A Shooting Star Hydrangea with Pointsettias

I love Christmas. It’s the best time of the year as far as I’m concerned. No matter what is going on in my life, Christmas always energizes me and makes me feel alive. I fall in love with my world and the people in it again. That spirit keeps me going for the next 12 months until it is renewed the following year.

At least, that’s how it used to be. This year, well I’m just not feeling it. I’m watching my collection of Christmas movies and for a while I feel the start of that uplifting spirit and then I read the news — or go out shopping. That’s when the spirit just sort of drains away.

It’s little things. The cashiers at the stores smile but it doesn’t reach their eyes. They don’t look at you. I’m obviously female but I’m usually called ‘Sir’ — really. It you can’t be bothered to look at your customer perhaps you can come up with phrases that don’t rely on gender identification.

It’s being cut off in traffic, for a parking space, having doors let go when you’re just a few inches shy of being able to take over. I always make a habit of holding a door for the person behind me or open it for the person in front if they are having problems. It’s just manners. What’s happened to us?

People just seem so angry all the time now. I understand the feeling; I really do. It’s hard when you listen to the talk of hate and bigotry being spewed on the airwaves lately. But really. All humans share this world and we really should strive to make it a better world. We can’t do much but we can take the time to hold an elevator for someone coming toward it when we’re right there by the button. To open a door for someone — male or female. To smile and wish someone a good day.

Life is a series of moments and if each of us will make the effort to smile and do a bit of kindness every day, to think of the things we’re thankful for each night before falling asleep, maybe you’ll help someone else have a good thing happen to them they didn’t expect. They’ll pass on that good feeling and maybe inspire someone else.

Small acts of kindness can build until maybe, just maybe, the Grinch-y feeling will go away for more of us.

Now, I wish each of you a good day, and restful evening, and an even more joyous tomorrow.

Yesterday, we finally decided to do something to decorate for Christmas. The Shooting Star Hydrangea surrounded by Poinsettias has brightened up my living room. Now maybe I can begin to get in the Christmas spirit — I think I’ll put another movie in the player and believe that everyone is looking to make the world a better and kinder place for humans of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

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Maybe it’s all the rain or the high 50’s temps but I’m finding it difficult to get in the spirit of Christmas. Of course, putting in some longer hours working (husband) and trying to breathe (me) hasn’t made it any easier. No tree this year and just one of my Santa models and some Christmas cards around the door and a holly ball is the limit of my decorations this year.

Anyway, we got the gifts mailed to our mothers and our son. But the holiday spirit just seems to come and go — usually dashed by reading the news. So tonight I thought I’d check and see if there were any specially interesting synchronized Christmas lights this year. Well, I found this video where an entire neighborhood was lit up and synchronized to the same music. This takes dedication and planning and programming.

While searching for these lights, I noticed that Google had a special logo tonight (Dec 23rd) that plays a holiday song when you click on each of the lights. Give it a try.

Maybe you’re in the spirit of the holidays but if not maybe the video and the Google logo will help you get in the spirit.

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Today it rained all day. The cat won’t come into the house. We got M-not when someone dropped him off at the road this past March during the snow storm. He’s been an outdoor cat since. He’s a bit skittish. But with the cold — down into the low 30s and high 20s, we’re considering let him into the house. We bought a litter box and set it up near the door in the basement. But he won’t come into the house. He did step in and when Paul shut the door he nearly brained himself running full tilt at the door. We, of course, opened it immediately and let him out. We’ve been offering to let him in ever since. Today he came in for almost two minutes with the door open but he won’t come in more than a foot and when Paul shut the door he cried piteously so we opened it, and out he went to sit by his outdoor house under the covering we put up so he has some outdoor space that’s protected.

Life is still pretty hectic, but today we watched Christmas movies. So far, the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol followed by the Muppet Christmas Carol. I love them both, especially the Muppet Christmas Carol — love the music. Thought everyone might enjoy this song:

It’s all about love, family, friendship, and caring for each other. Enjoy the time you have and live life fully with joy.

What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Why? I’ve got about 12 favorites now, and many others I’ve seen that just seem to be more about greed and avarice than the true Christmas Spirit.

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People who know me know that Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Not for gifts (we don’t really do them in our family — just to our mothers and my son). I love the season because people, in general, just seem to be making an extra effort to be pleasant and friendly.

A friend sent me this link to a flash mob event in a food court. Since it is the season. Enjoy.

I remember singing this in high school when I was in chorus. At the time I was a soprano … can’t believe I used to be able to hit those high notes. Still love the song though.

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Stick Man by Julia Donalson; Illustrations by Axel Scheffler
Stick Man by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. Arthur A. Levine Books, AN Imprint of Scholastic Books. ISBN: 978-0-545-15761-2, hardcover. $16.99 US/$19.99 CAN.

Stick Man is a delightful story about a stick man who lives with his stick wife and children in a very nice tree house. He goes out to jog and spends nearly a year having one adventure after another trying to get back home to his wife and children. Stick man is mistaken as a throwing stick, a Pooh stick, nesting material, beach detritus, building material, and kindling among others. Each mistaken identity leaves him struggling to escape and find his way home.

The drawing are semi-realistic as you can tell from the cover image. The drawing adds visually to the journey, showing the changing seasons and the various plights in which Stick Man finds himself. The colors are bright and cheerful and the people and animals realistic.

The text is simple and mostly rhymes. It’s difficult to do a book in rhyme and Donaldson manages to do without being too cutsey or over-the-top. I’d imagine a young reader would get caught up in the tale and cheer on Stick Man to find his way home.

The book was published in September 2009. The ending is very Christmas oriented and leaves a nice feeling of completion to the story. I’d suggest that this would make a great book for children anytime of the year but the tie to Christmas at the end makes it an especially good Christmas book.

The only problem I had with the story is wondering about the message underlying the story. Stick Man goes off one morning and doesn’t come back for a year. He doesn’t, of course, call home and he just shows up expecting to be taken back into the bosom of his family as if nothing has changed at all. It worked for Job’s wayward son but I’m wondering about the subliminal impact the book would have on children whose fathers have abandoned the family. Would they see this story as a reason to believe that he’d return and everything would be as it was? I don’t know. It just occurred to me on a third reading that there was another way children might interpret the story so I thought I should put it out here for potential buyers of the book to be aware of the circumstances of the child to be gifted with the story. In some cases this might be just the underlying message you want to convey in other, well, maybe not.

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The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson.  Illustrated by Jon J. MuthThe Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson is a simple story of Santa Claus who lives alone in the woods. As the Christmas holiday approaches he can feel the magic and opens his workshop and prepares a bag of toys for the children listed in his book. He polishes the sleigh and the bells and gets ready for deer to come to fly him on his rounds on Christmas eve.

The illustrations are beautiful and simple in style with deep rich colors. Santa’s orange-colored wooden house has a bright and cheerful red door that makes it look very inviting. The snow is brilliantly white with a rich deep blue sky at night and lighter blue during the day. It’s a story of the season that sets out Santa Claus as a being who is used to the magical holiday traditions.

I can see the story’s appeal to young children as it slowly shows Santa preparing for his big night. However, I wonder just how many children can hear this story or read it to themselves and not ask questions based on what they know about Christmas. Where are the elves? Who made the gifts? How do the names of naughty and nice children get in his book? How can he just show up and pack the sleigh with presents? Where did they come from? How do the reindeer know to show up?

While it’s a wonderful story and very much in keeping with the season and the holiday spirit, this is so out of line with the accepted givens of the Santa story and myth — that it may take a lot of talking to get children to understand that some people may believe that things happen in ways other than what we’re used to hearing.

Not that this is a bad thing. It’s actually nice that children would get a chance to explore some new ideas about Santa and Christmas traditions.

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December Coffee Cup November and start of December have seemed to pass in a haze at times. Hyperion and I have both had swine flu. However, we both had lots of commitments — things that just can’t be pushed off. Some days it seemed like pushing that boulder up a mountain just to do it over and over and over again.

However, I did find a December coffee cup. I spotted this at Home Goods and just burst out laughing. After the rough few weeks I just had, anything to make me smile, let alone laugh out loud just had to be the December cup. The only drawback to this design is it has to be used right handed. So, good ole lefty me has to remember to pick it up with the right hand.

Our Christmas TreeChristmas is my favorite holiday. I love it. I love the smiles, the happiness, the anticipation. The happy holiday wishes from everyone. I don’t like buying gifts, wrapping them, or doing all that other stuff. But I love the feeling behind the holiday, not the commercialism. Heck, today is December 11th and I’ve only watched two holiday films so far this month. Well okay we’ve been watching the Star Trek (original) movies and just finish The Undiscovered Country but still I miss not seeing the Christmas ones. The ones I did see are The Polar Express (this is the 25th Anniversary of the book) and Love Actually. Maybe if I finally get caught up on my writing and reading I can watch some more as I quickly knit to finish off Christmas gifts.

Pointsetta Tree Topper with lightsLast year I complained because we’d looked and looked and looked and couldn’t find a tree topper. We ended up buying a Santa that was made of white painted tin in a conical shape that fit on the top though it wasn’t an actual tree topper. This year, we stopped at one store and looked and found this one. This one looks much better lit up than in the box. It’s sort of poinsettia shaped and has lights inside it. It took a while to get it up since the cord is short and the tree we have has the lights already on it so the cords for each section go all the way down. Took two days to find an unused extension cord. But it really does look good at night.

Collection of Santas under the tree

We didn’t feel like going all out for Christmas this year, so just did the tree and put out my collection of Santa statues — or most of them, some are still packed. We’ve been collecting Santa and folk art ornaments for years and the statues were just an extension of that collecting. If you look very carefully at the tree you’d see that most of the ornaments are Santa variations, bears, or folk art type, or some from our childhood trees.

My son is coming down for Christmas this year. He normally only comes down for Thanksgiving, but this year he couldn’t make it then and will be here for Christmas. We’re looking forward to his visit and we hoped to put up all the decorations since he hasn’t seen the house fully done up. We normally put up the tree the evening of Thanksgiving day or the day after since he lives in a small apartment and has a teeny tiny tree when he bothers with one at all. We may do more later but probably we’ll call it enough this year since we still catching up. I feel like I lost November all together.

However, I hope that you’re all enjoying getting ready for the holiday and forget the stress and the rush and just enjoy the spirit that’s in the air– I think it’s pine, cinnamon, and spice.

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snowflakeA bit late to say so but it snowed most of Saturday. We didn’t intend to go out but realized that mailing deadlines were approaching and some things just needed to be finished so we could mail them out. So, we got all the odd jobs taken care of on Saturday — driving wasn’t too bad actually as the snow was mostly melted or slush.

Today, we got the tree up and the ornaments on. I’ll post a picture tomorrow. It’s been a quiet day of decorating the tree, catching up on all the volunteer work we’d said we do, and then watching The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. I managed to nearly finish a Christmas gift.

The cough is mostly gone — I’ll be glad when it’s completely gone but finishing a project — or nearly so just makes me feel that things are looking up.

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