Archive for December, 2008

Niece Jenna’s wedding pic

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Tuesday afternoon, 30 December 2008.  6′th Day of Christmas.  Will try to post a pic of Niece Jenna’s wedding.   If this works, there may be more later.   In this pic, Jenna is being escorted down the aisle by her father, Anthony.  St. Mary Church, Evansville IN.

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Saturday evening, 27 December 2008.  The third day of Christmas.   All day yesterday and this morning, extended family members and far flung friends have made their way to town.  Mary Anne McCallister Schmitt and Anthony’s youngest and their only daughter, Jenna, married Rick DeVoy today at 1:30 PM at St. Mary Church here in Evansville.  A picture or two may be forthcoming sometime soon.  Mary Anne, being true to her tight fisted Scot’s heritage, chose today’s date in part since the church would still have fresh decorations from Christmas, and no other flowers/decorations would be needed.   I applaud her thriftiness.  Pa would certainly be proud.  63 years ago last month, granny and pa were married in the same church.  The tradition continues.

Today’s weather was quite favorable, with the day time temperature hovering around 70F, although windy.  This evening however, about 8 PM, the expected cold-front slammed us with high winds and pelting rain.  There has been no damage at my house or at Mary Anne’s  that I can tell.

The sung wedding eucharist was lovely, as was the reception:  cowboy boots, hats, belt buckles, barbeque and baked beans notwithstanding.

After Sunday Eucharist tomorrow morning, a series of visiting by all those in town will occur, I am sure.  It will be an interesting afternoon, as long as the TV stays off.  Fat chance of that!

All in all, it was a great event to begin the ending of the year.

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Evening, Christmas Day 2008, the first day of Christmas.  For the day, all the singing is over. The family has been fed with our usual big Christmas feast, gifts exchanged, and only the quiet star-lit blackness of a winter’s night remains.  Charlie T. Dog has piled himself up on the bed for what he hopes will be a long snooze.

Tonight is a bit of quiet, a time of gratitude, an interval of simple being.  Here, beside the fire, it feels good just to luxuriate in the near silence.  Off in the other room, the local public radio station is playing some carols, softly and gently.  Its hard to believe that just tomorrow, finding a spate of carols on the radio, or anywhere else for the matter, will be next to impossible.  This culture of ours has it all backwards: Christmas begins today and goes for 12 days.  This is the time to hear carols, not last halloween or thanksgiving.  For a supposed Christian culture, American society is almost completely illiterate about its own customs and certainly, its animating theology.

Yesterday morning’s Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols from Cambridge was its usual highlight for me.  During that time, the phone is off the hook; the cell phone is turned off, as is the computer.  For that hour and half, I don’t care about cleaning the house for company, or doing the dishes, or doing laundry or cooking for the family….for that matter I don’t care about “doing” anything.  It is Sabbath time; a time to think, enjoy, sing along, pray, and at that time to do nothing else.

After two Eucharists yesterday (the last at Midnight – I got home after 2 AM) , visiting my sister for a supper, taking care of Dr. Mark’s cats, since he is out of town, v prepping for the rest of the family today, and cooking this morning with nephew Brent from 8 AM till 1 this PM,  I am just weary.   Its more than tired; its weariness.  But a good sleep tonight, I hope, will remedy that.  Tomorrow, extended family and friends start arriving for Jenna’s Saturday wedding,  and tomorrow evening early, is the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.  

A busy time; a frenetic time.  but amid it all is tonight’s quiet, tonight’s wholeness.  Christ is born.  Heaven and earth rejoices.  And once again, in this kairos moment, ancestors and we still living are met with Godhead in the form of a little baby.

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Monday evening, 22 December 2008, Hanukkah. Well, Hanukkah really began last night at sunset, but it goes for 8 days. For Christians, this is the fourth week of Advent and Christmas is only a couple of days away, and I am mostly ready I guess.  Most of the family will be here for Xmas Dinner at noon on Christmas Day, and I am almost ready to start cooking.   Actually, some of the prep work begins tomorrow for that meal.  The last several days have been cold, very cold.  I don’t think the temperature managed to make it above 20 F today.  And I went Xmas shopping:  Toys for Charlie and gift cards for all else!  A trip that normally should have taken an hour, took two, and traffic was dreadful.  I just despise driving on the high commercial side of town anyway, and today did nothing other than reinforce that attitude.

Christmas cards this year have brought some interesting things, family genealogy wise.  First and foremost were some digital picture print outs from a distant cousin of gravestones of our shared ancestor in North Carolina, including the gravestone of my 3′rd greatgrandfather, Michael Stroup.  His father appears to have served in the Revolutionary War as a member of the continental line, an item of which I wasn’t aware.  The number of ancestors who served the colonies in that war continues to stack up.

On a related note, pun not really intended, I recently received word that I match, through Y DNA, a gentleman in NC, at a genetic distance of 1 from me on the 37 marker test.  (We perfectly match on both the 12 and 25 marker tests). He is also a genetic distance of 2 from the J26 line, whereas I am at a genetic distance of 1 from J26.  He descends from William Smith McAlister and William’s second wife.  William’s first wife was Susan McAlister, a granddaughter of J26 himself.  I figured that he would match up, since my great great Grandfather James (J45) was the bondsman for William Smith and Susan in 1843.  The Clan McAlister Journal, winter 2008 edition, came today, full of articles and news of American McAlisters and their genealogy.  It will give me some good reading for a few days.

Work has generated a couple of paying projects that look to be forthcoming.  I truly hope so, it’s been a long time since my last pay check in June.  They will keep me busy in the next few weeks I think.

So Christmas is upon us.  As a singer, it is quite a busy time.  I am singing both the 4 PM and the Midnight Eucharists, with several solos each service.  And then, two days later, niece Jenna is getting married to long time boyfriend Rick.   I am Psalmist for that service, but not Cantor, thankfully. 

Yesterday, I was priviledged to see the Christmas Lessons and Carols from the National Cathedral in DC.  The choirs were beautiful of course, and they sang a few carols that I truly love:  Sussex Carol  and A New Work Has Come on Hand by Peter Wishart.   Samuel Lloyd, the Cathedral Dean, and one of my favorite preachers,  gave a really fine reflection as well.  And on Christmas Eve morning at 9AM, I hope to hear once again, the Festival of 9 Lessons and Carols live from King’s College at Cambridge (England).  That service always gets me in the proper mood for Christmas, and offers a steady base from which to launch the frenetic schedule I will have between church and family for the next some days.

I have been working on my next major preaching/teaching presentation which is slated at St. Mary on 7 January, 2009.   www.stmaryevansville.org     for the church’s site.   I am in a bit of a panic about it now, given my schedule between now and then.  But with prayer and more preparation, I am sure it will come out OK. 

Regards and best wishes to all in this season.

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Sunday evening, 15 December 2008.  Third Sunday of Advent.  Warmer than it has been lately and windy.  My friend Dr. Mark Valenzuela is back from a semester in Britain.  He rejoined the choir this morning.  It’s good to have him back.  We all missed his humor and quiet demeanor.

Yesterday, I made a trip to Willard Library (it has a great genealogy department), to get just some light reading for between now and Xmas.  I got a few good things I think.   If Charlie leaves me alone in the evenings, I may actually get to read uninterrupted for a time.

The National Cathedral has something every week, called the Sunday Forum.  It’s a Question/Answer session between a noted guest and Dean Sam Lloyd of the Cathedral.  It takes place in the nave of the cathedral between the two Sunday Eucharists.  This morning, the guest was Tavis Smiley, the black political pundit and media personality.  Since the purpose of the Forum is to talk about faith and how it relates to this nation and the life we lead, today we got a great glimpse of something I have never seen before, which was Mr. Smiley’s faith;  what it is for him; how it motivates him; and what he hopes to accomplish with it.  Quite revealing, to say the least.  There were many, many memorable quotes, and maybe I will go back to the site later this week and write a few down.  Of note however, was his contention that the thought that America is now a “post-racial” nation is nonsense.  His word, not mine, although I concur.  Better than it has been in the past? Undoubtedly!  But not nearly as good as this country promises to be or aspires to be.  Informative and thought provoking to say the least.

I made a big pot of chili this evening, but even though I like it thick, I watered it down to make it last a little longer.  Maybe I’ve made enough to have for lunch through Friday.  It was still good though.  And so, a new week is about to begin, and after I read a couple chapters of one of the books I borrowed yesterday, I’ll be off to bed.

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Wednesday evening, 10 December 2008.   Today was the last day, at least till Sunday, of me having to do church stuff every day or evening for 2 weeks straight.  Not that I terribly mind, but I am about churched out, and that’s a little disjoined for the Advent frame of mind.  Tonight, I sang with 7 others, for an advent reconciliation service.

My new New Yorker magazine came today, and in it is a wonderful and insightful “retrospective” review of Leonard Bernstein by Alex Ross.  The long article is replete with a black and white, full page photograph of Bernstein conducting the Boston Symphony in a performance of Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ symphony at Tanglewood in 1970.  Dancing there without a music stand or a baton, it looks as though he is about to fling himself backwards into a mosh pit of staid audience members.   Now, I have been a fan of Bernstein for years and years.  I loved his West Side Story when I was in high school.  I have sung, with choral groups, several of his vocal writings, including the Chichester Psalms.  I would love to attend a faithful remounting of the “Mass”.  I find his Lauda, Laude theme therein, to be one of his most sensitive choral writings ever.

Today was wet and windy and cold….two days in a row now.  It won’t be long now before Santa Dog comes in his dog sled to shower real but safe bone treats on all good little doggies around the world.  Santa Dog’s dogsled is, or course, pulled by 9 reindogs.  They are:  Donner and Blitzen, and Comet and Cupid, and Rover and Fido, and Spot and Snoopy.  The lead dog is Clifford, the big red dog with his nose so bright.  Rin Tin Tin and Lassie used to help pull Santa Dog’s sled, but they don’t  anymore since they’ve reached mandatory retirement age.  Mr. Charlie T. Dog, my Black Lab mix loves these little yuletide stories.

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Monday evening, 8 December 2008.   Feast of the Immaculate Conception on the Catholic calendar.  It was sunny this morning, but quite cold.  The day warmed up nicely though.  I spent most the day preparing for the teaching I gave at church tonight, not on the Immaculate Conception, but on the Incarnation of Christ as Jesus.  This was a talk  to the RCIA (rite of Christian initiation for adults) group and their sponsors.  Had 20 or so there, and some were missing.  And it went surprisingly well, considering most of my preparation time was spent in New Harmony over the weekend.  And I basically spoke about the immanent and transcendent approaches to understanding that mystery.  Had only an hour between Eucharist and the session, but had a nice dinner at a buffet with 3 ladies from the church.  One of the more memorable lines from the talk was this:  “Pure humanism, however altruistic, is Godless nonetheless.  And pure transcendence is far too exclusive to be Christian.”  At least the pastor didn’t jump up and yell “heretic” at me.  LOL.

Wild dog Charlie is pressuring me to tell him the doggie Christmas story again this year….all about santa dog and his reindogs.  Will have to find my notes on that.  Its been a year and I tend to forget what I said last year.  Maybe I will tell the whole story here sometime.  Time for Charlie Rose on PBS and then off to bed.

A new blog….just personal ramblings: some about genealogy and family, some not.

Monday, December 8th, 2008

Sunday evening, 7 December 2008.  Pearl Harbor day and the second sunday of Advent.  Partly cloudy and cold here today.  Yesterday was overcast, damp and cold as well.   Today and yesterday, I and several others from our church choir sang Christmas carols at New Harmony IN for their “Christmas in New Harmony” celebration.  We sang at the Granary, a restored sandstone and brick building originally built in 1816.  I had been long wanting to sing in that building, and it was worth it, although the large upper room where we were is not as reverberant as I thought it might be.  Still, we went about an hour and half of non stop singing each day.  Great fun!  The road trip up there and back (about 45 minutes each way) gave me plenty of time to think about New Harmony and that strange pastiche it is: a tiny town with great potential and, as someone put it, too lazy to do anything about it.  It is dotted with original Harmonist houses, a small, world-class inn, original sculptures and other public art, a real stone walking labyrinth (a copy of one at Chartres Cathedral in France), a structure by noted architect Phillip Johnson and another by Richard Meier.  I named that latter one, the White Castle on the Wabash some years ago, and it still looks like a monumental White Castle hamburger joint to me.  And its all surrounded by rich Posey County farmland and the Wabash river bottoms.  The driving force behind what exists there, has been a lady by the name of Jane Owen, who nearly singlehandedly has restored and added the unique and unusual to this part of the country.  Hers is a decided eclectic outlook and a reflection of her own individual spirituality, which seems to be a synthesis of medieval Catholicism, low church Anglicanism, and prairie Protestantism.  The wording of this synthesis is what I accomplished for as I drove back and forth this weekend.  Not too shabby thinking, even for an old man!

Once home, I managed to get the exterior Xmas decorations out and up.  I’ve got some ribbon to replace, but by and large, everything looks spiffy for the upcoming holidays. 

There has been nothing much of note to do with genealogy the past week or so.