As for Craig and me, our Christmas celebrations are quite low-key this year. This is partly thanks to two factors: 1) by agreement with the whole family, the only gift-giving we do is to juveniles; and, 2) our recent move.
The kitchen is torn up, requiring us to store the stove in the living room, which makes decorating a bit awkward and makes baking impossible. So my annual Christmas fruitcakes, caramel corn, cookies, pumpkin roll, and other goodies will not be making an appearance this year. Though my tastebuds are a little disappointed, it’s probably good for my overall health.
Craig and I plan to drive to the Cleveland area Christmas morning to celebrate the Big Day at his mom’s with all his family, as well as all four of our kids and five grandkids. The following day is “Smithmas” (Christmas with my side of the family), also with all our kids and grands. Sounds grand!
I don’t recall what I’ve shared in the past concerning my thoughts about the holiday, but my post on the Speculative Faith blog pretty much sums it up. That post is, by the way, my last regular contribution to that blog. I’ve had a hard time coming up with something new to write about every two weeks, and I agonized so over every post that it seemed to take almost a week to create each one. I decided a few months ago that it would be time to step aside at the end of the year, and that end has now come.
So, now that I’m freed from that responsibility, what will I do with all my time, you may ask? No worries; I see no lack of possibilities. Possible new ministry opportunities, new fiction creation, publishing endeavors, and projects in the house and garden. I don’t anticipate being bored.
But I do anticipate. Looking back can be useful for the purpose of reviewing what we’ve learned and appreciating our blessings. But for the most part, I prefer to look forward. I was going to say the view is less clear, but let’s be honest: aren’t our memories sometimes distorted? What we now view as “the good old days” we once complained about as hard times. What at first made us happy and hopeful might, in hindsight, actually have been a wrong turn. We often forget the things we should remember because we’re so bent on remembering the things we should forget.
So today, as the year draws to a close, my perspective is a little like that of the apostle Paul’s as expressed in Philippians 3:13-14: forgetting the things that are behind and reaching forth to those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
I wish you all Christmas blessings and a fruitful new year.
No, I didn’t make a cake for the occasion. I don’t have an oven at present, so I couldn’t if I wanted to. But it’s been exactly one month since we moved into our new home, and it’s fun to contemplate some of the things we’ve learned and seen in that time.
When I made phone calls to arrange for various utilities, one of the people I spoke with, upon learning we moved here from Ohio, asked if we were experiencing culture shock. I don’t know what she thinks Ohio is like — of course it’s different in different places, so maybe she’s thinking of Cleveland or Cincinnati or some major city. But her question surprised me, because the Cumberland area is much like the region we moved from. The cost of living is about the same, the people are similar in habits and attitude, and the lay of the land is familiar. The primary difference is that the hills are higher, and we see fewer farms here and more rocks. But for the most part, in ways it hardly seems like we moved.
We did move, though, and do have some things to learn. Such as, people around here don’t use Craigslist very much. We’ve listed a number of large items that came with the house or that we brought with us (our porch swing, a fireplace screen and tools, a dining room buffet, a vintage RCA cabinet Victrola, and a newish GE wall oven, among other things). We’ve priced them to sell. And nobody’s interested. I know we’re not asking too much, so that can’t be the problem. Do people not think to look on Craigslist when they want to buy something? Do they not trust anything online? I don’t know, but it’s a little frustrating. We’d like to get rid of some of this clutter!
An expensive thing we learned when getting our Maryland driver’s licenses: This state charges double if you have a motorcycle endorsement. They commented that Craig had a motorcycle certification on his Ohio license, and he said, “Yes, I do.” So they carried it over to his Maryland license, which made the fee for his twice what mine was. They told him, “Oh, yes, that’s considered two separate licenses.” Next time he renews, he’ll let that drop, but for now, he’s still legal on a motorcycle. Not that he’s likely to ever drive one again.
Another new experience: shopping in pawn shops. Craig needs a miter saw for the kitchen floor project, and, after visiting several pawn shops in two states, he found a really nice DeWalt model, almost new, for about $150 less than it lists for at Lowe’s. Sweet! Maybe people around here use pawn shops instead of Craigslist.
Speaking of pawn shops, let me tell you about our visit to one in Keyser, West Virginia.
You may have a preconceived idea of West Virginia in your mind, but let me tell you, it’s probably not a fair assessment. West Virginia is a beautiful state and is populated with wonderful people. It’s also a short distance from our house, just on the other side of the Potomac River.
If you’ve heard that a lot of West Virginians are illiterate hillbillies, don’t believe it. They’re definitely not illiterate. At least, not in Keyser. I know this because Keyser has a public library. Craig and I walked past it on our way to one of the pawn shops we visited, and the door was hanging open. I don’t mean propped open to let fresh air in, but rather, hanging open because it didn’t close properly.
As we passed by the first time, I noted it was a quaint little storefront — not at all what you’d expect a library to look like. More like a converted old-timey hardware store (which I suspect it was) with books on shelves instead of nuts and bolts in bins. After we left the pawn shop (empty-handed, as it didn’t have the saw Craig wanted), the open door beckoned to me. Or rather, to my bladder. It was morning, and my coffee was yearning to be free. So I told Craig my plan, and he said, “Go ahead, I’ll see you at the car,” and went on through the rain.
Did I mention it was raining? It was a lovely rainy day. Not sure why it was lovely, but the rain added to the ambiance somehow.
Just inside the door (where the cash register probably used to be when there was a store in that location) was the library desk. I asked if there was a public restroom available, and she directed me to the back of the room. “Turn left at the curtain, then up the stairs. It’s at the top of the steps.”
It was indeed. As I walked to the back of the room, I couldn’t help but notice the floor tiles had holes worn in them. When I found the stairs to the left of the curtains (what were those curtains for? They didn’t cover windows, but just seemed to be long pieces of fabric hanging there. Room dividers perhaps?), the steps were gray-painted concrete. I climbed them, holding onto the metal pipe that served as a railing, and found an office at the top of the stairs, with a woman at a computer with her back to the open office door. I was ready to smile and say hello to her, but she never turned or glanced up when I came up the stairs nor later when I went down.
Just beyond her door was another open door, and the room beyond it was dark. I entered the room, found a light switch, and discovered it was the restroom.
The restroom; there were not separate facilities for men and women. Inside the door was a shelf of books. Yes. This library provides you with something to read when you’re on the pot. There was also a flush toilet and a sink with running water, so I was good to go! I shut the door and employed the hook-and-eye latch, then took care of the business I’d come for. On the wall opposite were two signs. One read, “Please close the door when using the bathroom!” No joke. The other sign, below the first, read in four-inch-tall letters, “FLUSH!”
So, y’see? there’s abundant proof that West Virginians aren’t illiterate.
Truly, I don’t wish to disparage my neighbors to the south, and I wouldn’t mind being a West Virginian myself. In fact, we looked at several houses in that state, and the three that I liked the best were there. But my visit to the public library in Keyser was so cliche, I had to share the experience with you.
I’ve seen several libraries around here, and I donated copies of my books to the one in LaVale. I would have dropped off copies at the others, too, but I didn’t have any with me when I passed them. Incidentally, I went to a book signing at a bookstore yesterday and met four local authors, which was fun. Of course I also spent almost $60 buying books from each, which was less fun, but maybe they’ll do the same for me someday.
So how’s the “church shopping” coming, you might ask? I might tell you! But I’ll save that for another post. I’ll just say that the search is ongoing, but I went to a church this morning where I heard the best preaching I’ve heard since FBC in New Philly. The road we traveled to get there looked a lot like the one in the photo here, but when we left the service, I felt warmed and filled.
Speaking of photos, that cake at the beginning of this post makes me hungry. I think I’ll go heat up some leftover bean soup for supper. Catch ya later!