Saturday, December 19, 2009

War on Christmas

I love Christmas.  It's the most wonderful time of the year, I'm told.  However, there has been something bothering me about Christmas for most of my life, something that niggled and nagged at the back of my mind.  I assumed it was the oft-lamented "commercialization" of the holiday.  Recently, after a good deal of introspection and foot maintenance, it came to me: I actually like the commercialization of Christmas.  What I hate is the EMOTIONALIZATION of Christmas.

Holly boughs and wreaths of pine cones in October?  Sure!  I love it.  Piped in Muzak versions of "Sleigh Ride" right after the back-to-school sales have ended?  Great.

Song about the poor child who wants to buy a pair of shoes for his dying mother so she can be beautiful when she dies on Christmas Eve?  Not so much.  I LOATHE this stuff.  I mean, I really do.

Some of what could be called "emotional" Christmas fare is stuff I love.  There is a book by Fannie Flag called "A Redbird Christmas" that I really love and read every year.  I own five different movie adaptations of A Christmas Carol: The Muppet Christmas Carol, Mickey's Christmas Carol, Scrooge (the musical w/Albert Finney), A Christmas Carol (Patrick Stewart version), and Scrooged (Bill Murray).  I watch It's A Wonderful Life with great enjoyment as often as I can during the holidays; in fact, I have been known to cook a full turkey dinner and watch Christmas movies in July, just because I wanna.

That's fine.  Here's what I don't like:

I don't like Lifetime movies about how the magic of Christmas makes an emotionally distant and abusive parent or romantic partner suddenly perfect.

I don't like ABC Family movies about how the magic of Christmas helps some sad (but staggeringly beautiful) single woman finally find true love under the mistletoe.

I don't like Folger's commercials in which the magic of Christmas combines with the aroma of coffee to ensure complete peace among extended family.

I don't like "Very Special" episodes of cheesy sitcoms, in which a character sings "O Holy Night" and the husband and wife realize they shouldn't fight because It's Christmas.

But enough of what I don't like.

I love seeing my family.

I love dressing my kids up in festive holiday wear.

I love spending too much money trying to find something to make Sven say, "Wow!"

I love baking pumpkin bread and orange cranberry bread and cookie cakes.

I love lighting the Hanukkah candles at my cousins' house.

I love hearing Princess singing "Belize Knobby Nut"* along with Jose Feliciano.

I love the lights on all of the houses, including our own.

I love watching "A Christmas Story" 4 times in a row while my turkey cooks.

I love rolling my eyes when Princess asks if she can watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer "one more time and that's all, okay?"

So I just avoid that maudlin, sentimental stuff.  Christmas comes but once a year for several weeks, and it's just wasteful and unnecessary to waste it dwelling on what I don't like.

Oh, dang, there's that Folgers commercial again....

*Feliz Navidad

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Family Newsletter

I wrote this as a joke for an online forum, but I liked it so much, I thought you would enjoy.  I would like to say that I love all of the family newsletters I receive, which in no way resemble this one at all, so please keep them coming!


Dear Family and Friends,

First of all, I must ask that anyone receiving this letter not copy it and give it to others.  There are certain people who we do not wish to know our family's business, but because certain people get offended when I talk about the lawsuit, I'll leave it at that.

Despite last January's "unpleasantness," this has been a good year for us.  Alexis Star, our goldfish, was recently accepted into an accelerated obedience course at Pet-o-Rama.  Who knew, when we took her in because she was swimming on her back, that she was so gifted?  They are keeping her for a week, then we will go back to get her.  They promise she will be a whole new fish!  She might even lose some weight, which was good, because she was eating like 10 times a day, like a certain person who I cannot name but should get her due in court next March.

Our six children (Dakota, Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Kentucky, and Delaware) continue to do very well at their academic pursuits.  Dakota made it to level 28 of World of Blood last night!  Kentucky continues to do well in her music therapy class, and recently wowed our church talent show with her original song, "When I Kill Them I'll Be Free."  Children are such a joy, I keep telling Stewart that we should have another before we get too old, but he has taken a second job as a long-haul truck driver.  Between that and being a trans-continental pilot, it seems we never see each other.  It makes you think about how strange life can be: if you want to see someone, they're too busy, but if you never want to see someone again, there she is, everywhere you go, like a certain person I'm not allowed to talk about.  I don't care what she told you, I was in Wal-Mart first.  I know my rights, even if there is a "restraining order."

You'll all be happy to know that my medical issues have gotten much better this year.  Because of some complaints about last year's letter, I'll limit the details, but I'll say this: it finally drained.  What a relief!  Like not seeing a certain person who shall remain nameless but you all know who I'm talking about.  If you want more details, e-mail me, but don't share my e-mail address with anyone, for obvious reasons.

I have been doing our usual holiday decorations this year.  I started putting lights up in September, since the homeowner's association lost their lawsuit over last year's display.  I hope the next one goes as well!  My "Winter Wonderland" yard display has been a big hit again this year.  I don't know why everyone's nativity scenes don't include Shrek, the donkey goes right along with the story!  Fortunately, my last neighbor moved two weeks ago, so there's plenty of parking if any of you want to stop by!  Just don't bring along you-know-who.

Of course, no family newsletter would be complete without a mention of Samuel Gompers, our kitty.  After an attack of anxiety last summer when Kentucky went off her meds for a little while, Gompers has been on Valium, which has helped him enormously.  He stopped using the litter box, but I know it's just his need for self-expression.  After the you-know-what is over, I should be able to spend more time with him.  I'm sure he just misses his mommy!

I can't wait to hear from all of you.  Several of your letters were returned to me last year unopened, so I can only assume you guys have moved and forgot to tell me where.  I'll be tracking you down, though!  Have a happy holiday season!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide

It's that time again, when I have to buckle down and make the most important decision I make twice a year: what to get Sven for Christmas.

He is impossible to shop for.  He doesn't care for gadgets, so I'm out there.  If he does find a gadget he likes, it becomes welded to him for at least a decade (thank you iPod touch!).  He hates it when I (or anyone else, for that matter) buy him clothes.  He has hobbies: he fishes, and then cooks what he catches.  But I can only give him so many bags of wood chips, and I hate to give a gift card.

So, here it is: Deb's Gift Guide for the Dude You Can't Shop For.  Here is a comprehensive (not at all) list (in the sense there is more than one item) of terrific (if we're being very loose with the language) ideas (things I am clinging to as my last hope) for last-minute (less than two weeks left) gifts (whew).

1. A ribald t-shirt.  Nothing says "I love you" like a t-shirt emblazoned with a stormtrooper sitting on a toilet.  Thanks to my recent subscription to the "I Love Movies" podcast, I have a code to get 20% off my order at Donkey T's (put "MOVIES" in the coupon code box).  (Warning: ribaldry contained therein.)

2. Specialty food items.  Nothing says "I love you, Grandpa," like a Hickory Farms Sampler.  For the hubs, though, I have to kick it up a notch.  I need to get him something he either needs to wrestle to a draw or set on fire before eating it.  Two words: ostrich meat.  Imagine the conversations he can have!
     Sven: So, have you had ostrich?

     Hezekiah: No, can't say that I have.
     Sven: It's all right.
     Hezekiah: Yeah?
     Sven: Yeah.

You're welcome.

3. A ridiculous toy that he will admire in the abstract but never actually use and/or give to the children.  I admit this is the route I usually go.  Last year's present, an interactive voice-activated R2D2 robot, has been in a box in our dining room since last January.  (The year before, I gave him a son, which has been somewhat more successful.)  This year, I am frankly out of ideas for useless toys.

     A GPS?  Maybe, but I just don't think there is room in the drawer with the PDA, pocket-sized digital camera, electronic organizer, and, I believe, a slide-rule.

He already has an iPod.

I now share with you the coolest online shopping site ever: I Want One of Those.  This site has grown up toys for every taste and budget level.  It's a British site, but don't despair: most of these gifts are available in the U.S.  It's great for getting ideas.

I've got a few right now...