Seasonal Faves

I dreamed last night that I blogged. Who says you can’t make your dreams come true?

Rather than offer up the repetitious excuses of why I’ve been tacit here, I thought I’d spend the time reveling in my favorite time of year: Christmas.

"Christmas Tree" by iamashleyhello via FlickrI’ve always loved Christmas. I turn into this sentimental sap, and I confess, my tastes can go a bit Norman Rockwell for the month. I eat up all the ABC Family Christmas movies (not to mention the old standards like White Christmas, Rudolph, and now, Elf). I fill my Pandora radio stations with classic Christmas standards, Indie holiday songs, and even a station named for the Waitresses holiday music. My house looks like Frosty exploded.

And don’t forget the trees: Maggie, our red tree; Henry, our mini-tree; and Rose, the table-top tree that was a hand-me-down from my parents when I was in college, who got it as a hand-me-down when they got married from my grandparents’ neighbor. Then there’s our real tree, Marty this year, chosen by Keegan.

This year I’m learning how hard it is to not spoil your kids. Chris and I agreed that this is a good year to go minimalist. Keegan’s not old enough to have a Christmas list. But for the love of mistletoe and holly, how do you not buy all the fun (and educational!) toys out there?

I think how this is just the beginning, how in years to come I’ll introduce Keegan to the misfit toys, to the history behind our ornaments, to the Miser brothers’ dance. But most of all, I’ll introduce him to the story Christians celebrate this time of year: to the waiting for our Messiah, how he came once and how he’ll come again, to the mystery and majesty of the incarnation, to the beauty of a man and woman who submitted to God’s will and raised a little boy who is God. (Did Jesus fight his naps too?) I dream of teaching him how it is more blessed to give than receive, but how we receive the sacrament of God’s grace, of how our attitude should be like Christ / who being in very nature God / did not consider equality with God something to be grasped / but made himself nothing. I dream of showing him how Christmas lights reflect the Light of the World, of how we long for peace on earth, goodwill toward men and how we can have this in our hearts and lives.

‘Tis the season.

What I Learned in NYC

The last time I was in New York City, I was ten or eleven. Somewhere around there. My parents took my sister and me on an educational trip. For example, I learned that it takes about three hours to climb the Statue of Liberty (in a slow-moving line) but only a few minutes to grab the view.

This trip was no less educational, and I feel the need to share my new learning with you.

  1. The tree at Rockefeller Center is real. I honestly thought they put up an artificial one every year. I have a new standard to work toward. (If you know anything about my love of Christmas trees, you know how momentous meeting Rocky was for me.)

  2. Warhol’s Campbell Soup Cans are individual portraits. And each one is different–one for each brand Campbell had at the time. I thought it was the same soup can and all on one canvas.
  3. Jasper Johns’ American Flag is painted on top of newspaper. (I realize all of these things are general knowledge to the general public, but somehow I had missed them in my upbringing. I blame the schools.) This gave the iconic work a certain timefullness. (By the way, I heart MOMA. We also went to the Met, but the MOMA was more meaningful to me. I also got to see the real live version of a print I have in my office–Chagall’s “I and the village.” It was much bigger than I expected.)
  4. Being pregnant makes participating with the Rockettes in their annual Christmas show difficult. Big bellies get in the way of high kicks.

  5. Singing on Broadway is all it’s cracked up to be.

  6. I love Bernadette Peters. Okay, so technically, I knew this, but Friday night at “A Little Night Music” (by my favorite Broadway composer–Sondheim) reminded me of that fact.
  7. Times Square is afraid of the dark. Which must be the reason for their bright nightlight.
  8. Not all soup places yell at you. Most are kind and patient. Which was disappointing for my husband.
  9. My husband, besides being the sexiest, most incredible man in the universe, spoils me. This I also already knew, but he likes to remind me. And remind me he did this past weekend. I love this man.

The Master's Artist: The Last Christmas Without You

Sixpence None the Richer has a Christmas song called "The Last Christmas Without You." It considers the advent waiting from Mary’s perspective. "I feel you heart beating
/ Inside my own skin," the song says.

This advent, as my own belly swells, I’ve been contemplating Mary.

Who was this woman–this child, really–who so readily accepted God’s
blessing and burden? Who took on motherhood and its accompanying joys,
sufferings, and, in this case, shame? Who set aside her own dreams and
desires so that God’s word might be fulfilled?

Read The Last Christmas Without You at The Master’s Artist.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Unfortunately, I don’t remember what it was.

Last week, something very funny happened, and I knew I needed to blog about it so you could all share in my laugh. But I was on my way to my parents’ house for Thanksgiving. I gave myself strict instructions to write a note to myself so I could blog about it this week. But I promptly ignored my instructions. This was too funny to forget, I thought.

I forgot.

It just happened last week! I’ve gone through my week time and time again trying to remember, but alas, it’s gone. A shame, because I’m pretty sure it was something silly I did that we could all get a good chuckle from.

***

Last night, while watching a Hallmark Christmas movie on CBS (my movie and music standards drop significantly when it comes to Christmas), I realized the perfect job for me: a Christmas tree farmer. I’d care for each tree like it was my own, naming it, grooming it. And when the time came, I’d help each family find their perfect tree. People would come from many states because of my reputation. I’d also always have hot wassail available.

Except maybe I’d drink all the wassail. I consumed almost an entire pot by myself on Saturday.

(For those of you who don’t remember, I have four trees every year–three fake ones and a real one. I name them all. This year, I almost got a fourth fake tree to add to the collection when my sister-in-law told me about a crazy $30 sale on prelit trees, but they were sold out.)

***

I ventured out on Black Friday this year. But it doesn’t really count because, as I mentioned afore, we were at my parents’ house. They live in a smallish town, so Black Friday isn’t crazy like Dallas. This is why I had to go: my dad and husband decided to go to Best Buy.

Have you seen my husband at Best Buy or Fry’s? Dangerous.

So I went to keep an eye on them. Next door, Shoe Carnival was having a buy-1-get-1-half-off sale.

"Don’t you need new shoes?" I asked Chris.

So we went in. This really isn’t that significant except two things struck me as minorly funny.

One, Chris didn’t get any shoes. My dad and I walked out with a pair each, though. While there, I remembered that I don’t have winter black shoes. So I bought a pair of black comfy Sketchers.

Which brings us to minor funny number two.

"Those are winter shoes?" Chris said. "And you say you’re from the northeast." (He’s from Colorado.)

"I’m contextualizing for Texas. In Texas, winter shoes are non-flipflops." Although, really, sometimes you can wear flipflops in Texas in winter. At least I do.

I don’t know why that struck me as funny, but it did. Also, I love Sketchers. I can’t help myself. They’re so comfy!

***

I’ve always had weird dreams, often involving serial killers (I’ve chased serial killers, been chased by serial killers, been a serial killer, etc.). Now these weird dreams are taking a turn for the pregnancy. A couple of weeks ago, I dreamed that my belly button popped out exactly like a turkey timer–long and T-shaped and all. I kept trying to push it back in because I’m only six months pregnant and so obviously not done yet.

Two nights ago, I dreamed that I could take the baby out of my tummy and put him back in. Like a kangeroo. It was very convenient.

And scene.

The End of the World As We Know It

And so the tragedy must begin.

Soon, I’ll strip my living room of its holiday clothes.

Every year, I pull out my Christmas decorations from the attic. (Technically, Chris pulls them out, but potato, potato.) My living room prances in excitement. We’re changing from the Sunday dress into our comfy clothes. 

You see, my house’s natural state is Christmas: the trees, the nativities, the Dicken’s Village (I got a new figurine of a book signing this year), the snowmen, more snowmen (it looks like Frosty threw-up in here), the lights, the decked halls. This is how it’s meant to be. So when the twelve days of Christmas are up and Epiphany season begins, changing out of this attire is like convincing a toddler that she needs to remove her favorite pink princess shirt and red polka dot pants because of some crazy fashion notions Mommy has.

I’ll have to say goodbye to Theresa. I’ll have to put away Maggie, Rose, and Henry (the three small artificial trees). I’ll have to pack our nativities and snowmen and Christmas music boxes that sing "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "Joy to the World." And I’ll pull out the Sunday clothes.

A Silly Advent Poem

The Man in the Front

The boy swings the red velvet rope
first rising to his tippy-toes
then peeking around sets of parents and children
to catch a glimpse of the bearded man in the front.

The boy sees a gold throne, an elf in green,
and an arm in red robe.
He jumps but still cannot see
the full image of the man in the front.

He doesn’t have a long list:
a pair of hopalong boots
and a pistol that shoots.
He’s afraid he’ll never get to tell the man in front.

The smell of peppermint
and the weight of his mom’s hand on his shoulder
cannot squelch his excitement
of sitting on the knee of the man in the front.

The mother leans down
and adjusts his sweater.
She made him promise to stay neat and tidy
for his picture with the man in the front.

The boy hears a "Ho, ho, ho"
and a "Merry Christmas"
and moves a step closer
to the man in the front.

And then–oh, the magnanimous joy!
The desire of nations!
O, holy night! O, star of light!
He’s there on the knee of the man in the front.

The boy whispers his secret in the ear
of the man in the front in his gold throne.
The man whispers a secret back,
then holds his finger to his lips–"Shh, don’t tell."

The boy hops down,
and with head down and arms pumping,
he runs through the mall and out the door,
the true anticipation and preparation to begin.

He has cookies to bake, and, oh! the carrots, for tinsel’s sake!
He’d better not cry and better not pout–
he knows someone will come on a silent night,
for he has met the man in the front.

Reflections and Refractions

Bet you thought the water fairies had finally taken me away. Bet you thought they’d given me their magical algae for breakfast so I could breath underwater and right now, I’m ducking through corral reefs and riding the backs of dolphins. Bet you thought that since, obviously, I couldn’t use my computer underwater (it comes with a label–dangerous under water), that must be the reason I’ve been so silent.

Nope. 

Actually, I’ve been enjoying my holiday senza Internet. It was quite nice, actually, though I’ve missed you all. I conquered WALL-E’s world with my niece on her DS, sang and dance with my younger nieces to the Meiser brothers’ songs ("I’m Mr. White Christmas; I’m Mr. Snow; I’m Mr. Icicle; I’m Mr. Ten Below…"), grew to be an expert on vocals and drums on Rock Band, hiked a mountain or two, listened to enough Christmas music to turn me into an elf, and drank enough wassail to make Santa Claus jealous.

All in all, a grand old time.

***

It’s the new year. I know because strangers fill my gym. I know because the scent of pine fills my nose like a ghost. I know because boxes and boxes of Christmas decorations fill my hallway waiting to go back in the attic where they’ll dream and secretly play all year long, making my husband and me think we have squirrels in the attic.

***

It’s the new year. And this year, my husband and I have lots of new starts. To be honest, I’m nervous. I’ve felt the promise of a new year before, and I’ve felt the disappointment when that promise failed. There are things I love I have to wrap in tissue paper and box away with the Christmas ornaments for a bit. There are things I’m starting out brand new. We could use your prayers in this new year, if you wouldn’t mind offering them.

***

I learned one of my nieces prays in tongues. At least, that’s the only thing we can determine. Either that or she learned Chinese through some interactive TV. I learned how to play Stairway to Heaven on a Peruvian recorder thanks to a gift from another niece. And I learned Santa doesn’t care how old you are.

Tapestry: Desire of Nations, Come

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I’m up today at Tapestry, writing about the advent, with all its anticipation and waiting and hope. A taste:

"We’d crack the perforation on the Advent calendar to reveal the day’s
picture–a Nutcracker, perhaps, or a doll, or maybe a wise man
preparing for his journey, depending on that year’s theme. Or we’d
break another link on our homemade chain made of red and green
construction paper. As the chain shrunk, our excitement grew."

Read the rest.

Note: I’ll continue the series on contextual theology after the New Year.

On Christmas Trees: Turning the Profane into the Sacred

The Last Day of Christmas

I admit it. I’m a clinger. Change doesn’t bother me. I like new things. But letting go of old ones, that’s a different story.
So I cling to Christmas.
I
mourn it’s passing. Yesterday I watched half a dozen Christmas movies
with my family. Today I’ll bake a few more cookies (for my New Year’s
Eve Party–if you’re in the Dallas area, stop on by!) and watch one
more Christmas movie.
It doesn’t feel like Christmas anymore. How can that be? A month of carols and decorations and stories and snap! It’s over with the stroke of midnight.
Christmas
to me isn’t about the day. It’s the season. The season of lights and
joy and peace. The season that we now use to remember the birth of the
greatest King. The season we find holly and jolly.
Today the last of
my family leaves. We had a house full o’ people. It was great. Air
mattresses were brought out. Sofas slept on. Every room filled. We
played games and drank wassail and ate more cookies and pie than any
human should eat. I discovered that the heavy roasting pan I received
as a wedding present and hadn’t had an opportunity to use until now is
too big for my oven. Dishes broke. Stains remain. But that’s okay. I
can remember each time I see the stain.
Tomorrow life goes back to normal. Not that normal is bad. I like life (life likes me, life and I fairly fully agree…).
But normal isn’t Christmas.
So farewell thee well, Ghost of Christmas past. We lift a cup in your honor.