Photo by Karen
Tennyson wrote this poem in 1850 as part of a larger work called In Memoriam. It is a call for release and renewal. Tennyson calls us to let go of old griefs, mistakes, grudges, and wars, and embrace (wildly, and with abandon!) new light, love, joy, and peace. I'm ready for some changes...how about you? Let's go ring some bells!
Ring Out, Wild Bells
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Photo by Karen
Friday, December 28, 2007
Last week, when we were snowed in, I did a little internet search to find out how to make small origami gift bags for my students. I came across the Origami Club which has tons of easy-to-follow origami designs rated from easiest to most difficult.
So I made my gift bags. But when Kevin came into the living room 45 minutes later, he also found an array of hats, bears, and stars strewn about. I looked up sheepishly and said, "What? I had to see if I could do them." Kevin's reply: "This may be the biggest nerd alert yet."
Well if you and/or your kids are bored over winter break, you might wander over to the Origami Club for a little paper-folding fun. Just watch out...it can be addictive!
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Ah, do you remember this one? How could you forget? But I bet it's been years since you've seen it last (at least it was for me)and it's *worth* watching again just to see the hair-dos! The Poop recently reminded me of this by posting the video, and Peter's comments are hilarious. A small taste:
"I remember when this came out, I couldn't go out and buy the single fast enough. Sting AND Simon Le Bon AND Boy George AND Phil Collins wanted me to do it, which pretty much made it 13-year-old law. How could I say no and keep feathering my hair with a clear conscience?"
Monday, December 24, 2007
I've seen Truman Capote's short story A Christmas Memory in the Chinaberry catalog for a couple of years now, but didn't actually pick it up until readers of Seven Impossible Things for Breakfast mentioned it recently. I have to thank both Chinaberry and the 7-imp readers...once again, you did not steer me wrong.
Truman Capote (author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood) wrote A Christmas Memory in 1956, and it's a beautiful story about the friendship between a 7 year old boy and his "sixty-something" year old cousin. Truman Capote was abandoned by his mother early on in life, and this story is largely a true memoir about his years growing up with aunts and cousins in Alabama. The story is nostalgic without being sentimental, and truly captures the delight, wonder, and joy inherent in the best holiday traditions without ignoring some of the darker, sadder aspects of life.
You can read the entire story online here.
You can pick up the illustrated book at Chinaberry here.
You can even listen to Truman Capote himself read A Christmas Memory on This American Life. How cool is that?
Here's a bit about Truman Capote's life at American Masters.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Does anyone else remember this? Oh, I *loved* it when it came out. Animated Bloom County? What could be better? I just put it in my Netflix queue to see if it will stand the test of time.
I still have the book which I love even more.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I wrote about this last year, too, but I think when we're talking about how to make a difference on a local level, this is one of the simplest, most effective things to do: donate a coat to help keep someone else warm. As my dad would say: It's a no-brainer.
There are coat drives all over the country that you can participate in. Even in warm climates, the evenings can get cold, days can be wet, and a good coat can make all the difference.
If you have extra coats around, please visit One Warm Coat to find a drive near you, or to learn about how to organize a drive in your area.
You can also donate money for new coats at Coats for Kids.
Have a warm, happy day! If you have a snow day like we do here in Maine, check out this cool snowflake maker. But I'll warn you...it's kind of addictive. (Thanks to Annie Patterson for the link!)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I've said before that Emmylou Harris' voice reminds me of Christmas. So why has it taken me until this year to discover her album of Christmas songs: Light of the Stable? Some things in life are truly inexplicable.
Light of the Stable is absolutely gorgeous with guest appearances from Linda Ronstadt, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Neil Young, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and more. It combines well-known traditional songs like O Little Town of Bethlehem and The First Noel with lesser-known songs like the beautiful There's a Light and the country-blues twinged Angel Eyes. This is the kind of album that makes you want to sit around a crackling fire with eggnog and the whole traditional kit & caboodle. Definitely going in my permanent Christmas rotation.
Since I couldn't find an Emmylou Christmas tune on YouTube (if you know of one, please pass it along), here is a video of Stephen Foster's great song "Hard Times Come Again No More." That's a youngish Rufus Wainwright, if you couldn't pick out his voice! Also Emmylou Harris, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, and Rod Paterson.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I hope the recent endorsements of Oprah, and the Today Show, and yes, even Bill Clinton will spur lots of gift certificates to Kiva.org this year. Here's a little blurb from Oprah's site about how the organization works:
"A revolutionary idea has made it possible for anyone to help people in Third World countries via the Internet—and it can be addictive! Visitors to Kiva.org can read the story of someone who needs help starting a small business. For as little as $25, they can choose a loan to partially finance—and help lift someone out of poverty in the process. Kiva's thousands of success stories include a peanut butter stand in Uganda, carpet weavers in Afghanistan and a fruit vendor in Vietnam."And here are the details from the Kiva website. If you're looking for a last minute gift idea, this is a great one.
Kiva.org was born of the following beliefs:
- People are by nature generous, and will help others if given the opportunity to do so in a transparent, accountable way.
- The poor are highly motivated and can be very successful when given an opportunity.
- By connecting people we can create relationships which exceed beyond financial transactions, and build a global community expressing support and encouragement of one another.
- Dignity: Person-to person lending encourages partnership relationships as opposed to benefactor relationships. Partnership relationships are characterized by mutual dignity and respect.
- Accountability: Loans encourage more accountability than donations where repayment is not expected.
- Transparency: The Kiva.org website is an open platform where communication can flow freely between the developing and developed worlds.
The businesses on our site are always changing. They are being uploaded by our microfinance partners around the world. You can find a new business on the home page or on the Businesses 'In Need' page.
Step 2: Make a loan
When you have selected a business, you can make a loan using your credit card (via PayPal). You can loan as little as $25 at a time. Checking out is easy and safe because of PayPal.
Step 3: Receive journals and payments
Periodically, you will hear back from the business you sponsor. Partner representatives (often loan officers) write directly to the website to keep you informed on the progress of the business. If you choose, you can receive these via email.
Step 4: Withdraw or re-loan
When your Kiva loan is repaid, you can choose to withdraw your funds or re-loan to a new business.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Sometime in the 1920's, Father Christmas began writing letters to J. R. R. Tolkien's children. The letters came with his very own intricate drawings of the North Pole, elves, goblins, and of course Father Christmas's assistant: the North Polar Bear.
The letters tell the Tolkien children about all the yearly highlights and happenings in the North Pole. The North Polar Bear is always getting into scrapes. Like the year that he accidentally turned on two years' worth of Northern Lights:
It was the biggest bang in the world, and the most monstrous firework there ever has been. It turned the North Pole BLACK and shook all the stars out of place...Father Christmas wrote these letters in his shaky handwriting every year for 20 years. I have a book that has some of the letters reproduced, in actual envelopes. You can pull out the letters and read them, just like the Tolkien children did all those years ago. Each year at Christmastime, I open up the envelopes and smile as I read about the adventures in the frozen North.
Apparently, there is a newer version that contains even more of the letters. I haven't seen it, but I don't think it has the pull-out letters (which are half the fun). It does have the gorgeous color illustrations, vividly intact. For Tolkien lovers like me, one version or another of this book is absolutely worth picking up.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Ok, so these two things have nothing to do with each other at all. They just happen to be on my mind on the same Friday.
Item 1: Art!
Remember Amy Schimler from my Robert's Snow interviews? Well, it turns out that she has a very cool collection of wall art and an online store with all kinds of bibs and onesies and tote bags. If you know anyone who is getting ready to furnish or re-vamp a baby room, the wall art could not be more perfect. You can see all the canvasses at Oopsy Daisy (I *love* the underwater submarine!)
Item 2: Wisconsin!
My dad sent this to me. I know this is one of those forwards that you get from every aunt and uncle and co-worker, but it totally cracked me up. As a native Wisconsinite, I find it hilarious. I mean, I grew up in a town where our big summer event was the annual PolkaFest, I had to wear a snowsuit over my ballerina Halloween costume, and it was the law that you could drink at a bar at any age as long as you were with your parents. There are things in here that will probably make sense to anyone who lives in a remote area, but if not, you'll just get a nice sneak peak into the first 20 years of my life.
It's funny 'cause it's true. :)
You know you're a Wisconsinite when:
1. Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.
2. 'Vacation' means going up north past Hwy 8 for the weekend.
3. You measure distance in hours.
4. You know several people who have hit deer more than once.
5. You often switch from 'heat' to 'A/C' in the same day and back again.
6. Your whole family wears Packer Green to church on Sunday.
7. You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.
8. You see people wearing camouflage at social events (including weddings and funerals ).
9. You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
10. You think of the major food groups as beer, fish, and venison.
11. You carry jumper cables in your car and your wife or girlfriend knows how to use them.
12. There are 7 empty cars running in the parking lot at Mill's Fleet Farm at any given time.
13. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.
14. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.
15. You refer to the Packers as 'we.'
16. You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.
17. You can identify a southern or eastern accent.
18. You have no problem pronouncing Lac Du Flambeau.
19. You consider Minneapolis exotic.
20. You know how to polka.
21. Your idea of creative landscaping is a statue of a deer next to your blue spruce.
22. You were unaware that there is a legal drinking age.
23. Down South to you means Illinois.
24. A brat is something you eat.
25. Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole shed.
26. You go out to fish fry every Friday.
27. Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.
28. You have more miles on your snow blower than your car.
29. You find minus twenty degrees 'a little chilly.'
30. You actually understand these jokes, and you forward them to all your Wisconsin friends.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I was reading Britt Bravo's list of 10 Holiday Gifts that Give Back over at Have Fun Do Good and I came across #2: Buy Books from your Local, Independent Bookstore. Britt writes:
When it comes to spending your holiday dollars, would you rather they went to Amazon and Borders, or to your local economy? Di's Book Blog recommends using the BookSense web site to find independent bookstores near you. You can also buy a BookSense gift card that can be used at hundreds of independent bookstores. The Jackson Street Book blog recently reported that the New York Times and NPR have added BookSense.com as an online book purchasing option, in addition to Amazon.com.I have to admit, this is something I'm particularly bad at. I'm often sucked in by the convenience of ordering books from the comfort of my desktop. I get a corporate discount at Borders. Super Saver Shipping at Amazon. But last night, I stopped by Gulf of Maine Books, where a friend of mine was collecting a 3-foot stack of holiday gifts. It was warm and cozy there, we chatted with the owners, got book recommendations, browsed around.
So I thought, to get us started, I would give you some links to great book and music recommendation lists. If you happen to choose some of these items for your holiday list, consider giving your local, independent store the business. (You can also browse my Please Come Flying book, music, and children's book recommendations from the year.)
Books for Children:
Fuse #8 (a children's librarian at the New York Public Library) posted a terrific two-part list of her recommended kids books according to what *type* of kid you're buying for. It's a great list and fun to read, too!
The Miss Rumphius Effect (great blog title!) also has a very good list.
Books for Adults:
The New York Times 10 Best Books of 2007
National Book Critics Circle "Most Recommended" list as posted by Powell's blog:
The 2007 Fids and Kamily Award Winners
Music for Kids:
Music for Adults:
KCRW's 2007 Music Holiday Gift Giving Guide (choose a DJ on the left for his or her specific recommendations)
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
You know how people always ask that question about if you could meet anyone, alive or dead? Mahalia Jackson would have to be at the top of my list. And I don't think Christmas songs get much better than Mahalia Jackson singing Silent Night. This is just perfect.
(You can see my version of Silent Night here.)
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
This is a very short list of places where you can buy gifts that help someone else. There are many more. If you have a particular favorite, please feel free to post it here. Happy shopping!
Nothing But Nets: $10 of every hat & t-shirt purchase will send a mosquito net to Africa to help fight malaria.
UNICEF: Proceeds from sweet gifts like "My Little Monkey" support "child survival, protection, and development worldwide through education, advocacy, and fund raising." I'm a big fan of the I Never Forget a Face! Matching Game ($13.00).
DonorsChoose.org: This is like a grown-up, education-oriented version of MarkMakers. Teachers from underfunded public schools submit proposals for things they need (everything from a rug for a reading corner and wet erase markers to projectors and entire science labs). You can buy gift certificates for your friends, and they can choose which project(s) they want to fund. Proposals are searchable by total cost, the school's level of poverty, subject matter, and state. You may choose to fund all or part of a project.
Good Magazine: 100% of every subscription purchased goes to one of 12 organizations (like Room to Read, NRDC, and Teach for America)...you choose where your money goes.
Fair Trade goods: Fair Trade helps provide fair pay and regular work to artisans from around the world. Beyond that, buying Fair Trade is a great way to find unique, handcrafted gifts for your friends and family.
There are so many ways to find gifts that give back in personal, innovative ways. Check local arts organizations in your area. My friend Kate's modern dance collective Live Animals, for instance, just sent out an email to their subscribers offering a gift pack of homemade chocolate turtles (made lovingly by the grandmother of one of the dancers!) for a $25 donation. I will definitely be picking up a box or two of those for some chocolate lovers I know!
Monday, December 10, 2007
On a recent trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Kevin and I listened to the audio book of Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. I was glad to have an intermission halfway through to browse a picture book art museum because this book, while beautiful, is very intense and very sad.
Joan Didion wrote The Year of Magical Thinking after her husband of 39 years, John Gregory Dunne, died. It's a memoir about grief, memory, and loss, and how those three things interact on a day to day basis after such an event.
Kevin has been a huge fan of Joan Didion's for years, but I had never read any of her work. I was struck by the way she uses the most minute, mundane, everyday details to describe and pick apart a huge, overarching theme. Kevin said, "Oh yeah. That's her thing."
He also said that because of this, some people found the book to be too clinical and cold for such an emotional topic. I didn't find that to be true at all. It seemed to me an accurate reflection of how someone might find themselves reacting to loss. The "magical thinking" that your mind engages in, whether you want it to or not. She describes a memory loop: how one small thing triggers a memory, and then another, and you end up thinking about the same things over and over even against your will. She writes about the many times throughout the day when she would think, "I have to remember to tell John about this." And how she could give away his clothes, but not his shoes. Because he might need them.
Terry Gross did an interview with Joan Didion shortly after the book was published in 2005. At the Fresh Air site, you can listen to the interview and read an excerpt from the book.
The Year of Magical Thinking is definitely worth reading. The writing is exquisite, and it will really make you think. But it might be wise to wait until you are in a good, relatively happy frame of mind before you begin.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Well, it's that time of the month...my GOOD magazine arrived in the mail. The theme of the magazine this month was Big Ideas. Out of all the grandiose ideas GOOD outlined (a lunar ark, carbon offsets, Russian democracy), my imagination was captured by a seemingly small, simple idea that earned a couple paragraphs in the issue: changing our paper margins.
Tamara Krinsky has started an effort to change the U.S. default paper margins from the standard 1.25" to .75". Simple enough, right? Well, according to Penn State University, if the entire country made this small change, it would save 380,000 tons of paper per year, and over $400 million in paper costs. That is stunning.
You can read PSU's statistics & breakdown of the study here (.pdf).
Tamara has what I believe to be some pretty simple, accessible goals. According to her website, www.changethemargins.com, she would like to accomplish the following:
- Convince Microsoft to change the default margin settings in Microsoft Word to .75 on all sides. The more convenient it is for people to change their habits, the better chance there is that they will actually do so. (You can sign the Microsoft petition for margin change here.)
- Persuade five corporations to officially sanction narrower margins for all company documents. In this way, people will get used to seeing documents with this formatting as the standard, as opposed to the exception. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure.
- Challenge five universities to adopt narrower margin settings as the standard for their students and faculty, and include this information in their course guidelines.
So, what do you think? Good idea? Can you think of any reason *not* to change the margins?
Paper photo by pawpaw
Thursday, December 6, 2007
One of my favorite traditions of the holiday season is the stocking program we participate in. Each year, one of the local nursing homes sends our church a list of all the residents and a short description of things each individual particularly likes (plus a list of things that are generally appreciated by all). Then we get to choose a name and create a stocking for that person.
This year, Kevin and I chose Ada. Our card read:
"Ada likes detailed coloring books of flowers and nature, cookies, and crackers."
Here's what we put in her stocking:
- An intricate butterfly coloring book
- Pepperidge Farm cookies
- A pair of extra fluffy, extra cozy socks (you know, the kind that make you feel like you're in heaven)
- A variety of Burt's Bee lip balms
- Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream
- A copy of my new CD
Any group could contact a nursing home and arrange to do this: your office at work, your elementary school class, your Girl Scout Troup, Little League Team, PTO, even a group of friends or families in your neighborhood. Apparently, even your Motorcycle Club can get in the game. :)
Other ways you can help spread some joy at a nursing home this season:
- Get a group together to come sing carols
- Create cheery crafts and decorations
- Simply visit, chat, listen, play games...sometimes company is the best gift of all!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Here's a treat for you. When Kevin told me about this, I didn't believe him but here is the proof. David Bowie and Bing Crosby together...a little peace on earth all their own. Apparently, this was filmed just one month before Bing Crosby died. I always assumed they just dubbed the Bowie part onto an original version. I never imagined they actually *sang* together. Very cool.
(You can see my version of Little Drummer Boy on YouTube, too...but it's not as cool as singing with Bing Crosby!)
Also, the new I Wrote a Hit Song! Contest winner was announced this week: Katie, age 10, from Cheshire, England wrote a great song called Don't Need. Congratulations, Katie!
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
We spent last Christmas with some friends, and when their 8 year old son opened a card from an aunt and exclaimed, "Cool!" I expected there to be cash or some kind of toy store gift certificate inside.
Well, there was a gift certificate, but it was not your run-of-the-mill gift, and it was very, very cool. So cool that I've been waiting an entire year for the Alternative Gifts series to come around again so I could blog about it.
Markmakers.org is "A Place for Young People Making a Difference." Here's how it works:
1. You buy a Markmakers card (for any amount, $10 minimum) for the young person of your choice.
2. That young person can then go to the Markmakers online store and spend the cash on any number of things inside.
The store is visually appealing and fun to explore. You can browse different sections of the store to learn about the items you are about to purchase. Here is just a tiny sampling of the things your Markmakers card can do:
- Purchase Vaccines to Immunize Children Against the Six Major Childhood Diseases
- Provide Meals To Elderly, Disabled & Homebound Americans
- Help Purchase a Cow or Goat To Provide Sustenance for a Nomadic Kenyan Family
- Help Build Playrooms for Hospitalized Children
- Help Fund the Cost of Organ Transplants For Young People
- Help Rescue and Rehabilitate Seals, Dolphins, Sea Otters & Whales
- Provide Shelter & Care For Homeless and Abandoned Animals
- Help Protect Threatened Coral Reefs
- Help Repair and Provide Refurbished Musical Instruments to Kids in Need
- Help Encourage a Worldwide Ban on Land Mines
100% of your donation will go to the organizations the child chooses. Here is the complete list from the Markmakers site:
The name of the organization providing the relevant goods or services is indicated in each product description. The mix of organizations is designed to appeal to the broad range of interests and concerns on the minds of young people today. The organizations that receive funding do not pay to be here. They are as follows:
Doctors Without Borders
Heifer Project International
Human Rights Watch
Institute for Transportation & Development Policy
International Campaign To Ban Landmines
International Rescue Committee
Marine Mammal Rescue Center
Meals on Wheels
Miracle Flights for Kids
Mr. Hollands Opus Foundation
Nomadic Kenyan Children's Educational Fund
One Laptop Per Child
Performing Animals Welfare Society
Save the Children
Seeds of Peace
Solar Cookers International
Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation
Surfrider Foundation USA
The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp
The Hunger Project
The Nature Conservancy
The Wilderness Society
Trees For Life
United States Fund for UNICEF
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (North America)
World Wildlife Federation
Monday, December 3, 2007
Today is the first big snow of the season here in Maine. It's a perfect, fluffy snow...the kind for snow angels and snowshoeing and catching flakes on your tongue. "This is the poem of the air" as Longfellow puts it.
The above picture is a slide of an actual snowflake taken by Wilson Bentley in 1896. I recently came across a picture book about Bentley and his story is fascinating, but his slides are breathtaking. You can view many of them online at the Bentley Snow Crystal Collection.
In other snowflake news, this is the last week of the Robert's Snow Auction. Your last chance to own a one-of-a-kind piece of snowflake art! Until next year, anyway.
Here is a lovely poem by a fellow Mainer (my apologies to Longfellow for the lack of indents...if you want to see the poem closer to it's original formatting, you can find it here):
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.
This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.