Friday, December 11th
We spent part of afternoon at Northwoods Humane Society as our monthly music therapy program there. Sophia played the harp while Olivia, my sister, and I pet the cats and dogs.
There were two cats who we enjoyed spending time with. They are sisters and need to be adopted together.
One was super friendly right away with us, and the other needed a bit of time to get comfortable in the room first. She ended up visiting with Sophia and would roll over like a dog.
If we didn't already have four cats, we would have adopted these two cats. They are wonderful, and I hope they find a home soon.
This month my sister (below) was able to spend time with us at Northwoods. She is taking a leave of absence from teaching to handle compounded grief issues. Having experienced multiple major losses this month and dealing with past losses (e.g., the unexpected death of her husband on the day after Christmas in 2003), this time of the year is particularly difficult.
I think spending the time with the pets and listening to harp music is good for both the animals and people.
We met a dog at the end, Raji, who was the first dog who howled along to the music - sometimes while Sophia was playing and other times at the end.
When it was time to go, Raji didn't want to leave. That, perhaps, is the most difficult part of volunteering when the dogs want to stay with you and not go back in their kennel. Hopefully there will be someone who wants to adopt Raji soon so he can be in a loving home.
Saturday, December 12th
On Saturday morning, we went to the community center for the annual Community Breakfast that the Scandia-Marine Lions put on. We brought four items for the food shelf which the Boy Scouts were handling.
The breakfast was a hearty one: scrambled eggs, sausages, hash browns, cinnamon rolls, and orange juice. There was coffee on the table for those who wanted it.
We saw neighbors and friends there which was nice.
We had people come up to us and sit down to talk with us which we enjoyed.
After breakfast, the girls visited with Santa. The Christmas tree that our 4-H club assembled and decorated was right next to where he was sitting. That was nice to see.
The photos that were taken with Santa were made into buttons that they gave (for free!) to the children. The woman wearing purple (above) hooked up her camera to a printer and then printed out the photo. She handed it to the gentlemen (below) who cut the image into a circle and then pressed them into a button maker.
Within a minute, the button was completed. Sophia is holding what the button that was made that has the photo of she, Olivia, and Santa together.
They also took a family photo. We haven't had one done in years. Actually, I don't even remember the last time that we had all of us in the same picture. At any rate, it was nice to have a family photo with Santa.
That evening, we had a nachos with homemade guacamole sauce in celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe today. I didn't take any pictures...it was close to 6:45 p.m. when we had dinner and by that time everyone just wanted to eat.
My parents were Catholic, although I don't recall them celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I don't even know where I first heard about this feast day. I looked online and read that it is becoming an increasingly popular Catholic feast in some American communities on December 12. It is dedicated to Jesus' mother Mary.
On the Catholic Culture website, there was some interesting background about this feast day:
Since 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe, or the Dark Virgin, as she is often called, has become the patron saint of the Mexican Republic. Historically and emotionally, the Virgin is deeply woven into the life of every Mexican. During the wars of independence she was the patroness of the Mexican armies Almost every Mexican town has a church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. And people turn to her for help and guidance on every occasion.
The festival of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe actually begins a week before December 12. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the country—many traveling for a week on foot or by burro—flock to the Basilica of Ville Madero, on the outskirts of Mexico City, where the most impressive ceremonies in honor of the Virgin are held. The streets adjoining the church are literally packed with people who wait their turn to enter the church and make their offering.
The climax of the festival begins on the eve of December 12, when the conchero dancers gather in the atrium of the church. The name probably derives from the word concha, meaning "shell," because the mandolin-shaped instruments of the dancers are made of armadillo shells The dancing—hopping steps performed to the endlessly repeated accompaniment of one or two musical themes—begins at midnight and lasts throughout the day.
Groups of dancers alternate to keep up the furious pace. The songs and dances of the concheros, who perform at fiestas all over Mexico, have been handed down through many generations and follow rigid traditional patterns.
Since it is a happy day for all Mexicans, food and drink are enjoyed by rich and poor alike, and many people will save up their money throughout the year for this special occasion.
The website had a suggested dinner menu for the feast day:
Sopa de Espinaca con Codito (Spinach soup with macaroni)
Tacos (Stuffed tortillas)
Frijoles Negros (Black beans)
Mole Poblano (Chicken in spiced sauce)
Guacamole (Chopped avocados)
Cajeta (Boiled milk and sugar)
Cafe con Leche (Coffee with milk)
Pulque Tequila Mezcal (Mexico's national drinks)
We had an American version of tacos/nachos - ground hamburger mixed with the packaged seasoning that you get in the store. We topped it with onions, tomatoes, salsa, and homemade guacamole.
So, we had two of the items on the suggested dinner menu. Perhaps next year we can try some of the other items on the list.
Sunday, December 13th
On Sunday, our focus was spending time at the Guthrie Theater. Sophia had a rehearsal and performance there with the ensemble. There were eight harpists and one bell player this time.
They arrived, tuned their harps, and started practicing in a rehearsal room at the Guthrie.
This was the same room that we saw when we went on a tour with our 4-H club back in October. It was neat to be able to be in it again - this time with a purpose.
After the harps were tuned, the ensemble went through their songs one time.
We headed upstairs on a special elevator that only staff can use (they have a card that they swipe in order to get to the behind-the-scenes areas). The ensemble went outside for a picture. It's hard to believe it's December - no coats and boots today!
They set up along the wall so people could still use the gathering area, get outside, and go upstairs to the restaurant.
They played for a little more than an hour.
When they first started, there were about 25 or 30 people, Gradually the audience grew.
Before long, there were more people milling around to listen to them play.
By 12:30 p.m., there were well over 100 people gathered to listen to the music.
The audience was appreciative and clapped after every song. For some of the songs they even sang along.
At the end, the ensemble came out, held hands, and bowed.
After putting the harp in the car, we went into the theater to see the Christmas Carol. We were very fortunate to receive comp tickets that were arranged by a friend. Otherwise, there would have been no way we could have seen the play.
We are so grateful that this was possible. It was truly an amazing play for the girls and I to see, and we are so grateful for having this opportunity.
The costumes were beautifully designed - each one so unique and well-constructed.
Olivia was fascinated with the trap door system that the Guthrie uses. There were three different doors of varying sizes that we noticed that would lift and lower props and people.
This is the part of the Guthrie that Olivia really wants to see. It is something that is of great interest to her...and potentially something that could be a future career field. Anything that combines her love of art and creativity - and blends that in a three-dimensional, interactive way - would be of high interest.
This was a wonderful day and truly a highlight of the month for us all.