I realized between Thanksgiving and the first week of December that something had to give. Often after my workdays I was too exhausted to do much of anything. Yet, with Christmas on it’s merry way, I still had things that needed to be done. Like purchasing all the presents. Making the cookies. Sending out the Christmas cards. Sending out the cookies and presents. Coming up with gifts and clues for “Secret Santa” week at work. Decorating the house. Wrapping the gifts. Planning the menu for our holiday feasting.
The “something” that had to give was writing and publishing blog posts. It was time to chill out about blogging. Put it on the back burner for a bit.
I wrote one post where I put a happy spin on it all…because I do sincerely enjoy every part of doing all this. And I wanted to share the merriment. But now it’s over and I’m (I am wincing as I write this) glad. Part of me feels that makes me sound like a horrible person. A bona-fide Grinch. But most of me chocks it up to being human. Putting it all together on top of working full time (yep, I’m up to 32 hours per week now) was exhausting!
The only non-exhausting part was watching all my favorite holiday movies. “Love Actually” continues to be my favorite (not just for Christmas but Of. All. Time.).
Yesterday morning, I did something I haven’t done in godonlyknows how long: I slept in until after 8 a.m. and then thoroughly stretched out all my limbs and laid in bed, my mind going gently from one thought to the next. I marinated in the fact that at least for this one day, time was of no consequence. There was simply nothing that needed to be done beyond a bit of grocery shopping, though certainly no one here was going to starve if I chose to skip that chore.
How delightful this was. Pure, unadulterated lounging. I think this was the Christmas present I needed the most.
So, I’m back, folks. I don’t know that my streak of publishing two posts per week will continue; however, you can expect a weekly post for certain.
For the rest of this weekend and into next week, I shall be thinking about the future. What changes 2021 may hold for me and mine. But it’s also the time to ponder what 2020 meant to me, what it taught me (in spite of the general suckiness of it all thanks to Covid-19). The words I want to focus on in the new year.
I think for those of us that celebrate Christmas, whether in a secular way, a non-secular way, or a combination of both (like me), we can all agree that this year the holiday season is different.
Obviously, the reason it’s different this year is because of Covid-19. No in-person holiday parties like in years past. Worries about loved ones who may be alone for the holiday. The inability to travel and employment uncertainty.
Out of spite, as in “screw you, Covid-19, I’m not going to let you steal my joy”, I’m embracing this Christmas even more than I have in the past. Like it’s a life boat. Doing this, I think, is a healthy coping mechanism for these times.
We here in this house are gorging on all the Christmas movies. Not so much the cheesy, predictable, brainless Hallmark channel varieties (though they do certainly have their place). I’m talking the classics: “A Christmas Story”, “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”, “Elf”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Christmas Vacation”, “Love Actually” and more. The ones we all know the best lines to. The ones that fill us with a giddy joy and warm our hearts.
Our little townhome has been properly adorned with all the Christmas decorations inside and soon Hubs will be putting up the lights outside. We’ve even chosen to string multi-colored lights along the periphery of our living room and around the windows. We didn’t do this the previous years we lived here.
All of the Christmas cookies have been made to send to our loved ones in three different states. The presents have been purchased (online) and received. Names have been picked at work for our “Secret Santa” exchange.
Special desserts will be made. A drive through the local holiday light display for charity is happening this year.
One of my blogger friends, Crystal, wrote this lovely post which prompted me to read Luke. I was compelled by the passage in Chapter 3: John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”, to do a quick clean out of my kitchen cupboards to donate to the food pantry I now run. I think it’d be so cool if others did the same.
I’m determined to suck the marrow out of this Christmas season.
Who’s with me?
**Header image circa 1984 posing with a friend as Christmas elves/mannequins in the front window of Bonnie’s Clothes Bar**
My mom loved Christmas. This woman went all out each and every year. In spite of the fact that she and dad worked full time and then some, many of those years operating their own business, we always had a beautifully decorated (complete with fake snow from a can) Christmas tree, perfectly wrapped presents underneath it, and copious amounts of cookies and holiday treats to enjoy.
I think somehow her Christmas spirit has been infused into my being this holiday season. I sure am missing her a lot these days.
In honor of my mom and the sense of peace and gratitude I’m feeling this holiday season, let me tell you what I’m loving about Christmas 2019.
More than anything else, I believe that giving is the most joyful and soul-affirming aspect of the Christmas season. This year, I found myself purchasing my first Christmas present for a loved one in September. That is truly unheard of for me. I usually hit the Christmas present shopping hard at the start of December.
So when I purchased this one small present in a cute gift shop in Estes Park when my sister was visiting, I determined right then and there that I was going to proceed with intention and purchase items that I believed would make the recipients feel my love for them. I enjoyed the heck out of keeping my eyes peeled for extra special presents both in store and online this year. I am so looking forward to hearing the reactions from my beloved family about their presents.
Then there’s the giving in my workplace, where my primary duty is running the food bank. On a daily basis, I get to experience the joy of giving our aging adults good quality, healthy food. However, this time of year I get to give them even more! Like the stockings filled with snacks, toothbrushes, word puzzle books and other fun items, which are donated by one group each year. Like the gift cards donated to our organization from local municipalities. What a joy this is for me-and our clients. The other day, I witnessed one of our clients weeping with joy as she went through the large bag of goodies her own personal Santa gave her. She commented that prior to becoming physically disabled, she was the one donating Christmas presents to the needy.
I couldn’t not write about one of my favorite things in the whole wide world for this Christmas blog post of mine. Since I respect my Hubs’ low tolerance for the music of this season, I have intentionally created a Christmas music playlist that appeals to both of us. That way, we do not have to suffer through Chipmunks songs or what ever totally changed up in not a good way classic Christmas songs performed by artists we don’t know on the cable tv Christmas channel.
I have only chosen the “best of the best” Christmas tunes for this playlist. Our favorite favorites, if you will.
Michael Buble’s version of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas”. His 2011 cd titled, simply, “Christmas” is on repeat on my tablet this time of year.
Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka”. Hubs is learning this one on his ukulele as a matter of fact. I get a lot of enjoyment from singing along. The goal is for us to get good enough at it to perform it in front of actual people next Christmas!
Amy Grant’s “Grown Up Christmas List”. It’s Hubs’ favorite Christmas tune, which speaks to the kind of human he is.
“Sugar and Booze” by Ana Gasteyer (yes, from SNL). This is a new one discovered while watching late morning tv during our recent trip to DC. A new classic for sure!
“All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. This song to me is so fun and festive! And it’s featured of course in my favorite movie of all time, which also happens to be a Christmas movie-“Love, Actually”. Check out this charming and fun video I just discovered of this song here: https://youtu.be/_IlZu9X9W_k
While in DC earlier this month, I caught the black and white Christmas classic “Holiday Affair”. It’s about a widowed mom of a 6 year old boy. She is proud of the fact that she works hard to provide him with a good life and they have a very loving and playful relationship. She almost marries Mr. Nice Guy but along the way falls in love with a salesman who has a dream of moving to California to build ships. Mr. Nice Guy’s name is Karl Davis. The salesman’s address is on Christopher Street. I feel like I was supposed to see this movie this Christmas season, on account of sharing the same last name with Mr. Nice Guy. And, big news here, on account of the fact that in the new year a cat named Karl (and his 26 year old human parent, aka Spawn #2) will be moving in with us. And our grandson (living in Wisconsin with his mommy, Spawn #1) is named Christopher.
Of course, there will be a viewing of “Love Actually” happening in this joint soon, along with “Four Christmases” and “A Christmas Story”. If we’re up for more Christmas movies, we’ll likely add in “The Grinch” with Jim Carey and, if Hubs has his way, “Bad Santa”.
FOOD AND DRINK
Let me just tell you one thing I know for sure when it comes to the food and drink of this very merry season: my own personal Esther is running the show. If you’re unfamiliar with Esther, here’s a clip of Wanda Sykes that will clue you in.
But back then, I was interested only in telling you all about how others were reacting to my own personal Esther (note to self: name your Esther!). Now it’s Christmas time and she’s in charge. My Esther is having the time of her freaking life right now. She’s sampling all the chocolates that her co-workers brought in to work. She’s conned me in to making extra Christmas cookies after I packaged and sent the 24 or so dozen we made to our family and friends, you know, because there are other people that I love here in Colorado that would enjoy them. She’s currently plotting how many cheddar bay biscuits she can consume before feasting on seafood at Red Lobster with Hubs for Christmas Eve.
What she doesn’t know, however, is that come January 1, she is going down. Wish me luck on that one, because I know that bitch is going to fight me tooth and nail!
When we moved into our townhome in 2016, we realized there was literally no good place to put up a regular, standard-sized Christmas tree. So while shopping at the local thrift store that first winter, we snatched up a table top version for a pittance. We had it up the first couple of Christmases, but this year we left it in the garage. That’s not to say we don’t have any sort of Christmas tree up; it’s just that the beautiful peace lily my wonderful in-laws sent me for my 50th birthday a couple of years ago looked so damned lovely sitting atop our occasional table and we just couldn’t bear to move it. So we left it there. Then adorned it with those itty bitty led lights and hung our favorite ornaments along the edges of the pot.
I personally love it!
I wish each and every one of you fellow holiday celebrators who read through this goofy, happy, and weird Christmas inspired essay a beautiful holiday. May you enjoy time with your favorite people, music, food, and cheesy Christmas movies and marinate in the joy that is this season!
Now that Christmas is a mere few days away, and the major tasks of purchasing gifts, sending out our Christmas cards, wrapping the gifts, and sending them on their way to their hopefully delighted recipients is over, I’ve got myself a minute to reflect. To share my thoughts and feelings about this crazy and magical time of year and why I love it so.
Baking Christmas cookies and related treats is one of the few traditions I have maintained over the years. Mind you, I am no Martha Stewart (unlike an old co-worker who brought snowflake cookies to our holiday potluck that were decorated so exquisitely it felt wrong to consume them not like I didn’t anyway). I focus on simple cookies. Actually, several of them are the “no bake” kind. I think that’s a wise choice as I make a fricking ton of them. I send these Christmas treats in holiday themed tins purchased at the Dollar Store or my local thrift store to friends and family from northern Minnesota to Missouri. I shan’t ever end this tradition as at this point our loved ones expect them each and every year. I kind of set myself up for that.
But it’s all good. Baking cookies while listening to my favorite Christmas tunes puts me in the spirit. For several years, while still living in Wisconsin, I hosted a cookie baking party with 3 of my closest co-workers. The wine flowed, the kitchen was essentially destroyed, and much fun was had by all. Good times.
Then there’s the music of this season. I’m not the type to turn on the Christmas music as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are stored in the fridge, but I do enjoy it quite a bit. I am a traditionalist, as I mostly prefer the classics, sung by the original artists. Though there are a few exceptions. Like this version of “Baby it’s Cold Outside” by “She and Him” (I will admit the video is not exactly what I expected). I’m not going to get into the controversy over this particular song and how it is “rape-y” (I don’t exactly see it that way). I was delighted when I first saw the movie “Elf” and heard Zooey Deschanel’s pure and beautiful singing voice. I was even more delighted when I discovered that there was a “She and Him” and that they had produced a sweet little cd covering classic Christmas tunes. I of course purchased this cd and enjoy listening to it every single Christmas since then. The only other two Christmas cd’s on repeat in our house this time of year are Michael Buble’s “Christmas” and the Carpenter’s “Christmas Portrait”. The songs “All I want for Christmas” by Mariah Carey, “Feliz Navidad” by Jose Feliciano, and Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” always put a smile on my face when I hear them this time of year.
I’m excited that Hubs is working on “Mele Kalikimaka” on his yuke these days. With any luck, he and I will collaborate on this one and may even perform it via video for our daughter and grandson via videochat yet this season. Or next Christmas, at least.
The most arduous tasks for me during the Christmas season are 1) purchasing gifts, 2) wrapping said gifts (not my forte; thankfully Hubs has my back on this one), and 3) shipping all the packages to hither and yon. Yet, there’s such a great joy I feel inside when I find just the right gift for the right person. I don’t know that I’ll ever in my livelong life, however, create such excitement with my Christmas gift-giving as my sweet Hubs did for me one Christmas about 7 years ago. I could not have been more surprised.
Here’s the story: we are at my sister and brother in law’s house way up in northern Minnesota, where we have spent many Christmases. We are in the middle of opening all of our gifts, a tad liquored up and sitting in the cozy family room by the beautiful Christmas tree. I open the shirt sized box, assuming it’s a new sweater or some other practical piece of clothing (which I was totally fine with). However, it’s a fancy black dress. I look at Hubs a bit quizzically, and assume in my head that this is a dress I’ll be wearing for a nice dinner out with him on New Year’s Eve. Wow, I’m thinking. So thoughtful and how fun is it that he’s planning to take me out on New Year’s (that doesn’t happen every year, you see). Then I see there’s a sheet of paper underneath. I open it up and it’s an ITINERARY. An itinerary, no less, for a New Year’s weekend in Chicago! An itinerary mapping out our Amtrak train ride, dinner reservations at a very chi-chi seafood place in downtown Chicago, a fancy hotel, and tickets to see “The Adams Family Musical”. I was, for once in my life, utterly speechless. I think I actually cried with joy. It ended up being the best New Year’s Eve (weekend) of our entire married life despite the massive hangover I foolishly gifted myself.
This year, I was given the opportunity to shop for a little girl. I haven’t had the opportunity to partake in this activity since my spawn were youngins. You see, instead of doing the “Secret Santa” thing at work (you know the one-where you rack your brain to figure out what to buy for that one person you don’t know as well as all the others), someone came up with the brilliant idea of doing “Secret Santa” for the offspring of our co-workers. I grabbed a “wish list” for the daughter of one of my co-workers, and proceeded to have a ball at Target finding things for this kiddo. I suspect she will be pleased that Santa stuffed her new shiny star-shaped purse with Snickers and a $10 bill. I know I would be!
I wish each and every one of you a blessed, joyful, fun-filled holiday season. May your stockings be full with all your favorite goodies, may your travels be safe, and may your hearts be full.
I have always been a huge fan of watching movies. Whether it be in an actual theater with a bucket of artery clogging popcorn and a fresh pack of Twizzlers or lolling about on my comfy couch eating the infinitely healthier microwave popcorn and my favorite chocolate truffles, I find movie watching to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
I like a variety of genres: comedies, dramas, thrillers, bio-pics, westerns, and musicals. And I’m pretty open minded about what I will watch. Especially if it is included with my Amazon Prime or on Netflix, where I have the lovely option of simply turning a movie off if it totally sucks. This doesn’t happen very often, however.
Because I’m such a movie nut, I can’t in good conscience just pick one movie and tell you all why I think it’s great and why you should absolutely positively watch it as soon as you possibly can.
Depending on how this goes, I might make this a regular feature. I like that idea: a regular feature. I think I’ll put a pin in that one.
I’ve just got so much to say about how I feel about so many movies.
Think I’ll start with the type of movie I love the very most, “my favorite favorite”, as Barney, that goofy purple dinosaur used to say through the t.v. screen to my kiddos when they were small.
This would be the “Feel Good” movie. Those movies that make me laugh and/or make me tear up (I’m not a big crier when it comes to movies, but now that I think of it, perhaps I ought to pen a post about those rare films that did actually make me cry-and not because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t help myself). Those movies that amaze and inspire me. Those movies that I actually can enjoy again and again and again.
“Love, Actually”. If I absolutely had to pick one film that is my favorite this would be the one. It’s a movie full of good cheer and humor. It tells several different love stories, with the characters in each story biologically related to and/or entwined in each other’s lives. Each of the main characters are lovable, albeit imperfect. The soundtrack is great too. It also takes place during the Christmas season, which to me adds much to the charm of this movie. And it’s set in England so there’s plenty of those lovely British accents to enjoy. And it has a very happy ending, one that assures you that everyone is going to be alright after the credits are over.
“Mama Mia”. Oh, the music in this one. It amazes me that the songs of “Abba” could be used to tell the story of a soon-to-be-wed young woman, living in a resort in Greece with her mom, who is searching for her biological father. Her mom, Donna, had summer flings with three different young men 20 years prior, and became pregnant. Her daughter, Sophie, invites all three of these now older men to her wedding. Each of these men, fortunately, embrace the possibility that they could be her father. It is simply a joyful, fun, uplifting movie that I can’t resist.
“As Good as it Gets” also ranks as one of my all time favorite “feel good” movies. It is an unlikely love story between a curmudgeon afflicted with a severe case of OCD, played by the one and only Jack Nicholson, and a young waitress, who is a single mom of a very ill son, played by Helen Hunt. The (IMHO) greatly underrated actor Greg Kinnear has a starring role as Simon, as Melvin’s (Jack Nicholson) gay neighbor who becomes a victim of an assault and needs someone to care for his little dog (Verdell) while he recovers. Jack Nicholson’s character slowly bonds with the dog and over time his heart opens to the possibility of real love with Carol, Helen Hunt’s character. This movie is as much about the characters (maybe even a bit more) than the actual story. The scenes with Carol and Simon are especially heart-warming, as they form a special bond between them. The scenes with Melvin and Verdell are quite precious as well.
My hope is that you all are able to carve out some time for yourself during this busy, stressful, mentally taxing time of the year (aka the Christmas/Holiday season) to kick back and re-watch your favorite “feel good” movies. Or if you haven’t caught any of the three mentioned above, you’ll take my recommendations and rent, buy, or find one of them via your favorite streaming service.
Merry Christmas, one and all! ‘Tis the season to reflect on Christmases past, enjoy Christmas present, and dream a bit about Christmas future.
Every single Christmas during my childhood, I watched as my mom sprayed the (always real) Christmas tree with noxious white spray from a can. Lord only knows how many of her children’s brain cells were unknowingly killed over the years. But the tree always looked spectacular.
Opening presents on Christmas Eve: Everyone at the same time. It was sheer, giddy, joyful, chaos.
Flash forward to my first Christmas with my in-laws, about 16 years later: Opening presents on Christmas morning. One person, one gift, at a time. This process took what felt like hours upon hours (that first year anyway). Especially with several in-laws who chose to open their gifts carefully to preserve the beautiful gift wrapping for future Christmases.
The funny thing about this, however, is that in the following years, on those Christmases when it was just the four of us at home (Hubs, me, and our two spawn), we chose to continue the Christmas morning gift opening, with one of playing “Santa”, tearing into each gift, one family member at a time.
Then there was that one Christmas spent at my in laws (about 2007?), who were living in Iowa at the time, where we all gathered around the Christmas tree and listened to the tapes of Hubs and his younger sister that had been produced when they were kids for their grandparents who lived in Florida. Hubs and his sister told stories about what they were into at the time, like 4-H club and horses. Listening to these tapes gave me precious insight into their childhoods and made me feel like a member of the Davis tribe. And we howled with laughter the whole time.
Christmas Present: Now we are two empty nesters winging it in a new state. Things are simpler, quieter, now. But we will make the very best of it nonetheless. We will be watching Christmas movies, making and eating high carb foods (we are currently in the throes of decimating a roasting pan of homemade Chex Mix) and (yahoo!) going out to the movies and out for dinner. And of course, missing our kiddos. And our almost 4 year old grandson. Like crazy.
Christmas Future: We will be warm and cozy together in our cabin in the woods. There will be lots of Christmas lights inside and out. Christmas music will play softly in the background. Every family member, young and old, will be there that can be there, God willing. Our two dogs, one a little pipsqueak mutt and the other a black lab, will greet guests upon their arrival. There will be good cheer and laughter, catching up, playing games. Ice cream drinks and hot toddies and lots of fun appetizers will be served. As a group, we will watch Christmas Vacation. And later, travel into town in a caravan of cars to see all the holiday lights. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I’d say I can’t wait, but that would take away from enjoying Christmas present.
I hope that each and every one of you have the merriest of Christmases!