Reflecting While Undecorating

Look closely at this picture.

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It is a vintage miniature replica of a telephone made of glass and metal. It only stands about four inches tall. The metal part screws off, and when it was new the hollow glass bottom was filled with tiny, colorful candies about the size of BB’s. The bottom is dated 1907  and has a sticker on the side that says “Hello Sweetheart”.

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Now consider this; this was a Christmas gift that my Grandfather received when he was a child. But it wasn’t stuffed in a stocking with other goodies. It wasn’t part of a larger gift, nor was it in addition to something else. This was Grandpa’s entire Christmas. It was the only item that Santa left under the tree for him that particular year.

  • Compare that to what you or your family members bought for each other this holiday season.
  • Compare it to what you put under the tree for your children.
  • Compare it to what you bought for yourself while Christmas shopping.

I keep this knickknack on a shelf in our dining room, and I think about its origins every time we decorate for the holidays or clean-up afterwards – and it almost makes me cry.  It helps me keep things in perspective as I pile present after present under our multiple trees – most of which, the recipients don’t even need.

It makes me grateful for the relationship I had with Grandpa and solidifies my desire to be more like him as I grow older and have grandkids of my own.  It’s why when my first granddaughter was born in 2012, I wanted to be called “Pop” – because that’s what I called him.

It also makes me grateful to have my daughter and her growing family close-by, where I can be there for them, just as Pop was there for us.

It’s been over 11 years since he passed away, but I still miss my Pop. Thankfully I can rest assured that because of things like this tiny toy telephone, or rows of tasseling corn, or a hundred other things I could mention, I know he will always be with me – be a part of me – and will continue to influence my life and my relationships for many years to come.

Watching Christmas on TV

I love the Christmas season and many of the things that come along with it, like the music, the decorations, and the movies.

When it comes to the movies though I like the classics; Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, among others.  My wife on the other hand – well, she likes those too but she also can spend countless hours watching those awful, made-for-tv, Lifetime & Hallmark channel holiday movies.  I often watch them with her, half-heartedly, playing on the laptop or Kindle. (I mean, those green pigs aren’t going to knock themselves over, are they?)

We watched one this weekend on GMC called “Christmas Angel” – and while I am certainly not implying that it was “good”, or that a movie starring Teri Polo, Della Reese, & Kevin Sorbo is fine cinema in any way, shape, or form – it did teach a moderately important lesson.

The lesson was that watching absolutely anything other than Lindsay Lohan in “Liz & Dick” was probably a good idea.

(Just kidding… kind of.)

No, the lesson was not so much stated outright as it was implied – and maybe I read too much into it – but it’s something that I strongly believe.  The lesson I took from it was that maybe we should spend less time looking for angels or praying for miracles, and more time BEING angels; HELPING those in need, PUTTING our hands & feet where our mouths are, FEEDING the hungry, CLOTHING the naked… BEING the change we want to see in this world!

Don’t get me wrong – praying for miracles has its place.  But sometimes we need to get off of our rumps and do those things that we can take care of ourselves.  Sometimes we can be the answer to other’s prayers just by putting out the effort.

But that’s just my opinion.

 

Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas?

We are officially only a few short days away from Christmas weekend. I have said in the past that this time of year is stressful for me. This year, I take that statement back. I think the stress itself is self-induced. It’s all in how we handle things.

Yes, it is busy – hectic even. We spend a lot of our time trying to wrap things up that, frankly, should’ve been taken care of before now. Of course there is plenty of shopping, and as a result, putting our patience and resilience to the test with those other shoppers out there that have also waited until the last few weeks to make their purchases. We also have to deal with scheduling conflicts with family, friends and work. It doesn’t seem like we have enough time to squeeze everything that we want or need to do into the span of a few short days. And on top of it all, in the midst of a time of “peace on earth and good will toward men” we are inundated with rudeness, selfishness, and inconsiderateness.

But it can really only be considered “stress”, in my opinion, if we let those things get to us.

And this year, I am making every effort to not let it get to me.

This is a year of changes though – one of transition – and one of extra emotion.

First of all – this is only the second full holiday season we have had without either of my wife’s parents, which kind of leaves a gaping hole in part of our festivities. In fact, her side of the family is basically just her sister, bother-in-law, and niece – at least as far as holidays are concerned. And that’s okay, really – we love them to death! We don’t get to spend as much time with them as we would like, but the time we do get to spend with them is awesome. Unfortunately it kind of makes me feel guilty (and, yes, I know it shouldn’t – so don’t start) that in contrast, my side of the family just keeps getting bigger.

In addition to my parents, Grandma, and a few random aunts or cousins, my brother got married this year – so on top of his three fantastic kids, he also has a new wife and an awesome step-daughter. Not to mention the fact that his two oldest are getting to the age where they are starting to bring boyfriends and girlfriends occasionally. Again – none of this is a problem. It’s great, and I love each and every one of them no matter how crazy and boisterous our get-togethers end up getting. The more, the merrier – right?

Then there is our daughter. In June our family expanded by one when she married the best son-in-law we could’ve possibly hoped for. He is a strong, talented, smart, mature man of God. And (very important to her daddy) treats her like a young lady ought to be treated. And now, not surprisingly, they are expecting their first child. So next year, our family will be expanded by one more – a new baby – a grandchild.

This is the point where the majority of the extra emotion comes into play I guess. Just thinking about how much my baby girl has grown up – remembering all of those Christmases past – exchanging gifts early in the morning wearing our pajamas, sipping on coffee. Whether it was those few years when it was just the two of us – daddy and daughter against the world – or later on when we were blessed enough to share those moments (and our love) with a new wife and step-mom. We had some great times – made some great memories.

And now, starting next year, we get to be part of those memories for her young family. It is an awesome responsibility – an overwhelming blessing – and a chapter in my life that I look forward to embracing.

So, Okay – we have a lot to do – a lot to accomplish between now and Saturday morning. But instead of feeling stressed about it, I consciously choose to focus on how much more we have to look forward to, both this Christmas – and all of our Christmases to come. And we are going to make sure that no one takes the “Merry” out of our Christmas!

The House of Seven Trees

Every year, we kick off the holidays by putting up seven different Christmas Trees. Basically, one for each room of the house. The newest one pictured is the St. Louis Cardinals tree in my room. It is lacking ornaments right now, but I figure like everything else, they will accumulate as time goes on. The Room With No Purpose tree, which we call the “Gold Tree” is where we hang a new Angel Ornament each year since we’ve been married. So including this year’s, there are 10 Angels with dates written on them here. The Living Room is our main Family tree and the only one of the seven that’s real. The kitchen & bathroom trees are both small table-top trees, but the wife put so much effort into decorating them, they count! The Dining Room tree stands amidst all of our wrapped presents and Nutcrackers. It’s decorated with Rankin/Bass Rudolph characters & dried fruits. The Bedroom tree is where we hang all of the old crocheted ornaments that my Mother-in-Law made years ago.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

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“DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

“VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”

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VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

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(Santa Claus images in this post are from the ArachNerd’s personal collection)
(the text at the top of this post is from Newseum‘s article on the topic. Check it out, they have some great scans & pictures to go with it.)

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Monday Miscellany

Weekend Update

Not that you care, but my Office Holiday Party on Saturday went well. The food was good, the company at my table was excellent, and we left with 3 prizes and $40 in gift cards. Plus the weather wasn’t bad and it didn’t last too long. Unfortunately nobody got so drunk as to embarrass themselves. (Darn!)

After church & lunch on Sunday, we changed into our sweats and spent the rest of the day, literally, wrapping presents and cleaning. Sounds thrilling, doesn’t it? Oh it was! …I am thankful that it’s done though.

I am still debating on the previously mentioned, and as of yet unpurchased, Dirty Santa gift. And now I’ve waited too long to order anything since our gift exchange is this Wednesday! Yep, day after tomorrow. I have excellent timing. So I guess I will be hitting Best Buy after work if the weather’s not too bad, and praying for inspiration.

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Favorite Christmas Movie Moment, Part 3

Everyone loves A Christmas Story, right? It’s a holiday classic no matter how hard TBS tries to run it in the ground with their annual 24-hour showing on Christmas Eve/Day. (Drives me nuts! How can you watch a show for a solid 24 hours and always seem to catch the same two scenes over & over? Grrr…) Here is one of my favorite scenes though; the desecration of a major award, causing the old man to fly off the handle and utter a line that I frequently quote throughout the year, “NOTAFINGAH!”

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A Monkey Sneezing

(randomness makes me happy)

Dirty Santa

It’s that time of year again; time for the annual office gift exchange! In our office we play what’s called Dirty Santa but you may know it as Yankee Swap or White Elephant. We have a $20 spending limit, and I struggle with what to buy for it WAY more than I should. Last year I decided at the last minute to not participate and keep the gift I had bought (a nice corkscrew set & a bottle of wine) instead. But this year I am determined to play the game no matter how much I hate it.

Unfortunately it is the last unpurchased item on my Christmas shopping list because I am still racking my brain for the perfect thing that more than one person would like and that wouldn’t make me look like a total dork. Any ideas? Here is what I’ve come up with so far;

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Noise-Cancelling Earbuds. ($19.95) Plug them into your iPod or computer headphone jack and completely ignore the ringing phone, your coworkers’ constant coughing and nose-blowing, and your boss’ voice. Trust me, they’re indispensible.

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USB Single-Can Mini Fridge. ($19.99) Keep it on your desk as an “In Case of Emergency” item. I won’t tell HR what kind of can you keep in there though. I promise.

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Lookin’ Good For Jesus Gift Set. ($19.95) Lip Balm, Body Cream and more so that you can “look good for HIM” and “redeem your reputation”. Because religious humor is always so well received! (he said with sarcastic undertones.)

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Extreme Office Crafts: Creative & Devious Ways to Waste Office Supplies & Company Time. ($9.95) Because “Office Kama Sutra” seemed wildly inappropriate. And since it’s only about half of the spending limit, you could supplement it with a gift basket of office supplies, stolen from the supply cabinet of course.

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The gift of the Undead. Pair a DVD copy of Shaun of the Dead ($8.99) or some other classic/campy zombie movie with a Plush Dismember-Me Zombie ($12.99) and you’ve got yourself a gift that I have nothing witty to say about. Basically because I would totally enjoy receiving it myself!

(Help!)

Christmas Meme

christmas-holly-756624Okay, I got this in an email from Linda and Art blogged it, so I guess I should really participate too! What can I say, I’m a lemming.

The Christmas Meme

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I wrap & the missus makes bows. It’s a system
  2. Real tree or Artificial? Both, but I prefer real ones.
  3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the week after Thanksgiving.
  4. When do you take the tree down? After the New Year begins. No specific time though.
  5. Do you like eggnog? Yup. Love the stuff. Plus it disgusts my wife, which makes it that much better.
  6. Favorite gift received as a child? an AT-AT (All-Terrain Armored Transport, aka Imperial Walker) Not the real thing, but the one for my Star Wars action figures. I loved that thing.
  7. Hardest person to buy for? My parents.
  8. Easiest person to buy for? My daughter. In fact, she’s a little too easy to buy for to the extent that I end up buying her entirely too much.
  9. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes. We put out three. Living room, Bedroom, and one in the front yard.
  10. Mail or email Christmas cards? I hardly ever email cards. It just can’t match the personal touch or intimacy of a hand written note or card in the mail.
  11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I remember specifically opening one, holding it up, and then being told it wasn’t for me. It was a gift for Will that my parents had tagged incorrectly.
  12. Favorite Christmas Movie? It’s A Wonderful Life.
  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Early to Mid-November.
  14. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies, Candy, Fudge, Chex Mix, Gingerbread… what’s not to love?
  15. Lights on the tree? Mostly white/clear with very few twinklers.
  16. Favorite Christmas song? I love Christmas music of all kinds, but as far as the message goes, I would have to say Stevie Wonder’s Someday At Christmas.
  17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Mostly stay at home. This year we will be going to Will’s for Christmas Eve, but that’s only travelling about 75 miles, so it doesn’t count as travelling.
  18. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Yep. I just don’t want to and you can’t make me.
  19. Angel on the tree top or a star? I prefer a star, though two of our bigger trees have angels and one has a Santa Hat.
  20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? We get all of our gift giving done by the end of the day on Christmas Eve, so that we can focus on spending time with each other on Christmas Day.
  21. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? Shoppers – hands down.
  22. Favorite ornament theme or color? I find myself drawn to anything non-traditional.
  23. Favorite food for Christmas dinner? Homemade yeast rolls. In our family they’re referred to as “Tootie Rolls”. Tootie is Grandma’s nickname and she always made the best rolls in the world!
  24. What do you want for Christmas this year? Peace. And maybe that Amazon exclusive special edition U2 box set of their first 3 albums with bonus tracks and stuff… that would be good. But Peace first, definitely Peace. And if that’s not possible, then the box set.

Monday Miscellany

Favorite Christmas Image (for today anyway):

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It’s not the only thing that’s toasted!

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Gotta Go Back to Work to Get Some Rest

Another busy weekend of shopping (which, short of three items, is now complete) and decorating (a tree in every room. That’s seven in all: six artificial and one big live specimen. Most of what’s left to do is our outside lights and decorations which we will put out tonight, hopefully before it starts raining.) among other festivities. The singing in church went okay I guess. And the wife’s children’s sermon was excellent. She got a good laugh too; when she began she made a statement to the effect of, “I am very nervous to be up here. It’s not the kids – I talk to kids all day every day – but my hind end isn’t facing an entire congregation while I’m doing it.”

So, overall, not a restful weekend by any means. But not unexpectedly so either.

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Favorite Christmas Movie/Special Moment, Part One

Complete with Kazoo Solo!