Tag Archives: Holidays

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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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. 🙂

Coming Home

19 Nov

One of my recent Skype conversations with little Q.

http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/45/Coming-Home.html

I just finished packing my suitcase, and all I can think is “now what did I forget?” Shirts and dresses are crammed in the tightly zipped bag, clothing that probably won’t even be worn on this trip home. I always seem to favor a pair of old jeans, a baggy cardigan, and boots, anyway. On top of the pile of badly folded items is one carefully laid exception. A small stuffed animal for a very cute little lady. I chose a monkey as a Thanksgiving gift for my six-month-old niece Quynn. My sister, her mother, had such a toy as a child and called the beloved animal “Bonkey.” I feel it’s time for little Q to have one of her own.

I am so ready to climb aboard a plane and head for Iowa, for some old-fashioned holiday fun, comfort food, and the company of family and friends. It’s my first real trip back to the Midwest after moving to New York City, and I’m ready for it. I’ve grown accustomed to my new surroundings, the crowds, and flavor of the area; yet, there is really no substitute for the place I grew up. In the last month and a half, I have spent my Tuesday nights scouring travel sites in search of cheap flights. Thank God, I figured out that Des Moines finally has Southwest Airlines as one of its carriers. Seriously, so thankful for their excellent service and lower than low airline prices.

The last week has been spent in growing anticipation of departing the East for something familiar. I long to actually see the stars again. To feel the exhilaration of wide-open spaces. To experience the quiet of small town life, without the hustle and bustle associated with NYC. And to spend time with one of my favorite people.

Quynn is one awesome baby. For such a small person, she has a sense of humor, exudes intelligence, and has a fascinating curiosity. Although I am far away, I have been able to have some chats and laughs with her through the magic of Skype on a daily basis. I know that at approximately 9:15 a.m. ET, I will have about 20 minutes of face time with the cutest kid out there. Whether it’s a good or bad day, I know it will be even better after just a few minutes of seeing Quynn bounce around on screen. I play little games with her, while she sings songs or gabs aloud. I can’t wait to actually hold her and see her in person.

While I have spent my fair share of time babysitting and being around little kids, I never thought that I would become this exhilarated or attached to a baby. It makes me extra excited to have one of my own in the future.
I’m about to get in a taxi and head over for some lengthy airport security lines. But that stress feels like nothing compared to my anticipation of being in Iowa. Now, I’m thinking about how this trip will be so different than the ones spent in holiday past. Then, it was about spending time out in bars with old acquaintances, recalling funny stories or wondering what happened to so-and-so. This time around, all I want to do is be around the people I love, especially little Quynn.

The greatest holiday: Black Friday

22 Nov

My general sentiment of thanks for the holidays will come after I am done with all of my shopping. Until then, I will keep my mouth shut.
It is because I am one of those. A part of an organization of people that unite together for a religious experience of sorts. For I am a Black Friday shopper.
On Thanksgiving night, I will set my alarm for an early rise of 3:45 a.m.  Assuming that I go to bed by midnight, after consuming large quantities of starchy foods and celebratory beverages, the almost four hours of peaceful slumber will jump-start my personal holiday: the season of the shopping cart.
Of course, my short refresher will need to be coupled with large amounts of coffee. And while the caffeine jitters compliment my already crazed look and bed head hair, in my mind, I will have already started to motivate myself.
Like any pro football player would. In the vehicle, I will crank the Christmas tunes. Motivational music. What am I shopping for? Christmas. Who am I purchasing for? People I consider bearable. And why do I do this? Because I am super competitive. While Bing Crosby croons in my ear, my face will have already been tensed in anticipation — while my heart palpitates and face sweats.
For weeks, me and my partners in crime (whom I endearingly call mom and sis) have been scouring ads looking for bargains for this very day. And while everyone else will be consuming cranberry-soaked turkey, we will be concocting a serious game plan.
We will map out the stores, the items we are in search of and a time line of our 5 a.m. adventures. We are a serious bunch. In one store, I will hit the DVD section, while sis takes the electronics and mom tackles the toys. While all the other chickens run with their heads cut off, we will be determined to cross off the many items that dominate our lists.
First-timers will run to the department of their choice. But it’s not about how fast you are — it is how agile your body can become, maneuvering through small aisles and shortcuts that you have thought of well in advance of the event.
Betty and Suzy and all the other shoppers will topple over each other for that latest singing/dancing/creepy stuffed toy — it will already be under my arm, ready to add to the ever-growing pile in our cart. Do we need it? Maybe, probably not. But that’s not the point. In fact, I don’t know what the point is. But I like it.
Amateurs we are not in this chaotic jungle.
Others will say: You guys are ridiculous. Some might ask: Are you crazy? The answers are: Yes — and yes. But we are bargain hunters. And the most skilled of all scavengers always have problems.
The normal people will be just rising out of bed. Reaching their arms overhead and yawning to the good morning. We will be at the local coffee shop. We will have reached our limit in shopping bags and cranky non-night/way-too-early morning people. And while we may be slumped over tables, unable to move our limbs or to make short sentences, we will have our shopping done. And you haven’t even started. Who is laughing now? Well no one, as we are drooling and already asleep.
Happy Black Friday to one and all — or just to those extremely dedicated to the experience.
“Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.” — Dave Barry

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