Christmas Tunes – a repost

Originally published December 20, 2013

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas music. I tend to keep my radio in the car switched off this time of year, but I do have a few I really love and I listen to them on CD’s (2014 addition – do people still do that? I do – my car doesn’t have an MP3 player.) The radio stations tend to play the most annoying Christmas tunes they can find and replay them often. I have found, though, that our local Christian station plays some good ones and keeps a good rotation.

Here are some of my all-time Christmas favorites:

Silent Night – we sing this one at our church’s Christmas Eve service as we hold candles. It’s so powerful for me. Everyone’s voice seems to be perfectly in tune and I always end up shedding a small tear. 2014 addition – The church choir is singing Still, Still this year. We’ve been practicing it for months and I find myself singing it all the time at home. It’s quickly becoming a favorite.

Go Tell It On The Mountain – sung by Garth Brooks. I love this man’s voice and this Christmas album (The Magic of Christmas) is one of my favorites. This version is a rockabilly type version – full of joy. I love it.

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This is not my picture – it is the one from Amazon – go there to buy this album. Do not sue me for using this pic!

 

December Makes Me Feel This Way – by Dave Koz. This song it just beautiful. Dave is primarily a clarinetist – like Kenny G – and the rest of the album is mostly instrumental except for this song. This tune isn’t really Christmas related, it’s about the December spirit really, but it reminds me of the joy I had as a kid with this month. It really puts me in the Christmas mood.

White Christmas – sung by Bing Crosby. No one else can sings this. Just isn’t right. This is one of the few Christmas movies I like too. 2014 addition – Side note: BTW I HATE  “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Why do they play that so much at Christmas? It’s depressing.

My Favorite Things – sung by Julie Andrews. Okay – this isn’t really a Christmas tune either (I sense a small theme), but it’s always played at Christmas time so I count it as one. I’ve heard the Carrie Underwood version and others, but, for me, no one sings it like Julie Andrews.

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Also not my pic – again – go to Amazon to buy!

 

Most anything instrumental – I think Christmas music should be mellow, relaxing and just slow everything down. The holiday is frantic enough – although I like some of the more upbeat tunes, I tend to stick with slower, more haunting, melodies.

What music gets you in the Christmas spirit – share!

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A Season For Fun

As we move closer to the big holiday next Thursday I’ve been running low on steam and Christmas spirit. There is so much to do that I just feel so overwhelmed with every last detail.

Then we received an email from John’s cousin: Wondered if you guys are up for having a little fun on Christmas by wearing  Ugly Christmas Sweaters!   We thought it could be a little way to add even more fun (and maybe some embarrassment haha) to dinner.

Of course we were in! (There will be a third party judge and prizes even!) Who wouldn’t want to spice up the blah family dinner (filled sometimes with a few too many bad memories, hurt feelings and bitterness.) I immediately said yes. I’m not sure my husband was too keen on my readiness to act a fool, but I saw it as a great opportunity to shed some of the Christmas “obligations” and actually, perhaps, have some fun.

But after scouring smaller thrift stores with my friend yesterday afternoon, I was beginning to think it was just going to be another task on my to-do list. I wasn’t finding anything that stood out and nothing that I could really use to complete an ensemble worthy of a prize. And after seeing my friend Tonya’s great costume:

Yes… she IS the lamp from A Christmas Story. That IS a lampshade. (If you like this kind of quirkiness you should check out her other stuff here and see what she does for Christmas cards every year here.)

I was intimidated.

So I sprinted to Pinterest for ideas. I can’t share them with you yet – in fact, I made a super secret board! So don’t try and figure it out ahead of time!!

But here is one I considered:

If this is one I rejected wait until you see what I decided on!

 

And once my husband came home and into the spirit our creativity soared as a team. We drove to another, larger thrift store nearby and the ideas just kept flowing! Pretty soon we were laughing in the aisles at all the wackiness we were considering. (Wait until you see what my husband has decided to put himself in!)

Let me set the scene:

I’m putting together 6 sweaters in total: 1 for me, 1 for hubby, 1 for my sister-in-law, 1 for her hubby (both extremely fun and up for anything types),  1 for my father-in-law and 1 for my mother-in-law (both who really don’t care as long as they don’t have to come up with the ideas.) (I am not joking or being harsh – they actually TOLD me that.) (And FYI: It’s fun to put OTHER PEOPLE into crazy costumes. Especially when they have no idea and are up for anything as long as you do it.) (…within reason of course…)

And the plan for fun worked – I literally had tears in my eyes and was laughing more than I’ve laughed in months. It felt good to shed some of the weight of the Christmas obligations and just let our freak flags fly. It brought back how fun Christmas can actually be.

Now… I have to go do some crafting. Check back after Christmas to see all the sweaters and the fun!

And check me out on Pinterest (but not my secret Christmas sweater board!)

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A Letter to my Grandmother

Dear Gram,

I was thinking about you today. In fact, I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. It’s that way when the holidays roll around I guess. Remember how you would split your time with the family at Christmas? One year, you’d come spend most of the day with us and the next you’d spend it with your son and his family. I think this would be our year. I miss that.

Recently, I quit my office job and started working from home. I write and edit for other people now. I wonder what you would think of that. I know you believe in hard work, but I’m unsure if you’d approve of this. It isn’t getting up and going to a job – I sit here at my computer all day. Some times I don’t even get out of my pajamas. I’m sure you’d find that disgraceful. I wish you were here to talk to about it.

There are days that I feel pretty down on myself because I’m not doing better, or I’m not making enough money. I know you would have something encouraging to say to me or some kind of “pull yourself up by your boot straps” mentality to expound on me. Ironically, I live only about five miles from where you lived when you died. I could visit you almost everyday, but you’re not there anymore.

My husband and I have been married almost six years now. Sometimes that number only reminds me of how long you’ve been gone because you were not at the wedding. You were missed deeply then too. John treats me so well and I’m glad you got to meet him before you left. He wishes he could have gotten to know you better before you got sick. I can’t believe you’ve been away that long. The pain in my heart sometimes makes it feel like it was only yesterday.

How I wish I could talk with you right now. To ask you how you dealt with life’s ups and downs, how you handled your husband dying at such a young age, how you felt when other loved ones passed away and did you follow any of your dreams. Did you suffer depression the way Mom and I do? How did you deal with it? What made you so tough and resilient? Or was it just an act? If not, how can I be like you?

It’s been a rough day and I could use one of your speeches to pick me up out of this hole I’m in. You’d probably say “Talk to God,” but even that’s difficult when I can’t hear Him speak either.

But I bet you’re having the time of your life right now – in heaven with Grandpa and all your siblings. I know how much you missed all of them through the years and I’m so happy that you get to see them again now. Some days I can’t wait to join you. I’m so glad too that you aren’t in pain anymore, but it doesn’t take away the loss I feel when I want to get in my car and go see you, but then remember you’re no longer here.

I’ll let you go now. I just wanted to try and talk to you in some way and to let you know I miss you. I’m sorry I didn’t take advantage of our time together more when you were here. I pray that someday we’ll be able to chat, hug and laugh again with one another.

Until then…

Love you,

Sue

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Singing with the Choir

Well, we survived our evening with the six year old! Her parents dropped her off about 4 pm last night and we dove right into some craft activities and coloring.

She started with some sand art that she brought along. We ended up making several Christmas presents for family from the set – complete with some red and green ribbon I had on hand for bows. She started off full of vigor, but soon told Uncle John “I think you should fill the things John. I’ll just tell you which colors to use.” I responded “Yeah, like a supervisor. A supervisor is a good job Megan. Way to think big!” John scowled at me whilst trying to maneuver the small bottles and the tiny grains of sand.

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I didn’t catch one with his tongue hanging out in concentration…. darn it.

When the time came to go for our church dinner, little Miss Megan was excited as they come. She was going to sing in her own choir!

But when we got to the dinner, she sat grumpily in her chair. I looked at her with concern. Perhaps the activities were too much – we had worn her out before her big debut! Or maybe she was anxiety-ridden thinking about her performance. I tried to engage her in conversation, but she said she was tired. But soon food filled her plate and she smiled at me with a mouthful of dinner roll (who doesn’t love a good potato roll after all… it will lift anyone’s spirits) (The sugar filled punch probably helped too…) so my own anxieties started to lessen.

Uncle John then made sure she had a gigantic piece of peanut butter pie for that extra sugar boost she needed. (Uncle Dave ended up coming along and finishing it though – she didn’t want to fill up her tummy too much!)

The choir director came over to make sure Megan was ready to go and let me know I would be joining the kids (along with one of the grandma’s) in order to “keep order” and make sure they sang along. Megan was overjoyed that Aunt Sue would accompany her onstage – for it looked mighty frightening from where she sat. (Because who doesn’t need that reassuring nudge from behind sometimes?) And I was glad to be there for that little bit of encouragement she needed.

The kids did great – and Miss Megan sang her heart out the loudest. They sang “Away in a Manager” and “Happy Birthday Jesus.” Afterwards, she got many compliments from the audience. She smiled her toothless smile and accepted their love with a smile.

We also had a professional singer after the kids and she did a wonderful job. (Check out Danelle Cressinger Music – she’s awesome!) Megan watched her in rapt attention throughout each song with her little hands clasped tightly to her chest in adoration of this wonderful Christian chanteuse. When Danelle lastly sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem” she invited everyone to sing along and I could hear little Megan’s voice behind me, sitting on Uncle John’s lap, clearly singing each verse! It made the moment, and the words of the song even more special hearing them from the mouth of a child.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Afterwards, John said “She knew all the words! I was floored!” (Megan – not Danelle of course. We expect the professional would know all the words…)

As we walked back home, Megan skipped part of the way. Her joy was contagious. It felt so good to be part of this little one’s life, to share in her achievements and experience her passions and desires. She obviously has a song in her heart – I’m so glad that the song is one for Jesus and that she knows His love for her through this music we share.

When I gave her a Hershey kiss for doing such a good job on her singing, she said “Sissy loves Hershey kisses – can I have one for her too?” (*heart melting, tears forming*)

Obviously, God’s love has infected this child.

After we sent her off with her Dad, we lay in bed and John said “Hey! We survived almost 5 hours with a 6 year old! And so did she!” I laughed and agreed, but it was easy with this one – she is already living a life Jesus would approve of and I am so proud to say I know her.

 

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Into the Unknown

Tomorrow evening the hubs and I are taking on a new adventure: we’re escorting our six-year-old god daughter to the church Christmas dinner.

You see, her parents can’t make the event due to another party scheduled. So I had the brilliant idea to take Megan with us. The pianist of our church has been practicing two songs with all the kids of our church (Happy Birthday Jesus and Away in a Manger) to sing during this dinner and I didn’t want little Megan to miss out because I know how much she likes to sing.

*Side note: I’m in the church choir. Those of us in choir typically sit in a section off to the side, near the choir “loft” at the beginning of church when we sing. For the last several weeks my god daughter has shyly joined me in that pew, snuggling up to me until it’s time to sing. Then she comes up with us and mouths along to the hymns – looking very professional. She even holds a hymnal – even though she can not quite yet figure out how to read music. When we’re done, she hands me her hymnal and returns to Mom – her job complete. This makes me so happy for so many reasons: 1) I remember the shy little girl only a few years ago who would have done everything in her power to NOT get up in front of people and now she’s overcoming her shyness and doing it and 2) when she sits next to me and snuggles I can sense her trust in me. Like she can do it if Aunt Sue is with her. I’m glad she knows I would protect her from anything – even stage fright. It’s a great feeling.

SO – I know she likes to sing and didn’t want her to miss out. I asked if we could take her to the dinner. No problem! said her mamma, with Megan nodding ecstatically beside her.

Their party starts at 4 and the church party starts at 6 though so we’ll have her for a little longer than I expected, but we never give up an opportunity to spend time with her. We’re almost as excited as she is! I’ve also promised her mom that I’ll videotape the event for them too – hope my videotaping skills are not too rusty.

I’m anxious to see how she can do on her own – without Aunt Sue by her side. But I know she’ll do great and I intend to encourage her as much as I can.

Check back next week when I’ll post how the big sing off went!

 

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What Success Means To Me

Recently in a bible study at church someone said “You have to decide what success means to you.”

We had been reading Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald and he prompts us to define the difference between a driven person and a called person. It’s a delicate distinction – one defined by the question “What does success means to me?”

I began to contemplate this question more sincerely. I’m not sure I really ever defined success for myself. One reason is that I am a low self-esteem individual. For me, I never succeed. It sounds harsh and it sounds self-loathing… which it kind of is… but it’s true. I can accomplish more in one day than some people some times do in a week and still not feel like I’ve succeeded. Usually, it’s because there is still more left on my to-do list. Until the list, which never ends, is COMPLETE, then I haven’t succeeded.

But it’s never complete… So how do I succeed? (Isn’t that a nice round circle of dysfunction?)

The answer, of course, is NEVER. And it, of course, also makes my private world (the little one inside my brain) never be at rest. It’s never in order. Because there is still so much to DO.

I’ve found myself, during this holiday season, inundated by my chore list. A lot of it has been placed there by yours truly and a LOT of it really doesn’t need done. One of my writer friend’s posted on Facebook this timely message: No where in the Bible does God say, “Thou shalt make decorated cookies for Christmas.” ‪#‎lettinggoofstress‬

She is totally right! How can I ever hope to succeed if the list keeps growing?

But also – how do I see that I AM succeeding? It’s not easy for me. I’m down on myself almost constantly.

So here is what I’ve been doing:

1) Make a to-do list. And not just in my head. I actually write it down. But I don’t write EVERYTHING down for TODAY. I have a small notebook and I write 4-5 things down for each day. If they get done, I cross them off. If not, they go to tomorrow. I try not to let anything go more than 3 days. If I finish three or more – I’m happy.

2) Make a succeeded list. Okay… I haven’t done this yet. But here’s a start:

- Bought my own home, with my own money. Worked two jobs to keep it. Maintained it, paid the bills on time, and sold it for a small profit.

- Took the insurance licensing exam and passed – on the first try.

- Quit my insurance job and became a full time freelancer. Client list is growing.

- Been married for almost 6 years. Happily.

- Kept my dog alive for almost 11 years.

- Have been a good daughter to my parents. I’m there whenever they need me.

- With this blog I have completed 3 of the 5 things on my “to-do” list today.

- Have been a child of God for over 10 years and have grown in my faith. (THAT’S a big one.)

It’s a start. (I think I’ll now reward myself with lunch.)

How about you? What are your successes thus far? Write them down in the comments – I don’t care how short or long it is – just put it down in writing so you can see it and affirm yourself today!

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Perfect Weird Gifts for the Holidays

I recently read about a man who has invented a way for our farts to smell like chocolate. Although I’m not sure of the validity of his invention, it got me thinking about the ingenuity of people when it comes to inventing products we all can use.

At this time of the year I thought I would share some unique inventions and products that might just be the perfect gift you are looking for. (*Warning* This products should probably not be purchased.)

1) The Tie Flask

2.) Rough day at work? Use this tie flask.

Because all the Christmas parties where we tend to drink are not enough – not we can do it at work too! (*Warning* This will probably get you fired.) (Although this is probably the most useful product on this list…)

2) The Twirling Spaghetti Fork

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Because twisting our own wrist is SO time consuming. And I really didn’t need my shirt to be free of sauce stains.

3) A Mobile Fishbowl

7.) This mobile fishbowl will help you bring your new pet home (or wherever you want to bring him).

For all those functions you wished you could take your pet fish, Goldie with you. I can only imagine what the trip will be like for poor Goldie…

4) The Hamster Shredder Cage

14.) This hamster cage shredder destroys your important documents ... and it also keeps your pet's cage tidy.

The perfect gift for the hamster lover in your family! Keep the cage clean with freshly shredded paper! Just don’t get the functions mixed up… Or bury the hamster in a mound of shredded tax forms.

5) The Hood Pillow

The hood pillow for a nap anywhere, anytime

Advertised as a “comfortable” pillow that will help you sleep “anywhere.”. …uh, I’m pretty sure he is not sleeping, but is, in fact, dead from suffocation. Or embarrassment.

6) The Bike Without A Seat

 A bike without seals or pedals

So… walking?

If you think these are odd – check out the ones from years past! Our ancestors were truly inventive, creative people. I’m so shocked that many of these inventions are not around today. (Again… sarcasm.)

With all these weird, fun and odd inventions that are (mostly) completely useless, why can’t someone come up with the perfect invention to cure my husband’s ghastly onion breath?

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