Ho, Ho, Ho....I got tagged

Because sometimes I like to take the easy way out, I'm simply going to tag you, you and you...and you. . . and ok, you there lurking in the corner. (I think you get the idea.)

1.) Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot chocolate. (Egg nog? Yuck. Ok, I went through a small egg nog phase. Now I can't figure out why.)

2.) Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa tries to have them all wrapped but sometimes Santa decides that a simple bow will suffice for those "hard to wrap" items. (And really, God bless whoever invented the gift bag.)

3.) Colored lights on tree/house or white? Colored!

4.) Do you hang mistletoe? Nope, but I have no real reason why.

5.) When do you put your decorations up? Most of it goes up the day after Thanksgiving. The tree makes it's way up some time in the middle of the December and this year the outdoor lights will go up next week when the elementary school delivers the fresh greens we ordered from the PTO.

6.) What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? But I love the desert! Umm, my favorite? Sweet potatoes.

7.) Favorite Christmas memory as a child? It's hard to pick one as my favorite because there are so many special ones. I think perhaps the best, though, would have to be decorating cookies together - we'd bake together, decorate, listen to Christmas music and drink hot chocolate. It's a tradition we continue with our kids...still at Grandma's kitchen, the same recipes, the same music.

8.) When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I think I was about 9 or 10. I honestly don't remember the details of how or when. I all I know is that I had to "play along" the year we went to Florida for Christmas to see my Grandmother before she died. My brother was 6. I was 10. I remember feeling so "grown-up" to be in on the secret and getting to help "pull it off."

9.) Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes. In the past it's been PJs but after the way that went over like a lead balloon last year, we're doign PJs and a small gift for the kids. None for the adults though.

10.) How do you decorate your Christmas tree? We have a lot of those "mean something" ornaments. It's a lot of different things that have some of story behind them -even if it's just "I saw it when we were [name place] and it looked too cute to pass up." Each year the kids get a new ornament of their own (Logan gets Santa. Meg gets an angel) And we try to get a 2nd ornament that symbolizes something they're "into" that year.

11.) Snow! Love it or Dread it? Depends on what I've got to do that the day it snows. ;)

12.) Can you ice skate? I used to but I'm not sure I could get around the rink without brusing my rear any more.

13.) Do you remember your favorite gift? Well...I did find out I was pregnant with the boy child in December after years of NOT being able to get pregnant. ;) That was a pretty neat gift.

14.) What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Being with my family and sharing in the spirit of the season.

15.) What is your favorite holiday desert? Cheesecake. Yummy!!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? We have more traditions in our family than I can keep track of. If I stop to think about it, I think my favorite thing, though, is the church school Christmas program. I love seeing the excitement in those little faces as they sing their songs and share their joy. It brings it all back down to what we're really supposed to be focused on this time of year.

17.) What tops your tree? A Boyd's bear dressed as an angel.

18.) Which do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving!

19.) What is your favorite Christmas Song? Is it rotten to admit I can't remember the name of it? I think it's Mary's Song and I have it on an Amy Grant tape. I love that song!

21.) Favorite Christmas Movie? Santa Claus is Coming to Town is my favorite special. My favorite movie is It's a Wonderful Life. . . which I never watched before Bruce made me.

22.) What do you leave for Santa? Milk and cookies, with a carrot for the reindeer. :)


Be aware of your image

On Monday last week I set about the task of obtaining quotes for a set of updates to my company's web site. Although I already have quotes from two agencies that have a history with either me or the company itself, I wanted to obtain at least one or two more.

Google is my friend. I am a champion googler and so, of course, I set about my task looking for additional advertising and/or interactive marketing firms by running a few searches on such agencies in my state.

Talk about an aggravating experience.

Let me give you a little free marketing advice. If you're going to sell web marketing services (web site design included) do yourself a favor and actually design yourself a web site that looks like a professional did it.

Ok. I'll leave it at that. I was prepared to wax poetically on the topic some more - providing elaborate detail as what these people did wrong (lackluster, text heavy, 'canned template' looking sites) and what they didn't do right (provide easy to navigate, fun to read sites that were overly in love with flash animations and "cute" gimics because the overkill is just as bad as the opposite end of the spectrum.) I'm sure, however, that my day of eye-rolling and seeking a brick wall to bang my head on is not nearly as fascinating to anyone else.


By ear

When we graduated High School my best friend and I hit a stretch of nostalgia. We had this need to try to preserve or at least commemorate the relationships we had, or perhaps just document who we had been during those years of our lives. It was the time before email. Before digital photography. It was before easy access to video cameras that didn't require a shoulder to, well, shoulder some of the weight. It was before you could, gasp, burn your own CDs. Before scrapbooking skyrocketed to all it's glory. We were just "that" far north of the 80s.

The process of creating our shared memento was somewhat laborious but not difficult. We made tapes. Between our own collections and what we could gather at the library - a good decade before iTunes - we would spend hours in front of our parent's stereos carefully starting and stopping the source and destination tapes until we had a mix that captured the desired effect.

It's been years since I've listened to the results. I came across one during a garage sale purge last year - and as much as I wanted to take the walk down memory lane my inability to locate an actual tape player got in the way of my desire.

This morning, as usual, I woke up way too early as my husband moved around the room readying himself for work. This morning, not like usual, I couldn't drift back off to even an uneasy sleep. Instead I pulled a pillow over my head, reached a hand into the nightstand and pulled out my little Shuffle. Plugged neatly into a world of random music, I was at least able to wander around aimlessly in my own mind.

As the garage door closed behind his car leaving and I lay wide awake staring at the ceiling, it was clear that I had no hope of doing anything more than sitting in the dark listening to music that seemed like a good idea to preserve on this device. I crept down the dark hall way and flipped the computer on. The player moved from a ballad by Rascal Flatts to a heavy drum beat and loud rocking vocals of Bon Jovi from a time when big hair was best way to identify a rocker.

I waited for the PC to warm up and in the dark haven of my home, I danced around like it was the prom all over again. The music slid seamlessly to Jerry Lee Lewis and so did I. The pre-coffee blitz of energy left me happy to find my leather chair waiting for me. I slipped in and began typing as the music transitioned into a little Billy Joel and from there into Norah Jones.

Her music oozed over my ear drums like caramel dripping from a spoon dipped into in a sundae. It made me wonder what someone who came across my collection of songs on this MP3 player would surmise about me simply based on the eclectic collection it contained.

Last year someone sent me one of those "get to know you forwards" that asked one simple question "What's on your iPod play list?" It seemed frivolous at the time and, since most of my listening time is spent "Oh yeah! I remember this song. Hmm, didn't realize I had put it on" it also seemed nearly impossible. Now, though, I think I see the wisdom behind the question.

Music is expression. The music that calls you can be a window to who you are - what moves you, what calls to you and what sets your feet dancing and your voice singing (off key or clear as it may be). It's not that the lyrics speak for me, but they do speak something about me.

I'll leave it up to you to decide what it says. I've got some old Nelson song to bop around to now and perhaps after that a little Nickelback.


Perhaps I'll hide the box

My brother recently moved out a lot of his "stuff" from our parents house. Ok, so sure, the biggest thing he moved out of the house was himself...but that's neither here nor there. The point is, there was lots of rooting around various nooks and crannies as years worth of dust covered stuff finally released their grasp on 'spare space' throughout my parent's home.

I don't know about you and your spare space, but in our family once you push up the sleeves and start tidying up the project starts to snow ball. What started out simply as pulling out some boxes of old college text books from the attic becomes a quest to purge the dusty space of all it's superfluous wares.

And that, frankly, means that some of the stored away remnants of the past ended up in my house taking up some of my spare space.

Logan had a great deal of fun poking around the box of my youth. It was like a treasure hunter hitting a gold mine. His favorite discovery was a long, relatively narrow blue box from my junior year of High School. My English teacher that year was on a mission to swell our vocabularies with as many "25 cent" words as she could in preparation for the SATs. The list of words she peppered us with could also be found in two boxes of flash cards you could buy at any teaching resource store. I bought one of those boxes - a long blue, relatively narrow box full of "SAT vocabulary" words.

For the last two months, Logan sets down with this box from time to time and pulls cards out of it. He will do his best to pronounce the word on his own - smiling from ear to ear as he gets stuff like "passive" correct. And then we read the definition together - doing my best to modify the written explanation on the card to something my 5 year old might connect with.

This morning he handed me "toxic" - guessing it's pronunciation properly first. I read him the card's definition, "Unhealthy; dangerous." We talked about toxic chemicals. We talked about toxic plants. Then I told him that sometimes we refer to "toxic friends" - people that are friends with you but can be not so pleasant sometimes.

"Oh, I get it. Like when Papa is cranky, he's toxic," said Logan - referring to his Grandfather's occasional quiet brooding with snappy retorts sprinkled in.

"Umm, not exactly. Papa is not toxic. Papa just gets grumpy sometimes," I told him.

He weighed it carefully and walked off quietly. "I get it. In the Transformers, the Decepticons are toxic. And in the Veggie Tales, the people that picked on the Snoodle are toxic friends."

Right, that's it, I told him and then I gently corrected the pronunciation of the next word he was looking to learn - idiom. We talked about regional dialects "We say soda, but in other parts of the country people say pop." Logan laughed, finding "pop" an amusing word, I suppose.

He came back in later and said "I get it. So the boy in my class that's just learning English has his own idioms and sometimes, like when he's knocking over our blocks, he's toxic."

Yeah...ok. I can just picture that conversation in Kindergarten today. Maybe I'll hide the box.