What Christmas means to me

January 1, 2008

As I sit here on the evening of January the First, in the year of our Lord 2008, I am reflecting on the just passed holiday season and I think about what Christmas means to me. So here it is, in blog-entry form.

What Christmas means to me

but first, a disclaimer. I will not mention all of the various religious aspects of Christmas in this section because, if you believe in such things, you don’t need me to tell you about it. If you don’t, you also don’t need me to tell you about it, because there are other, louder, more holy people around to do that. Also, those people usually are not distracted from being loud and holy by trying to make people laugh.

now let’s get back to me.

Christmas means countless twist ties. They are hidden in every box and package. Every children’s toy, by law, must be held securely to a cheap piece of cardboard by 27 titanium coated, NASA approved, industrial strength twist ties, minimum. Everyone knows the best way to deal with twist ties is to cut them. I know the best way to deal with twist ties is to cut them, but on Christmas morning I still think it’s a pretty good idea to untwist them with my soon-to-be sore and throbbing fingers. I’m a pretty bright guy, as you know.

Christmas means malfunctioning outdoor holiday decorations. The beautiful, scenic light-up reindeer I bought and placed in my front yard falls over like it is drunk. Constantly. I got so tired of fighting with it that I finally attached a red light to its nose and hung it upside down from a tree with a sign that said, “Sorry, kids!”

Christmas means leftover eggnog. I love to buy eggnog near the holidays. I almost never drink any. I guess I’m just in love with the concept.

Christmas (or, more accurately, the day after Christmas) means further proof that I’m not the video game king that I used to be. When the kids get a new video game for Christmas I always think I’m going to kick their little butts playing it. Then, every single one of them beats me, including the 4 year old who then performs a seven minute long victory dance.

Christmas means the a new year is just around the corner. Now, a new year doesn’t actually mean that much unless you still write checks for things. The changing year means you’re going to mess up writing the date on at least a few of them.

Christmas means enjoying time with family and friends and being nice to people you normally wouldn’t be nice to because it’s usually hard to know who your Secret Santa is.

Christmas means lots of people complaining about the commercialization of Christmas, while shopping.

Christmas means at least one gift per year gets the “Uncle B” treatment, which is named after a family friend who is known to secretly disconnect the speaker mechanism in the most annoying new toy and then, when the affected child asks him why the new toy no longer works, plays dumb.

Christmas means that the kids get some time off from school. That’s nice, except that Christmas vacation from school means they have lots of time on their hands to roam the house looking for victims. But it also means that just after New Year’s Day, they have to go back to school and that really is the best thing for everyone involved.

Well that’s an original blog title, isn’t it? I hope everyone has a great holiday season. Things here at home are going well. The kids are all excited and full of energy, but that’s both good and bad, as they think it’s too cold to play outside. Of course, if it was 20 degrees colder and snowing, they’d be out there in an instant. For now, thought, they are content just bouncing off the walls inside. Their Christmas eve activities begin in a few hours with a trip to Grandma’s for Christmas eve dinner, so it won’t be long now. You’d think they would all be talking about Santa’s imminent arrival, wouldn’t you? Nope. They are talking about who gets to log into Webkinz world first on Christmas morning to see what virtual Santa left for their Webkinz pets!

Well, I’m kinda curious about that, too.

Anyway, have a great holiday, everyone, and please be safe out there if you are traveling.

Oh, almost forgot. Some of you want some entertainment, right? Well, go to ClarkandMichael.com. I haven’t watched all of them yet, but so far it looks pretty good. I’m a big Arrested Development fan, as you may already know, and this fits right in with that kind of show.


December 20, 2007

If the light-up, decorative reindeer in my front yard falls down one more time, I’m going to leave it on the ground, surround it with empty beer cans and call him “White trash Rudolph” because I have HAD ENOUGH!

I finally got something done!

December 17, 2007

Long time, eh? I’m just relaxing a bit tonight. Listening to some music, answering some messages and, oh yeah, writing a blog post for the first time in weeks. I’ve spent the past few days finishing up a complete redesign of my website, which has had the same look for almost 3 years. I’m really happy with the way it turned out and I’m happy with the software I finally chose to build it with. That was a big decision for me. I was using Frontpage on my windows pc, but I wanted something different to use on my Mac. Finally found it and got the project off the ground. My blog is now integrated into my site, but I still will probably post at WordPress also, to reach a different audience. I’m just happy that I’ve finally been able to complete my move to a Mac workflow and eliminate my need for a windows pc. Good thing, too, as my pc is about 9 years old and takes a LONG time to do anything.

Sometime before the end of the year, I will post my thoughts on all (or most) of the books I’ve read this year. I read more than I thought. The list has 20+ books on it. Not bad, right? That’s about 2 per month. It will take me a while to write that up.

We are just about ready for the holidays here in the Chambers household. It’s funny. Every year we have at least one gift that we are really excited to give to someone. This year is no different. That’s the coolest thing, for me. I took my two youngest girls to a Christmas shop that is just down the road from us, but we’ve never been to before. They have unusual hours. It turns out that the “shop” is located in a huge barn next to an old farmhouse built in 1647. The property is just gorgeous. The shop is great. They must have a million little things in there. Mostly Christmas related, but lots of other stuff as well. Upstairs I found a big crate sitting on the floor. It was filled with old albums. 33s, 45s and 78s. Yes, 78s. I picked up a 78 rpm copy of the Davis Sisters “I forgot more than you’ll ever know”. Released in 1953. The disc is thick and heavy and I think it’s pretty darn cool. Anyway, that’s the kind of thing you can find in that Christmas shop. I’ll be going back.


November 22, 2007

Just when I’ve convinced myself that no publisher or agent will be interested in a collection of personal essays and memoirs from some unknown writer, and I decide to break up the collection and try to sell it in other ways, I just can’t let go. I’ve been considering writing for Associated Content and also looking into paid blogging. I know you’re thinking that I don’t even update my own blog often enough as it is, but being paid and under some deadline might be just the kick I need. The problem I have? Rights. I just don’t want to give up any rights to my work to a non-traditional publisher. I just don’t feel like I can trust them. I really love most of the stuff I’ve put up on my website and, although I realize much of it would need to be edited and rewritten to be truly publishable, I’m willing to do that. I’d just hate for those essays to be in the hands of some internet content producer and unavailable to use in my book. It may be time to take a fresh look at them all, including many I haven’t released yet, bundle them all up and ship them off to the real world. Nothing to lose, right? I just want it to be right. I want to make the best decision.

And I want to sign on with someone who will publish Young Adult Novel also.

See, there’s just no satisfying me, is there?

AND, happy Thanksgiving.

AND, I ordered Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle from Amazon because I couldn’t find it elsewhere and I also needed a few more dollars on my order to qualify for free shipping. What did I order initially? Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas in SURROUND SOUND! Whoo, Baby, I can’t wait for that package to arrive.

take a breath

November 13, 2007

We’re back from vacation, where I blatantly broke the cardinal rule for writers, which is, “take a notebook everywhere you go.” I had some ideas that I thought were funny, but can’t remember them now. I guess I’ll just wing it.

I worked up a good bit of anger and resentment just before we left for Disney when I found out that my short story, Sharpest Knife in the Block did not win the contest I had entered it in. I thought it was a lock! Of course, that’s how I feel about everything I produce. Maybe I’ll let you people read and critique it. It’s different than anything I’ve released to the public so far. A departure, if you will. Experimental. I had fun writing it during the Beach Torture Event, so it lives close to my heart. Also, that might explain why it has a little bit of a bitter edge to it.

There was a recall on Aqua Dots while we were gone. That makes me feel really good, as we gave out Aqua Dots as birthday gifts to a couple of kids recently. “Happy birthday, little girl! Here is a package of poison dots for you to play with.” They are only bad for you if you eat them, which isn’t really the main purpose of the Aqua Dots in the first place. I guess the people who developed these things have never been around little kids, because I’ve seen kids for whom putting non-edible things in their mouths was a complete obsession. If they don’t want kids to put toys in their mouths, then all toys should be made of Brussels sprouts and vitamins.

The end of November is quickly approaching, with a birthday party to throw, friends visiting, Thanksgiving to enjoy, etc. Should be a busy few weeks coming up. Haven’t I been saying that since July?

I’m committed to really decorating the house for Christmas. I’m only telling you that because that will make it harder for me to back out.

And now my sentences are getting shorter. That’s a sign that I have a bunch of things on my mind besides blogging, so I must stop for now.

one more thing: Brandi Carlile is so good.

Now playing: Brandi Carlile – Throw It All Away
via FoxyTunes

day late

October 26, 2007

Man, it’s so easy to continue not writing when you get into the habit of not writing. All of our fall sports stuff is over now and things are getting back to normal. Vacation is coming, but this one should be fun. Then Thanksgiving. Then Christmas. OK, I know I’m skipping a few weeks here and there, but it goes so fast. That’s one of the reasons that I begin to celebrate Christmas (my favorite time of year) on November 1. I don’t wait until the day after Thanksgiving like most people. To me, Thanksgiving is a holiday which falls during the 2 month Christmas season. The old Christmas song cds are ready to go. See? It’s not even Halloween yet and I’m looking right past it. Halloween is just a speed bump in the fast lane to Christmas.

So now that I’ve proclaimed the next two holidays to be completely irrelevant, what else should I write?

Well, The Book Thief is pretty good so far. I haven’t been able to just sit and read it uninterrupted, so I’m only about 1/3 through. A few pages here, a few more there. It definitely has a different style and feel to it. Overall I’m impressed with Markus Zusak, I have to say.

On the subject of cover songs, Dexter has commented on that post with a cover of an Amy Winehouse song, but I had never heard the song to begin with so it didn’t have quite the effect on me that it should have. However, if you want to hear a cool version of Led Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Loving You then check out what Corinne Bailey Rae does with it. Regular readers know how much I like Corinne to begin with and here she performs a classic song in her own style.

I’m feeling some guilt over not posting an October essay for JPChambers.com and here it is almost November and I’m not sure what to post for that, either. I haven’t written much new material the past few months, so maybe this blog entry will be the kickoff for some regular writing sessions. NaNoWriMo is next month (November, of course), but I think I’ll have to sit this one out. I’ll see what happens.

Now playing: Corinne Bailey Rae – Since I’ve Been Loving You
via FoxyTunes

gets me every time

July 5, 2007

Our backyard leads to a field. I guess you can call the field a farmer’s field, although the only things that get farmed out of it are these huge rolls of hay. It’s not hay, it’s weeds, but it looks like hay after it has been all rolled up and apparently somebody buys it from the supposedly hay-rolling guy. It is possible that the guy just feeds it to his livestock, if he has any. He certainly seems to have a lot of time to raise livestock, since he only creates the huge weed balls twice a year. For the rest of the year (when the field isn’t populated with strange weed-balling machines) it’s a great place for my dog to poop.

I know this is the second time I’ve mentioned dog poop in my blog and you can use that as evidence as to what kind of life I lead.

My dog is a miniature Schnauzer and she, predictably, has miniature Schnauzer sized poops. The German Shepherd who lives next door has German Shepherd sized poops and is free to leave them anywhere he pleases, which results in his owners wandering their yard once a week with a scooper. Apparently you can’t just leave those and hope they go away. So despite the fact that my dogs “business” is relatively small and forgettable, I still walk her out to the field to do it. No surprises in my yard. I told you how my youngest son likes help do that job, but I still have to do it from time to time.

Now, the field leads to the local volunteer fire company’s station and in front of the station is a white flagpole. This is not a little, stick-it-in-your-frontyard flagpole. It is probably about 4 stories high. What is that, 50 feet? The point is, it’s tall. Tall enough to be seen from miles around. From that flagpole flies a very, very large American flag. When I walk my dog to the edge of the field, we are about 100 yards from the flagpole. And on days like today, when there is a breeze blowing, I can hear that flag snap in the wind and when I look up at it, it always makes me pause and think. Sometimes, looking up at that huge flag flowing in the wind gives me butterflies in my stomach.

I am proud to be an American, but I am not a stepford. I do not subscribe to the “U.S.A. is right and everybody else is wrong” way of thinking. There are many things happening that I don’t agree with, especially the alarming loss of our personal freedom and the government’s increasing power over the individual and the endless stream of false information coming from D.C. When I look up at that flag, I feel patriotism. Patriotism can have many different faces and for me it is a combination of pride, sadness, unity and anger.

and butterflies.

Without fail, every time I look up at that flag and hear it snapping, I think of what is, to me, one of the most moving scenes in the history of American cinema. It is the very beginning scene of Saving Private Ryan, before the Normandy landing, when the camera is moving past the white crosses that mark the graves in the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. You can hear a flag snapping in the background of that scene. I don’t know why that scene gets me every time, but it does, and so does seeing the flag that flies right behind my house. To me, they stand for the same things.

I’ll try to be funny next time.

p.s. try not to read too much into the fact that I reflect on World War II while two German-breed dogs take craps all over the place.


Father’s Day weekend

June 19, 2007

So how was my Father’s Day weekend, you ask? Well I’ll tell ya.

Played horrible golf on Friday and had a blast of a time. Went to the Soul game on Saturday night when they beat Columbus in the final minute to clinch a playoff spot. Had a cool day on Sunday which included a little softball and horseshoe playing, a lot of crab eating and a bit of beer drinking. My brother-in-law and I have taken to buying those little 7 oz. Corona bottles so our beer is always really cold and we can drink twice as many. So, all in all a pretty good weekend, wouldn’t you say?

Summer has begun (I don’t care what the calendar says about it) and the temps have been getting higher. Those of you who know me know that I’m a cool-weather guy. I love cool, rainy, overcast days. LOVE them. Most people would describe that kind of weather as “gloomy”, but to me it is heaven. I’m don’t have a gloomy personality at all, I just like the weather. Summer here in the northeast is not my cup of tea, in fact, every June I threaten to move my family to Ireland. So in the spirit of positive thinking, here are the GOOD things about Summer:

evening thunderstorms
ice cold seedless watermelon
growing things in the garden
Fall comes next

Simple man

April 5, 2007

Quick little update here. I’m still working on the Easter essay for the site and it seems to be turning into a piece about the chocolate Jesus controversy. Well, that’s how it works. Sometimes writing takes its own direction. Last year’s essay turned into an expression of my guilt over hoarding large quantities of Matzo, which by the way, ended up being fed to chickens. Chickens are God’s creatures too, so relax. I mean, I guess they are God’s creatures. It is possible that they are spawn from Hell, though. Great. Now I feel bad for feeding all that Matzo to chicken Hell spawn. Thanks a lot.

Also been enjoying my tea EXCEPT for the Honeybush Vanilla. Sorry, Teavana, the Honeybush Vanilla gives me a headache. I don’t know why and it doesn’t really matter as long as I stay away from it.

Hmmm. So I’ve mentioned chicken Hell spawn and headaches. I guess I should end on a positive note. I’ve been playing the guitar for the better part of 20 years, never really well, and rarely in tune. I’ve never had a really good tuner. I’ve had pitch pipes and I’ve had those tuners with the needle gauge that never completely stops moving back and forth. The technique with those is to get the needle to wobble somewhere near the center and hope for the best. Well, I finally got a good tuner. It’s the Sabine STX-1100 and it rocks. Here’s a pic for you.
Sabine STX-1100

I’m such a simple man.