Thursday, December 6, 2012

The "It's not Christmas if we don't __" list

My daughter Joanna and I were talking before Thanksgiving about a list that everybody seems to have, on which there are items without which it's just not Thanksgiving dinner.

For me, the list for Thanksgiving includes turkey, stuffing, cranberry, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. I note with some dismay that with the exception of the turkey, they're all high in carbs. I eat a fair amount of turkey throughout the year, actually, because I love the taste of it.

I think there's a similar list for Christmas, and it's not just about food but about experiences as well. This morning I'm wondering what's on my list of must-have Christmas experiences this year, because I've moved this year, moved in with my honey, and sharing Christmas with a man I love for the first time in about a dozen or so years.

There was a time when my "it's not Christmas if we don't" list included a rather lengthy list of movies and TV shows I had to watch: all the traditional stuff you've undoubtedly seen yourself, like the claymation movies Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, the animated Charlie Brown Christmas, The Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and The Velveteen Rabbit, and the live-action movies like It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, The Night They Saved Christmas (a very guilty pleasure, since it's not a very good movie) and the original version of The Bishop's Wife.

I think the list was lengthy because Christmas was a hard time for me emotionally as a kid, and I clung to those movies to tell myself what Christmas "should" be like. The family should be happy in each other's happy and not criticize each other, and they should tell each other how much they care. They should glow, basically.

Over the years, I think thanks to lots of Shadow Work processes that have helped me connect with parts of myself and connect with other people more deeply, my must-watch list has shrunk down to almost nothing. I'd like to share The Bishop's Wife with Paul if he hasn't seen it, and it's been so long since I watched Charlie Brown Christmas that it would be a welcome treat.

I think what's on my list this year are, first, finding out what's on Paul's list and doing as much of it as possible; listening to and creating as much music as possible; spending at least a little time staring into a fire (even if it's Radiant Fireplace 2 on the DVD player) and talking about Christmases past; at least a little time looking at Christmas lights in the neighborhood; and time spent with Joanna and her fiance James. Gifts aren't very important to me, either to give or to receive, and I'll be involved in much more gift-giving this year than I've been in a while, but that's okay. I prefer to tell somebody I love them on a regular basis and consider it more effective than gift-giving.

The music has become something of a challenge, because I worship at a Quaker meeting where there's a minimum of music, and much of the music there is of my own prompting. I think most of my Quaker friends don't have music high on their own must-have lists. I've been listening to Handel's Messiah for several weeks, as I often do at this time of year, and singing along. I probably won't make it to the Harris Theater's Do-It-Yourself (singalong) Messiah this year as I did last year, but I highly recommend it.

Clearly, listening to, and singing along with, The Messiah is on my must-have list for Christmas. Didn't think of that earlier! I also look for chances to sing my other favorite Christmas pieces like "O Holy Night."

Last Christmas my favorite musical event was the 11 PM service at the First Congregational Church here in Evanston, where James's mother, harpist Marcia Labella, has been part of a music ensemble that plays during interludes and Marcia plays a harp solo. (She is so skilled.) It was a great experience, with a really loud organ playing favorite Christmas hymns and carols at a good volume, and led by an excellent choir on the chancel that was singing some excellent harmony. Sadly, it looks like Paul and I will miss attending that this year, but for a happy reason, that Paul's son and his family from Atlanta will be in the Kankakee area, so we'll spend Christmas Eve down there.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A few movies seen recently

I rent movies from Netflix and from the Evanston Library, and Paul and I generally see several films that are new to us each week.

A recent favorite was Moliere, a fictional story about a period in the playwright's life when nobody knows where he was or what he was doing. It was so well done that I was completely swept away. The story is primarily a love story and a drama but there's a good deal of humor in it as well. Fabrice Luchini plays a clueless nobleman who's trying to worm his way into a beautiful courtesan's good opinion, and he pays Moliere to write something that will impress her. The costumes and sets are spectacular. Highly recommended.

On the strength of Luchini's performance, we rented The Women on the Sixth Floor, which is a little film, enjoyable fluff, not very realistic but fun to watch.

Clash wasn't quite so good; it's a martial arts film purportedly filmed in Vietnam, but the plot and acting aren't  quite up to par. Perhaps the best thing about the film was that even the toughest characters revealed some vulnerability. The silliest thing about the film is that the fighters pummel each other for 10-15 minutes at a stretch with not much effect.

Watching Black Robe wasn't a hopeful or cheerful experience, but the cinematography is unbelievably beautiful and the story compelling. I expected a lot more gore than I saw, after having been warned that the film was hard to watch, and I think the real reason it's hard to watch is that it's the story of missionaries who are on such an arrogant, pointless errand.

Last night we watched The Owl and the Sparrow directed by Stephane Gauger, about whom I'd like to know more, as he's clearly American but fluent in Vietnamese.  We listened to part of the director's commentary last night and hope to listen to the remainder tonight. The hand-held camera work is a little jarring at first, but it does have the impact Gauger was looking for, of placing the viewer right into the movie. After about an hour of the film I realized I was watching the movie, I'd become unaware of anything but the characters. It's a very sweet story of a little girl on her own on the streets of Saigon who plays matchmaker between two lonely people.

Yogi Tea's Cold Season tea

When I lived in Colorado, I discovered Cold Season tea, made by Yogi Tea, which to my amazement cleared up nasal congestion when I had a cold and generally left me feeling better.

Yesterday Paul came down with a cold, and I made him a cup of this tea, with some honey added, and it had the same kind of near-miraculous effect. He had a second cup late in the evening and another cup this morning, and I haven't heard him sneeze since dinnertime last night.

Here it is for sale at the Yogi Tea website, and here it is for sale at Amazon, where you can buy it in bulk and (I think even) using Amazon's Subscribe & Save feature.