Archive | December, 2013

Elf On A What?

10 Dec

People may not have the same opinion as what I have stated below. That’s fine! After talking with others after posting this article on a different website, I’m not sure I completely agree with myself! So yes, I welcome criticism, I welcome agreement – but really, just realize that I’m not being completely serious. Sarcasm is my second language. THANX!

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I’m all for Christmas tradition. When I was little, we always had an Advent calendar. Each morning, one of us kids would takes turns opening each little slot that indicated the day of the month. Some years, there was chocolate inside for the taking. One year, there was mouse poop instead (oh, old Iowa houses).

We hung stockings from our wooden staircase. We baked an enormous amount of cookies and candy. We would pile into the car with our grandparents and go look at Christmas lights. We listened to holiday tunes every morning before school. We would make our way through an enormous amount of holiday classics – from Rudolph to Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Christmas Eve meant a huge vat of oyster stew and a gathering at my family’s home for games and conversation. And every year, we would leave out food for Santa and his reindeer.

But there is one “new” tradition that this girl can’t get behind – Elf On A Shelf. Call me a scrooge or whatever, but I just can’t. First off, they are just beyond ugly. I get nightmares pretty easily, and the best way to trigger them is by surrounding myself with little dolls. That is why I wasn’t into Precious Moments, trolls or china dolls dressed up in their finest when I was younger. The creep factor. Even as an adult, it would probably skeeve me out to see an elf staring straight at me while I was vacuuming, placing gifts under the tree – you name it. Gross.

But it has a book, you say, and a movie. Yes, but the interactive Polar Express has a train whistle, and those don’t freak me out in the least.

And there are five gazillion fun ways to place our little elf in the house. Hey, don’t get me wrong, there are some really smart cookies out there. My Facebook feed is inundated with the daily schedules of these elves. And man, the positions they put their creepy toys in are hilarious and brilliant. Those blogs telling you how to place your doll in the most inappropriate positions – I have read them all. The thing is, I don’t know about you, but I’m TIRED at the end of the day. I mean, Christmas is nuts. You have all the gifts to buy, cards to get out, traveling – besides all your normal work and everyday stuff. I don’t have kids yet and some days I am ready to crawl into bed as soon as I get home. So having to come up with another new, funny way to place that ugly thing in my home, cook dinner, and take the kids to all of their after-school practices? No thank you. I feel like it’s part of that whole parent mantra of “I have to do it all!!!” For me, as a kid, the whole month of December was exciting enough, I couldn’t imagine yet another activity to include in this jam-packed extravaganza.

The main reason I just am not all up on this new fad is the whole “big brother” aspect of it. Honestly, when I was a child, I was confused enough on whether Jesus or Santa was watching me. Did they tag team? Who reported to whom? Where was this ladder to heaven from the North Pole for their secret meetings? With our Catholic confessions, I knew Jesus was always out there and I had to be good on a DAILY basis, for I had to recite ten Hail Mary’s and ten Our Father’s if I wasn’t. And then when Santa came, woof dah, I tried not to put one toe out of line.

My parents made it pretty clear what the Christmas season was about, but I still had the Santa beliefs down ‘til fourth grade. And to add another little minion to the mix to do the fat man’s bidding? You are putting Catholic guilt times ten on a little kid. Besides that, my parents never empty threatened us with taking away our presents. “You better be good or you won’t get any presents from Santa for Christmas! He’s watching!” Yeah right, I doubt that really happens in most households. I can’t see my dad in the customer service line at Target during the holiday season returning all my Barbie toys. Not. Gonna. Happen. So instead of the “no presents” gag to get us to behave during the season, it was more of the usual, traditional time outs that were expected year round if we were not handling things right. I mean, why should good manners and well-behaved children be only expected at Christmas time? If that’s so, leave that stinkin’ elf out all year round.

And lastly, spending $30 on this thing? Dude … no. I can find ugly toys for as a little as $2. If I really need to EOAS it someday, I will grab my Ken doll in his mesh gold shirt and green board shorts and get crackin’! I love Christmas. I love tradition. I just don’t love the Elf. Sorry, little creepy, gross, ugly tchotchke. Sorry, since you you were introduced in 2005, I’m going to hope you leave in as big of a flurry as you came in.

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A Sixth-Grader’s Nightmare: Christmas Edition

6 Dec

709fd2be62450971e334b29ee4c7f54aMortified. Horrified. Petrified.

I used to flip through teen magazines to the back section, a place where girls would write in to share their most distressing personal tales of embarrassing mishaps. “It was mortifying!!!” said every girl ever.

How awful! That would never happen to me, I thought. And as I chuckled over their misfortunes, in the back of my mind, I prayed that similar events would never happen to me.

Wrong.

It was my sixth-grade year. Instead of a traditional Christmas chorus concert, the entire grade put on the play The Runaway Snowman. Four kids would lead the production while the rest of the grade chimed in as the choir. I was one of those lucky few selected to fill one of the acting/singing parts.

This is it, I thought. People will recognize me, my talent, what I can bring to the table. As a sixth grader, I was consumed with the ideas of popularity, fitting in and standing out (go figure). And without athletic talent, this was an arena that I could perhaps shine in somehow.

So after many practices, our class was ready to present the show to our parents. It was a Friday afternoon and I spent the entire school day beaming. I was a star, I was brimming with absolute joy and excitement. My fellow cast mates and I were let out of class early to prepare for the production. A band director’s office was our costume slash prop room, and we had carefully laid out our clothes and makeup ahead of time.

After the lead character, the snowman, had put on his ensemble and headed out the door, I prepared to put on a dark blue jumper dress and a pair of my mother’s high heels. Not only was I playing the part of an adult woman, I would look the part. Absolutely stunning. There was a boy in the choir that I had been crushing on hard core. I kept thinking with the blush, lipstick and outfit (forget the thick glasses, buck teeth and braces), it would be hard to not take notice of me on stage.

And standing with just my Pocahontas underwear on (I was changing from my sports bra to a training bra), it happened. The door opened. And not one, or two, but four of my fellow male classmates happened to be standing right there. Wide mouthed.

I didn’t know what to do. How did they get in? Why were they here? What did they see?

I started to scream, “Get out! Get out!” I suddenly crossed my arms against my bare chest, realizing what they had just seen.

And the guys started screaming and running from the door, almost as horrified as I was.

I leaped under the teacher’s desk, crouched, breathing heavily. Was this a dream? It had to be. No way would something this horrible happen – it was too humiliating.

The frightened boys had come into the classroom to get the props for the stage, and I had forgotten to lock the door for privacy.

Something that people have nightmares about just happened to me. A 12-year-old girl just gave some of the cutest boys in school quite a show.

I couldn’t go back out there, even with just 15 minutes until the production would start. It took quite a bit of coaxing from the director to get me to show my face, and the confidence I had displayed earlier (after displaying my assets) was completely out the window.

For months, I couldn’t live it down with students teasing me about the incident. The boys were also unable to make eye contact with me or utter more than two words at a time in my presence.

Honestly, I hadn’t remembered the incident until a few days ago. Repression has most likely hidden many of my middle school slip-ups – especially terrible ones like this one.

After the event, it was difficult to visit that embarrassing moments page in the magazines. Part of the fun was knowing those events couldn’t happen to you. But I now knew for a fact that they could.

And although it was the worst thing that had happened to me at that time of my life, a few years later, I would understand that I could fill a couple pages with horrible moments similar to this one.

My Christmas Soundtrack

4 Dec

Red-Christmas-Decorations-ChristmasIt’s that time of year again where the only type of music that fills my ears is holiday-inspired. (Besides the ’80s tunes that I require during my shower time. Hello, Mr. Big.) I do not discriminate, well I do, but my playlists are filled with many artists I wouldn’t usually listen to on a daily basis, like Mannheim Steamroller, Amy Grant, and Harry Connick, Jr (but never Jessica Simpson or the like. Never.) I actually look forward to going to work, knowing I will be listening to my Christmas soundtrack on Spotify on the way – which is always uplifting, no matter the circumstances.

So here are my top six tunes this year, the ones that I gravitate toward walking to and fro. Some have been on my favorites list for years, while others have moved up the ladder in the last couple weeks.

1) Pennies From Heaven – Louis Prima

This is not a Christmas song. It has been recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams, but I think he has the perfect voice for this song. Louis’s gravely, gritty voice plus the fast-paced beat makes it the perfect listen to while walking down the crazed streets of NYC. It doesn’t hurt that it was featured on Elf and now I believe it is a holiday song. I feel like I’m in a soundtrack to my own holiday-themed movie when this pops on.This song isn’t really a Christmas anthem, but it sure has made the rounds on the radio stations like this number has:

I Believe – Frank Sinatra

But I would never consider Annie Lennox’s version of “My Favorite Things” a holiday tune. No, that’s just freakin’ creepy, like Elf On A Shelf. Save that shit for Halloween.

2) Same Old Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg

This song has been my go-to Christmas tune since high school. I love, love Dan Fogelberg’s work, and this song is just gorgeous. Like many of his songs, it is autobiographical, and the lyrics just paint such a sad, lovely picture that many people can relate to. The fact that it was written about a meeting between him and his high school sweetheart in their hometown of Peoria, IL and that they both kept it a secret from the public for such a long time, so damn beautiful.

3) The River – Rachael Yamagata

Yes, the Joni Mitchell original version ranks supreme. But I love, love, love Rachael Yamagata. I own all of her records and absolutely love her voice quality. And as much as I love Joni, I hate to admit that I like this version even more. It’s so sad, so relatable, and just so wonderful.

4) Wishlist – Pearl Jam

Yes. Just yes. Pearl Jam is probably one of the top bands that pop up regularly on my Spotify playlists. We actually made a wedding playlist CD as party favors (which I will post next week), and Pearl Jam made the list with love song “Just Breathe”. Vedder sings of all the things he wishes for, but ends it with the line “I wish I was as fortunate, as fortunate as me.” What we should be thinking about at this time of year.

5) Winter Song – Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson

Damn beautiful. That’s all I can say about this song. “Is love alive?” and this stanza “This is my winter song/December never felt so wrong/Cause you’re not where you belong/Inside my arms”. I listen to this song in remembrance of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. I think of the families, the community, and the extremely sad loss.

6) Still, Still, Still – Mannheim Steamroller

I remember singing this Austrian lullaby in middle school and loving the melody ever since. Whenever I hear it being played, I close my eyes and imagine it being dark at night, with the snow falling and twinkling lights nearby. I instantly get transported back to my childhood.

And while I’m not including all of my favorites, I cannot stop listening to Sting’s If On A Winter Night album and Sarah McLachlan’s Wintersong. Both just delicious bites of the season.

Oh, Christmas.

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