Friday, December 31, 2010

Possum Post!

So last night, FryDaddy goes outside to bring in the Spooky-dog, only to find that said Spooky is sharing her pen with a squatter - in this case, a large representative of the species known as didelphis virginiana. Yep, the sanctity of Spooky's pen had been invaded by a big ol' possum. Spooky didn't know what to think and I couldn't blame her. The possum was curled up acting as if it were just about to be an ex-possum - labored breathing, faint hissing, bared teeth. After a hasty consult, we took the coward's way out and just left it alone.

Silly humans!

As soon as the critter was sure the lights were off for good, he scrambled to his tiny li'l feet, ate all of Spooky's food, licked the bowl clean, and scampered off into that good night, probably shaking his prehensile tail at us while making a note of just where the suckers who leave out tasty treats live.

Now, possums are just downright weird animals. Living fossils, actually. They're marsupials with kinda-prehensile tails (they can't really hang from them all that well, but can sort of do it). Gentle omnivores, they "play possum" in a last-ditch effort to escape threats, after first trying hissing and retreat. Although all mammals can catch rabies, possums have a marked resistance to the disease. They've got more teeth than any other mammal and a nigh-immunity to pit viper poison - they chow down on copperheads. Oh, and they've got opposable thumbs on their back feet!


Then it occurred to me - what we have here is a redneck mongoose. A Rikki-Bobby-Tikki-Tavi, if you will. No one's idea of a pet, but they've survived nevertheless. People will spend a bucketload of money on Persian kitten or a collie who's been overbred to the point of inherent bad temper and health problems, but those same people will threaten a gentle possum with the business end of a broom when the critter just wants a taste of Gravy Train.

So I'm glad we let him alone and honestly, I'm glad he got a free meal out of the encounter.It's bound to be hard to be a possum in a pedigreed world and I think all of us have days when we can relate more to the possum than the pedigree. And I hope that when I'm next having a hard time fitting in (which I shall now call a "possum day") someone doesn't whack me with a Swifter.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stop It! Just Stop It!

No, I don't mean "stop Christmas." That would be a silly thing indeed. Even the Grinch knows better than to attempt to stop Christmas. Especially when there's only "one more sleep 'til Christmas."

What I mean is to stop worrying so much about it. Face it, by now things are either done or they're not. I know of which I type. I still have a smallish stack of presents that need to be wrapped and wrapped they will be. I'm not promising sharply-creased corners and cunningly curled ribbon, but the contents will be concealed from prying eyes. (As a point of interest, the mere fact that the presents are wrapped in holiday paper is worth noting. I come from a family that often recycled the Sunday comics for that purpose and it's a habit I find quite charming. When Sam gave Dean his Christmas present wrapped in crumpled comics lifted from the Sunday paper, I knew the Winchesters and I had something in common. Aside from that and an aversion of meadowsweet wreaths, not much, but there is that.)

It's Christmas! Stop worrying about the details. Trust me, your house is beautiful. The tree is gorgeously decked with ornaments and lights. The cookies are yummy and the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

So get out of there for an hour or two! After all, Christmas isn't tinsel, as much fun and sparkly as that is. Go drop off that check to the Empty Stocking Fund. Take a box of old magazines to the rest home. Smile at the bell ringers and drop in folding money instead of change. Grab a couple of friends and go caroling in your neighborhood - the neighbors will probably invite you in to warm up. (Or, in my case, to bribe you with hot cocoa to stop what you enthusiastically term "singing.") Read the account in St. Luke and spend a few minutes "pondering these things in your heart." Toss a couple of handfuls of birdseed on the ground for the feathered ones. Remember that we're all in this together and none of us have it exactly figured out.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May life be kind in the lessons it teaches us this year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Countdown!

My semester finished up today. Classes officially finished yesterday, with final grades due in today. Just in time, too. The weather has turned bitterly cold (we simply do not do "wind chill of 12 degrees" here in upper Dixie) and Old Man Winter has even lacked the decency to snow. (Technically, I guess it's still "Old Man Fall" until the 21st, but whatever.)

For me, the end of a semester is always a little melancholy but that passes quickly with the looming holiday season. There is still much, much to do - some gift buying remains, plenty of wrapping, cards need to be written (I like that tradition, even if the cards don't contain lengthy messages, so I try to keep it up), and other assorted tasks. FryDaddy and I try to not take things too seriously - we're not Martha Stewart and really - we're fine with that. In fact, I'll let you in part of our secret. Ready?

We moved Christmas.

Yep. We celebrate early. Make sure supplies are laid in (including a boatload of Christmas movies), take the phone off the hook, and turn the area under the tree into a veritable wasteland of crumpled paper several days before the "official" calendar date. So very much easier and less stressful. We've found that it allows us to enjoy "actual" Christmas much, much more.

It might not work for everyone, but everyone doesn't live here.

Also, I'm discovering that I have a dark streak when it comes to Christmas music. Don't misunderstand me, I loves me some Messiah and I even can stand "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" (among other Christmas staples), but I really like the lonely ones. It could be the Irish in me - a people of whom Chesterton said, ". . . are the men that God made mad, for all their wars are merry/And their songs are sad." But I actually like "Fairytale of New York" and the incomparable John Prine's "Christmas in Prison." I think that stands to reason. The poor and the forgotten are with us always and yes, that includes the hale and hearty holidays.

Don't forget them, please. There are children who go without presents and parents who worry (I mean really worry) about the rent. There are the lonely who would like a warm pair of gloves and there are the lost who would like to know that, even if it's just for a single day out of the whole stinkin' year, the world doesn't just rush obliviously past them.

Christmas is for all of us. So please - take a box of old clothes to Goodwill. Drop a five in the red Sally Army kettle. Buy an extra toy while you're shopping and drop it off with those sharp-dressed Marines manning the "Toys for Tots" display. Gracious, just write a check to your local Empty Stocking Fund.

Christmas is for miracles. Go be somebody's.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Love & Miracles

. . . well, that's what I was planning to write about, anyway. Seemed like a nice, feel-good, fuzzy-warm sort of thing to write about at this time of the year. And so many Decembery celebrations have the twin elements of love and miracles at their hearts. The Baby God born in a manger. The blessed oil that somehow burns for eight days. The return of Light on the darkest, longest night of the year. Proof for seekers that the Divine cares for and cherishes us.

And yet. Maybe I'm better off not looking at the Big Picture and should instead only focus on small details, such as the continual broadcasting of stop-motion animation featuring Burl Ives snowmen.

You see, Ramona, my little, funny, shy-until-you-know-her godchild had a sharp lesson in separateness and intolerance this week when her best friend told her that they couldn't play together any more because the two seven-year-olds aren't of the same religion.

Let's pass right over the fact that one's a Baptist and one's a Lutheran. FryDaddy and I, along with her parents, have all been tumbling over ourselves trying to figure out what happened, exactly who said what and where the idea came from in the first place. (The other little girl's parents aren't talking much, making me wonder if this wasn't a childish misunderstanding but is instead rooted in some ugly truth.) The girls have been best friends since forever and have attended after-school care together and even gone to Vacation Bible School together, for Pete's sake. So the argument of "you're not like me" doesn't hold water (holy or otherwise) in the first place.

Beyond that, what would the big screaming deal be if the two little girls weren't following the same faith path?

All I know is this. The exchange has left me sad, angry and confused - and I'm a Woman of a Certain Age who's had her fair share of bumps, bruises, and abrasions in life. How would I feel as a seven-year-old if my bestest friend told me that I wasn't good enough? Dear Angels in Heaven, that's enough to cause parents to start a therapy fund.

Why must so many of us believe in such a cramped, petty God? Why are so many of us so afraid of anything that isn't just like what we already know? I don't know the answer to that, but I do know that I believe that God often shakes His (or Her, or Its) head over the nonsense that is perpetrated in His name.

Either we're all God's children or none of us are. And Love and Miracles are well worth celebrating, in whatever form we find them.

Now you'll have to excuse me. I need to go make latkes and spin a dreidel before I start the Yule log burning as I sing Christmas carols.