Friday, December 26, 2008


We had a LOVELY Christmas, thanks to the snow.

We decided Tuesday that we were unlikely to be able to make it out for the long drive to visit grandparents on Christmas Day because of a threatening storm, so, for the first time since we've been married, we stayed home.

Don't worry. We didn't neglect grandparents. We went to see them on Christmas Eve instead, had nice visits with each, met some friends for a Christmas Eve dinner, went home before the storm hit, and had a lovely, lazy Christmas Day watching movies and playing games. We didn't even go out to get the newspaper. We never even unlocked the front door.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Happy

Christmas Happy started last year at our house.

Basically we had a housefull of grumps in the days before Christmas--part PMS, part seasonal blues, part the lack of good snow (which resolved itself in spades and spades and spades over the next several weeks. See?

So I, being the perpetually non-grumpy one these days, finally had had enough of it. I threatened physical harm to anyone who didn't put on a happy face and figure out how to be Christmas Happy! Contradictory, I know. But it worked. Grimaces turned to laughter, complaints turned to singing. We had one of the best, happiest Christmases ever--all because we made a conscious effort to change the way we thought, the way we felt, the way we acted.

So this year, all I've had to do to bring smiles to my family's faces is ask, "Are you Christmas Happy?"

And they chime back with, "I'm Christmas Happy!"

Santa, Santa tell me, please,
How many days 'til Christmas!
Six more days and six more nights,
Then it will be Christmas!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Messiah and Orson Scott Card

So, Tonight I took my family to a local Messiah sing-in.

I'll get the complaining over with first. Three of the four soloists left a great deal to be desired. The soprano is the same soprano as it always is. She is, from what I understand, a sponsor of the event, so they let her sing the soprano solo part. The woman teaches voice at the local university, but her musical diction is atrocious. She sounds like a country hick trying to sing like an opera star. She can't sing the short 'e' sound to save her life. It comes off sounding like a short 'i'. So instead of "...thEm that sleep..." it's "...ThIm that sleep..." Ugh. The alto soloist simply lacked dynamic variety and imaginative interpretation, the tenor solo got better as the evening progressed, but at first his diction was awful. The bass was the best of the group. His diction could use some improvement, but you have to give the guy BOOKOO brownie points for being blind and having the entire thing memorized!

BUT, it was SO much fun singing the choruses with a couple hundred other people! I haven't sung much in the past few months, so my voice had gotten rusty. I'm singing in church the Sunday before Christmas, and have been giving the vocal chords something of a workout. It was nice to test out the pipes a week before the performance in a venue that would cover up for me if I totally blew that high A--which I didn't. Thanks goodness!

Anyway, every time I sing the Messiah, my mind goes back to Orson Scott Card's Literary Boot Camp 2005.

An amazing experience for a writer, by the way.

In talking, OSC and I found we had a mutual love of all-things-Messiah (as in Handel's Messiah). He actually collects recorded versions of the famous Oratorio. He told me of one in which a Southern gospel choir sings it in true Southern gospel choir fashion. Sounds amazing! That's a recording I have yet to look up, but have meant to ever since.

But that conversation with OSC was one of those that I will always look back on with some regret. It was a low time for me. I was in the beginning stages of major depression and experiencing the physical effects of it already, including slow memory recall and sluggish thoughts.

So we were talking Messiah, and I told him I had recently sung a solo part in our church's presentation of portions of the Messiah. He asked me which ones, and I COULD NOT THINK OF THE TITLES OR THE TUNES!!! He must have thought I was lying just to impress him, or a complete idiot, or both.

So, for the record, now that my brain works like it should:

"There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Fields"
"And the Angel Said Unto Them"
"And Suddenly There Was With the Angel"

(Another soloist sang "And Lo, The Angel of the Lord Came Upon Them" which would come second in this quartet of little solos leading into the amazing chorus, "Glory to God.")

I hit the high A that day, too.

So next Sunday I'm singing an arrangement of French carols, including "Then Hurry Shepherds," "He is Born, the Divine Christ Child," and "Angels We Have Heard on High," all accompanied by piano, cello, and my daughter on her viola. We had our first practice yesterday. It's going to be a WOW!!!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

How Well Do You Know Your Civics?

My sister sent me this link to a civics quiz, placed on the internet by a group that seeks to increase America's civics knowledge:

Take the quiz. See how you do. Let me know. Then when you get your results be sure to take a look at the link that takes you to a comparison of scores based on whether the quiz-taker is or has been an elected official.

To me, I'm afraid, the results are not unexpected.

I'll leave my score in the comments so you can take a look after you've gotten yours.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas is Coming!!

Two things about this Christmas:

First, we're reading Glenn Beck's book, The Christmas Sweater, as a family. I read a chapter a night. I have high hopes that this book will help us feel the true meaning of Christmas in spades this year.

Second, it is a tradition in our family to spend the Christmas season reading together. We select a story every night (or, for the first 16 nights, a chapter of Beck's book) and me or hubby reads while the children listen. I actually got around to spending some time updating my Christmas Book. The Book is three books now. It began with a binder that we got from one of hubby's sisters many years ago. The binder held stories and poems--24 of them, one for each night of December leading up to Christmas. I have since added stories--so many that the original binder has hemorrhaged into three as I've added songs, recipes, activities, pictures, etc. This year I've collected 6 or 7 pages of quotes, about 10 new stories (including 2 or 3 of mine that I hadn't added before, and an mini-play adaptation of A Christmas Carol.), and 5 or 6 new songs. In addition to the binder, I have a healthy collection of Christmas books from which to choose as well.

I need to buy more page protectors. I don't have NEARLY enough to get them all into the book.

Some of our favorites are:
The Christmas Miracle of Johnathon Toomey
Auntie Claus
Santa Calls
The Gift of the Magi
The Other Wise Man
Helen Steiner Rice's The Christmas Lesson
Longfellow's The Three Kings

And the Christmas quote of the day:

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."
-Roy L. Smith

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Movies and Books

So I have this friend who loves movies and books as much as I do. Every once in awhile I'll get an email: "Suzanne, you'll love this book/movie!" And every once in awhile I send her a similar email.

So she blogged yesterday about seeing Hancock over the weekend and that it was, well, not worth the viewing. At any rate, she got me thinking about movies, so I thought, just for the heck of it, I'd list a few really great movies I've seen over the past few months:

Iron Man--Robert Downey Jr. played this role excellently.
Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead--Odd. That's all. Odd. One of those movies that you find yourself scratching your head all the way through, but feel, sorta-kinda, satisfied that you spent the time watching it.
Without A Clue--Remember that one? Ben Kingsley as Watson--the real brains behind the detective duo--and Michael Caine as the hired front man Holmes? Fun.
Saint Ralph--a 14-year-old kid believes with all his heart that if he can win the Boston Marathon his mother will awaken from her coma. Really funny, amazing, touching story.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything--If you've never watched a Veggie Tales movie, you should. Even if you don't have kids. Especially if you don't have kids. You can enjoy them so much more if you don't have kids around to make you feel strange for loving kids movies. They are my child-inside-me-vice.
The Muppet Show--any season. I hope I don't have to qualify myself here. I mean, it's the Muppet Show!
Outsourced--a sweet little Independent film about a guy who is sent to India to train his own replacement in a mail-order call center. We loved it.
The Cowboys--one of John Wayne's later films, The Cowboys is SO much more than a Western. It's about courage and growing up, as well as growing old. Wonderful film if you've never seen it.
Be Kind Rewind--a quirky film with Jack Black as a paranoid conspiracy theorist who helps his buddy, played by the very talented Mos Def, attempt to save a WAY-behind-the-times video store from demolition. Funny and sweet.
Schultze Gets the Blues--a sweet little film about a retired German salt-mine worker who takes his accordion all the way to America for a German festival, but finds Zydeco instead. Very endearing film. Highly recommended.
A Trip to Bountiful--Lovely film. If I remember correctly, Geraldine Page won an Academy Award for her performance (one of her last) in this film. A wonderful story (keep your hanky nearby) of an old woman's journey home.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Fat Lady's Marathon

A 5K, that's what it is.

Hubby and I ran one on Thanksgiving Day--him with his 10 or 15 pounds of excess, me with my 50 or 60. We've been training. We've been running now for about 2 1/2 years. This was our 4th 5K and our best time so far.

But it was HARD!

First, the elevation killed us. The course was a thousand feet or so above our regular stomping grounds; my lungs felt like they were burning. Then the course went up a hill. Not a huge hill, but a long one, the kind that relentlessly saps your energy as you go.

In the end, we managed to cut a couple of minutes off our best time so far.

And to think it all started with me huffing and puffing, my legs aching, my throat constricting, my heart hammering in my chest to make it half a block.

I've come a LONG way, Baby. I sure love my hubby, who runs slower than he could so he can run with me.