Friday, December 27, 2019

On the Third Day of Christmas...

My Christmas theater date!
It’s one of my least favorite Yuletide numbers (though it certainly beats Santa being run over by that Reindeer). It is replete with a mind-numbing litany of olde worlde “presents,” the caroling slowing waaaay down whenever we hit “five golldennn rings,” (which always feels a bit like a musical car crash.) When I was young, the only Partridges I knew were the groovy TV family led by Shirley Jones, and darned if I could figure out why they were in a pear tree.

In recent years, I was somewhat charmed by the theory that the Twelve Days stood for Christian symbols (four Gospels, seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, eleven Faithful Apostles), with Jesus as “My True Love.” As the story went, the song was a way to teach some tenets of Christianity without fear of persecution. Good old Snopes de-bunked this thoroughly (Christians at the time of composition were not being persecuted, and why in any event would people “get” the idea that eight maids a milking stood for the eight Beatitudes?) and so now it remains just an archaic and annoying ditty, trotted out faithfully every Christmastide.

But I do love the notion that Christmas joy extends almost two weeks beyond December 25th, and I am all for giving and being gifted. So here is the Elise rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We begin today, December 27th, so we’ll need to play a little catch up.

Who needs three silly old French hens? On this, the third day of Christmas, my true love(s) gave to me:

Three days of sleeping (I’ve zzzz’d pretty much of every day and night since Christmas afternoon, making up for the entire previous month of pesky nocturnal wakefulness)

Two super grandsons (what were recent Christmases like before them? All I know is, they’re better now!)

And a “Mistletoe Mystery” (the cute show Aiden and I saw in Ambler yesterday).

And coming up…

Tomorrow, Day #4, Four Hours of Church Work (mostly end-of-year stuff, my mileage, my annual report but that’s OK…)
#5: Five Pounds of Cookies (both on the plate and on my hips)
#6: Six Coffee Mugs (presents all, and with the number we break around here, six new ones is just about right)
#7: Seven Resolutions (beyond that I will not go, and even seven is a HUGE stretch)
#8: Eight Grown-up Seyfrieds (in the House for Christmas:The Originals plus Yaj)
#9: Nine Scented Candles (Lit simultaneously, the fragrances are cancelled out, like using all the crayons on top of one another)
#10: Ten Books to Read (from The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane to Total Participation Techniques: How to Make Every Child an Active Learner. The latter will still be on my “to read” list in 2022.)
#11: Eleven Power Cords (All unidentified. Kindle? iPhone? Computer? Projector? Nope!)
#12 Twelve Christmas Cards Received (at least--more than we deserve, since we didn’t send ANY out again this year.)

What do you think? Catchy, huh? And no golldennn rings!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Blog-a-Thon Reflections

 Julie, running  a half-marathon a few years back. I run a different kind of race.

Many of you (OK, a few of you. OK, I know I heard this question from SOMEONE) have asked me: how did you train for your four 30-day blog-a-thons, Elise? And how do you recover when you’re done?

Here is my response. Feel free to use these tips as you prepare for YOUR next writing adventure!


I train for this month-long exercise in grammar and punctuation as I train for most of my life’s challenges. I tell everyone I know that I’m going to do it. Then I worry excessively that I won’t be able to do it. After that, I carbo-load for a couple of weeks (I do this even if the challenge involves zero physical activity. A little pasta never hurt anybody, right?) The night before it begins, I have terrible dreams involving catastrophic failure and/or zombies.

True to form, this year's training period featured blabbing, fretting, fettuccine and, yes, zombie dreams. On November 1st, I leapt out of bed, ready to type my little heart out!


And so it goes. Every day of every November since 2016, no matter what the weather, I show up at the old keyboard and put in my 500 words. I confess that some days it’s slow going, and I am hampered by Writer’s Cramp (remembering to hydrate helps here). If I hit my stride, though, the nouns and verbs and prepositions and gerunds fly past in a thrilling blur. I have experienced that enviable and elusive “Writer’s High” and pushed on to 510 words, but that doesn’t happen often.


Today I complete this year’s event, which means it’s time to relax. Here’s how I approach the days and weeks after 30 blog posts (adapted from "Return to Running After a Marathon" in Runner’s World):

It’s important to rest! Some experts suggest one day of rest for every essay posted, during which the only writing done is grocery lists and doodling. After that, begin an active recovery program. Active recovery includes reading Writer’s Digest, and even perusing a dictionary, if your brain is not too sore. Keep it low-intensity, no more than 65% of your max heart rate (avoid romance novels!)

Avoid a hot tub for 48 hours. Afterwards, barring injuries, you can use a hot tub. **Note to self: purchase hot tub.

Return to blogging with some easy-paced, light topics (the origin of the universe, favorite cartoons). But be aware of your breathing! If it sounds like a locomotive, you need to take it easy until the train reaches the station.

The recovery period is a good time to decide what you want to do next. Planning your training and setting goals (budget for spaghetti and hot tub, for example) are great ways to use your time during recovery. Congratulations!!

So that’s the plan, gang. It’s been a blast, but now I’m off to rest and recover. See you in a few weeks. Who knows? I may have thought of something else to write about by then!

Blog-a-Thon training secrets!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Goodwill Hunting

Just took a spin through the old bedroom closet and drawers, and I finally (regretfully) bagged up the bathing suits and flip flops until Summer 2020, and sent my summer clothes to the attic in labeled black trash bags. The labels invariably fall off, so when Steve (and it’s always Steve) climbs up to retrieve them in May, I’m never quite sure whose duds will be in the bag I’m tearing open.

When I ascertain that they (the duds) are mine, I realize that lots of them are, literally, duds: faded and worn, or otherwise undesirable. Next step? I confess I used to just fill up bags for Goodwill (here read Salvation Army, Vietnam Vets, etc.) and leave them outside for pickup, without really evaluating the items I was giving.

But then, on our 2008 mission trip to Vermont, we spent a day at a Goodwill Thrift Store, sorting the donations. I gotta tell you, it was a stomach-turning activity: bags were filled with, not just faded and worn clothes (mea culpa) but really gross castoffs: baby sleepers covered in dried spit up, muddy jeans and, my personal fave, a bag full of wet, moldy shirts and pants. At the end of the day, 90% of the “donations” were in the garbage. How is this thoughtlessness serving anyone, most of all the folks who have to rely on charities for their garb? It is akin to the food collections where people give cans and boxes of expired canned beets and stale cereal. It all reminds me of comedian Mitch Hedberg’s line: “When someone on the street hands you a flyer, it’s like they’re saying “Here, YOU throw this away!”

For years, our preschool participated in Operation Christmas Child. In theory this is great: you fill up shoeboxes with little toys and gifts, which are then distributed to children in third world countries. But then I read about what actually happens in too many cases: the stuff in the boxes is sometimes flimsy and breakable, often items the kids in those countries have no idea how to play with, and, most importantly, these “presents” take away income from the struggling local businesses who are trying to sell their own playthings.

Teddy Bears to donate
So this year, the kiddos are instead giving brand-new stuffed animals to our local Children and Family Services. These cuddly toys will be given to children who need to be removed from their homes, due to neglect or abuse. I imagine a frightened little one, getting a small measure of comfort from a new teddy bear—that, to me, is the true spirit of giving.

Nowadays, I try to examine anything I am planning to donate, and ask myself: “Would this be something my family would truly appreciate, were they to need something to eat or wear?” If not, out it goes! My goal is really trying to be more sensitive and aware of others and their actual needs.

It definitely makes for slower closet-cleaning, but I believe it’s worth it.

What's going in this bag?