CHRISTMAS—–AGAIN!

Christmas Nativity

Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………December 9, 2014

Well, it happened again. Christmas arrived before I did with it’s carols and lights and trees and store hype while I am still back in flags and fireworks and patriotism.  Christmas just seems to be on a faster track than I am.  I need time to allow the great Spirit of Christmas to seep in slowly so I can adjust and clear my head of incidentals like bill paying and house dejunking and family crises and Church callings.  But Christmas doesn’t tip toe in quietly and slowly raise the blinds until you can get used to the light.  No, it jerks you awake with a thunderbolt of hoopla which I never seem to be prepared for.

Part of the problem, perhaps the biggest part, is that Thanksgiving came a week late this year.  A whole week!  There should be a law against that.  Why can’t Thanksgiving be on the 3rd Thursday of November, not the fourth?  That would help immensely.  Then as soon as Thanksgiving is over we could be more attuned to Christmas and its incredible hustle and bustle. Actually, I think we’re all trying to do the H & B all year long and just accelerate the moves in December.

Last year I made a great attempt to be ready spiritually and physically for Christmas, trying to do something every day in its honor.  I was inspired by Scrooge’s classic sentence, “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  I sort of petered out by June but I was more ready for the season when it came barreling down the calendar and blasted into December—or rather, October.

But this year I can’t gather the warm blanket of Christmas wishes around me tight enough and I’m rather hanging out of the season’s joy.  Here it is December 9th.  Many of my neighbors’ lights are twinkling like little Christmas giggles and their trees are triumphant in their showcasing windows.  But our house stands in unlit shame and the Christmas tree still needs to be dragged from its year long cardboard entombment across the dry grass of the back yard and into the house that has just been scrubbed clean by the God-sent cleaners.

The many “So, are you all ready for Christmas?” inquiries made by well-meaning OCD individuals, who are just looking for conversation, embellish the problem.  They make you feel that if you are haven’t lit, hung, decorated, bought, wrapped, baked, read, visited, photoed, written and sent by the day after Thanksgiving, you might as well not bother.

This is about when my yearly mantra chimes in, “I will just make it through this year’s celebration and do better next year.”

But wait.  I can change that.  I can fling that sentence out of my head’s storage of useless jabber.  The years are thinning out for me and to miss the full joy of even one irretrievable Christmas would be counter to a life well spent.  So ready or not, it will not be hard to fill my mind and my soul with these sentences instead.  They can bring peace not only to me but to all:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

What else matters?  Merry Christmas!

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ORCHESTRATING CHRISTMAS

conductor 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett………January 2014

Enjoying Christmas with twenty-one family members takes a bit of orchestration.  And that means that someone has to be the conductor.  I look around for volunteers but there are none.  So, I stand upon the podium, baton in hand and raise my arms for the down beat.  Ah, I see that not everyone is ready.  I tap the music stand to get their attention.  I tap again.

“Ready?” I ask.  There are no dissenters.  Down come my arms and from the first notes, I realize with dismay that we are not all playing the same song.  Some are attempting a waltz, others a dirge and still others are tooting away at what must be a new Miley Cyrus original.

“Wait, wait, wait.” I whack the baton and take precious time to see that we are all playing the same piece–a happy, march-like tune that if Sousa didn’t write, he should have.

Another down beat and the improvement is palpable.  It helps to be on the same song on the same page.  Hope glimmers.   Several measures have promise.  Then….

“Cellos, [the young fathers of our family who seem to be constantly riveted on football] I think I’m only hearing one note from you.  Could you look a little more closely?  I think you have other notes besides B [which stands for ball, which usually means football] in your score.”

And…

“Flutes, [the little girls] I really appreciate your ability to dance all over the music, but we have to make everything fit together.  Keep with the rhythm, OK?”

And…

“Trombones, [the teenage boys] this is a happy part.”  I whack the baton against the stand a few times until the trombones look at me with a “What?” lurking in their faces.  It’s a good thing I like myself well enough or I just might crumble under one or two of these looks.  “Play it with joy,”  I say.  “Yes.  Yes you can,” I add to their objections.   This job is exhausting.

“Come on, you guys.  Now we have to start all over.  OK, once again.  All eyes on me.  Good.”

I hear a slight improvement.  Things are looking up.

“Oh, oh.  Everyone pause for just a minute.  Piccolo [the baby] is screeching.  Now, now.  It’s going to be all right, little Piccolo.  No one lose your place.  Hang on.  We just need to guide Piccolo over a few rough measures.”

“Violins, [the young moms] I know you have more notes to negotiate than anyone else, but you’re so capable, so dependable, so lovely.”

“Bass, [my other half, the Grandfather] we haven’t heard from you in awhile.  Oh, I see why.  Wake up!  Wake up, Bass!  We need you.  Your deep tones are our foundation.  I heard that, Bass.  Absolutely no grumbling.”

“Ok, once more from the top.  A one, a two a…….”

“No, Snares, not yet.  Bells, hold it.  Cymbal…..The whole percussion section [the little boys] is trying to race us through to the next century.  Patience.  Read your notes.  You don’t come in yet.”

“A little loud there, Trumpets [the middle boys].  I know you have lots to say.  Blend, just blend.  This is not a trumpet solo.  Every part is as important as the next.”

“I think we’re all a little keyed up at the moment.  Let’s just pause,  slow down,  catch our breaths.  Let’s work on this march, but if it ain’t “baroque” we won’t need to fix it.  Ha, Ha.  Just a little humor.  Thought we could use it.  Never mind.  You will all have a chance for solos, but right now we are trying to create a masterpiece together.  A musical harmonious masterpiece.”

We play and we play.  Intermittently the baton comes down–whack, whack, whack.   They’ve heard that sound so often that they don’t pay attention anymore and I let them continue–stray notes intersecting at the corner of Common Time and 3/4, pianissimo always succumbing to forte.  We are into the music.  And though we miss some notes and sour others, there are times, many times, when the music we create is superb.  Soul reaching.  Beautiful.

After we have performed and regrouped and performed again–made mistakes and repented of sorts–we look back on our orchestration of Christmas.  There are no words but “Bravo! Bravo!” and “Encore! Encore!”  With all our imperfections we have outdone ourselves.

I reverently put down the baton, wipe away a joyful tear and vow to make someone else do at least some of the conducting in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Experiment

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Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I’ve been such a Grinchy Scrooge or Scroogy Grinch around Christmas time for several years–OK, for most years–that I think it’s time I did something about it.  So I am going to practice Ebenezer’s proclamation: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

Every day of this brand new 2013, I resolve to do something in commemoration of Christmas.  I am calling it The Christmas Experiment.

With a little remembering from Junior High Science and some help from the Internet, I have relearned the parts of an experiment.  Here they are in relationship to my experiment.

Observation/Problem: Because I have been much too negative about Christmas and the inevitably of its coming each year has made me dread the lovely autumn months, I would like to discover what effect various planned activities performed each day for a year will have on my personal attitude about the upcoming Christmas Season of 2013.

Hypothesis: I believe that if I perform a planned task daily with Christmas in mind, that I will look forward to the celebration of 2013‘s Christmas with joy instead of agitation and the Christmas Spirit will permeate my heart and home.

Procedure: Every day of 2013 I will do something that will help prepare me for Christmas or give me a feeling of its Spirit.  These tasks might include: writing a note to someone, planning or having a gathering of friends or family, de-junking an area which will make having guests less stressful, reading a Christmas thought or story, performing a singular service, preparing for and participating in a Christmas Boutique, listening to or practicing Christmas music, getting a head start on gift buying, reading about the Savior and His life and trying to live as He would have me live.  Whatever the experience, it will be done with the purpose of “honor(ing) Christmas in my heart and try(ing) to keep it all the year.”

Results: These tasks will be recorded daily (when life’s happenings don’t interfere with my writing) on my blog entitled thechristmasexperiment.com, along with a change of attitude results.

Discussion: If anyone wants to join me in this experiment that would be wonderful.  Then you could make comments and we could get a discussion going.

Conclusion: When Christmas comes around again in twelve months (which will feel like only four months), I will be able to determine whether the results of this experiment support or reject my hypothesis.  Until then, on with honoring and keeping!

 

Ready for Christmas? Humph!

Grinch

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Christmas has been looming over the horizon for some time now striking a bit of fear in my pusillanimous (just thought I’d try that word since this computer’s thesaurus gave it as an option) heart.   I am trying to be prepared but it is doubtful that I can be totally ready although I’ve had a year to do so. Christmas and I have had a rather tenuous relationship through the years.  It always comes interrupting my attempts at just getting on with regular life.  I feel that in the midst of complete chaos and striving, the Christmas celebrating world expects us to now cram even more into already full lives as though we have just been sitting around all year waiting for something to do.

Although I am way behind on birthday wishes and thank you notes, I now need to write out and mail at least fifty Christmas cards.  Although I have scores of things waiting to be written up for my blog, I need to take precious time to write a family Christmas letter to go inside those Christmas cards along with a family picture which takes some doing since it now involves 28 individuals.  I seldom take the time to make dinner, much to Brad’s vexation, but in this Season of Insanity, I feel a great need to stay in the kitchen long enough to stir up some treats for neighbors and friends.  I have some picture-hanging hang-ups since we painted some of the rooms and few pictures have made it back to the walls. But instead of spending time on that project, I need to find a place to hang the stockings which is a real puzzler since in a remodeling frenzy we deleted our fireplace.

I have bulging drawers, cupboards and closets that are begging to be dug out, but instead I am digging out Christmas decorations and instead of decorating the house for year round service, I am decorating the tree and the railing in green and red.  Exercise and sensible eating have been replaced by errand running and constant snacking since sweets are in abundance and at hand.  And instead of planting flowers outside, I am helping Brad put up the Christmas lights, never getting them quite right.

All the parties that might have been scheduled throughout the year are, of course, packed into December.  The budget I almost had under control is totally blown. I am constantly stacking and re-stacking papers and miscellaneous items to get them out of the way.  The plan is to go through the stashed stacks when Christmas is over but then a new bombardment of paper work and stuff enters the house and the stacks stick around for weeks and weeks—ok, months and months. Then I hear songs about how this is the happiest time of the year.  I say again, “Humph!”

I know–I do it to myself.  None of the above is required.  I ought to love Christmas. I want to love Christmas.  I do love what it stands for.  Who doesn’t need to be reminded about the Savior’s birth and His infinite love for us?  We should be thinking of His Atonement every day.  I love the Christmas music, especially if I get to do some of the singing.   I love the programs and the talks in Church and the idea of peace on earth.  I especially love being with my family.  If it takes Christmas to get us all together, then it’s worth the fanfare but I would much rather enjoy my family without all the afore mentioned extras.

Perhaps I could get a petition going around to have Christmas every other year.  Years go by so fast now.  It seems we just make the Valentine cookies when it’s time for Easter eggs.  In a flash the Fireworks pop and then Halloween whips around like Casper and Thanksgiving gobbles up the time until it is Christmas again and I am outside hanging lights with Brad as he mutters, “These are so cheesy.”  Time warps from one Christmas to the next so quickly that it makes me feel like I am on the end of a very long human Crack the Whip.

I am trying to change my attitude.  At the first sign of a Christmas tree in Sam’s Club one day after Halloween, I attempt to calm my mind and bring the sweet remembrances of Christmas into it.  I do quite well for a while until it is suddenly two weeks before Christmas and I am not ready.

The question, “Ready for Christmas?” is not my favorite.  It implies that you have a given number of things to check off your list and then you can just sit drumming your fingers until Christmas morning comes tap tapping at your door.  Well, that list is so long that it is never completed, for me anyway.  So I’ve had to make some adjustments in my thinking.

I am trying to remember that the list is Christmas.  The doing and preparing and anticipating is all part of it and if the process can’t be enjoyed, then the road to Christmas morning will be paved with frustration.  Therefore, I am making an effort to enjoy the things I do and delete the things I don’t enjoy.  It is still a struggle.

If there really is magic in Christmas, then I think it is time to take advantage of it.  I want that magic to come on in and make itself at home because it must have the ability to lengthen time, increase capacity, stretch finances and buoy up spirits.

That is my wish for Christmas this year: that the magic of Christmas will fill my soul and allow me to triumph in this season and make it a happy one for all.

May it also fill yours!

Audio-Ready for Christmas? Read by the Author

Sleighed

Sleighed 2

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Yesterday was a wonderful Sunday and Brad and I went to dinner at our son Aaron’s home.  Besides a delicious meal made and served by his wife, Liz, we received some delicious news.  Aaron has written a book!  Written and published!  Aaron has never been vocal about his own accomplishments and we probably wouldn’t have known about this great achievement until the newspapers and TV pundits got hold of it and promoted him to a mingling position with J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer.  I’m glad Liz wasn’t shy in pulling it up on the computer and letting us revel in Aaron’s successful entry into the world of e-publishing.

I was quick to buy my own copy at a paltry fee of $4.95 and download it onto my Ipad.  Since I am quite adamant about listening to books instead of reading them, finding a minute to sit down and read a chapter has been a bit challenging but the read is great.  Aaron is a very good writer!  Brad bought a copy, too, and is well into it and likes it very much.  Since he is as hard to please as I am, that is saying a lot.  I hope you will take a minute and a tiny portion of your credit card’s vast capabilities and purchase and download a copy for yourself.  You will not be sorry.  It will definitely entertain you and you will give a budding new author the impetus to continue his talent.

The irony of Aaron’s venture is that his wife, Liz and I, along with two other friends, have been meeting in a writing group for three years hoping to write something worthy of publication.  None of us has made it so far although our hopes are floating high.  Here Aaron has succeeded without availing himself of our vast knowledge and without ever sitting for even a second in a group such as ours!  He did it totally on his own in precious moments snatched from lunch breaks and his family man role which includes the parenting of three awesome sons.

The title of his book is Sleighed (The North Pole Chronicles) which is a great play on words.  His pen name is James Dragon.  I don’t know why he didn’t want to use his very notable given name of Aaron Nikolai Barrett since I was half of the party who gave it to him, but authors have their own way of doing things.

You can even download a chapter or two of Sleighed for free just to see if you like it.  Go to smashwords.com and search for Sleighed (The North Pole Chronicles). Youcan then read all about it.  It is a fantasy for Christmas written with Young Adults in mind.  And in our minds we are all young adults, right?  You can even go to amazon.com and purchase it there.  Oh, the wonders of the Internet!

Happy reading!

Audio-Sleighed: read by the author