>Silver Bells, Medicare Part D, Jesus, Santa and Jerry Lee Lewis

>It’s December 6 and I don’t have the Christmas spirit yet. Or I didn’t until this afternoon. Today is the Feast Day of Saint Nicholas, which I posted about here. And a more extensive post last year, here. And yesterday we received this Christmas card, which I love. It was our third card this season, which also began to get me in the mood for Christmas, but it was also a reminder that I haven’t done anything to prepare. Usually by now I’ve decorated the house, bought most of my gifts and designed, printed, and mailed over 100 Christmas cards. Okay I know that’s a little over-the-top, but that’s how I’m wired and how I’ve functioned all my life. Until now. Today I was whining about this to a close friend and she said, “welcome to my world.” I think that was supposed to make me feel better. And it did.

So what’s been keeping me from preparing for Christmas? I guess it’s a combination of my work (writing) and travel (again for writing) and my husband’s surgery in Nashville and our trip to the beach for his “recovery,” and my mother’s broken hip, her two surgeries, and moving her from the hospital to one nursing/rehab center to another, all since October 1. Yep, that would be it. And I have to move everything out of her assisted living home by Christmas. Did I mention it’s not in Memphis? It’s in Jackson, Mississippi, so I’ve put some miles on my Camry this fall and winter.

Change of address forms, change of pharmacies, change of primary care physicians, change of physical therapists (from one nursing/rehab home to another), change of cable TV (3 times in 3 weeks, yes, even as she moves rooms in a nursing home, a technician has to come out and yes, there’s another fee) and even the morbid but necessary business of looking ahead by finalizing funeral arrangements… all the while withdrawing money from her Schwab account to pay for private duty sitters when I can’t be with her… it’s been overwhelming, but somehow it’s getting done. And like the song says, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Not only my close friends in Jackson that I’ve known for years, who fill in for me when I can’t be there, but even friends of my parents that I barely know. Like Guy Parker and his daughter Mary Lynn, who own Group Health Specialists . Guy responded to my email for help with Mom’s Medicare Part D situation by saying:

“Your mom and dad were important to Judy and my ‘journeys’, and we have fond memories of them. Send us the information we need and we’ll take care of this for you.”

Mom has had Humana as her Part D for the past couple of years, and it’s about to price itself out of the business, or at least that’s the word on the street. And not just on the street, but in the AARPBulletin which came in the mail today. There’s a good article called “Medicare Part D: How to Avoid Bigger Bills” here if you need to consider making a change for yourself or your parents. It’s so overwhelming to my brain and I am so thankful to Guy and Mary Lynn for their help! I just scanned all Mom’s info and emailed it to them yesterday. Changes to a new plan have to be made by December 31, of course, just a week after I have to have Mom’s stuff moved out of her assisted living apartment.

Every time I start to panic I just start humming, “I get by with a little help from my friends!” Thanks so much, Guy and Mary Lynn! You guys are what paying it forward is all about.

So this afternoon I decided to get out of the house and see if I could catch some Christmas spirit. I had some errands to run, at Wolf Photo, Kinko’s and Office Depot, but it was when I got to Pier One that I began to perk up. The shiny stuff, the sparkly things… brought to mind that old song, “Silver Bells” and I realized how much the “city sidewalks, even stop lights, blinked a bright red and green” and the decorations and the music in the stores cheered me. I bought this little tree…

And this matching garland (hard to see, but it’s on the mantle) and I came home and hung our stockings. Count ‘em—six! Tonight Oreo is snuggled in her little bed by the fire just waiting for everyone to come home. We’ll be welcoming my new daughter-in-law this Christmas, as she and Jason fly in from Denver on Christmas morning. So I bought a 6th stocking, this cute one here, for See. (That’s her name, “See.”) Twenty days and counting!

Here’s something on the light side that also perked up my holiday spirit today. The latest issue of Garden and Gun arrived in the mail recently and I finally took the time to sit and look at it and even read some of the articles, while watching the Alan Jackson special on CMT. (If you missed it, you can watch it, here.) If you’ve never seen Garden and Gun, you should check it out, if for no other reason than to feel the paper (yes) and look at the pictures. It’s just a beautiful publication. (Hey, Flannery O’Connor once bought a chess set just because she liked to feel the chess pieces; she couldn’t play chess. And she loved the way National Geographic smelled. “A sensualist I am,” she once said. I’m in good company!)

And the December/January issue has a fun article by Marshall Chapman callled “Whole Lotta Christmas: Making sense of Jesus, Santa and Jerry Lee Lewis.” Chapman tells a story about when she and her sister, Mary, hid in a closet to watch Santa on Christmas Eve, but got carried away in the closet, singing Jerry Lee Lewis’s song, “Whole Lotta’ Shakin’” but later felt guilty and asked Baby Jesus to forgive them “for being so bad on the eve of His birthday.” I am so there. I love it when people give themselves room to be human. Isn’t that why Jesus came in the first place? To redeem the image that fell and restore it?

I was re-reading part of Vigen Guroian’s http://www.guroian.com/Welcome.html wonderful book, Rallying the Really Human Things, the other day when I ran across his chapter about Flannery O’Connor, titled “The Art of Incarnation.” (The subtitle of the book is: the moral imagination in politics, literature and everyday life—don’t you just love it?) Anyway, the chapter on O’Connor is all about how she refuted Gnostism and promoted Christian humanism as she embraced the whole person. Guroian quotes from O’Connor’s essay, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” at one point:

“The Manicheans separated spirit and matter. To them all material things were evil….This is also pretty much the modern spirit, and for the sensibility infected with it, fiction is hard if not impossible to write because fiction is so very much an incarnational art…. The fact is that the materials of the fiction writer are the humblest. Fiction is about everything human and we are made of dust.”

Guroian later says:

“In her fiction, O’Connor…endeavors to show through narrative that the only real path to happiness is one that includes our bodies; not our bodies as mere bodies, but rather as no less than the whole person made in the image of God…. She concludes that the Christian writer must show in his art, therefore, that grace ‘penetrates the natural human world as it is,’ concrete and embodied.”

I think O’Connor would have enjoyed Chapman’s piece about Jesus, Santa and Jerry Lee Lewis. As Chapman says, fifty years after hiding in the closet with her sister on Christmas Eve:

“Now, in this holiday season, I often wake up in the middle of the night and tiptoe down the stairs, where I stand transfixed, staring at our Christmas tree with its lights all aglow like a thousand golden halos. And in that moment, the only thing I know for sure is that I am happy and at peace. And it makes no more sense, considering the broken world we live in, than flying reindeer, a virgin birth, and Jerry Lee Lewis. But I love it all. I have to. It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

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