How Phil Robertson and Carrie Underwood gave me my best Christmas present of 2013

1phil-robertsonI love the giving and receiving of Christmas gifts.  This year was no exception.  My wife and I have been married long enough to know it’s probably best to ask each other what we want, so there’s not a whole lot of surprise there. But occasionally we surprise each other in the way we give the gifts.

Maybe I’ll put a small gift in a big box as a disguise.  Sometimes, my wife will leave me a couple of notes on a short scavenger hunt to shake things up.  We try to make it fun.

Most years, in addition to giving each other what we’ve asked for, we try to surprise each other with something small that we don’t see coming.  I like those types of gifts.  I like small, surprising gifts.  They can mean a great deal, especially when you don’t see them coming.

This Christmas, I got a couple of those gifts and neither one of them were from my wife.  They were from Phil Robertson and Carrie Underwood.

Okay, I’ll explain.

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If you’ve just returned from a two month trip to Mars, you may not be aware that country singer Carrie Underwood played the lead role of Maria in The Sound Of Music in a live production on NBC.  A few people had opinions.

If you’ve just landed, you also may not know that the Mike Brady of the new millennium, Phil Robertson, the patriarch of A&E’s Duck Dynasty, said a few things that caused some controversy.  A few people had opinions.

Anyone who saw The Sound Of Music or heard about the Robertson GQ interview had a reaction; some kept it to themselves, but many people went to Facebook and Twitter to put in their two cents, using either Carrie’s performance or Phil’s opinions as an English Comp-type writing prompt.  I did the same, posting a couple of things on my own social media platforms, commenting on others, and sharing posts of other writers with those who come to my feeds.  I also read a whole lot from other people, and between writing my own posts and reading dozens of other people’s thoughts, I realized how important it is for me to respond to everything in love.

It surprised me how quickly I can forget that.

Some folks were just downright mean and nasty, and neither side can claim total innocence on that point.  When I saw how one side or the other was reacting on the web, I, too, got riled up.  What I learned, though, is that I don’t like myself when I don’t consider what I say or write before I say or write it.  If I say or write something before doing my best to check in with how it’s going to land, not only will my words not have the effect of persuasion or real change that I might have intended, they could really do some damage.

The gift I received was a reminder that relationships and my character are far more important than getting in a jab at someone so that I can feel like I’ve gotten one up one them; that really does no good, in the end.

I want to be clear.  I want to make my points.  I want my voice to be heard.  But, I also want to resolve to do those things without feeling the need to be so hurtful.

This doesn’t mean that I’m expecting us all to hop into Michael’s rowboat and sing “Kum Ba Ya” any time soon.  I just think we could all be a bit nicer to one another, that’s all. Here’s hoping!

Oh, and by the way, my wife surprised me this Christmas with a brilliant new wallet.  I love it!

I’m a fan Fridays!

4017-scroogedOh, I love Christmas!  And, I love movies!  So, surely it will come as no surprise to anyone that I love Christmas movies.  Well, the good ones, of course!

My favorite Christmas story (as you know) is, “A Christmas Carol” (which I’m performing for the last two times this year, tomorrow and Sunday at The Media Theatre, btw…).

In honor of this great story, and all of the films that are based upon it, I give to you, for this edition of “I’m A Fan Fridays” my favorite clip from my favorite of them all…SCROOGED!

Enjoy!!

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All I want for Christmas is your two front teeth

princetonxmasI’ve been working in a local bookstore for some supplementary income, lately.  It’s Christmastime, and shoppers are searching for that special gift for their loved ones who enjoy a good read.

Add freezing temperatures and snow that periodically continues to fall before its ancestral flakes that have come before have had the chance to melt away for good to the usual Christmas shopping craziness, and you’ve almost got yourself a good ol fashioned Christmas panic!

Most of the people I see coming into the store have very serious looks on their faces.  They need something, some not sure what it is when they first come in, and this weather, coupled with this time of year, raises the bar on the Stress-O-Meter to almost unbearable heights.

Everyone feels it.  The air is thick with it–tension, stress, weariness.

But all of this heaviness in the air can be lifted as easily as the lightest of Christmas turkey feathers by the simplest thing in the world.  The simplest and most glorious gift that we each have to give, and one that can be given over and over without ever running out.

A smile.

I didn’t come to this realization on my own, I can assure you; it took a little girl to remind me.  She couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, and came into the store with her mother to shop for a gift to give her friend.  When they found just the right book, they brought it up to the counter for me to ring up.  She was so excited, the girl, smiling from ear to ear in anticipation of giving this amazing gift to her pal.

Then, as if things could get any better than that, her mother asked me if I could gift wrap the book.  I said, “Of course!  We have three types of paper to choose from.  Which of these would you prefer?”

I pointed to the three choices, and the little girl came closer to the counter for a better look.

“Ohhh! The snowflake one will be perfect!” she said.

“Snowflakes it is, then, ” said I.

I took my time, wrapping carefully.  When I finished, I held it up to see if it would do.

“Oh, Mommy!  Molly is just going to love this!”

Her mother looked at me and smiled a smile of her own.  “Thank you, so much.  Have a wonderful Christmas!” she said, as they headed out into the snowy day.

“It was my pleasure,” I answered.  And it was.

As I watched them through the window, they crossed the street and disappeared into the afternoon.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the window’s reflection and realized that I, too, was now smiling.

Outside the snow began to come down with a greater determination, promising a treacherous drive home, but for that moment, everything was just as it should be.

I’m a fan Fridays!

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I’m a fan of Sting.  I’m not his biggest fan, I’ll admit, but I’m a pretty big fan.  Some people, when it comes to Sting, get their nickers all up in a twist whenever he departs from his usual musical ways and attempts something new.  This, on the other hand, is exactly why I’m a fan of Sting.

A couple of years back, Sting made a “winter” album.  Some songs have to do with Christmas; others have simply to do with the season.  It’s a wonderful album, and one I highly recommend you add to your collection.

For this edition of “I’m a fan Fridays” I thought I’d share one of my favorite songs from this album called, “Soul Cake.”  If you listen closely, you can hear a wonderful weaving in of a another favorite Christmas melody.  This piece is a lot of fun.  I dare you not to dance while listening to it!

Here’s a live version with Sting and a brilliant group of musicians absolutely killing it!  Enjoy!

One woman’s quest for the sweet smelling Christmas candle.

imagesYesterday afternoon at a local bookstore, I stood and watched a woman bring every candle on the display table individually up to her nose, take a deep inhale and, each time, shake her head in disapproval.

“Those are pretty candles,” I said, passing by on the other side.  “Not finding anything good?”

“They look pretty,” she replied.  “but they don’t smell very good.  You’ve got to find the right one.”

“Oh, I can’t really tell much of a difference, I guess.  I, uh… Wow, you’re going to smell each one?  They’re all the same, aren’t they?”

“They look the same, but you never know when you’ll find that special one.”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I just left her to the table and her quest for the elusive, sweet-smelling candle.

I have to say, I admired her tenacity, but couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for her.  Smelling the same kind of candle over and over again and expecting a different scent.  Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

Hey, knock yourself out, my dear.  Smell your way to the baby Jesus!  It’s Christmas time after all, and who am I to say nay to a possible Christmas miracle?

Sniff on.

I’m a fan Fridays!

PEANUTS60S4So, every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I break out my favorite Christmas album, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with music by the great Vince Guaraldi.

Instead of sharing something straight from that album, however, I thought I’d share a performance of this music by another one of my favorite pianists, George Winston.

Here’s George playing “Skating” by Vince Guaraldi.  Enjoy!!

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