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Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Year Over

"Another year over/ And a new one just begun." - "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon

I am not a New Year's person. It never really made sense to me why people would celebrate a year ending, 365 days that we are never going to get back, another year of our lives over. No matter what has happened in the last year, it always makes me kind of sad to think that it's gone forever, never to be seen again. Are you sufficiently bummed out now? (Sorry.)

And then there are resolutions. I don't believe in making New Year's resolutions because they will just be broken by February - at the very latest. If I said that my resolutions are to lose weight, eat healthier, start exercising, not be negative, etc. etc. etc., I would just get depressed when I didn't live up to my own expectations by eating a big piece of cheesecake while laying on the couch on January 2, eyes fixed to the TV, possibly being mistaken for a person in a comatose state. That would not make me exude any positive energy out into the world at all, I would just be in a terrible mood. And normally I'm a freakin' ray of sunshine! I feel very sarcastic today. Can you tell?

Seriously though, what I do believe in is taking control of your life and making changes because you want to, not just because the year is over. So, what changes do I want to make for 2012? The biggest one is with my writing. I need to get serious about it, really give myself a chance at making a career out of my biggest passion in life. Yes, I have been trying to get an agent and get the Willow series published for some time now, but I haven't been as persistant and gung ho as I should be. That is going to change. This year, not a single week will go by without me pursuing my dream. Agents will be contacted, queries will be revised, magazines and newspapers will be contacted in the hopes of getting some of my articles or poetry published so I can build up a portfolio. I am taking charge and no longer twiddling my thumbs, waiting around for an agent to get back to me. If I want this, I am the one who has to make it happen. And I won't stop working at it until I no longer have any words left to write or opinions to voice. And let's face it, that will never happen!

I hope all of you reading this are blessed with a great year ahead, happiness and prosperity, and a much more positive attitude than I have. ;) Happy New Year, everybody!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas!

"Good tidings we bring/ To you and your kin/ Good tidings for Christmas/ And a happy new year!" - "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"

Merry Christmas, everyone! I hope all of you out there have a truly blessed holiday season filled with family, friends, and wonderful memories.

Since this is a season where traditions are so important, I thought I would share one of my favorite Christmas traditions with you. Every night on Christmas Eve before we go to bed, I always read "A Visit From St. Nicholas", my mom reads the Christmas story from the Bible, and my sister lights the candles to our Swedish chimes, a decoration we both remember from when we were very young. It's a tradition that costs nothing but is rich in meaning and memories for us, one of the most important and enjoyable parts of the Christmas season.

No matter how old I get, Christmas always takes me back to my childhood, a time of wonder and magic, when big jolly guys could slide down chimneys, even if your house didn't have one, when reindeer could fly, and when all was right with the world. I like to think that I still hold a little bit of that in my heart, because Christmas is a time for miracles, and anything is possible. And it all started with the first miracle, a little baby born in a manger over 2,000 years ago, the King of Kings, the reason for the season, Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Must Be Santa

"Special night, beard that's white/ Must be Santa, must be Santa/ Must be Santa, Santa Claus." - "Must Be Santa" by Raffi

Today I took the girls to see Santa Claus at the mall. In the past, they have had a Polar Express setup as well as a Narnia village, but this year Santa is located in the middle of a winter wonderland complete with enormous snowglobes to walk through, lifesize polar bear statues, an "ice thrown", and very cool videos from BBC Earth about Arctic wildlife. It really is pretty great, except for the styrofoam snow that sticks like a magnet to clothing and hair. We spent the next two hours at the mall walking around with foam pellets in our hair that looked like giant flakes of dandruff. Oh well, it was a small price to pay for the best visit to Santa ever!

When the girls walked up to Santa, they gave him big hugs and he was fantastic, acting like he remembered them, even calling them by name, which I'm sure he heard me say many times as we walked through the snowglobes and experienced the MacArthur Center winter wonderland. Anyway, as I eavesdropped on their conversation with Santa while I paid for their pictures, I heard them say that they wanted the Looks Like Me American Girl dolls for Christmas. Then my jaw hit the ground. Santa let out a jolly chuckle and said playfully, "Didn't I bring you American Girl dolls last year? The ones that are not even made anymore? Are you sure you want more dolls?" The looks on the girls' faces were pure joy and astonishment because that was one hundred percent correct! With them being five and seven years old now, I know the years of wonder and innocence are quickly flying by. This visit may have bought another year or two of magic for these kids, which I am very grateful for. And there is no other way to explain that moment today expect to say that it was truly magical. If I didn't know better, I would say that this guy is the real deal, the head elf, Saint Nicholas himself. But that's impossible...isn't it?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday's Top Ten - Rock and Roll Christmas

"Let's have a rock and roll Christmas/ Just like we used to know." - "Rock and Roll Christmas" by George Thorogood

Happy Tuesday, everyone! As you've probably figured out from my last few posts (or from reading my profile), I am just a tad bit obsessed with Christmas. I have already covered Christmas books, so this edition of Tuesday's Top Ten will be devoted to holiday music, specifically, rock and roll. All of these songs may not be rock, but they are performed by rock stars or rock/pop bands, and play on my CD player all season long. If your favorite rock and roll Christmas songs differ from mine, leave me a comment so I can check them out. Merry Christmas!

1. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" by Bruce Springsteen - It just doesn't get better than this. My favorite part of this rockin' kids' song is the intro where Bruce talks to the band and the crowd, asking if they've been good or what. And he asks Clarence if Santa is bringing him a new saxophone for Christmas. I miss the Big Man. Bonus points for this song, the girls I nanny for absolutely love it and sing along at the top of their lungs whenever it comes on the radio. It just makes me happy.

2. "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" by John Lennon - I am choosing to ignore the Plastic Ono Band because everyone knows that John Lennon was the genius behind this song and he is the only one who deserves any credit. "Happy Xmas" has such a great message, that peace is what matters, and if everyone wants it, it can be achieved. This is a song that should be enjoyed all year, not just in December.

3. "Christmas All Over Again" by Tom Petty - Man, I love this song! It became a staple at my house every Christmas season because of the "Home Alone" soundtrack (and because Tom Petty is just so fantastic!) and I will never get tired of hearing it. It's fun, it's festive, and it's funny, like the line about not wanting to kiss your long distance relatives. The best line, though, is "Hope Mama gets her shopping done!" So great!

4. "Merry Christmas, Baby" by The Beach Boys - Not to be confused with the R&B standard that has been recorded by Otis Redding, B.B. King, and Bruce Springsteen among others, this is a Beach Boys original and one of my all time favorites (since I was a very young child!). Unlike most cheery holiday songs, this one is about a guy who wants his girlfriend back, who broke up with him at Christmas. Not really fine holiday fun, but I absolutely love it anyway. It still sounds upbeat and is really great to sing along to.

5. "Santa's Beard" by The Beach Boys - Another classic from their '60s Christmas album, this song is about taking your little brother to see Santa, and he discovers that - gasp! - the department store St. Nick is an imposter. But hey, don't worry kid, he's just one of Santa's helpers, so it's okay! I think all of us who take children to Santa at the mall have a fear that this will happen. At least we have a song that will explain it all in a gentle way that will still keep the magic alive. Whew!

6. "I Believe in Father Christmas" by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer - Probably the most different song on my list, "I Believe in Father Christmas" is beautifully haunting, touching on the true meaning of Christmas ("the virgin's birth"), the magic of the season ("and I looked at the sky with excited eyes"), and peaceful wishes for the new year. If you don't know this one, go check it out. You won't be sorry.

7. "We Three Kings of Orient Are" by Spinal Tap - As you can probably imagine if you know anything about Spinal Tap, this is a hilarious version of a classic Christmas carol. The guys don't know the words and end up singing about smoking exploding rubber cigars. So funny! And the banter between the guys is just great. I always laugh when I hear this song, especially when my sister sings it in her fake British accent. She does terrific impersonations of Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean). Hey, Jenna, it goes to 11!

8. "Run, Rudolph, Run" by Chuck Berry - A holiday classic that makes me think about the scene in "Home Alone" where the MacAllisters are running through the airport, sans Kevin. Just one question though. Who the heck is Randolph and why is he chasing Santa and Rudolph? An evil twin, perhaps?

9. "Merry Christmas, Baby", versions by Bruce Springsteen and by Melissa Etheridge - Now this is the classic song I was refering to in #4 on this list. It's impossible to beat Bruce, but Melissa's version is so good, I am calling it a tie. Bruce's "Merry Christmas, Baby" is perfection, plain and simple, a classic R&B/rock song with a holiday theme, but Melissa's version has a great line that I haven't heard anywhere else. "I haven't had a smoke this morning/ But I'm all lit up like a Christmas tree." This is a great song to just belt out, especially when you are alone in the car and no one can laugh at you for singing off-key at the top of your lungs.

10. "Must Be Santa" by Bob Dylan - Just the fact that Bob recorded a Christmas album at all is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but every song on his "Christmas in the Heart" album is wonderful! "Must Be Santa" is my favorite because of his additional lyrics. Along with some of Santa's reindeer that we all know and love, Bob has included a few special guests on St. Nick's Christmas Eve flight. :)

"Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen/
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon/
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen/
Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton!"

Saturday, December 10, 2011

All is Bright

"Silent night, holy night/ All is calm, all is bright."

Two nights ago, I was driving the seven-year-old I nanny for back home after her dance class. It was late in the evening and she was exhausted, but we took a few extra minutes to drive around her neighborhood and look at all of the beautiful lights. As we drove along, I would slow down when we came upon a nice display, sometimes even stopping for a moment so we could marvel together at the wonderous sights before our eyes. After going down a few streets, this child who is normally very on edge and way too driven for her own good, laid her tired head back on her car seat and sighed contently. I asked her if she was having fun and she replied, "Yes! Looking at lights with you is a lot more fun than with Mom and Dad." I asked her why she would say something like that, and she told me that it was because I took the time to slow down and look at the lights too. I was enjoying them just as much as she was, and it made a huge impression on her. She comes from a very busy family and her parents don't always have the time to slow down and stare at Christmas lights, and I bet they never knew that their daughter noticed.

So this holiday season, I hope that we will all take the time to slow down, stop, and look at the glorious sights around us. There is so much beauty in the world, especially this time of year, and it will all be over in the blink of an eye. I for one, do not want to miss it. So once again, the teacher has learned something from the student. Always keep the magic of the season in your heart, and take the time to let your inner child out so you can remember what it was like to be a kid at Christmastime. Just think of it as a gift to yourself and those around you. And it doesn't cost a penny.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Deck the Halls!

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly/ Fa la la la la, la la la la."

It's my favorite time of the year again, and I thought I would share some photos of what my house looks like at Christmastime. Around here, Christmas is a huge event, the biggest, and we don't do anything halfway. We have not one, not two, but three full-sized Christmas trees and enough decorations to cover basically every inch of the house. It's a regular Santa's Village in here! And I love it. Here are our trees and some of my most favorite decorations.

This is the tree in our dining room, which doubles as my office. It is the Victorian tree, dressed up mostly with delicate vintage or vintage inspired ornaments and white lights. On top of this tree, we have a glittery finial that we call the Family Heirloom. It is actually just a cheap tree topper that my mom bought at Sav-On for $1.79 when she was 19, but it just wouldn't be right to not have it adorn our fanciest tree. What can I say, we are suckers for tradition.

Our living room tree is the first one you see when walking through the front door. We call it the retro tree, as it is the home to our old (and new) Shiny Brites, colorful blown glass balls, Santas, and snowmen, and a variety of theme ornaments that remind us all of our childhoods. Looking around the tree, I am greeted with the joyful sights of ornaments featuring the Peanuts characters, Mickey Mouse, Rudolph, and Hallmark's very own Rhonda and Rodney Reindeer. You can't help but smile when seeing this Christmas tree.

And now my favorite tree. This tree is in the corner of our family room, and it is packed full of fun ornaments, the majority being from Hallmark. Honestly, my mom, sister, and I have spent so much time and money at that store over the years, I think they should start paying us to promote their Christmas decorations! You know it's a bit excessive when the sales associates know you by name.

Right smack dab in the middle of the family room tree, I have placed my favorite ornaments for all to see. My all-time favorite collection is my Crayola collection from - you guessed it - Hallmark! I have about 15 Crayola ornaments that I have collected over the years, but my favorite is the very first one I got when I was in kindergarten, the "Bright Christmas Dreams" crayon box from 1987 with the four adorable sleeping mice, all tucked in for a long winter's nap. That is one of two ornaments that I always put up on the tree myself, no matter what. No one touches these special ornaments but me, or else! (I know, I turn into a crazed, hyper five-year-old this time of year!)

This is the other one that I have to find the perfect spot for every year. No, it's not the B.A.S.S. one, it's the "Beary Smooth Ride" ornament from way back in 1985 when I was only three years old. I don't what it is about this one, but I absolutely love it. Out of the hundreds of ornaments that hang on nearly every branch of our trees, this one of the teddy bear on the trike is my favorite. When I see it, I instantly flash back to being that three-year-old, zipping around on my own little tricycle. I love all of my ornaments, but it's these old ones that mean the most.

Okay, I'm done with the trees now. Here are a few photos of some of my favorite decorations, just a sampling of what I get so excited to see every Christmas season. I am a big snowglobe collector, so there is part of my collection on top of our piano, a photo of our stockings (made by my mom) hanging over the fireplace, the glittery village of vintage-inspired houses and figurines on a tea cart in our dining room, and last but not least, my favorite decoration of them all. That would be the nativity scene that my dad gave my mom a long time ago, I think before I was born. Some pieces have been added over the years, but the original figurines are Christmas to me. Seeing them not only reminds me of what Christmas is all about, the birth of Christ which is the greatest gift of all, but also of all of the wonderful Christmases I have been lucky enough to experience in my life. I hope all of you have as many heartwarming holiday memories as I do.

One stocking for each person and two for my much loved, very spoiled dog, Scooby.