Posts Tagged With: Christmas

Fatima and the Twelve Days

Employment and parties do not belong together. Work should stay in its little sphere and never collide, touch, overlap or lean toward anything recreational.

Never.

And yet, employers everywhere feel a desperate need to mix the two benign substances, which become dangerous when mixed.

Give me one example of a good outcome from a work party and I’ll give you three examples of awkward, uncomfortable and downright wrong situations to counter it.

Wreath

Christmas Wreath (Photo credit: h3h)

Here’s my favorite.

North Carolina, USA. The month of December.

My husband’s employer invited the employees and their spouses to the requisite Christmas party. (Yes, they were still called Christmas parties back then, yes, it was a while ago, no, I am not old.)

Reluctantly we made arrangements for a sitter, which fell through, so we settled on alternate less-than-ideal arrangements for the children. As a result we planned to make a quick appearance at the party and leave early.

Demon

The work/party imps laughed and rubbed their hands together at our plans. At this point I envision the three bad guys from the Disney movie “Hercules”, Pain, Panic and Hades. Feel free to conjure your own bad guys to play the evil hellion roles here.

Arriving fashionably late, we expected to see the usual buffet table with wandering employees and their uncomfortable spouses grazing and chatting awkwardly. But no, no buffet table awaited. A sit down dinner, with servers, menus, and long waits ensued.

How many ways can you say awkward? I can think of about seventeen.

Finally, the drawn out meal wound down, although dessert failed to make an appearance. MSH and I exchanged looks, again, to telepathically ask one another, “can we leave now?” And the conclusion was “yes, run! NOW!”

dilbert082609But at that exact moment the Boss/Manager/Pointy Haired Boss rose to begin his speech of the year.

I envisioned my children crying pathetically, wailing for the return of their long-lost mother and father. I pictured every possible disaster ever to befall a babysitter and her charges. I tried to catch MSH’s eye. I could not hold still and listen to the babbling man at the head table. Can’t they just save the money spent on a dumb party and cut a bonus check instead?

Then miraculously the babbling man stopped speaking, applause all around. Hooray, we can go home.

But no.

Music began to play. Christmas music. Specifically the Twelve Days of Christmas. Only the longest song in the history of the planet ever written and sung on a regular basis. Also, the song voted most likely to have the lyrics mangled, strangled and warped into something identifiable only by the endlessly repeating stanzas.

I tried not to let my head drop to the table in racking sobs.

But wait. There was more.

I heard jingling. I looked around. And what to my wondering eyes did appear but a belly dancer in full regalia. Bared belly, multi-colored scarves and billowing fabric, sparkles, jangles, bangles, jewels and long flowing dark tresses.

I looked for a fork to stab my eyes out.

English: Belly dancer in Cairo, Egypt

The dancer moved gracefully as best she could to the rhythm of the strange song. A song which, yes, had been clumsily cobbled together with increasingly trashy lyrics with each added day of Christmas.

I wondered what my husband really did at work all day. But only briefly did I wonder. I remembered that this work/party by its very definition could only result in disaster, miscommunication and embarrassment for at least half the people there.

This particular form of entertainment seemed orchestrated to create the most uncomfortable, thorny and indelicate situation imaginable.

I looked at the other attendees. Most had been drinking, the party’s only saving grace, apparently. But I and MSH didn’t drink so we didn’t have the luxury of being sloshed and  immune to the stupidity of the entertainment.

And poor, poor Fatima. Yes, that was the belly dancer’s name. I’ve since learned that’s usually the name of every belly dancer you’ll ever encounter. (Google Fatima or click here and you’ll see some strange irony for this particular Christmas situation.) Poor Fatima all but rolled her eyes at the stupidity of the song, and the leering and comments of the audience.

MSH looked at me and mouthed the words “we should leave.” More than happy to escape I still thought it might be rude to leave in the middle of a performance. I indicated “five minutes” to him, thinking surely by then the dance and the dumb song would blessedly crash-land.

And yet, five minutes later, somehow the song hadn’t progressed past day six of the twelve raunchy and getting raunchier days of X-mas. And yes, I use an X most deliberately for this particular situation.

Day seven in the song invoked the F word.  At a work party. Inelegant, graceless, gauche are just a few adjectives I throw in here at this point. I might add bizarro, too.

twelve days of christmas

twelve days of christmas (Photo credit: wiccked)

Thankfully before day eight began its descent into depravity MSH stood, took my hand, mumbled something to our table mates about babysitters and we left. We’d been gone far longer than we thought possible for a work party.

Fortunately the children survived their babysitting stint with less damage than the two of us.

The following Monday at work MSH received more than a few apologies for the entertainment from other employees. The employer, as I recall, said nothing.

I vowed never, ever, to attend another work related recreational event, even if a paycheck depended on it.

Categories: Holiday, Humor | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Warming Up and Getting In Tune

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for music of the season.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re thinking, that sounds typical.  Except it isn’t exactly.

Mr Grinch

Mr Grinch (Photo credit: Candie_N (Welcome Fall))

During November I grinched around town. Every store I entered that already had Christmas tunes playing aggravated something in me. I’d secretly vow not to shop there during December since they ignored my personal unwritten rule that Christmas is a December thing. When I couldn’t find an Autumn or Thanksgiving themed wreath two days after Halloween, I swore off another couple stores. Everywhere I went Christmas assaulted me. Cinnamon scented pinecones here, exhortations to buy early and buy often there, and red and green glitter everywhere like a crime scene gone bad.

So on Sunday morning I’m listening to some music online and a Christmas song comes on and immediately my hackles go up, (picture a cat hissing, back arched, teeth bared.) Dang Christmas music, I’m thinking. Can’t they wait until December? Then it’s like I’m hit up side of the head with a baseball bat. Duh! It is December. It’s December 1st.  Helloooooo? Now I can enjoy Christmas music and do all the Christmasy things and enjoy the season.

But I’d curmudgeoned my way through November and couldn’t quite shake off the grouchiness even with it being December.

Bah!

photo-18 copy 26But then, last night, I attended a benefit concert put on by The Red Note Foundation in honor of a wonderful young bassoonist, Kristin Hooker, who lost her life when she was barely twenty years old.  Her love for music and her belief in its ability to change lives resonated throughout the concert. And just like the Grinch, I felt the ice around my grouchy heart begin to thaw and noticed it starting to beat again. In fact, it might have grown a bit in the process of listening to such a gift presented in voice and orchestra.

The Christmas season began for me last night thanks to those heartfelt, sacred soaring melodies.

Secular or silly, sappy or sacred, A cappella or orchestrated, modified lyrics or ancient rhymes, I love it all! The songs of the holidays rate high on my happy list, something I had forgotten, apparently. Now that my internal strings are in tune I’ll enjoy all of it with gusto.

Greenery

Greenery (Photo credit: Sharon Drummond)

Come what may, shopping frenzied crazed drivers, baking disasters, piles of unsent Christmas cards, Christmas trees that topple over, strands of lights that only halfway work, or picture perfect scenes of family bliss gone awry. No matter. I have Christmas beating right here in time with the music in my heart.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Music | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Merry Conversation and Happy New Connections

There’s a Peanuts cartoon that shows Charlie Brown writing a letter that reads:

“Dear Santa Claus, Well, it’s that time of year again, isn’t it? There are so many things I would like to say to you, but I find it hard to put them in writing. It would be so much easier if I could talk to you in person.  Do you think maybe we could have lunch together sometime?”

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

Some things are just better in person. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seems to me there are some things better said face to face, in a conversation.  Letters are a bit one-sided, as are emails.  Texts can be sort of like a conversation, but threads can get tangled, inflections are missing and smiley faces don’t really convey intent that well. Texting is a kind of shorthand we lean on that enhances the efficiency of communication without really advancing the quality of it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a total fan of texting. It’s saved me hours on the phone, gotten me unlost, given me a forum for all sorts of things I want to say to people.  I think some relationships are better because of texting.

But, I know there’s nothing like a real conversation.  The rambling, wandering discussions that leap from topic to topic in a convoluted but totally natural flow of give and take. That’s why I look forward to a daughter’s visit over the holidays, and why my sister coming into town will be fun. We’ll be able to talk and ask questions and see the response in a facial expression or in a gesture, before the brain sends words to the mouth.  So much gets said by what we see.

I feel almost giddy with excitement at the prospect of all the pending conversations with family and friends.

Having a meal together isn’t about the food, not entirely. It’s about the talking that happens over and around the food.  It gives us a reason to be face to face, to read the eyes, the mouth twitch, the sighs. There’s a solid human interaction that I absolutely cherish.

Phone conversations are good too, but still, there’s that up close and personal thing that happens when you’re in the room together. A hand reaches out, a hug can happen, a fist bump connects, a strong handshake can pull someone in close.

And then there’s whispering.  There’s simply no other communication like a whisper.  Think about it. Private, quiet, stealthy, intimate, personal, direct, breathy, warm, ticklish.

I wish I had time to do lunch with every single relative, every individual friend, every happy acquaintance, every person that has meaning in my life. I’d love for all that one on one time to happen.  It’d be some ride ,wouldn’t it?

Alas, I am but one person, with a limited budget, and limited time.  And so I write, saying the things I think, talking about the things I’d share in a conversation. Hopefully I’m connecting a little with someone. It’s a good feeling.

In another letter to Santa, the words of Peppermint Patty say it well:

“Dear Santa, Just a last note before you take off. I hope you have a nice trip. Don’t forget to fasten your seat belt.”

I hope you get to have some great conversations over the next few days. I hope you go for a walk and chat a bit. Or sit on the couch, or the porch swing, or around a puzzle at the table and share some words between each other. I hope you eat something delicious and talk of real things together. I hope you make some great connections. I plan to do just that. It’s the best part of the holidays I can think of.

Categories: Family, Food, Joy, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Year of Three Christmas Letters

We wrote three Family Christmas letters one year.

Version One:

christmas card outtakes 2007- choke hold

christmas card outtakes 2007- choke hold (Photo credit: Nikki McLeod)

The reality check, went something like this:

Pretty much our life hit rock bottom this year.  It’s been filled to brim with financial setbacks galore, unemployment, minimum wage jobs for the grown ups, multiple visits with various government workers, lots of paperwork, mechanical failures of every kind, mental health issues, surgeries, poor health, teenage angst and rebellion out the wazoo, junior high drama.  You name it, we’ve experienced it.  It’s a wonder we’re all still sane.  Hope your family is having a better year than we are.  Merry Christmas!

Version Two:

The rated G for too-good-to-be-true version, went something like this:

Just wanted to update you on our family’s stellar year!  Dad has had plenty of time to work on projects around the house, mom is busy expanding her résumé! We’ve added doctors and lawyers to our list of close acquaintances!  Each of the children have increased their knowledge base with new experiences and fun and exciting people!  Time just seems to race by with all that we have going on!  What a year!!!!!!!!!!!  Here’s hoping you’re family is as wonderful and great as ours!  Happy Holidays!!!!!!

Version Three:

A kind of tightrope act between the first two letters, went like this:

Thought we’d let you know what’s happening in our neck of the woods.  It hasn’t been a very good year for us, but we’re making the best of it. Mom has gone back out into the workforce and so us kids have had to step up a bit and help out more.  Dad’s been looking for work for a while. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re learning a lot. We could use some extra prayers if you’re the praying sort.  We surely do pray for and love you and your family.  We feel blessed to know you.  Here’s to a Happy New Year for all of us!

christmas card

christmas card (Photo credit: Stephen Rees)

I can’t remember if we actually mailed any letters out at all. I don’t think we did. Couldn’t afford the stamps, or ran out of time. It was pretty hilarious writing them all, kind of healing to laugh at the pain.

Maybe it was our way of dealing with all the letters we received that made our toes curl with jealousy or irritated us with their rose-colored glasses perspective. Or maybe it was a reaction to the view that everyone else has a perfect life, a perfect family, a perfectly normal kind of constant happiness. We knew that wasn’t true, but it can feel that way when your life has gone south.

Sometimes laughter really is the only way to treat life’s headaches.

p.s. The preceding events may have been altered or fictionalized or embellished for brevity as well as sanity.

p.p.s. If you send out Family Christmas letters, please keep doing so, we love hearing about your family, warts and awards and all!

p.p.p.s.  Merry Christmas!

Categories: Family, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Silver Bells, Red Buckets, White Gloves

The following post is a tiny excerpt from my novel in progress.  What blogger do you know doesn’t have a novel in progress?  Contrary to the example here, my book isn’t a Christmas story.  I just thought this little section was a timely blurb to share with you.

This ornament was a simple round disk with a raised image of two Christmas Bells in mid-ring, a ribbon flowing between them.  She ran a finger around the bottom edges of the bells, which in real life would be heavy brass and cool to the touch.  She smoothed her hand over the characteristic arching shapes, a goblet shape turned upside down.  She imagined a velvety bow draping around the body of the bells.  Her hand rested lightly on the small ornament, her eyes closed.  Her breathing deepened, her muscles unwound. She appeared as if she were pronouncing a blessing on the object in her hand, but she felt as if she were receiving one.

When she had painted this bell ornament she had hummed to herself the tune to “Silver Bells,” and thought of the lyrics, which paint a peaceful backdrop to the hustle and chaos of the holiday season in the city. As she painted she had slipped into a reverie of chimes and music and calm.

Church Bells

Church Bells (Photo credit: ishyam79)

Just the idea of church bells ringing to celebrate, warn, mourn or call had always fascinated her.  Henry Wordsworth Longfellow’s poem turned hymn had always been a favorite.  “Christmas Bells,” speaks of a man feeling the hopelessness of war, who hears the bells, and as Longfellow writes, “then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep.  The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”  The bells spoke to a man’s bereft heart.  She believed church bells would speak to her given the chance, but there were no churches with bell towers in her hometown.

When she had visited in the South, on nearly every corner in the bigger cities it seemed there was a massive stone church with a bell tower.  She imagined Sunday mornings when those bells might have summoned parishioners, Christmas’s when heralding midnight mass, Easter’s chiming rebirth, the somber dong of death and, of course, joyous wedding bells clanging.

When Bell Carolers became popular she secretly dreamed of being one of those white-gloved bell ringers.  She could picture herself gracefully ringing her select notes in perfect time and harmony to create a sound that filled every hearer with a sense that all was right with the world. Such dreams!

As a child she was also fascinated by the bell-ringer on the corner with the red kettle, as she and her mother would cross slushy Main street while Christmas shopping for sibling surprises.  Later, as a young mother herself, when money was scarce at Christmas, the Salvation Army bells seemed to populate every sidewalk and storefront. Her own children were curious too, as she had been.

As a young, struggling family, with few resources and even less money, she resented the tinny, almost whiney ring.

Raising Xmas fund for Salvation Army (LOC)

(Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Then, one year, she decided to change her tune.  She planned to always carry coins and a few one-dollar bills in her pocket or an outside section of her purse. Then she could easily slip some money into the palms of her  children and let them drop some coins into the red bucket. “Merry Christmas,” they’d say and the bell-ringer would echo back.  As corny and prosaic as it sounds, it was still true that the tone of those bells changed from tin to gold that year.

Over a month’s span of shopping, she might end up sharing ten or twenty dollars in change and small bills, nothing difficult when it goes out in such small increments, even in a tight year. What she got in return was intangible and somewhat fleeting, but it was a small good thing amid the chaos and stress.

Christmas holidays, for her, were defined by the music.  What would Christmas be without Bing Crosby’s crooning, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s harmony, Nat King Cole’s tender bass or the sound of a bell on a street corner?  It would just be another month to slog through.  But with its distinctive music, Christmas held a magic no other holiday possessed.

With this small bell ornament in her hand, a talisman of sorts, time seemed to slow slightly.  She thought perhaps there was a chance for peace, if not “peace on earth,” then perhaps at least, peace for her.

Categories: Music | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Simply Celebrating Life

It’s Gratituesday!  Today I am thankful for my childhood holidays.  Those special days scattered throughout the year were  anticipated with a tingly, buzz in the air.  Each holiday carried a specific scent and texture that brought joy in its own unique way.  There was an innocence and wonder about each celebration.

childhood memories

childhood memories (Photo credit: brainblogger)

That purity of that experience is two-fold.  Childhood is supposed to be about immediacy, the here and now.  There’s no worrying about a hundred things to do before an event happens.  The countdown to Christmas was all about anticipation and expectation. That’s what I had, the joy of the moment.  What a phenomenal blessing!

Simplicity is the other half of my childhood holiday memories.  Perhaps it was a simpler time.  Maybe I grew up sheltered. Hallelujah!  Every child should be so lucky to live, for a time, in a protective bubble of wonder, curiosity, love and newness.  I had that.

I was blessed beyond measure with Valentine love, Easter hope, Independence Day freedom, Halloween sweets, Thanksgiving gratitude, Christmas joy.

Every child should be so lucky!

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Listening for Sanity

I haven’t heard  the song “All I want for Christmas is a hippopotamus” yet this year.

Christmas in the post-War United States

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a loss.

Nor have my ears been accosted by anyone’s version of “Santa Baby.”

Sigh.

No one has blasted me with “Grandma’s Been Run over by a Reindeer.”

Oh my.

“Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” hasn’t yet bounced and jostled it’s way through my head.

Phew!

Amazingly, I’ve missed every single rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock” that seems to inundate every sound wave in the hearing world this time of year.

What will I do?

Feel at peace, perhaps?

I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas music.

Here’s some nice alternatives to the usual noise blaring on the radio or over the store’s sound system.

Any tune by Vince Guaraldi, whose songs you’d recognize if you’ve ever watched a Charlie Brown cartoon, is a welcome background sound. “Skating” is a nice example.  So is this one.

I also hum to myself, often an unrecognizable song, sometimes a composite of a few mismatched songs. That’s my favorite. Whistling is nice, although a little more noticeable.  People might wonder what you’ve been up to if you sound that cheerful. Exercise caution with the whistling thing.

Classical holiday music, without lyrics, is my solace this year.

I know, I’m so boring. And I love it!

This year I’m choosing to find Peace on Earth, in a different way.  Nothing groundbreaking.  Just a simple change in the music I listen to.

In the car, the radio is OFF.

I’ve got a music app that allows me to choose the soundtrack to my day.

The World Is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon

The World Is Too Much With Us; Late and Soon (Photo credit: xdestineex)

I feel blessed beyond words. To be able to block out the world, somewhat, with two little ear buds, attached by a thin wire to a miraculous little device in my pocket, is a balm and solace in my life that I am so grateful for.

When “the world is too much with us” I have an instant retreat. Music covers me like an umbrella and keeps the rain of chaos and frantic busyness at a distance. I can breathe in slowly and deeply and move with deliberate and unrushed steps.

Anything with a Windham Hill label, like George Winston, or Jim Brickman works nicely for my sanity level.  Jon Schmidt with the Piano Guys is always a great choice.  Choosing anything with the word Philharmonic soothes the soul with caressing notes and gentleness.

I’m just keeping a grip on reality as best I can here. So far, it’s only the 12th of December, it’s working.

If music is the handrail on my daily path providing balance and peace, then play on.

 

Do you have any music that soothes and smoothes your day?  I’d love to get some more suggestions.

 

Categories: Joy, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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