Tag Archives: Christmas

Confessions of a Book Lover, Part 2

Cover of "Blockade Billy"

Cover of Blockade Billy

This year for my birthday, I received two books: Liberty by Garrison Keillor and Blockade Billy by Stephen King.  They were both enjoyable reads that I read that same weekend.  I decided that I would make a goal for my self.   I was going to read 100 books for my 35th year.  That lasted about 2 minutes when I realized that 2 books a week might be a little bit (OK, quite a bit) too much to handle.  I decided that I would revise that goal to 50.  At a month to go before the half way point, I am actually doing pretty well–the count stands at 19.

But as I was looking at the list, I decided that it was time to refocus and recalibrate.  I love reading, but the reason that I set a specific goal is that I aspire to be a writer.  Almost every writer who talks about the craft has at least one piece of advice if you want to be a writer yourself: read.  I realized that I was picking up something that I had around the house, or an interesting looking book at the dollar store, or some pretty short books.  Now, I can’t say any of the books that I have read so far have been bad.  Quite the contrary.  But quite a few have been easy, leisurely reads.  For example: Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom.  Now, if you have read this book, you know that it is a heartfelt tribute to a beloved mentor.  It is full of wit and wisdom.  Truthfully a very good book.  But I finished it in one sitting.  While it had life lessons, it didn’t evoke feelings about myself, or make me question how I felt about certain things.

I decided that I was going to read 10 “classic” works.  Looking at my list, I had three that could easily fall into that category: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Seven more to go.  I could do this.

mark twain Category:Mark Twain images

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Over Christmas, good luck smiled upon me.  On Lovely Wife’s side of the family, the adults draw names for gifts.  From my brother-in-law, I received a $25 dollar gift card to Barnes and Noble.  What a perfect gift.  Yesterday I made my mini-pilgrimage and picked up four books.  One relatively short: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger;  Two “regular” sized: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson; and one long one: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  So that makes seven.  Somewhere in the next seven months I also plan to read an epic novel.  Yup, that one.  War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  If that was accomplished, that would leave two more to go.  In case of a time crunch, I already have a plan: The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  If I finish and have plenty of time to spare, I can revert back to my original goal.

Perhaps it is interesting to note that while you may not have been able to tell me who wrote Liberty or Blockade Billy, I’d be willing to wager that you didn’t need me to tell you who wrote most if not all of my classic selections.  Hmmm.

Anyway, wish me luck.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Filed under books, literature, reading

Christmas Traditions I Don’t Understand

Around this time of year, we start doing strange things that just don’t happen any other time of year.  Some of them are great.  Making lots of cookies.  Giving gifts to those we love.  But there are a few that have always had me a little perplexed.

Kissing Under the Mistletoe

When in the history of the world has this ever worked for anyone (besides movies of course)?  Think about it.  You are either creepily hanging out under the mistletoe, and people are noticing this and staying the heck away.  Or you have waited all night for that special person to walk by you.  When you see them approaching you stand up and rush over there, but mis-time yourself and run into your sister or your Uncle Ed.  Even now that I am married it doesn’t make sense.  I don’t need a reason (or a specific location) to kiss my wife.

Eggnog

Why do people keep up the charade of liking this disgusting stuff?  You are liars.  Liars!  Is it because you don’t want to hurt the feelings of the people who are serving it?  Why don’t you sit down with them and have a little talk.  They probably hate it but continue to serve it because they think your feelings would be hurt if they didn’t.  From today on I am starting a new Christmas beverage tradition.  Merry Christmas!  Have a Scotch on the rocks.

Radio Stations that Switch Over to All Christmas, All the Time 

Really?  Yes, people do like Christmas music.  Apparently this year they also liked Rebecca Black.  Yet I don’t see any stations playing All Rebecca Black All the Time.  So do us a favor.  Continue to play Metallica, or Lady Antebellum, or The Beatles, or whatever is right for your format.  Have a designated Christmas time slot.  It will give us an idea of when we should schedule making our cookies.

Candy Canes

English: A Candy cane, against the background ...

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A few problems here.  I don’t especially like peppermint.  They take forever to eat.  And as you are sucking on a candy cane, it turns into a sharpened stick of eye gouging, tongue piercing perfection.  All with a handy-dandy handle.  No, if you want to serve something minty, please have some Andes mints around instead.  My tongue thanks you.

The Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays Debate

Mr. Burns

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This one seems to only have picked up steam in the last decade or so, but it is annoying, isn’t it?  Do you really think people are sitting in their office, maliciously thinking of ways to undermine Christmas while they sneer and tent their fingers together à la Mr. Burns?  I have two hypotheses about how “Happy Holidays” came about.  1) It is a heck of a lot easier that saying “HaveaMerryChristmasandaHappyNewYear” *gasp for air*.  2) Happy Holidays covers both Christmas and Hanukkah, which (and I don’t know if people have noticed this) happen to fall around the same time every year.  I see you in the back raising your hand.  People are just saying “Happy Holidays” to advance their secular agenda?  Hogwash.  If this was their honest intention, wouldn’t they say “Happy Day Off of Work”?  Or at least say “Happy Holidays” with a sneer in their voice?  I haven’t experienced either.

So Merry Christmas,  Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays.

Really.  Have a great one.  But spare the eggnog.  I’ll have a scotch.

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Filed under Christianity, Christmas, traditions

I may have over-promised

I have learned that a crucial element of my depression is my energy level.  The less energy that I have, the more down I get and the more anxiety that I have.  Sometimes I try to combat this with coffee or SodaStream Energy, but ingesting large amounts of caffeine is not so good with somebody with high blood pressure.

Which brought me to Sunday night.  With two little ones and Christmas coming up, our house looks like it has been hit with several tornadoes.  Having a lot of energy, but wanting to just have fun on the weekend, I told Lovely Wife that I would clean the entire house in the next few days.  My exact words, in fact, were “If I’m not done by Wednesday night, you can literally flog me with a wooden spoon.”  She seemed pretty accepting and excited about this.  Whether that was due to a clean house or the anticipation of a flogging, I do not know.

Unfortunately, Sunday night into Monday morning I just could not get to sleep.  It was like my body was playing a cruel trick on me.   I told Lovely Wife as much yesterday morning.  She didn’t seem all that concerned, as I still had two days to make good on my pledge.  I laid low yesterday, my mood wasn’t too shabby.  I went to bed early.

Then I woke up today.  Let me just say that housework is high on my list of Things I Do Not Like To Do.  I honestly don’t mind the cleaning part.  I can spray, scrub, vacuum, whatever.  Even toilets.  But clutter just turns my anxiety knob to 11.  I hate picking things up, because I don’t know what to do with them!  If I didn’t have this problem, there wouldn’t be toys and clothes and papers and all manner of other things strewn about.  And dishes!  Argh!  When I said that I don’t mind cleaning things, I meant I don’t mind cleaning things other than dishes! And this is even despite the fact we have a dishwasher!  ARGH!

Mello, mellow, mellow.

Wooden Spoon 1909, University of Cambridge

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Even with an early bed time last night, I woke up this morning with not a lot of energy.  Mood: down.  Anxiety: up.  So here I am on the Tuesday downhill, and I am still just looking at things and fretting.  I was hoping that blogging my conundrum would help me get motivated.

Please pray for my posterior.  It may have an appointment with a wooden spoon tomorrow.

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Filed under anxiety, blogging, coffee, depression

An Early Christmas Gift

Surgery
Image by Army Medicine via Flickr

Let me set the scene for you:  Last December I had surgery to repair two hernias.  In June, I had surgery to repair a ruptured disc in my back (according to the surgeon, one of the worst he has ever seen).  This December came, another hernia repair.  Apparently things just come squirting out of all the wrong places all too often on me.  On top of these surgeries, I had visits my general practitioner, gastroenterologist, neurologist, nephrologist, orthopedic doctor, and psychiatrist.  Let’s also not forget the chiropractor, counselor, and group therapy.  Oh yeah–and drugs.  All of this on top of time off of work.  The long and short of it is that even with insurance, we were tapped out.  Bills were getting paid, but we didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pay the next ones.

A few weeks earlier I had applied to have the bill from my back surgery reduced.  It looked like either we would have to set up a payment plan with the hospital or with a collector, either one with a hefty interest rate to be sure.  Then, last week I got an envelope from the hospital.  I opened it, expecting a bill.  Instead there was a letter notifying me that the charity committee had met, and reduced the remaining portion of our bill 100%.  There was a detailed statement attached that confirmed this.  Total remaining owed: $0.

Here was proof in black and white that you don’t get anything if you don’t ask.  But more importantly, after such a stressful year, this was probably the best Christmas present that I could get.

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Filed under anxiety, bills, Christmas, depression, doctors, surgery

My Top 5 Christmas Songs

Merry Christmas (Bing Crosby album)

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OK, I am sure that every one falls into either one (or both) groups when it comes to Christmas songs:  you either hate Christmas songs or (and?) you have already read about a hundred of these posts.  But for some reason I just cannot help myself.  Typical of a blogger, I guess: “You MUST know all the minutiae of my thoughts!

But I digress.  Before I start, I have to point out that I just cannot get into Christmas music that is just about being in love, or with family, or Santa, or you know–anything that doesn’t have to do with the birth of Christ.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a religious prude or a Scrooge.  Many are even pretty good music, or at least very catchy.  I defy you to hear “Sleigh Ride” or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and not be humming them for the rest of the day.  It’s just that most of them are extremely heavy on the schmaltz with an extra helping of cheese.  But there is one notable exception for me.  A song that I love so much I will make it my

Honorable Mention

“Blue Christmas”  Elvis wasn’t just the King of Rock and Roll, for me he is the King of Non-Christmas Christmas songs.

With that, on to the list:

5) Joseph’s Song

By Tonic Sof-Fa.  Although there are a few written from Joseph’s perspective (including a different one with the same title) there aren’t many.  Why do I love this song?  Parents, consider this: remember holding your child and having the gut feeling that he or she was going to change your life forever?  Consider holding that child and having the gut feeling that he was going to change history forever.   No video, but give it a click.  You won’t be sorry.

Joseph’s Song

4) Hallelujah

Probably the most famous choral movement of all time, there is just so much that I love about this song.  It is so quintessentially Handel.  I love hearing it performed live, and nearly jumping to my feet at the first couple of notes, as per tradition.  I have performed it so many times with various choirs that I can sing the bass part in my sleep.

3) Silent Night

So simple and elegant.  Wunderschöne, Franz Gruber.  Performed here by Bing Crosby, because you can’t have Christmas songs without Bing in there somewhere.

2) O Come, O Come   Veni Veni Emmanuel

Although I was born post Vatican II and never had to sit through a Latin Mass, none-the-less I have sung in enough Catholic choirs to have become aquainted with the Latin version, and I must say there is just something to it that burrows itself a little deeper into my soul.

1) O Holy Night 

Not much else to say here.

Some others’ (some serious, some humorous) takes on Christmas music:

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Filed under blogging, Christmas, music

Little Guy’s Greatest Hits.

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OK, this one just happened today, but it is too good not to share.  We were getting ready to go to our daycare Christmas party.  Little Guy (now 3) and I were in the car waiting for Baby Girl and Lovely Wife.  Little Guy piped up with a question: “Daddy, what do you want for Christmas?”

I thought for a bit.  “Um, Peace on Earth.”

He pondered this for a while before replying, “Oh.  How ’bout a juice box?”

For all of those celebrating the season, I wish you a Merry Christmas.  For all others I truly do wish for Peace on Earth.  Juice boxes for everyone wouldn’t be so bad either.

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Filed under Christmas, juice, Peace on Earth