Merry Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve Eve, and I’m watching Love Actually for actually the twelfth time this month. Every time it’s on, I gotta watch it. And it’s on a lot.

Tonight’s a quiet night. As I write this my favorite furry friend is lying beside me on the couch, all cuddled up in a blanket. I bought him a birthday cake today because it will be eight years on Dec 26 that I made the best decision of my life and went to Animal Control and brought this baby home with me. I’ve designated Dec 26 as his birthday. I was told when I got him that he was two years old, so that means my boy has hit the double-digits.

Phil is the first dog I’ve had since our family dog passed away when I was a teenager. I can’t believe I let so much time pass before getting another dog. It’s hard to remember my life before him. It must have been so empty without a dog, and I didn’t even know it. I’ve been grateful for him ever since.

This is my Christmas post and I don’t want to be too melancholy, but I’ve spent the last 24 hours reflecting on some horrible tragedies that have recently happened. I woke up this morning to the news that a tsunami in India had killed over two hundred people. This after going to bed reading about the brutal murders of two Scandinavian tourists women in Morocco.

It’s enough to make one wonder how there could be a God that allows suffering like this to happen in the world. I know that’s a sacrilegious thing to say two days before the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but I can’t honestly say I don’t have my doubts.

For now I’m going to cuddle up with my dog while I acknowledge that though this may be the season of joy and the time to be merry, there are people all over the world struggling right now with grief or loneliness or a loss of a loved one. Maybe that loss was so recent and unexpected that there are wrapped presents under the tree for that loved on who is no longer here. What do they do with those presents and how do they carry on? As they hold that unopened present will they remember when they bought the gift and the anticipation they felt at watching the expression on their loved one’s face as they open the gift they’re sure they’ll love?

These are depressing sentiments. I know. But these are the thoughts that cloud my mind when tragedies happen so close to the  holidays.

I hope all of those people struggling find peace.

Merry Christmas, and give your dog a hug if you have one. They love that.

 

 

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The 24-Hour Dominance of “A Christmas Story”

Since 2004, the cable channel, TBS, has been playing a 24-hour marathon of the movie, “A Christmas Story,” starting on Christmas Eve night looped all the way through Christmas Day. In 1997, this holiday favorite used to feature its 24-hour dominance on TNT.

In 1997.

The movie is a bonafide holiday hit. A classic. And even though I probably haven’t watched it from beginning to end since I was nine (which by then I’d probably seen the movie 1,985,789,121 times), this 24-hour holiday feature loop plays in the background, on my TV, whenever my TV is on.

When you know a movie as well as most people know “A Christmas Story,” merely catching glimpses here and there will bring you right back into the story as if you’ve been lying on the couch, with the dog snuggled in your lap, watching since scene one.

For me, just hearing the scenes play out from a small screen in a room I may not even be in, stimulates the Christmas spirit in me. I’m taken back to the days I used to write Santa long letters of my most coveted toys and leave treats for him to eat on the night he’d come to drop off all my gifts.

I was a young child the first time I saw “A Christmas Story.” And that may be why anytime I see the movie on TV, or just hear the familiar words from across a room, it triggers a feeling inside that is calming and nostalgic.

The fact that the movie is set in the 1940’s may also contribute to my endorphin-like sensation that, for the moment, everything is gonna be all right, whenever that movie is on. The story takes place during a time that is often looked back as “the good old days.” Or, “a simpler time.”

Well, what could be a more simpler time than when we were kids?

So, right off the bat there are two things that automatically make “A Christmas Story” endearing to me. One, I saw the movie for the first time through non-jaded eyes when I was a child, and two, the story is set during the “olden days.”

Even though history tells me life was hard and not so great for a lot of people during those times, and even though, for many personal reasons, I wouldn’t want to live in those old days if given a choice, a sense of tranquility takes over me almost instantly when I watch an old movie. In some strange way the scenes on screen are very familiar to me, even though I’ve never lived it.

As a kid, I loved the part in “A Christmas Story” where the friends dare each other to do something because what kid didn’t do that?

I once put a cicada in my mouth, on a dare.   I once lay across the middle of a dirty, busy road in a white jacket on a dark night, on a dare. And I once made a funny face behind the back of a teacher, on a dare. (And yes, I got ratted out by my fellow-classmates.)

But I never stuck my tongue to a freezing pole in the dead of winter. I don’t know if it’s because I was never stupid enough to do something like that, or because nobody ever triple-dog dared me to do it.

 

 

 

 

Getting in the Christmas Spirit

The unusually warm weather for this time of year is making it very hard to believe that Christmas is only a few short days away. Two weeks ago I went to the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. The gorgeous trees with its lights synchronized to classic Christmas music, and the entire production with all its festive decorations certainly helped to get me into the Christmas spirit.

But despite the Illumination and all the houses I drive by dressed in green and red costumes with front lawns pinned with giant plastic Snowmen and blown-up Santa Clauses, I still feel that the holiday has crept up on me.

All this even after I purposely made sure I went to see the movie, Krampus, just to be certain the Christmas spirit stayed with me. And maybe it did a little because for a couple days after seeing that movie, I walked around the house yelling, “I believe! I believe! Do you hear me, Krampus? I believe so you don’t have to come for me on Christmas morning.”

Still, I think I’ll lock my bedroom door when I go to bed on Christmas Eve, just in case. And Phil may not know it yet, but he’s definitely sleeping in my room that night, even though my dog prefers a certain family member over me. This little habit of my baby favoring someone else took time for me to accept, and I am often compelled to remind Phil that I was the one who took him from that over-crowded shelter, with its constant barking and utter chaos, and gave him his furever home. 

But I don’t say that to him because I don’t want Phil to remember his life before he had a home.  Because dogs live in the moment, I’m quite certain he doesn’t dwell on the past or wonder about what the future holds. He lives in the “here and now” and as long as that “here and now” consists of lots of comfy blankets, bowls of food with scraps of chicken or steak, fresh water, a tennis ball and a soup bone smeared with peanut butter, Phil doesn’t worry about the future, only the “here”. 

I love that about dogs. Their ability to move on, even from the most abusive pasts, and love and trust again, absolutely amazes me.

This Christmas I’ll be thinking of all the dogs in crowded shelters, waiting for someone to come rescue them, many with only days or hours left to their lives.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog for Christmas, and remember they could be a 15-plus years commitment, please consider visiting your local shelter. If you can’t afford to care for a dog right now, but would like to have one, please consider fostering. The shelter provides everything for the dog. There is no cost to you, except to love the dog. If you don’t have time for an animal in your life right now, please consider sponsoring a shelter dog or cat.

All of these will help to save a dog’s life.

If you’re looking for a puppy, please know that shelters have lots of puppies, too. You don’t need to go to a pet store or a breeder for a puppy. But the more time I spend around animals, the more I appreciate and love older dogs. Puppies are cute, but it’s hard to explain the feeling that overcomes me when an older dog looks me directly in the eyes and licks the top of my nose.

It’s as though they’re saying, “I’ve known and met a lot of humans in my life, but not all of them have deserved a kiss on the nose, but you do.”

Aww….nothin’ beats that.

Since Christmas has sneaked up on me, I will be running around tomorrow, and possibly early Christmas Eve, picking up last-minute gifts.

And to be sure that I am in the holiday spirit come Christmas morning, tonight I will watch a couple of my favorite Christmas movies, It’s a Wonderful Life and You’ve Got Mail.  Okay, maybe You’ve Got Mail isn’t technically a holiday movie, but it does have some Christmas scenes in it and it is sweet and revolves around books and online romance, a couple things I know very well (only one is kinda unfortunate).

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

 

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