Old Year, New Year

The new year is coming rather rapidly. In the waning hours of 2008, though, I have to admit myself awed by the old year. It was perhaps the fullest of my thirty years, carrying a vast emotional range that still overwhelms me as I look back.

Dad-gum it, I’m actually crying.

Apt descriptors for the year of our Lord 2008, in my life, include beautiful and arduous, poignant and brilliant, thrilling and painful. And stressful—and glorious.

Most of the main causes have gotten at least a brief mention here. Not all. But there are only two hours left in the old year and I’d like to be asleep for part of them. No, I am not planning to stay up; the fireworks and shouting will likely waken me at midnight, though, perhaps for long enough to say a quick prayer of thanks and petition over both years.

New Year’s resolutions seem to have fallen out of vogue; only a couple of people have even mentioned them in my hearing. Last year, I didn’t make any. Without intending to make a fine list of goals for the purpose of forgetting them all by the fourth of January, however, there are a few things I’d like to accomplish in 2009. I want to write—to keep up this blog more, create new songs, and return to my long-loved fiction, where I hear the worlds of faerie calling. I’d like to do more recording. I want to get more exercise and lay off the stress, hopefully to get some of my once-strong health back. And maybe at some point God will consider it time to give me the gift for which I’ve begged him, quite shamelessly, since my wedding.

Time in great increments is a fearsome thing to stare in the face and usually much less imposing to look back upon. I don’t know what this annual giant holds, but I’ll take it as it comes. Starting with tomorrow.

Happy New Year, everyone.


New Article

I've got a new article up on Silhouette today! This one's about one of my favorite, favorite pastimes: re-reading. And in case you want to know which of the books mentioned at the end made it off the shelf first, it was Austen's Persuasion. I finished it again tonight, and couldn't even guess at the number of times I've read it through.


My Husband

... is brilliant.

This piece of his on what has been lost in the removal of the word "Christmas" from Christmas is both thought-provoking and hilarious. It's well worth the read. Among other great lines:

"... it was the left that changed "Happy Holidays" from a synonym for "Merry Christmas" to a political antonym--the Yuletide equivalent of "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries"."

* * *

He's also good to me. Tonight he took me to see Twilight in the theaters. As a general rule, he doesn't like movies much. I didn't think he would like this one, and wasn't even sure I would--two reads through all four books have left me a lot of appreciation for the story (and enjoyment of it!) but still some mixed/uncertain feelings about parts of it.

As it turned out, we both really liked the movie. A lot. I'd like to write more, but would be here all night trying to think my way through it--for now, I'll just say that it was well written, well acted, and very well filmed. Special props to Stephenie Meyer for having a cameo in her own movie. And the cinematography exquisitely captured the look and feel of the Pacific Northwest (the story is set in Forks, WA, over on the Olympic peninsula.) I'll have to post more later about both books and film.

Best movie I've seen in the theaters in a very, very long time, though! I could definitely be tempted to see it again. But oh! if you go, and one of the trailers on the front begins with a woman talking on her cell phone and listening to her baby monitor: cover your ears, close your eyes, and count to sixty at least twice. Believe me. You do NOT want to see that preview.


I’ve seen 67 out of 239 films

We have more snow here, and cold--it's in the 20s today, but has been in the teens for the early part of this week. It looks like Christmas. I love Christmas, but I'm not fond of the cold. It makes me miss summer--sitting on rocks by the bay, dangling my feet in the water; bright sunshine and blue and green life everywhere; flowers and short-sleeve shirts and my skort; reading books under trees. I miss summer very much.

* * *

Whether it's narcissistic or just juvenile, I'm not certain, but I've a hard time resisting this sort of thing.

I quote Greg Willits here:

"SUPPOSEDLY if you’ve seen over 85 [of these] films, you have no life. Mark the ones you’ve seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, go to your own Facebook account or website, paste this as a note or blog entry. Then, put X’s next to the films you’ve seen, add them up, change the header adding your number, and click post at the bottom. Have fun."

() Rocky Horror Picture Show
() Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest
() Boondock Saints
() Fight Club
() Starsky and Hutch
() Neverending Story
() Blazing Saddles
() Airplane
Total: 2

(x) The Princess Bride
() Anchorman
(x) Napoleon Dynamite

() Labyrinth
() Saw
() Saw II
() White Noise
() White Oleander
() Anger Management
(x) 50 First Dates
(x) The Princess Diaries
(x) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Total: 5

() Scream
() Scream 2
() Scream 3
() Scary Movie
() Scary Movie 2
() Scary Movie 3
() Scary Movie 4
() American Pie
() American Pie 2
() American Wedding
() American Pie Band Camp
Total: 0

(x) Harry Potter 1
(x) Harry Potter 2
(x) Harry Potter 3
(x) Harry Potter 4
() Resident Evil 1
() Resident Evil 2
(x) The Wedding Singer
(x) Little Black Book
() The Village
() Lilo & Stitch
Total: 6

(x) Finding Nemo
(x) Finding Neverland
() Signs
(x) The Grinch
() Texas Chainsaw Massacre
() Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
() White Chicks
() Butterfly Effect
(x) 13 Going on 30
() I, Robot
() Robots
Total: 4

() Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
() Universal Soldier
() Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
() Along Came Polly
() Deep Impact
() KingPin
(x) Never Been Kissed
(x) Meet The Parents
() Meet the Fockers
() Eight Crazy Nights
() Joe Dirt
Total: 2

(x) A Cinderella Story
(x) The Terminal
() The Lizzie McGuire Movie
() Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
() Dumber & Dumberer
() Final Destination
() Final Destination 2
() Final Destination 3
() Halloween
() The Ring
() The Ring 2
() Surviving X-MAS
(x) Flubber
Total: 4

() Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
() Practical Magic
(x) Chicago
() Ghost Ship
() From Hell
() Hellboy
() Secret Window
(x) I Am Sam
() The Whole Nine Yards
() The Whole Ten Yards
Total: 2

() The Day After Tomorrow
() Child’s Play
() Seed of Chucky
() Bride of Chucky
(x) Ten Things I Hate About You
(x) Just Married
() Gothika
() Nightmare on Elm Street
() Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
(x) Coach Carter
() The Grudge
() The Grudge 2
() The Mask
() Son Of The Mask
Total: 4

() Bad Boys
() Bad Boys 2
() Joy Ride
() Lucky Number Slevin
(x) Ocean’s Eleven
(x) Ocean’s Twelve
(x) Bourne Identity
() Bourne Supremacy
() Lone Star
() Bedazzled
() Predator I
() Predator II
() The Fog
(x) Ice Age
() Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
() Curious George
Total: 4

() Independence Day
() Cujo
() A Bronx Tale
() Darkness Falls
() Christine
() ET
() Children of the Corn
() My Bosses Daughter
(x) Maid in Manhattan
() War of the Worlds
(x) Rush Hour
(x) Rush Hour 2
Total: 3

() Best Bet
(x) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
() She’s All That
() Calendar Girls
() Sideways
() Mars Attacks
() Event Horizon (Note courtesy of Greg: Most Evil Movie EVER - DO NOT WATCH)
(x) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
() Big Trouble in Little China
() The Terminator
() The Terminator 2
() The Terminator 3
Total: 4

(x) X-Men
(x) X-2
(x) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
() Spider-Man 2
() Sky High
() Jeepers Creepers
() Jeepers Creepers 2
(x) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday (the original only!)
() Reign of Fire
(x) The Skulls
() Cruel Intentions
() Cruel Intentions 2
() The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
() Shrek 2
Total: 9

() Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street
() Old School
() The Notebook
() K-Pax
() Krippendorf’s Tribe
(x) A Walk to Remember
() Ice Castles
() Boogeyman
() The 40-year-old Virgin
Total: 2

(x) Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
(x) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
(x) Lord of the Rings: Return Of the King
() Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
() Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 4

() Baseketball
() Hostel
() Waiting for Guffman
() House of 1000 Corpses
() Devils Rejects
(x) Elf
() Highlander
() Mothman Prophecies
() American History X
() Three
Total: 1

() The Jacket
() Kung Fu Hustle
() Shaolin Soccer
() Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
() Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
() Shaun Of the Dead
() Willard
Total: 2

() High Tension
() Club Dread
() Hulk
() Dawn Of the Dead
(x) Hook
(x) Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
() 28 days later
() Orgazmo
() Phantasm
() Waterworld
Total: 2

() Kill Bill vol 1
() Kill Bill vol 2
() Mortal Kombat
() Wolf Creek
() Kingdom of Heaven
() the Hills Have Eyes
() I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
() The Last House on the Left
() Re-Animator
() Army of Darkness
Total: 0

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x)Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
() Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
() Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total: 6

(x) The Matrix
() The Matrix Reloaded
() The Matrix Revolutions
() Animatrix
() Evil Dead
() Evil Dead 2
() Team America: World Police
() Red Dragon
() Silence of the Lambs
() Hannibal
Total: 1

And the rules continue:

"Now add them up and… Put “I’ve seen [however many] out of 239 films” in the subject line and repost it on Facebook or your blog. And for that matter, leave a comment here on our website and let us know how many you’ve seen!"

I've seen 67 of these, most of them quite cheerfully. A few of them I could have definitely done without. The Matrix, for instance, and Meet the Parents. But I do have a life. It's official. We all know how trustworthy these internet quizzes are! It's the Internet! Don't talk to me about arbitrary.


Christmas Decorating 2008 and other stories

My knee hurts. I just pulled off a spectacular wipe-out on the kitchen floor--full-body impact--due to an unfortunate combination of fuzzy socks and linoleum. The negative part of being as tall as I am (well, this and towering over half of the men on the planet and almost all women) is how far one has to fall.

The fuzzy socks were a necessity today; it's very, very cold. But that's part of a longer story.

* * *

Christmas decorating, for Lou and I, began last Sunday with my parents. My whole immediate family was there, and we succeeded beautifully at the usual ornament-packed tree and not so well with the chocolate donuts (we couldn't find the original recipe and the new one just wasn't as good.) I missed the usual stuffed-snowball fight. This made me feel sorry for myself, but Lou did stuff one of those snowballs down my shirt, so I didn't completely lose the experience.

Decorating continued with a busy Thursday and Friday at work, and our department has now won the company Christmas decorating competition for the fourth year running. We win because we don't think it's half so much fun if we aren't part of the decorations. This year our theme was "Night at the Christmas Museum" and my responsibilities included calling the manager on his cell phone so he could pick it up and say "Buddy the Elf! What's your favorite color?", dancing to the Linus and Lucy theme in the Charlie Brown Christmas exhibit, and leading the angel choir that sang from the loft as the judges looked on my team leader and her new baby dressed up as Mary and Jesus.

The winning department was announced at the Christmas party last night in Ferndale. Lou and I sang in the company choir there, me in the soprano section and he with the basses. The choir is one of the highlights of my year. Our closing number was a medley that started with Vivaldi's Gloria and ended in the last part of the Hallelujah chorus.

I had planned to wear my short-sleeved black cocktail dress to the party, but it was getting so cold out that I changed my mind and wore a glittery red shirt and ankle-length black wool skirt. This proved to be a wiser decision than I could have expected. We arrived an hour early to practice, and the growing wind held an uproarious little gala in my carefully-arranged hair. When we left four hours later, the wind was driving powdery snow in sharp, white, level horizontal lines across the parking lot.

Usually the worst of the weather can be found north of the Bellingham airport, but when we got south of that exit on the freeway, the raise in temperature and slackened winds meant bigger flakes and more snow sticking to the road. We passed at least one car in the ditch as we neared town, and the road got more and more slippery.

We went straight to Mom and Dad St. Hilaire's, planning to decorate the tree at their house since Andy and Lindsey were in town. They live in a somewhat more level part of town than we do, but it was still challenging getting there and we did bounce off a curb at one point. Andy and Lindsey, coming from a wedding in another part of town, must have had some major protection by guardian angels; they hit a patch of ice and slid into another car that had spun out from the same patch. When we arrived at Lou's parents', Andy and Lindsey had just arrived and Lindsey was almost in tears. I'm sure the full story will go up on their blog, but the short form is that the other driver had been crazy enough to get out of her car and had only just gotten back in; had they been a few seconds earlier, their car would have pinned her to hers.

Mom and Dad S. invited us to stay the night. Lindsey begged us not to go, and neither of us particularly wanted to try the route home before it got good and sanded down, so we decorated the St. Hilaire tree and had a fun impromptu slumber party. Mom and Dad provided us with everything from warm pajamas to new toothbrushes. The howling wind made everything seem colder, so Lou and I, staying in his siblings' old bedroom, instead of sleeping in twin beds like in 1960s TV shows, and instead of pushing a couple of those beds together, climbed into one twin bed. We slept in awhile this morning, had a comfort-food breakfast--sausage souffle, English muffins with sorghum and marshmallow fruit salad--and went to church together in the icy sunshine, and Lou and I finally headed home on sanded streets.

This afternoon I took a nap and Lou wrote a letter to the editor, and then we decorated our own first Christmas tree:

We had a great time putting up the decorations, he taking the traditionally male role of stringing the lights and me unwrapping the ornaments and setting them out as both of our moms do. Starting our own traditions is all the more fun because we're drawing them from his family's, my family's, or both. And it felt good to be quiet and homey together; the fitting end to a happy and adventurous weekend.



I should blog more often. Blogging is good. Blogging is much more fun than being busy.

* * *

Thanksgiving, of course, was a good kind of busy. Lou and I spent time with both of our families and still had some time in the weekend to relax at home. That, in and of itself, was much to be thankful for, but I also had him, and I could never be too thankful for my husband.

* * *

Back in the spring I served as a judge for a local private academy's writers' conference. I read something like twenty-five plays. The school gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card as a thank-you, so Lou and I braved the crowds on Black Friday and had some fun. I bought Brian Jacques' Redwall (the first book in the series) and ordered in John Granger's Deathly Hallows Lectures.

Thus far I have not managed to get very far into Redwall; a problem which can be blamed on Stephenie Meyer and two of my friends. I picked up the first book in Meyer's Twilight Saga in a bookstore awhile back, flipped it over, read the little excerpt and burst out laughing. Had it not been for Briana and Leigh, I don't think I'd have ever read the books, but Leigh talked me into listening to part of the first book, after which I of course had to know the ending. Briana mailed me her copies so I could read them without having to get on the immensely long library waiting list.

I really really really want to post a good long review of the books here, but that's going to take some time and thought. Right now I'm still on my second trip through book 3, and I have the same mixed feelings I had on the first trip through. Those feelings are gradually separating and clarifying, though, and should eventually distill into something expressible.

Granger's book almost stopped me blogging tonight. I may email him and beg to be allowed to proofread his next book before it goes to press, but his ideas are positively enthralling and I'm not even past the stuff I already knew.

* * *

Speaking of books, I've recently had a run-in with the worst set of Bible commentaries ever. They contain an appalling combination of bad doctrine, strange ideas, pompous proclamations, and--worst of all--horrific grammar and spelling (he actually talked about 'concrete examples' of God 'damming' people, which sounded a lot more like my old Swiftwater Rescue class than a theological exposition.) Listening to the guy talk about Catholicism is like listening to someone who, having heard a Londoner speak the King's English, automatically assumed that 'the bush' meant the shrubbery on the front lawn.

He has tempted me greatly to make fun of him in various ways. And I admit that I haven't managed to resist the chance to fuss, rather laughingly, to family and friends about his work. But I wonder what, for me, would be the most appropriate response to a guy like this. After all, he calls himself a Christian (although he would certainly say I'm headed for hell if I don't repent of my membership in the apostate church.)

What is the right way to treat, especially in a public forum, Christians with whom I disagree? And should someone who gives fundamentalism a bad name get the same treatment as someone like Biden or Pelosi, whose views on abortion are in direct contradiction with the very clear teachings of the church in which they hold membership? Can I attack untruth without attacking its purveyors? Should I?

I see different philosophies about this in action across the web, and until I challenged the Harry Potter Alliance on their extreme anti-Proposition 8 stance, I didn't really think about it much. But discussion with a member of the HPA and various commenters, hearing the way they think about Christians, and becoming aware of the vast difference between their narratives and mine, has sickened me a little on confrontation between Christians. Because some of what I hear from Christians—even people who believe much like I do politically—is almost a pander to those who hate Christianity, a "We're not like those Christians" attitude that cuts back at errant or dissenting brothers.

This bothers me; it's much more than a simple "THAT guy is off his rocker" statement about this or that public Christian. And I think I'm guilty of it myself, perhaps less in the blogosphere than in my own thoughts and words. I don't know. What I do know is that tonight, I can't mock that author publicly by name. Maybe it would just be calling a spade a spade. Or maybe not. I'd like to straighten out his thinking, and I certainly don't appreciate his arrogance, but in the end I guess I just hope he really is my brother. A mixed-up one, yes--but we've all got somebody in our family who is more than a little nuts.

Yes, a lot of Christians believe some very bizarre things, and no, I'm not afraid to admit that some of them may even be "real" Christians. But atheists and Wiccans and pseudo-Buddhists, etc., are just as goofy. I'm glad to call myself a Christian even in the company of a few weirdos. We Jesus freaks aren't the only ones who need to question our narratives.


Morning-After Tears

Actually, I didn't cry this morning. It was last night, and it wasn't because Barack Obama won the presidency, although so much emotion has gone into this election that simple decompression would probably have been enough to set me off.

It is truly great that an African-American made it to the White House, and I am glad that no one has today accused me of racism for voting my conscience, as they almost certainly would have done had McCain won. It's long about time that someone non-Caucasian had the honor, and I'm proud of my country for coming so far from the days of segregation (not to mention slavery). It is good to see a 'black' man win the presidency. I just wish it was someone more like Alan Keyes.

I voted for McCain/Palin; I'm not tempted to apologize for this. Though I have many friends who voted for Chuck Baldwin, all of whom had excellent reasons for doing so, I voted to the best of my conscience and did so for the sake of several issues; one in particular, for I hardly think we'll get much else straight until we've resolved it. I voted for the candidate who appeared to me most likely to reduce abortion in this country. Likelihood of getting elected was part of that decision.

I hear that his concession speech was truly gracious. Even the http://www.telegraph.co.uk couldn't find fault with it, although in typical fashion they found ways to take cheap shots at his supporters. His sense of honor reminds me of mine, which is easy to forget at memories of things said and done by some Obama supporters, arrogant young poets of the usual West Coast persuasions, etc.

It was the passing of I-1000 that had me sobbing in bed at midnight last night. The initiative authorizes assisted suicide by means of lethal drug overdose. Having sung in homes for the elderly and looked at their faces, having seen my grandma living at my parents' and dealing at times with terrible pain, having considered the possibility of someday needing to care for my husband, my parents, my in-laws, I feel the immense value of these people—the importance of every hour of the lives granted them—their irreplaceability. It horrifies me to imagine that human beings voted for a law that might make any of these people feel pressured to take themselves off my hands.

Sure, it might not be intended to do such—but it will—oh yes, it will apply that pressure to people. And the rules will be mishandled, and the secrecy of the whole thing will obscure from public eye what really goes on, and corrupt courts will make the same sort of ruling that happened in Terri Schiavo's case. Dear God, have mercy.

Add to that the promise President-elect Obama made to sign the Freedom of Choice act—a misnomer if ever there was one—and the thought of so many innocents prepared to lose their lives, and you have the reasons why some of us mourned as ecstatic young idealists shot fireworks off in the Bellingham streets at midnight.

But maybe I'll have to go look up The Ballad of the White Horse, as "Anonymouse" suggested in the comments on the post that encouraged me most today. It's time to dry my tears and live up to the truth of the matter. Here is a piece of that truth (as quoted by Anonymouse) in two short lines, reminding me that battles are lost now and again, but that good ultimately triumphs over evil:

"Men of the east may spell the stars and times and triumphs mark, but men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark."


Reading and Commentary

If any one reading this hasn't read the following article by a Harvard student, I highly recommend it:

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ... or, as the Creative Minority Report (my source) titled their reference to it, "Conservative is the New Gay".

This student writes with an appreciable empathy toward the conservatives who find that, as she puts it, "Life is hard in the closet. It’s dark, and there are never enough hangers." As a member of the online Harry Potter fandom, which is dominated by groups like The Harry Potter Alliance—which does a lot of good, on the one hand, and then weighs against that by pushing a radical liberal agenda in the name of all things Potter—I know what it is to find myself wondering when, or whether, to push my way out of the wardrobe and let myself be known for a Daughter of Eve.

... weird it may be, but I'm probably one of the few conservatives who might actually be comforted by a rainbow blanket and Elton John music quietly playing. I love bright colors and sappy Disney-type love songs. It's not my fault if they've been reappropriated. "Caaaaaaaaaaan you feeeeeeeeeeeeel the loooooooooooooooooove toniiiiiiiiiiiight …"

* * *

Many thanks to The Hog's Head for the link to this article regarding Richard Dawkins' plan to write a book about 'science thinking contrasted with mythical thinking.'

Of course Dawkins loves Pullman. Pullman was writing against the Church and says so bluntly. But what would Dawkins do with Harry Potter?

What would he do with Harry 'dying' a figurative death in each of the first six books in the presence of a Christ-symbol? (Harry's out cold for three days the first time—even Lewis only put Aslan under overnight.)

What would he do with the scene where Harry approaches a pool of water, wearing, around his neck, a locket containing a great evil? Harry sees a "cross-shaped object" lying at the bottom of the pool, a silver sword which can destroy the evil he's wearing; he jumps into the pool to get the sword, is nearly strangled and drowned by the evil, and has to be rescued by his best friend, who jumps into the pool with him, gets the sword, breaks the evil chain, and saves his life. Doesn't that sound too much like baptism for the atheist mind to tolerate?

What would Dawkins do with the poignant scene in the seventh book where Harry walks into the forest to lay down his life willingly for the lives of his friends?

What would Richard Dawkins do with Harry Potter? Pardon me while I go roll around on the floor laughing ...

But what in the world is he on about, thinking that fairy tales about frogs and princes have an 'insidious effect on rationality'? My mother 'established herself as a truth-telling thing', as G.K. Chesterton says, and she said the many novels I read were 'pretend' and I believed her. When I read Narnia at age 7, I knew it was not a 'true' story in the sense of following actual historical events. Of course, later I grew to understand the senses in which Narnia was and is a true story, and perhaps that is the very thing a man like Dawkins finds so dangerous.

I'll have to disagree, sir. I think it's our best hope for sanity.

* * *

The Internet Monk's (no, he's not Catholic) Annual Halloween Rant

I loved Halloween growing up, even though technically we didn't celebrate it. My family would shut off all the lights in the house and take a pan of warm brownies and some milk to a back room, where we'd play a game (yes, we'd light a lamp if necessary) or watch a movie during the trick-or-treating hours. What kid wouldn't love that? We loved it so much that we often did similar things throughout the year.

When Lou and I have children, should God grant us that blessed gift, I plan on doing the family-night thing at least once a month. Maybe once a week! Perhaps I'll take them trick-or-treating on Halloween. It seems important to me that children learn to face fears, and Halloween—depending on the kid—might be a safe environment in which to learn that our fears are often ugly masks that come at us in the dark, with little or no substance behind. We'll see. I certainly respect the opinion of those who choose not to participate in the Halloween festivities, but likewise I respect the iMonk's position. He's a good man and a good writer. This post of his, on trusting God as father, is also well worth a read, as are his everyday blogging efforts.

Lou and I ran out of candy by 8:00 PM last night, having manifestly underestimated the number of children who would pass by our house. They came in groups of five, seven, ten at times. Apparently, little toddling ones, stumping about on our front porch holding up tiny hands and staring with giant hopeful eyes, make me cry.

* * *

Other things also make me cry, like Alessandro Manzoni's The Betrothed.

Lou bought that book on our honeymoon—we went into a bookshop in Victoria and got souvenirs of the best sort: books. (He got me Elizabeth Goudge's Little White Horse, which is now one of my favorite novels.) He finished Manzoni's book a couple of weeks ago and obligingly told me it had a happy ending, though warning me it was rough getting there.

Crying over a book is not necessarily a bad thing. Tears come to my eyes every time I read the ending of Little White Horse. But my poor blessed husband had to clean me up big-time after The Betrothed. There were scenes of deep and desperate sadness throughout the book, especially toward the end, one of which really got at my heart. Then there came [spoiler alert] a word from a very Godly priest, full of a very holy truth which pierces the soul of anyone who loves, who happens to think on such things:

"And you, Renzo... remember this: If the Church now gives you back this companion in life" [the young man's bride had to be freed from an obligation under which she'd placed herself] "she does not do so to provide you with a temporal and earthly happiness, which, even if perfect in its kind and without any admixture of bitterness, must still furnish a great sorrow when the time comes for you to leave each other; she does so to set you both on the road to that happiness which has no end. Love each other as fellow-travelers on that road, remembering that you must part someday, and hoping to be reunited later for all time."

I told Lou he's not allowed to die any time soon. He promised. God grant it may be so! But of course I can't boss God around and no earthly happiness is guaranteed. All we can do is live as Father Cristoforo advised Renzo and Lucia. And now I am going to do my part and make my own dear man some dinner.


Notes (two very short ones)

I have finally posted the second half of the wedding report (see the next post down). Amazingly enough, it went up in the same month as the first half.

* * *

Naomi and Jessi talked me into signing back up for Silhouette this season and my first article went up today. If/when you check it out, look over the site—there are several excellent writers this season, working in a number of different styles and genres.

Deo Gratias, Part II

The second half of the wedding was just as good as the first :)

Lou and I each hugged our parents at the top of the aisle. Dad put back the blusher on my veil, and here he is handing me off to Lou:

... and we made our way up the altar stairs for the welcome.

Casey took this shot of the full church from the choir loft in the back.

Dad St. Hilaire gave the first reading, which came from the Song of Solomon. Lou and I picked out the readings together; this one had some of my favorite verses from the great Song. "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear in the earth ... For love is as strong as death, and jealousy is as severe as Sheol ... Many waters cannot quench love; nor can the floods drown it."

Then John led us in the singing of Psalm 148—a song of pure praise.

Lou's brother Terry did the second reading, which came from 1 John 4. "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us ... Beloved, if God so loved us, so we ought to love one another."

John led us in the Easter Alleluia, and Father Qui-Thac read the Gospel. For this we chose John 17, Jesus' high-priestly prayer. In a room filled with Christians divided by the events of the sixteenth century, and with some who profess other faiths or no faith, the prayer of Christ for His Church seemed wholly appropriate. "The glory which Thou hast given to Me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one ... that the world may know that Thou didst send Me."

Our pastor, Fr. Scott, gave the homily, reading from letters he had asked Lou and I to write him about why we had chosen the readings we did and why we had chosen each other:

From there, Fr. Scott returned to his seat. When he stood up again, we all rose and Lou and I and our wedding party ascended the altar stairs again, this time for the vows. "For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part."

Having my dad, who is a licensed Baptist minister, lead the exchange of rings, was Fr. Scott's idea. I thought it was brilliant. It's always been important for me to have my dad take part in my wedding ceremony. Dad, for the great love he bore his daughter, swallowed his fears of being too emotional to get through it and agreed. He led the little exchange beautifully.

"Louis, take this ring as a sign of my love and affection, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

And we were married.

My new cousin, Fr. Kenny, gave us our nuptial blessing.

We sealed it with the customary kiss—and very sweet it was, too.

Fr. Scott presented us as "Mr. and Mrs. Louis St. Hilaire", and my new nephews led the way out as the congregation sang "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee".

"Mortals join the mighty chorus
Which the morning stars began ..."

As the crowd made their way out onto the front lawn, Fr. Scott presided over the signing of the marriage licenses.

When that was finished, Beth and Andy led us outside, where the Knights of Columbus gave their 4th Degree member/former Grand Knight and his bride an honor guard. Seriously ... it's hard to top having cool guys with swords around ;)

Casey took this shot of us out on the front lawn, where Lou kissed me joyfully in front of everybody. That's not a Wal-Mart backdrop, folks: that's the real sky.

From there the Knights led us in solemn procession over to the gym, where the reception was to be held.

We greeted people as they came through the doors, a sort of impromptu receiving line—it wasn't planned that way. It worked well, though. Mary stuck close by me, very sweetly; my new niece! I acquired at least 75 close relatives in joining the St. Hilaire family, I think.

At this point, several months' worth of pre-wedding stress had evaporated into an almost giddy joy.

They say you never stop being your daddy's little girl. This is true.

Lou's dad was our M.C. He was the natural person to take the job, and did it very well.

Fr. Kenny led grace:

... and I think it's hilarious that Lou and I bowed for prayer like this, facing each other. I'm kind of easily amused.

Our wedding supper was made by Chef Alex Chavez of
Lotta Fuda, and I recommend him and his company anywhere—he did a fantastic job. Several of the ladies from church, along with the Knights of Columbus, did all the serving and kitchen management and cleanup, and without them—especially Pat, Elizabeth, and Sherrie—I don't know what would have happened. They made it possible for us, and for our parents, to relax and enjoy the day. We had for favors Hershey's kisses in various colors and 'holy cards' with our name, wedding date, the "That they may be one" verse from John 17, and a Raphael picture of the holy family.

Toasts came after dinner, and Andy made us all laugh by reading his off a sheet of toilet paper. He had clearly written at least part of it the night before, since it contained suggestions from his 24 hours of married-life experience.

We thought it was pretty funny.

... although he made me cry, too; it was so sweet. Beth likewise made us laugh and cry. Here she is explaining the way Lou's fedora proves he is the perfect man for me:

Lou and I were the last to give toasts, which were directed to our parents. There just weren't words enough, but we did our best.

We cut the cake Mom lovingly made and decorated—the thing was amazing. I highly recommend chocolate Creole cake at a wedding, and she even got my white lilies on it. No, we did not smear it over each others' faces.

This is the front of the wedding program with my bouquet. I designed and made the program, and had a lot of fun doing so. The graphic at the top is a trio of longtime Christian symbols: griffin, cross, and lily.

Andy, Lindsey, Lindsey's dad, Terry and the boys, and the Herrings got hold of our car. We got honks and thumbs-up till Wednesday of our honeymoon, when we finally went and washed the thing off. They put so many streamers on that we had to pull over about ten blocks from the church and take them off, with much laughter.

We'd brought traveling clothes and changed in separate rooms. The last memory I have before taking Lou's hand and running down the lane of waving, cheering people is of turning to my mom and exchanging one sweet "I love you ..." It still makes me tear up to think about it. Lou's fedora made an appearance for the getaway dash.

... and we drove away.

What a moment that was! to be finally in our car, together, married and off to our honeymoon. I don't think I'll ever forget it.

For all the talk that the bridal business makes about 'your wedding day being the happiest day of your life' and 'perfect in every way', I didn't really expect it. I went into my wedding really just wanting everyone else to be happy and fearing that I would fail to achieve that. The simple fact that I was to receive Lou as my husband would have been enough to get me through the day.
As it turned out, my wedding day was the happiest day I had ever known, and so uniquely 'Lou and I', so sweet and holy and elegant and relaxed, that I can hardly imagine it being better. For days after, we commented over and over to each other about what a great wedding we'd had. It's hard to believe that it happened almost three months ago, though the blessed quiet routine of our newly-married life makes those short weeks feel timeless.

The liturgy of our wedding opened and closed with the words "Thanks be to God"—in Latin, Deo gratias. There are no better words to describe it.


If You're Happy and You Know It

Yes, I'll post the other half of the wedding report. Soon. I promise! It just takes an absurdly large amount of time to put together.

I woke up this morning with a deep sense of frustration due to having heard another cannon-blast in the war of hatred currently being waged against Sarah Palin, whom I very much respect. It was some nonsensical article (click
here for a biased report from the UK) about how she allegedly tried to get her ex-brother-in-law the state trooper fired, calling it an abuse of power, but reading the facts on that state trooper according to one who appears to have done his research, the guy needed action taken against him whether or not she had anything to do with it. (See #32.)

It's hard to remember, sometimes, that Jesus said his followers would be hated. (Not that the Left restricts their hatred to followers of Jesus.) I'd somehow never fully connected that with willful misunderstanding, malicious distortion, and criminally unjust accusation.

Anyway, I happened to be at Christ the King church this morning for my brother-in-law's baptism, and Pastor Grant Fishbook reminded me in his sermon that optimism is still possible and still important. Being a natural optimist, I liked this very much.

Take the story he told, which might have been true or made up, but was at least wholly believable. He said he went into a coffee shop and offered to buy coffee for the guy behind him in line if he'd answer just one question. The guy agreed, and Pastor Fishbook asked "What's right with the world?" "Not a [blank] thing", the guy responded. So Pastor Fishbook handed the guy his coffee and said "How's that?" "It's good," said the stranger. "That's one point for me," said Pastor Fishbook gleefully.

He used the same principle to point out that the guy had a little money and a job—two more things that were 'right with the world.' Then he read the passage from Philippians 4 that says "… whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

There, I thought, is a timely reminder.

I've been giving thanks in threes lately—yes, it's gimmicky, but as a sort of trinitarian way of reminding myself to give thanks it comes in useful. For a good husband, a loving family, a warm home. For books and houseplants and lamps. For an enjoyable job and respectable bosses and good team members. I'm finding thankfulness a helpful part of maintaining optimism.

And I think
Trucker Tom had the right idea when he called into Father Roderick's podcast a few episodes back and suggested that people turn off the media for two weeks and see what it does to their attitude. If you listen to the news all the time, he said, you're going to think that we're all going to hell in a handbasket and everything's completely out of control. Sure, a lot of things are out of control, especially right now—but most of that is getting exacerbated by hysteria, which is amped up by doomsday reports from the news. Day-to-day life is still pretty good for most of us and we still live like kings compared to most of the world throughout most of history.

I like being cheerful. I'm not giving it up for politics—forget it. As for Sarah Palin, I'll be praying for her encouragement these next few weeks, whatever happens with the election.

Here's a link to my brother-in-law's blog (not the brother-in-law that got baptized today) for an
excellent comment on the importance of certain issues and a short comment by Mrs. Palin on the topic.


Deo Gratias

August 10, 2008

With many thanks to Casey Karbowski, our hard-working and quite gifted photographer, I've at last got pictures from the wedding. A full description of this event is likely to take me at least two or three posts, so here's the start.

Had I been the sort of girl to have my wedding all dreamed out before it happened, the actual event would still have surpassed it; as it was, it felt like all my wedding-day-dreams came to pass. The simple and the glorious came together for one sweet sacred beautiful thing, and in that context of absolute love, a better man than I ever imagined for myself took me for his own.

The single best piece of wedding advice I got came from Auntie-C, who told me to leave myself as little as possible to do on the wedding day and the few days prior. Thanks to both sets of parents (especially my mom, who insisted on my following that advice and on taking up the slack!), and to Beth, and Briana, I succeeded. Lou and I attended Andy and Lindsey's wedding the day before ours without much of a to-do list to worry over, which was good as both of us felt the strangling pressure of emotion ready to explode out of us at any moment. We got separated at their reception for twenty minutes or so, and the subsequent panic and almost tearful reunion in the parking lot might have done for a much bigger ordeal.

We toasted Andy and Lindsey with glad hearts, however, and church afterward calmed us somewhat. We were named in the prayers. After church and a stop in the gym to add our favors to the reception tables, Lou went to spend the evening with three of his college friends from out of town, and I went home to my parents', where I burst into tears upon walking through the door for no other reason than being overwhelmed with joy and excitement and exhaustion. It felt great to cry off the emotional buildup, and I felt much better afterwards.

I faced breakfast on my wedding morning with my first real nervous flutters, but those were gone before preparations really got started. The preparations were simple, for me at least: not wishing to have to deal with stylist appointments, I hadn't planned on any, and Beth did my hair and makeup.

At about 12 noon, Mom, Beth, and Briana got me into the dress my mom had lovingly handmade for me. Mom never got clear instructions on what I wanted; she merely took thirty years' knowledge of her daughter, a little silk and alençon lace, and made me feel like a princess:

She had to trim, piece, and appliqué the lace across the silk by hand, all from a single sheet of lace just large enough to give her one real chance to get it right.

Mom has more pictures of the detailing on her site.

I made the veil, with direction and some help from Mom. It took an excessively large amount of time, but the result was worth it.

Beth did all the flowers for the bridal party, with some assistance from Mom and Briana. She, like Mom with the dress, had only vague instructions as to what I wanted and the raw materials, but her final product was flawless—everything I could have dreamed of.

There were a very few small, special details in the wedding that I'd planned simply because I really wanted them; the white lilies were one. Few flowers hold claim to so much sheer beauty, but their symbolic connections meant even more—the sight of one is, for me, an exhortation to bravery, purity, joy, and self-sacrificial love through Christ. I cried when Beth first showed me the bouquet she had made.

Briana, having made the trip from Montana, helped out with anything and everything and very patiently dealt with the fact that her best friend was mostly distracted during her entire visit. Here she is, looking quite glamorous:

Lou and I had decided we didn't want to keep our guests waiting during an hour's formal photo shoot between wedding and reception, so we planned our 'first look' for my parents' living room a couple of hours before the ceremony. He paced up and down the front walk until everybody was ready; parents and siblings and friends stood off to the side while I waited a few steps back from the door.

I tried to say 'hi' when he came in, but couldn't quite get the word out.

He still surprises me with his good looks sometimes ...

After a few family photos, we drove to the church. Getting into the car took some effort; I found the wearing of a massive tulle slip under my dress to be quite an experience.

We married in our beautiful parish church. It's hard to look at Gothic architecture and not think of God. The spire pointing steeply upwards into the sky, and the high ceilings indoors, leave me feeling very small and very full of a child's awe.

Our friend John Marvin was cantor for the occasion, and the master pianist and organist of the church, Matthew Ma, played the organ. The wedding coordinator hid me in the confessional for the prelude, where I could hear John sing Schubert's Ave Maria (which my parents had had at their wedding) and Lou sing a wedding gradual (a psalm in Gregorian chant). Matthew played the old pipe organ, at our request.

Mary and my parents stayed in the confessional with me, and Mom stood at the door and told me who was coming in—"Scott and Megan are here! And Bill and his family, and Brad Bauer! And there's Donna ..." I loved hearing every name she mentioned; it meant so much to me to have so many friends there. The crowd wound up being about 350 strong.

The ceremony began at three o'clock. Long before I met Lou, I'd made up my mind that I wasn't doing the "Here comes the bride" thing, so we made our processional more like a mix of Sunday morning church and family. John asked everyone to stand and take out their hymnals, and to the deep tones of the old organ, everyone began to sing St. Francis's "All Creatures of Our God and King". As they sang, Lou's nephews, David, John Paul, and Daniel, led the way down the aisle with cross and candles.

They were followed by Fr. Qui-Thac with the Book of the Gospels, then Lou's cousin Fr. Kenny and a longtime friend of Lou's from his monastery days, Fr. Paul.

Next came Fr. Scott, the officiant for the wedding.

Then came the wedding party, starting with my junior bridesmaid: Lou's niece, Mary. Mary did an excellent job in her role, making sure my skirt was straight, holding bouquets when needed, and looking very much like a princess herself. She wore her dress from her first Communion and we tied her hair back with a little piece of ribbon from my bouquet.

Two truly 'good sports' walked the aisle after Mary: Lou's brother Andy, married the day before, and my sister Beth, looking forward to her wedding four weeks later. Lindsey and Todd awaited them in the front pews. Andy and Lou had agreed to be each others' best man when they planned their respective proposals to Lindsey and I. Beth accepted her well-deserved role of maid of honor when I asked her just after my engagement. Her likewise well-deserved engagement came just three months later.

The finale of our procession was something very meaningful to us, something I'd planned since before Lou and I even met: Lou's parents walked him down the aisle, and my parents walked me. No one else on earth holds the roles our parents do in our hearts; we respect no one more than those four people, and we felt they deserved the places of greatest honor and the opportunity to symbolically, as well as actually, give us to each other.

I'll end this post here because it's getting a bit bulky for good old Blogger, but look for more wedding pictures in the days to come.