting on its side so that we’d see it easier. (We got in the habit of doing this when Donn had a laptop with an overheating problem, but it works well when laptops are set on the floor) Somehow, I missed the table, and the coffee poured gently into all the openings (orifices?) on the upright side of the computer. It entered the place where you plug in the cord. It entered the USB slot. It entered this other…slot…for …something? I have no idea what went there, but I do know it used to have something in it and it’s lost now.

My computer isn’t new, but it’s not that old. It’s about 70 in people years. (I figure one people year is about 12 in computer years. What do you think?) We got it in 2007. But it’s been through a lot. It’s crashed several times and traveled all over and had viruses and been entirely reformatted at least twice. Worldwide travel is rough on laptops, I can attest. The speakers don’t work and it’s very slow and has plenty of issues, but it is mine.

It seemed to be entirely dead, but Donn said to wait. And last night, he plugged it in and managed to get it going again! However, it seems to have developed a certain, well, senility. And that’s maybe not surprising. 70 in people years isn’t that old, but when one’s health wasn’t good to start with, it can be. I was trying to come up with an equivalent. After all, pouring coffee into one’s ear would be unpleasant, but I don’t think it would cause too much damage? Maybe this is like a broken hip? What do you think?

The computer, bless it, thought it was January 1, 2007. I tried to go on Facebook and it explained that was impossible, because FB’s certificate was dated with the imaginary date of June 20, 2012. I had to manually scroll through all the months from Jan 07 to Dec 12, to reset the date. It’s forgotten how to open google reader. It proudly tells me it has 116 hours of battery power left, which, not to put too fine a point on it, it doesn’t. The battery on this thing lasts about 2 minutes and 20 seconds, during which time whoever is using it freaks out and frantically plugs it back in. Now it is plugged in, but it doesn’t realize it and thinks it’s running off battery. Really, it’s rather sweet, this unexpected belief in its own prowess.

It’s even slower and creakier, and keeps flashing a red light at me too. But that’s okay. At least it’s back, with me for just a little while longer. I’m just grateful for this extra time I have with it, however long. I don’t mind if it tells me it’s its birthday, or tells me it’s late for the school bus. Bless it.

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