Monday, December 20, 2010

My Collection of Best Christmas Songs Ever, to Enrich Your Season

Merry Christmas! It's time for my first annual Christmas Song Awards, a selection of "The Best Christmas Songs Which..."

Okay, technically I think I may have mentioned most of these in previous years. But this is the first time I've brought them all together for your amusement/enjoyment.

So here you go. Enjoy.


Best Song that involves Luciano Pavarotti and a small child:

"Gesu Bambino"


Best Christmas Song Ever to Include the Words "nuclear fallout zone":

"Stop the Cavalry" by the Cory Band

Which is, of course, technically not a Christmas song. But it's still the best Christmas song ever.


Best Christmas Song Ever to Include the Words "bean dip."

"Merry Christmas From the Family" by Robert Earl Keene. (Watch the video. His grin tells me he's in on the joke.)


Best Christmas Song for those Ambivalent About the Season:

Christmas Eve in Sarajevo

(Embedding for the official video is disabled. But this works just as well. Just enough non-joyful feeling here to tell you you're not alone.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Most Wonderful Thing I've Ever Seen About Christians and Christmas, From Stephen Colbert

I can't make the embed code work for this video. But if you're a Christian who cares about the true meaning of Christmas (and no, it's not Nordstrom's Butter-Soft Leather Gloves for Her) you need to go to the original site and watch this video from comedian Stephen Colbert. Click here.

"If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus is just as selfish as we are or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition... and then admit that we just don't want to do it."

Does this guy nail 21st century America or what?

(Apologies for the risque ad that plays first, if you're easily offended. But then again, if you're easily offended, chances are the video itself will do it too. And chances are that you haven't been coming here that long, either.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pushing Purple Limits

I spent the afternoon dyeing fabric again, because I had some warm color dyes I hadn't tried out yet. Plus one purple. So my fabric of the day runs along the spectrum from grape to violet to red(s) to orange to yellow.

I've read that you can intensify the colors and possibly speed up the processing time by microwaving the fabrics while they're in the dye bath. And so I did.

And now I'm wondering why I have to test the limits of things. Things like how long those little red plastic cups can stand being in the microwave?

I'm not sure. I think it's because, as the scorpion said to the fox, It is my nature.

For the record:

30 seconds = fine
45 seconds = pushing it
45 seconds followed by another 30 = I'm lucky I don't have a purple kitchen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Laurie and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Okay, first thing: I have not been in a car accident since I was seventeen years old. And I have not had a traffic ticket in twenty years (since I was in grad school and, in a blizzard, made a right turn on red when the "No Right Turn on Red" sign was covered in snow.)

Second thing? You know how all the "How to handle an accident" articles start with, "Never say, 'This was my fault'"?

Screw it. This blog is only occasionally connected to my real world via Facebook, so... This was my fault. I screwed up.

I should have seen the pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk. Even though it was pitch black and pouring rain, and he was wearing dark clothes, pedestrians always have the right of way. And he did. If I had been healthy and mentally on top of things and hadn't had the plague, I would have seen him before I started the turn.

But the good news: I did not hit him!

The bad news: The car in the lane I swerved into to avoid hitting him did not fare nearly as well.

Three hours later, I have finally stopped shaking and crying.

What today has given me:

1) A whole new level of love and appreciation for my husband. When I called and said, "I just totaled your car," (because yes, I was driving his NEW car), his only question was, "Are you okay?" And then he came and sat with me and held me as I cried and shivered and waited for the police and the tow truck.

2) A new appreciation of how decent people react in crises created by other people. The guy I hit was a jewel. What he said when I went up to his window in the pouring rain, sobbing and shaking and apologizing, was, "It's only a car. It could have been so much worse."

It could have. I missed the pedestrian kid by a foot, max. (He continued on, oblivious.)

The other guy's car is damaged. Our car is damaged worse. But now that I've stopped crying and shivering and crying and shivering... I understand that he's right. It could have been so much worse.

P.S. I read the part about my husband to my husband? He said I didn't give him nearly enough positive press. So...yeah. My guy is awesome. I am SO glad he was in town and at our house when this happened, because I'm not sure I could have handled it otherwise.

P.S. Tonight I am reminded of a Christian definition: Mercy is when you DON'T get what you DO deserve. Grace is when you get what you don't deserve. One momentary lapse could have meant that I, and a kid, and his family, could have been paying our entire lives. Mangled cars and one traffic ticket excepted, I got off easy tonight. Thank you, God.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On Grief and Dyeing

These have not been a good couple of days. And when I say "these have not been a good couple of days," I mean it in the same way someone might say, "Oh, the Titanic? It had a little maritime incident."

A dear friend (my youngest son's church confirmation mentor, a member of our bell choir and a wonderful person) lost his long battle with cancer, dying far too young. Another friend miscarried a much-wanted baby. And a third friend lost his job -- his second in a year, a job he was overqualified for, but a job! -- because the company had overestimated demand and overhired.

And I have the plague (technically probably a cold), so I can't even handle the emotions of this week in the time-honored Methodist way -- by making a casserole -- because I don't want to give everybody else the plague, too.

The sense of helplessness -- of wanting to do something but not knowing what or how -- is overwhelming.

And so I have been dyeing fabric. Fabric that will probably end up in a quilt, eventually, to be given as a gift, but that's not point. The point is the process. The point is the color. For a visual person like me, color, intense color, has healing powers. And that is what this week calls for.

I've discovered a different dyeing process from what I've used before -- low-water immersion. (The above photo isn't my fabric, because I can't find my camera right now. But imagine more depth and you get the idea.) You soak fabric in a fixative solution, then scrunch or twist it, then add dye and a little more fixative. And then let it process. And the dye will seep into the twists and scrunches, but slowly. And since dye loses power over time, the outsides of the twists and scrunches will be dark, and the insides will be light. So when you look at a dyed fabric, you will feel depth. You will feel movement.

I finished the process yesterday. The dyeing, the hand-rinsing, the machine washing, the ironing. About 45 pieces of fabric, all the colors of the rainbow, ranging in size from 12" x 12" to 18" x 22",the entire color spectrum.

Would you believe I ironed each piece twice? I convinced myself it was to help them dry (because I was too impatient to run them through the dryer -- I wanted to see what I had, ASAP.) But it was really because I needed to feel the color. I needed to take each piece and let my eyes feast on that depth and movement. I needed the color to bring peace to my soul.

And I knew that it would, because it has before. And knowing that the chances are good that this fabric will eventually be put in a quilt to go to someone who needs it adds to its power.

I don't mean to imply here that it's all about me, obviously. The difficult part of being close to this much hurt is the powerlessness -- the wanting to make things different but not being able to.

I think we survive weeks like this, all of us, based on faith. Faith in God to create some kind of meaning, faith in family and friends to provide support, faith in the ability of color or music or art to soothe our hearts.

Oh, and let's not forget, faith in the power of Methodist women bearing casseroles.

God, family, color, casseroles...

Pretty sure if you anagram them, you'll get "survival, and healing."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

I Am So Uncool, Part II

I have a confession to make.

I... I still use...

(Hold on a second, I can do this.)

Hi, I'm Laurie, and I still use AOL.

Whew. Okay. There. I said it.

My AOL usage is a source of great amusement/befuddlement/consternation to the twenty-somethings of my acquaintance. Not my own kids, for the most part, just because that's the way it's always been in this family. (Kind of like some people see nothing unusual in Granny smoking cigars or Uncle Joe having imaginary friends.) But other people.

What's funny is that for somebody my age, I'm fairly tech-savvy. I'm comfortable with blogging -- not just in Blogger but in WordPress as well. I know how to edit and resize photos. I'm comfortable with the bare-bones basics of HTML. Hey, I can even program my own DVR.

But still I stick with AOL.

Oh, what?!? It's just a habit, okay? I can quit anytime I want.

Not everybody takes this well. Once I was getting informal tech support from a guy I know for something that was showing up onscreen differently from what should have been there based on the HTML code I was seeing. He says, "What browser are you using?"

Me: "Uh... The one that comes in AOL."

There is a long silence as he processes this. Finally he says, "AOL?" Like he's hoping he misunderstood.

"AOL," I say. "''s...uh... It's where all my bookmarks are?"

And then the change comes. It's not that they're, condescending, exactly. It's more like... You become their grandmother.

For the record, yes, I do use FireFox. It's even my default browser. And I do have a gmail address. But... I can't remember what it is, and even if I could, I'd forget to check it for days at a time. In AOL, it's all right there in front of you. All you have to do is log in, and then you don't have to think anymore.

Not sure I should like that, but... I do.

Recently, however, I discovered a benefit of AOL! Really, I did!

My laptop was attacked by an ugly virus that my virus software didn't recognize. It got into my software and somehow (this is technical, so pay attention) disconnected all my program thingies from the icon thingies I clicked on to get into them. So the programs are there, and the icons are there, but one does not lead to the other.

The one exception? AOL. Which still worked perfectly.

I told this to one of my twenty-something acquaintances. "See?" I said. "There IS a benefit to AOL! The virus didn't affect it."

His response:

"Yeah? Pretty tough to bird flu give a wooly mammoth."

P.S. I linked to this post on Facebook, and my daughter immediately responds, "Hate to break it to you, Mom, but your family judges you too. :D"

I said, "I know, honey. I was just being polite."

Sunday, December 05, 2010

I Love Teenagers, Part III

My fifteen-year-old son did his actual standup comedy routine the other night. Hilarious. Some parts were a bit raunchier than I would have liked. Butut you would expect a mom to say that, wouldn't you? I'll bet Jerry Seinfeld's mom says the same thing. My guess is that when he settles into his own, true style, he won't go for the cheap laughs, because his real talent lies in unusual observations.

My favorite part of the show was a limerick he wrote. Because, as I've said before, I love limericks. Here is what I wrote on limericks, back on 2006:

And the second [kind of poetry I love] is of course, the lowly limerick. I love limericks. Limericks are the illegitimate children of the poetry world. They are usually written for laughs by people who view the world through a warped lens. People like me. (And no, I will not be discussing the Man From Nantucket. Although Wikipedia says that he is a frequent limerick subject because Nantucket is historically a whaling town and limericks were a a genre popular with whalers. I am certain that this is truly the reason.)

But anyhoo. Here is my son's limerick:

There was a comic from Seattle
Did not know what rhymes with Seattle
And nobody laughed
'Cause his jokes didn't rhyme
And he ended up dead in Nantucket

Hee. (Because a lot of times, humor is simply about knowing the rules well enough to break them.)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Stained Glass Quilt, OR: Testing Google, 1, 2, 3

UPDATE: SUCCESS!!! Google is now sending people here from the search string "stained glass quilt." This means that you may have come here looking for the pattern for Seattle Streets. The page you really want is this one:


Click and enjoy!

Oh, and since that worked, I'm going to try something else: Getting the FINISHED quilt to show up in the "Stained Glass Quilt" search


In the last few days, this blog has become the #1 source when you do a google image search for pictures of the logo of the FFF (Fédération Française de Football, or French Football Federation.) AND the picture of German/Turkish soccer player Mesut Özil getting his Bambi award. Who knows more about these things than I do?

Google is an odd thing. Two or three times a week, this blog will get a hit from "googlebot." Which is exactly what it sounds like: A bot from google. Sometimes it scans the blog in general, and sometimes it scans individual posts. And when it scans individual posts, I know that these posts have somehow, through incomprehensible means, gotten the attention of the all-powerful GOOGLE, and before too long somebody will arrive at these posts via a google search.

Googlebot's favorites, based on search strings used to get here?

This one on the French-Canadian swear word "Tabarnac."
"How to communicate with teenage boys."
Freecell win percentage. (I'm still at 100%, by the way.)
Lasagna quilt
And the heartbreaking ones with search strings like "Surviving testicular cancer."

What the darling bot has not picked up? Anything on my Seattle Streets quilt that would bring in anyone with an interest in stained glass quilts. And that's what I would really, really, like it to pick up.

So here's a test.

Stained Glass Quilt
"Seattle Streets"
Directions here

The test: "Stained glass quilt" is in the name of the photo. AND in the caption. AND in the post title. And in the tags.

Googlebot? Oh, dear googlebot? Please stop by.

P.S. Why am I feeling like I should leave out milk and cookies?

P.P.S. HA! Eight minutes after this post was published, Googlebot came to visit! The general blog, though, not the individual post. Let's hope it figures out the difference before the post cycles off the front page of the blog.

Update: Okay, since it worked, let's try the Stained Glass Log Cabin Quilt. Another STAINED GLASS QUILT. (Hint, hint, google.)

(Directions for this one are here.)