Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas and Joel bought me a Banana Republic dress! He went all the way to the outlet mall to get it for me, and it is great: a red and black striped shift dress. He also got me Monopoly which I get to play with some great friends tonight. And I got quite a bit of money last night from my grandparents and my dad to go on a shopping spree very soon.
Sabrina got a lot of laughs by wrapping up some of the stuff I left at my dad’s when I moved out, including a broken mirror and the dress bag for my wedding dress. But she also got me the berry Payless shoes I really wants so I guess I forgive her.
We are off to Joel’s parent’s for prime rib and quality time with the dogs. Merry Christmas to everyone and I hope you enjoyed the season as much as I did!
MOVIE: One of the only Christmas specials to directly deal with the reason for the season, the birth of Jesus, is the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. I wasn’t such a big fan of it as a kid, but it has definitely grown on me over the years. There is some great music in this show too. Christmastime is Here is as soft as the falling snow and just as beautiful. If you’re sick of watching Christmas Story for the 7th time today, switch it up with Charlie Brown.
SONG: O Holy Night by LeAnn Rimes 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve With the Kelleys

I am very lucky to have the Kelley side of my family. My mom had a tough childhood and we had very little contact with her side of the family while growing up. My dad’s side more than made up for the lack. My grandma had five kids and we had plenty of cousins near our age to play with during holidays, and Christmas was always a blast with them. They’re the craziest, most supportive group of people you could meet and they’re always good for a lot of laughs. Their antics are evident in our home movies.
One of my proudest moments was the year I made a Christmas video compilation for my family using the home movies my grandparents had been taking since the late 80s. I spent hours syncing the sound to the video, choosing Christmas songs that meant something to us, and finding pictures to go with the video. Although I revised it and extended it a year later, the initial exhibition meant a lot to me. It encompassed my love and nostalgia for the Christmases of my childhood and the people who made them great.
My aunt Sherry sent me an email thanking me for making it and told me it was one of her favorite Christmas gifts she had ever received. It has become a tradition to watch the extended version each year at our Christmas Eve celebration, sometimes more than once. I am so happy that this video that I worked on for so long means as much to my family as it does to me. I still get a kick out of seeing it and all the great times we've had over the years.
And to this day, I can’t hear Blue Christmas without seeing my uncle Kajun dancing with my great grandma, or the opening to Jingle Bell Rock without thinking of how meticulously I had to time the snowflakes popping up on screen to keep time with the music. And yes, Sabrina and Megan, I did put your picture on the screen when Judy sings, "Make the yuletide gay," on purpose. You're welcome.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “The North Pole”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “Back Home Again”, Jonathan Thomas and his Christmas on the Moon “Going Home”
MOVIE: I remember seeing Home Alone for the first time. It must have been freshly released on VHS so I couldn’t have been more than four years old. My grandma came over and brought it as a gift, maybe a birthday present for my dad. We opened it, popped it into the VCR, and watched the whole thing, and I loved it. I always wanted to be an adult; screw the kid stuff. It made me feel very much like one of them to be watching a movie they seemed to enjoy as much as I did. When my sister was old enough to understand what was going on, she got in on it too, and many days we’d fast forward to the end where Kevin plays all of the tricks on the robbers and just watch that. We also loved the scene where the family rushes to the airport; we’d bounce around on the couches like idiots and have the best time ever.
When Home Alone 2 came out, I wanted a Talkboy so bad, but it was marketed to boys. Luckily the company soon came out with a pink Talkgirl. Unluckily for me, I didn’t get one. After all, I already had a tape recorder; what did I need with another one? The movie pales in comparison to the original, because it is basically a gratuitous reworking of the first movie only in New York, and Kevin’s adversaries are even more bumbling idiots that in the first one. I do get excited though to see Eddie Bracken as the toy store owner. Joel and I have a game related to this movie, trying to top the other with the best sequel title by adding “Lost in New York.” He always wins; my favorites are Titanic 2: Lost in New York and the more adult Debbie Does Dallas 2: Lost in New York. 
SONG: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland
By the way, I met Margaret O'Brien this year. Jealous?
GIFT MEMORY: Perhaps the first Christmas gift I ever got was my Lazzie Bear, which my grandma gave my pregnant mother five months before I was born. For the first few years of my life, it was larger than I was. Later I got the Lazzie Dog to go with my bear, and even later I got another Lazzie Bear in pristine condition. These critters are from Lazarus, a now defunct Columbus-based department store that was the height of luxury for many years. I wish I could have seen their downtown Christmas display during their heyday; I hear it was really something to see.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Nutcracker

When I was a kid my mom told me that when she was young, she wanted to be a ballerina so she began walking everywhere on her toes. I immediately began doing the same thing. Neither of us became ballerinas, but when I asked her if she wanted to see The Nutcracker this year for Christmas, she excitedly said yes.
This was my first live ballet, and I was very impressed. I was familiar with the story and the music, but I was astonished by the beautiful scenery and the gorgeous costumes. The beginning Christmas scene where a scrim of an outdoor scene is lit to reveal the grand interior decorated with an enormous tree was impressive, but it didn’t stop there. I especially loved the snowfall which was assisted by the dancers who came
in tossing snow in the air as they leaped. The audience seemed most impressed with the dance couple who had several elaborate sequences toward the end of the show, but I loved the doll dancer whose every movement seemed mechanical down to the way she blinked. I understand why people go to see The Nutcracker year after year and why they are willing to pay so much money to do so. I would definitely go back.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “Captain Tintop”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “The Spirit of Christmas”, Jonathan Thomas and his Christmas on the Moon “Rescuing Santa Claus”
MOVIE: I didn't watch The Year Without a Christmas when I was a kid, so a few years ago I made up for lost time, and now I try to see it each year. If you like Rudolph and/or stop-motion animation, you will enjoy this movie. Santa is voiced by Mickey Rooney, one of my favorite actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and this movie features the famous Snow Miser and Heat Miser, the brothers who control the weather in the north and the south areas of the world. They have cute complementary song and dance numbers with hilarious little minion backup dancers. 
SONG: “The Last Christmas” by Sixpence None the Richer 
No, I am not trying to tell anyone anything, but this is a beautiful song that I heard for the first time last year. I love Leah Nash’s voice; it is very unique and every time I hear her I smile.
GIFT MEMORY: My uncle Bill was in the army for years, so he and his family moved a lot. They didn’t come into town for Christmas very often, but when they did it was a treat. My cousin Matt is a year younger than me and his sister Addison is a few years younger than my sister, so we always had a great time together. I always associate our earliest Christmases together with a wooden train set that Matt had. I don’t know if he received it as a gift and that is why we got to play with it together or if he brought it with him, but I loved it. We would spend hours setting up an elaborate track all over the family room, getting into as many peoples’ way as possible. Then we would put the train on the track and push it as fast as we could, often with derailments as the product of our energy. We’d take it apart and rebuild it again, making as many curves as possible with the amount of track we had. It never got old.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad!

I always felt bad for my dad who was born on December 22. His birthday was always either over shadowed by Christmas or ignored altogether. He got many joint gifts.
When I began working and was able to do something about it, I did. My parents split up when I was eighteen, and for my dad’s first birthday without my mom, my sister and I took him to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate. We almost never went to sit-down dinner places when we were young because my parents simply couldn’t afford it. Going to Outback was a rare treat, something we had done as a family only once before for my mom’s birthday years ago. The whole time during my dad’s birthday dinner he kept asking if we were sure we could afford to pay for it, and he kept skimping on what he would order for himself because he didn’t want us to have to pay. We encouraged him to get the steak he wanted and to add the mushrooms if he wanted them, that it was okay to get a Coke too. Once he relaxed we had a great time, and it became a tradition to take him out to dinner for his birthday.
When he turned 50, we wanted to make it a big occasion. We asked him where he wanted to go to dinner and he chose Red Lobster. Then my sister and I went to work, calling everyone in the family who could make it and even calling a few of his friends from the past that he hadn’t seen for years, including “uncle Ron,” one of my dad’s former co-worker he had lost touch with. It was a great night. Ever after my extended family was on the guest list for my dad’s birthday.
My dad is a really wonderful person, someone I admire a lot. He is so smart but he’s a bit of an agoraphobic person. He is only social and goes out if someone goads him into it but he’s a lot of fun when he agrees. I try my best to be the catalyst for him having a good time and I think his birthday is now something that not only he looks forward to but that my family looks forward to as well.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “The Parade”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “Trapped in the Turret”, JonathanThomas and his Christmas on the Moon “Captured by Squeebublians”
MOVIE: Growing up, I always thought of It's a Wonderful Life as my mom’s favorite movie, and one that I didn’t really care for. She’d watch it in the afternoons while she sewed buttons back on shirts or hemmed torn jeans into shorts. It was long and in black and white and it certainly didn’t appeal to kids. The scene in the beginning when the pharmacist slaps young George until his ear bleeds used to scare me.
It wasn’t until years later when I became interested in black and white movies that I watched it again and fell in love with it. (Funnily enough, my mom’s love of this movie was a deterrent for me to show interest in old movies. I didn’t want to be teased and “I told ya so”ed by her, so I tried to hide my interest at first until I was sure I liked them.)
My dad told me later that when he and my mom first started dating, they started talking about their favorite movies. He couldn’t remember the name of his, but he told her it began with the stars and an angel talking to God in heaven, and the angel being sent down to earth to help a man through a hard time. She said, “Well that sounds really stupid.” Years after that, they sat down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life on TV and my dad told her, “This is that movie I was telling you about.” She said, “Oh, I love this movie!”
I adore Frank Capra. His movies embody hope, which is an essential part of life. He doesn’t skimp on harsh realities in his films, which is what makes the hopeful moments all the more powerful. This movie is especially wonderful because it shows that you have to take bad times along with the good ones and that you have to keep working for better things but if you take the time to notice all the good things in your life, you will forget the bad ones. And it shows that faith in God can get you through even the worst situations. I really love that this movie emphasizes how the everyman (played by the quintessential everyman—Jimmy Stewart) can make a difference in the world, even if it seems like it is only a small contribution.
SONG: “Christmas Blues” by the Dukes of Dixieland
GIFT MEMORY: My grandma is a collector, which is probably where I got my impulse from. For years she collected pigs because of a joke one of her kids made about her being a little piggy. One Christmas, soon after the movie Babe came out, she got a stuffed talking Babe with mice attached who would say phrases from the movie, our favorite being “What a pig!” Then she got rid of her pig collection and started collecting porcelain dolls. She had a huge display of them in the spare bedroom, dozens of white box shelves along the main wall with the center one working as a reading light. When my cousins and I stayed the night there, we’d marvel at the massive doll collection, but we were never allowed to touch it. Then, when I was a teenager, she gave the dolls away to us. She laid them all out on her bed and we got to choose them one at a time until they were all taken. Then she started collecting Longaberger baskets. We have many videos of her receiving items for her collections over the years.