Tuesday, December 23, 2014


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of my favorite stories of all times. Because it's a classic, it's been retold in all kinds of different ways via books, television, movies, and on the stage.   Then there's the fact that the main character's name has become a part of our everyday language.  Everyone knows what it means to be a "Scrooge". 

When I was young, we would go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve.  While we were waiting for midnight to roll around, A Christmas Carol starring Alistair Sim would be on and we would watch it until it was time to go to mass.  That version is, of course, a classic in its own right, but I think my very favorite version when I was younger was Rich Little's A Christmas Carol.  It was on HBO nonstop in December.  And I watched it nonstop.  Little played nearly every character in the story as a different actor: W.C. Fields as Scrooge, Paul Lynde as Bob Cratchit, Peter Sellers as the Ghost of Christmas Future - you get the idea.  It was delightful.  I haven't seen it since I was young, but I would love to sit and watch it again.

Which brings me to the fact that I recently read an excellent book entitled What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  The title character hits her head and wakes up thinking she is thirty years old, happily married, and about to become a mother.  The problem is she's forty, about to be divorced, and the mother of three children she can't remember.  It hit me about a week after finishing it that this story reminded me of A Christmas Carol.  The present day Alice with amnesia is seeing what she thinks of as her future, but she is in fact stuck in her past because of her memory loss.  I loved the way this book explored how people change so gradually, they can wake up one day and not even recognize who they have become.  It's a great read that I highly recommend.

But back to A Christmas Carol.  Two things about this story come to mind for me during every Christmas season.  One is this:

This is probably what a lot of people take away from this story and certainly what I took away from it when I was younger.  Goodwill should be year round, not just honored at Christmas.  A great moral to the story and one we all need to remember.

But as a I grow older, this one comes to mind more and more:

We all have a chain we carry around with us.  Am I feeling tired?  Sometimes it's because I've been dragging a chain of grudges around all day.  I get better about letting things go as I get older, but it's still so hard not to keep adding to my chain as I drop other links of it.  It's a daily challenge for me to refrain from lengthening my chain with the annoyances and conflicts of day to day life.  It will never get lighter if I let some things go but constantly replace them with new links. There are five important words in this quote I need to remember, "of my own free will"I decide what I link on that chain but also what I can take off.  Links can always be taken disconnected and left behind.

The image of the chain Marley carries is one of the things I love about this story.  It makes a bad habit into a very concrete, unappealing image.  When I think of these grudges as literal links of a chain, it shifts my thinking about it.  It reminds me to drop some of those links, but it also helps me pause and reflect before I add another link of my own free will


Monday, December 22, 2014

A Few More Favorite Things...

Last year before Christmas, I wrote a few posts about "Favorite Things" after the famed Sound of Music song.  Two of those posts were about Christmas ornaments.  You can find those posts here and here if you're so inclined.  This year, I wanted to update the new residents on our tree in a post.  I find that as the year comes to a close, it's an excellent way to remember the some of the highlights.

I mentioned in my previous posts how I like to find a Christmas ornament for the tree whenever we take a trip or vacation.  On our first trip to Michigan in 2013, I failed to get something for the tree.  I found one that was kind of "meh" and thought I'd go back to get it.  Didn't.  I made up for it on our next trip in the summer of 2014. 

We visited New Holland this year.  I became very fond of windmills during this trip.  I wrote about why that is in this post.  We later visited the Delftware factory in Holland.  I was hoping to find something cute for the tree here.  Man, did I hit the motherload.  They had so many, it was hard to decide.  I finally settled on this little number to represent my new affinity for windmills:

And then because there were so many, I had to take this guy home too.

But I wasn't done there.  We also went to the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids while in Michigan.  I picked this up at the gift shop. They sell these at lots of zoos.  They are made in third world countries with recycled materials.  We have a tiger from the St. Louis Zoo too.  But I have a special, albeit unlikely, connection to flamingos.  My class, along with my sister-in-law's class, raised money several years ago to get an aviary for the flamingos at our local zoo.  The hope was that they would lay eggs if they had an aviary.  They haven't yet, but this year they actually "adopted" some eggs from another zoo.  So baby flamingos did hatch at our local zoo this year!  And that is how this Midwesterner is linked to flamingos besides seeing them at the John Ball Zoo.  Of course, I didn't know there would be babies this fall when we were visiting Michigan this summer.  But I love it when things work out like that.

I also got some new handmade ornaments from my students this year.  Love these.  Love that some of the ornaments on my tree are from kids who are now adults.  This little bottle cap snowman is adorable and will always remind me of the child who gave it to me.

I'm always on the lookout for ornaments that mean something to our family.  Every year we go to a hot air balloon festival in my husband's hometown.  I found this little charmer that was handmade by a local artist.  Not sure if it was meant to be a Christmas ornament, but it is now.

Another tradition we have is Grinch night.  I think I've mentioned before, The Grinch is my favorite.  We designate a special night to watch it for the first time. We also hang a Grinch ornament on the tree that night.  Here's this year's Grinch:

Another new addition is my son's blown glass ornament that he made at Cub Scouts this year.  I wasn't prepared for this to be as beautiful as it is.  It came with its own stainless steel, free standing hanger, and it may just stay out all year on its own.

And finally, proving that you don't always need to get a "traditional" ornament from a store, I saved this wine cork from a vineyard my husband and I visited on our trip to the Southern Illinois Wine Trail.  That is a very fond memory from this year.  Not an ornament? No problem. I just stuck a ornament hook in it. 
I think this might be my new "favorite thing".   ;)