Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Well, it's 9:40 p.m. on Christmas Eve night. Our youngest is in bed (although I don't think he is asleep) and the others will all eventually follow. Christmas Eve in our family is usually a day full of traditions, and today was no exception. We went to see "Bolt," the latest animated adventure from Disney, this afternoon. Then we went to dinner with some of our extended family, this year at Islands (the Sunset Burger is delicious). After that, we came back to our home where we exchanged white elephant gifts. Where did the name "white elephant" come from anyway? Maybe I'll google it later. I scored a sweet Jonas Brothers poster that will likely never see the light of day again.

The final stretch of our Christmas Eve traditions begins when we go through our Christmas program together. The short version (which we did tonight) consists of readings from Matthew and Luke, one verse each of half a dozen or so carols, and a few concluding lines at the end. After the extended family heads home we open our Christmas pajamas which we will wear to bed tonight and which we will lie around the house in tomorrow for as long as we possibly can. Before we say our prayers, we each write on a small piece of paper a "gift" that we will give Jesus this year -- usually something that we can do to be more like Him, or to be kinder to our neighbors or family, etc. -- and we put it in a small box that we will open a year from now so we can reflect on how we did. Tonight when I reflected on what I wrote last year, I felt I did a decent job at fulfilling the goal, which is pretty good considering I didn't remember what I had written a couple of hours ago.

The final part of our Christmas Eve consists of putting out cookies and milk for Santa, putting food for the reindeer out on the lawn, and then tuning into the 24-hours of "A Christmas Story" on TBS while we get the house in order and things settle down (Ralphie currently has a mouthful of Lifebouy). Tomorrow will be filled with more "traditions," including: the waking up at 3, 4, 4:30, 5, 5:10, 5:18 and finally 5:22 a.m.; the violent tearing open of presents; the frantic searching for batteries; the voracious eating of a wonderfully delicious, yet terribly unhealthy breakfast at the grandparents'; and, of course, the inevitable (or, at least, thoroughly wished for) napping amidst the carelessly strewn wrapping paper and boxes.

It's all good. I do love Christmas, with it's traditions that emphasize family and giving and, most of all, Jesus Christ. I am keenly aware of, and grateful for, all of the blessings that me and my family enjoy, and hope I can do my part make the world around me a little better every day this coming year. That is definitely a Christmas tradition worth keeping.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wonderful Redux

A good friend of mine sent me a link to an article that appeared in the NY Times on Thursday (12/18). Entitled "Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life" and written by Wendell Jamieson, it is a very interesting take on "It's A Wonderful Life." Since I just wrote about the same subject on Wednesday, I appreciated Mr. Jamieson's observations and wanted to mention the article here. I think he must have read my blog (it is wildly popular, after all) before he wrote his article.

You can read it here:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's A Wonderful Life

Well, this is my first official post in my first official blog -- sound the trumpets and record the date. Occasionally I find that I have ideas or thoughts (yes, really) that I would like to share, and a blog seems like a perfectly adequate format for such a thing. I'm not saying my ideas are important or innovative or anything of the sort, nor do I claim that anyone else will particularly care about them. But, who cares? So here I am.

I chose "It's A Wonderful Life" as the title of my first blog for two reasons: (1) My life really is full of so many blessings (especially because of my family -- see that I can honestly call it "wonderful" to me; and (2) I just watched the classic holiday movie of the same title the other night. It is about #2 that I wanted to write. I really do love that movie. Call me a softie or a sap or whatever, but no matter how many times I've seen it I still get all misty at the end when Harry toasts his big brother George, the "richest man in town." There are so many great characters in good old Bedford Falls -- Ernie the cabdriver; Burt the cop (Jim Henson must have loved this movie, too); crotchety old Mr. Potter and his oddly silent assistant that is always hovering over him like an old buzzard; unflappable Clarence (pun intended), AS2; the high school senior who gets his revenge on George by opening the high school gym floor (wouldn't that have been cool to have in your high school?).

However, one of the greatest things about this movie is that it isn't embarrassed to extol timeless virtues and teach some valuable lessons. Most of them are quite familiar to us: all people have worth, no matter their socio-economic status; family members support each other through thick and thin; you don't have to look far to find happiness; love can conquer all; faith in God can carry us through difficulties; and, of course "no man is a falure who has friends". But there are several somewhat more subtle (though still important) lessons that this movie teaches us: an old metal shovel works well as a sled, but not on thin ice; wishing on a gimmicky drug-store cigar lighter doesn't necessarily work; some drunken and abusive people can still be saved; if people are applauding your lousy dancing, there may be a problem; if you're leaving on your honeymoon and you see panic breaking out in town, keep going; and the most valuable lesson of all -- never, ever entrust the Uncle Billy's in your life with an envelope full of cash.

So, here's to a wonderful movie -- may it ever live in NBC's Christmas repertoire!