Category: christmas

A Post-Christmas Thought

I know I said I was taking a break from the blog, but I’m breaking that rule today to pop in and share a thought. I was sitting here catching up with my journal for the last few days. Christmas is fun, but very busy, and so it’s easy to let some things slip past me in the big build up. I was about five days behind, but I like writing my journal. A good way to take stock of what I’ve been up to. Sometimes it seems it’s very same-thing-every-day, but other times huge things will happen out of nowhere.

But as I was writing about everything we’ve been up to (Canadian Brass Christmas concert, quartet in church, presents, fun, and a crushed front bumper of the Prius in a parking mishap), it just occurred to me how much I like the little things. Spending time with the kids. Going on walks. Working on projects. Playing games. Watching movies. Just spending time together as a family.

You want to have things mixed up now and then. Excitement. Vacations. But so much of life is just the day in day out act of living it. Just as you only notice how wonderful it is to be healthy once you’re actually sick, it can be hard to identify how much fun it is to be with your family until they’re not there anymore.

This isn’t intended to be a sad post. Just a chance for me to try and get down the feeling I was having while journaling. I won’t have another Christmas with Tomas at 14, DC at 10, and MC at 5, and that’s okay. Life moves on, and there will be Christmases to come, and this one to look back on. How to put this . . . ?

When we were in Krakow this past summer, we took the kids out at night late one evening. Our hotel was 25 feet from the main square of the city, so Denisa and I thought it was a perfect chance to do something with the kids we don’t usually get to do. We had a great time wandering the streets and showing them how different a city looks at night compared to the day. And after we were mostly done (just finishing one of our many ice creams that trip), I pulled everyone off to the side of the main square. I told the kids to stop and take some time to *be* there. To really notice what it was like. To listen to the sounds. Feel the air. Smell it. Focus on what it’s like. It’s kind of like taking a mental snapshot of a moment. It’s something I’ve done off and on over the years, and I love being able to think back on all those times and remember them, because when I focus like that, the memories do seem much clearer and crisper.

The main square in Krakow. I had everyone stand just to the left of this picture (though it was much later when we did that walk).

That’s the same sort of feeling I had while journaling. That just living life with my family is a lot of fun, and I want to Remember this. I know there will be Christmases when things are much different. That’s okay. This was a lovely one, and it’s been a hectic end of the year to this point. I was very grateful for the chance to catch my breath, clear my head, and just enjoy the moment for while again.

I hope this Christmas found you and yours in good health and spirits as well. Maybe it wasn’t a great time for you (there have been some Christmases that were . . . much less than optimal for me). If so, I hope you have good times ahead. And when they come (or if they’re already here), take some time to soak them all in.

And now I’m going to eat some more fudge, before I turn into a walking Hallmark card.

Merry Christmas!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Baby It’s Cold Outside Isn’t Worth It

I understand. There has been a huge cultural movement over the last few years. Call it the PC movement, Social Justice Warriors, or something else, but it’s been a general drift away from certain “traditional” mindsets that might have been broadly accepted in the past, but which have fallen out of favor with many today.

And some people find that threatening.

We could dive into the details about what motivates people and what makes them feel insecure, but I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t feel like going there today. Suffice it to say that there’s a backlash movement against the PC movement. There are people who feel there should be no need to sacrifice things that have been popular for decades just because they might be perceived as insensitive or disparaging to whole groups of people. (Quick aside: read that last sentence again. Then, if that describes you, question your life choices.)

Perhaps I’m being dismissive. Perhaps I truly don’t understand what motivates people who seem (to me) to hear about the fact that they’re doing something that’s upsetting or hurtful to others, and then they decide to continue doing it, just because they don’t feel like they should have to stop.

I deal with this kind of behavior pretty regularly, as a parent. One of my kids will be on the couch, It’s a big couch. Plenty of room. And another one will come sit down on the couch. Sooner or later, one of the kids makes a move. Typically, they try to sprawl out as much as possible. Inevitably, this sprawl infringes on the space of the other kid. That’s when the arguing starts. The couch is big enough for everyone, but one kid feels like they should be able to set up shop on the whole thing, or right next to the other kid.

Another example: we’ll be in the car, and one kid decides to start listening to their video game music without using their headphones. It’s annoying to everyone else in the car, but they don’t want to stop, because they like it more without headphones.

Folks, if your behavior is regularly mirrored by a five-year-old, maybe going around calling other people misguided or wrong is a tad off base.

The thing is, if these debates were about truly important things, I’d be much more sympathetic. If something really matters to a person, I try to be able to help that person get that thing. But so many of these “Anti-PC Movement” movements have been about things that . . . just don’t seem to amount to much. And no example of this is easier to see than “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

To judge from my current Facebook feed, you would think “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is the Mona Lisa of Christmas music. That it’s the epitome of all that is good and right with the world when it comes to holiday classics. Here’s how I summed it up in one Facebook response I wrote:

Of all the possibilities, I get a kick out of the number of people willing to go to battle for “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” As if this is the Bridge of Khazad Dum, and PC Culture is the Balrog, the song is Frodo, and they’re Gandalf, bravely standing there shouting “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!”

It’s a song that if it were done today, would come across as creepy. And it’s still being covered today. It’s a light Christmas song, and people are treating it like it’s Holy Writ.

If people don’t like it, don’t play it. If people like to listen to it, fine. But to go full nerd and explain the history of the song, American culture, and dating mores just to justify why you feel you should be able to listen to the song and it should be in regular rotation on the radio . . . seems excessive.

The debate is generating a fair bit of buzz, with some radio stations yanking the song from their rotation (OH NOES!!), and videos being made that poke fun at the song and the debate.

Pretty amusing, though I kind of cringe at the cavalier way it’s poking fun at the #metoo movement
This one I take more umbrage at, mainly because it strongly implies anyone who has an issue with the song is represented by this sort of behavior, which I think totally misses the point.

When I first read the linguistic, historical defense of the song a few years ago (such as some of the thoughts expressed in this article), I thought it was interesting, and I agreed with it. The song didn’t mean what it sounds like it means today. What’s the big deal?

But #metoo has happened since then, and the song really comes across as flat footed now. And yes, that’s not what it meant back then, but so what? Will I take this song out of my own Christmas playlist? No. It’s a catchy song, it won an Academy Award, and I don’t mind it. Do I care if I don’t hear it on the radio ever again? No. If I like it, I can buy any version I want and play it until my ears bleed.

(As another side note, I get another kick out of the fact that some of the people who are arguing we keep the song playing are conservative, and their argument “It doesn’t mean what you think it means” ends up being “Actually, it means this unmarried woman wants to have sex with a man.” And that somehow . . . makes it a song we should gather the kids around to enjoy together? How does “Baby It’s Cold Outside” end up being the hill some conservatives want to go to war over? Just because it’s something the PC movement wants? The enemy of my enemy is my friend?)

Anyway. That’s about 1,000 words more than I’d ever thought I’d be writing about this subject, but it’s been bugging me more and more as I see the debate sprawl across social media. Sooner or later, I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Thanks for reading.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Celebrating Christmas 25 Ways

The holidays are a busy time of year for me. I’ve written posts about that in the past, and this year will be no different. We have a whole slew of traditions to follow through on, decorations to put up, and lifelong memories to make. (No pressure, right?) So I would have to be really imbalanced to want to add a monthlong routine to the mix.

And yet that’s exactly what I’m going to try to do.

The Mormon church did something like this last year, and they’re bringing it back this year. A campaign for Christmas, where they’re encouraging people to take time each day (from today until the 25th) to think about giving and doing service for others. It’s called the #LightTheWorld campaign, and they’ve got handy calendars that help you get ideas for each day.

Up today? “Freely ye have received, freely give.”

To act as a hook for the concept, the church did a bit of a social experiment last year, setting up two vending machines outside its temple in Manhattan. One was your typical “buy stuff from a vending machine” rig. The other allowed you to buy stuff for other people. Donate clean drinking water to a village, or a goat to someone on another continent. And the one that let you donate to others became way more popular than the standard setup. Here’s the video, which I really enjoyed:

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to stay on top of it. I like the program in theory, but I know how easy it is for me to get swamped with things that have to get done this time of year. So I’m committing to do at least this much: have a conversation about the topic each day with my kids. Discuss it over dinner. Maybe read the scripture that inspired the theme, and talk about how we do as a family living up to that principle. If I can incorporate an activity into the mix, so much the better.

Why do I want to do this? Because I think it’s important to get outside myself. Because when I take the time to do things for other people, I’m a happier person myself. And because as much as I love the season of Christmas, I know I have a tendency to get bogged down in the commercial side of it. I would love to do a better job avoiding this, and I hope this idea helps.

Wish me luck.

In Search of New Christmas Movies

I have a high tolerance for watching the same movie over and over and over. (See: Groundhog Day) But for some reason this year, as I look over my Christmas movie collection, I’m just not finding anything I really want to watch. It all feels like stuff I’ve just watched a bit ago, and so I end up giving up on Christmasy stuff and go with something else. (Right now Denisa and I are working our way through The Crown, which we’ve really enjoyed so far.)

So I’m going to turn to you for advice. Are there any Christmas movies you love? Which ones? To cut you off at the pass, here are the ones I’ve already considered and passed over:

  • White Christmas
  • Holiday Inn
  • Elf
  • The Santa Clause
  • Christmas Vacation
  • Christmas Story
  • Christmas Carol
  • Muppet Christmas Carol
  • Gremlins
  • Die Hard
  • Shop Around the Corner
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • Love Actually
  • It Happened on 5th Avenue
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
  • Scrooged
  • Christmas in Connecticut
  • Christmas Eve on Sesame Street
  • Charlie Brown Christmas

There might be a few I’m forgetting as well, so apologies in advance. Looking over that list, I think something might be wrong with me. I know they’re all good, fun movies, but they just feel like things I’ve watched too recently. Why watch them again when there are so many new things out there I haven’t seen?

Probably this is just a phase. I didn’t feel like watching the movies the other night, but I’ll get over that. (It’s a struggle, I know. Life is hard for me.) But as I had the feeling, I wondered if there were some really good ones out there that I haven’t seen, and crowd sourcing seemed to be the way to go.

So have at it, crowd. Suggestions welcome! And thanks in advance.

When Christmas Trees Attack

I’ve had better days in my life compared to how my day went yesterday. A few worse ones, of course. But it’s not often you have a day that you’re pretty sure you’ll remember for quite some time, and for all the wrong reasons. I’ve had better ways I’ve responded to stress, too.

The day started out innocently enough. An average work day, though I was still getting over being sick. Nothing bad, but a lingering fatigue. You know how it can be. I’d come home and worked on writing, and all was still more or less on track. Then I got news that my step mother’s cancer had taken a sharp turn for the worse. (Believe it or not, I try to avoid talking too much about family on my blog beyond Denisa and the kids. And there are some things I just don’t mention. I only bring this up now to explain how the day went from fine to awful so quickly.)

The news shook me a great deal. It still has me unsettled and off balance, and this is now almost a whole day later. But Denisa was at work still, and I needed to get things moving with dinner and family activities. Mikulaš was supposed to come last night, after all. And that meant the kids needed to find their winter boots and clean them, and we wanted to decorate the Christmas tree on top of that.

I came downstairs determined to have a good evening. In retrospect, this was the wrong attitude to start with. I was Clark Griswolding the holidays. I’d put the movie clip in (from National Lampoon’s Vacation), but the language is too strong for me to feel comfortable. Here’s the edited quote I’m referring to. It comes toward the end of the movie. Everything’s been going wrong with the trip, and Clark’s family wants to bail out. When they suggest giving up on the vacation, this is his response:

I think you’re all [frakked] in the head. We’re ten hours from the [frakking] fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun… We’re all gonna have so much [frakking] fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! I must be crazy! I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose!

This scene plays in my head whenever I go overboard on something. Usually in retrospect, of course. The same as it’s playing now. But I definitely feel obligated to have fun sometimes, even when it’s just not happening.

So I was stressed last night, and I was more stressed by the thought that we had to have a FUN night, and that made me snappy. I barked the kids into order and got dinner going. I managed to seriously upset one child to the point that they left the room completely, right before decorations were supposed to be going up. I sifted through Christmas tree lights and got them onto the tree, and then I plodded through the motions of what was supposed to be going on.

And then I realized what I was doing and backed off a bit. That was a good thing. The child rejoined us, apologies were extended, and it seemed like we might pull through that evening without too much damage.

Then I got an email about something at work that had to be taken care of right away. Fine. Everything seemed to be in order, so I headed up to work on a revision of a document that needed to be turned around ASAP. Halfway through the revision, DC came to the room, her eyes wide. “Mom needs you,” she said. “The tree fell down.”

Yeah.

I rushed downstairs to see the Christmas tree we’d spent an hour or two decorating, sprawled on the floor. Ornaments shattered. Needles scattered. Water everywhere. This was a first for me. It felt so . . . strange to see that tree like that. Like it was dead, honestly. Somehow we’d put too many decorations on one side, I think. Or else I’d pulled at it when I was putting on the lights. In any case, the tree had been imbalanced, and it toppled at last. Thankfully no one had been there to get hit when it fell.

Denisa and I scrambled to dry the floor and right the tree. Meanwhile, I still had that ASAP work assignment, so once the crisis had at least been patched, I headed back upstairs to finish. I got it done and sent back, and then I headed downstairs again to redecorate the tree.

It was a late night.

But it’s in the past now. The best thing about bad days is that usually things can only get better. Here’s hoping it’s all up from here.

Anyone else have a Christmas tree topple on them? I can’t be the first . . .

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