Tuesday, November 30, 2010

There is one in every family.

As I wrote in a previous post, we have a tradition of helping our friends decorate their house for Christmas. It is a great tradition that has taken on some fun parts over the years. This year I made some Snickerdoodles for the evening. Our friends made a wonderful potato soup. We decorated. Then, like every year we get together, we watched Christmas Vacation.

There are a lot of levels to this movie. Most of them are so hilariously wrong. From the trip to get the tree to the lighting of the house, the mistreatment of the neighbors to the cat being electrocuted, there are tons of funnies in the movie. One of the characters that has made me scratch my head since I first saw it? Yep, you got it...Cousin Eddie.

We all have one don't we? An eccentric relative that we hardly ever see. One we know will make some sort of splash at the family function. It is my sincere hope and prayer none of your relatives are quite like Cousin Eddie (none of mine are thankfully). But, I know that all of us have a few that are unique in their own ways. (I do hope I never find one of my relatives venting their sewage tank in front of my house!)

This may sound like a strange statement, but we need these people very much. A family is like a painting. There are patterns woven throughout. Each person in the family leaves their imprint on the way the overall picture looks. Some are the base colors. Some are the bright and beautiful ones. Some are the parts of the picture you can't quite figure out but grow to appreciate all the same.

I find it very fitting that Cousin Eddie is the reason that Clark gets his Christmas bonus at the end of the movie. Had Eddie not kidnapped Clark's boss, the boss would have never seen the errors of his ways. It was the odd family member that saved the day. I liked it this way.

Are there family members you haven't seen in a while? Are you that odd duck relative? Take some time and remind them you love them. They may be the odd duck, but family is family.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Books, necklaces, and other cool things

It is 26 days until Christmas. This year has gone so fast. I am looking forward to December and the good times to come.

For those of you who have been reading the posts for this blog, thank you. I am grateful that you take the time to read these posts on Christmas and the holiday season. I will be posting, and featuring posts from others, through Christmas day. Please spread the word about what you are reading if you have found it worth your time. 

There are a couple of things I would like to share with you. As you see over on the right hand side of the blog page, my book, I Believe: A Christmas Story, is available for purchase. If you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy for yourself, or one as a gift for this Christmas, why not today? Click the Buy Now button to get started. 

Also, my very gifted and much better half (my beautiful wife Marixa) has items on her Etsy story that are perfect for Christmas time and would make excellent gifts this season. From necklaces to paintings, there is cool stuff there. Please visit http://www.marixacreates.etsy.com/ and check out the items she has there. She can also custom make similar items. 

If you have a chance check us out on Facebook and click Like on the page for updates on the blog and ideas on Christmas. 

We will be having giveaways during the month of December, so stay tuned! Thank you again for reading. I appreciate you all and would love to hear from you.

Rediscovering the wonder of Christmas

This post was written by my good friend Steve Green. Steve and I have been friends for several years now and he has a perspective on Christmas that I want to share with you. He is good husband and father, and a good friend. He and his family are about to embark on a journey with CRM of living for two years in Spain. You can check out more about Steve at his blog: http://greensinmalaga.wordpress.com.

Rediscovering the wonder of Christmas

After the birth of our son Christmas took on a whole new meaning in my life. Before it seemed like a hassle. I was tired of the excessive commercialization of the holiday taking away from the core message. Also, the constant bickering about what was “politically correct” in terms of expressing one’s self during the holidays left me frustrated. Every year the news was always the same, just maybe in a different town, or school. There was no “Christmas spirit” that we have heard about time after time in the many classic songs and stories. Shopping was an exercise in self-preservation. When all was said and done, I could find no joy in the season.

I knew the Christmas story. The original one, that is. I knew how Christ was born as a savior for mankind. The living embodiment of God on Earth. I understood the symbolic importance of recognizing this time of year and the many blessings I had in my life. But, still, I found no joy.

Oh, I liked the presents fine, however. More stuff to put in my house. Gizmo’s and gadgets. Toys and fun new things, much of which would wind up buried in a closet by the time Christmas came around again. Still, I would rate a good Christmas by the number of gifts I had under the tree. And again, once the gifts were opened, the boxes thrown away and the New Year had begun, I felt no joy.

Christmas, for me, was marked with a hollow feeling. An emptiness that did not make sense. The visit with family only seemed to accentuate the loneliness that came with their leaving. As we sang carols and used words like ‘festive’, ‘joyous’, and ‘merry’, I did not resonate with the sentiment. I did not understand the problem.

Then came the year that my son was born. Things didn’t seem that different at first. In fact it took a couple of years before I started noticing the change. Watching your children grow is like going back and discovering the world anew. You vicariously experience their sense of wonder and excitement as each new experience is sewn into the tapestry of their life and things that seemed understood or mundane now take on new meaning. Be it the first time he saw snow, or early encounters with ‘Santa’, or maybe the “Go-Go” Christmas lights that brought a smile to his face, I began to see an excitement to the season, something to look forward to. He returned wonder to a previously bland experience.

The real indication of change, however, would prove to be the key to my understanding the Christmas season and unlocking the joy that had been missing for so long. As he grew, every year I have looked forward, more and more, to the gifts that I will give to him. No longer do I care about what I am getting. Oh, I still like getting presents, but I no longer imagine, or hint, or long for the things that did not bring fulfillment. Now, I watch carefully at the store to see what draws him in, discerning what he truly wants, as opposed to the impulsive wants that pop up in the frenzy of wandering the toy aisles. I mentally note the things and plot how I can then come back and purchase it without him knowing it. Instead of imaging what I will be getting, now I imagine his reaction when he opens the gifts his mother and I buy for him. And in those moments I realize that there is a person known as Santa Claus, and I am him. Because I have found that joy comes not from trappings of the holiday, the race to have perfect decorations or a lot of presents, but instead it simply comes from giving of yourself, your time and money to make someone’s day, or month, or year a little more special. After years of looking for joy I have finally found it through the eyes of a little boy.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

One gift I gave that keeps giving back.

Do you have a specific Christmas that sticks out in your head as extra special? You may have many that come to mind. I do. One that I will treasure forever is the first one I spent with my wife, before we were married.

It was Christmas of 1998. I was newly engaged (September 1998) and very much wanted the gifts I gave her to show her how much I cared for her. So, I bought everything that looked like it would work. I think I gave her over 13 gifts. (Most of them fairly inexpensive...I was a junior in college.) There are many things I don't remember that I have her. A few I do. One is the bible she still reads to this day.

We were to be married two weeks after Christmas. So, I gave her the bible with her married name on it. I remember holding it after I had the inscription done. I read the name several times. It was awesome to see her first and middle name with my last name attached to them. It has been 12 years since that Christmas and I still pick the bible up from time to time to look at the name.

I knew I was spending my first Christmas with the woman I will spend the rest of my Christmases with. I love spending the holidays with her more and more. I find that I love her more with every year that passes. I am so grateful that she took my name and chose to be my partner in this life. She is the best friend and best wife I could have ever imagined. In fact, she is more.

Do you have a Christmas that sticks out in your mind as extra special? What happened that made it that way?

Christmas through a child's eyes.

Do you ever sit back and wonder what a kid sees when he looks at a Christmas tree? Or freshly fallen snow? Or bright shiny presents they know are for them? Wonder. Awe. Pure excitement. I saw that on my son's face last night. It was awesome.

The tree was decorated. No lights were on, except those on the tree and a few candles. The fireplace was burning steadily. Our family sat down in the middle of it all to watch the Polar Express. My darling 2 year old boy watched the movie in spots, but was more interested in the tree. At one point he stood up, walked over to it, and exclaimed, "I LIKE IT!" He made the same statement several times again throughout the evening.

I miss the childlike wonder in my life. I get so busy in my day to day. There is work to be done. Bills to be paid. The mundane silences the exciting. The ordinary clouds the extraordinary.  Here is an excerpt from my book that looks at this very issue:

     “I will tell you what I think,” Santa stood and walked over to his work bench just behind his chair. “I think people forget that this world is full of so many things that are magical and wonderful. All they ever see is the ordinary stuff in life and they have a hard time remembering that there are many things out there that are extraordinary.”
     Santa gave me a moment to let his words sink in. “I guess the ordinary is easier to believe because it is right there in front of you,” I answered. 
     As I said this Santa turned back around from his bench to face me. “Yes, you're right. But what happens if we lose sight of the extraordinary?” 
     “Well, I guess we stop believeing, and life loses its magic,” I said finally comprehending what Santa was getting at.

I am going to spend as much time with my boy as I can this Christmas season. I am going to try to see the world through his eyes for a bit. As I share Christmas with him, I know he will share his enthusiasm with me. Maybe, I will be able to stand in the middle of it all and exclaim at the top of my voice, "I LIKE IT!"

Do you have a little one that you are looking forward to spending the season with? What are you doing with them to make the season extra special?

Friday, November 26, 2010

More thoughts on decorating.

I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by wonderful and talented people. I asked my friend Carissa to put some ideas together for a guest blog post and she was more than up to the task. She already had it done. She wrote about the subject in her own blog a while back. Please click this link for a little look into her decorating world. She is very good at it. (This is not surprising to me though. She is an awesome wife and mother of four...about to be five. She is extremely creative and super driven. I haven't heard of anything she has put her mind to that she hasn't accomplished. She has been like that since I met her over 15 years ago.)

I hope your day after Thanksgiving was awesome. 28 days to go until Christmas. I know they are all going to be great.

Keeping Christmas Traditions - Decorating Day

One of the traditions that we have kept year after year is Decorating Day. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving we pull all of the decorations out of storage and being the transformation process on our home. By dinner time this evening the house will look and feel like Christmas.

I have been looking forward to this day for weeks. I got to do a little shopping this morning. (I went to Target at 4:30 and saved almost 50 bucks on a gift for my wife! Instead of going two hours early and waiting in the cold, I went half an hour after they opened, still got what I wanted, and waited 45 minutes in line...in the heat. Better choice). I get to do a little cooking here in a bit. There will be a fire started. Christmas movies start playing here in a bit as well. There will be Christmas music on. I get to watch my darling wife do what she does so well in decorating our house. I get to put up the tree. I love it all. 

Why is this tradition so important to me? It is all about being with my family and sharing the season with them. Every time we turn around we hear about a family that is estranged. Husbands and wives choose to separate. Kids get overlooked and feel insignificant. Something that was special is lost. This will not happen in my home. I choose my wife and our family. I choose to make the small things important. I choose to take the time to build our history of love and enjoyment of each other. As we enjoy the Christmas season together we build our relationships further. 

It is easy to do choose to do our own separate things, but the easy things in life are seldom the most profitable. Being together involves working together and compromise. It can be tough when you first start out. After you have done it for a while a funny thing happens. You change and so do they. You share interest. You look forward to things together. The holiday becomes less about me and more about us. 

So, I am excited about Decorating Day. It is going to be a good one. What are you doing with your family this season? Have you made plans to be together to enjoy the season?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A day for giving thanks.

I don't know about you, but I am excited about tomorrow being Thanksgiving day. It is a time to be with family and enjoy. It is a time to pause and reflect on the blessings that we have in our lives.

At dinner tonight it hit me how blessed I really am. I have a wife that loves me completely and I love her the same. I have a son who brings me more joy than I have ever known. I have a family that has raised me and supported me through all of life. I have the best friends I could have ever imagined. I have a home I love. I have things I enjoy. I have wants, but very few needs. I am so very blessed and so thankful. 

It is my hope that Thanksgiving day is not lost to you. It is a good day that can help us reset the compass of our lives. It can help bring us perspective. Thanksgiving helps us live intentionally. If we are thankful there is little room to take things for granted. 

So, have a wonderful Thanksgiving day. The Christmas season will really be in full swing when the day is done. There is no better way I know to start off the giving season than by giving thanks!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Book Preview - Chapter 3 of I Believe: A Christmas Story

Chapter 3

We rose quickly into the air. I don’t know how reindeer do what they do, but it is amazing! In just seconds we were high above my small town and it quickly faded into the night. Comet set his course due north.
Somehow, I was locked into place. Comet zipped this way and that and I didn’t even budge. Frosty didn’t seem to take to riding as well as I had. He was a loud little elf man. He yelled at Comet for most of our trip North.
As we made our way further north the lights from below started to fade out. I could only assume that the North Pole wasn’t far away because every bit of civilization seemed to have vanished.
Comet veered again. This time he shook Frosty right off of his back. Fortunately we were not too high off of the ground and there was a large snow bank just below.
With a loud poof Frosty landed in the large bank of snow. He was hollering even louder now. “Comet! You... deer!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the little man. As he walked out of the snow bank he very much resembled the snowman who shared his name.
Comet snorted his approval as he landed just feet from Frosty.
“We have important business at hand and you are playing games!” Frosty was obviously angry.
Comet yawned.  He was clearly not impressed.
With that, Frosty saddled up on Comet once again and we were off. In what seemed no more than 5 minutes we were in front of a small house on what seemed the middle of a frozen lake.
Frosty jumped down off of Comet and motioned that I should do the same. I climbed off of Comet’s back and headed for the front door of the little house.
‘This couldn’t be where Santa lives,’ I thought to myself.
“I know what you're thinking boy!” Frosty said with almost a grin. “You're thinking, ‘This is it? This is the  North Pole?” He pointed to a small pole on top of the house. It was not at all what I had expected.
“Let me just say this, things are not always what they seem.” With this Frosty walked up to the front door and jumped to reach the doorbell. On the third try he managed to ring the bell. Then, the most amazing thing happened: Santa opened the door.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miracle on 34th Street was ahead of it's time.

Miracle on 34th Street. Is there a better Christmas movie? I can't think of many I like more. Edmund Gwinn won an Oscar for his portrayal of Kris Kringle. It is an excellent movie.

There is a quote from the Kris Kringle character that sticks out to me: "You see, Mrs. Walker, this is quite an opportunity for me. For the past 50 years or so I've been getting more and more worried about Christmas. Seems we're all so busy trying to beat the other fellow in making things go faster and look shinier and cost less that Christmas and I are sort of getting lost in the shuffle."

This movie was made in 1947, but that quote could have been lifted out of the day we live in now. For example, how many places have you heard of that will be opening before 4 am for Black Friday? All of the ones I have heard of will be. Some as early as 12 am!!

I have joined in the Black Friday ritual for years. I have gotten some good deals and have seen some funny sights. This year, however, I may not go out early. Part of my decision to be intentional this year is to give well thought through gifts. I  will look through the flyers on Thursday and if what I am looking for is for sale I may venture out.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you an avid Black Friday shopper? What are your plans for this Friday? If it is an enjoyable experience, by all means have fun. If not, there are other deals to be had. Be intentional and you will find what you are looking for...and maybe some peace of mind too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What do we get the kids for Christmas this year?

I remember sitting in one of my classes in college. The professor was very knowledgeable, but really enjoyed talking about himself and his life more than he liked teaching his subject. Have you ever had one of those? He was a decent story teller so it made the class enjoyable. He got on the subject of Christmas one time and something he said that day has stuck with me ever since. "Don't worry about what you buy your kids when they are young," he told the class. "When the dust settles the toys will be left undisturbed on the ground and the paper and boxes will be strewn all across the house after your kids have finished playing with them." He went on to lament that he had bought his daughter a really cool $60 box.

I was young and didn't have kids at the time, but that message stuck with me. It is the truth isn't it? How many times have you bought that high priced item just for your kids to play with something of lesser value? I think the tissue paper was a favorite at our house last year.

Kids are full of imagination and wonder. Their ability to imagine and play is something that we adults should take notice of and remember. They can have the best time playing with just a little story and some encouragement.

In being intentional this year, lets give good gifts to our children. If we have the opportunity to give them something we know they will love we should. At the same time remembering this: The things we give them are not what is most important. The most important gift we give them is our love. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Christmas is so much better together.

One thing we like to do every year is spread Christmas cheer. (As if you couldn't tell from reading my blog!) We try to do this in many ways. One is by helping some of our close friends put up their Christmas decorations. 

It started out as a favor because they were expecting their first child and she was having a hard time getting around. As much as we enjoy Christmas, we wanted to share the season and help them get ready. It has since turned into a yearly tradition. We enjoy being together and we share the magic of the season all together. I am eager to see the tradition continue as both of our families expand. 

One of the basic needs of the human race is community. We are not meant to live in isolation. We are not meant to spend our lives alone. I think this is why some people get so lonely in December of each year. We get so wrapped up in our own lives and the things we are doing, we don't take the time to invest in these relationships. 

There is a great line in TNT's version of a Christmas Carol. It is at the end when Scrooge has gone to Fred's home for Christmas dinner. He asks Fred's wife this question: "Can you forgive a stupid old man who doesn't want to be left out in the cold anymore? Will you take me in?" He has finally realized that his life is to be live in community with those around him and he wants to make amends. 

We made plans this evening for our next decorating party. It is going to be a great evening of just being together with our good friends. I am excited for the time I know we will have and the memories to come.

Is there someone you need to go spend time with this Christmas? Don't miss the chance. God forbid we ever find ourselves that person who is all alone out in the cold.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Top 5 Posts

These have been the top 5 posts since the site started. I would love to hear what you think about the subjects and would love to know what Christmas means to you! Comments are welcome!

Top 5 Posts

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I love food at Christmas!

Christmas time is one of the best times of year for so many reasons. One of my favorites? The food!

Whether it is a baked (or fried!) turkey or ham, scalloped potatoes or mashed, green beans or green bean casserole, whatever the food may be, Christmas has it's own flavor. What are your favorite foods? Pecan pie? Pumpkin bread? Chocolate? The choices and varieties are endless.

One of the best qualities about food is that it is a community experience. From food preparation to eating what has been prepared, food has the power to bring people together. Good food even more so. 

One my favorite gifts in the last few years is my shiny red Kitchenaid mixer. Cooking is one of my hobbies/passions and that present made me feel more like a real cook than I ever had. It was awesome. I received it the week before Christmas day and I had an opportunity to play with it over the Christmas vacation. What a good time!

My first true success with the mixer was a batch of awesome cinnamon rolls. (I have tried that recipe several times since and haven't been able to recreate it just the same way. My first attempt has been my best so far, but each batch is so good.) I remember being able to pull them out of the oven and share them with the friends we were sharing Christmas with. The memory makes me smile.

What goodies are you planning to make for this Christmas? My list is getting longer and longer. Spending time making goodies is not only good for the taste buds, it can be used as a chance to draw the ones you love close. This is going to be the tastiest Christmas yet...I just know it.

PS: I found this recipe I am going to try soon for Chipotle Pecans and Honey. Check it out! http://bit.ly/cIWExr

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'll be home for Christmas...

Christmas music. I love it. Every year about this time I catch myself singing different tunes, not officially having let myself listen yet. My office will be a haven for Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is 'I'll be home for Christmas.' It gets my in the right frame of mind in a hurry. Why does it do that? What is the song saying? It says I have been away from home, but there are people I value there. There are things I want to share with them. I want to be with them. I love them. I cherish them. Whether I make it home or not, my heart is there.

One of the reasons I love this song is that it grabs you. It doesn't have a lot of words, but it is full of meaning. It helps give clarity about what is really important and who is important. 

Is there someone that you are far away from? Is there someone you need to plan to be with this Christmas? Are there things you need to say? Take the time you need and don't let another Christmas pass without it. The older I get the more I realize that my opportunities to share love with my friends and family will one day run out. I want to take every opportunity I can get to tell them I love them and that they are special to me. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book Preview - Chapter 2 of I Believe: A Christmas Story

Chapter 2

I lay there in my bed for hours trying to hear any sounds from the roof of our house. The jingle of a bell. The beat of a hoof. Anything that would have made my ears jump with excitement.
‘What was that?’ I knew that I heard something outside my window. I slowly crept up from my bed and made my way over to see what it could be. As quietly as I could I pulled back the curtains to see the most amazing sight; an enormous reindeer.
He was the biggest animal I had ever seen and he was standing outside my house. Quickly I threw on my slippers and hurried quietly down the hall. I opened the front door and made my way outside of the house where my visitor was waiting.
There he stood, quietly chomping on flowers and grass. My mother would be so upset. He was eating right out of her garden. I walked slowly toward him. He was aware of me the whole time as I approached.
“So which one are you?” I asked him quietly.
He promptly stopped eating and walked toward me. He towered over me as he approached. He leaned down where I could read the writing on his collar. Comet.
Out of no where a shrill voice started yelling his name. I looked all around for the voice I heard. I looked up at Comet, he rolled his eyes. The voice came again just as a head popped out around the side of my house. A silly looking little man was there in a bright green suit.
“Comet, you stubborn deer!” The little man was furious at the reindeer. It was obvious that Comet didn't care. “You didn’t have to throw me off two blocks back.” Comet snorted as if to say, ‘It was the only way that I was going to get a snack and some quiet.’
I stood silently taking all of this in. I had just had the discussion with my dad about how it was alright to believe, and here were real live Christmas legends.

“Is this the boy?” the little man snapped at Comet. Comet nodded his head yes.
The little man turned his attention to me. “Well boy, we have a busy night ahead of us. We had better get going.”
I started to stammer. I didn’t know what to say. “I, I can’t go anywhere. Its Christmas Eve.”
“That is precisely why you must! Santa wants to talk with you. We have been sent here to get you.”
“Me?” I asked. “Why me?”
“Because Santa said go get you and here we are!”
“Will we be gone long?” I wasn’t so sure my parents would be okay with me disappearing in the middle of the night.
“You will be back in time for morning. I promise.”
“Okay, I’ll go. But first, who are you?” I asked the little man in the silly green hat.
“I thought Frosty was a snowman.”
“He is,” Frosty steamed at me. Comet neighed in laughter. “And somehow I'm the lucky elf that has to share the same name!”
With that Comet picked me up by the back of my pajamas and tossed me on his back. The loud little elf jumped up in front of me and we whisked off the ground high into the air.
It was going to be an interesting night.

One of my favorite gifts ever...

Christmas 2007. It stands out in my memory as one of my favorite because of a very special gift I received. I know for a fact it didn't cost more than five dollars, but it was awesome all the same. A little brown onesie. I already knew we were having a little one, but it became all the more real with that little piece of cloth in my hands.

While this may not seem like much to some, the news of a baby coming our way was a big event. We had been trying for 5 years. I battled cancer in the middle of those years. We were told we may never be able to have kids. All of this frustration washed away the day we found out our boy was coming. It became even more real the Christmas morning I opened that sweet little gift.

I am so thankful for my little one. He is a gift that has continued to give. I look forward to many many Christmases with him (and his siblings one day) and showing him how much I love him.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Looking forward to Christmas movies - It is a Wonderful Life!

One of the first Christmas movies I remember watching is the old classic Its a Wonderful Life. I saw it sometime in the 1980s. I had no frame of reference at that point about the major theme of the movie, but it was a great story and I have loved it ever since.

What is the major theme of the movie?  It is the little kindnesses we show people that make the biggest difference in life. George Bailey was a very giving man. He didn't want to be trapped in the small town of Bedford Falls, but took over the family business when his father passed away. He gave his efforts to make sure the people of Bedford Falls had an opportunity for decent housing through the work of his Building and Loan business. He stood in the way of the villainous Mr. Potter from bringing harm and ruin to the good people. He was a good husband and father and a good provider. Despite all of that, he felt unfulfilled. He didn't realize the good he had done. He felt that it would have been better had he never been born. It was only after a visit from an angel revealed all he had done that he saw it was truly is a Wonderful Life.  

I love that Christmas time gives us a chance to refocus. We are naturally giving at Christmas, when in truth it should be second nature all year round. We have the chance to give small kindnesses and to do good for people every day. George didn't think he was doing anything heroic, but he consistently showed kindness. It ended up being his legacy and what saved him at the end of the story.

It is my goal to live my life aware of this theme. What may be insignificant to me may be huge to someone else.  We all have a chance to make a difference. The small daily choices can do more than we might ever realize. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

One of the Christmas movies that gets watched around my house year after year is the 1980's classic A Christmas Story. Ralphie's quest for the an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle is the stuff of legend and lore.  In one scene in the movie his teacher makes the class write a theme about what they want for Christmas. He is quick to write about the present he wants. He praises the air rifle with much enthusiasm. He then makes the comment that a football is not a good present. His teacher doesn't share his enthusiasm and gives him the old warning: You'll shoot your eye out!

It brings up a question: What makes a good Christmas present? My book, I Believe: A Christmas Story (not related to the movie), is a story about giving. In it Santa tells the main character that giving presents is a good thing, but giving our love and affection is so much better. So when we give presents what makes them special?

How well do you know the person you are buying or making a gift for? What is important to them? Do you know their heart? When my wife and I first started dating I wanted to give her tokens of my affection. I bought some items I thought she might like and I hoped they would do. She was very gracious and loved them because I had given them, but the gifts would have had greater effect had I know her better. (I think about them now and I have to chuckle...glad I had more going for me that my choice in stuff!)

Now when I give gifts to my wife it is because I have been paying attention to things she has said and I know the kinds of things that bring her joy. Part of the fun at Christmas is reminding her how special I think she is by surprising her with something unexpected.

Many of the gifts disappear throughout the years. They go out of style or they wear out. They aren't the important part anyway. The time you spend making your loved ones feel special never goes away. It stays in your heart and theirs. It is a gift that keeps on giving. 

It smells like Christmas.

Christmas is awesome isn't it? There are so many good things about it. The lights, the trees, the shiny packages, and so much more. One of my favorite things? The smells.

Smell can cause a flood of memories at a moments notice. The smell of pine trees. The smell of cookies baking. The smell of perfume of the one you love. One sniff and you have to pause and remember. You know exactly what I mean don't you?

My wife has one of those Christmas Cookie candles from Yankee Candle Company. I come home from work many a day in December with it burning. The house is decorated. The lights are on the tree. Everything is warm and cozy. It feels like Christmas to me. The smell of the candle brings it all back.

This Christmas make plans to make it special. Spend time with those you love. Take time to enjoy the season. One day the memory will wash over you at an unexpected moment because of a familiar scent on the wind.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Christmas through a parent's eyes...

As you have been able to tell by now, I love Christmas. I love the sights. I love the sounds. I love the feeling that it brings. I love spending time with family. I love giving gifts. It is truly my favorite time of year.

Christmas has taken on a new dimension for me the last couple of years. Our son was born in July of 2008. We didn't know what to expect from his first Christmas since he couldn't move around all that much, but we had a great time just being with him and family. The next year was a little bit more exciting because he ran into the living room Christmas morning and found presents that we had left for him. He ended up playing with the boxes and paper more than the toys, but that is just the way it goes.

I expect this year to be even more of an exciting time because he is starting to understand much more. He has his favorite cartoons. He has his favorite toys. His little personality is developing so wonderfully. This is the first year that we have been able to give to him knowing that he will be excited with what we give him. We have already started (and almost finished from what I am told) buying his gifts. We know he will love them. We have loved getting them for him.

It gives me a great appreciation for my parents and the way they made Christmas special when I was a kid. We didn't always have a lot of extra, but Christmas always felt special. One year in particular I remember they got me good. All the presents had been opened. I had received things they knew I liked. I was happy. Then, mom stepped in from the other room and gave me my big present (that I didn't know was coming). My very own CD player and a Garth Brooks CD. Christmas 1993 sticks out in my memory well.

I didn't understand back then that they received more than I did that day. I am learning that seeing the joy on your child's face is one of the best gifts there is. Theirs is an example that I gladly follow. They showed me love in ways that I understood, because they knew me well. I want to show my boy that same kind of love. Christmas gifts are one opportunity to do just that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Christmas wouldn't be the same without Bing.

I love Christmas music. Call me a fanatic, but I am the one who sits at my desk at work and sings along with the Christmas songs on the radio. I have had people look at me like I have lost my mind, but that is part of the fun.

One of my absolute favorite Christmas singers is Bing Crosby. Maybe it is because my mom and I enjoyed watching White Christmas together when I was a kid, or it could be because no one sings the old songs like he does, but I just love listening to Bing sing. 

It takes me back. Back to a time in my imagination when things were slower. It creates a sense of nostalgia for me. You know what I mean. It takes you to another place. It is that good. My favorite Bing Crosby Christmas song has to be either White Christmas or Baby It's Cold Outside with Doris Day. 

Do you have a favorite Christmas song or singer? What does the music do to you? Are you too busy during the holiday? Take some time to listen to the good stuff and let it bring you some cheer. 

Looking Forward to Christmas Movies - Home Alone

I have some pretty vivid memories of childhood and Christmas time. One of my favorites is when my mom took me to see the movie Home Alone in the theater. It is the first time I had ever seen my mother laugh that hard. She laughed so hard there were tears rolling down her face. It was such a good time. It is hard to believe that 20 years have gone by since we watched it together for the first time. I love that memory.

I am sure you know the basic story: The kid in the story feels overlooked and unappreciated by his family.  His family leaves for Christmas vacation and he, unbeknownst to them, is not with them on the journey. He thinks they have disappeared and is happy with his new found freedom. His mom tries desperately to make her way back from France to get to him. Criminals make attempts at breaking into the family home. The boy decides to defend the homestead. Hilarity ensues. The boy realizes he misses his family and on Christmas day they are all reunited.

One of the points of the story is that family is precious and is too easily taken for granted. The family in the story was so busy that they had forgotten to take time and enjoy each other. It took a major shock to remind them of this fact.

Some people love the movie, others hate it. I have a great appreciation for it. It reminds me of time that I spent with my mom laughing our heads off. Time with family is precious, and I will remember that time we went to the movies for the rest of my life. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Keeping Christmas Traditions

Do you have any Christmas traditions that you keep every year? What are they? Do you go sing carols with family and friends? Do you make Christmas goodies as a family? Do you decorate the tree at the same time every year?

We have a couple of traditions that I love. Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, we pull all of the decorations out and transform our home for the holiday season. There is usually hot chocolate involved and the movie White Christmas is watched during the process.

Another tradition we generally keep is baking Christmas goodies. I love to cook and bake to begin with so this one is right up my alley. From sugar cookies shaped like snowmen to chocolate truffles, every year it is a blast to prepare it all and share the goodness.

Why do we keep traditions? For one it gives us things to look forward to doing together. One of the best parts of the holiday season is the time with family and being together. We also keep traditions to build history. As a family, or a group of friends, we can look back at the times we have had together and remember the love and joy we have shared. We can look forward to bringing the same kind of joy to each other in the times to come.

The one thing that I guard against is traditions for traditions sake. There are some that run their course and we no longer practice them. They may have worked for a time, but now are difficult to maintain or no longer have the meaning they once did. That is ok. There are other ones that can take their place.

What traditions to you keep with your family and/or friends? Are there new ones you want to start? Are there ones that have run their course and need to be worked on or replaced? Plan to make this year the best year for Christmas traditions you have had to date. One day you will look back and be glad for the time you spent to make is special.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Believe: A Christmas Story - Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“The truth is Peter,” Dad said to me as he tucked me into my bed that Christmas Eve, “most people stop believing in Santa Claus at about your age.”
                 “Did you stop believing when you were my age Dad?” I asked, a little brokenhearted.
                 Dad stood up from the edge of my bed and patted me on the head. “Son, I have never stopped believing.”
                 “So that means I don’t have to stop believing either?” I was shocked at what my dad had shared with me.
                 “Son, I would never lie to you. I have never seen a little round man in a red suit come down a chimney and leave presents under the tree. I have never heard the sound of hoofs beat on my roof. I have never had my milk and cookies that I left by the fireplace for Santa disappear.” Dad stopped and scratched his chin.
”But, what I have seen is the Christmas season make the meanest of people be almost nice. The stingiest of people be giving. I have seen people who didn’t have any hope instantly find it. I have seen families come together that were so far apart, because of this thing we call Christmas and what it represents. Because of Santa Claus and what he represents. We must never stop believing son. There is so much worth believing in.”
“So, is Santa real?”
Dad had started to walk to the door and he stopped in his tracks. He turned back to face me. “That, my boy, is up for you to decide.” Dad tussled my hair one more time and told me to get some sleep.
Sleep is hard for a boy on Christmas Eve.

Setting our sights on Christmas

Ok. November is here and as you have probably already noticed, Christmas is coming. Commercials are advertising. Stores and setting out merchandise. Some Christmas light displays are already up and ready to be seen. It really does seem like it happens earlier every year. 

You will soon find that there are voices on every side of you telling you what you should buy for this holiday season. Goading you to buy the newest and flashiest toy for all your good little girls and boys. We now enter the most aggressive couple of months of the year from a marketing perspective. Everyone is vying for your attention and your dollar. 

I propose that we take a deep breath. It is 51 days till the day itself. There is much to be done, yes. But, there is even more to be enjoyed and cherished. If we make a plan now we have the chance to get it all done and enjoy it all the while. 

Chances are you know which people you want to give to. Write down their names. Sketch out what you want to do for this Christmas on paper. If they are someone you want to buy a gift for, write out the amount you are willing to spend. If they are someone that you would like to make a gift for, make a list of the things you will need. If they are someone you need to contact to give a kind word to, plan it out. 

Giving is the reason for the season. Do it with intention. The first gift of Christmas was given by a father who dearly loved his children. We have an opportunity to honor that love, by loving each other well this Christmas. It is my hope that we do just that. 


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