Santa and Friends: The Real Story Beyond the Lights

Looking at all the colorful lights and holiday displays you would probably say everything is going splendidly. But I promise you, things are not always as they seem. I felt a lot of anxiety in the air as I drove through my neighborhood. Maybe Santa and friends are anxious about the big night. Could be. I don’t know, but I got an earful as I drove by their happy, smiling, sometimes tipped over bodies. This is what I heard. This is the real story:

Holiday1

Why do they always put us on top of the roof? I don’t know why, but I feel a bit distant, forgotten, like they don’t care. Can anyone even see us here? Is anyone looking? Hey you, down there. We’re up here. Just keep waving.

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That’s on TOP of the roof…Up on the housetop reindeer pause, Out jumps Good Old Santa Claus…ring any bells? They make my life so difficult.

Holiday3

What are they doing putting all three of us together like this? It confuses the kids. They already see us at all the malls. I say on 3, we scramble. Ready: 1 -2- 3…

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There! That ought to do it. They won’t have a clue now.

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Wipe that smile off your face, Prancer. You think you’re special because you can fly. Lend a hoof why don’t you? And take that wreath off. It’s only going to slow you down and it looks ridiculous.

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Santa, you know I would help if I could…and even if I could, I can walk too good. I’d probably slow you down. I certainly can’t fly, just so you know.

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No one thinks I’m a snowman. No one is buying this. Whatever is this prickly, brown material I sit on? Where is the snow?

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If my photo wasn’t so blurry, you could see that I’m a beautiful peacock. I’m the one that isn’t that obnoxious red or green color. I have nothing to do with the holidays, but I am the best looking thing on this lawn. I’m marvelous, darling.

Holiday9

We’re already working double shifts at the park over the holidays and now we have to work the neighborhoods, too.
Mickey, I don’t think I can hold on to this package a second longer.
You can do it, Minnie. Just think, soon we’ll deflate and we’ll be touching again.

I must be losing it…I hope you enjoyed that holiday cheer! I’ll be stepping away from my blog until next year. Please enjoy your holiday and be safe.

Wishing you a bright and merry holiday 
and peace, love and happiness for the New Year 2016!! 

With Love,
Amy

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

This week’s photo challenge is Gathering. 

Document a gathering and share your interpretation with us.

For this challenge, I would like to share a most recent gathering.

It’s a gathering of Cookie Decorators. Have you ever seen so many cookies?

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Enough for everyone to decorate, no matter the age.

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Decorate your cookie however you like. You decide the color, the design and how many sprinkles.

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Fun for all, sharing sweet times together.

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For more photos of Gatherings, please visit the Weekly Photo Challenge site.

Not Exactly Hallmark Moments

It was only yesterday that we managed to decorate our Christmas tree. I’m sure we get the prize for being the last on the block. Really, I don’t have an excuse. As I write this, there are only four days to spare before Christmas. I admit I’m a bit delayed this year. Okay, really delayed…like I’ve never been this delayed in all my life!

But I have to tell you, there’s something about waiting until the last minute that takes the pressure off. The burden is no longer to make it just so, but for it to just “be.”

I always looked forward to decorating as a kid, and growing up in a household of six kids, there were always many hands for the job. My two boys lost interest after placing just a few ornaments. Instead, they became consumed with dancing to Christmas music and petting the cat. Capturing the moment was lost because my phone died. The family photo was out anyway, because my son paraded around in his boxers. But yet the tree got decorated, with me pining away at ornaments past. It probably took a bit longer is all.

A few treasured ornaments from friends:

Angels
Angels
Flying Dancing Girl
Flying Dancing Girl
Flamingo
Flamingo

And this, the scribbled cutout my son made when he was two:

Christmas2014 019
I will never part with this.

The decorating is complete!

Applause, applause.
Applause. Applause.

There our little artificial tree stood, sparkling and crooked, not surprising since most things are a bit off-center in our house. I guess it goes without saying that our tree would follow suit. Of course, this can be fixed with a particular viewpoint and willing tilt of the head. No matter, our forward-slanting tree is simply eager to live in our house and participate in Christmas. That’s all.

Unfortunately, we let our eager tree down by miscalculating its placement, and so we couldn’t open the shutters to show off its loveliness to the world. After it was all decorated, we had to move the delicate tree…and it tipped over. My husband desperately tried to save the falling tree, but it was too heavy.

It was too late.

It crashed to the ground.

We lost half the ornaments.

I shrieked and fell to the floor.

A disaster, and this only moments after completing the decorating.

But a few twists of its legs, and it’s fixed. Crooked it will be.

Just a bit tilty...or maybe it's me.
Just tilt you head and the tree magically straightens! You don’t believe that it’s tilty, do you?…Maybe it is me.

We’ve come a long way. This was our very first Christmas tree, twenty-three years ago:

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It can fit anywhere.

And this pile filled with decorations to dress up the house will probably be scooped up and put back in the box from whence it came. Yep.

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Maybe Santa can stay.

This shelf, usually reserved for my winter wonderland, has been transformed into my son’s trinket museum. We already had one fight over this months ago, with him ending in tears. My son rarely cries. No, we’ll let this one go, too.

Well, there is the Nutcracker....and Spooky Halloween Man.
There is the Christmas Nutcracker. But let’s not forget, Spooky Halloween Man.

My winter wonderland will be merged into one shelf. The frog really doesn’t care where he plays his guitar, and it really doesn’t matter to me either.

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And, you don’t need snow for a Winter Wonderland. Who says?

No matter where you are celebrating the holidays…

May you be surrounded by beaming hearts full of laughter, and
may the joy of the season fill you with love and light,
and remain with you now and throughout the New Year.

(If you needed a Hallmark moment, I just gave you one!)

Hallmark moments or not, I truly hope that you are celebrating all that is right at this moment in your world. That’s what counts.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Take one, please....I've been eating too many!
Take one, please….I’ve been eating too many!

With love,
Amy

 

The Trimmings Tell the Real Story

Walking through my neighborhood, I pause to look at the various holiday decorations. And, guess what? I’m on to you, Santa. Santa has been very bad. If you look deep enough, and trust me, I always look deep, you will just need a few clues to put this puzzle together.

You think Santa has been busy with the season? The trimmings tell the truth behind Santa’s twinkling eyes and his merry dimples, and his diligent elves, working day and night.

They paint the picture that they’re working so hard:

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Look at them. Look at the smiles on those faces. They are not to be trusted, because get this. Here it was almost noon and I catch Santa still in bed…with a list of names….

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Sure, it’s the Naughty and Nice List. Uh huh. Sure it is. Tell me, Santa, what are you doing with that list in bed at noon time? I’m sure I don’t want to know. Is this the Naughty List by any chance? Don’t those elves of yours take care of this list, hmm?

I checked on those elves, and this is what I saw:

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Rough night, huh? Too many peppermint candies? Too much hammering?

I’m sure this is why they put the poor deer to work, because I observed this as well:

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Where is Santa now? Where’s his sleigh?  Allowing this deer to go out all by herself with a sleigh? The fragile deer is slaving away with no berries in sight. What about the others? Where are they? They are no doubt partying it up with Peacock here. All he has to do is spread his feathers.

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Where’s his sleigh? I tried to get Santa to comment, but he was otherwise “Occupied,” guarded by two deer:

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Now you know. Everybody poops and so does Santa. If you look more closely, Santa has either shrunk or he is halfway down the toilet. Perhaps, this is his secret travel mechanism to reach the other side of the world so quickly. It’s his black hole. I’ve heard of stranger theories.

What about you? Are you enjoying the magic of the season? How is the shopping/gifting/baking/wrapping going?

We are expecting what they are naming the “Storm of the Century.” I’ll believe it when I see it. I have hot cocoa. Hey, this marks my 300th post. So, cheers!

Here’s my effort to send some holiday cheer your way! I hope you are feeling merry and bright.

A Caroling We Will Go

Tis the season for caroling. Singing together in joy and attempted harmony.  I grew up with this idea, singing alongside my brothers and sisters. Two neighboring Catholic families joined together. Our family of six kids, plus theirs, ten kids strong. A gathering filled up our houses, especially if spouses and friends joined in, which happened in the later years.

Christmas Eve always felt special. We dressed up with festive jewelry, had good food, and plenty to drink. After a couple of hours of visiting, first at our house and then at theirs, we assembled, rehearsed a few verses of a popular Christmas song, and put on our jackets to brave the 50 °F night. That’s winter in Southern California, and it never interfered with our mission to take our singing to the streets and carol around our block.

In one big blustering mass, we puffed up our chests and belted out Christmas tunes, lucky to hit notes singing the same words. La la la and humming came in handy. We traveled from house to house, surging and merry, barely able to contain ourselves. Oh, how everyone enjoyed our goodwill gesture! We sang a maximum of three songs, carefully selected between each house, alternating the slow Silent Night with a peppy Jingle Bells.

After about thirty houses we concluded our masterful hymns at our neighbors, the Painter’s. They had lived in the neighborhood the longest and had a full acre yard, even a few roosters. They received us with smiles and, without fail, presented us with a box of See’s Candy after what was always our last song, We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It felt like a reward.

The black and white box. Music to my ears.
The black and white box. Delicious. This was before the red wrapping you see now during the holiday season.

I don’t quite remember what then happened with that box of candy, if we shared it or not. I must have got at least one piece. It didn’t really matter. The appearance of the black and white See’s Candy box left me a blubbering mess of joyful tears. Oh, they cared, they cared…or maybe it was out of sympathy. It always made feel a little high on life. We did some good in the world. We used our voices, however out of tune. Whatever their reason, it made the season all the more merry and bright.

Following the presentation of the candy box, our two families parted ways to attend midnight mass. My family to the Sears catalog, minimalist church a few blocks from our house. We usually walked if we weren’t running too late. Our friends drove to their more formal, taller, stain-glassed church a few miles away.

This tradition of ours continued for a least a decade or more. My memory is fuzzy about this. Sure, things changed over the years. The group lost shape and focus, although growing in numbers with more friends, with some family members straggling behind. Tis the season to be jolly, filled with spirits, too inebriated to participate fully.

Our neighbors began to sing the third verses in harmony, complete harmony I tell you, and assumed the front stage position at the door, while those less dedicated mouthed the words in the back. It became slightly more serious and falling apart all at once, squeezed from the middle until it just burst into nothing. One year we simply stopped. At least that’s how I remember it.

I wondered if the Painters waited up for us with the box of chocolates ready.

As I was saying, delicious....
As I was saying, delicious….

I almost wanted to walk over to explain, “I guess we don’t do this anymore.” Did they miss us? Did they wonder for a couple of years, as I did, if we would return? It was a good time while it lasted and, for me, it never lost its kick or exuberance.

So, grab a friend and sing together a little holiday song. It will make you smile. Do you have any caroling favorites?

Photo credit:
flickr.com/photos/tonyjcase/3184853335
flickr.com/photos/56367847@N05/8490705495

A Christmas Journey: Ghost of the Past

Just because you reserve a U-Haul doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed. In fact, to U-Haul it means diddly. Even if you explain that you’re moving 1,000 miles across three states in the middle of winter. They shrugged. So much for planning.

The year was 2,001, two days before Christmas, Mr. Bumble and I arrived at the U-Haul center in Colorado, heading to our new home in Reno, Nevada. We combined our holiday visit with a big move. We were going to be there anyway, so decided to visit and move all at once. I don’t recommend this, by the way. I confirmed our reservation for a small, ten-foot truck. My confirmation apparently drove off the property. Apparently, moving is a popular pastime two days before Christmas.

Our only other option was the only truck left, just the one. It was their 26-foot Jumbo Hauler, big enough to move four plus bedrooms. Considering we also needed to attach our pick-up truck and haul it too, well, it then became a monster, at least 40 feet in length.

L'Enfant
L’Enfant

vs.

The Mother Lode, but even longer than this
The Mother Lode, with our U-Haul truck even longer

DAY ONE – Two days before Christmas

We got off to a late start, hassling with the truck trailer. I had our two cats in my car to keep me company. Mr. Bumble was a bit nervous, I could tell, but didn’t let on to anyone else. We had already moved cross-country twice. This was nothing. We prepared ourselves with walkie-talkies. It would be an adventure.

I drove behind my husband. On our walkie-talkies we conversed:

Me:   Trying to lose me?

Him:  Says I’m going only 40.

Me:  Uh…try 80. 

Right. The speedometer was broken. It’s bad enough when you’re in a different car and it feels foreign. In this colossus, my husband’s whole equilibrium was screwy and out of whack. The truck swerved and whipped around like nobody’s business.

I tried to assure him. “It’s only another 800 miles.” Okay, that wasn’t quite the right thing to say.

If only we would have consulted our handy U-Haul manual, we would have been reassured with tips like this one.

Handy U-Haul Manual Tip #1:

A “disturbance” is improper handling, oversteering or other deviation of the truck from its intended path, due to one or more causes (improper loading, steering inputs, excessive speed, crosswinds, passing vehicles, rough roads, tire blowout, trailer sway or whipping, etc.).

Does a broken speedometer qualify as a disturbance, U-Haul?

A broken speedometer provides you with the unwanted side effect of existing in an alternate reality, one you do not want. Things are not what they seem, and the experience of not knowing, yeah, that’s a disturbance all right. Thank you, U-Haul.

The driving experience intensified when the roads turned to black ice and the snow fell, ever so delicate at first. I got an occasional meow from my cat sitting on my lap. My husband gripped his steering wheel for dear life. He didn’t know up from down, or left from right, wrestling with the truck monster, swerving like a maniacal serpent through treacherous mountain roads. When we did stop off the road, he looked increasingly clammy and startled, dizzy from hyperventilating.

If only we consulted our manual, we would have known this tip.

Handy U-Haul Manual #2:

AVOID crashes by slowing down. Reduce your speed from what you would normally drive your car under similar road conditions. Drive defensively – anticipate stops, brake early and never follow closely.

Duh. Sure, this is good advice if you have brakes. It became obvious that the brakes were not at full strength. No brakes, no slowing, no stopping. Just panicking and sweating, profuse sweating.

We stopped somewhere in Wyoming for the night. While I was in the lobby checking into our motel, my Bumble husband flew through the parking lot toward the lobby entrance, and ripped off the overhang. The overhang lay littered in pieces all over the parking lot, while my husband was nowhere. He blasted through like a tornado.

If only this tip would have been relevant.

Handy U-Haul Manual #3:  

U-Haul trucks are taller than passenger cars. If you don’t know the overhead clearance, get out of the truck and make certain that you are clear of any obstruction. Do not guess.

I stared at the hotel clerk, “Did he just rip that thing off?”

Then, in a most southern accent, “Yes. I do believe he did.”

Oh, man. I shuffled off calmly, without another word. Maybe they would think it was the wind.

DAY TWO – Christmas Eve

The snow fall picked up, followed by more black ice, counter-steering, and wrestling with the truck beast. I had moments when I considered abandoning ship altogether. We don’t need that junk we’re hauling, I’d tell myself. We can probably pick that stuff up at flea market. We could get our photos and our precious belongings, and save ourselves.

No late trucks
But then, thought of our warning, and our late fee…

When we reached Nevada it was dark, with at least a couple of feet of snow on the ground. We were starving and stopped at a casino for a Christmas Eve breakfast; pancakes, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy. It was fabulous. Nothing ever tasted so good.

We began to relax when just half-way through our meal, we heard sirens and perceived what looked to be flashes of blue and red. Merry Christmas. We knew. We made our way outside and saw at least two cops cars and people gesturing wildly, yelling and cursing.

Handy U-Haul Manual #4:

Always set the parking brake when parking. Move the shift selector firmly into park and then firmly set the parking brake.

This tip also did not apply. My husband parked the truck on a very slight, ever so slight, hill. I know what you’re thinking. He attempted to park away from all the other cars, plus as you can imagine, there was nowhere to park this thing. While we ate our delicious meal in the casino, cars had parked it front of the truck. The parking brake, yes, it was engaged, gave in, and the truck nose-dived into a pack of cars. Like dominoes they toppled with at least seven cars smashing into one another. Quite simply, we had ruined their Christmas.

The next day, we made it to our destination and spent Christmas with our family. All’s well that ends well, yes?

Epilogue

Months later, my brother-in-law, lawyer extraordinaire, settled the case against U-Haul out of court. With our police report identifying the truck’s faulty brakes, we were not held liable. If you’re reading this and your car was totaled that night, I’m really sorry.

The brakes were deemed life-threatening. We’re actually quite lucky we didn’t crash or drive off a cliff.

After our saga, whenever we saw a U-Haul truck on the road or passed by a U-Haul center, we yelled, “Fuck you, U-Haul.” It made us feel better. As time passed, when we encountered U-Haul we simply flipped them off. Now it’s more of a second-nature, knee-jerk reaction. Oh, did I just give U-Haul the finger? Oh, I guess I did. Well, how about that? U-Haul haunts me to this day.

Are you surprised I found this picture? I'm not.
Are you surprised I found this picture? I’m not.

If you are thinking about moving over the winter, I have one word of advice: Don’t. Just wait until spring. There’s a reason animals hibernate during the winter.

And, Merry Christmas! I wish you a wonderful holiday. If you are traveling, please travel safe.

photo credits all via photopin cc: Genista; wrenoud; smenzelRob Blatt ; as_much

Reference: U-Haul Instruction Manual

How About a Lovely Tree in Your House?

I’ve been doing some heavy thinking these days. Does anyone think it’s strange to cut down a living tree, put it in your house, and decorate it? How strange are we to do this? If you consider that the first “tree inside the house” had actual candles on it, yes, it is indeed strange. This sounds like a perfectly good idea, doesn’t it? Let’s put candles on a dead, dry, flammable tree inside of your house.

It was the Germans who brought the tree into the house first. The Evergreen tree, which remained green all year-long, was special during the cold winter months, and held dear, so dear, they brought it inside the house. It is believed that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added candles to the tree to mimic the stars outside.

We can thank Albert Sadacca for turning the candles into electric bulbs. He was only fifteen at the time, and his family happened to have some extra bulbs on hand. Safety was the main factor in this progression. Later the bulbs became a string of lights, which didn’t catch on right away. He only sold a hundred strands his first year. They became more popular when he started painting the bulbs in red, green, and other colors. Needless to say, that guy had a bright idea. A little joke for you.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t quite “feel” like Christmas until we have decorated our tree.  For the last six years, we’ve been going to a Christmas tree farm to select a tree. We’re greeted with hugs and candy canes. It makes me feel good, too, to support a local tree grower. They cut the tree in such a way that it will regrow yet another tree in its place.

We take our time picking out a tree, enjoying the property. Even if we see our tree within minutes of looking, we still wander around. For me, it’s one of my favorite things about Christmas. Someday, I’ll probably switch to artificial. In the meantime, however weird this tree thing is, I dig it!

Tree Farm
Potential Christmas trees, everywhere!
Tree Farm
My boys always find the water.
Trees on the hill. This is where we found our tree. It's on the right, or is it the left?
Trees on the hill. This is where we found our tree. It’s on the right, or is it the left?
Tree Farm
Don’t forget the cocoa and cookies, homemade even, They think of everything.

 

 

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