I’m not ready for Christmas, but I’m desperate for Advent

I'm not ready for Christmas, but I'm desperate for Advent | erniebufflo.com

It’s a weird holiday season this year. I’m not so sure I have ever entered this season in such a fraught place. Last year, yes, I was struggling with what I later realized was clinical anxiety, but this year feels like a malaise bigger than me. It’s not just a darkness in my thoughts, but it seems like darkness is all around me. The election seems to have emboldened some of the darkest parts of our national identity. We look around and see reasons to fear and worry. Many of our neighbors are afraid and worrying too. Wondering what the new presidency will mean for their lives in very real terms.

None of this feels very Holly Jolly Christmas. But it turns out it’s the exact right mood for Advent. We begin this season with prophecies for “a people who walked in darkness.” The Israelites had lived in exile, in slavery, in the wilderness, and under an oppressive empire. They had experienced war, famine, and death. I can relate to them now more than ever. Times feel uncertain. The future often looks bleak.

Advent is a time of waiting and expecting and daring to hope in the worst of circumstances. As we’re literally anticipating the birth of a savior, pregnancy is often a fit metaphor for Advent, for this waiting time. I didn’t really grasp these metaphors until I actually was pregnant. It’s a time of joy, for sure, but also a time filled with worries and discomfort. During Advent 2011, I was pregnant-to-bursting with twins and had just found out that Claire had spina bifida. The joy of that season was also tempered with sorrow and worry, uncertainty about what our life would look like with a disability in the midst of it.

We are in such a dark time now. We feel stretched, swollen, tender, emotional, and concerned. We are restless. It may not be pregnancy heartburn keeping us up at night, but there is a tightness in our chests. Our hearts do burn a little. And though we have hope for new life, we know there will be much pain in the attaining of that joy.

A familiar verse from Romans comes to mind:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Right now, we are the weary world, not yet the one that rejoices. We are the people who walk in great darkness. We are captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here. We are groaning and in pain. We look around us and we do see bondage and decay.

I read a perfect piece Sunday morning by Diana Butler Bass in the Washington Post, suggesting this may be more of a “blue” advent. She notes our national blue mood, and suggests blue as an appropriate advent color, because blue is the color of the sky just before dawn. We need Advent as much as ever because

Advent recognizes a profound spiritual truth — that we need not fear the dark. Instead, wait there. Under that blue cope of heaven, alert for the signs of dawn. Watch. For you cannot rush the night. But you can light some candles. Sing some songs. Recite poetry. Say prayers.

On this, the first week of Advent, we dare to light the candle of Hope. We hope for that which we do not currently have. We hope for so much more than where we are at right now. We are not ready to jump straight into Christmas joy, but Advent doesn’t expect us to. Advent sits with us in this darkness. Advent lets us feel how we feel. But it’s also a little pesky, a little optimistic. It keeps directing our attention to flickering flames and twinkling lights, reminding us that we will see a great Light. That our labors will produce joy. That our waiting will not last forever. That while the sorrow may last for a night, and those nights seem oh-so-long in the bleak midwinter, joy comes in the morning, and there is a bit of light on the horizon. And so I too will light a candle. I will try to remind myself to hope.

My prayer this week is from my church’s corporate confession on Sunday:

Hear me Lord,
grant me an ease
to breathe deeply of this moment,
this light,
this miracle of now.
Beneath the din and fury
Of great movements
and harsh news
and urgent crises,
make me attentive still
to good news,
to small occasions,
and the grace of what is possible
for me to be,
to do,
to give,
to receive,
that I may miss neither my neighbor’s gift
Nor my enemy’s need.



advent starts tomorrow!

Ideas for creating a Jesse Tree Advent Calendar | erniebufflo.com

Some folks say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. I would say it’s actually Advent, the season of anticipation leading up to Christmas, that’s the most wonderful time of the year. I grew up Presbyterian (PCUSA) and always loved observing Advent– lighting candles on our wreath, doing devotionals from our church, and especially the big church Advent Celebration where we’d have a fellowship meal and then go around making different Christmas crafts and games. We always drew the name of one other attendee to make a gift for during the evening, giving it to elves to be delivered to the recipient. Our favorite was always the room where white chocolate pretzels were made.

Last year, I posted about finally (two years after I had intended to) finishing our felt Jesse Tree Advent Calendar and offered ideas about creating your own. I love that the Jesse Tree Advent Calendar corresponds to Bible stories about Jesus’ family tree, and each night as a family, we hang up an ornament and read a Bible story from our Jesus Storybook Bible. As last year was our first year using the calendar, and I finished it just under the wire, I didn’t have time to make sure there was a corresponding story for each ornament in the JSB. As we went through, I discovered that some of the ornaments didn’t have a story in the JSB, and I also learned that attempting to read out of a regular Bible to small children is difficult and boring for the. This year I thought ahead and pulled out the calendar early. I discovered that Ruth and Naomi, Esther, Jacob’s Ladder, Mary Visiting Elizabeth, and Gideon were all missing from the JSB. In some cases, like Ruth and Naomi and Gideon, I wrote paraphrase stories to read to my kids, printing them off and tucking them into the JSB. In other cases, I swapped out the ornament to better reflect the story that is in the JSB, like getting rid of Jacob’s ladder and making an ornament of 3 wedding rings, since the ladder story isn’t in the JSB, but Jacob’s marriage to Leah and Rachel is. I also ordered a kids’ storybook about Esther to tell her story.
I also got curious about options for Jesse Tree Advent Calendars on Etsy and scoped a few out for you if you’d like to start using this tradition with your family. Most completed felt calendars are still quite pricey. I found a nice one for $180. I also discovered that if you want to go the full DIY route, the pattern is still available to make one like I did. However, I think the best option I found was to buy this pre-made tree calendar for $13, and then buy this semi-DIY kit where all you have to do is cut out machine embroidered ornaments and add hanging string to them. The ornaments even come with a book. You’ll end up with an heirloom for $73, and not have to do nearly as much work as I did. (I have embedded pins of these items in this post– if you’re reading this in a RSS feed, you may not see them below.)

bufflo’s link roundup

Best drink I made this week was this pumpkin, sage, whiskey concoction. here's the recipe if you want it.

Best drink I made this week was this pumpkin, sage, whiskey concoction. here’s the recipe if you want it.

I’m definitely in the denial stage of election grief. In fact, I think I’m going to do something radical and not read any news from Thursday-Sunday. All the legislative offices will be closed, anyway, so I won’t be able to call anyone or try to change anything anyway. My brain could use the break. So, here’s one last roundup before Thanksgiving, and may we all enjoy a respite for the holiday.

White nationalism, he said, is the belief that national identity should be built around white ethnicity, and that white people should therefore maintain both a demographic majority and dominance of the nation’s culture and public life.

  • And here’s a good piece to read just in case someone is going to want to talk liberal vs. conservative economics with you over turkey. Robert Reich wants to know why the conservative argument that economic growth depends on low regulation, low taxes, and low wages doesn’t pan out when you look at the states. California, Washington, and Oregon have some of the highest taxes, highest regulations, and highest wages, and have booming economies. Kansas and Texas, where the GOP has been free to follow their economic philosophies, isn’t doing nearly as well. It’s almost as if facts are liberal, folks!

Ready for your happies? Here you go:

I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving. I leave you with a prayer the girls learned while studying the Ojibwe tribe in school: “Grandfather, look at our brokenness. We know that in all creation, only the human family has strayed from the Sacred Way. We know that we are the ones…who divided…and we are the ones…who must come back together…to walk in the Sacred Way. Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love, compassion, honor, that we may heal the earth and heal each other.”

bufflo’s link roundup


Greetings from Denver, where we are enjoying our first snowfall. It was 24 degrees when we took the girls to school this morning, and I have now confirmed that my new snow boots are toasty and grippy. So that’s good.

Here’s the thing. Every single day, there is some new Trump horror. Usually more than one. How are we going to keep caring when it is just an avalanche of terrible? I think all the “give Trump a chance” folks can pretty well shut up because with every staffing choice he’s made, he’s confirmed that the racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia were actually the plan, never mere rhetoric. Every appointment to the cabinet is a new reason to protest in the streets. I don’t want these link roundups to become numbing, but I think I want off this planet more this week than I did on election night. This is really going to be a horrifying four years.

Erasing the Obama presidency, when it comes to LGBT rights, could begin with scotching executive orders that protect federal employees and contractors. Then it could go further, with Trump starting a rulemaking process to reverse regulations that protect LGBT patients, renters, and the homeless. Not only erasing Obama’s guidance to protect students and workers, Trump could replace those policies with new directives that say transgender workers and students are explicitly not protected. He could reverse LGBT rights in the military — re-instating bans on transgender or gay service members.

  • I have had it up to here with the narratives that all the scared white folks voted for Trump because of “economic reasons” and not racism. This column is a brilliant takedown of those arguments.

The closing of a tire plant doesn’t automatically make you vote for a volatile, vindictive dollar-store demagogue who has had his eye on his own bottom line from the instant he launched his campaign and whose only truly consistent position throughout that campaign has been that he will in any number of shifting ways make minorities suffer.

  • Is this a safe space to admit that while I love Amy Poeheler, I don’t like Parks and Rec? I tried, y’all. However, this letter from “Leslie Knope” about what to do now might make me give it another try. Let’s fight like mofos.

I work hard and I form ideas and I meet and talk to other people who feel like me, and we sit down and drink hot chocolate (I have plenty) and we plan. We plan like mofos. We figure out how to fight back, and do good in this infuriating world that constantly wants to bend toward the bad. And we will be kind to each other, and supportive of each other’s ideas, and we will do literally anything but accept this as our fate.

Please please please, stop saying that you want unity. Unity was Hillary Clinton’s message, and you rejected it for the guy who called Mexicans rapists. What you’re asking for now isn’t unity, it’s submission, and you’re not going to get it.

And in nonpolitical breaks from reality:

I shall leave you with a small person clomping around in her mama's most badass biker boots. Stay stompy, friends.

I shall leave you with a small person clomping around in her mama’s most badass biker boots. Stay stompy, friends.

because you will probably need a drink this thanksgiving

Because I need to think about something other than my overwhelming sense of dread that continues following the election, and because you will need something to sip every time one of your family members brings up the election at Thanksgiving, I thought I’d be servicey and provide some suggestions for your Thanksgiving drinking pleasure.

Last year, I created a fall cocktail for my hometown company Mountain Valley Spring Water. I can’t find the post on their site anymore, so I thought I’d share my recipe here, instead.

The Pomegranate Bourbon Fizz is a sweet-tart cocktail that incorporates pomegranate in two ways, getting flavor and its namesake fizz from Blackberry Pomegranate Mountain Valley Sparkling Essences, and an additional punch of pomegranate from a homemade grenadine that imbues it with a gorgeous color, too. (You may sub in any pomegranate sparkling water here if you can’t find the Mountain Valley. You could even use regular club soda, since the pomegranate grenadine is so flavorful.) Making grenadine may seem intimidating, but this easy two-ingredient syrup will wow your palate, especially if the only grenadine you’ve ever known is a red-dyed, sickly-sweet concoction most famous for giving a Shirley Temple its something special. Grenadine was originally a pomegranate syrup, not a cherry-flavored corn syrup. Here it returns to its roots as a true grownup cocktail ingredient, not just something suited for curly-headed tap-dancing kiddos. Plus, one batch will enable many Pomegranate Bourbon Fizzes this season, and you better believe you’ll be craving more than one.


Pomegranate Bourbon Fizz

2 oz. bourbon
1 oz. homemade pomegranate grenadine (recipe follows)
.75 oz. lemon juice (about half a lemon)
2 dashes orange bitters
Mountain Valley Sparkling Essences in Blackberry Pomegranate
sprig of rosemary to garnish

In a shaker filled halfway with ice, shake together bourbon, grenadine, lemon juice, and orange bitters. Strain into a rocks glass over ice. Top with Mountain Valley Sparkling Essences. Garnish and stir with a sprig of rosemary. Enjoy!

Homemade Grenadine
1 cup unsweetened 100% pomegranate juice
1 cup sugar

Combine both ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until all sugar is dissolved and mixture is slightly thickened. Allow to cool. This syrup can be kept in a jar in the fridge for up to a month.

Other ideas

If the Pomegranate Bourbon Fizz isn’t your thing, I have some other recommendations. First up, I made this Tangy Cranberry Black Peppercorn Shrub cocktail last year and may make it again this year. If you have any non-drinkers who would like a mocktail, the shrub is also excellent with club soda or tonic.

In a similar vein, the Charred Lemon Gin Sparkler would be a great choice. It’s a twist on one of my favorite festive drinks, the French 75. Like the previous shrub cocktail, you can make the mixer ahead of time, so it’s easy to batch up and serve to guests when you’re busy with other Thanksgiving duties.

And lastly, a Rosemary Pear Mule is a fallish, festive drink. It’ll seem extra fancy if you serve it in mule mugs, but just as tasty in a regular glass if you don’t have any mule mugs. (Tip: Target usually has mule mugs for $9ish each this time of year, so it’s a great time to scoop some up).

bufflo’s link roundup

ernie meets bufflos

Yes, I know this post title is ridiculous, but sometimes I can’t resist the fact that my online alias sounds vaguely cowgirl-esque, also I am ridiculous.

Expect this site to get back to its pre-kids political roots for the next four years, folks. If you’re here just for cute kids and recipes, you might be sorely disappointed, but I’ve been blogging since 2008, and I majored in political science. I think about and talk about politics a lot.

One thing I used to do more was share link roundups. Since I think my Facebook friends would appreciate it if I didn’t post every single link I want to share, I decided to bring that back. Maybe every Friday I’ll do this? I promise they won’t all be OMG WE JUST ELECTED A FASCIST-themed, but that’s definitely where we’re at this week. Here we go!

  • I shared this one on my Facebook page and got some pushback from dudes who either failed to read it or lack reading comprehension. Anyway, here’s a great analogy to use on anyone who gives you flack for saying that Trump supporters are OK with racism. They bought the whole package when they cast their votes, and that package included a big chunk of racism. They decided it was worth it. That’s on them. Also, I told those dudes on my page that they are free to find other blogs more in line with their sensibilities, because this is obviously not one of them.

This election, you had two major Presidential providers. One offered you the Stronger Together plan, and the other offered you the Make America Great Again plan. You chose the Make America Great Again plan. The thing is, the Make America Great Again has in its package active, institutionalized racism (also active, institutionalized sexism. And as it happens, active, institutionalized homophobia). And you know it does, because the people who bundled up the Make America Great Again package not only told you it was there, they made it one of the plan’s big selling points.

And you voted for it anyway.

So did you vote for racism?

You sure did.

Trump beat out Clinton with voters at every income level bracket except those citizens who make under $49,999. The working class did not vote against its interests. The middle and upper class sold them out.

If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

Got link recommendations? Leave them in the comments!

the morning after


I started crying about an hour before it was clear that Trump was really winning the election, and I didn’t stop for hours. I shoved the unpopped champagne to the back of the fridge and poured myself a generous glass of bourbon. Since this is the internet and I’ve been lectured about everything down to my coffee drinking, yes, sometimes you do just want to drink straight liquor and sleep the sleep of the dead, and if such a loss isn’t the time, when is?

I woke up probably more hungover from the crying. I went downstairs when the girls stirred. Our houseguest for a week had left to catch her plane back home to Canada before we got up. She was a campaign fellow, a university student studying politics who had spent time working on the Clinton campaign here in Denver. She left the house key, a copy of Stronger Together, and the most beautiful letter. She let me know that she’s still in this fight with us.

“I was exactly the twins’ age when George W. Bush won in 2000…I learned as I grew up, much like the girls will, that sometimes, the right people don’t win…However, the fall of Bush led to the rise of Obama, and sometimes things like this must happen in order to witness some truly incredible things. Since Bush was elected, I became interested in politics and wanted to learn how to fight for the little guy. The first political book I read was The Assault On Reason by Al Gore…I know the future looks scary right now, but you and your family represent a side of America I am glad is still going. Etta and Claire, I already know you will grow up as strong, if not stronger than Hillary and learn from this. You are the reason why I have faith the views and values of Hillary will be passed on. When the girls are ready, like I was, they will read Stronger Together and learn…This is only beginning, and I have faith that Americans like you will continue to contribute society and push for the values we all hold so dear. We will always be #strongertogether.”

Buoyed by her letter, I went into the girls’ room and told him that even though we really wanted her to win, and even though mommy spent all that time in the campaign office, Hillary Clinton didn’t win the election. Claire immediately started crying. She knows Donald Trump says unkind things about and emboldens his supporters to do unkind things to people who are different. She’s a smart kid, and she knows she is different. Somehow she has more empathy and compassion than a lot of white voters did yesterday. I assured the girls that we will keep fighting for kindness in this country, and that we would never stop trying to make this place better. Claire didn’t much feel like eating her breakfast. “I just feel so sad,” she said. I need to let her feel sad. I need to let me feel sad too.

I got them off to school, their lovely, happy, hippy-dippy little school that is shaping them and their classmates into kinder, better citizens by teaching them kindness, courtesy, independence, inquisitiveness, and curiosity. Their teacher had already started circle time, but she and I exchanged shocked looks about the state of this nation. I drove home through the morning rush wondering how so many of us would manage to just live life today. I got home and got back into bed and snuggled with my cat. I think I hoped I’d wake up and things would be different. I woke up, no longer felt the sobbing-hangover, and fixed myself some coffee.

They’re home and napping now, and their wonderful dad just texted to let me know he’s coming home and said “Think about and let me know how I can best help you tonight.” The man should write a book on husbanding. I feel like a lot of the world is telling us Hillary supporters that we need to go ahead and move on already. Move on? Many of us just found out our country isn’t quite what we thought it was, that white people are still fearful enough and angry enough to elect a dishonorable, unkind, hate-mongerer to the highest office in the land, and that’s a lot to deal with. We are worried about our friends, family, and neighbors in this new world. Books about raising kids to be emotionally stable adults emphasizing how important it is to let our children feel their feelings and work through them. We need to allow ourselves to do the same. We need to be allowed to grieve and cry and rage before we are expected to figure out our next steps.

Tonight I want to go out to dinner with my family. I don’t feel like cooking. I want to let my kids take a bubble bath, and bundle them off to bed in their footie pajamas that make them so cuddly and cute. And then I think I want to watch The West Wing and pretend we just elected Bartlett instead. Tomorrow, we’ll see how I feel.

If you’re sad or angry or scared today, your feelings are valid. Check in with yourself and see how you can best care for yourself right now. You don’t have to have a grand plan to stop Trump from ruining the world right now. Obama is still the president, at least until January, and we’ll figure more stuff out by then. For now, let yourself feel your feelings. I’m here if you need to talk.