Drummer Boy, Scrooge, and the Christmas Party

Today we have been preparing for our annual Heneise Christmas Party. We’ve had one every year for the past 14 years, only missed once. It’s a special time for me as a lot of our old friends come who I sometimes don’t see at all through the year. It’s a day of family and friends and fellowship. I love it. But, today, we have been doing the preparing part. Not so fun. Trying to clean the house while we are still living in it.

cleaningoreos

I have a tendency to go a bit crazy when I’m trying to get ready for an event. I promise that I have improved over the years, but the tendency is always there and I have to do some exaggerated deep breathing, put myself in time-out occasionally, and do a lot of self-talk to keep myself from totally flipping out. Here’s a link to a Youtube video that really sums up my state of mind when I’m getting ready for some big entertaining at my house.

crazy mom cleaning for company

So today I made lists for all the kids which detailed what chores they had to do. Organized. Efficient. The kids all got to work and actually had decent attitudes about the whole thing. For the most part. So, my 9 yr old vacuumed the couches. The 11 year old swept/mopped/vaccuumed the living room. The little girls swept/mopped the hall. My 13 yr old swept/mopped the dining room. Many hands make light work. Right. So here comes the almost 2 yr old. He was sitting at the table chewing on a chunk of french bread. All is well. He is where he is supposed to be. Crumbs are being contained. I walked out of the room to do something and turned around and he’s following me, carrying his chunk of bread, shedding crumbs everywhere. I walked towards him with the intention of picking him up and setting him back at the table. He sees me coming, thinks this is some great game and takes off running. Through the dining room, through the hall, through the living room, throws himself on the couch, still holding the french bread which he is now mushing into the couch cushions. I lose it. I’m yelling, grab him, swat his behind and thrust him into my 16 yr old son’s hands. TAKE HIM!! GET HIM OUT OF HERE NOW!!!! I learned many many years ago that when you are angry at your child it’s better to get away from them for a while till you calm down. My son takes off with the baby and I grab paper towels and brooms and dustpans and attempt to undo the damage that little run through the house caused. I’m muttering under my breath. All the kids are keeping their distance. I decide it’s time to give myself a time-out. Go sit in a corner somewhere and get hold of myself.

I stomp back to my bedroom and sit in my chair. Take some deep breaths. Then I start feeling guilty. My kids don’t deserve this. They do not need me to be going crazy about keeping a house clean for the next 24 hrs until the party starts. I sit quietly and I hear the Christmas music playing from the living room. The Little Drummer Boy. “I have no gift to bring…pa rum pum pum pum…That’s fit to give the King… pa rum pum pum…” And I think. It’s true. I don’t have a worthy gift to give my King. Because of course, the sappy, pat answer is, I bring myself as a gift to the King. Well, here I am being grumpy. Yelling at my kids. Being a jerk. Not much of a gift.

I sit quietly a bit longer and then I start remembering the night before. My husband and I went and saw “A Christmas Carol” at the Clarence Brown Theater. It was a wonderful production. I was in tears by the end, truly moved by the story and the actors who portrayed it so well. One of Scrooge’s lines really stood out to me and I started thinking about it again.

 

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forebearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 

Mankind. People. That’s what we’re here for. In Matthew 22:36-40 someone asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment and he says, Love God with everything you’ve got. And then love your neighbor as yourself. (a paraphrase). It came home to me once again. What is the meaning of life?? To love God and to love people. That’s it. What gift can I bring my King? I can continue to love Him and love the people around me. Love my kids. Even though I know they’re going to mess up my house after we cleaned all morning. Love my friends. Love my neighbors. Love the people I see in the street, at the store. That is the gift I have to bring. Love. When Scrooge has a change of heart, at the end, he starts the process of repentance, restoration. In the play he walks into the church. Standing at the entrance, hesitant, uncertain of his welcome. When I watched this I had a vision of the story of the Prodigal Son, when the father welcomes back his wayward son with open arms. And I found myself silently encouraging Scrooge, Yes! Go in! You are welcome! Forgiveness is at hand! That wonderful forgiveness that I need daily, hourly, minute by minute as I mess up over and over again. You are forgiven! You are free from the burden of guilt. Free to love. Get up, try again.

I relaxed my shoulders. I decided. Ok. Right now we are doing the deep cleaning. Tomorrow we will tidy up whatever messes have occurred. Keeping a clean house is not what it’s all about. Let’s go back out there, offer some apologies, and try being patient and gentle again. This is the way to live, open hands offering up a life that is full of love and repentance, and love again.

Let’s Talk Christmas Music!

Let’s talk Christmas music!

For me, celebrating Christmas is all about the music. The day after Thanksgiving is when we officially start doing Christmas: music, trees, decorations.. An explosion of color and lights happen at our house. It truly is The Happiest Season of All.

When I was a kid there were several Christmas albums my parents played every year that just became part of the traditional backdrop for Christmas. I mean, it really wasn’t Christmas if we didn’t get to hear those albums. I carried on the tradition when I left home and now my children will hopefully think that, it’s really not Christmas unless we hear this music… That’s my hope anyway.

All the albums I’m going to talk about can be found on Youtube if you are just curious about them…

So, to start off we have  “Carpenters Christmas Portrait”. I would say my favorite song is “Merry Christmas Darling”. If I have to choose a favorite. Honestly though, I just love the whole album.

220px-ChristmasportraitGOOD

Next on the list we have “Christmas Album with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass”. And my all time favorite from this album is “The Bell that Couldn’t Jingle”.

Christmas_Album_(Herb_Alpert_album)

Of course we have the classic “Bing Crosby White Christmas” album. I think my favorite from this album is Silver Bells.

bingcrosby

This next album didn’t join our family till I was a teen but it stuck. It is Take Six “He is Christmas”. Take Six is just fun. I love “Little Drummer Boy” and of course the awesome rendition of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” which becomes “Twas Da Nite”.

He_Is_Christmas

We did have some more classical type music thrown in. Of course, every year we have to listen to Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”. As a kid I loved to dance around the living room, pretending I was a ballerina. Now as an adult I love watching my kids do the exact same thing.

nutcracker

We also have to add A Mormon Tabernacle Choir “Christmas” with the amazing choir singing the older, less known carols like “Pat-a-pan” and “Fum Fum Fum” (which when we were kids my brother and I thought they were singing “bought it at the five and twenty, fum, fum, fum!”) (that’s not what they were singing) (it’s actually “On December 5 and 20, Fum, fum, fum) (I’m still not sure what the Fum fum fum means) (but it sounds fun) 🙂 ….

I don’t have any pics for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir because I listened to several different albums and I can’t remember which ones. They’re all good!

My children have added on new music to the family tradition. We now listen to a lot of Piano Guys Christmas songs, and a lot of Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas. Which I love!  Incidentally, my parents are taking three of my teens to the Tran Siberian Orchestra Christmas Concert this weekend. I am so excited for them. Andy and I went to one of their concerts several years ago and I was over-the-top euphoric. Classical meets rock. It is the perfect fit for me.

Well, those are my favorites. I’d love to hear about some of your favorite Christmas Albums,  maybe I can add something new to our yearly line-up!

No Politics at the Dollar Store

I ran down to the Family Dollar Store, just a block away. We needed tape. My younger kids and I had just spent a happy hour cutting out snowflakes and we were now going to tape them all over our kitchen and their bedrooms. We love decorating for Christmas. Once we get started, it’s hard to stop.

I went into the store, stepping around the puddles that dotted the pavement. It was an unseasonably warm, wet December day. I grabbed a shopping basket and quickly got the tape, plus some treats that I would pass out for our daily advent readings. Some LifeSavers for the day we discussed rings and how Jesus is the Bridegroom of the church. Some candy canes for the day we discussed how Jesus was the Good Shepherd. I also got some candles to keep up the festive atmosphere I love to create during the Christmas Season.

Finally done with filling my basket, I went and got in line. There was only one line open, but only a couple customers in front of me. I started daydreaming as I casually watched the people around me. I found myself a bit curious about the two people in front of me. They were obviously together. Latino. He looked like he was in his early 20s, clean cut, quiet. She had long, thick black hair, maybe 10 or 11 years old. They moved up to the register and he put his purchase on the counter, a big jug of laundry detergent. The girl quickly laid a lollipop next to it. It reminded me of outings with my parents when I was a child, “One piece of candy…please??”

The lady at the register was a friendly girl. Pure country accent, messy blond ponytail, friendly smile. She looked like she’d been working for a while, her eyes tired. She rang up their purchases and then told him how much it was. He hesitated a moment and then pulled out a card and stuck it into the slot of the card machine. Apparently there was an error. He continued to try and stick his card in, nothing changed. I wondered if his card had been denied. It happens. It’s happened to me. I was preparing for an awkward encounter. The clerk leaned over the counter to see what the display was saying. Her face brightened up. “Oh! Look, you have to swipe that one.” The man stared at her blankly. “Swipe it! Swipe it!” She made a movement with her hand and his face showed comprehension. He swiped his card, a visa gift card with the activation sticker still on it, and it worked. Hurray! The screen continued to ask him questions and he hesitated again. The clerk leaned over and read the screen out loud. “Pin, enter your pin.” The man’s companion spoke up in rapid Spanish. The man slightly nodded and started entering in a number. Ah. He didn’t speak English. Obviously none at all since he was struggling even with purchasing something at a store. I had a quick flashback to the first time I went to Chile when I was 20.  I spoke no Spanish. None. Zip. Zero. Not even a high school Spanish class. I remembered the panic of trying to do simple purchases and hoping the person would just take my money, give me correct change and not ask me any questions. Now, watching this man, I felt myself tense up. Maybe I could help if he needed it. I had managed to pick up a little Spanish during my time in Chile. Enough to at least help out with a purchase if necessary. The clerk had picked up on his lack of English by now, and started saying things slowly and repeating herself. Giving encouraging smiles. The little girl interjected a quick comment every once in a while, giving me the impression that she was interpreting for him. Not surprising. Kids always pick up languages faster than the adults. She probably benefited greatly from being in school every day, whereas the grownups could hang out and work with fellow Spanish speakers and not have near as much pressure or opportunity to learn a new language.

Finally the sale was finished successfully. The clerk grinned really big, wishing them a good evening. I smiled, happy that it had all ended well. I paid for my stuff and left the store. I had felt a moment of connection. Strangers in a store, all poised to help the foreigner, wishing him well. And I hoped that maybe this really is the normal for our country. We see a stranger, a foreigner, struggling to make it in a new country. We don’t ask about their immigration status, country of origin, income level. We just step in and see if we can help somehow.

Sure, when we’re on Facebook, we have to raise all the questions. We have to choose our news channels with care. We have to speak up about our views on immigration and foreigners and people who don’t speak English. We have to contact our congressman to tell them our views in hopes that they will align their policy with our wishes. We have to write editorials and engage in online debates. I am not being facetious. Yes. We do need to do all these things. We live in a democracy where our voice is supposed to matter. We are supposed to take a part in our government. But do we let our politics dictate our behavior when we’re down at the store? Or do we let our religion have preference. That religion that says, Love your neighbor as yourself. And when questioned “Who is my neighbor?” the story was told of a foreigner who befriended a stranger, an enemy of sorts, simply because he was in need.

I am an optimist. I like to look for the good in people. I like to presume that my friends who are very concerned about our current illegal alien issues, that they are still ready to help when they meet someone face-to-face. They’re still willing to lend a helping hand. And I sincerely hope that all my friends who are so passionate for open borders, I hope that this passion translates into helping the foreigners in their midst, not just talking about it.

It’s a good way to start the Christmas Season. Let’s be ready to help whoever we see in need. Maybe, we can just leave the politics for social media.