snow2(Vsetín, Zlinsky Kraj, Czech Republic) – With all the news of riots and fights on Black Friday morning or if you work at Wal-Mart or K-Mart, Black Thanksgiving Day it’s possible you missed the news that it started snowing here in Vsetín. Monday morning it was all over the place and I ran outside in my t-shirt threw up my hands like Andy Dufresne  in “Shawshank Redemption” and twirled around. That lasted all of 2 minutes before I started feeling the cold and just as quickly returned to my cozy flat and heat. Now, almost a week later I was looking at my calendar this morning wondering when Spring will hit. I have a thing about having a cold nose and cold fingers. OK yes, I know, I am from the Northern California coast and snow is extremely rare and I am not used to walking to work in it but I am adapting. I do occasionally slip on the ice, catching myself before I land on my butt but I am getting better at it. I have been told by experienced people to “walk like a penguin” and I will do just fine. After falling on my ass in the middle of the street earlier this week, I no longer have any pride so I will try the bird walk even if it looks like I am going in two different directions and waddling from side to side like a metronome. The locals are used to it and see it as another part of life. I suppose I will too, but now it is a novel occurrence. I broke out my thermal underwear and realized I only bought the top half. No wonder it was so cheap. At least my muscular six-pack is warm. I have good wooly socks so I’m set. It takes me a good 5 or 10 minutes to “suit up” to take the trash out. Reminds me of Randy in a “Christmas Story.” (Lots of movie references this week I see).

Thanksgiving was predictably quiet out here in the hinterlands of the Czech Republic. Reminds me of the time when we took a group of teenagers from San Francisco to live and work in Derry, Northern Ireland and on the 4th of July I suggested we go to Stormont in Belfast and salute the Queen. Didn’t happen…no fireworks…no parades…but we did have a bar-b-q with hotdogs and burgers. This year for Thanksgiving dinner I had eggs and bacon and a video chat with the kids and wife. We used Google+ Hangouts for video chat so I was able to talk to California and Oregon at the same time. I guess you have to be a premium member on Skype to do that. I like free better, don’t you? The downside is that now Google knows where I am.I guess they always did since they put that chip in my neck while I was sleeping. Speaking of Thanksgiving dinners, many thanks to all my friendlies on Facebook for posting all those Thanksgiving food pictures. I could actually smell the turkey through the screen…well almost or maybe it was just my eggs and bacon, I’m not sure.

And speaking of eggs, Sunday marks the beginning of Advent already. Which reminds me, I better send the gifts I bought at the many craft fairs around Moravia before Christmas actually is upon us. Unlike the last two years that I have written  this thing, I will have abbreviated versions of the Advent-Lent reflections. What I have done in the past has been to write everyday until Christmas. This year I will write a short reflection on random days of Advent rather than every day. I usually finish school at 8pm so when I get home at night I am too knackered to even think let alone write. I want to cook dinner, pull up an episode of “Walking Dead” and curl under the blankets until Spring arrives. So these ramblings will be short and spaced out..much like this writer was back in ’68, but that is a story for another time.

First Sunday in Advent.

As you English speakers know, “advent” means the arrival of someone or something important, it also marks the beginning of the 4 week cycle before Christmas. It’s not really a time of fasting and stuff, that is left to the season of Lent. No it’s a time to think about today and perhaps what is to come. I have always believed, but have sporadically lived it practically, in the idea that I should pay attention to the present. I have past regrets to be sure, but the idea of me not being able to change my past has started to ground me in the now. I know that many decisions and choices I have made, both good and bad, have helped to shape who and where I am now here in the Czech Repubic. I also know that if I let the past control me, I will stumble into the future with the weight of most of my negative past choices. I know that I cannot forget, but I do have the power to begin a process of forgiveness to forgive myself. This forgiveness thing, I have learned, lessens the overall drag of the past and in turn kick starts my forward movement towards who knows what.

The Gospel for Sunday is Carpe Diem in spades. As much as I try to minimize my yearly birthday celebrations, I also know that I am getting older by the second. The quote from Matthew’s Gospel for Sunday is asking me, “What are you doing with the rest of your life?” What am I doing now so that tomorrow will be better? No one likes to think of the “end” of life and stuff and no one more than me. But it ain’t over ’til it’s over but eventually it will be over. So now what? Well if I awake tomorrow, I may ask myself what can I do to improve the human situation, the club, to which I belong and in which am a card-carrying member? That is the reflection of the reality of Matthew’s words. Wake up and smell the coffee brewing. Enjoy today!

Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake! – (Matthew 24: 27-44)

Dancing on this earth for me will eventually come to an end someday…hopefully way down that Road Not Taken. As much as I try and look where my life is taking me I cannot see beyond the curve in the road. So that being said, I will, today, enjoy another day learning Czech and teaching Czechs. And at least for today I will stay awake.

and so it goes…