Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Reasons to Love the Season!

     The writing prompt was “Three Things I Hate About the Holidays”, but I can’t bring hate into this season!  I love Christmas!  The music, the movies, the good cheer – I love it. 

     When I was little I would sit next to the record player and put on Mitch Miller, Bing Crosby, the Christmas Is for Kids album, even How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  We actually had an album.  I can’t remember if it was the whole story or just the music, but I loved listening to the Whos in Who-ville, singing their song.  As a teenager I veered away from the classics and gravitated to Mariah Carey and Paul McCartney and anyone else that was popular at the time with a Christmas song.  I still like to hear Bieber and Gaga but I also love Tony Bennet and Ella Fitzgerald and Dean Martin.  It brings me back to that living room, that record player, and that family.  It was a good time to be a kid.

     When it was time to get the tree my dad would grab his old handsaw and we would pull on our boots and coats, hats and scarves, and if it was really snowy (which it usually was) we would have to wear snow pants or even a skidoo suit.  When I think about it now I bet we looked like Ralphie’s little brother in “A Christmas Story”.  We would trudge out to the forest behind the hill out back, looking for the perfect tree.  We always found one, and it was always the best one we ever had.  Even when we pulled it into the house and set it up and we could see the glaring holes and wayward branches.  Somehow, once the decorations were on there, no one ever noticed.  We had such old and beautiful decorations.  

My brother and I always longed for the newer ones.  Now I wish I had those old frosted glass baubles.  A few years ago my cousin sent me an ornament that our grandmother had acquired at the last minute after a Christmas Eve disaster.  Every year since, when I hang it on the tree I tell the story of how it came to be in our house, and the kids say “You say this every year!” and I always say “Tradition”.  (Huge Fiddler on the Roof fan, here)   We go to a tree farm now, no woods behind our house, but we still go out and choose and cut our tree. It takes a while, but it is still fun and everyone looks forward to it.

     My mom would slave in the kitchen for days making cookies.  Mainly sugar cookies, the kind you would roll out and cut into shapes.  After they were baked we would all sit around the table with different colors of homemade frosting and colored sugared and sprinkles (my favorite) and we kids would get to decorating.  There were four of us at the most, sometimes three and we would decorate about six or seven dozen.  Mom would make up plates of all the cookies and pass them on to our neighbors and friends.  She’d wrap them in cellophane and put bows on the top with a Christmas card.  She made cookies that were rolled in corn flakes with a cherry pressed in the center, and peanut butter balls that had rice crispies in them.  I can’t remember the other kinds.  When I got older I made hard candy that she included.  When I got out on my own I started my own baking traditions and started building gingerbread houses.  I make peanut butter balls and Oreo truffles, biscotti and sometimes Russian tea cakes.  Only no one wants food anymore.  Everyone makes their own now.  I do it anyway.

     Christmas cards were a family affair.  Dad would write a Christmas letter and we would all sign it. I tried to do one too, but I reverted to cards.  I used to write them out on Thanksgiving night, after the tree was set up (back when I had a fake one).  It was a quiet time of reflection, being thankful for the folks I was sending warm thoughts to.  Now we make our cards and it is a rush to get them out.  This year I got them to the post office on December 22.  Too close for me and not a lot of time for delivery.  I will start earlier next year.  I will be prepared.

     We have been watching some of the classics with the kids – Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Elf.  I’m waiting my turn at the library for “The Muppet Christmas Carol”*, which was recommended to me by my boss and a movie I have never watched.  I still watch “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  On Christmas Eve I even cuddle up to Alistair Sim and watch the original “A Christmas Carol”.  I know that they will keep some in their repertoire and discard others as they get older, but I hope that we are giving them some permanence in a very Bedouin type of life they were born into.

     Yes, I love this season!  People are nicer, they smile a little easier, they seem to be more considerate, and a little less hurtful.  Merry Christmas everyone, and may you keep a bit of it in your heart in the coming new year.

*Fun fact – On the news the other day they noted that The Muppet Christmas Carol taught more children about the spirit of Christmas than any other Christmas film.  They got the message.  Now I have to see it.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

It Figures...

Such a beautiful day.  (For December)
The Sun is shining.
Sixty-four degrees as I drive to work, listening to Christmas music on the radio.
Leave the window cracked for fresh air as I walk to the office.

(Fast-forward three hours)
Pouring down rain, infiltrating my car, as I sit a block away.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Writing Challenges and Completing Goals

Well, I did it.  I have submitted my poetry chapbook for review and now I wait.  I have to say that I’m new to writing challenges.  I like them.  I did the poetry PAD in April, which I’m hoping I will at least get recognized for one of my poems, and I really enjoyed it.  The November challenge I tried to do a theme with my poetry and I think it turned out well.  I’m happy with it, anyway. 
            The chapbook challenge was not something I was going to take part in.  In fact, I encouraged my brother as he is a beautiful writer and I think he would have excelled had he given it a chance.  Maybe he did.  He never did tell me. 
During the challenge I would miss a day, here and there, so all my submissions were not on time.  It was hard to think of a poem on the spot some days, and so easy to do three the next.  I just had to let my mind wander and choose the subject matter and what I came back to, over and over again, were my teenage years.  I ran with that most of the time and interspersed the days with other poems about my dog, or my job. 
After the month was over we received direction on what we needed to do to submit our work, and an actual book came together beneath my fingertips!  At first, it was a bunch of poems strewn together all willy-nilly.  I read through each and every one and crossed out what I wouldn’t be using, circling what I would.  Then I started checking grammar and spelling and asked myself questions like “Does that sound right?” and “Seriously? You’re going to leave this like that?”  I scurried to a nearby bagel shop at lunchtime and drank cocoa and ate bagels and gave myself the luxury of being with my very own creation, alone.
Imagine my surprise when I was editing my work and I found that my theme had parts – a beginning, a middle and an end.  I had no idea while I was poeming that something like that would happen!  As I put my poems in order, I could see where it was all going and the satisfaction in that moment was something I had never experienced before in my writing life.
Now, today, I am done.  With trepidation, I have forwarded it to the powers that be that will judge my precious and deem it worthy or not.  I have not shared this with one single person I know.  Being judged by strangers is a lot easier than being judged by family.  Someday, perhaps if I am validated by being published, I will be able to share, with confidence, with those I love.  Until then I will practice and work and create and become the person I dream I can be. 
At the beginning of 2015 I promised myself that I would write.  I promised I would write my novel, although that hasn’t happened yet, but I did write and I finished a project and for me that is monumental.  I can’t wait to see what next year brings, but I’m going to make my goal to get back into my book and really work on it.  I want my characters to be known.  They deserve it.  So 2016 will be my book’s year.
Thank you so much to everyone here that has encouraged me.  Thank you to the challenge generators that make us all strive to create and complete.  For once, I am proud of something.  I haven’t been able to say that for a long time.

Connect with me on:
Twitter:  @jennifermcann06

Thursday, December 3, 2015

So Much to Do!

So many things, so little time and so much feeling!

Does everyone feel the same way I do?  I feel overwhelmed, but at the same time accomplished for the tasks I have finished, and in awe of what I still have to do!

At this point in the game I have finished a month of poeming with Robert Lee Brewer and the crew at Writer’s Digest.  Now I need to read and edit my work into a chapbook and send it off to Robert for his perusal.  I’m actually looking forward to that but I’m wondering where I will find the time! 

I just finished building a gingerbread house with my family for a local contest.  If that sounds like a simple task, think again!  Besides planning it, which was easy, we had to make the gingerbread (several batches), create building templates, cut and bake, wait for cookie cutters in the mail (which took forever because we live in the middle of Nowhere’sville), make umpteen batches of icing, show kids how to decorate and then not correct them or try to tell them how to do it better (because you want them to do their own thing), deal with arguments about structural integrity and how things should be done, blah, blah, blah.  Plus take the roof off after an accident and replace it the next night after repairs.  Yes, it’s a big job and I have to give props to the folks that can do whole towns.  A barnyard scene was enough for me.

But it’s done.  I can breathe – for a second.  I also have Christmas cards to do.   Every year I say I will start making them (yes, you read that right) in July, so there will be no rush.  Every year I don’t start until December.  Why do I do this to myself???  Because my other half thinks they’re great, that people love them, and will help me make them.  We pick out four different cards, I make up the kit and show him how to put them together, and then he does.  He enables my crafting desires just so I will do this once a year.

We have Christmas concerts to attend, local book signings (not mine, no book yet, but which I view as a learning experience and am looking forward to attend), tree cutting, cookie making, gift shopping, house cleaning, etc., etc., etc.  It’s enough to make one yell Bah Humbug, if it weren’t for the fact I love the season.  I started listening to Christmas music on two weeks before Thanksgiving!  Oh yeah, and I have to find a Santa that will visit with the kids because we missed the one we normally see and there’s a particular 10-year-old that called me out on it.  As long as he still believes, I will enable.

So as the season rushes up and upon me I wish all of you what I hope for myself.  Have a good time.  Enjoy the spirit.  Take some time to reflect.  Stay up late to get things done, but don’t rush through, take your time.  Smile.  Bite your tongue.  May “good will” be your motto and the motto of those around you. 

I wish you all a very merry holiday season, and however you spend it, I hope you are surrounded by love.

Connect with me on:
Twitter:  @jennifermcann06