Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fa La Love it, Fa La Lame

As Christmas day fast approaches, I find myself listening to Christmas music ferociously, trying to pack it all in before my eleventh month fast and cursing myself for not taking advantage of the previous four weeks to listen to it more often. Of course, one does run the risk of acquiring Christmas music burnout, but that's better than regret. So here are my much anticipated (?) top five fave Christmas songs and top five Christmas songs that I wish I had never heard:

Top Five Fave Christmas Songs:

5. Walking in the Air—Peter Auty. This is from Raymond Briggs' The Snowman movie. It is the most moving piece of music and even my kids love it even though it's not about talking snowmen or reindeer that fly . . . though, it is about snowmen that fly.

4. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Just sweet and simple and poignant. Makes me want to cry without knowing why.

3. Twelve
Days of Christmas. I used to love singing this with my family as a child, especially when I got to sing the "fi-ve gol-den riiiiiiiiiiiiiiings!!!" part, though I'm sure that no one else enjoyed it when I belted that out. Saying that I'm tone deaf is putting it nicely.

2. Happy
Birthday Jesus—Alabama. Really anything on Alabama Christmas, volume one or two, but I picked this one because I love that Alabama isn't afraid to say Jesus in their songs about Christmas like it seems a lot of people are these days like there's something offensive about perfect love. I grew up listening to Alabama Christmas and I hope these songs mean as much to my kids one day as they mean to me.

1. Oh Holy Night. This is the epitome of Christmas music. It gives me chills every time.

Five Christmas Songs That I Wish Would Go Away:

5. Little Saint Nick—Beach Boys. Good grief, Little Saint Nick. Seriously? Seriously?

4. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. This song disturbed me to no end when I was a child. What is Mommy doing kissing Santa Claus? Mommy is only supposed to kiss Daddy? What kind of Mommy is this that goes around kissing big men in red suits? I get it now, but I still feel kind of weird when I hear this.

3. Twelve Things at Christmas that are such a Pain to Me. Yeah, there are things at Christmas that are annoying, but those are also things that make Christmas so great. Why complain about them? Just deal with it. Unless we're talking about the five Christmas songs that you wish would go away, then . . . complain away!

2. Anything by Mariah Cary, Clay Aiken, or anyone else who irritates me. If you irritate me January through November, then you irritate me double that at Christmas. God help me if Nickelback ever puts out a Christmas CD, I just might have to boycott Christmas music for good.

1. The Christmas Shoes—New Song. So insanely overly-sentimental that it borders on maudlin. I just googled this song to see who sings it and I accidentally opened up a page that played it. I'm still twitching from it. Many of you may think that I'm being mean by saying that this is the worst Christmas song of all time, since it is about a little boy who wants to buy some shoes for his mother who is dying AS WE SPEAK!!! But . . . come on people! Anything that tries that hard to make me cry is just going to make me scoff it instead. For one thing, I don't believe it. I don't believe that this poor boy in rags goes out on Christmas Eve by himself to buy some shoes for his dying mother. I just don't believe it. I don't believe that the cashier would hear his sad tale and then tell him that he didn't have enough money to buy the shoes, unless they where Jimmy Choos or something. I don't believe that the man in line behind him would wait for the boy to ask for the money before he gave it to him. I just do not believe it. Also, it bugs me that the narrator is so proud of himself for giving the boy money, "Well, I laid the money down, I just had to help him out." Good grief, I hope so! I think Ebby Scrooge himself would have given the boy the money.

So there they are—the good, the bad, and the ugly (the ugly is me singing them). I hope that everyone has a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nostalgia, My Old Friend

Holy cow I love snow!

I never really knew this about myself. I always thought that I was a warm weather, sandy beaches, salt water, coconut suntan lotion kind of girl, but apparently I've been a closet snow nut all along. Ask me if I think that there is nothing more beautiful than snow falling lightly to the ground and then creating a blanket of pristine brilliance on my front yard and I will say, "Oui, oui." [To all of you doubters out there who said that I should have taken Spanish instead of French in high school because I would never use French—well, I just did use my French, so there. Oh, and there was also that time in Charleston when I befriended a drunken French sailor and conversed with him for several hours and every time I said something to him in French he responded, "No speak English." True story.]

This surprising love of snow probably has something to do with my childhood and the years I spent growing up in Alaska.

It's kind of like how I was really excited when New Kids on the Block were on television a couple of weeks ago with that other group . . . what's their names . . . Boystreet Back or something. I watched the performance on YouTube way more times than I am comfortable disclosing to all of you. Not that I'm ashamed to admit that I'm a dork, but I don't want anyone to realize just how deep the dorkiness actually runs.

After seeing their triumphant (?) return on national television, I was overcome with a desire to go to another one of their concerts. Yes, another one, because I went to one back in 1990 when I was twelve. At least, it said on the ticket that New Kids on the Block were the ones singing and dancing up on the stage, but it could have been some new kids that lived on my block for all I knew, I was so far away.

And no, not one of them saw me sitting way in the back of the stadium on like the 100th row and decided that they were in love with me and wanted to marry me that very day. Not even Danny. I know, I was shocked too!

Well, Husband was appalled that his (mature?) wife would entertain notions of driving several hours away to see New Kids on the Block. I must say that I was surprised at his appall. He requested an explanation for this strange desire of mine and I had none to give.

You can't really explain something like nostalgia.

Like the jeweler in Breakfast at Tiffany's who expresses satisfaction that they still put prizes in boxes of Cracker Jacks because it gives one a sense of continuity. Why should he care what they put in Cracker Jack boxes? Really, he doesn't care. He just cares that something that existed when he was a child, still exists.

Since I have lived in the southeast for my entire adult life, I quite forgot about snow and the effect it has. It's nice to know that it's still there and it still smells the same and it still sticks together to make the ideal weapon in a snow ball fight and it still rolls up nicely to make a snowman (though that is quite a bit more difficult now that I am not as close to the ground as I was the last time I saw snow). In the same way, it's comforting to me that New Kids on the Block are still performing the same songs they did when I was a child and they're still all bubble gum and lame. Is that really so hard to believe?

So, the weird thirty-two-year-old lady who is outside catching snowflakes on her tongue and frolicking in the white winter wonderland, making snow angels and throwing snowballs at her kids is not crazy, as it may seem at first glance. She's just reliving some fond childhood memories . . . and probably singing "You got it . . . the right stuff," in her head the whole time.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How I Write

All these bestselling authors out there are selling even more books about how they went about writing those other books. To me this is a little like an artist painting a picture of himself painting a picture. But . . . if it's good enough for bestselling authors, than it's good enough for an unpublished author of three completed novels and about a dozen novels with the first chapter written. Yeah, me.

There are two ways that I write.

Way number one—Husband/Children will be at work/at school/away for the weekend/sleeping/playing at the neighbor's house/all of the above and I will think to myself: I should take advantage of such a divine opportunity and write something. Yes! I will write undisturbed!

I turn on my computer.

Wow, this computer is filthy, I need to get some of those computer wipey things. What the heck have I spilled on here? I think it's milk. I shouldn't eat cereal in front of the computer anymore. Ooh, cereal, I'm hungry. I'm going to have a bowl of cereal.

I eat cereal.

Hum, there was something I was going to do . . . yes! . . . I was going to write computer wipey thingy on my shopping list.

I write computer wipey thingy on my shopping list.

Okay, I should write some since I have free time. Let me open up Microsoft Word. Okay, that's taking FOREVER to open. I'll get on-line real quick. Ooh, look, Keane has a new album out, I should download that.

I download Keane album and listen to it while I do my toes or something.

Ehh, I don't really like this one. I think I'll listen to it again. I still don't like it. Okay, I'll listen to it one more time and then I'm going to write.

I listen to album one more time.

Okay, I kind of like it. Now I'll write. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of time." . . . wait, that sounds familiar. Hmm, let's see . . . what should I write about? Maybe something about a boy who's really a wizard only he doesn't know it and he goes to this secret wizarding school and it can be call Warthogs or something!!! Wait . . . I think that's been done already. Hmm, I'll check Facebook while I'm thinking about what to write.

I check Facebook.

Wow, that girl who sat next to me in study hall in the tenth grade had a ham sandwich for lunch. That's really . . . not interesting.

You get the gist.

Way number two—I will be in the middle of cooking supper/folding laundry/helping kids with homework/cleaning the house/all of the above when a few sentences of inspiration will hit me. I run to my computer to turn it on, only to find that the battery is dead. I delve into the laptop bag, unable to find power cord. I race around the house and finally find laptop power cord hanging from ceiling fan with a GI Joe guy attached and only find out later that power cord was the essential element in an elaborate device meant to defeat Cobra.

I plunge the power cord in the wall, repeating the inspiration sentences over and over in my head. I turn the computer on and hop from one foot to other like my kids do when they have to use the bathroom REALLY bad.

The chicken needs to come out of the oven, so I quickly take it out while repeating my inspiration sentences that are being infiltrated by words like, "Mom, watch this," and "he hit me," and "how do you spell Powhatan?" I yell quickly at children that if they just don't speak for five minutes, I will buy them each a pony.

My computer asks me if I want to update my whatevs and I yell at it too. Finally, I get on Microsoft Word and type furiously at a twenty page per minute speed with three children screaming in my ear and me shushing them the whole time. I decide that my main character has no children.

Husband comes home from work and mutters something about how I am always writing. I decide that main character's husband is a deeply understanding man who loves the superfluous doings of his dear wife.

Children try to see how many times they can say, "Mommy, watch this," before I throw something at them. (Not that I ever have, so you don't need to call child protective services just yet.) I decide that my main character lives on a dessert island all by herself, with no hope of rescue. I think I'll title it: A Hundred Years of Solitude . . . Sounds Like a Good Start.

But . . . when main character is without all a sundry distractions, then main character can't do what she most wants to do. It is only with a few essential, sometimes irritating, elements that main character can achieve what she most desires.

Who said that art imitates life anyway?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Snuggie as a Buggie in a Ruggie

Some of the most embarrassing words that I have ever uttered: "Excuse me, but do you carry Snuggie patterns?"

A few years ago when the Snuggie came out, I had great fun mocking the strange little thing. A blanket with arms indeed! Oh, and I will just be dying to wear this contraption to sporting events? Yes, I would love to walk around looking like a Jedi knight while cheering on my team. Thank you for the marvelous invention!

However, much to my surprise, the pesky little things caught on and this year First Son requested one for Christmas. Well, I sloughed off the idea until it occurred to me that this could be one of those "opportunities" to use my sewing machine (Hollie bites nails in excitement)!

So, fleece was on sale, McCall patterns were on sale, and all other sorts of stars lined up for me to create a Snuggie for First Son in camo because he is dead set on being an Army fighter pilot when he grows up and . . . it just so happens that he would quite love to walk around looking like a Jedi knight while cheering on his team. Hmm.

Well, I finished with my project (btw, McCall's claims that it takes one hour, but it took me four sessions of two hours each and we all remember our times tables, four times two equals, not one, but EIGHT!) and then something ghastly occurred to me—I want a Snuggie too!

It really is the perfect thing for our house, which is a two-story construction with only one thermostat on the first floor. If anyone has ever lived in such a construction then they know exactly what I'm getting at. It's quite true what they say about hot air and its desire to rise to higher ground.

While downstairs on a cold day, one will have teeth chattering and find oneself drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate, hot tea, and coffee, all jacketed and covered in blankets. However, as soon as one ascends the staircase, removal of all but the most essential clothing is imminent.

Yet another reason why this would be the perfect frat house: [Frat boy to girl at party: Oh, indeed this downstairs bathroom appears to be occupied, why don't you accompany me upstairs to use that one (wink wink to frat brothers). Yes it is rather warm up here. You could remove that bulky sweater and place it in my room, just down this hallway.]

I shouldn't be left alone with my thoughts for too long.

So, in conclusion, the Snuggie has gone from totally fool to totally cool all because of a few chilly Virginia days and a really poorly designed house. What other surprises lie in store for me?