23 December 2006

Do you believe?

When I was a little girl, my parents fought a lot. My brothers and I were constantly on eggshells, particularly around my mother. Christmastime was no exception. We may or may not have gotten the tree up and lit before Christmas day. Same thing with lights on the house or Christmas shopping. I'm sure there were years when I feared not getting to celebrate the holiday at all, but I have pushed a lot of bad memories out of my mind.

I may not have felt much of the "Christmas Spirit" before the 25th day of the month, but I knew it was out there. I would often play in church the Sunday before Christmas with the choir. We did the same program every year, and I looked forward to it. People who hadn't been to church all year long would attend that day, some even joining the choir at the very last minute. Which made me think, there's no escaping the Christmas Sprit.

When my husband and I got engaged and I began spending Christmases with his family, I came to know the spiritedness of the holiday quite well. I couldn't believe how beautiful a simple holiday could be. Or how long it could last. My mother-in-law found joy in every aspect of the season. Her home became more beautiful, her food more delicious. I loved being there with them at that time of year.

Now that I have children, Christmas has a completely different impact on me. I am focused on how they perceive everything and the message they receive this time of year. I want them to think of Christ, not presents. And I want them to feel like they've already received the greatest gifts of all. It dawned on me the other day (as it has over and over in my life) that the key to happiness truly is living a Christ-centered life. So we've read scriptures of Christ's example and gifts to us, and we've looked for opportunities to serve others just as he did in preparation for his birthday.

I've noticed that the feeling of the Christmas spirit hits me at a different time each year and in a different way. I've also noticed that some years, it's harder to feel it than others. The passing years have brought more children, more shopping, more class parties, more responsibilities, more distractions. Somehow, though, Christmas day arrives and our home and hearts are always transformed. Even as a child, not knowing what December 25th would bring, that feeling of peace would arrive just in the nick of time.

So, do I believe? Oh yes, I do. In magic, in the Spirit, in whatever you want to call the change that comes over everything. Birthdays and many other holidays are subject to bitterness, but Christmas somehow survives every year. No matter what.

14 December 2006

Gesu Bambino

... my Christmas present to all of you (which also happens to include some rousing vocal accompaniment by Drew and "Between the Lions")!

12 December 2006

The midnight train to Georgia?

Anyone know where to catch it? ;)

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings me introspection and hope... I look at my life and I see a lot of room for improvement. And I hope I can keep going and improving my life. At times, though, I wonder how I might do that. Because it's the very things that keep my life in order that sometimes driving me crazy!

I thought about this deeply today as I dragged myself and my two little ones to the grocery store, simply because it's my usual day to go. I could have made it another day without the groceries themselves, but I knew that would upset the rest of my week. Yes - Monday and Tuesday are laundry days, plus Tuesday is grocery day. Wednesday is bathroom and dusting day. Thursday is vacuum and mop day. And Friday is kitchen day. Any deviation from "the schedule" and I pay for it more than I did by forcing myself to get it done in the first place. So, I just do it. Like jumping into a cold pool. Or pulling off a bandaid. Or getting out of bed as soon as the alarm sounds. You just do it.

What keeps you going? Me? Some days - a girl's night out. A quiet dinner with my husband after the children have gone to bed. A spoonful of peanut butter sprinkled with chocolate chips.:) Some days I don't need much at all. I wake up happy to go about my little routines. Other days I know I need something, but nothing really does the trick. I guess on those days, there is an unseen force or drive that keeps me going. Perhaps it is simply answering to the divine call of motherhood that blesses me with the power to endure.

So, I am grateful for the traditions of Christmas and the New Year. They give me the desire to sprint for the finish line. Even if I have to just go through the actions on some days, and wait for my heart to be in it.

When January 1st rolls around, I get to catch my breath and start anew.

08 December 2006

Rooty toot toot and a rummy tum tum

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
The holidays bring in lots of fun opportunities for me to perform, which has me thinking about some of my favorite Christmas music. I thought I'd give my review of the best stuff out there.

Two years ago I saw Harry Connick, Jr. perform. It was not only my first time to hear him in concert, it was also my first time to hear him. Lol. Nothing had steered me away from his music up until that point, I'd just never taken an interest in it. He performed primarily from his "Harry for the Holidays" album and let me tell you, I bought it practically on the way home from the concert. It is filled with upbeat, toe tapping renditions of all your favorite carols, plus a couple really good originals by handsome Mr. Harry himself.

Another great album I enjoy listening too is "An Airus Christmas". Now, I am partial to the music because I used to record for the sudio that produced it, but I also believe it is some of the most well written Christmas music out there. It is calming and beautiful - perfect for a drive out to see Christmas lights, or on the way to and from church, or in the background during dinner.

I love the soundtrack to "Miracle on 34th Street" (redone). There's nothing like a soulful Aretha Franklin side by side with the ethereal Sarah MacLachlan (can't wait to open her new album on Christmas morn) to put you in the holiday mood.

What's Christmas without a little Bing? There are a variety of Bing Crosby compilations to choose from. I don't believe I've heard one that I DIDN'T like. He's definitely a familiar voice during the holidays, and a necessary staple for your collection.

And here are a few songs you may not hear much of that I think are worthy of endless repetition:
Carol of the Bells
Oh Come, Oh Come, Emmanuel
What Child is This/Greensleeves
Coventry Carol
Jesu Bambino
I Saw Three Ships
Ave Maria
We Three Kings
I Wonder as I Wander
Little Drummer Boy
Do You Hear What I Hear?

Listen to The Nutcracker. Listen to The Messiah. Listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ("Sing, Choir of Angels" is my favorite). All preferrably in lieu of "Last Christmas" by Wham. What does that song have to do with merry cheer, anyway? ;)

04 December 2006

I give you...

...my wreaths!

MOD Monday

Let your creative juices flow!

I have found that creativity just cannot be stifled, no matter how busy you get! I've hardly had the time to make things that I normally would around the holidays, but I managed to come up with a few cheap and very simple ideas to share with you all.

I caved and bought artificial trees this year (I've always been a fresh tree gal). I found 3 tall, skinny alpines that I really like. But the base is just an ugly black metal platform, which needed to be covered up. I wasn't sure if you could buy tree skirts that small. Plus I needed 3, which = $$$. So, I went to WalMart and bought some cheap felt, cut out my circles and sewed on a few buttons and ribbon ties, and voila! Each tree has a different pattern (I still need to whipstitch the edges of the other 2), and the grand total for all my supplies was about $10.

A few Christmases ago I went to a kitschy home decor store with my MIL. They these moss covered balls everywhere that were just gorgeous! - in Christmas trees, window sills, suspended from the ceiling. They were super easy to make... you can embellish them however you like, but I used copper wire, upholstery pins and organza.

I've yet to find stocking hangers I like... you know the ones, they hang over the front of your mantle. Well, they're all a bit trendy looking for me. I'm not saying this is a Vogue worthy idea, but it's a super cheap alternative: I just used mug hooks, on the underside of my mantle, and disguised each one with a pretty bow.

I think I've mentioned before how much I love wreaths. This year I made over some pretty plain ones I've had to give them a bit of a punch. Took me about 5 minutes to get inspired in the dried flowers aisle at the craft store, and only a little longer than that to make! Blogger won't let me post pictures of them right now... I'll have to try again later!