Tag Archives: Christmas

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.

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.

Home For Christmas?

27 Nov
Q and I, Christmas 2012. If you notice, she's choking me by pulling my new necklace, but I'm pretending not to notice. I did, btw.

Q and I, Christmas 2012. If you notice, she’s choking me by pulling my new necklace, but I’m pretending not to notice. I did, btw.

I hate missing out. The last couple weeks have been kind of mopey for me, as I wasn’t sure I was going to make it back to Iowa for the traditional holiday celebrations. As much as I have been acclimating to the area, I haven’t missed a Thanksgiving or Christmas back home before. But flights at this time of year are crazy expensive. Of course, I don’t have much to complain about as I have racked up quite a few frequent flier miles this year with weddings, a bridal shower, and my own nuptials. But the family traditions, that is something I have a hard time with missing. Turkey Day isn’t as big of a deal for me, even though the Black Friday shopping with my mom and sister is something I always looked forward to. It’s Christmas, well Christmas Eve to be exact. We attend Mass, have a big oyster stew dinner, open a few gifts and play games. This has been our tradition since I was a small child, and it hasn’t changed. Sure I could Skype, but that would probably make me more homesick.

I spent days scouring sites for plane ticket costs. My favored non-stop route started at $900, which made me pretty sick to my stomach. It did not fit at all in with my short-term budgeting. But I had used up all my time off at work for the wedding, and I didn’t have many other options. Come another time, my mom said, we can make it Christmas any time of the year. And as much as I wanted to believe her, I grumbled and groaned about how it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t.

New York is amazing at this time of year – with the lights, the shopping, the excitement, it’s hard to find another place that feels as … magical. But it’s not home. All it takes is for me to hear “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” or one of those similar tunes, and I just crumble.

Finally, in all my complaining, my husband offered that I just go home for the holidays. To buy my expensive ticket and get back to Iowa. He wanted me to know that if it meant that much to me, he could stay and spend Christmas alone. It’s odd how a statement like that will change how you feel about the situation. I mean, I love my family and want to be with them, but this guy is my family and I couldn’t imagine spending the holiday without him. And the fact that he made such a generous offer at his expense, well, yeah he’s a pretty good guy. So we decided to stay put unless flights got a little cheaper. I wasn’t blissful, but I knew I could manage to have a really great Christmas with new traditions with him.

And then I found out I had miscalculated how much time off I still had left, which left me with a few days of wiggle room. And then all of a sudden, an airline had a crazy sale, and we realized that we could go back – with some strict budgeting and tighter gift spending. We will be flying back to NYC on Christmas morning, but that is okay with me.

I’m so happy that I will be able to go back to Iowa, but now, I’m more psyched about this whole marriage deal I have. I got lucky and snagged a really great person to be my partner. He’s willing to sacrifice his own happiness for me, and I’m pretty grateful. So while everyone is having their turkey celebrations, we will be heading off on a tiny honeymoon celebration together, which I’m pretty stoked about. So, I must say, the holidays are turning out to be pretty great after all. 🙂

The perfect gift

24 Dec

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http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/54/The-perfect-gift.html

http://messengernews.net/page/blogs.detail/display/78/The-perfect-gift.html

Before leaving New York City last week, I spent a hefty amount of time searching for perfect gifts for family. Each time I asked them for some advice, the answer would be “something from New York.” A lot of help. So I scoured lower, mid and upper Manhattan, hoping to come near something that could give me that “A Ha! Moment”. Nothing ever did. I looked in the small shops near Bryant Park. Too kitschy. FAO Schwartz. Too expensive. I went to boutiques, huge department stores, and even street vendors in search of said presents. I either found generic items that could be found anywhere or beautiful things that would unload my savings account. Nothing was perfect.

I had imagined that my first year away from family and friends would be spent sending back fun and cool items that couldn’t be found anywhere else. Need a baby gift? Bam, in the mail it goes. An engagement gift? Here you go, a one-of-a-kind item. While I do find interesting stuff that I had never seen before or clothing styles that are much different than my own — I have yet to find something that can’t be purchased in some form on the Internet. (As of this writing, I am still in search for the perfect NYC wedding gift for a good friend that had her wedding in September! I am now thinking that a gift card will soon be in the mail.)

After such a shopping overload and nothing yet wrapped to go in my luggage, I kind of gave up. My mom had been calling me for gift ideas of my own and I couldn’t even give an answer to that. I sat in my local park (no, not Central Park) and thought about all of this hoopla for awhile. I wanted everything to be perfect – gifts and whatnot – and most likely for selfish reasons. I wanted to come home. In all of this frenzied shopping, all I really wanted was to be near my family and for the time to be perfect for all of us. And honestly, I didn’t want any gifts. I just wanted a plane ticket home.

I have walked the street in front of Macy’s. We have spent time skating at Bryant Park and seeing the giant tree at Rockefeller Center. NYC is a beautiful, exciting place at this time of year. And yet, in all of it’s majestic glory, I just wanted the quiet of small town Iowa.

It was after this moment of clarity that I realized my gifts didn’t have to be perfect. More likely than not, my own family wanted me home too (well, hopefully).

So while other people may have spent money on lavish gifts from expensive stores in midtown, I went to a Times Square gift shop for some tacky items. To Century 21, a crazy cheap discount store, for clothing that is technically from NYC. And to Target and Amazon.com for some gifts that would be shipped directly to Iowa. And while they aren’t the “perfect” gifts, they are presents that I am sure my family will enjoy. And whatever gifts come under the tree for me, I am glad to receive them. But my perfect gift has already arrived. From baking and cooking to watching movies while eating Chinese food — spending time with my siblings, parents, niece have made for the best Christmas present I could possibly ask for.

Merry Christmas!

Quiet simplicity: A Christmas story

20 Dec

When did you first understand the meaning of love? I was once asked this question … here was my answer.

EP05 Red Apple on Cutting Board 16x20

My grandmother could peel an apple. It wasn’t haphazardly cored — the way I do it. Instead, the process was in long curling strips into the kitchen sink, never ending until the entire skin was removed in one swift step. Effortless is perhaps the best word to describe it.

But that was Grandma Mary. It didn’t seem that she had to try. When she knitted a blanket, she carried on conversations as if she wasn’t working the needles. Rolling out pasta seemed to be a small task, quickly accomplished. And patience was never an issue, as she listened to a loved one’s problems with full attention.

She was a hard-working Iowa farm wife. She diligently performed each and every task, and provided nourishment to all who needed it.

During our college years, my cousin Jennifer and I looked forward to noon on Mondays. That day we’d travel to our grandparents’ home for a feast, of sorts. The kitchen table would be heaped with everything a hungry farmer would ever want — a roast, simmering vegetables, baked bread, cheeses, a fresh dessert and more. We’d sit, relaying stories of school, while Grandma watched us, amused, laughing with this slight lilt. We’d walk out the door, an hour later, hardly able to keep our eyes open due to the food overload we had experienced.

A few years later, I found myself living in a new city, away from family. Life had gotten in the way — romantic relationships, finances, the normal worries of adulthood. Everything constantly surrounding me seemed of dire importance — and during that chaotic mess was when I received the phone call. My mother called me with startling news, one September day, that would cause my concentration to lapse. “Your grandmother’s cancer is back.”

“Well, she’s going to get better again, right?”

“Not this time.”

She had been diagnosed with uterine cancer a few years back, but had succeeded in fighting the battle.

But this time, it had spread. All over.

That day was a blur. I’m not sure how I got back to my apartment, after driving through rush-hour traffic. I wasn’t thinking of anything besides the rotting feeling that had settled in my stomach cavity.

She had a half a year at the most, doctors said.

Three months passed, and Christmas-time was fast approaching. I looked forward to spending time with my family in central Iowa. A perfect place for spending the holidays — fields blanked with snow, fireplaces, blankets and hot chocolate waiting inside to provide warmth.

Grandma had been in and out of the hospital recently. Sick with the ailments that come along with cancer. She had gone into the local hospital on Dec. 22, but we were assured that she would come home soon. Grandpa was quite worried — knowing that this was likely to be the last holiday he’d spend with his wife.  On Christmas Eve, I came into her hospital room with a small-lighted tree, to bring some cheer to the blank atmosphere. She was asleep, peaceful, and very pale in her bed. I couldn’t bear to wake her as she lay with a slight smile on her face. That moment, I realized how vulnerable she was — how I was.

The next morning, while opening up presents with my family, the phone rang. It was the hospital — and we were advised to hurry. We dressed quickly, and arrived to find our large extended family gathering in the lobby. The end was coming soon for Grandma Mary, as the cancer had entered her brain. A day or two left, the doctors said. A priest came to give her last rites, and we knew then that the tough stuff had come.

She stayed for a day. Then two. Three, and finally four. While there, she laughed and talked with family — relaying stories of the past we had never heard. We enjoyed her company and she enjoyed ours.

But there was something missing in this hospital room. My younger sister Emily. Oh, she was at the hospital  — more than most, in fact. But she hadn’t set foot in Grandma’s room since Christmas Day. She had her reasons.

While my grandmother and I had a strong connection, as most of my cousins did — the one bond that stuck out was the one she shared with Emily. They had nicknames for each other and daily card games to play. Instead of coming right home after school during our younger years, Emily would stop over at our grandparents’ instead. For cookies and punch, she’d say. In reality, it was for the conversation and the jokes they’d share. My sister couldn’t, or didn’t, want to say goodbye. So after three days of avoiding her grandmother’s hospital room, it was time. Well that was what my mother and aunts said. Emily didn’t think so. She sat stubbornly in the waiting room, arms folded, as my aunts coaxed her to the room. At first it was “I’m fine, thanks anyway,” to “No, I’m not going. Stop.” But she failed against the defiant aunts. Arm in arm, the two led her toward my sleeping grandma. She stayed in the doorway of the hospital room for a while, afraid. A gentle push from behind made her enter the room, to reality. Emily sat slowly next to the bed. Her face immobile. Frigidly still as she gradually looked at grandma’s closed eyes. Finally, an uncle gently took her hand and placed it into the frail embrace of my grandmother’s. That was all it took. These heaving sobs started coming out of Emily — her whole body shaking as she grasped onto my grandmother’s body with all her might. She couldn’t stop and wouldn’t let go. I stood in the doorway watching the situation. All who were in the room began to cry, touched by the situation. Seconds became minutes, before Emily, red-faced and spent, left the room.

It was then and there that I first knew what true love was. It wasn’t my first kiss, or hearing my boyfriend say, “I love you.” Romantic love couldn’t compare. It was watching my sister grieving over her dying grandmother, her friend. She didn’t want to say goodbye, didn’t want to believe it was true. But it was. The next morning Grandma left us, as we knew she eventually would. She left as she had lived — effortlessly.

Her favorite song “Claire de Lune” was played at the funeral. A tune known for it’s quiet simplicity, something that grandma knew something about.

That was six years ago — and I still look at that night at the hospital as one of the most beautiful, yet sad, moments of my life.

My grandmother loved, and we loved her back. And for that, I am extremely blessed.

Christmas: A few of my favorite things

12 Dec

We all can think of a couple of items that make the Christmas season so special to each of us. Perhaps it is a movie, carol, or distinct memory that makes us relish the holiday.

Well, here are just a few of my favorite things about this exciting time — in no particular order.

FAVORITE MOVIE:

This iconic movie ranks top on my list of Christmas movies.

This iconic movie ranks top on my list of Christmas movies.

This is hard. There are so many classics: The Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, It’s A Wonderful Life, Elf, Home Alone, the list goes on and on. For me, myself and I, there are two movies that have to watched during the month of December — Little Women and Meet Me in St. Louis. Judy Garland is iconic and absolutely wonderful, singing “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” That movie just makes me clasp my hands to the side of my head and sigh. Little Women, well I know that isn’t really considered a “Christmas” movie. Yet, with all of the winter moments and the scene signifying Christmas miracles – it gets me into the holiday spirit. It might also have to do with the fact that my late grandmother owned a copy of the 1949 version that I watched over and over, and it makes me feel a bit closer to her during the holidays.

FAVORITE CHRISTMAS SPECIAL:

I did not understand Pee Wee's more irreverent humor until later years. This is a definitely a holiday gem.

I did not understand Pee Wee’s more irreverent humor until later years. This is a definitely a holiday gem.

Movies and specials aren’t in the same category for me. Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Claymation’s Christmas, Muppet Christmas, there are so many amazing 30 minute to hour television extravaganzas that enliven childhood memories of supreme happiness. The one that I have to catch each year, with no fail, is “Pee Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special.” It is so late ’80s, it’s not even funny. No, it is super funny. From the King of Cartoons to the Magic Screen, each and every character from the beloved children show unite with stars of the time to create a Christmas spectacular. As in Pee Wee’s words, “Feliz Navi’blah!”

FAVORITE SONG(S):

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RIP Dan Fogelberg

This is super hard. From Perry Como to Ella Fitzgerald to Louis Armstrong, the classics always reign supreme. But (oh, there’s a but) I have to listen to two songs on repeat from Thanksgiving to well after the holiday season is over: Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” and Joni Mitchell’s “River.” I’m not depressed, no, these are just original pieces from true songwriters. Fogelberg’s songs are seriously like opening up his soul to the masses. I love when music used to tell a story — one that was relatable and truly sentimental and from the heart. Both of those songs can bring me to moments in my life that I cherish and hold dear.

FAVORITE ALBUM (in its entirety):

I heart "Grown-Up Christmas List" and "Emmanuel, God With Us" so much.

I heart “Grown-Up Christmas List” and “Emmanuel, God With Us” so much.

Again, a toughy. I have to listen to at least three Mannheim Steamroller albums through December, as well as the iconic Mariah Carey “Merry Christmas” CD. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” will get me dancing in a matter of seconds and makes me feel like a middle schooler again. Yet, this honor is bestowed on “The Christmas Collection” by Amy Grant. I’m not a huge fan of hers outside of the holiday season, but it contains all of her Christmas classics. My mom and I would listen to her songs over and over during shopping trips and drives to craft fairs. Her music is the nostalgia that I require while gazing at the lights on my tree. “Breath of Heaven” is seriously one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard.

FUNNIEST PART OF THE SEASON:

I'm sorry that I'm not sorry for this. I'm just sorry that you are so bitter, Suki.

I’m sorry that I’m not sorry for this. I’m just sorry that you are so bitter, Suki.

This honor is bestowed on dressing up animals in crazy costumes. My parents’ poor cat Suki is known to be the brunt of our humor (don’t feel sorry for her, she is treated like the most spoiled of princesses at their house). She is one of those animals that has a very distinct personality — meaning, she either doesn’t want to be around you, doesn’t want you to touch her, and actually just wants you to leave her alone. So when the Mrs. Claus outfit or reindeer antlers comes out — there is a distinct cringe. She falls to the ground dramatically, and doesn’t move as if she was stricken suddenly by some tropic disease. Drama cat is hilarious, for sure.

FAVORITE PASTIME:

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For me, it is Christmas Eve. It hasn’t changed with our family for more than 20 years. I spend a great deal of time during the day with my mom making homemade chili and oyster stew. We frost sugar cookies, listen to Christmas music, and talk. The entire family will go to 4 p.m. Mass at our local Catholic church. Honestly, Mass on Christmas Eve is one of the most beautiful experiences. Incense, songs, rituals — I enjoy it immensely. This is about nostalgia, as well. I spent a great deal of time during my childhood’s winter months practicing music as we prepared for the children’s choir Mass on Christmas Eve. This meant pretty dresses, pretty tights, and fighting to the death for the best solos. Anyways, we will go home, eat our big feast, play games, tell jokes, watch a Christmas movie, and open a few presents. It is one of those truly special times that I look forward to all year round.

FAVORITE FEELING:

Opening these little windows each day was such a relief for my OCD self. I need one of these now, STAT.

Opening these little windows each day was such a relief for my OCD self. I need one of these now, STAT.

The anticipation. The letdown afterwards is awful. Instead, I love to surround myself with anything Christmas and get excited for the parties, fun, and experiences that will be had. As a child, we always had an Advent calendar. It was great for me, because I could see exactly how many days were left until Christmas. Each morning, I would beg my mom to let it be my turn to open the little window on the paper calendar. It was almost better than opening up presents (almost). Being out-of-state, that feeling of childlike anticipation has somewhat returned. I am anxious and thrilled, counting down the days until I’m back with family.

ALL AROUND FAVORITE-IST:

Of course, there would be a giant cat in the nativity scene. It just makes sense.

Of course, there would be a giant cat in the nativity scene. It just makes sense.

That’s easy: Family. We are a quirky, quick-witted, hearty bunch of people. For example, this is the nativity scene that is set up at my parents’ house during the holiday season. Something look wrong with it? Yeah, my mom did that. She thinks it’s funny, and we do too. If the cat was left out of the manger, it just wouldn’t make sense to us at all. Every nativity scene needs a giant white cat, truly. I look forward to coming home next week and spending time with them. Christmas in Iowa – the best gift for this girl.

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