Blessed, bountiful Christmas

I have a tradition with my dear friend Leah and her sweet mother and sister. Every Christmas Eve Day, we have brunch. This year was no exception. Leah made her fabulous egg bake and homemade muffins, Sarah brought a sparkling peach beverage and I fried up some bacon and provided fresh fruit and caramel rolls. It was a peaceful, relaxing celebration.

As I was purchasing fruit for the brunch, I browsed a display of oranges. I always crave oranges at Christmas time. Maybe it's because I remember getting a Christmas bag with nuts, candy and an orange after the children's Christmas Eve service when I was growing up. It also could be because I remember reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's recollection of her Christmas celebration. Oranges were a rare treat. When I take a bite of a section, I imagine what it must have been like to taste them for the first time. I marvel then at how much bounty surrounds me on a daily basis. The selection of fruit at the local grocery store in December is incredible. In fact, the grapes I ate this morning came all the way from Chile. It's a far cry from Laura Ingalls Wilder's pioneer days.

I wish each of you a blessed Christmas celebration, one where you are reveling in the miracles all around you--big and small.

Isaiah 9:6: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Something in the air

There's another wedding on the horizon for my family. My youngest brother, Mark, is getting married in March. He's been busy this year...college graduation, buying a house, entering seminary, now engagement to Gretchen. Mark is quietly intense, a helpful handyman and a sweet brother with a quirky sense of humor. Like I said on the occasion of the engagement of my other brother Paul, I hope Gretchen knows what she's getting into. :)


The Big House

I've been a Michigan fan for as long as I can remember. I'd watch the games with my dad as a kid. He'd take me outside and teach me pass plays (buttonhooks, stop-and-go, slants). I dreamed about playing college football. Seriously, I did. Then Dad told me that girls were not allowed to play college football. My father is not one to sugar-coat reality. (Now, I've been adrift for the rest of my life, since I had to ignore my true calling.)

I begged my father to take me to Ann Arbor for a game. Dad wasn't convinced that I understood enough about the game to go. "If you name 10 Michigan players," Dad said, "I will take you to a game." I proceeded to rattle off the names of 10 players on the spot. My father was suitably impressed and so that fall, I found myself driving to Ann Arbor for my first college football game. It was Sept. 20, 1986. Michigan hosted Oregon State. Dad bought tickets from someone at the Student Union. I loved the whole experience. I was actually in Michigan Stadium. We won the game 31-12.

Every autumn, I count myself fortunate if I get to see a game in The Big House. This year, my uncle invited me to the Michigan/Ohio State game, which is a monster rivalry in college sports. It was a fantastic day. The only way it would have been better is if the Wolverines had won. :) I have a good feeling about next year's team though. Go Blue!


O Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown and I are kindred spirits. When I pick out my Christmas tree, I always remember what he says: "This little green one here, seems to need a home...besides, I think it needs me."

I love it, even if my sister's reaction was outright laughter. :)


Book review: The Long Tail

Want a glimpse of the future of business? Read The Long Tail by Chris Anderson. One of the editors at Wired magazine, Anderson has been writing about technology for a while. The subtitle of the book is "The New Economics of Culture and Commerce" which may sound like a heavy subject, but the book is a surprisingly easy read.

The Long Tail opened my eyes to just how much the Internet has changed and is changing our buying habits. We are changing from a mass market society to a niche market society. (That explains the decline of Top 40 radio, for one.) People out there want to buy specialized products. The Internet gives businesses unprecedented access to those people. I found it fascinating to examine the limitations of a physical big-box store, like Wal-Mart.

The book also made me realize some strange stereotypes that people (including me) sometimes have. For example, the thought that self-publishing is less "authentic" than having a publisher or that a movie that goes straight to DVD must be sub-par. These ideas are based on limitations of physical space; after all, there is only so much space in a bookstore or so many screens in a movie theater.

I found the book very thought-provoking and informative. It's definitely worth the time. By the way, the edition of the book I read was published in 2006, but Anderson published an updated version in 2009. I'm curious to see the newer edition.


Songs of the season

Ahhh, December has arrived. I can finally stop furtively checking the calendar and openly embrace the holiday season. I've been shopping, decorating and being an all-around-busy-elf, as I've decided to make many of my holiday gifts this year. (For those of you unfortunate enough to receive such largesse, I apologize in advance.)

I can also begin to listen to Christmas music. There is a wonderful assortment of lovely holiday tunes in the world. But due to a conspiracy by the radio industry, I never hear any of the good ones as I'm out and about. The minute I get into my car, I feel like I'm playing Russian roulette with my ears as I search for good Christmas carols. So without further ado, I present my list of worst Christmas songs EVER. (And Grandma Got Run Over By A Raindeer doesn't even make the list.)
  • Feliz Navidad - I'm sure there are people out there that love this song, but I am not one of them. This song just goes on and on. It never ends!
  • My Favorite Things - I don't have anything against the Sound of Music, but why do people think this is a Christmas song? Because of the "brown paper packages tied up with strings" lyric? That's a stretch.
  • Happy Xmas (War is over) - Ugh. Come on, John Lennon. Is this the best you could do?
  • Blue Christmas - Just because a song has the word "Christmas" in the title shouldn't make it a holiday classic, even if Elvis is singing it.
  • Last Christmas - Hey, it's the season of peace and joy and we have to listen to lyrics like these? "A face on a lover with a fire in his heart, A man undercover but you tore him apart."
Looking to get into the holiday spirit? Try A Charlie Brown Christmas or Home for Christmas by Amy Grant. I'm thinking a little Harry Connick Jr. might be fun too.