Good morning to all on this momentous day. No, it’s nothing to do with coffee, we have plenty. Today happens to be the first day of winter thus it’s Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year.

Tomorrow it’ll be the start of the 8-day Festival of Lights, Hanukkah or Chanukah (when will a common spelling for the word come into play?).

Then, mid-week we’ll celebrate Christmas, the birth of Christ.

Santa Claus accused of Quid Pro Quo for giving children gifts in exchange for Good Behavior ~ an angry Elf

Next Friday we’ll celebrate the Returning of the Gifts Day (not to be confused with the Running of the Bulls Day). The Brits manage the “returning of the gifts day” with a special preparatory day. The day after Christmas they celebrate something called ‘Boxing Day’. This to help better manage the long lines of restless, anxious, and aggressive people found on the Return the Gifts day – this ‘Boxing’ day is necessary as a follow-up to the cattle handling descriptor as detailed in the next ‘bit’.

Netgear – The fact that you’re reading these Ramblings today means that it worked. It? Yes, let me explain. The old Linksys Router proved to be the culprit that kept knocking us off the internet and then required a complete reset.

A week ago I swung by a store called Micro Center to search out a replacement. That’s where I got completely bogged down in their parking lot and peering inside the place it looked like I peered into a cattle feedlot. I left.

A few days later we were in Michigan for Jeanne’s birthday and our family gathering. This meant that Paul and I advanced ourselves to his garage (i.e. ‘man-cave’) for a cigar and talk – also for me to again admire his car collection. That’s when I mentioned my router tale of woe.

Well, wonder of wonders. Paul had connectivity issues and had a specialty team in to manage it. They put their own replacement gear where it was needed thus making a replacement router he had purchased (still in the box) useless.

I brought it home and spent some time reviewing the literature. It let me to believe that replacing my old Linksys with his new Netgear Router would be a simple ‘plug-and-play’; and it WAS! A whole week of perfect connectivity, Amazing!

Amahl and the Night Visitors – for those unfamiliar it’s a one act Opera (made specifically for television in 1951) and composed by Gian Carlo Menotti. In a nutshell, it’s the story of a night in Judea, when a disabled shepherd boy-turned-beggar and his mother are visited by three strangers – three kings who are on their way to Bethlehem to see the Christ child.

Neighborhood friends have a set of puppets hand-made decades ago by the great grandfather of the youngest generation. And every so often they’ll set up their complete puppet theater and invite neighbors and friends for a showing.

For many families seeing a DVD of the original showing of Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” is a family tradition. Seeing it performed as a puppet theater presentation was extra special. Vili was mesmerized. And, to make it even better for him was that afterwards he could see close up how the puppets were operated and the behind-the-curtain details.

Especially this season hearing Menotti’s majestic score bring life to the contrast between poverty and majesty is very powerful. Watching the influence of a boy (Amahl) classified as handicapped sharing love and honor while at the same time a mother too grows and gains makes this play special.

Appreciation – Yesterday I enjoyed stopping by our local Police and Fire stations and on behalf of our neighborhood Association two of us dropped off a healthy supply of bagels, toppings, juices, and hot coffee. There were lots of smiles from the heroes who are part of the “Thin Blue Line” and the Fire crews who’ll turn to assist no matter what. Thanks them whenever you can.

Orchestra – We missed seeing Derek and Kellen perform when the middle school and high schools combined for their performance in Austin. However, we did catch Vai sing in the choir and play her Clarinet in her school’s orchestra. How the conductor manages to organize this primary-grades group is beyond me. Especially considering that many of them only first picked up their instrument last September.

Fini – Tevita has not celebrated Christmas with his mother since he came to the USA. This is the year and he has arrived safe and sound in Tonga (won’t reach his island till Monday). I dropped him off at the airport before seven AM on Thursday, he arrived at Nukualofa, Tonga yesterday morning. It’s a long trip.

Monday I’ll pick up Kirstin and the boys when they fly in for a week’s stay. We’re all totally excited.

In two hours I’ll be part of a 5K going over and down the hills of nearby Mt. Adams. Did this same 5K last year in pouring cold rain, this year it’s sunshine and upper forties. I’m eager to see exactly how we’re routed.

Till next week, be certain to make it a Bright and Merry one.

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