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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Christmas!

I am normally quite the traditionalist about this season. It is still Advent, Christmas doesn't begin until Christmas Eve, and the 12 days of Christmas starts on December 25th. However, I am irked at the continued assault on all things Christmas and Christian that is occurring here in the land of tolerance and diversity.

When I first heard about the boycott of Macy's for using Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, I thought it was a little ridiculous. After all, they are just trying to make money off of everyone, so why specify which holiday they mean. I have since learned that it was not just that, but an actual management down ban on using the phrase Merry Christmas. Hmm, so they want to make all that money off of Christmas buying, but don't want to acknowledge Christmas. Funny how they still have the Christmas decorations for sale, the carols piped in their speakers and all that accompanies that.

Not only do I want to boycott them, I now want to stand at their door (and bring friends to stand at every other entrance) and wish each and every person who enters and leaves a Merry Christmas. I do think that Christians should withold their money from people who would ban their holiday while taking their holiday cash. It is not illegal for a private company to acknowledge any holiday, and I don't believe such a ban was passed down on Chanukkah, Eid, Kwanzaa or any other holidays.

This is not the only episode like this, nor the most serious, but it is quite frustrating, and makes me glad that we are not spending a whole lot of money this year and sending it into the pockets of those who would disdain our holiday while embracing our money.

Michael Medved commented on this recently, and on his radio show said how it is being justified by the greater "diversity" in the US. He said this is hogwash. Most of our immigration comes from Mexico and Central America where they - ta-da! - celebrate Christmas. Here is an article he wrote:

Equal Rights for Christians?

Why should a state capitol building - or any other public facility, for that matter - use Jewish religious symbols to celebrate the holiday season while offering no visible Christian presence? That question struck me with special force last December when I toured the historic Massachusetts State House overlooking Boston Common. Beside an ornate stairway at the very center of the building stood a huge silver menorah, or Hanukkah candelabrum, at least eight feet tall. A brightly lettered sign announced it as the gift of Chabad, the energetic Chassidic Jewish sect, to the speaker of the State House of Representatives - who happens to be Irish Catholic.

As an observant Jew, who enthusiastically supports the inspirational work of Chabad, I felt a surge of pride at this prominent display. I was intrigued, however, by the absence of any symbols to balance the presence of the menorah, and so asked the tour guide if he could show me a nativity scene anywhere on the premises, or even a tree. He shrugged his shoulders in response and mumbled some boilerplate about not displaying religious symbols in the state capitol.

"But what about the menorah?" I asked. "Isn't that a religious symbol?"

"Oh, no, that's secular!" he replied. "That's a symbol of tolerance and religious freedom. That's why they put it here."

This is nonsense, of course. The Hanukkah menorah pointedly recalls the similar light-stand that once served the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, constructed according to detailed specifications in the Bible. Unlike Christmas trees or nativity scenes, the modern menorah serves a specific sacramental purpose: enabling Jews to fulfill the divine commandment to kindle lights on all eight nights of Hanukkah. I happen to believe that the menorah is a noble and beautiful symbol, but it is no more secular than a communion wafer.

The tour guide seemed confused, and he also may have misinformed me about the absence of Christmas decorations. For all I know, site managers may have stashed a tree or a wreath or a miniature manger at some other, less conspicuous corner of the State House. Even so, the situation in Boston represented a growing trend across the country: greater public acceptance of religious expression when it involves minority faiths.

Like most Jews, I'm delighted to see menorahs now turning up in public buildings - including schools, courthouses, government offices and shopping centers. I feel ashamed, however, that many of these same facilities find it necessary to ban "controversial" Christian symbols with any religious significance at all - mandating reindeer and elves (if anything) rather than crosses or creches.

According to the American Jewish Year Book, only 274,000 Jews live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts - 4.4 percent of the state population. This means that Christians outnumber Jews in the Bay State by a ratio of more than 20 to one. Why, then, should the overwhelming majority see signs of their faith banished from the public square, while Jews and other minority faiths command more attention than ever before?

President Bush recently hosted an iftar dinner at the White House in which he honored the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The administration even arranged for a muezzin, a traditional Muslim prayer caller, to chant the appropriate blessings before and after the meal. A few weeks later, the president held a gala Hannukah celebration in the executive mansion, serving kosher meatballs and announcing that, for the first time, a menorah would be lighted in the White House residence - as opposed to West Wing offices. Abe Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, chortled that "people were calling on cellphones, saying 'I'm calling to wish you a Happy Hanukkah from the White House.' "

Such religious occasions draw few protests, and yet, when clergymen at the Bush Inaugural both mentioned the name Jesus Christ, Harvard's Alan Dershowitz, among others, penned an angry denunciation. No one described Jewish or Muslim celebrations as "controversial," but the beautiful creche that has graced the White House since 1967 has always provoked expressions of discomfort by militant "separationists."

The logic behind this double standard involves the fact that secularists feel unthreatened by demonstrations of Jewish or Muslim religiosity - these communities remain too small to impose a theocracy on the United States, even if they wanted to do so. Christians, on the other hand, frighten atheists with their celebrations and symbols precisely because they represent more than 90 percent of the country, as reported in recent surveys.

According to this argument, no one will feel pushed into observing a Jewish holiday by seeing a menorah at a mall, but many may feel coerced and guilt - tripped by Christian symbols and reminders. Such thinking leads directly to the topsy-turvy situation that prevails in much of the country this year - in which a tiny minority, or even a single individual, can spoil holiday fun for an entire community, but majority sentiments are instantly disregarded.

In St. Paul, Minn., a few families complained that red poinsettias amounted to a Christian symbol, so the County executive banned their traditional display at the courthouse. Meanwhile, when nearly all Americans - including, by the way, most Jewish Americans - feel offended by the use of government funds for an artwork that plunges a crucifix into a jar of urine, then their objections count for nothing.

Yes, religious minorities deserve recognition and protection in this pluralistic society, but our sensitivities and needs shouldn't take precedence over the cherished traditions of our Christian neighbors. It makes no sense for bureaucrats to take seriously the complaints of one disgruntled atheist protesting the display of a manger scene at a public park, while ignoring the complaints of 50 million Christians objecting to a Madonna smeared with elephant dung displayed at a government-funded museum.

Perhaps it requires a religious Jew to make the plea, but isn't it appropriate that Christians should receive equal rights to official expressions of faith - and win equal respect for their religious symbols - in this overwhelmingly Christian country?" Michael Medved

There are numerous articles online dealing with this, and even our liberal mainstream media is starting to comment, I suppose because it is just too obvious to ignore, even for them. One that I particularly loved was a parade in Denver which was banning all religious symbols from its holiday light parade (specifically banning a Christian church group from having a float with Merry Christmas on it and singing Christmas carols). Details here and here. I love that they used the excuse that they were banning all religious displays, because it shows them as the frauds they are: they are including a Native American Spirituality group which honors homosexual Native Americans as holy - Denver Two Spirit - and a Chinese group performing a Lion Dance to ward off evil spirits and bring blessing in the Chinese New Year. They did eventually promise to reevaluate this policy for next year's parade, given the tremendous protest from Evangelical, Catholic and other grassroots organizations who peacefully and politely protested their hypocrisy and policy. The organizers of the parade still insist that phrases like Merry Christmas and Christmas carols were not against their rules, to which I have to respond, then why ban a group for using them in their float?

Then there's the school in Maplewood, NJ which is banning all religious music to keep that separation between church and state. The Grinch Who Stole Messiah an opinion column by Dawn Eden details that quite nicely. These folks who are so big on separation of church and state might do well to check the constitution and note that not only is the phrase not there, but the two phrases specifically about religion forbid the federal government from establishing a federal religion (note that in its infancy there were state religions in some states of the union, it was only the federal government which was seen as forbidden from establishment) and prohibiting the free exercise of religion. If they are all that concerned about the religious problems at holiday times like this, then have a parade of lights for Presidents day or Memorial Day, and sing holiday songs about our nation's history or something like that.

There is a school in my area that has banned Dickens' A Christmas Carol because of its overt Christian themes. This is a high school. Where they frequently expose kids to anti-religious themes and tell the parents that they need to suck it up and cope. I wonder if they have also banned Little Women, all the Anne of Green Gables books, Jane Eyre, Diary of Anne Frank, anything by Corrie ten Boom, not to mention books like Harry Potter and other books which specialize in witchcraft (a recognized religion in our country). My friend's son attends a school here in town where they invited some Jewish representatives to come in to explain all about Chanukkah and teach them songs. Not that it should surprise anyone, but they didn't invite anyone to explain Christmas, and they aren't singing any Christmas songs.

Our post office has two stamps for Kwanzaa, one for Eid, two for Chanukkah, two secular "holiday" stamps, one for the Chinese New Year and one religious "holiday" stamp with a Madonna and Child. They don't even call it a Christmas stamp, yet have no issue with naming the other holidays outright. I'd be willing to bet that there are a whole lot more people sending out Christmas cards than Chanukkah cards, Kwanzaa cards, Eid cards and cards for the Chinese New Year. Sure, there are those two cutesy stamps, but for many Protestants the Madonna and Child wouldn't be their first choice of religious image, yet that is their only choice and the USPS won't even call it a Christmas stamp, lest someone be offended.

James Lileks wrote a nice piece on the disappearance of Merry Christmas in the Star Tribune entitled Backfence: The traditional yule fear factor which is a humorous, but accurate description of "Christmas" in America.

It isn't only in Christmas that we see this excising of Christianity. In A Jew Defends the Cross Dennis Prager comments on the idiocy that is occurring in Los Angeles County. Please note the largest symbol in the county seal: the Roman pagan goddess Pomona. Note also that there haven't been efforts by Christians to remove that symbol from the seal.

Our local paper published a 4 or 5 page article lambasting traditional and orthodox Christian churches last month, specifically naming names of some of the churches in town who provide them with their advertising money. Not anymore. There are some significant absences in the religious pages now, and some churches in our town are putting their money toward better things. And this is in a pretty traditional, religious community. Our paper's editor, however, is very much not traditional and anti-religious.

Anyway, I'll get a family update and some knit content up soon. I'm just so irritated at all of the exclusion and attacks being perpretrated by our so-called tolerant, diverse friends in the public square.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Little Boy Green Photo Update

Here are the promised images of the front of Elijah's Little Boy Green. I am much happier with the stranding I did on the front, it looks much neater than the back did to me.

Here is some closer detail of the fair isle band.

I'm still not sure I did the neck shaping correctly on the front, as it didn't work out the way the pattern said it should, but it is close enough that I can fudge it in finishing.

Of course, since I want to get this finished by Epiphany and still have to cast on for the sleeves, when I bound off the front what do you think I did? I cast on for a little dressy purse made out of royal purple Touch Me for our neighbor. As an anniversary gift to us, they have invited us to a grand soiree at their home and booked a night in their guest house for us. Our children's godparents are going to be in town and had already offered to take the kids for a night so Rich and I could go out and celebrate our anniversary. The party is two nights early, but we don't mind. I thought I'd make this for Barbara as a thank you gift, and put together a basket of goodies for both of them to bring with us. I've plugged their place before on this list, so here is another plug: Visit the Wurlitzer Manor!

On New Year's Eve (our actual anniversary), rather than doing our huge party this year, because we've been so wiped out, we're inviting our priest's family over again for another game night. The godparents will still be here and we'll have a nice big fancy meal, but on a smaller scale than for the 45 people we have had in the past. Though, now that I think about it, it's down to 18 people when you count up us and our kids, the Harts, their son and his friend who is coming, and the Ramos and their six kids.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Finished the Front of Little Boy Green

I hope I did it right, but I have finished the front of Elijah's Little Boy Green. I am now going to see if there were any corrections on the pattern, because the neck shaping doesn't seem to work with the shoulder shaping, so I fudged it a bit.

I will get a photo up tonight or tomorrow and you can tell me if it looks wrong.

I am also going to take the cd of photos from All Saints' and see if Rich can email them to me here, so I can post them.

Anyway, I was just excited about my progress. I also think that whomever wrote the pattern for this way overestimated the necessary yarn quantities. I have used up almost one skein of the MC of cotton fleece, for both the front and the back. This leaves three skeins for the sleeves and neck, I'm thinking I'll use half of another skein, maybe 3/4 of one. So, I have more yarn to make a jumper for Amira. I also already have plans for the leftover fair isle colors, since so little of those skeins are used in the sweater.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Quick Prayer Request

Our family is under physical attack.

Rich was home work yesterday with a stomach bug that kept him up all night the previous night. He is still a little queasy today, and still dealing with the cold and congestion we have had for at least three weeks. I feel like I am reverting to the illness as it was before I did the antibiotic round. Amira has a sinus infection and has had this cold as long as we have. Dominic has an ear infection on top of his cold. Elijah has ear infections in both ears. Alexander has some pneumonia in his right lung. The pediatrician will be seeing Alexander again the week after Christmas, and has referred us to an Ear/Nose/Throat dr who specializes in children for Dominic, because his tonsils are huge, he's always had sinus problems and has sleep problems.

Please pray for us that we would be healed.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Fingers Itching for New Projects

I am getting further along on Elijah's sweater. I no longer hold out any hope of finishing it by Christmas, however. I was thinking of trying to get it done for Epiphany, a 3 Kings gift. Anyway, since I am over 60% finished with both his sweater and mine, I am now terribly impatient to start another. I am restraining myself forcefully, as I need to finish these two, and also redo the baby bonnet for our friends who are due in March.

On the Little Boy Green, I am already at the armhole shaping on the front, I have 30 rows left, each of which will get shorter and shorter. The sleeves I would like to do at the same time, but I think with the color work, I would get too tangled up and it would end up taking more time, so I will do them one by one and take good notes on where I do increases so they match up. After they are knit, then it will be time to weave in all eight bazillion ends, block the pieces and sew up the seams. That is the part I procrastinate on the most.

I will be doing the sleeves on my Cross Your Heart at the same time. I am almost finished with the front on it, and though it will take longer to do the sleeves at the same time than it would to do one, I will be finished with the knitting completely when I bind off the sleeves. Then, ends, blocking and sewing again. I'm hoping that this will be finished by Valentine's Day, so I can wear it. Also, so I can wear it to Madrona that weekend.

As for our family, don't come near us. Now even Rich is sick, he and Alexander are home from work/school, Elijah was up many times last night, I'm on the recovering end, so are Dominic and Amira (with the aid of medication), but we're all still sickies. I'm praying that Alexander will be well enough to sing in the school Christmas pageant this Friday.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Nothing New on My Needles

I haven't picked up any knitting at all since finishing the stocking. I am relieved to be finished with the stocking, but haven't been well enough to want to knit anything lately. So, the chances of me finishing Elijah's sweater in time for Christmas, or even just by New Year's are pretty slim.

As for some of the ignored comments from previous posts, I will try to address them here:

If the Democrats are more surprised than typical losers in a close election, I think it may be because they worked very hard for this one. Many of my friends were out doing "get out the vote" campaigns. In addition, the creation of a number of left-wing forums (like moveon.org) and movies like Moore's F. 9/11 have polarized the left.

I can see that. I just don't understand how it went unnoticed that the right was also hyper-motivated, and that they were out doing the "get out the vote" stuff also. In my mind this points to the way the media ignores conservatives unless they are bashing them. This was an election in which all sides, all people were trying to get as many people out to vote as possible. That's why I wouldn't have been that surprised with either outcome.

And having sat through years of disgust with Clinton supporters who glossed over his legal lies over the affair (not that they forgave him, which would be different, but treated it as irrelevant) because they so desperately wanted their party to be in power - I don't see any reason to be less critical of the current administration's lies. Which is why I don't equate a vote for Bush as a vote for morality. He lied to keep the presidency. Not the first to do so, but when both sides play the same game - both sides resorted to personal attacks - I can't pretend one is more "moral."

I'm confused by this. What did Cheney lie about? Are we talking the WMDs? Or something else? I also have a question to anyone about WMDs. Everyone I know considers biological and chemical weapons to be included in this, which Iraq has aplenty, are people only counting nuclear? And if so, doesn't it seem odd to charge that we have no business there if they aren't present, since it is largely US, and partially UN, pressure and presence which kept Saddam Hussein from getting them much earlier?

As for the morality, for me, I just couldn't vote for someone whose first act in office (what he said he'd do) would be to overturn the Mexico City policy. Our country already kills more through abortion annually than have died on all sides in the War on Terror. Most of the deaths in the war have been combattants, at least. Though I have some reservations with war in general and even with how we are handling this war, I don't see them as equivalent to purposing to kill unborn who have no choice in where they happen to reside. I don't want to pay for it with my tax money which is what Kerry would have done.

To me the basic life or death issues, immediate not possible, trumped any other issue of the election. Someone who is so pro-abortion, even to partial birth abortion, an attitude which has led to "post-birth" abortions in the Netherlands, pro-euthanasia, when we've already learned that people are offing granny because they don't want to deal with her or pay for her medical care, rather than because she is actually terminally ill, pro-embryonic stem cell research, which creates a market for unborn babies (and hasn't produced any success, while adult stem cell research has and can be done without loss of life, and under consent), pro-human cloning which is another example of degradation of human life, cannot win my vote. To be honest, I don't trust the judgement of someone who finds human life so expendable in dealing with the war, either. I'd rather have someone who valued human life in charge of our war policies than someone who doesn't think humans matter all that much.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Finished the Stocking

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Our children were happily surprised this morning by stockings filled with candy, peanuts, LED keychain bracelets and an apple. St. Nick couldn't afford the ridiculous price of citrus for them to have an orange, so he put in an apple instead.

We are all sick at home today, though improving. The stockings were a nice break in the sick misery we've been dealing with for a week. I finished Dominic's stocking yesterday morning, there is a picture in my FO list in the side bar.

I forgot to mention that two weeks ago, Alexander finally lost that tooth. On the 18th of November, my baby lost his first baby tooth. It seems like an era has just ended. Here is his toothless grin:

Also, since I posted Alexander's kindergarten picture, I will post Dominic's pre-K photo:

He looks 10! I can't believe that he is so big and mature looking. The photo kind of lets us look forward to what he will look like in middle school.

Now that I have finished the stocking, I will be focusing more time on my sweater and Elijah's sweater. I will also get back to working on the christening bonnet for another friend's baby, due in March. I am itching to get started on Blaze from the Fall issue of Knitty, but am waiting to finish Elijah's sweater before I cast on for that.

Thank you to all of you who explained how to work a crochet ring. My priest's wife also showed me, so I was able to at least get some progress on my crochet education. I am waiting for the ladies' conference to really get going on that, though.

I have a couple more things to comment on, but am running out of online time, so I will be back later.


Friday, December 03, 2004

St. Barbara, St. Martha, St. Nicholas, Oh My!

Today is the feast of St. Barbara. I need to make some sort of saffron braid or some buns to go with our dinner tonight. I like her because she is a Levant saint, and still honored in the Middle East. Unfortunately, we aren't having Laudate tonight, because of too many conflicts, so we don't get to teach St. Barbara on her feast day.

Tomorrow the St. Martha's guild is meeting at my house. I realized I never explained the name of the guild. It is named after the actual saint, sister of Mary and Lazarus, not the famous woman who says "It's a good thing." We meet to do handwork and eat and pray together.

I still don't know what I'm making, though I'm leaning toward a fruitbread with cream cheese. As for the project, it will be all stocking all the time. St. Nicholas Day is Monday, which means I need the stocking finished by Sunday night. I'm pretty close, and between the guild meeting tomorrow and a birthday party I'll be taking taking Alexander to, I should have it finished or just have the heel to do by Sunday morning. Then if I have to, I can finish in the car on the way to church.

Rich and I are strongly considering recycling some of the millions of pounds of candy the boys have in the house and just sticking that in their stockings with some new mini-flashlights or those LED lights.

I haven't been able to get the pictures posted from the All Saints' party. Our cd drive is acting bizarre, so I need to take the cd to Rich's work, have him open them and e-mail me the relevant photos. This could take years.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Defending My Honor

I have apparently proven myself unworthy as a pre-K mom.

Dominic told me in the car yesterday that his friends at school hurt his feelings. Getting my defensive mommy gear on, I was ready to go to battle.

"What happened sweetheart?"

"They said your food was yucky."

He was the child of the day, and it was our responsibility to bring snack for the class. Since our kids like ants on a log (celery spread with peanut butter and raisins on top), and I was busy tending a sick baby girl, I just did that. We didn't have apple juice in the house, so I brought sparkling grape juice. That went over well, the ants on a log were a bomb apparently. Since we have been training the kids never to call food yucky, or make any other rude comments, I had a little bit of a problem on my hands. I asked him if he liked the snack, he did, so I said that was all that mattered. I said that it wasn't very nice of the kids to call the food yucky, but it didn't hurt my feelings if they didn't like it.

I have to say, though, that it is touching that he was offended on my behalf.

Anyway, since I haven't posted in a couple weeks, because of 40 people at our house over Thanksgiving, school stuff and the cold that has wiped us all out, I am now, belatedly posting the pumpkin roll recipe. It was originally posted on a.n. and I have modified it to run on the dough cycle of our bread machine.

1/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk, heated
1 cup cooked pumpkin
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 T dry yeast

Put all ingredients in bread machine, and run on dough cycle.

When dough cycle is complete. Turn out dough and punch down, shape into approximately 16 rolls. I like to roll each piece into a log, then tie it into a knot.

Cover on baking sheets, let rise again, 30-45 minutes. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes, brush with melted butter after removing from oven.

I make a double batch of this, usually. They are quite tasty and go really fast.

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