Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sad

So you'll have to forgive me for not posting. Not that anyone was checking. I mean, if you're like me. But what are the odds that since December 19th you have all had two kids' Christmas programs, family coming in from out of town, three kids with fevers, two kids with snotty noses and coughs that keep the entire family up all night, one kid with an up all night 24 hours o' sick (if you know what I mean) stomach bug, and a husband grading 20+ graduate level term papers on the computer from dawn to dusk. Actually, that may be exactly what everyone else's life has been like. Well, maybe except for the graduate level paper grading. One thing that has happened that did not seem appropriate to list in my silly recap is that a close friend of mine, one of the girls who was in my wedding, actually, has lost her husband. It was very sudden and right before Christmas. He was about our age (well, if you are thirty) and in excellent shape, but he had a heart attack. It is strange that now that we are older, some of the dearest people in the lives of some of the dearest people to us are virtually strangers. I guess I mean that I know my sisters and my close friends so well, have lived with them and cried with them and laughed with them, and yet for many of them I have only met their husband a handful of times. Or their children maybe not at all. My nieces live in France. That stinks. And it is much the same way with my dear friend who at one time I must've eaten near every meal with and gone on road trips and vacations with.

At one point after graduation, we were emailing or talking every day in spite of being hours away from each other with completely different jobs and daily routines. But with more changes and getting settled into our new homes, we were less and less in touch. There are a kind of people who are forever dear to you and warm your heart when you think of them, and yet they are not part of your life in the way they once were. I know this happens inevitably; it is no one's fault and maybe not even a bad thing. But you don't mean for it to or want it to. And then, when tragedy strikes, it is that much more difficult to know what to do. What should you do when your heart is breaking for her and yet it would take you 12 hours to get to her? Two sick kids at home and a sick husband, parents on the way from out of town for the Christmas program at school, four days before Christmas. I didn't go. I didn't really see how I could. But on the other hand, I know that if it had been another friend, one who lives in the same city who was also in my wedding, hell could not have kept me away.

So it gets you thinking about relationships. I guess it is normal and natural that some friends are closer than others. But it also had me thinking about the loss of different types of relationships. Another close friend had a parent die a few years back. This drive would have been ten hours away for me, and I don't really remember thinking that I should be there. I remember wishing that I could be, but it was ten hours away and I would have to stay in a hotel and it did not occur to me to rearrange my life to make it work. And is it because of course our parents will die in our lifetime (though certainly not for many years we hope)? But a spouse, which is a more important and intimate relationship anyway, is supposed to grow old with you. But this is a very vulgar thing to talk about maybe.

I wonder though. I don't travel to weddings as much as I wish. And I don't think I have ever been on a trip to be present for someone's baptism. I don't think I have really ever been invited. And why don't we invite people to baptisms? Why don't we make a big deal out of them? Maybe because we just gave birth and we're beat! Maybe because it isn't as widely done in our culture as these other events. Of course, you don't expect to be invited to a funeral. A funeral is a different type of affair. Most people would be grieving a loss and therefore the rest of us are not sure how to behave. Honestly, I wasn't sure how to behave at my own grandmother's funeral. One minute, there was laughter over a funny story or delight in seeing a relative I hadn't seen in a while, and the next there was nearly uncontrollable sadness that felt a little embarrassing. I burst into tears at my husband's grandmother's funeral and pretty nearly shocked the rest of his family as I had only met her a few times.

I think that these things are part of what keeps me away. I did want to be there for my friend in her grief, but I will confess that I was a little relieved to be unable to go. Would I say the wrong thing? Would I be in the way? Would my friend think it was strange for me to make so much effort to come when she has dozens of friends closer than I? Would my friend think it was strange for me to make so little effort as not to come when I among her three dozen closest friends? I also had a strange thought in the back of my mind that to these girls I will soon be "the pastor's wife," which has all manner of silly connotations that I will just tell you are not me. Yet, I think if I were one of them, a little out of touch with this old friend who is married to a (almost) pastor, I might think or expect something "pastor's wife-y" from me. Would I get the benefit of the doubt and be considered as sort of fine no matter what because I am the "religious one" or would I have to live up to some perfect and polished pastoral standard of Southern cultural Christianity?

Am I the only one who thinks of things this way? I am not saying this is the most appropriate or sensible way to consider things like this. I am just wondering if anyone else thinks of these things. I guess besides missing a chance to be a friend to her, I do feel a little guilty that I have all of these thoughts attached to the situation. I never have just pure and simple feelings, they are always coupled with strange self consciousness and over analysis. But I know that the heart of the issue is truly my friend and her loss. It was relayed to me that she had said she felt that she had lost her best friend and her future. I thought that that was a perfect way to say it so that we could understand. Her future. Of course she feels that way. I know we all know Jeremiah 29:11 and some of us would just love to give her that to make it all better. But the reality is that though God does have a plan and a future for her, the future that she was building is lost. Her future is now completely unknown and unimaginably frightening. There were ten of us in college that stayed pretty close, and I am pretty sure that at least five of us were there to comfort our friend. Nonetheless for her this will last much longer than the events of visitation and funeral. She is barely thirty and already a widow. If you are the praying type, I know she would be blessed by your prayers.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Somebody's Gotta Be That Guy

That was George's encouragement to a friend of ours tonight. I thought it was hilarious. And so true of me too. First off though, I hereby promise that I am going to change the colors around soon. I just want to get my wreath and poinsettia pictures up. I am hoping to take some in the morning while the snow is still unmelted. We got a little over five inches of snow here yesterday. It is beautiful! And the nice thing about being up North, yes there is something nice about being up North, is that they have the salt trucks and the plows to make things nice and safe in the snow. On the way to church this morning, we traveled some unplowed roads that were a little scary, but nothing like my parents' neighborhood in Nashville where the streets might as well be sheets of ice for days after a snowfall because of the shade and the light traffic. I so sound like a grandma talking about weather and road conditions. Someone get me a life!

Well, I just wanted to have something for y'all to read on a chilly Monday morning. Only I reckon no one will be at their computers but more like me- on your way to exchange that somehow dysfunctional gift or buy the extra box of Christmas cards you totally should've known you would need or to the monogram store because they overcharged you. No? Just me? Am I really the only one who bought a picture frame for the grandparents only to get home and put the picture in it and have the entire back fall off? Or the only one to somehow figure on their boxes of Christmas cards having 16 cards in them after spending at least 45 minutes picking them out when they clearly say 12 cards in more than one place on each of the five boxes purchased? And is it possible I'm the only one who had two loveys monogrammed and was charged for the loveys in addition to the monogramming when the loveys were actually purchased at a different store altogether but not to realize it because I had so many things being monogrammed I actually thought, "well, $70, okay that seems a little high..."? You're not telling me no one else assumed that leotards were sized similarly to clothes and bought the wrong size ballet stuff and had to go back across town to return it in the pouring down snow? Seriously, these things are happening to me all over the place this Christmas. I seem to be doing everything wrong or catching some sort of snag in nearly every endeavor! And yet, as long as I get it all done, I'm fine. I'm just "that guy" that has to go to every shopping spot at least twice to get it right!

I think I have learned not to plan ahead though. What's that you say? You think this should teach me to plan further ahead? No. See, that's what got me into this mess in the first place. Way too much planning. If I had just winged it, the way my gut is always telling me, I wouldn't have gone to any of these stores yet and therefore would not be driving back to all of them to correct the mistakes that were made the first time weeks and weeks ago. I am sure what you are thinking is that I would just be making the first mistakes this week and then I would not have time to go back and correct them. But I am not so sure. Because with pressure comes that extra clarity, that extra presence of mind, maybe even adrenaline, that guarantees that things are going to go well. If you don't believe me, ask my old college roommates. Nary a paper was started before the night before it was due. And I got a 2.67 GPA. Wait. Okay, so that doesn't help my case. But I was an excellent writer and wrote pretty good papers at 3am, especially for papers written at 3am. The extremely embarrassing GPA comes from listening to my dad as he entreated me to take computer classes, skipping a few too many of Dr. Kicklighter's (and everyone else's, really) classes, and any class taken in Cary Hall (aka the Biology building). Alright, so maybe the moral is something like "once a slacker always a slacker." I don't know, I just know I gotta get to bed so I can rerun all my errands tomorrow. Oh, I also bought way too much wrapping paper. Anyone want some for free? What are all of y'all up to this last week before Christmas?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All I Want For Christmas Is Some Decent Music

So I have been playing with colors all day for Christmas' sake. I will probably keep changing it every few hours, so if you hate it, just wait a little bit. Or complain. That's what I do. But I am not going to complain too much today. I just want to say that the Christmas station in St. Louis stinks. I am sure most Christmas stations stink. I mean, they play the same two dozen songs again and again and again. If I hear the high pitched "Little Drummer Boy" again ever, it will be too soon. Or "Please Celebrate me Home?" What does that even mean?! Once in Birmingham I heard Neil Diamond singing "Joy to the World" on their Christmas station. Nice! Neil Diamond is so bizarre. But I enjoy him every now and then just the same. I think George and I have a greatest hits album of his around here somewhere. Everybody needs a little "Song Sung Blue" every now and then. Anyway, just for fun, here is a top ten of what I wish the Christmas station played (not to be confused with what I like to sing in church- this is just for fun driving, baking, shopping music). There was a short back and forth about this on the "getting to know you" post, but as no one participated, I am sort of recycling the topic. I expect more participation this time. Let me know what you wish they played more. I'm sure everyone can think of one good song that is not that annoying Chipmunks song or "whoopdeedoo and dickory dock" song that they alternate with "Little Drummer Boy" and "Please Celebrate Me Home." Or if you like those four songs, wow, bad taste huh?

In no particular order:
1) "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan (is this the correct spelling after all?) - listen to it on this guy's website.
2) "The Friendly Beasts" which has evidently been recently recorded by Garth Brooks? We very excitedly found it on the Sufjan Stevens Christmas CDs last year. I grew up with the old Betty Jean Robinson version which is beautiful and folky. But this link is to hear Sufjan. It is fabulous.
3) This is actually an entire album. Behold the Lamb of God: the true tall tale of the coming of Christ by Andrew Peterson. My friend Sara gave this to me last year but it was after Christmas so I did not get to hear it much. This year I am in love with it. I cannot figure out how to order it to give as gifts though. It is a beautiful, covenantal telling of the coming of Christ, beginning with the stories of Moses and Israel throughout the Old Testament. If you can get your hands on one, do. You will be so glad you did! Oh, and my friend Evie did all the artwork on the jacket. So there you go, a bonus!
4) "Baby, It's Cold Outside" There are some bad versions of this song. I get so excited to hear it sometimes only to hear it badly done. I am not sure who it is that sings the really good version. I have a vague memory of a black and white movie with Bing Crosby? But it's not Holiday Inn or White Christmas. Anybody know what I'm thinking of? Googling "Bing Crosby Baby It's Cold Outside" brought up Doris Day and a sampling, but then it says in the comments that that isn't even them. So then I think I may have finally found the answer. Evidently, the movie is Neptune's Daughter and there are two performances, one by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban (?) and another by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett (but this according to Wikipedia). I am betting that is the movie because we used to love us some Esther Williams. Rachael and I were suckers for an old musical! The song won and Academy Award for best original song after being in the movie, but the versions we would be most familiar with were recorded later. I think it must be the Johnny Mercer one that I like the best, but I can't find it online to be sure.
5) As mentioned before, Neil Diamond singing "Joy to the World." It is good, y'all! Well, I've only heard it once, but it blew me away. I am entertaining the idea of snatching it up this Christmas on CD. The problem is that it's on The Christmas Album, Volume 2 and you can't very well own a Volume 2 without a Volume 1. That would be annoying. Mariah Carey does a pretty sweet version of this song too.
6) Speaking of Mariah Carey, they play plenty of her "All I Want for Christmas is You," which I do love. But she sings "O Holy Night" really beautifully too.
7) "It Must've Been Ol' Santa Claus" by Harry Connick Jr. because this is just so my sisters.
8) "Mary's Boy Child" which I grew up listening to as sung by Evie, not my friend Evie but the 70s' Christian recording artist Evie. Anyway, who knows how to ever track this down, but there is a hilarious disco version out there by a group called Boney M. I prefer a classical arrangement, but the disco one is interesting anyway.
9) Speaking of my friend Evie, every year she sang the Magnificat at church on Christmas Eve. It was seriously the highlight of Christmas for me. And I can't find that arrangement anywhere. So sad. I even emailed her last year and asked her if she could track down the music for me as her dad was the music minister at our church, but I guess it is one of those things that is forever lost.
10) "Children Go Where I Send Thee" which is not so much a Christmas song except for the repetitive mentioning of the little bitty baby, born born born in Bethlehem. Here again is the link to Johnny Cash singing this on Youtube.
10 1/2) And did I mention that I thought Carrie Underwood sang "Do You Hear What I Hear?" beautifully at the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center? No overly dramatic voice manipulation, just pretty and sweet. So if 10 doesn't count because it isn't really a Christmas song or 9 because no one can actually find the song to play it or 3 because it's actually a whole song, make that one.

"Defunked" or "My funk is now defunct"

So here I am complaining about the internet being dead and I am not posting either. I am wanting to take pictures and I just haven't gotten to that yet. But let me just at least say that I am temporarily cured. Yes, I am cured from I-hate-being-a-stay-at-home-mom-itis at least for a little while. But it's highly contagious you know. And it's always going around. So if you have it, or suffer from chronic outbreaks as I do, let me just tell you what is a good cure for it. The Nanny Diaries. Have you seen this movie? It is terrible. I was a nanny and it was nothing so bad as this movie and yet even my own experience was heartbreaking. My experience went a little something like daily trying to pry an inconsolable eighteen month old baby girl away from the back door as she cried and screamed "Mommy! Mommy!" for five months. And then there was another nanny just as there had been before me. Presumably,it would go on and on for who knows how long, every few months a new nanny. It was terrible. I am actually getting choked up as I type. And yet this movie is so much sadder. The brokenness. The hopelessness. Really, don't see this movie unless you come down with a bad case of I-hate-being-a-stay-at-home-mom-itis. Because there is no other reason to see it. It is just sad. And true too. My sister-in-law was also a nanny, and in New York where this movie is set. Her situation was close to an exact match to the story in the movie. Only hers was probably a little worse. There really are strings of strangers raising people's children. And I have the privilege to raise my own, to teach them to read and to count, to hear their first word and see their first step, to know them and their silly sense of humor and enjoy their quirks, to take them to the zoo or the library or the park or even the grocery store. And yes, even to potty train them and take care of them until that blessed day when they are trained, to pick up the plastic stacking rings and the board books eighty-eleven times a day, to mop up their smooshed banana and raisin rejects three times a week (I let it accumulate a little), and remind them not to play with things that aren't toys or to stand on books or leave their shoes on the floor. I feel good about these things. I won't again in a few weeks, I'm sure. Because these are the mundane things. This is the "valley of the diapers." But the alternative is to have someone else be there for them or to not have them at all. And either of those realities is far far far worse than the most disastrous diaper changing or puzzle piece pileup (just imagine trying to sort about 18 25 piece jigsaw puzzles all mixed up together if you are not familiar with "puzzle piece pileup"). So today I feel blessed. Really really blessed. Could this also have something to do with having August playing with a friend all day and Amabel staying at school late for ballet practice? Maybe so. It is definitely easier with just one. And George and I spent most of the day shopping. So I guess that is part of my cure. But seeing this movie really helped with my thoughts and perspective; then the break just helped push me over the edge. However, if I don't get some sleep I will fall right back over that edge, so I am off for now. More soon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

I feel that the internet is dead. There is no one posting or commenting or replying to emails. What is going on?! I guess people are too busy shopping and baking and having pictures made.

Well, just briefly, I wanted to say that the December 5th post was posted and proofread on the 6th in reality. So when I said that my birthday was "yesterday," it was because I was posting on the 6th even though it was stamped for the 5th. I just know that about half the people who called or wrote to wish me a happy birthday were a little uncertain of what day it really was and then my post confused issues even further. So for the record, my birthday is December 5th. And I am now 30.

I am not really sad to be 30. I feel like I should've been 30 a long time ago. I am more like Amabel. I wish I was older. I am impatient with myself where I am, with my immaturity and with the responsibilities that are mine that seem boring and mundane yet way too hard at the same time. Amabel doesn't want to do the small everyday things like put her shoes away or make her bed, she wants to do the big things like help me cook and clean. And she is frustrated with the level she is in school and decides she might as well be a baby. I am so much that way. I don't want to be 30 with three young children making a meal every time I turn around. I spent my twenties that way, when everyone else was getting their career going and dating and going on fun vacations with friends or as newlyweds. I missed all that by having kids early. And you'd think the advantage to that is that I would be done sooner. But I won't be because we will have more than everyone else. I guess I am in a funk of just being weary of this stage and wanting to do or be something else, something "more." It's like I'm having an early mid-life crisis. Because 30 is not "mid-life." Contentment. That is something I am not very good with.

I kinda freaked out on my birthday. We were supposed to go to lunch but with seminary final papers and baby naptimes it didn't end up working out. So I spent the day waiting around for everyone else to be taken care of before we got to me, but we never got to me. And I was just mad. Because I have spent nearly every day of almost seven years like that. But that is the dramatic and selfish telling of the story. But it was how I felt that day. It was always going to be a bad day because I was supposed to go to New York and have a break, but it just didn't work out. I would've made it work, but it didn't seem worth it to the other people involved and therefore wasn't worth it to me as a people pleaser. I dont' know why it didn't occur to me to go alone until just now...

Well, this is a bummer. Sorry. I have no idea why I am carrying on this way. It turned out to be a nice night. We went to dinner at a really great restaurant and then to see Enchanted. And I got lots of nice gifts. A friend came by with homemade cookies. No one ever bakes for me. It was so nice! Several of y'all called or wrote. Thanks!

My favorite gift was from my sister in law. She got me a red doormat with white polkadots that says "merry christmas y'all!" It matches the ribbon I got for my poinsettias and wreaths perfectly, it says y'all, and it totally made my day. Thanks Katie!

Once I get my wreaths up, I may take a picture of the mat and the wreaths and all their polkadotted cuteness. My friend posted pictures of her house all decorated for Christmas and it was fun to see all of her things. I thought maybe I could do something similar if I can ever get our pictures on the computer. Well, in the meantime, the picture I am putting up is of winter rose poinsettias. I am not usually a poinsettia person because I am just not a fan. But I first saw these the day we went to the Botanical Gardens and I fell in love with them. I tracked some down for my home and I can pretty much promise you I will be tracking them down every year from now on. They are really lovely and surprisingly inexpensive. Mine are red, but I figured the pink showed the texture better and matches the blog better too!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Getting to Know You: Holiday Edition

I am so sorry I have not posted in so long. This is that time of the semester where George is always on the computer, from dawn until the wee hours of the morning, working on final papers and other such scholarly tasks. So I am banished from the computer. I really have no time to post today either. I have a funny story to continue my study on greedy children and the Christmas season, a little "blogthing" I saw on someone else's blog that I thought was fun and wanted to post on, and all manner of other things composing themselves into posts in my head, but they will all have to wait. I have been saving this fun little forward in my inbox (something very unlike me- I like for my entire inbox to be viewable on one page so there is only ever room for 25 messages total) since last Christmas. I thought it would be fun to answer the questions today and tag everyone to do the same either in the comments or on your own blog. It kind of takes a while, so feel free to just answer the ones that seem fun to you. I always love hearing what other people do to make this season more special.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate because I've never actually had eggnog, but I usually think hot chocolate is too sweet unless mixed with coffee (mmmmm).

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree? Santa does not come to our house. But Father Christmas does. He writes each child a letter and paints a beautiful watercolor for them on the front. This is my very favorite thing about Christmas morning. The letters are all placed under the tree so that we all come into the room to see three beautiful paintings displayed.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? We have white in the living room, but I put up colored ones on the little miniature fake tree in the kids' room.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? We had a lot of mistletoe in Birmingham so I always hung it there. I have not done it here in St. Louis simply because I haven't found any.

5. When do you put your decorations up? We usually try to get a tree at the first of December, sometime on or before my birthday (which was yesterday), and sometimes I will even pullout the other decorations and my snowman dishes as early as the day after Thanksgiving.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Excluding dessert?! I don't know, I like to change my menu up every year. I think of Thanksgiving as being the same thing year after year and so it's fun to try different things at Christmas. My favorite is probably prime rib. I may have to make one again this year. Nothing beats a beautiful Christmas roast.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: This one is tough because we moved a lot growing up so there are not many constants- Sometimes we went to Christmas Eve services, sometimes we didn't. Sometimes we saw extended family, sometimes we didn't. Sometimes we got a live tree, but for a while we had an awful plastic tree! I can't remember the year we convinced my parents we needed a real one, so that's not a real "memory," but way to go, us! My sisters and I used to get pretty fired up about all the food coming in the mail from extended family. We had an aunt who used to send a gingerbread house when we were little, and another aunt who sent a big can of gourmet popcorn every year. Then we have two aunts and uncles who both send oranges and grapefruit. Why it never registered with them that if they were both getting it from each other we were getting more than we could eat from both of them, I have no idea. They still do it. But one order comes with mixed nuts and glazed apricots. There are only like eight glazed apricots, but they are the prize of the holiday mail order food! I know you can get a whole crate of them at Williams Sonoma for like $30; and if I ever send mail order holiday food, they are at the top of my list.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I never even got to believe in him in the first place!

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We usually have George's family over on Christmas Eve and exchange gifts with them that night. So, yes.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? George gets me and the children a new ornament every year and presents them after we put the lights on the tree. They are always beautiful blown glass ornaments made by Old World Christmas. Every year the tree is more beautiful than the year before with all the new additions. I also have a small collection of vintage glass Christmas ornaments that mixes in nicely. There are a couple of other family members who get the children ornaments every year as well, so we have ourselves quite the menagerie!

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? I love it in Missouri. I do not love it in the South where there is no equipment for making the roads safe. I had always been terrified of it until we moved here where they can actually take care of the roads. For one thing, the snow her is real so it probably isn't as hard to get up anyway. In the South, it is slushy and melts during the day and freezes back solid at night making a very pretty but very scary situation on power lines and roads. But anywhere, it is beautiful and I don't mind the cold.

12. Can you ice skate? It's been a while, but I used to could.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Nope. I am sure I sound like a jerk for saying that. I remember lots of nice gifts from over the years but nothing really stands out. Well, I guess this was a Christmas present of sorts- I lost my wedding band while I was pregnant with August and after a while we realized we would be moving and kept holding out hope that we would find my ring then. So it was over a year and a half that I had no wedding band and then when we moved to St. Louis George bought me a new one. But was that at my birthday? Or was it at Christmas? I know I didn't open it Christmas morning... This is beginning to sound like "Fuzzy Memories" with Jack Handy! Anyway, I like the new band better than my first one and it even fits during pregnancy (yea!).

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Well, obviously, that it is the celebration of the birth of our Savior. But I guess secondly, that it stays fun and I don't let the to do list stress me out to the point of not enjoying all that there is to do.Okay, so that second thing needs a little work :)

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? I try out different things every year. I love the baking! I always make iced sugar cookies, ginger snaps, and biscotti. But I always like to try new cookie recipes out and to make different cakes and pies. My old reliable is chocolate chip pecan pie, but I usually make one of those at Thanksgiving.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I love the ornaments George gets and the letters from Father Christmas. I love listening to Christmas music and decorating the tree. I love all the baking too! I love hostessing some sort of gathering most though I think. All three of the children have been baptized the week before Christmas and I love having a reception for them- except that most of the family has quit making the trip so that by the time Elspeth was baptized last year we only had four guests. In Birmingham, we had friends over for Christmas dinner every year. It was so much fun. Now we have George's family over the night before. I just love having a full house.

17. What tops your tree? We still don't have a tree topper. The one highest to the top this year is the "holy family" ornament, pictured above, that George just gave me on Saturday.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? I think everyone prefers giving don't they. Receiving is awkward. And I always feel guilty because I am so persnickety. I love giving though, but I wonder if people always think I give them weird things. Budgets make it hard. The best gifts are the ones you see randomly throughout the year and think "this person has to have this!" I never can save those until Christmas though; I end up giving them at the spur of the moment as a "happy."

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? Oh, wow, so many to pick from. I love Christmas carols because they remind us of the Gospel in such a beautiful way. I hate badly done Christmas carols. Christina Aguilera singing "O Holy Night?" That is just wrong. But "O Holy Night" is a favorite. This year I am really enjoying "Do You Hear What I Hear?" for some reason. And I always love "Mary's Little Boy Child." My all time favorite is "Magnificat" which is the song Mary sings after Gabriel visits her. We sang the most beautiful arrangement of this song growing up and I cannot find the music to it anywhere. It is the thing I miss most about not spending Christmas in Nashville. Oh, and I also love the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLaughlin "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

20. Candy Canes Yuck or Yum? I love candy canes. The best are the soft King Leo ones. My mom used to get me a canister of those every year for my birthday. Yum!

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