Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Was A Beach

Here’s me being WAY romantic

I know this is late and I know what you’re probably thinking, how can Christmas be a beach? Did you magically change it from a holiday to a pebbly or sandy shore by the ocean? And the answer would be no, no I did not. I did, however, leave the freezing, snow-capped mountains of Utah with my family of three to join an extended family of over 20 in one beach house just 30 feet from the sunny, wonderful beach and the freezing, no-less wonderful ocean. Usually leaving a wintery wonderland during Christmas would feel like an abandonment, a betrayal, but not this year. It could not have been more Christmasy and it was one of the best vacations I have ever had.

Why Was This One Of The Best Vacations Ever?

There are a lot of reasons this was a fantastic trip. I will not bore you with all of them, just most of them. For one, it was great to have all my siblings (except Chris who is in Bahrain…yeah I don’t know where it is either) and their spouses and kids crammed in one house—it was chaotic but for that very reason, fun. I liked the small Christmas tree on a shelf, mountains of presents scattered everywhere, gross leftover sweet and sour soup (that only my dad liked) in the fridge from the first night’s Chinese food, sodas lined up like soldiers on the kitchen counter, noise, new born twin babies crying, toddler cousins all dressed in similar jammies laughing, and me constantly breaking up the fight or fit started by my daughter, who despite being one of the best kids ever can also be quite the bodag.

Present time!

twins

New born twins, Benjamin and Thomas!

It was a very memorable ambience in an unforgettable setting. The beach was literally a five second walk away and even though the locals thought we were crazy, that didn’t stop us from swimming and boogie boarding everyday. To be honest, the water was no colder than it was in August, and after you’d been out ten minutes you were num to it, so you could fight on, catching an occasional awesome wave, no feeling in your toes, all the way to the shore. It was great.

The most attractive stance ever (me on left). Thanks Grandpa Marshall

We had a volleyball/badminton net right next to our beach house. We had many an impromptu game, but the most memorable of all was America VS. Brazil. A group of Brazilians approached us, challenged us, played us, and we walked away victorious. It was a game full of laughs, language barriers (my cousin Chase kept speaking to them in Spanish), and a lot of fun.

There was the Home Alone Marathon where Ryan, my older brother, was again crowned the victor of Home Alone Trivia and my sister-in-law April was crowned the most recent winner of the Home Alone quote contest.

Christmas morning. Grandkids and grandparents.

There were the gifts the kids loved. Claire with the teepee my beautiful wife finished making her a couple nights before. And then there were the Ninja Turtles PJs that I thought Claire would love—after opening them, we asked her if she wanted to wear them, she just said no. Her and all her cousins had PJs with different princesses on them, so I don’t blame her. (She’s wears her Michelangelo PJs now).

Princess PJs with cousins and aunt.

There was Rinda trying out surfing for the first time and loving it, and looking natural as she did it. She was surfing. I saw her. She was also crashing and getting enveloped in massive waves, but she was surfing and she was happy.

The babe and the waves.

There was my family’s gift to my dad: an authentic Indian headdress (my dad’s been known to dress up) and the photo of him wearing it, sitting in front of Claire’s teepee.

Chief Wanna-Hawk-A-Loogie.

Truth be told, there were a lot of things, but the number one reason this vacation was SO incredible was that it was simple. I know, I know. Getting people from all over the country to San Diego, existing in one small space, avoiding contention is not simple, but once we were there, it was. We didn’t try to cram too much into the time we had. There were options presented everyday but almost always we chose to hang around the beach house so we could hit the beach. If we got too tired or too cold, we could just go back and relax with a bunch of people we like being around.

We walked the boardwalk (whatever it’s called in the west), saw sea lions, ate plenty of nearby Mexican food, and so much more. Beach, house, beach, house. No stressful or long days away. It was miraculous. Oh, and Claire, with her cousins to convince her, actually got in the water and loved it, and Abigail, her cousin, who wouldn’t step off the beach towel previous to this trip for fear of the sand decided playing and covering her entire body in sand was a fun, good idea.

Oh, did I forget to mention: it was in the 70s the entire time! Heaven my dear Watson, heaven.

The Moral Of The Story

Needless to say, the moral of the story is this: food, fun, good people, that’s a recipe for a great time. Thanks mom and dad for putting this trip together (and paying for the beach house) and thanks family for being family.

Until next time.

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The Worst Christmas Song Ever

I need to talk about something serious. With the exception of my two-year-old daughter Claire, who this year has joined the ranks of those who love and constantly listen to Christmas music during the holiday season, I am the biggest Christmas music lover I know.

Many do not share my sentiment. In fact, you may be a grinch who hates that Christmas music even exists and that it blasts triumphantly through the cheap speakers of every supermarket and mall, but not caring a button about the complaints and whining and christmas-ruining of Scrooges like you, I shall continue to talk about the sounds of the season.

My Tradition

I start listening to Christmas music November 1st, and I don’t mean occasionally. At work it’s constantly playing on Spotify. If I am in the car, the radio station with “long sets” of “holiday favorites” is on and being sung along to. If I have time at home, yup, you got it, I am listening to Christmas music.

I listen to all types of Christmas music—classical, instrumental, religious, jazz, pop, R & B, operatic…. I could go on forever baby.

spotify:track:17oy9DhHqTmdNRwV1E5fKz

To get you through this post, I have shared some great Christmas songs along the way

My favorite Christmas music artists are, but are not limited to, Harry Connick Jr, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Johnny Mathis, James Taylor, Mariah Carey, Sufjan Stevens, Bright Eyes, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Andy Williams, Jim Croce, The Carpenters, Weezer, The Robertsons, Elvis Presley, The Irish Tenors, Michael Buble, James Brown, Boys II Men, Gene Autry, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole, Brenda Lee, Perry Como, John Lennon, John Denver, The Muppets, She and Him, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, Burl Ives, Wham… and this is only a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my Christmas time playlist.

If you ask me, I can confidently tell you the best version of every Christmas classic.

spotify:track:604DTaRINInOPt26OBBNU6

So, it’s fair to say that I have heard a lot of Christmas music. I have listened to so many wonderful tunes and have been shockingly disappointed by how bad some Christmas albums are, even some by my favorite artists.

spotify:track:7FFeHKYv7Cj4haT4wqOpQg

The Worst

But enough context, let’s get to the meat of this post, the reason I titled it “The Worst Christmas Song Ever.” Everybody has a Christmas song they cannot stand, even us Christmas music lovers. For my mom it’s Paul McCartney’s “Simply having a wonderful Christmas Time.” For my wife, it’s any song sung by Josh Groban. I like Paul’s song and Josh’s album, but whatever.

Christmas Shoes

Many argue that “Christmas Shoes” is the worst Christmas song ever. They’re right that it’s not a good Christmas song. It’s contrived, overplayed, and obnoxiously sung. That being said, it’s not the worst Christmas song ever. I’ll even admit, the first time I heard it the message did come across as valuable (if you can get beyond the “he was dirty from head to toe” moments), even if it was delivered in such an annoying way.

Speaking of Christmas Shoes:

Mary Did You Know?

I submit that another song, with an equally valuable message, is worse than “Christmas Shoes.” “Mary Did You Know” is an awful Christmas song, especially when sung by a breathy, over-dramatic man. I cannot listen to it. Even I, the holly jolly Christmas music man, must change the station if it comes on. But it is NOT the worst Christmas song ever.

Bruce Springsteen

The worst Christmas song ever, the one stations insist on playing again and again, every year, the song that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard, sand in your teeth, sunburn on your shoulder is Bruce Springsteen’s idiotic live version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” I hate it so much. It takes hours to get started and then it just simmers as Bruce obnoxiously throws around contrived banter with his band mates and then the audience; and it’s SO long.

So Christmas music lovers everywhere, even you haters, boycott that song. Refuse to listen to it. If that doesn’t work, call your station and tell them they’re doing a disservice to humanity by playing that most odious of tunes.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Please tell me why I am wrong in the comments. Let me know what you think the worst Christmas song ever is. More importantly, tell me about your favorite Christmas song.

My next post will be about essential Christmas reading, so tune in!

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Old Year, New Day, Tomorrow

Sadly our tree no longer leans awkwardly against the wall of our front room, its lopsided behind scratching the wall (my 4th grade teacher had the same problem with her buttocks). Rinda removed the few ornaments we own one by one and lowered them safely into their plastic catacombs. The hand-sewn stars she made, the stockings, and the bent paper clips used to hang the ornaments, all found a new home in a now empty, puppy-themed, holiday popcorn barrel.

With the last of the popcorn garland plucked from the tree, the needles swept up, and the tree flying through the air, its dead bristles preparing to shatter on the frozen ground of the backyard, I stood still in the hollow room. Rinda broke the silence with a silent hint and stacked the storage cases by the door. Before I hauled them out to the garage for their year long slumber, I chose to say a few words in Elvish (okay, okay, I said them in English, but with a British accent):

“Christmas is over; the goose that got fat is now eaten; the poor man bought booze with the penny that some stranger dropped in his hat and punched the woman that tried to give him a half-penny (what does one do with a half-penny?). Christmas is over but Christmas is not past; I shall walk with Ebeneezer and Charles who gave him speech, and ‘honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The spirit of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach'”

I shall live in the Past, the Present, and the Future — not the past, the present, and the future — important stuff gets capitalized, right? — like Abraham Lincoln or the Transcontinental Railroad. I choose to live importantly or make life important.

Allow me a brief return trip to the Past or the year formerly known as 2011:

I turned 26. I started working full-time from home, meaning, I got to be around my family 24/7. We rented our first house. Rinda and I had our second anniversary (I know, we are babies; but, it is still a wonderful accomplishment). McKay, my second nephew, was born. One of my biggest dreams came true when Claire was born: I became a father. My niece Abigail was born (within her first few months of life, my Abi-Gal endured 2 open heart surgeries — she is doing swimmingly.) The TV show I worked on was cancelled. I created content for and was part of a very strange sketch comedy group (thanks Chris and Jeremy). We shot the comedy webseries I wrote and co-directed, starring: Flavor Flav, Danny Trejo, Jon Gries; and YouTube celebs: GloZell Green, Miranda Sings, Antoine Dodson, Wheezy Waiter and Donnivin Jordan. We spent Thanksgiving with Rinda’s family and Christmas/New Years with my family.

Let me share some Christmas memories that, if remembered, will help make my New Year dreams a reality:

Above you see evidence of our Home Alone marathon (we watched 1 and 2 back to back), ate name brand pizza (Little Neros) from the film, and drank Fuller’s classic Pepsi. We also had an awesome Home Alone trivia game and a dance party around a mini Christmas tree, in honor of Kevin McCallister, the little guy.

Below, on the left, you see evidence of our Twas the Night Before Christmas gift exchange. Each of us had a gag gift and would pass it clockwise when the word “the” was said in the classic story. By the end of the game, you’re stuck with what ever gift lands in your lap — I got glasses that double as straws — joy to the world. Below, on the right, is evidence of our Ginger Bread house contest. Rinda and I gave up when our doorway collapsed. We promise to finish next year.

Present:

I’m worried as I look for more steady work. I have several projects lined up but nothing solidified. I am working really hard to make connections and find new opportunities. Somehow I know everything will work out. I have my family.

Future:

I’m applying the lessons I learned from Kevin McCallister to my New Year.

1.) Don’t forget what is most important: family. If you do forget, change; remind your self and those you love that they are number 1.

2.) Protect what you have: family, home, freedom,”I could go on forever baby.” If you don’t protect it, you will lose it. If setting booby traps is necessary, do it.

3.) Be kind; to everyone. Family, friends, teachers, co-workers, bird ladies with poop on their clothes.

4.) Listen. (I won’t say anymore…that’s the way listening goes).

Happy New Year!

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: I gave Rinda the option to take down and throw our real Christmas tree out the backdoor in to the backyard or feed Claire (which I was doing when I gave her the options). I think she chose the tree in spite.

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Holiday Throw Up – A Life Lesson

If you are spending Christmas at the dwelling of or with parents, in-laws, relatives or strangers, here are a few things to remember:

1.) Ask how old the left overs in the fridge are BEFORE you eat them.

2.) If you get sick, do it near a clean bathroom and preferably near one that has a comfy rug on the floor.

3.) If you are sick and vomit is close to or already launching out of your mouth, make sure the bathroom light is on.

I guess it’s important to ask how old the chili in your parent’s fridge is before you dive in. Now, when I say “dive in,” I don’t really mean dive in — I never would have fit in the Tupperware and the chili was far too shallow.

A little background.

Tuesday was a good day. Rinda and I slept well on the two twin mattresses that were pushed together to form a king size bed in my younger brother’s bedroom (he got the couch). Little Claire slept soundly in her pack-n-play. The Christmas decorations were inviting, the food abundant, and the family fun to be around.

Because I was still determined to make healthier life decisions and since I celebrated the end of my diet with a steak ranchero plate from a favorite Mexican restaurant the day before, I was more than willing to join my wife, mom, two sisters, and brother-in-law in an early morning workout session.

My sister, a workout guru, muted the sound on her Jillian Michael’s DVD, blasted her bad radio music, and we got started. It was to be a 45 minute workout and I was worried about my stamina from the very beginning. I’m not one of those men who says things like, “I could plow through this workout session blindfolded, in ten feet of water, both hands tied behind my back and wearing Uncle Arthur’s army boots.” I made it through 30 of the 45 minutes. I knew I was out of shape when I, on my back and barely able to breathe, looked over and saw my mother still high kicking and punching the air.

*Since then, I have plowed through multiple workouts (pat me on the back next time you see me), but back to the story.

After a healthy breakfast and a few hours of work, I found myself again in the kitchen, eating a quick-lunch before Rinda and I left for a day of errand running. My quick-lunch was the last bit of some left over chili and a hand full of oven fries. All was well, I was ready to go, and then it hit. Suddenly, I felt like I’d been reading in a moving car for months, all while an unknown neighbor kid was swatting the back of my head. I tried drinking Sprite, lying down, and a standing long jump, but nothing worked.

WARNING: TMBI (too much barf information) to follow!

Before I knew it, I was sprinting to the bathroom. Even with the light off, the first projectile was a direct hit. I heard the impact and felt the splash (despite popular opinion, there are times in life when having a beard is a bad idea, vomiting is one of those times). In a desperate attempt to stop barfing in the dark and let there be light, I lunged for the switch — bad move — the urge hit me mid-way to the light switch and the second missile exited halfway back to the target, showering the wall with a  mix of chili, fries, and bile. The result was a modern art display worthy of any dark coffee shop/gallery that uses bird stencils or old records to decorate the wall behind the cash register.

I emptied my gut and slouched to the floor before calling for Rinda (interesting that there comes a time in life when mom is no longer the barfer’s relief). Rinda stood in the doorway with Claire and comforted me as best she could.The biggest comfort was little Claire smiling and laughing for her dying father. I wanted so badly to reach out and hold her; knowing that she loved me unconditionally and wanted to be near me, even in this state, was a ray of light in a cloud-filled sky.

I don’t know why, but it made me think about my role as a father and it made me sad. For a moment, food poisoning was going to keep me from caring for Claire, and I didn’t like that. What else in life (both in and out of my control) could prevent me from being the father I needed to be to this little creature who depends so heavily on me?

After spending the following two hours on the floor, wanting to die, dry heaving, and wanting to die some more, I arose victorious.

Today I feel healthy and I am glad I can hold my daughter. I want to always be able to provide my daughter with the best care — that requires that I make wise decisions in all areas of my life.

Who would have thought a holiday vomit session would have taught me such a lesson?

Life. Weird old, good old, life.

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: I got sick and was vomiting when we should have been running errands. Rinda did NOT think it was funny at all; it stressed her out.

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Christmas Before Thanksgiving — An Annual Argument

NOTE: I want this post to cause heated arguments between those who are FOR and those who are AGAINST celebrating Christmas (in particular, listening to Christmas music) before Thanksgiving (mostly joking).

Normally, I try not to be a man of contention. I don’t like to stir the waters, to cause a scene, to bite back in rage. But, and this is a big but (with one “t”), I get pretty saucy every time November 1st colorfully floats down from the trees, hits the ground with a hush, and peaks over the jack-o’-lanterns.

Crawling through boxes to the dark and forgotten corners of my garage in search of a dusty rake or climbing a ladder aimed for my drains with dish gloves and a garden shovel in hand is not what releases my impudence; it has everything to do with the attitude in the Thanksgiving air — an attitude that has nothing to do with gratitude.

The attitude, if put in to words, would sound something like this (probably spoken in a foreign accent that sounds “evil” when overdone): “Christmas before Thanksgiving is the devil, meaning: bad, dumb, not good.”

Just to get it out of the way, I am a hypocrite and bias. I am as ardent a lover of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas celebration and faithful a hater of those who are against early festivities as many are haters of pre-Thanksgiving Christmas and those who support it.

Okay, so I don’t hate those who get mad and post Facebook statuses whining about how their roommate is listening to Little Drummer Boy on November 2nd or about how their local supermarket is already selling candy canes, but I do find them annoying; as they, I am sure, loathe me — he who starts celebrating Christmas with an annual viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas on Halloween night, followed my around the clock listening to Christmas music (commercial and spiritual), decorating, traditional movie watching and book reading, and so much more. Yes, I am that guy, the one who even Christmas lovers call overkill or O.K. for short.

You have heard the catchphrase, “where’s the beef,” well, here is my beef:

In all my conversations with those who hate celebrating Christmas “prematurely,” I have yet to hear a reason that really makes sense. I will now attempt to make sense of what I have heard.

1. “One holiday at a time. Let’s not skip over Thanksgiving; it, too, is important; don’t cheapen it.”

I have zero interest in getting political or American historical here, but, what I will say is this, if Christmas for you has anything to do with Jesus Christ — His being born on earth so He could save all mankind — then is that not the thing you should be most grateful for? Isn’t that the PERFECT way to celebrate thanksgiving — to put Jesus at the top of your I Am Grateful For… list? You don’t even have to forget or overshadow all the other things you are grateful for.

If Christmas for you is not so much about Jesus’ birth, but more a time to remember, recall, and celebrate the joy and goodness that still abundantly exists in the world today; a time to step up and be a little kinder, a little less selfish and more giving, then is embodying the spirit of Christmas early, bad? Isn’t reminding yourself to be more grateful an attempt to be a better person? Shouldn’t you be grateful for the ability to improve in life?

An aside: I support a Christmas that celebrates both the birth of Christ and the spirit of Christmas (what I consider to be mankind’s attempt to emulate Jesus Christ).

Now, if Christmas is ALL commercial for you; just a stressful time to dwell on “corporate schemes” to make money, to get stuck in crowds at over-packed malls, to never find the perfect gift, to spend money you don’t have, to high five The Grinch and chest bump pre-changed Ebeneezer Scrooge; well, then having Christmas arrive early would be a reason to cringe.

2.) “If you start celebrating now, by the time Christmas rolls around, you’ll be burnt out with everything Christmasy.”

This is the argument that most makes sense to me. But, truth be told; it is very difficult for me to imagine being over-Christmased. For me, two months is too little time; it’s never enough. I find that if you healthily mix the commercial with whatever else Christmas means to you, you will find it’s hard to get too much of a good thing.

3.) “I don’t have a good reason for hating pre-Thanksgiving Christmas celebration. I probably had a parent who hated Christmas music before Thanksgiving and so, without reason, I’ll do the same.”

No attempt to understand this mind set will be made.

I want to end with this: forgive my written bitterness — not very christmasy —  and, I love Christmas, even commercial Christmas.

Somehow, commercial Christmas always takes me back to what I consider to be the true meaning of Christmas. I love that stores decorate before Thanksgiving and play Christmas music once the turkey is tupperwared away in the fridge; I love the colors, the emotion, the busyness (I even loved it when I worked retail for years); I love that a man in William Sonoma got the whole store clapping their approval in an attempt to convince a manager to allow an employee to accept a gift from him (obviously against the rules), I love the movies (I have a long list of must-watch Christmas flicks) and the books (each year I read Christ’s birth story in The Bible,  A Christmas Carol and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever); I love it all. Somehow, the energy in the air, the want to give, the excitement to receive, and the symbolism always reminds me to look up “to that blessed star which led Wise men to a poor abode” (borrowed from Dickens). It reminds me that I am blessed and can bless the lives of those familiar and unknown to me.

I didn’t really want this post to cause fights or sporadic sibling wrestling matches, but I do want it to open up conversation. Why do you like or not like celebrating Christmas before Thanksgiving? What does Christmas mean to you? Tell me in the comments below.

UNFUNNY HUSBAND MOMENT: I end my yawns loudly and musically. My yawn is as follows: “YAWWWWWN…AHHHHH, I FEEL GOOD! Na na na na na na nuh, I knew that I would now, SO GOOD, SO GOOD, I GOTTA YOU oo oo ooo ooo. WATCH ME NOW!” My wife LOVES it.

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