It’s Only the Best Day of the Year

By my calculations – and by that I mean my physical counting, and I did lose count a couple of times – I have missed approximately 115 National Days in the last month alone. Upon discovering this, the Type-A Calendar-Keeper inside me became full of self-loathing. Why, on June 1st I missed National Nail Polish Day (never mind that I don’t ever wear it myself) as well as National Leave the Office Early Day (although, in my defense, my workplace did not observe this)!

Except, of course, I must remind myself that these supposed “national days” are really just random days someone sometime decided to name something. According to Marketplace (you know, the NPR show?):

…the more extensive resource is the website nationaldaycalendar.com.

“There’s a couple ways it can happen,” says the site’s co-founder, Marlo Anderson. “Of course, a company or an individual can just declare it, and a lot of people do.”

Point being, really anyone can make up a national day, and there’s no accreditation process or government agency. Though Anderson says they don’t approve just any old day that comes across their desk.

“In the last year we’ve received over 10,000 requests for national days,” he says.

Out of the 10,000, he says they typically take about 20 to 25 days each year.

Per that nationaldaycalendar.com, there are now over 1,500 national days. Yes, that is more days than there are in a year. Thus, June 2nd is both National Black Bear Day and National Rotisserie Chicken Day, among other things. And, yes, some of the national days are just as matter of fact as they sound: “On the first Saturday in June, National Black Bear Day recognizes the most commonly found bear in North America.” National Old Maid’s Day, June 4th, does, in fact, refer to the arguably derogatory term for an elderly single lady, and not the card game I hear exists. However, National Name Your Poison Day, June 8th, is not as much fun as it sounds.

Actually, as the Marketplace article points out, national days really are made for the internet age, with many of nationaldaycalendar.com’s “How to Observe” instructions consisting of something like: “Use #UpsyDaisyDay to post on social media.” And really, truly celebrating even half of these would be exhausting. To cherry pick a few, there’s National Moonshine Day on June 5th, which I’d be willing to bet a certain friend of mine did observe. June 6th, as well as being D-Day, is also National Applesauce Cake Day. (I did make applesauce bread, well, muffins, sometime this month, but they weren’t very good, needing more sugar and leaving me with a sneaking suspicion I used a healthy recipe.) National Ballpoint Pen Day, June 10th, I wouldn’t have observed anyway, as I explicitly asked for “non-ballpoint pens” for the last office supply order. June 13th, being National Kitchen Klutzes of America Day, is the day I likely should have commemorated that time I splattered an entire giant jar of canned garlic all over my kitchen. June 16th has the rare distinction of having only one honorific, National Fudge Day, and I fully agree that this is a thing worthy of having a day devoted to it. In fact, according to Marketplace:

[nationaldaycalendar.com] focus[es] on iconic items over brands — say, National Coffee Day as opposed to National Starbucks Day (which, as far as we know, hasn’t been declared). And they look for things everyone can enjoy or be a part of.

Fudge I can agree with, but June 29th is National Almond Buttercrunch Day, and I have never had one of those in my life. But it turns out I did unintentionally observe National Hike with a Geek Day, June 20th, as I went on a nice little hike that evening with me, myself, and I. Although, looking at the entry, it appears I may have gotten the definitions of “geek” vs. “nerd” mixed up. I can confirm, however, that June 21st, National Day of the Gong, is exactly what it sounds like. At any rate, the following disqualification for most national day requests did make me smile:

The most common request they say no to?

“You know, it’s my girlfriend of three months and she’s changed my life forever, can I have National Heather Day … that’s a very very popular thing,” Anderson says.

In the end, if you, like Leslie Knope, do go for this sort of national day thing, you should be pleased to know that today, June 26th, is only two national days: National Beautician’s Day, and National Chocolate Pudding Day. However, if you are, like me, a fan of Doctor Who, you will be disappointed to know that the “T” in National OOTD Day (June 30th) is actually very important, and the day has nothing to do with the Oods of that TV show, most unfortunately.


https://www.marketplace.org/2015/06/01/business/ive-always-wondered/just-how-do-national-days-get-calendar

https://nationaldaycalendar.com

Advertisements

Little Corner

When I was a young lass, as someone might say, I would, occasionally, in a fit of hopeless yet determined creativity, forsake all other preoccupations my old home had to offer and retreat to what was known as “The Sewing Room.” As the haunt of my earliest days (it used to be my bedroom, back when I was a toddler) the walls of tiny pink rosettes amidst delicate sprigs of green grass were, and still are, really, a bit idyllic-looking. It was a very small room, befitting a very small girl. After I moved into a larger bedroom, the place became stuffed with arts ‘n’ crafts. It was the perfect nook for a preteen with more vision than talent, but who still loved scribbling shieldmaidens swirling in magical cloaks, clutching bent swords in their spidery hands.

Upon opening the door to this lair of “stuff,” I would have to take some care not to be first discouraged by the odor of musty fabric and bottles of disintegrating paint, some of which dated back to 1988. Mom’s domain was on the left side of the room, one long, white desk, over which hung more shelves with boxes of lace, pins, things-to-be-fixed, things-to-be-created, and acres of yarn, complemented by (at one point) sixteen books on knitting. Underneath said desk were plastic drawers full of feathers and bows and fake flowers. An everlasting smell of crunched ribbon pervaded the area. On top of the desk sat various trailing scraps of fabric, a few miscellaneous piles of unspecified crafting materials, Mom’s sewing scissors, her very special paint pens, and It: Mom’s new-a-few-years-before, high-tech, ultra-sleek sewing machine. It had a screen, like a computer. Mom neither liked me getting too near her prize, nor fiddling with her side of the room in general. She (rightly, in retrospect) thought I would just add to the mess, so I stayed to my side of the room as I, my tape player, and whatever book-on-tape (or, later, book-on-CD) I was listening to at the moment, navigated the barely eight-foot length of floor.

On my side, we’d dodge stacks of Play-Doh, pipe cleaners, and an ancient, cutting-edge (literally), metallic Garfield-themed trash can, heading for the furthest corner of the room where my desk was. As a precaution, I usually wore slippers when venturing upon the in-need-of-varnish floors of the Sewing Room, not wanting to encounter a splinter nor a stray pin. The place was on the edge of the house as well, with an old wooden window that needed replacing, so it was quite cold in there.

After depositing my tape-player and straining for the plug, I needed to attend to my desk. Having suffered the ravages of time, the honey-brown desk – which was cheap to begin with – usually needed its joints shoved back together before I drew on its surface. And while the edges of its once sharp skeleton were eventually dulled by age, back in the beginning, I’d usually emerge from my seclusion with a few scrapes from the horribly pointy corners. It was a small price to pay for the hours I spent there.

I look back at my old drawings now, and some, well, I can see what I was going for, but time and taste has not done them any favors. More are merely mediocre. A very special few I actually think are decently good. And some, of course, are quite horrible. It is the experience, of having the time and space to sit in my own little corner, in my own creaking chair, drawing whatever and wherever I wanted to be, that is something I miss a bit more than I realize sometimes. So, today, I like to take the time, now and again, to root out a box of colored pencil ends and spend a spell in thoughtful drawing. It’s not quite the same as it once was, just as my drawings are never exactly as I picture them. But, well, it’s close enough.

George & The Werewolf, Pt. 4

This is the final installment in a four-part short story which we have been writing on Thousand Mile Walk.  For those of you just joining us, here are Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 of “George & The Werewolf.”


George barely breathed, expecting any moment for the phantom panting to swell into a threatening, predatory growl, and the click-clicking to materialize as sharp, slashing claws. He clutched the knife tightly in his hand. It was his one childhood memento; Mr. Acton said George’s father had given it as a parting bequeathal. George prayed that the weapon would not fail him now. He adjusted its position in his hand slightly, and as he did so, the blade half-glinted in the faint starlight. Almost at once, the animal noises retreated, though whether they receded up the path or back down the mountain, George was still too disoriented to tell.

The seconds trickled by, and at last, George dared to sit up and try to get his bearings. Suddenly, the gruff, loud voice of a man rang out from somewhere among the rocks.

“Hello, Stranger. I am glad to see you are awake.” George reflexively started round. To his frantic eyes, every boulder seemed to be a crouching figure ready to spring, and even the trees, which he had so recently thought stunted bushes, appeared to be looming figures.

“Do not worry, Stranger. I am up on a rock above a little ways from you. You cannot get to me with that knife of yours, but neither can I easily get to you.”

“You could still shoot me,” George replied, “while I cannot see you.” Though, as he spoke, his eyes lighted on one boulder, a slight distance away, on top of which stood what he thought might be a human silhouette.

“That I could,” agreed the voice. “I do have excellent night vision. But had I wanted you dead, I would have shot you when first I smelled you.”

“Then why didn’t you?” George asked.

“You do not even say thank you!” the man exclaimed. “But, in answer to your question, I am not an animal. After I had gotten you out of the way, and now that I have obtained that which you sought for myself, I have no objection to you making your way out of this desert alive, if you are able. And, in fact, it is better that way. I have a message for your Mr. Acton.”

George did not ask how the man knew of his mission. Instead, he merely responded: “Or, I can catch up to you, recover what you have taken, and have no need to remember any such message.”

A surprisingly high laugh, almost a yip, cut through the night. “Despair of that now. I am much faster than you, and you are lost in the dark. So, instead, you are to tell Mr. Acton…well, tell him to give up. What the Spaniards had hidden in these dry mountains, I have taken. The thing greater than this, which he also seeks, I will likewise find. He is an old man, and after what has transpired here, I do not think much of you as a lackey, though there is silver laced into your quaint blade.”

“I have made it this far, with little direction save a map and a long dead guide,” George maintained.

This time, there was a snort. “A few experimentory wolf howls and a surprise crack on the back of the head, and you have been done for,” retorted the man. “Go back to the forests of your homeland, or better yet, keep to the cities, where the wolves do not sing. That is my advice. Goodbye.”

George had been correct about the source of the voice, for the shape he had guessed to be humanoid seemed to dissolve against the star-studded sky. He heard a faint pitter-patter, and then the night was silent once again.

After setting his back against a solid rock wall, he did not move until morning. He had feared a fall down the steep cliffs in the daytime; to attempt navigation in the near darkness with a pounding head would be suicidal, even if the mysterious man appeared to be attempting it.

In the hours that George rested, he had time to consider a few things about the man. By the time light crept over the mesa, George had come to two realizations. One, he had not asked about the wolf, nor had the man mentioned it. Two, the man, and George, in his replies, had been speaking in German.

To be continued by…the reader.

I Watched Jesus Christ Superstar (Sorry, Mom!)

One of the many controversial things my mom, coming of age as she did in the 1970s, experienced somewhat firsthand was the premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s and Tim Rice’s (in)famous rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. I vaguely remember, at some point in my young adulthood, discussing this musical depiction of the last days of Jesus with my mom. Way back in the day, she was a practicing Catholic, and by the time I came around, she was a devout Presbyterian, and so she was able to give me both some idea of the original controversy surrounding the musical’s release as well as the dubious theology inherent to the musical.

So, when I discovered, about an hour before it was due to air, that NBC’s latest contribution to the live TV musical fad was Jesus Christ Superstar, I of course watched it.

First, to start with the good, I have few, if any, technical criticisms. To give an over-obvious compliment, Webber knows how to compose music, and Rice knows how to write lyrics. I’ve still got the tune and rhyme of “Everything’s Alright” stuck in my head 24 hours later. The stage design of this production was impressive, and performance-wise I don’t really have any complaints. This was a star-studded cast, with vocals from John Legend as “Jesus” (quotes quite intentional) and Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene of course magnificent, and shout out to Norm Lewis’ fantastic baritone as Caiaphas. The relatively unknown Brandon Victor Dixon completely stole the show as Judas Iscariot (fun side fact, Dixon apparently recently played another famous villain/arguable anti-hero, portraying Aaron Burr in Hamilton).

In fact, “Damned for All Time/Blood Money,” Judas’ desperate attempt to justify his betrayal of Jesus, was one of the truly stand-out numbers to me. Dixon’s mounting despair as he begs Caiaphas, “I have no thought at all about my own reward/I really didn’t come here of my own accord/Just don’t say I’m/damned for all time” was palpable even through the distance of a TV screen. It was certainly a dramatization – and at odds with the Biblical portrait of Judas as a man who routinely stole and deceived – but, well, it was good theater. Sorry, Mom.

However, this brings me to the not-so-good elements of Jesus Christ Superstar. True to my half-formed impression of its reputation, the musical contains many, many elements that could, charitably, be described as “troubling.” There’s a lot of speculative relationship dynamics between Jesus and his followers, including, mostly famously, the maybe-one-sided-on-her-side but definitely-not-platonic feelings between Mary Magdalene and Jesus, as vocalized in the hit “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” But this, what I saw to be more of an interlude, didn’t really affect my feelings towards the overall plot, so to speak. What very much did was this: Jesus Christ Superstar is distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of a divine Jesus, ethereal light show at the culmination of the crucifixion notwithstanding.

I think the musical was trying to be all ambiguous about what exactly Jesus was, allowing some vaguely supernatural elements, but it really just ended up avoiding its own question: “Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ/Who are you? What have you sacrificed?/Jesus Christ Superstar/Do you think you’re what they say you are?” And this, in turn, is because the musical, at odds with the long-ago angel’s question, is attempting to seek the living among the dead, so to speak. For, in this musical, Jesus dies, and there is no resurrection.

Interestingly, I find that Godspell, another musical depiction of Jesus and his apostles, also debuting on stage in 1971 – apparently this sort of thing was in vogue at the time? – to be, despite its hippy sensibilities, a more overtly religious and thus slightly more accurate adaptation of the gospel story. As Jesus is on the “cross” (it’s very artsy, guys), he cries “Oh God, I’m dying.” To which the chorus echos: “Oh God, you’re dying.” Emphasis mine, for the switch in pronouns is very important here. Of course, afterwards Godspell doesn’t have a resurrection either, instead giving in and just sayin’ that it’s all about love, regardless of why that love exists, and that we should just let the little light of Jesus shine on through us. Although why the light of a dead man should mean anything to us is likewise not really answered – we are once again left to seek life in death, full stop.

But back to Jesus Christ Superstar. There are those who would argue that it’s a great tool for evangelism, and I’m certainly not saying that it could never be used as such. From my cursory scanning of the internet’s reactions, apparently non-believers found the crucifixion depiction to be somewhat affecting. Yet I would imagine that the musical would be better used as just that, a tool, rather than a complete text. For what these non-believers are reacting to is, as Mary herself sings, “just a man,” with Rice and Webber making heavy use of Jesus’ more cryptic answer to the question of his divinity, “That’s who you say I am,” rather than his many absolute statements, e.g.: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Of course, NBC’s production almost, though I think unintentionally, produced a complete ending. Jesus dies, his apostles reflect (sort of), the musical ended, almost all the cast came out for their bows, and then, with a blaze of light and heraldry, Legend – still dressed as Jesus – emerged from behind stone-looking doors for his solo curtain call. We can argue about any inherent heresy in artistic depictions of God at another date, but I think if it had then been proclaimed: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things,” then, well, maybe

Eh, who am I kidding.  Jesus Christ Superstar would still be a very iffy depiction of the gospel, and, like my mom told me, for very good reasons (this short little blog post actually doesn’t touch half of them). But I might have more unreservedly recommended this latest production as a highly flawed dramatization, rather than how I ended up putting it to Mom yesterday: “I mean, [watch it] if you want to watch it. There were some rockin’ moments, not gonna lie. Technically great, spiritually barren. Alice Cooper was Herod, though.”

Following the Ruby Red Carpet

Once a year, when I was a young lass, I used to routinely ensconce myself in front of the TV to watch the Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars. While the occasional moments of spectacular pageantry would divert me, mostly, I am beginning to suspect, I was only interested because everyone told me I should be. As an adult, my thrift-induced lack of cable means I don’t really have a way to watch the ceremony live, and, if I’m being honest, I’ve enjoyed saving myself five hours and simply reading up on the highlights the next day. Internet has killed the video star.

Of course, one of those next-day highlights I have consistently, genuinely eaten up is the fashion. Some portion of the day after the Oscars is always devoted to scrolling through a photo gallery of famous and not-so-famous actors and actresses, dressed in (what is purportedly) their finest. And then going and looking at another photo gallery, because some of the angles on that last one were a little awkward. And then looking at those sites that have the dresses arranged by color, because I’m always curious if there’s a majority hue. And then looking at a couple of “Best/Worst Dressed” lists, to see if their choices agreed with mine. And then, of course, discussing said lists with similarly interested friends.

I don’t really have a rational reason for this binge. I’ve no occasion for wearing such finery myself; I wore a Star Wars t-shirt I bought from Target to work today. I’m no fashionista; it means nothing to me when I read a person’s shoe is by Louis Vulture or the bag by Christian Door. Really, what can I say? I like beautiful dresses, and I like critiquing beautiful dresses. Thus, without further ado, I present my 2018 Oscars Awards for Fashion, or the 2018 OAFs.

The Oooh, Shiny! Award

Presented to the individual(s) that most call to mind a quote from How I Met Your Mother: “One of the 24 similarities between girls and fish is that they’re both attracted to shiny objects.”

Gal Gadot, for Sparkly Dress with a Fluttery Skirt & Fantastic Necklace; Jennifer Lawrence, for Rockin’ the Retro Look; Gina Rodriguez, for Sparkling Both Inside & Out; Lupita Nyong’o, for Gold Dress, Albeit with a Slit I Wouldn’t Wear

The Color Envy Award

Presented to the individual(s) who best pull off colors that I cannot myself wear without looking like a corpse

Greta Gerwig, for Bright Yellow SPARKLES; Zendaya, for Successfully Pulling Off Ruffles in Brown; Laurie Metcalf, for Beige Shimmery Classic Number.

The Emperor Palpatine Award

Presented to the individual(s) who most resemble Emperor Palpatine’s guards

Maya Rudolph, for Just Add the Helmet & Honestly I Couldn’t Tell the Difference

The “I’d Wear That if I Were an Evil Queen” Award

Presented to the individual(s) who are wearing something I would totally wear as a Dark Empress

Allison Janney, for Rockin’ Those Red Sleeves, Have You SEEN the Way They Drape?

The Actually Made Me Briefly Care About Men’s Fashion Award

Presented to the rare male individual(s) whose red carpet photo actually causes me to pause and look closer, instead of just scrolling past another man in a black tuxedo

Chadwick Boseman, for Hello There. Don’t You Look Fiiiiiiine. Why, Yes, It Is Rather Chilly, I Would Like to Borrow Your Coat. Thank You. Your Coat is Mine Now. Goodbye.

The “That’s Not How I Would Have Rolled, But Props to You” Award

Presented to the individual(s) wearing something rather outlandish, but still pulling it off

Tiffany Haddish, for The Dress is Quite Something, But I Do Actually Really Like Her Headpiece; Emma Stone, for Rocking a Suit and Somehow Not Being Frumpy

The Living Your Best Life Now Award

Presented to the individual(s) who are rocking a dress they clearly love, whatever the merits of the dress itself

Whoopi Goldberg, for That Large Floral Dress, You Go Girl

The Disney Princess Award

Presented to the individual(s) whose outfits most resemble that of a Disney princess

Salma Hayek, for Shimmery Purple Tiers with Diamonds, I Understand Some People Didn’t Like It, but She Just Got Through Saving the Kingdom from Mother Gothel, So Back Off; Emily Blunt, for Wearing a Gown that Somehow Looks More Like the Original Animated Cinderella’s Dress than the 2015 Remake’s Version

The Bed Sheet Award

Presented to the individual whose outfit most resembles a fitted bed sheet

Andra Day, for I’m Pretty Sure I Made that Outfit While Playing Dress Up When I Was 12

Flu Season, or How I Learned to Empathize with Medieval Peasants

It’s a classic trope, arguably immortalized in Monty Python & the Holy Grail: the mob of medieval villagers, blaming all their ills on a supposed witch or some other thing-that-isn’t-germs-because-people-didn’t-know-about-those-then, culminating in a good old-fashioned burning or some other savage, weird act of violence. In these modern, reasonable times, it is sometimes difficult to imagine the mindset of those poor, ignorant peasants, desperately attempting to find a comprehensible, easily eliminated scapegoat for their ills.

That is until, at work, the department next to mine started dropping like flies.

It started quietly enough. First, Workplace Proximity Associate C mysteriously disappeared. Later that day, a strange, foreign “ssshshhhhhkkkkk” sound managed to infiltrate my earbuds, even through the blaring bagpipes of my Celtic punk rock. Removing my earbuds and peeking over the cubicles revealed C’s team members, standing at a distance, spraying Lysol on her desk.

“C has the flu,” they said.

I locked eyes with one of my own department members. We saw the fear mirrored in each other’s gaze. At this point, I merely invested in some handsanitizer.  

Then, Workplace Proximity Associate K got the flu, then Workplace Proximity Associate D, then on down the entire row next to ours. That was when I stole a giant tub of Lysol wipes from the Operations department, and started smearing a protective line of solution around my cube several times a day.

Then, the news: Colleague G, a few rows down to the right, and Colleague N, a few rows to the left, both had strep. That was when I started making protective totems out of paperclips, wrapping them in Lysol wipes and clutching them to my chest whenever any associate of G or N walked by.  

Then, the news that Colleague C2, longtime frequenter of the break room, had had the flu all week, and insisted on remaining at his post. That was when I found myself wishing that leper colonies were still a thing. I also brought a head of garlic to work, which I split into cloves and hung at intervals around my cube. Slightly more reasonably, perhaps, I began using a bathroom and break room on a different floor.

And then, one sunny morning, I heard my closest Workplace Proximity Associate, both literally and metaphorically, cough.

“I can’t be sick,” she said. “I feel fine. Or even if I am, I don’t have that many sick days. I’ll still be at work.”

“I WILL DRIVE YOU OUT OF THIS BUILDING WITH A STICK!” I shrieked. I even drew her a nice little comic of me setting her cubicle on fire. She took it in its stride, as she’s learned to do with me, my increasing number of references to “cleansing flame” notwithstanding.

Then came the news, whispered in terror through the grapevine. “Mark has the stomach bug.”

And that was when I decided I needed to burn down the building.* And also invest in a duck, so I could determine just who was the wicked witch that was causing this particularly vicious cycle of office illness.

 
*Just kidding, HR!

Which Once the Angel Sang

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.

To get straight to the point, I never much cared for the carol “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” It wasn’t as boisterous as “Joy to the World” or “Good Christian Men Rejoice,” and it lacked the sweetness of “Infant Holy, Infant Lowly” and the fond personal memories I associate with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” In contrast, that supposedly clear midnight was just an overly peaceful-sounding tune about pretty angels warbling, and not nearly up to the caliber of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” I thought. Perhaps, when I am feeling contrary – which admittedly is quite often – I could still say the same of that first verse. But now, a bit older than when I first formed these opinions, I have grown to appreciate what the second verse says.

Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.

If I manage to time this post correctly, it will appear on Tuesday, December 26th, otherwise known as the day after Christmas. It’s the start of that awkward time, that stretch of four days between Christmas itself and the day of New Year’s Eve. Of course, this is contingent on you celebrating Christmas on the day itself, which not everyone does. You may have celebrated in the days before, or your familial gathering has yet to come. Or perhaps it has come, and now you lament the end of this most wonderful time of year, and fear the return to the babel sounds of the common year. Or perhaps a Christmas will not come at all, and for you the holidays might be one of those sad and lowly plains.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.

If that particular verse doesn’t ring any bells (Christmas half-pun intended), it’s because it may have been omitted from your hymnal, for reasons I’m not able to explain. Space, perhaps, or maybe whoever first made that decision found this verse just a little too melancholy. Two thousand years of wrong, two thousand years of war, and counting. We like to act like Christmas is the finale of the year, and we don’t always like to talk of what lies beyond, just yet.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!

Some cursory reading on Wikipedia and another less-than-well-cited web page says that the author, a clergyman by the name of Edmund Sears, wrote this song in the twilight of 1849, following the United States’ war with Mexico and news of strife in Europe. He saw these conflicts as the result of man’s failure to heed the Christmas message. Sears would go on to live through the upcoming Civil War, and I can’t help but think, a bit cruelly, that he hadn’t seen nothin’ yet. But, perhaps he knew that, for he does not stop in the now, but looks forward to the hereafter.

For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.

Of course, to state the obvious, we live in the now. And now is the day after Christmas, when, for many, the real world begins to creep back. If I could quibble with the author a little more, it might be that this “song” he speaks of, this message whose absence he lamented, does not belong exclusively to Christmas. Christmas may give us a reminder and a chance to stop, rest by the weary road, and remember the beautiful angel and his song. But then, through the rest of the year, we must send onward the song, as best we may, which once this angel sang.

Her Majesty Slays Dragon

[ElizaM 2:15 p.m.] YOUR MOM SENT ME THE ARTICLE

[GwenR 2:30p.m.] What article?

[ElizaM 2:31 p.m.] THE ONE THAT SAYS YOU KILLED A DRAGON

[GwenR 2:35 p.m.] ...did you read said article?

[ElizaM 2:36 p.m.] NO I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT

[GwenR 2:40 p.m.] ...I don’t have time for *you.*

[ElizaM 2:41 p.m.] WHY READ BORING NEWS WHEN YOU CAN JUST TELL ME
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] YOU KILLED A DRAGON????
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] WHAT
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] HOW?!!?
[ElizaM 2:46 p.m.] I THOUGHT IT WAS A JOKE BUT IT IS ON THE OFFICIAL NEWS???
[ElizaM 2:47 p.m.] ARE DRAGONS BACK????!!??
[ElizaM 2:59 p.m.] HEEEYLPPP

[GwenR 3:37 p.m.] You’re saying girls can’t kill dragons?

[ElizaM 3:38 p.m.] I AM SAYING NO SUCH THING I AM SAYING THAT DRAGONS DO NOT EXIST

[GwenR 3:56: p.m.] Yes, they do. And I killed one.

[ElizaM 3:57 p.m.] CALL ME NOW

[GwenR 4:37 p.m.] Can’t. In council meeting. Texting under table. Don’t think anyone’s noticed. Kind of don’t care if they do.

[ElizaM 4:38 p.m.] Look at you slacking off on your royal duties EXPLAIN DRAGON

[GwenR 4:45 p.m.]“Ridding the land of the pestilence scourge of dragonkind” is still listed as one of the sovereign’s duties, you know. Which I just did.

[ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] …
[ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] AGAIN DRAGONS NO EXIST YOU NO KILL DRAGON

[GwenR 4:55 p.m.] Lower case letters and punctuation exist. And I did too kill a dragon.
[GwenR 4:56 p.m.] Technically.

[ElizaM 4:57 p.m.] AH HA! The the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and do it now.
[ElizaM 4:58 p.m.] Punctuation. Different shaped letters. Happy?

[GwenR 5:05 p.m.] Fine, fine, okay, so one of the administrative royal duties that I don’t bore you with because you have the attention span of a newt is going around to any heads of estates whose private roads the Crown uses and formally asking permission of said heads to use said roads. 
[GwenR 5:06 p.m.] This permission does not pass from monarch to monarch, so I’ve had to go around and re-ask every.single.person. It has been a pain.
[GwenR 5:08 p.m.] But I guess a necessary one because, if you remember, Rowling’s Rebellion of 1624 had to do with King Geoffrey IV...wait, I should probably go back to his dad King Edward IIV…

[ElizaM 5:09 p.m.] I WILL MURDER YOU WITH YOUR VINTAGE QUILL PEN, NERD.

[GwenR 5:15 p.m.] Sheesh, just trying to give you some context. Anyway, so there’s this nobleman, let’s call him Stinky, up in the backwoods of some region known as Spring Hills that was all “Of course, of course, use my roads. Except this one. Thankkksss.” And I was like, “Whatever.” But then it turned out that we actually kind of needed that one for complicated economic nerd reasons I will not borrrrrrre you with.
[GwenR 5:17 p.m.] So I was like, “Hey, can we use that road too, pretty please?” Sent a nice official email and everything. And he was like “Nah, for Reasons.”
[GwenR 5:19] So then I actually gave Stinky a call. He seemed fairly cordial, maybe a little...vacant, and I was like, “What Reasons?” Then he paused, took a gulp (I could hear it over the phone), smacked his lips (which I could also hear), and said, very deliberately: “Wellllll...that road is in the north of our property...and there’s a dragon in the north.”

[ElizaM 5:20 p.m.] Wuuuuuttt

[GwenR 5:22 p.m.] Eeeeexactly. And I was like, “I beg your pardon?” I was honestly so confused.
[GwenR 5:23 p.m.] And then he spins this yarn about some dragon living up in the northern hills and it being dangerous to go out there and how a hunter got eaten...

[ElizM 5:23 p.m.] *coocoo* *coocoo*

[GwenR 5:25 p.m.] Yeah. At the time I was just like, “Okay, so...good talk,” and just hung up. But then the PM may or may not have kind of yelled at me, and so I called Stinky back and was like, “Yo, I’m coming to slay the dragon.”

[ElizaM 5:27 p.m.] The PM yelled at you? OFF WITH HIS HEAD. Also LOLZ "slay"

[GwenR 5:30 p.m.] I mean, not really and I kind of deserved it. I just let some backwater nobleman talk my ear off about some mythical dragon marauding his property. It was not one of my finer moments. 

[ElizaM 5:31 p.m.] Okay wait SO THERE WAS ACTUALLY A DRAGON???

[GwenR 5:33 p.m.] I’m getting there, I’m getting there. So we show up at this backwater estate in Spring Hills, Stinky comes out to greet us, and let me tell you “vacant” didn’t even begin to describe him.

[ElizaM 5:34 p.m.] GET TO DRAGON PART

[GwenR 5:36 p.m.] I’m just trying to give you some context. Anyway, our whole first hour at Stinky's really is a funny story, but it is kind of long, so I’ll spare you for now. So we get in the cars and drive up and down the north road, and surprise, surprise, no dragon. Although General R noticed something kind of funny looking on one section, so we get out and they start investigating around, and they find this hidden hatch in the side of a hill. They open it and……..

[ElizaM 5:48 p.m.] AND?

[GwenR 5:50 p.m.] This lizard pops out.

[ElizaM 5:51 p.m.] Lizard.

[GwenR 5:53 p.m.] Yeah, but I promise, it had enough excess skin that it kind of looked like wings! But it popped out all of a sudden and I freaked out and stomped on it and killed it.

[ElizaM 5:55 p.m.] You stomped on a lizard and killed it.

[GwenR 5:57 p.m.] A lizard that kind of looked like it had wings, yes.

[EizaM 5:58 p.m.] I do not understand.

[GwenR 6:02 p.m.] So, if there was a dragon in the north, I stepped on it. Thereby slaying it. All hail me.

[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] I can’t even with you right now.
[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] That got picked up by the news?
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] Your MOTHER sent it to me.
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] I was not aware she had a sense of humor.

[GwenR 6:06 p.m.] It’s a human interest story about the monarchy! Royal slays first dragon in 1,000 years! Mom was proud!

[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] …
[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] So what about the hatch?

[GwenR 6:10 p.m.] Oh, that’s where Stinky hid his stash of illegally traded moonshine among other...things. Which is why he thought it was a good idea to tell the Queen that she couldn’t use his road because of a dragon, and stuck to his story with a straight face the whole way through. Like I know I'm new at this and this is a piddly kingdom but still, guy, have some class.

[ElizaM 6:11 p.m.] "Piddly"...NERD...but honestly being queen kind of sounds lame a lot of the time (love you, so proud!), but this is actually kind of funny.

[GwenR 6:15 p.m.] Okay, but that first hour at Stinky’s is actually really funny. I’m out of my meeting now, call you? 

[ElizaM 6:16 p.m.] YAS PLEASE

A New House

I am that teacher that still always keeps a jar full of sweets in her desk drawer, in defiance of those nonsensical nutritional standards. The candy’s not simply there for the taking, of course – I get the children to do little jobs for me, like erase the whiteboard or tidy up the bookshelf, and then and only then do I reward them with a piece. After all, when the school board interviewed me, I told them that I wanted my students to own their classroom, to be invested in it, and to think of it as our joint little house. So, in this way, I keep the little nuggets busy, and my domicile remains orderly and inviting.

And, of course, when the students are done with their tasks, they know to stretch out their chubby little hands for a Starburst or a Tootsie Roll. If a child has been especially good that day, or is in particular in need of fattening up, I may even hand out a whole fun-sized bag of M&Ms. I tell them to eat their candy right away, right there in front of me, or else Mr. Jones may see it and confiscate it. I enjoy watching it disappear into their delectable little red mouths.

I do try to be fair and even in my bestowals, and not play favorites with my students any more than can be helped, per the wisdom passed down from my sister. It doesn’t do to keep just one morsel close to you; you never know what the other little dishes may get up to when the time comes. I grew careless of this at my last position, resulting in a few close-to-awkward questions. A tattle-tale mentioned that Ms. Haag was always giving candy to Katie, that she was my favorite. This was, of course, a tad nearer to the mark than I cared it to be, although I was able to play the part of a grieving teacher to great success. But, just in case, I decided to seek out a new schoolhouse; I simple couldn’t stay there, after such a traumatic experience as my favorite student disappearing.

It was quite easy to be hired somewhere else. I’m a sweet old woman, with a few old-fashioned values that are none the worse for wear and a great helping of empathy for my students. I tell the school board nothing but the truth. I let them know that I make it my business to be very aware of students’ home lives, and that I take it into account in everything I do.

To this end, I always call my students’ parents quite early in the year. One can tell quite a lot by that first phone call, which is ostentatiously merely meant to touch base with parents and thus start the year off on a good note. By now, I know exactly what to look for. A father immediately offering to come down to the school and “wup” their child – I just have to say the word – is bad; a mother gabbing on and on about how I needn’t fear, they always devote time to help their child with homework and projects, is much worse. On the other hand, a parent answering the phone with merely a resigned “What’ve they done now?” is very, very promising. It’s even better when the contact isn’t the student’s real parent, but a guardian of some sort. In Mason’s case, it was his stepmother. Within the first minute of our conversation, the woman flat-out let me know that while that child was at school, he was my responsibility to deal with, and mine alone. Exactly what I wanted to hear, really.

So, I’ll make sure Mason is included whenever I hand out my bits of candy. Like my other dear, delicious students, he’ll become rather fond of me and feel quite safe in my company. By the middle of the school year, it will be so very, very easy to bring him inside my nice, ginger-colored house, with my warm, glowing oven. Children may not wander alone into wild woods so often as they used to, but, in these modern cities, children disappear all the time. While many things have changed since the old days, I think my new house suits me just as well.

A Little Short Lark

Let me describe to you the view outside my office window. The green young tall trees are growing stronger by the day. Their weaving lovely many branches have seemingly accepted, finally, that they are not to be chopped down by glimmering buzzing many saws, as have much of their kind. No, they are to remain, a homage half-hearted to a city’s need for nature.

In these swaying softly trees, there is a certain one spot with a horizontal particularly branch that seems to be the place of honor supreme. All the little small stars of this patch of wood have perched there at time one or another. The crows, their black shiny feathers unkempt, like to gather in a row and hurl little many nasty insults at me, or so I imagine from their disdainful dark looks. The bright golden beautiful butterflies are better, for they pay no one any mind, content to chase each other around the trunk, up and up, till they are lost among the leaves few that have begun to turn yellow themselves.

The most dignified of the trees’ visitors was a speckled large hawk that once drove the chattering several crows away. The hawk held its private own court on that branch for nearly an hour, and I am sure he gave wandering many squirrels a fright. Let them be startled out of their fuzzy fat skins, for all I care. There are too far many of them, and there’s one in particular that likes merely to ascend to the top tallest branch, and rip the innocent poor leaves off. That’s all he does; rip a leaf, and watch it drop. Rip a leaf, and watch it drop, for just for kicks, I assume. What a little strange creature.

If, sweet dear reader, you have made it through that wandering strange description and noticed nothing amiss, let me enlighten you. You see, English has odd many rules that perhaps we knew at one time and then forgot. One that I perhaps had learned and certainly never thought of since then is the order of adjectives in proper modern English.

Apparently, adjectives are to be written in this particular order: quantity or number, quality or opinion, size, age, shape, color (and there are a few other ones that can come after that, should you be describing something excessively specific, such as original, material, purpose). Should you choose to deviate from that order, to describe the several chattering crows as chattering several crows, and their little many nasty insults instead of their many little nasty insults, you sound a bit like the the bard who wrote Beowulf…or maybe just a slightly addled person.

And me? I’m just a some-time procrastinating strange writer, fiddling with the English language just a little for a lark.