Listening To: Tennessee Christmas by Amy Grant
Just watched: Star Trek. Thought it was great ... even though the time travel stuff confuses me to no end.
I went to the Grand Ole Opry Friday night. I didn't realize I was going to the Grand Ole Opry. I knew the Ryman was the home of the G.O.O. for a long time. When I got there, I learned the Opry is still held in the Ryman for the duration of the Christmas season. So fun! We saw some great performers. Heard so much pretty country music. Pretty in an old-timey "imagine how awesome this sounded when it came crackling over the radio" way. Pretty in a gritty, unrefined folk way. Parts of it made me miss my grandparents like crazy (they watched the Opry every weekend). Parts revved up my heart and totally inspired me. And some parts - like the times when people were stomping their feet on the wood floors, clapping, and shouting "woo!" through the bluegrass tunes - made me so thankful l I live in such a fun state.
The Opry happens in four 30-minute segments and each segment has a host. Most of the hosts haven't put out records for many years, but they're still on stage, still making music, doing what they love. Ralph Stanley played during the third set and he was was fabulous. He sang "Man of Constant Sorrow" in his sparkly blue suit and got a standing ovation.
My favorite part was the last thirty minutes - when Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings sang. Their music made my arms tingle it was so good. My favorite song was called "Ruby" from David Rawlings* first solo album. If you're a fan of 70's/early 80's folk (like Dan Fogelberg and the Eagles), give it a listen and see what you think. It was gorgeous. Watching them play, and get lost in the song, was also gorgeous. This weekend was definitely the gift that keeps on giving because I get so inspired by live music. I left with a ramped up desire to make art that matters. To wrestle some really beautiful passages out of my imagination (even on days I don't want to write a single word). To try to do this thing a little bit more fearlessly. And try to be more responsible with my words. I recently re-discovered this quote by Erma Bombeck: "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and would say, 'I used everything you gave me.'" I hope I'm making that true. Also, I have the sweetest brother in the world. Hanging out with him on Friday night was the best. On Saturday, I got to spend time with my brother and sister; a rare and wonderful kind of event.
This is a very small (very blurry) picture of me and the sibs. I have an older sister, Bridgett. She's gorgeous, funny, kind and all the things a sister should be. When I was a kid, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always tried to give the obvious answer (either "a writer" or "the person who thinks up names to put on the crayon wrappers"). But deep down, I only wanted to be just like her. And Chase, my handsome, hilarious brother is younger than me (but people have asked if we're twins on many occasions). Despite his incessant need to pick on me, he's a great guy. Genuinely kind and funny and one of the most talented guitar players I've ever heard. FYI: The reason this picture is blurry is because my mom can't work my camera phone.
Mom tried to take another pic, but it was not successful either. The blur is gone but somehow she zoomed way too close. I told them she did this because I'm her favorite ... but the real reason is just that she despises my camera phone. Behind her Nokia, the woman is a force. The camera phone drives her batty. She kept pushing the button like she was using a wii controller.
Bridgett and Chase are both adorable and made of awesome. And they're both insanely smart, Type-A people who love their weird, artsy, very un-type A booknerd of a sister :) When I say they're Type-A, what I mean is that they're both organized, academic, successful, and focused. Sometimes people with those attributes are classified as unfun, which is definitely not true of them. Example:
Chase recently bought a new ornament to put on the family Christmas tree. It's ... festive.
Also, it is very large. He calls it Paddy O'Claus. The best was when he showed it to my mom and she said, "Wow. That's pretty. Why don't you hang it on the back of the tree?" And then she not so subtly suggested I give it away on the blog. And even though I knew the comments would light up with people trying to win Paddy O'Claus *sarcasm*, I don't want to break my brother's heart. He's quite fond of it.
We opened presents from my sister, bro-in-law, niece, and nephew this weekend. Much awesomeness abounded. Andy (my nephew - age 5) got Chase ... a giant birthday card (his birthday is in June). It plays Smashmouth's "All Star" :) So cute.
Let me tangent just a second to talk about Andy, the boy to whom I have passed the torch of randomness. We went to the Macaroni Grill on Sunday. Andy took the garnishes from our pasta and used them to make the bread look prettier**:
Andy also created a new interpretation of the traditional Santa scene. My mom usually puts a moose in the nativity (which is a story for another time). But Andy took the moose, and hitched it to a sleigh my mom was using in another decoration. And in the sleigh he put ...
A ninja turtle.
He also found a stuffed reindeer. He put a storm trooper on the reindeer's back. With friends like that, Santa is safe this year.
My sister gave me a cookbook that made me [---] that close to teary. It has a bunch of family recipes in it. My Aunt Ruth put a recipe in there for fruit pizza that looks delicious (though the best part is seeing her handwriting in there! :). The funniest recipe is the one called Ed's Cheeseball (Ed is my bro-in-law). The recipe reads like this:
- Go to Walmart
- Fight the Thanksgiving crowd
- Go to the deli section
- Contemplate for at least 1 hour
- Buy several more things you don't need
- Purchase a cheese ball
- Add crackers of your choice
In addition to all the fun recipes, Bridgett filled my book up with pictures of things I love: the fam, my dog, the farm, big bright flowers. It was so sweet. I can't stop reading it. Andy (my nephew) gave me a framed picture of my dog (awww :). And my niece, Erin, who is way too stylish for her own good, gave me a gorgeous purple scarf.
Sarah, who blogs over at sarahwithachance, sent a really fun blog award this way a few weeks ago I did happy claps when I saw this because I really like the word "scrappy." It makes me think of something little and tough. My puffball dog? Totally scrappy. To know this blog has earned such an honorable designation makes me want to give a speech, but I'll spare you. I'll just thank Sarah for deeming this place worthy :)
When you get the award, you're supposed to write ten random things about yourself. I'm going to bend the rules just a smidge and write ten random things about my Christmas experiences. Hope you'll play along in the comments!
1. One of the most expensive Christmas gift I ever got was: money for grad school from some people in my church. I wouldn't have been able to go without their help and I still get choked up when I think about their kindness. One of the most humbling things in the world is when someone gives you a gift knowing, when they give it to you, you will never pay them back. I even said that to them, "I don't know how I can pay you back." And someone said, "When you're in a position someday to do the same thing, do it. That's all the payment we ever want." The whole experience taught me so much about grace and giving and how crazily (it's a word!) prayers are answered.
2. The quirkiest gift I ever got was: a trash sculpture from my friend Jimmy. I'll try to find a pic and post it for you. It is trash found on the streets of NYC (theater ticket for Beauty and the Beast, cigarette, crushed can of coke, paper) smooshed together in a small, clear plastic container. He bought it from one of his friends for $5ish. They both attended a swanky art school, so the gift isn't as tacky as it sounds. But it was just tacky enough to be really funny and make me smile :)
3. The most memorable gift I ever got was: a stack of poetry books from my grandmother. She gave them to me the Christmas before she died, which made the gift that much sweeter. The thing about the gift that makes it truly face-rocking is that she took the time to write notes on the pages of her favorite poems.
4. The ugliest gift I ever got: also came from my granny. She found a sweater at a junk store that looks like it's made of Chewbacca - long ribbons of golden fur-stuff dangled from the sleeves and armpit area. It was truly the ugliest sweater I've ever seen (and this is coming from a girl who loved sweatshirts with airbrushed unicorns back in middle school). To add insult to injury, the day my granny gave me the sweater she said, "It seemed like something you would wear." Awesome.
5. On Christmas I always: miss my grandparents. So much.
6. My most memorable gifts as a kid were: the Anne of Green Gables series, The Little House on the Prairie series, the very first CD's I ever owned (Garth Brooks and Ase of Base ... don't judge) and the Crystal Castle. Which was the home of She-Ra, princess of Power, in case you aren't in the know about 80's cartoons ;) In sixth grade, I asked for a *drops head in shame* "pink ice ring". It was a little ring with a pink jewel of some sort as its center but when you're a sixth grader with fashion cred it's called pink ice. On a more serious note: when I was in high school, my uncle gave me a box of really pretty paper. On the box he wrote, "For all your beautiful stories." That's another gift that can't be beat: knowing people believe in you when you don't believe in yourself.
7. My favorite Christmas carol is: "O Holy Night." My favorite version is Martina McBride's.
8. My family refers to the day before Christmas Eve as Christmas Adam. I know it's corny and only funny in a punny way, but we get a kick out of ourselves.
9. We always open presents on Christmas Eve. When I was a kid, we went to my grandparents' house for a big family get together, then went home and opened presents. Then Santa came during the night and left a few more gifts. So this is what would happen: Mom would finally convince us to go to bed. She would read us a story. Then, just as the book had ended, my dad would run around the house shaking a jingle-bell wreath so we would think Santa had landed in the yard. And thus, go to sleep. As an adult, I've decided 1.) that it was such a super sweet awesome dad-like thing to do and 2.) that I am amazed he didn't fall in a hole because that yard was full of them and 3) that it is hilarious to think the the neighbors might have seen him running around the house, freezing, shaking the jingle bell wreath. Not that they would have been surprised. Most of our neighbors were family, or friends so close they felt like family, so they were just as quirky as we were.
10. I hope for snow every year before I fall asleep. It hasn't happened in this city yet (too warm). But a girl can always hope, right? :) It did snow here for a few weeks ago, just for a few hours, and it was beautiful. Here's a pic I took of some blackbirds in the tree outside:
I would love to hear more about your Christmas traditions, quirks, and favorite songs :) I'll be back on Wednesday with a story about a ghost, some duct-tape, and a fake foil star.
The pic of David Rawlings and Gillian Welch isn't mine - found it on Google.
* Fun fact about David Rawlings: he's produced (and played guitar with) Ryan Adams. If you listen to his music, you'll totally hear the connection.
** Reminds me of the scene in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Tula's mom comes out with a potted plant in the center of the bunt cake and says, "I fixed it!"