Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Case of the Christmas Giggles

Dreaming of a White Christmas
Remember mix tapes?  I used to make them all the time when I was a kid.  When I created a new masterpiece, I took a ball point pen and poked out the little plastic tab on the side of the tape to make my creation permanent. 

One Christmas when I was little, my grandparents gave our family the gift of a tape player and a tape of Christmas songs.  It was, apparently, recorded at home in some lady's basement.  We could tell.  Along with the novice production, the singing was not much better.  The lady had a warbly and at times screechy voice.  

Hoping for the perfect gift

At first my brother and I were disappointed.  The tape probably would have been cast aside except for one thing:  Bobby and I discovered the little plastic tab still intact on the side of the tape.  This was a perfectly good cassette!  We could dub over the entire thing!

We hit the play button and listened to the piano plinking and plunking as the lady sang with dramatic flourish...

"And the angels..."  she crooned.  Quickly we hit record and updated the lyrics with our own childlike melody...

"Laughed so hard they wet their pants!" 

And then we laughed so hard, we almost wet our own pants.  We spent hours with our new gift that afternoon.  Lying on our stomachs on the living room carpet, we rewrote the words to every song and inserted our new, improved version onto the tape.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas! By now the gifts are unwrapped and maybe, just maybe some of them weren't perfect.  In our house, the basketball socks we ordered for Jack were too small.  Aunt Julie's hot chocolate mix exploded in the package during shipping, covering everything in a film of cocoa.   I watched the kids open their gifts--beautiful handknit hats--and couldn't help but laugh that they smelled delicious too. 
 Merry Christmas!  I wish for all of you memories with family and friends, filled with unexpected laughter.  I think the angels would approve.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Perfect Christmas

There's a big black hole in the middle of my Christmas tree.  Now, I'm not too bad when it comes to lights--I always check the bulbs before I string them and I rarely make that rookie mistake of winding them the wrong way ending up with nothing to plug into the outlet.  This year's light stringing went without a hitch and the tree looked great...until Thursday.

"What happened to the tree?" Katherine asks.  What happened indeed.  Apparently one string went out.  Of course, it was the string right in the middle of the tree.  Have you ever tried to unwind a light string from an already decorated tree?  Neither have I.  And I'm not about to start now. 

As long as I'm pointing out imperfections, the stockings are not hung by my chimney with care.  I affixed them with push pins.  I did a really lousy job hiding Paul's Christmas gift and he found it immediately.  I hid it under a blanket on our bed.  Then I forgot and asked him to make the beds.  Whoops.

We're having company in about two hours and I haven't started cooking dinner yet.  The floor won't be mopped and I scratched the idea of homemade dessert long ago in favor of store-bought pie.  So, it won't be perfect, but that's OK.  I think about Mary's plan for the birth of Jesus.  I'm pretty sure her Lamaze coach, the mid-wife and the doula would not have recommended the cramped, smelly, unsanitary manger as their top choice for the big event.   Yet, even in less than ideal circumstances, Mary gave birth to a perfect baby. 

I recently read an article from the NY Times called The Island Where People Forget to Die.  On Ikaria, people get lots of fresh air and exercise.  They eat healthy diets.  They take naps.  All healthy habits that are a part of a healthy lifestyle, yet the researchers speculate these habits are not as important as we might think.  "Yet in Ikaria and the other places like it, diet only partly explained higher life expectancy. Exercise — at least the way we think of it, as willful, dutiful, physical activity — played a small role at best."

So if not diet and exercise, what?  The social culture of the island.  Friends.  Family.  Community.  A place where people don't strive for perfection, they strive for passion.  Tonight our tree may have some dark spots but our home will be full of the light and laughter of good friends.   And that sounds just perfect to me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Traditions

Something old, something new.  Something borrowed, something blue.  No, noone's getting married.  Today is the first Sunday of Advent and it is time for our Advent traditions.

Something Old: Grandpa Clark's dowel rod Christmas tree reminds me of spending Christmas in Pennsylvania.

After dinner my brother and I would sit in Grandpa's cozy shop next to his wood burning furnace.  Grandpa would smoke his pipe and let us hammer nails into wood scraps.  Then we'd head back inside for Grandma's famous chocolate cake with her amazing seven minute frosting.  I still can't make that frosting--mine always droops, but I have the dowel rod tree in my home now and it reminds me of my grandparents. 

Something New: Four tall taper candles
resting in a wreath of fresh evergreens

Each Sunday during Advent we light a new candle on our wreath symbolizing hope, peace, joy and love.  A few years ago, we began inviting a family to join us for dinner to share the tradition with us.  For me, it is a great reminder to slow down and appreciate the season of Christmas.
Something Borrowed: Advent Book Calendar

I love hearing about other people's traditions and ideas.  This one I borrowed from "Dana Made It".  Dana is an amazingly creative and crafty mother of three from Texas.  I love reading her blog and seeing pictures of her ideas (add talented photographer to her list of talents). She's sorta like Martha Stewart only way more down to earth and, to my knowledge, has never done jail time.   Up until now I've just admired her ideas but this time I thought, "Hey, I can do this!"  We unwrapped the first book last night and snuggled beneath the blanket to read together. Even the teenage boy stuck around for the story. 

Something Blue: Wreath of Bluebirds

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah.  I don't know why, but lately I've been loving bluebirds so my mom sent me a box full of them.  I hung them all on the wreath above our mantle--perfect with the blue walls in our living room.  I already feel plenty of sunshine coming my way...

I wish you all a wonderful season of Advent full of fond memories, new traditions, friends, family and sunshine.