Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

"Santa doesn't come until the house is clean."

Well good, 'cause I cleaned it before I left this morning. I even made my bed. And while we're at it, I have no intention of opening a present on Christmas Eve this year. I am wearing the PJs I got last year. There is still some baking to be done. There is always some baking to be done. If you've ever spent time in my home or in my life, you will know that there is always baking that can be done. And baking that can be done, should be done.

This is just a sampler of Christmas Eve day in the Pratt household. I don't know that it will be that way anymore. But here's the routine:

Get up early, because Santa doesn't come until the house is clean.

Dad, can we open a Christmas present tonight? Just one? NO.

Eat breakfast, probably cinnamon and rice or perhaps oatmeal with half a pound of brown sugar on it, preferable something hot, since it's COLD outside.

Last minute big grocery shopping trip, don't forget to pick up a few stocking stuffers and obsess over any presents you aren't sure of yet.

Dad. can we open a present tonight? Just one? NO.

Mom starts handing out present wrapping assignments. Frequently I end up wrapping everything that isn't for me. Someone else gets the job of wrapping presents to me.

Dad gets in on the present wrapping assignment-ing. I wrap mom's presents too.

Santa doesn't come until the house is clean, do a ten-minute-on-each-room cleanup. Include vauuming.

Dad, can we open a present tonight? Just one? Quit asking.

Start baking some stuff. Mom usually starts a massive amount of bread dough (for rolls, pull-apart bread, lemon bread, and fresh loaves as well.) Someone else starts some cookies, I put the cake in for my Bouche de Noel- American style.

Dad sees the mess in the kitchen: "Santa doesn't come until the house is clean!"

We clean up the mess and start baking again. We realize halfway through the next treat that we need more chocolate chips, Sweetened condensed Milk, Evaporated milk, coconut, graham crackers, flour, sugar, cream, butter, almond bark, and anythign else the grocery store carries that isn't remotely healthy for you.

We go on a second last minute grocery store run.

We continue baking something. Lunchtime is past, everyone is snacking on whatever is baking in the kitchen, finding something healthy becomes a fend-for-yourself kind of occasion. I usually go with tomatoes and Cottage Cheese. Then I return to the Bouche. It is baked and cooled, now it is time to roll it up with pudding in the middle.

Dad, can we open a present tonight? Just one? No.

Santa Doesn't Come Until The House Is Clean. It's beginning to sound like a sick holiday song. I'm gettin' nothin' for Christmas, Brazillian Sleigh Bells, and Santa Doesn't Come Until The House Is Clean.

Speaking of Holiday Songs, someone has turned off the radio/CD player and started on the piano. They take requests. Inevitably, Aaron pounds out Brazilian Sleigh Bells for a while, then he wanders off and someone else wanders over. At some point, I and one of my sisters attempt Brazillian Sleigh Bells as a duet. It sounds worse, but is way more fun. Interspersed are snippets of Haendel's Messiah and "I Want a Snake for Christmas" A couple of us do a fantastic impressions of the chipmunks.

"Nancy, come sing this one."
"Mom, get out your accordian"
"That one sounds best on the French Horn"
"Hey, I learned that on the violin when I was inthe 5th grade..."
"The violin is broken."
Don't care.
"It takes more skill to play *insert brass instrument here* than it does to play *insert woodwind or string here*"
"Oh yeah, you couldn't even get a sound out of the Saxophone"
Dad, can we open a present tonight? Just One? NO.
"Who would want to get a sound out of the saxophone?"
"Nothing is as bad as when Nancy was learning the oboe."
End argument. That's true.

The baking continues in the kitchen while the instruments continue in the living room.
Dad lays down in the middle of the living room floor and takes a nap. The "music" from every musical instrument we own continues.

Carolers? I'm surprised we even heard the doorbell! Wait, that means its late. Somebody throw a casserole in. Tuna or enchilada? Whatever we have the ingredients for.

Dad wakes up. Santa doesn't come until the house is clean. We eat dinner (late) and finish cleaning. Can we open a present tonight? Please? Just one?

Yay. Pajamas? It's a Christmas miracle! Everyone puts their pajamas on.
Dad reads Luke 2. The house is clean. There is still some bread to be baked. There is always baking to be done.

Go to bed. This year, you aren't allowed up until at least 8:30.

We all know the truth. We will hear dad pacing by 5:30. By 7, we will hear the song calling us to race up the stairs. But for now, we will pretend to believe it and moan and groan about it. So we go to our rooms. Aaron turns on some more music. Tab choir or that old Harry Simone Chorale recording. Either way, we fall asleep to the sounds of Oh Come All Ye Faithful and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. Aaron and I are the last to fall asleep. We snicker at the things that our sisters say in their sleep. And I know that the best part of Christmas is over.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My letter, 2008

Dear Santa,

I know that as a 32 year old woman I shouldn't believe in you anymore. I know that by now I should be playing Santa for a bunch of kids or at least be a disgruntled grinch. But I can't bring myself to give up on you. I am aware that many of my family and friends will judge me to have a few screws loose for this, I can already hear the whispers behind closed doors about me being as crazy as Aunt Elaine. It doesn't matter. The fact is, I still believe in you. And I was hoping to chat with you about a few things. I recognize the unconventionality of posting my letter to you here on my blog. But I figure if you get all of the other letters addressed to you, then this one will come to you somehow as well. And I wanted to post it here, because I have decided that I am not going to hide my "crazy" anymore. If you get a minute to read any of my other entries, you will see that my crazy is gradually coming out in the open for everyone to see.

I should clarify that this is in no way a wish list. If you happen to be super busy with wish lists right now, then I understand if you need to put this letter down and focus on the wishes of children until after the big day. It's more important that they learn to believe in you. I'm good, I can wait. I promise to still believe in you next year too. And probably for many years after. You can count on me.

I was just thinking about some of the fantastic times we've had together. Sure, it wasn't necessarily together in the same room sort of a sense, but in that emotional way that happens when two spirits impact each other's lives. Do you remember that Christmas in Virginia, with the cousins and the red pajamas and the barbie makeup that Heather and I put on the dog? There isn't a time when I put on makeup without remembering that. We got in HUGE trouble. And I was told I wouldn't be allowed to wear makeup until I was 18. Do you remember my first Christmas with snow? I do. I still think of it every time it snows. And it was a Christmas morning when I first got Nikki, my bird, who I keep a picture of in my journal. And it was Christmas when I got the homemade cabbage patch dolls and the Light-Brites and the games. But I don't remember those things because they were great presents (there were great presents, weren't they?) I remember them for the things that I learned at receiving them. Like the Christmas when I got dishes and I realized it was because it was time for me to make my own home. Those are the things that I wanted to talk to you about. You've taught me some pretty intense lessons via Christmas presents over the course of my lifetime. Thanks for that.

This is all coming up because I noticed that they released a 25 year anniversary Cabbage Patch Doll. I was very excited to see it. It took all of my self-control to not buy one for each of my nieces. I realized as I was wandering around Target with three of them in my cart that it wasn't my neices that would appreciate the doll. I was spending the entire time thinking about how my mom must have slaved to make the homemade ones because there was no way that my parents could afford a $60 doll for each of their daughters. And part of me was lamenting the fact that I never got a real Cabbage Patch Doll. And part of me was grateful for the lesson that I learned. And part of me was realizing that I didn't so much want a Cabbage Patch Doll as I wanted to recapture some of the childhood that has been slipping away over the past few years.

We have alot of stuff nowadays. I can't go into a store without feeling the urge to push entire shelves worth of junk into the nearest garbage bin. Especially in the "seasonal promotions" aisle. How many more musical electronic Santas climbing a ladder by a Christmas tree while playing irritating high pitched synthesized jingle bells tunes does the world really need? Not to mention the useless figurines and the over priced ornaments and the gross flavored candy canes that nobody is going to actually eat. If you want to know where all that money in our economy went to, just check out your local TJmax/BigLots/Walmart clearance aisles the week after Christmas. Yet we keep buying it. We keep spending money we don't have on junk that we don't need. I know you're probably as sad about this perversion of the Christmas spirit as I am. Maybe even more so.

And I have alot of stuff too, which is one of the reasons I didn't really want to send you a wish list this year. I'm not sure that I have room in my life for more things. I am finally at a point in my life where I can afford the things I really need. And I can more easily distinguish between a want and a need. And I suppose that makes me a bit of a grown up now. That makes me a little sad. I know many people are saying "it's about time", but I was hoping to cling to some childhood for a while longer. That's what I really was hoping for this year. Permission to stay a kid. But only I can give that to myself. Thus the letter. All this reminiscing has me wanting to chat with you about it. And I have a few questions as well.

I still kind of want Bing Crosby or Gene Kelly for Christmas. I know, they are both dead now, so don't take things literally there. You know what I mean. My sister has probably asked for Gene Kelly as well, but she would also settle for Harrison Ford, who is still alive and therefore possibly easier to deliver. Do you remember the Snoopy Snow Cone machines? I know Mom and Dad searched for those several different years. I heard they don't work very well. I don't want one anymore (just more stuff). I get alot of sweets and smelly soaps and lotions from parents. Is there any way we can send a message about that to them? I know it's a simple thank you gift, but it breaks my heart to throw away canisters of cookies that I can't eat, either because I don't trust the kitchen they came from, or I can feel myself turning diabetic by the end of the day. These are just things to keep in mind for next year. I still love the cocoa though. They can keep bringing me every different kind of cocoa under the sun, and I guarantee it will be used. Sorry I usually drink yours before you get to my house. I just can't resist it. If you really want it to warm up, feel free to use my kitchen and microwave. There are cocoa packets stashed in nearly ever cupboard. The good stuff is in the silver mixing bowl on the top shelf over the stove. I reccommend you use milk instead of water, it's just better that way. Just rinse the mug out after you're done. I hate scrubbing dried on cocoa sludge. I should probably find out if you prefer cocoa or just a glass of milk. Either way, help yourself. And if your reindeer could scare away the neighbors cats that fight outside my window every morning, that would be a huge bonus! It was great to see you in the Salt Lake airport a few years ago. I know I was pretty out of it, I was still very drugged up from that surgery, but I remember you, I remember seeing you and recognizing you and you talked to my dad for a minute. I tell everyone I know that I really id meet you. They think I'm being cute. But we know the truth. How do you feel about all of the movies they are making about you? I'm a little sad when some of them seem to mock you. I won't go see them if they give me that impression. I still watch Miracle on 34th street whenever I see it on TV, just because it's the best representation of you, I think. But I don't have a TV this year, so I might miss out on that. Maybe I can find it online.

I am a little concerned about Christmas this year. It's the first year I've really been on my own. I know I was away for those two Christmases in Paris, but I wasn't on my own so much then as I was doing bigger things. You know about that. We had pretty similar jobs in those days. Plus, just being in Paris was Christmas enough to last me a lifetime. It's not that I'm concerned about presents and stockings. Like I said, this is not a wish list. It's just that there are quite a few memories and feelings that I don't want to miss out on, and I am not sure how to keep them even when I am facing Christmas alone. So if there is anything you can do to help me out, I would be oh so grateful.

Thanks Santa, just for being here though. You have been a constant figure in my life, and if I don't get a visit from you this year, I understand that it's because I need to grow up a little more. But I will still hope and believe. And I will still look for you at the airport and in the other places I might see you. Don't be surprised if I wave or smile.

Love and Chocolate Chip Cookies,
Nancy Beth

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dance, Monkey, Dance

It took me forever to get that post up, about my favorite texts. Normally, I am overjoyed about an opportunity to ramble on about poetry and hymns and Christmas music. Especially when I know I am not bothering anyone by doing it. Nobody has to read it. I just had to put it out there. And yet, after I started the entry, life went a little crazy insane. Normally I share the classroom load with another teacher. But she was laid off last Thursday, and the repercussions have been immense. I don't really want to go into great detail here, but lets say the choice looks a little shady on the behalf of management, and the parents I work with are in fact, rocket-scientists when it come to math and politics. Soo the parents have been in an uproar that this teacher was let go. She has worked with their children for 5 years. That means since these kids were infants and since their older brothers and sisters were in her class. And all of the sudden they have assigned temporary help, recently hired help, to be in the calssroom with me. The parents are calling meetings with the director, with corporate, and there has even been talk of demanding re-instatement with threat of lawsuits. It's just a mess. And in the middle of it all stands me. I was kept on because I have more qualifications and more experience. I have been working with these kids for 5 months, and the parents are just beginning to trust me. They know that my coworker and I got along well, that we had a system, and that we were doing great things with the kids. Now that I am pretty much on my own, they want to know all sorts of things about whats really going on. And they pull me aside and ask me quietly and then directors and regional managers pull me aside and ask me to buffer the consequences of the lay off. (At one point in one of those meetings my brain sort of shut off, and all I heard them saying was "dance, monkey, dance" and I was sorely tempted to get up on the desk and dance a jig, but then I snickered at the picture of me dancing a jig on the bosses desk and they looked at me funny and I was brought back to the conversation. But ever since then, the phrase "dance monkey dance!" runs through my head, especially when I am at work.) And I can't get any more straight answers from my bosses than the parents can, except that then they put more pressure for me to be the "warm fuzzy" person that helps the parents transition and come on people, you know me, am I warm and fuzzy? No. And the parents don't want warm fuzzy. They want honest. And I want to be honest. But honestly, I am afraid that if I am honest, then my head will be the next one on the block. Dance Monkey Dance.

Oh, and by the way, don't forget that our "priority is the children, and that their transition is smooth and their education is uninterrupted"

I am a good teacher. These kids will be ready for school in spite of politics, pressure, lay offs and NAEYC. (They're actually the biggest hindrance to education, bigger even than No Child Left Behind, but don't get me started there) Dance, Monkey, Dance.

So how do I say to the parents "I know you love that teacher, but we will be fine without her. You are the ones causing the stress and interruption. If you will back off, help that person find a new job, pay her extra for babysitting, and let your kids come to school and learn without pressuring me for more info than I am allowed to give, then we will all come out of it just fine."

It just sounds a little callous to say that we will be fine without her. But we will. Do I miss her? Yes. Was she a great teacher? Yes. Did she love your kids? Yes. She was practically a member of your family. But educators are not supposed to be members of the family, that line has to be drawn in order for an academic education to happen. I know the line is blurry. We deal with that every day.

Anyways. Stress at work has gone a little off the charts. Adding that to the Christmas season is really frustrating. I don't even have a tree up yet. And I find myself having to turn my phone off in order to accomplish even simple tasks. Last Saturday, I had no less than 12 missed calls and 8 texts. I'm sorry if I haven't gotten back, it's not that I don't love you, it's just that if I add to the anxiety by answering the phone, (remember how I have phone anxiety?) then I will find myself back in the fetal position, losing the months of progress I have made. I will take the next few weeks one day at a time. I will call when I have something positive to say and at least a half an hour to say it in. Until then, all you may get is an earful of undecipherable ramblings or a rampage about something riduculous and possibly offensive.

But here is the peaceful positive note. I learned how to turn off my phone for a day. That's healthy. I learned how to accept a peaceful evening in the face of a to do list that was three miles long. It wasn't even the procrastinating-avoidance kind of acceptance. It was the "My priority is here, with friends and with mental health" sort of acceptance. That's healthy. And it was a wonderful evening. No knots in my stomach from worrying about what I should be doing, no pressure to be anyone other than myself. No "Dance, Monkey, Dance" Not once. It was the most "at home" feeling in the world. And so I've decided that if I ever go "relief society" enough to want one of those cutesy sayings over the doorway, it will probably say something like "Home is where nobody makes you dance like a monkey." And you can quote me on that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My favorite Christmas texts

I know you have perhaps been dreading the moment when I post my long-winded list of favorite Christmas texts and my commentary on them. But a promise is a promiseso I am posting them. And you are in luck, because I managed to narrow this list down to five as well. so it won't be quite as long winded as it could be. although I suppose you could always just skip reading it as well. I won't be offended if you skim. The writing is my therapy, reading it doesn't have to be yours!

5. This verse of "Away in a Manger":

Be near me Lord Jesus,

I ask you to stay

Close by me forever

And love me I pray.

I didn't have to cut out the hymns on this list, quite simply because then there wouldn't have been a list. And I absolutely love it when the text of music is an actual prayer. It's my favorite form for hymn texts actually. And yes, I am just enough of a dork to have a favorite hymn form. So there.

4. This next one requires some explanantion. I love Tennyson. He wrote a wonderful piece at the passing of a dear friend, from which we get the text of "Ring out Wild Bells" But the poetry is much more extensive than the hymn that we know. This is the poem from which we get the line "T'is better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all." In fact, we usually sing this at the new year, and we ususally ignore some of the nonsensical stuff that is in it. But the poem in its entirety fits Easter and Christmas much better than new year. And the section we use is actually quite profound in the context of the poem. I couldn't quote all of it here, it's far too long and involved. But here are a few of my favorite stanzas:

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we , that have not seen Thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove.

We have but faith: we cannot know,
For knowledge is of things we see;
And yet we trust it comes from Thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

The time draws near the birth of Christ
The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
From far and near, on mead and moor,
Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:

Each voice four changes on the wind,
That now dilate, and now decrease,
Peace and good-will, good-will and peace,
Peace and good-will, to all mankind.

Then echo-like our voices rang;
We sung, tho' every eye was dim,
A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:

We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
Upon us: surely rest is meet.
"They rest," we said, "their sleep is sweet,"
And silence follow'd, and we wept.

Our voices took a higher range;
Once more we sang: "They do not die
Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn
Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
O Father, touch the east, and light
The Light that shone when Hope was born.

Now do you see where the wild bells come from? They are the church bells that remind a family of happier Christmases. The poem continues on, and there are at least 12 more stanzas that I would like to add, but I fear I am losing your attention. The poem takes up pages 119-195 in my "Norton Critical Poets: Tennyson Edition", so if you really want to hear more of it, find it at your local library (or maybe you could google search it... but I have never found the entire thing, just segments online.

Or, you could just be not as much of a dork as me, and move on.

3. You couldn't escape this. It's a French text. We know it as "Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing" but in French it is "Quelle est cette odeur agreable" If you read the cognates correctly, you see that it's more of an agreeable odor than a goodly fragrance. But that's beside the point

A Bethléem, dans une crêche
Il vient de vous naitre-un Sauveur
allons, que rien ne vous empâche
D'adorer votre redémpteur
A Bethléem, dans une crêche,
Il vient de vous naître-un Sauveur.

We sang it in the Paris-Est Stake Choir, and I fell in love with it. I even love the English translation:
Bethlehem there, in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer, haste away
Run ye with eager footsteps flying
Worship the Savior born today
Bethlehem there, in manger lying,
Find your Redeemer, haste away.

2. In the Bleak Mid-Winter. I have been accused by those who are extremely picky of being apostate or something because of the "obvious doctrinal inaccuracies" (say it in a know-it-all, judgemental kind of a voice.) But I think that anyone who picks at that misses the entire point of the last verse.

What can I give Him
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man,
I would do my part.
What can I give Him?
I will give my heart.

I know there are deeper texts out there, but this one is, in it's simplicity, one of the most profound expressions of Chirstmas Spirit that exists. I actually fell in love with this text when Hannah and family came caroling one year, and they all backed her up on this verse. (It's not often that a diva soprano decides she likes the sound of another soprano.) Hannah singing this inspired me. She didn't throw in any of the excess baggage that sopranos tend to use. Someday when I am directing a fantastic children's choir, I will have them sing this one. Can't you hear the little treble voices, unencumbered by nasty grown up vibratos and foul pronunciation, singing this verse?

Are you ready for my number one favorite? Do you have any guesses or expectations? You should already know this one really.

1. The First Noel. Not only is it French, in the hymnbook, and has great moving harmony parts, on top of all that, there is an amazing arrangement of it that I absolutely cannot get enough of. I listen to it on repeat when I've had a bad day. I put it on my Easter CD mix, my Christmas CD mix, my sing along CD mix, and my practice/current repertoire CD mis for the last 4 years running. I listen to it when it snows, when I drink cocoa, and when I read late at night.

Its one that I sang in that fantastic choir I wrote about at Thanksgiving, and so not only do I still have the text engrained in my being, I also go to sing the soprano part with a fairly large choir, which is an adrenaline high that repeats a little in my tummy every time I hear it. Here's the best verse:

Then let us all with one accord

Sing praises to our Heavenly Lord

That He this glorious Earth hath wrought

And with His blood mankind Hath bought.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Quick Edit:

On Neil Diamond singing O Holy Night- as I was driving home from work today, I again made the mistake of turning on Lite Radio, and what to my wondering ears should be heard, but Neil Diamond singing "Joy to the World" with a chorus of children backing him up. And guess what folks: It was worse than him singing O Holy Night. So while wandering the www this evening, I did a quick google search. I turns out that he did two volumes of Christmas albums. So while his O Holy Night is bumped to the #11 spot on my list, and "Joy to the World takes spot #10, you could say that both volumes combined get the next however many spots they can use on the list. I might even start a facebook group entitled "Ban Neil Diamond from singing beloved Christmas tunes". Want to join?

Monday, December 8, 2008

In all fairness...

I have been accused of being a grinch. Really? OK, so the correct phrase was "Beatle-Hating Grinch" and I am ok with that term. But in the spirit of the inces of snow and the Christmas tree going up tonight, I thought I should address the issue of my favorite Christmas songs. The problem is, I am quite sure that you are all a little tired of hearing about my obsession with a certain Salt Lake based choir and their director and his arrangements. So in order to assemble this list, I had to trim out anything included in the hymnbook or any recordings by said choir. Please note that while they are not listed here, they are my absolute favorites, particularly "The First Noel" as arranged by Mack Wilberg, Oh and his arrangement of "Whence is that Goodly Fragrance Flowing?" and also "Still Still Still" and the "Silent Night" we sang at the devotional last night and... I could go on for days. (It's a healthy obsession. really.) I had to seperate them out into two groups as well. The first is my favorite 5 Christmas recordings. You might note that they aren't the traditional "nancy" fare, not choral or classical, at least. My second group will have to be my favorite Christmas Texts, since I am having a hard time narrowing down favorite recordings or ensembles... That's asking too much! In a day or two I will get around to posting my favorite Christmas texts.

Nancy's favorite popularish Christmas recordings:
John Denver and the Muppets (the Christmas Album)-This is actually a very sweet set of songs, which include the silliness of childhood and the tenderness of Jim Henson. There was a time, before Disney owned them, that the Muppets were quite vocal about Christianity and hope. It's the only version of the Twelve Days of Christmas that I can actually sit through, and you get to hear Animal wig out a little with "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and the Electric Mayhem do "Little Saint Nick" and somewhere in the middle Kermit sings a nice little song called "The Christmas Wish." Whenever I am left to myself to choose what to sing at the ward Christmas party, I like to do this one, simply because it has just enough pop sound to it to please the masses, and just enough childhood in it be warm and fuzzy, and just enough spirit in it to remind us why we celebrate.

Charlie Brown Christmas- The music is such a part of the TV Special that it's a worthwile purchase. Nothing brings you back to that childhood cartoon watching feeling quite like hearing the sounds of Linus and Lucy. Do you remember when you would all plan to stay in for the evening in December when this was going to be on TV, and there would be Hot cocoa (Mom's homemade blend) and popcorn (some years even popcorn balls, green and red) and everyone would drag their favortie blankie out in front of the TV and you would laugh at the silly dances and try to memorize them to imitate later, and then Linus would walk out onto that stage and recite Luke 2 and then they all went and decorated Charlie Browns pathetic tree with the lights from Snoopy's house? This is another classic from a time when the media wasn't afraid to proclaim what they believed in! I can't sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing without picturing those little round faces at the end of the cartoon. I watch the special maybe once a Christmas season, but the music stays with me, and every time I cast a Christmas pageant I think to myself "The inkeepers wife had naturally curly hair?"

Song for a Winter's Night, Sarah Mclachlan- It's from the soundtrack for the new version of "Miracle on 34th Street" (I prefer the classic movie actually, since there is the scene with the drunk lady on the telephone "hellooooo? Oh yes, we'd love to have Santy Claus come and stay with us!") Tangent! Back to the song. Its not particularly religious, but its very mellow, and kind of romantic-y and I really have no idea why I could just listen to it over and over again. You could hear it on this blog if you turned up the songs I currently have posted here...

Celtic Women- Panis Angelicus- I am ashamed. Usually I abhor this pseudo-classical, partly canned approach to music. People really think this stuff is classical? Not even remotely. But as long as you classify it correctly, this album is nicely done. It's purely background music, not enough substance for me to want to attend a concert or even watch one on tv (and I burned a copy without the Carol of the Bells track, since that piece kind of bugs me.) But this piece particularly is really nice. They hit their notes well enough, (I am never in pain) and the entire song is like one big deep breath.

Broadway cast recording of White Christmas- Minnesotans, you must go see this show!!!!! It's at the Ordway every other year (This year!!!!) and it is fantastic. The dancing, the Bing Crosby of it all! It's the movie, only on stage, and also, the guy playing the Danny Kaye character is more interested in women than Danny Kaye was. Plus, you don't have to sit through "Choreography" that obnoxiously long piece with the weird dancing. They have replaced that with some fantastic old style tap dancing that is so exciting you might just go out and sign up for lessons. I worked at the Ordway when it was there 2 years ago, and I saw it no less than 48 times. And I would still buy a ticket and see it again. But since I can't do that, I settled for the album (off of itunes) and I listen to it in my classroom. The kids still love to dance to the music, and they sing along with "Happy Holidays" and it's just good clean fun!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The top ten worst Christmas songs ever played on "Lite" radio...

I did it. I forgot to throw a Christmas CD in my bag this morning, so I flipped on the radio stations. I hate those nasty stations that play the same 15 Christmas songs over and over again starting at Halloween. I refuse to listen to them at all before Thanksgiving, and even after it is a rare event that I flip to them. But it was Christmas songs or NPR or BBC, and since I am tired of hearing about bailouts and terrorists and the horrors of the planet, I tried the Christmas station, only to be treated with selection after selection of irritating whiny cheer sung by people who should never have been allowed to produce even one Christmas song, let alone entire albums of them. The evidence of such is listed below, in my top ten choices for worst Christmas "Music" ever. And my disclaimer is, I am sorry if you like one of these, I am sorry if you take offense at the choices I make, but if you are in my car, these earn an immediate music veto. Change the station, my ears are bleeding.

10. Neil Diamond singing "O Holy Night"- I can admit to being a closet Neil Diamond fan, I was raised on his Childsong album (just the side of the record with "I am the Lion" and "Soolemon"), but people, he's Jewish. He recorded the song for the sell. He can sell other Christmas songs if he likes, about Santa Claus or Snow, but this one is pretty religion specific. In addition, his voice is not built for this piece which was once gorgeous, but has had the unfortunate fate of being butchered by too many pop artists not prepared to give it its proper due. So as long as I am mentioning the piece, I might as well throw in that any pop artist who attempts it gets an immediate thumbs down from me.

9.Where Are You Christmas? By Faith Hill. To which I respond, Where are you intonation and healthy singing? Where are you decent lyricist and harmonic structure? Why have you gone away, song form and style? And while we are at it, how do you write a song about the true meaning of Christmas without ever mentioning the True meaning of Christmas? I used to be able to at least tolerate the thing, but then the Ogden Institute Choirs used it, and ever since I can't even hear the chorus without hearing some of the ridiculous dialogue from the program.

Very Pregnant Girl Narrating: "I will get a great present this year, I feel like the Virgin Mary, Ethan and I are expecting!"
My Brain: News flash girlfriend, big difference. For starters, Not a virgin.

Aaaand, cue music...

8. So This is Christmas (War is over), the John Lennon song. All proper respect to the first member of the Beatles to die, tragically even, but the vocals in this are terrible. (Is that Yoko in the background?... I should google it, but I am afraid to find out..) Plus, I can never listen to it for long enough to get to the "war is over" part. My brain gets stuck on the repeat of that first phrase and if I don't clean out the sound I will begin committing violence. Nothing inspires me to turn on a Wilberg arrangement quite like this music. But there are worse atrocities out there...

7. All I want for Christmas is you- DO we even know who sings it? I don't. Besides you, who are now singing that line over and over again in your mind, I could care less about the person that recorded this mind-numbing little ditty. Talk about whining. The two most unattractive personality traits on the planet are Attitudes of Entitlement and Unrealistic Expectations. Combined, they create the kind of person it is impossible to befriend because you can A. Never please them and B. Never please them. Even just this one line, the only line from the song that anyone knows, sums up this chick's attitude as insufferable.

(Do you resent me for getting that one stuck in your head? Just wait...)

6. Last Christmas I gave you my heart, and the very next day, you gave it away- Get over it already. It was a year ago. Find a new fixation. I know the song is supposed to be about moving on, but clearly if you are still dedicating a song to the relationship, then you still have some issues to work out. This doesn't even remotely resemble the Christmas spirit. Not only have we forgotten the Babe in a Manger, we even forgotten Santa and Sleigh Bells and Snow and Fireplaces. It doesn't get to count as a Christmas song unless it produces at least one warm fuzzy.

5. Spot number 5 belongs to a little known piece of music that has stuck with me forever. It's not technically a Christmas song, but in order to be fair about the "Holiday Season", the only American thing to do is to make mention of a holiday that I do not celebrate. Years ago, the University of WI, LaCrosse Choirs included a Kwanzaa song in their Repertoire. It's a publicly funded school, they had to. But if you have ever been to WI, specifically LaCrosse, you would know that there are very few people there who celebrate Kwanzaa. I believe that my inside sources could tell you that there was perhaps one person represented in the choirs who might have celebrated Kwanzaa, maybe. And the member of the faculty who wrote the piece was definitely only trying to satisfy a quota. It included the lines "Sing about Families, Sing about Strong Economic Values"

OK, I just googled it to verify my facts, it is unpublished, but listed on the composers website as having been performed in 2001. There are very few recordings of this, but if you are dying to hear it, I might be able to coherse my "source" to help me out.

4. Uh oh- here's where I may offend: Amy Grant's Grown Up Christmas List- Yup, call me grinch, and string me up by a strand of Wal-Mart tree lights, I can not abide this song. It's scoopy, it's pop-ish, it's pseudo-spiritual, and I associate it with the super-christian, ultra baptists that used to torment me all through high school. The entire Amy Grant Christmas album, in fact, could belong in this spot. I don't like her, I don't like her voice, I don't like her marketing, and I don't like her philosophies. I don't believe that religion should be sold, and most of all, I don't believe that her song has actually contributed to any of the ideals that she sings about.

3. Again, I may be drawn and Quartered for this one... The Christmas Shoes. It's a cheap emotional shot at unbased tears and heart-string-tearing that only leads to the sensationalized "spirit of giving." Do we even know if it is based on a true story? And I don't trust any internet sources on this. It's purely anecdotal, so unless you can produce either the child who wanted to shoes or the man who apparently purchased them, I still won't believe you. If it convinces you to throw an extra quarter into the Salvation Army bucket at the grocery store, then good for you. The thing is, there are real heart-rending Christmas stories happening to the real people around you that you could actually touch and participate in. Stories about lonely people and loving people and foreclosed homes and jobs lost and why don't you turn off the radio and call some of them instead of tearing up over some stranger's fictional tale of a couple of bucks?

Plus, I had a fifth grader plagarize the entire song, word for word, for a writing project one year. They thought I hadn't heard it before? Really?

2. Another Beatle made the list. I'm sorry guys, your other stuff is great, but stay away from the holiday stuff.... Paul McCartney- Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Why does he have his name on it anyways? I don't think that's him singing, and if it is, it's only one line, over and over and over and over again. Did he write it? And he want's to claim it? If I had written it, I would blame it on my dearest enemy and let them have the proceeds. It is so entirely synthesized that there is no semblance of actual musicality or skill. I'm all for the usefulness of synthesized sound, especially now that you can actually create some that sounds remotely real. Bu this stuff is more canned than the cranberry jelly that comes shooting out of the can with the little ridges still visible.

And finally, My number one most resented Christmas "Music" of all time, it's not simply a song, it's an entire album.

Can you guess it?

The album is usually red, with a gold stylized Christmas Tree adorning the cover.

It's HUGE here in Utah, inescapable at LDS church Christmas parties, and the composer himself, who can't sing, performs it to sold out audiences every year.

Can't guess? Still in the dark? You've known me for how long and you didn't know how much I loathe entirely this "music"?

It's the Forgotten Carols.

That's right, I said it. Tell my bishop, excommunicate me, I loathe that stuff. And the composer can't sing. He has self-proclaimed that he can't sing, yet still he sings to a sold out audience every year. For those of you unfamiliar, here's the premis: And old guy in a nursing home claims to have been present at the Nativity, or at least to have talked to everyone present, and he sings a whole bunch of songs that were supposedly sung by those people. But here's my very first nit-picky issue. Do you really think a bunch of meridian-of-time folks were wandering around singing 20th century pop compositions? Yes, it's supposed to be fiction and fun, but you couldn't even try to make them sound musically accurate? Or you don't have enough music skill to know what that would be? Besides which, the sentiment is trite at best. I highly doubt that Joseph ever once considered his role as "I was not his Father, He was mine" I think he had bigger worries, and more profound prayers. He didn't have time to write angst poetry, He was busy fleeing to Egypt and raising kids. And is it shepherds or wisemen that sing the whole "we cannot find our way" chorus? Either way, they could find their way, there was a huge beacon leading them, not to mention angel choruses and messengers and the prophecies of Isaiah.

I suppose I can allow for the novelty of it, hey, I listened to it when I was twelve. Once. But do you realize there is a sequel? And that the TV commercials refer to it as a "classic" and a "tradition"? And there are people who never attend church once all year long, but they go to this concert religiously, like it's some sort of midnight mass ritual? And at the end of the concert everyone holds hands with their neighbor and sings "we can be together forever someday." Its a good thing I only heard about it, because I would have punched the first person who tried to hold my hand and run screaming from the building. If I even made it past intermission.

Then again, it has made ALOT of money. I am considering marketing my own set of "Forgotten Carols" (Under a pseudonym, of course) What about the song of the guy who had the job of scooping donkey uh... leftovers, off the streets of Bethlehem? Nobody ever sings about him:
I scooped the poop, and it was holy,
I cleaned the stalls and paid my tax,
It's a good job, though kind of stinky,
I wish someone would invent plastic sacks.

Or how about the song of the people who actually did get a room at the inn?
We got our room
Cause we called ahead
got a confirmation number
and an actual bed
How were we to know
there were people in the shed?
We might have traded
with the newlywed.

And finally, the song of the guy who ran the bagel stand next door:
Someday I'm gonna
open a franchise
If only I could meet
Rich men who were wise
My bagels are perfect,
so golden and clear
And for just an extra sheqel
I'll include some goat schmear.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things

There is no snow. I have been cohersed into singing for the ward Christmas party, and I am going to have to sing a pop-ish, pseudo-spiritual song. My boss is driving me nuts, as are the spoiled choldren I cater to. And I still have made no decisions about the after-college future that I am now ten years into.
In an effort to have more of a happy outlook, here is my list of a few happy thoughts(just a few, not all):
Old School MoTab Christmas albums
New School MoTab arrangements (ok, and albums and sounds...)
Lemon Bread
Barber's Adagio
Hot cocoa
A new book (and that crackley sound the binding makes the first time you open it)
Combine the last three for an evening
The stretch of I-80 in Medicine Bow National Forest right outside of Cheyenne
Early episodes of ER with Dr Carter
Cold Stone Dark chocolate peppermint (only available during the holidays) with brownies and a waffle bowl
BYU mint brownies
Speaking of BYU, the Y on the mountain still gives me chills... the good kind
Mendelssohns Violin Concerto wishlists (I stalk people there, you can learn alot about a person...)
Alton Brown and Good Eats
That feeling when the person you have been wanting to talk to calls you
Scrabble with Grandpa
Getting up early on a Saturday because I am not dreading the day
Working overtime for time and a half
Flipping open a fan, like I did in HMS
Sewing a new thing of my own creation
Shopping without spending any money
Lunch with friends
Hitting a high note, well
New Lip Gloss (bet you didn't see that coming)
Peter Pan and The Little Prince
Ramen for dinner
French Toast at a restaurant (with those melty scoops of butter and LOTS of syrup)
Lots and Lots of blankets on a cold morning
That Vanilla Sugar and Cinnamon you put on your cocoa at starbucks
Using a curling iron on freshly washed hair
Watching Steel Magnolias on New Years Eve
The Episode of Scrubs when everyone sings (Its guy love between two guys)
New Socks
Tomato Cheese sandwiches
Thunderstorms and Sunsets
Christmas ornaments made out of paper doilies and glitter
Old Poetry (Tennyson, Milton, Donne)

See, now doesn't that feel better? I know I feel better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tina Fey sums it up

I don't usually watch the show, but last week on 30 Rock Tina Fey described my unrealistic ideal:

"I just wish I could start a relationship about 12 years in when you really don't have to try anymore and you can just sit around together and goof on TV shows and then go to bed without anybody trying any funny business."

I don't even have anything profound to say about it, except that if you are going to lecture me on the value of a relationship without the work, you can keep your comments to yourself. I already said it was unrealistic. I just really enjoyed the quote. So there. *Pouting tantrum in corner*