In the latter days of December 2003, I received an email from a visitor asking about me. It was his feeling that there should be more "flesh" on the site. This is my response to him on December 29th; I've added some additional material as the years have gone by. The most recent update was June 20, 2010.
Thanks for your kind note, and yes, I'll add some personal information about myself (perhaps in the FAQ). In the meantime...
You've guessed that I teach or preach or both. Yes. I'm a former Jesuit (The Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests and brothers, specializing in teaching). Regrettably, I did not have a vocation and left before taking vows in 1973, although I did teach at a local Jesuit high school before leaving the Society. I was also a student teacher in high school and college.
In 1979, I obtained a law degree, and worked as a criminal defense attorney and judge before burning out in 1984 (a common occurrence among lawyers who specialize in that area of the law). From 1984 to 2007, I was a member of the Oregon Army National Guard, heavily involved in the training arena. My last assignment was an Assistant Inspector General with the rank of Master Sergeant; one of the major roles of an IG is 'to teach and train'. Although in my mid-50s, I felt that I was getting a bit old for that line of work, but felt that I was still able to contribute to my state and country.
On August 10, 2005, I became ill with daily migraine headaches, intense fatigue, loss of appetite, and balance problems. I was retired to the temporary medically retired list in 2007 at 30% disability in 2007 and finally retired in February 2010 at 50% disability. The VA determination was 90% disability. I've been seen by 10 neurologists, a neurosurgeon, a psychiatrist, two physical therapists and three GPs, and have had five MRIs. The diagnosis is daily migraine headaches, cause unknown. I still have daily migraines, although the pain is controlled with heavy dosages of methadone, and I am confined to bed for 18 hours per day, sometimes more. My condition is gradually deteriorating, but I like to use an analogy: if given a bushel basket of lemons, I can do two things. I can either bitch and moan about my terrible luck, or I can make lemonade. I choose the latter; notwithstanding disability, I can still live a full and fulfilling life.
In 1996, I was playing guitar in a bluegrass trio. The leader of the group, Dick Weber, suggested that we do a mini-concert at a local VA nursing home during the holiday season. I've always loved Christmas carols, and volunteered to get a few together. I've just keep adding and adding to the collection. There are over 2,800 carols and hymns on the site at this time, with more to be added as time goes by. In December 2003, the site had received 1.8 million hits (by Christmas Day); by the end of the month, the site had received 2,060,126 hits. The site had received over 7 million hits in its first 15 months of existence. I've also added a page with links to Christmas poetry and prose.
I concur with your assessment that the sentiment which propelled me to create this site seems to be diminishing. At my age, however, I don't care about that kind of "political correctness" (although I will wish someone a "happy holiday" rather than "Merry Christmas" in many cases — but it's motivated by the desire to be inclusive, rather than exclusive). However, I'm afraid to make too strong a statement about the loss of Christmas spirit, since I've got a couple of books written in the early 19th century, which also decried the loss of such sentiments and the "over-commercialization" of Christmas (William Horn, 1823, and William Sandys, 1833, plus quoted references by Gilbert Davies, 1822 & 1823).
Part of the reason for putting up the website was the concern that I might die and not have shared the collection as it then existed, about 1,200 carols. This was not an altogether unreasonable concern; I'd survived both an apparent heart attack and 2 bouts of Legionnaire's Disease — both of which are often fatal to men of my age group — in the months before I started putting up the website. I suspected that if death overtook me, the collection would never see light. Even at that time, it was the largest collection of Christmas carols ever printed (privately) in the English language. It would have been impractical to put the collection into a traditional "printed" form — it was already too large. The result: a website!
After retirement, my wife and I sold our home in Oregon and moved to Alabama. I (finally) got licensed as an amateur radio operator (a "ham" - W4DDA, holding the Amateur Extra license, the third and highest level of Amateur Radio licensing). I also watch the weather as a National Weather Service SKYWARN "storm spotter." I'm a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Decatur, Alabama, and I've edited over two dozen volumes on Christmas poetry and prayer.
I've found that if we want to do good, we'd best not wait until tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come. My Latin is none too good, but I believe that the correct term is "Carpe diem!" ("Even while we speak, Time, the churl, will have been running. Snatch the sleeve of today and trust as little as you may to tomorrow" - Horace, Odes).
Thanks again for writing, Tom.
Merry Christmas ("On the fifth day of Christmas ...")
The Hymns And Carols Of Christmas
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