Friday, December 31, 2004

A Christmas Visit

A frequent commenter here at Growing Sense, Closetliberalintexas, aka Ben (far right) and his lovely wife, Lise (far left :o) came for a Christmas visit. It wasn't a fan pilgrimage. He's my brother-in-law so he has to see us sometime. We actually love it when they come and wish we could see more of them. I'm the one in the middle wearing the hat--one of Ben's hand-me-downs that he left at our house years ago. Word, if you leave it, we own it.

Thursday, December 30, 2004


Every since I was a kid I have experienced PCD, or Post-Christmas Disorder for a few days after Christmas Day. It has gotten better in the last few years since the church we go to views Christmas Day as the first day of a twelve day event. But my mind still has a hard time catching up to that thought.

Here are some symptoms:

Christmas music withdrawal--Someone needs to produce a Christmas CD for the week after Christmas. One that has no references to Christmas Eve, Santa Claus, etc. It could include Joy to the World, O Beautiful Star of Bethlehem, We Three Kings, things like that. Would make a good MP3 compilation.

Family and friends withdrawal--As busy as things were before Christmas I still didn't get to see as much of everybody we love as I wanted. John and I are lucky enough to have loving and very fun families. We have such a good time being with them. And the time before Christmas is full of ops to be with our friends. Now parties seem kind of scarce, though New Years will be lots of fun--a little "hair of the dog".

Christmas decoration teardown anxiety--For me decorating for the holidays is a little like over-eating--I love it while I'm doing it, but feel kind of lethargic and regretful about it later. I actually put out less this year. Next year I think I'm only going to decorate mostly with things that can be recylcled, rather than put away--greenery and bows for example. Except for the Christmas tree. That just has to take awhile because no matter how much of a pain they all might be to put away I love reflecting on what all of the ornaments mean to us-it feels like a religious ritual to me.

The "where do I put it" question--This year I'm much more conscious of how much consumer stuff is created at Christmas time, partly because John and I are cleaning out the basement this week and we are amazed by the amount of stuff we have. Don't get me wrong, I love to open presents and appreciate the thought and time that goes into the gifts I receive. But I'm starting to realize that a big pile of presents under the tree is not a "traditional" Christmas idea. I think the consumer 70s, 80s, and 90s are coming to an end for me. This year John's mom decided that each person coming for Christmas at her house would buy one present to be part of a bingo game--if you won you got to choose a present. After all the presents were open we played to steal other people's presents (because isn't that what Jesus would do?). It was a lot of fun, and there was little stress in shopping and very little to find a place for later. I think games are very good at family gatherings.

My mom was so stressed out from work that she wasn't able to shop much and actually felt bad about it. I told her she shouldn't and then told her what we'd done at John's mom's. She thought that was such a great idea that we are going to do the same at our house, too.

Another option we've discussed is pitching in to "buy" a cow or goat to donate through Heifer International. My friend Julie works for them. The ogranization creates sustainable solutions to the world hunger problem. We thought it would be fun to pick a country, donate an animal to it and then buy presents for our niece, Amelia, that have to do with that country or that animal.

Good Lord I'm fat and don't want to exercise-- Why is it that the only thing more powerful than my desire to eat at the holidays is my desire to sit around and do nothing? Again, the only thing saving me in this area is the fact that our basement clean-out is a five day job and that there was snow to shovel for Christmas.

Okay, I feel better now. Thanks for listening. I'll post more fun stuff soon and once January hits I'm trasitioning back into activist mode. In the meantime, I hope your Christmas and after-Christmas is merry and bright.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Packing a Peace

This is that time during the Christmas season when I can easliy get overwhelmed. It seems like every second (for the next several days) is spoken for. In the design world everyone wants their home projects done by Christmas, and many clients will suck what little peace on Earth there is out of the planet's atmosphere to get their project through. No wonder interior design professionals don't ever have Christmas trees!

The class I was teaching ended last week and I have a stack of finals to grade. I have two museum contracts to finish up before I leave for Batesville on Wed. John's family Christmases are this weekend--Saturday and Sunday. Presents to wrap, presents to buy, and forget about Christmas cards.

This morning as I was driving to work I found myself unable to form a coherent thought as the gnatish demands of phone calls that need to be made mingled with the more ponderous thoughts of a friend who I need to spend time with because of some difficult issues she is facing.

I finally started doing the first smart thing I'd done all morning--making a list of things I may think I have to do, but that I actually don't.

My "do not" list:

- Expect that I can keep the house spotless, or even relatively so, for the holidays
- Worry about taking dirty clothes home to wash in Arkansas because I didn't have time to wash them here
- Think people I give gifts to will remember how bad the bows on my presents looked this year
- Ever put some preparation for Christmas before actually enjoying Christmas (thanks Duane)
- Worry about whether the gifts I'm giving are the "perfect" ones
- Forget that I can sleep on the 9-hour ride to Batesville
- Think that I have to do everything by myself. John is always glad to help me.

I've decided that from now until New Year's I will make a point of NOT doing anything that does not truly have to be done. And instead, I will spend what energy I would have on remembering the hope that Christ has brought to the world--including my hectic little corner. Peace on Earth, good will toward people was not an angel's recommendation or command. It was a declaration.

Peace, peace, peace!!! It is right here, right now! It isn't waiting for something better to come along and fix all that I feel is problematic. It will not push me to make room for it. I must open a big fat place for it in our home, in my car, at my desk, with my family and friends. Christmas isn't coming. It is here, and it has been in the world in an interesting way for a couple thousand years. Instead of living in the next second and then the next, I think I'll take a more Eastern view and bask for awhile in the history of a wonderful, long-lived reality and then make the most of the moment.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Christmas Cookie Bake

John's mom, Linda, started an annual cookie bake at Christmas years ago. We love it because our family and friends are very fun and they are good bakers (not a requirement, however). We use pretty much every square inch of our house, including the back porch where cold-hearty cookie bakers, Team Kifle, assembled Kifle cookies. The cookies shown here are from the last batch of cookies we made. After 20 dozen we aren't too tight on form. Conor (see picture below) decorated them like an abstract expressionist painter might. I took a picture of them because they made me think of what it would look like if Jackson Pollack met the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Camera duel with Julie, my friend from Batesville (lives in Cleveland) who drove all the way to Indy for the cookie bake. You can see the cookies stacking up behind her on the table.

DeAmon baking freestyle (without apron)

Kathy holding DJ, the Candy Cane Queen (or 'tanny tane' as DJ would put it)

Conor reloading for a camera duel. Jim sampling the fruits of our labor.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Sordid Lives Party

2004 Sordid Lives New Years Party. Found this as I was going through pic files. Sordid Lives is a movie about some Texas folks, and it is worth a looksee if you haven't rented it. We all dressed like characters from the movie for the party.

Tom and Cathy (upper left in orange tee-shirts) came as Jaunita (click on the picture to enlarge it). Like the skilled barfly Juanita is, they are putting on lipstick without removing their cigarettes. I'm in the bottom right dressed as Delta Burke's character, Noleta Nethercott. Joe, next to me is dressed as Noletta's best friend, Latrelle (Paula and Linda's better looking female versions are above). And by the way, if it isn't already painfully obvious, I'm no drag queen. No self-respecting drag queen I know would be caught dead looking like this.

John is in the middle of the bottom row. I was a little hurt that he put another man in drag between us for the picture. I think he thought I may have over-committed to the costume (especially later that night when the wig would come off, but unfortunately the make-up wouldn't. I looked like Truman Capote's twin sister). Note the "wooden leg" above John's head. The film revolves around the funeral of Latrelle's sister who dies when she trips over Noleta's husband's prosthetic leg.

Thanks must go to John's mom who actually went shopping with me to get me looking this good (Don't blame her. An artist is only as good as her materials). She even loaned me her prom queen tiarra, ear rings, and the fabulous fur. She also did my make up for me. How many guys can say the same about their mother-in-laws? My mom called while I was in the make-up chair. She sounded a little worried, but I reminded her that dad dressed like a Marilyn Monroe look alike in a black negligee' with rhinestone spaghetti straps for a Jaycees party when I was a kid. I told her she might be better served worrying about her own home fires, cause dad looked pretty smooth that night.

Double Trouble--2 Noleta Nethercott's. Delta Burke would be proud.

Seeing (whiskey) doubles--Tom and Cathy as Juanita

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Wingin' It

Those who know me know that I love Betty Bowers, America's Best Christian. She recently pointed me to Wing, a Hong Kong woman living in New Zealand who sings American songs--inexplicable and outrageously entertaining.

Her version of Mariah Carey's Vision of Love (on her Christmas album) is not to be missed. Check it out here.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Picture Ready

I finally learned how to post images and selected a new site look to celebrate the event. Thanks go to my friend Jennie, one of my longtime Batesville friends and fellow bloggerfor giving me the "how to"s. She's funny and you should check her site out for the pictures alone.

I don't really have interesting things in the photography department to post yet, but don't think that will keep me from posting uninteresting ones. Until I come up with more important things, I will refer you to our Christmas tree, complete with descriptive caption!

Our Christmas tree.

Smoking Design

Last week Susan and I were installing (arranging new furniture and accessories, hanging art) at a client's home. I arrived a little later in the morning after Susan had been there for awhile. When I got there she told me an amusing story about how when she rang the doorbell there was a smoldering 3/4 length, but unsquashed cigarette butt on the front stoop. Susan glanced over the side of the porch rail and saw a number of other butts just like it.

Susan estimates that this client probably is a closet smoker who lights up only when people are not around. As soon as someone shows up--the cigarette has to go. Chances are, when Susan called the client to tell her she was close to the house, the client opened the front door and thought she was flicking the barely-smoked butt over the rail.

Susan has a soft spot for closet smokers and rather than risk embarrassing her client, she stretched her foot over to where the butt was burning and covered it with her shoe before the door opened and then kicked it off the porch when they walked in (now that's customer service).

This story wouldn't be as funny if the client and her husband were not cosmetic dentists. It was even more funny to me when Susan pointed out another long butt sitting on the garage stair rail, with a few more having fallen to the garage floor.

It made me sad that our client felt the need to hide her habit. Having had some pretty stressful weeks at the design firm, I have a new understanding of why people, especially some designers, smoke. They don't have time to exercise, eat or even drink as a way to relieve stress--coffee and cigarettes are understandable substitutes!

My friend Dave is a designer. It is not his paying job, but he loves doing it all the same and is quite good. We often team up to face aesthetic challenges. Whether he is considering a silk flower arrangement at church that is far past its prime (if indeed it ever had one) or Christmas ornaments for our children's program, he switches in seconds from mild-mannered marathon runner to hip-cocked, mock-cigarette waving, fast-talking, squinty-eyed design tsar. It is the imaginary cigarette piece that is most amusing. He holds it behind his back as he talks except when he is using that hand to gesture or to make a point. Then he pretends to wave the smoke away from his face. He turns his head and quickly exhales before his sentences.

Dave would be more likely to grow a second head than actually smoke, but his faux-smoking is so convincing that it seems to actually do what it needs to do for him, just as it does for some professional designers for whom it is almost a job requirement (the same goes for many nurses). I have even noticed that in England, where smoking doesn't carry the social baggage that it does here, designers frequently recommend putting cups of cigarettes in guest bedrooms and in living areas (for when they come to visit I guess).

Friday, December 03, 2004

Why Same-sex Couples Will Lose

If same-sex couples lose their battle for non-descriminatory treatment for them and their families it will likely be because they had to fight the battle alone or chose to let someone else fight it for them.

Before the Holocaust Jewish people in Europe were "tolerated" if not always well-liked. They often had successful businesses, could get married, and raise children. All it took to change that was one powerful anti-Jewish leader to serve as a lightening rod for gathering low-boiling anti-Jewish sentiment. Within three decades low-grade bigotry turned into a maelstrom of hate and death that would have been inconceiveable before WWI. If you had asked a typical German in 1917 if they could ever foresee a time like the Holocaust for the Jews, I suspect most would have said the idea was preposterous.

All the enlightened Europeans who foresaw the disaster, and there were many, could not keep a "moral majority" from bringing it about.

You may think I'm using extreme language, but check out these links. I encourage you to go back into Mike's original post and read the actual articles, I did not pick up all the links he has.

From Mike Airhart at Ex-gay Watch:

"In Alabama, anti-gay-marriage activist and legislator Gerald Allen is broadening his battle -- initiating legislation to ban the mention of homosexuality in books at public libraries, public high schools, and public colleges. The censorship would include classic works of literature and science books. According to the Washington Blade, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU will fight the ban.

In Michigan, HRC is joining the fight against the state's revocation of benefits for the partners of state government workers. (Yesterday's XGW coverage.) The revocation was sought and achieved by anti-gay marriage activists, some of whom had previously said their battle was not against civil unions or benefits.

In Kansas and Missouri, fear is spreading, as gay residents in the heartland see signs emerge of a wave of antigay discrimination and vandalism, according to Reuters."

Also from Airhart at Ex-gay Watch is the Michigan back-story from the Detroit Free Press:

"...On Wednesday, Granholm aide David Fink said that negotiated contracts scheduled for adoption by the state Civil Service Commission on Dec. 15 will be stripped of the same-sex domestic partner benefits.

Fink, who holds the title of state employer, said the Granholm administration decided to eliminate the benefits because of the passage of Proposal 2, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and bans same-sex marriage and "similar unions for any purpose."

"We're about following the law and honoring the intent of the voters," Fink told the Detroit Free Press.

He said the benefits could be restored before the contracts take effect on Oct. 1, 2005 if the courts have resolved the issue by then.

Republican legislators have been pressing the Democratic governor to strip the same-sex benefits from the contracts."

The situation for your gay friends and family could go one of two ways at this point, either we all wake up and see this for the battle it really is, or we stay silent and unobtrusive as same-sex couples and our society take a huge step back into the dark ages. All you have to do is look to the mid-twentieth century to see that the latter is possible and would be disastrous.

Please, don't be silent. I know peaceful relationships are very important. I work overtime to maintain them. But at times some things are more important. And true love is not always harmonious.