Category Archives: Christmas

my Christmas playlist

I’ve always loved to make mix CDs. Now, as my daughter reminds me, I can make an iTunes mix playlist. Using my stack of holiday CDs and some songs I’ve downloaded, I’ve just compiled my ultimate Christmas listening selection:

  1. “Sleigh Ride” – Harry Connick, Jr.; When My Heart Finds Christmas
  2. “Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow” – Vanessa Williams; Silver and Gold
  3. “Love Came Down at Christmas” Shawn Colvin, Holiday Songs and Lullabies
  4. “I Saw Three Ships” – Cast of Miss Saigon; Carols for a Cure, 1999
  5. “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” – Harry Connick, Jr.; When My Heart Finds Christmas
  6. “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” – Nancy Wilson; Williams-Sonoma, Jingle Bell Jazz
  7. “Silver and Gold” – Vanessa Williams; Silver and Gold
  8. “Little Road to Bethlehem” – Shawn Colvin, Holiday Songs and Lullabies
  9. “O Come All Ye Faithful” – Amy Grant; The Christmas Collection
  10. “Mary’s Little Boy Child” – Vanessa Williams; Silver and Gold
  11. “I Wonder as I Wander” – Cast of Swing; Carols for a Cure, 1999
  12. “Joy to the World” – Vanessa Williams; Silver and Gold
  13. “Winter Wonderland” – Peggy Lee; Williams-Sonoma, Jingle Bell Jazz
  14. “The Little Drummer Boy” – Vanessa Williams; Silver and Gold
  15. “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” – Shawn Colvin, Holiday Songs and Lullabies
  16. “I Pray on Christmas” – Harry Connick, Jr.; When My Heart Finds Christmas

Merry Christmas, Staff Sergeant

I completely and bitterly oppose the war in Iraq.

I completely and warmly admire and respect the soldiers who serve there.

A former coworker’s son is currently leading a platoon of 30 guys in Iraq. She’s a single mom, and he’s her only child. She hasn’t seen him in, I think, nearly two years; they communicate whenever possible by email. This soldier’s mom opposes the war but, needless to say, supports any and all efforts to lend comfort and support to those who serve. She’s taken it upon herself to organize regular mailings of snacks, magazines, and other goodies to her son’s platoon members, some of whom receive no mail otherwise.

With Christmas approaching, she learned that some of the soldiers also receive no gifts, cards, or any other recognition of the holiday. And, of course, it’s a difficult day for the entire platoon, so far from home and family. So, she asked her friends to consider providing a Christmas box for a platoon member, to ensure that all the guys would experience some holiday cheer.

In the best and most magical of all worlds, I’d love to be able to transport the entire platoon here to my house and cook them Christmas dinner. I can’t begin to describe how much I’d enjoy having a house full of big, hungry guys who haven’t had home-cooked food in many months — I do so love to provide people with happiness and support in the form of food. Transport technology not being up to speed yet, I was delighted to temporarily adopt a soldier for the Christmas mailing. He’s 28, a Staff Sergeant, and the platoon artillery expert. That’s all I know.

My friend asked that we include for each soldier a $10 iTunes card, a pocket knife, a 6″ Mag flashlight, snacks, and a personal gift from us. The US Postal Service provides flat-rate boxes that you can stuff with whatever will fit and mail in the US or to soldiers for $8.95. The box measured 13.625″ x 11.875″ x 3.375. Fortunately I love to shop and to hunt for items that meet a specific purpose, and I’m also a past master at fitting a whole lot into a small space thanks to years of filling Christmas stockings. I had a wonderful time shopping for my soldier and then putting together the packing puzzle. When my box was full, it weighed 9-1/2 pounds. Here’s what was in it:

(Actually, not all the items from all the snack boxes at the back fit, but I managed to squeeze in some of each.)

I also got a funny Christmas card, printed out some pictures of my family and our pets, and wrote the Staff Sergeant about who we are and where we live. I tried to express to him our respect and appreciation for all he’s doing. I hope he’ll write back.

Too many soldiers in Iraq and other places receive no mail and will get nothing for Christmas. If you know someone serving in harm’s way, you may be able to get the name of someone you could mail to, and thereby make a big difference in that soldier’s life. Or, you can go to sites like and to find soldiers who need our support; the sites describe in detail what the soldiers want and need, and how/when/where you can send care packages and letters.

Merry Christmas, Staff Sergeant. Stay safe. I hope you and your comrades come home soon.

if you want… evening, the theme of my church’s Christmas Eve Vespers service was “The Birth of the Holy.” Now, if you’ve read this blog at all, then you know I’m an atheist. So why was I 1) at a Christmas Eve service, especially one that talked about 2) “the Holy”?

Because 1) I love Christmas, for reasons relating to joy and love and music and color and lights and giving and sharing and family and bringing the world to life in the midst of winter cold. I listen to the Christmas story with the same mindset as I do any other story, and I appreciate the careful consideration that led the early church to mesh their commemoration of Jesus’s birth with an existing Pagan holiday, thus helping popularize their central figure and bringing tremendous happiness to the world each December.

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my weekend

8:20 a.m.: Arrive at church; unload car entirely full of groceries

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon: Work with other volunteers to make 30 loaves of Scandinavian Ginger Cake, 59 jars of Brandied Hard Sauce (to go with Plum Pudding), and 12 jars of Smores Bars mix, all for next Saturday’s Yuletide Fare

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.: Volunteer crews change over; clean up from the morning, set up for the afternoon

1:00 – 1:30 p.m.: Run to Subway to get lunch for volunteers; sit down for about 10 minutes

1:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Work with volunteers to make about 24 dozen Buckeyes (peanut butter candy dipped in chocolate, a lot like a homemade Reese’s Cup), about 48 dozen chocolate-dipped Bourbon Balls, and about 8 dozen Gingersnap Bourbon Balls

5:30 p.m. (and various points earlier in the day): Work with the Guilderoy Byrne sound guy and people doing decorating to help get things set up for our Celtic Christmas concert

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all I want for Christmas is a toad-shaped purse do about 85% of my Christmas shopping online; this time of year, the UPS guy is wearing a path to the door. A few years ago, I discovered a company called Archie McPhee. They have a store in Seattle that I’d dearly love to visit some day, a way cool paper catalog, and a web site that will make you feel as though you’ve been sucked into a Dadaist version of the 1960s. Thanks to the magic pixies at Archie McPhee, I’ve given highly successful, way-beyond-the ordinary gifts for Christmas, birthdays, and graduations.

I’ve enjoyed my share of the Mystery Boxes I’ve ordered my family for the last couple of Christmases—after all, you can never have enough Parasite Pals or Jumbo Soft Latex Toads. But there are some other McPhee marvels I feel I can’t live without. Herewith, in case Santa is reading this, are the Things I Want Desperately for Christmas from Archie McPhee. Continue reading