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Archive for December, 2013

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I have news for you

(9th century Irish)

I have news for you:
The stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course
The sea running high.
Deep red the bracken; its shape is lost;
The wild goose has raised its accustomed cry,
cold has seized the birds’ wings;
season of ice, this is my news

(More Celtic poetry here)

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We had snow today. And a Christmas concert. And did I mention poison ivy?  (That would be me.) And I have finished an entire draft of my novel and am now laboriously working my way through revisions. (Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.) Which all goes to explain why this post is late. And also, why it is probably the last one of the year, because around the holidays, the days are just packed. 

But, if you are like me, you might be able to use some gift ideas right about now.  I of course have some EXCELLENT suggestions, most of which involve books. Ready?

I had an early Christmas this year — I purchased Alice Hoffman’s Survival Lessons and Joshilyn Jackson’s Someone Else’s Love Story. Completely different books, both beautifully written. For that hard-to-please person, for the person who has had a tough year, or just for yourself, buy these books. I promise they will not disappoint.

Have a teen who tore through the Diversity and Hunger Games books?  Try the Wake series by Lisa McMann. Spooky and tightly written, they’re impossible to put down.

Does someone in your house love the Narnia books and A Wrinkle in Time?  Check out No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko. (She also writes the excellent Al Capone series.) Or try A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz, which is just spooky enough to keep you turning pages. (Both these books also have excellent audio versions.)

Tired of the Wimpy Kid and Big Nate series? Get your reader to branch out with the Dragonbreath series by Ursula Vernon, or Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder (Joe Nesbo, and worth it for the title alone).  Or for a stretch, have them try the False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy is also quite popular around here.

What would I like to find under my tree?  I’m intrigued by Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose; Chasing Alaska: A Portrait of the Last Frontier Then and Now by C.B. Bernard; and A Story Lately Told by Anjelica Huston.

What do you hope to find under your tree this year?

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When I was a little girl, it wasn’t Christmas until my mother dragged up the nativity music box from the basement.  It was a big plastic replica of the manger scene, complete with cow. When you wound the key in the back it played Silent Night, and it smelled like a cross between a new Barbie and the dank cool air of the cellar. I loved it dearly. My mother put up with it for probably 10 years, and then one day in a fit of purging it disappeared.

I was remembering that nativity scene as I looked around my house today. These days when I close my eyes and picture Christmas, I see white walls, a simple green tree with pine cones, maybe a burlap skirt. A few plain green wreaths scattered about. One or two starfish. Something like this:

When I open my eyes however, that is not what I see. I see holiday throws on every surface, a flurry of hand-cut snowflakes dangling from the balcony, an overabundance of nutcrackers dancing across my mantel and a talking chipmunk, a dragon/egg warmer and a mouse holding a holiday tete-a-tete.  This is not a harmonious mix.

The talking chipmunk and friends.

The talking chipmunk and friends.

Some days I long to open up that Pottery Barn catalog and disappear into that faux serenity, that magical lifestyle where toys stay in their tastefully monogrammed bins, champagne glasses are always full and sparkling,  and singing chipmunks cannot be found. But then my kids build a manger out of magnatiles, or hijack baby Jesus and leave a ransom note, or pore over the Christmas books, reading favorite lines aloud to each other, and I think those perfectly decorated rooms look just a little bit lonely.

Christmas, at least here, is about the plastic managers. It’s about loving the imperfect items for what they represent. It’s about an electric current of joy so strong that it powers the whole holiday season, waking us all with the excitement of possibility, making the house shine more than any tinsel or lights ever could.  And that’s so much better than any catalog still-life.

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