It’s your anniversary – not

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If you tied the knot on Christmas Eve

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It was a nice day for a white wedding.  Tonight you spend your first anniversary/Christmas Eve without the funny man whose Stuffed Stocking no longer hangs from the whatever.

Fear not sister, for the spirit of the stocking stuffer of the future is with you.  Before long, you’ll wish you were bare foot again.  Don’t worry about being without a Man, cause unlike an unwanted gift, he cannot be easily returned.  Relish your alone time or better yet give it away to someone who has it a lot worse than you.

Christmas, they tell us, is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’.  What they don’t tell us is what we’re supposed to do when it isn’t. As the cards and carols like to remind us, Christmas is a time for families and togetherness, peace and well-being for all. If only the problems in life paid more attention to the songs on the radio.

It’s easy to want to echo the Grinch’s sentiment — “I must find a way to keep Christmas from coming!” There are some years when Christmas is more than we can do.  But more often, going into hibernation for a month isn’t a realistic plan.  Christmas is coming, with or without our permission.  So how do you face the season when it doesn’t look the way it used to?

If your circumstances have changes, remember that your plans and even your traditions can change too. This can be hard to explain to other family members, but stick to your guns.  If there is an event, even a family dinner that you’re already dreading politely decline.  The best part of being an adult is being self-determinant.  There are few things that are mandatory — like paying taxes and making sure your kids eat — but there are fewer than you might think.  This is supposed to be your season too, take back some control if you need to.

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Pa rum pum pum pum

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Written by Ron Clancy, this story first appeared in a monthly publication, founded by Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, that provides hope, encouragement and inspiration to millions. 

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I was six when I fell in love with Christmas carols, especially American Christmas songs. That year, the nuns in the Philadelphia orphanage where I lived took me to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The crowded chapel, the altar crèche, the scent of balsam trees–it was intoxicating!

But something else thrilled me even more: the music–soaring, majestic religious carols filled me with peace, joy and hope. It was a feeling, a deep spiritual warmth, I’d never experienced, living as I did, without a family, without a sense of belonging.

That night, I felt part of something–something much bigger than me. Where did such beautiful music come from? The question stayed with me all my life.

ron clancyFinally, in my sixties, I needed an answer. I decided to travel 4,000 miles, across seven states in nine days, to find the true stories behind those songs that held such deep meaning for me. I’d collected rare recordings of carols for decades–even compiling them into three richly illustrated book/CD boxed collections.

“I’m going to ask you the biggest favor of my life,” I said to my wife, Renate, one September night after dinner. She knew better than anyone the influence Christmas carols had on me.

“I want to visit the places where American carols originated. I want to get a feeling for what might have inspired their composers.”

I was asking a lot. We both worked–me up at 3:00 A.M. to deliver 230 morning newspapers daily, she as a schoolteacher who often worked till 6:00 P.M. It meant she would have to take over my delivery route, and then head straight to her elementary school. Bless her, she said yes right away.

Savannah, Georgia
Jingle Bells

I piled a suitcase, a still camera, a video camera and a tape recorder into my sturdy Volvo and headed from my home in North Cape May, New Jersey, to Savannah, Georgia, 13 hours and 760 miles south. My destination was the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah, known to just about every Savannan as the Jingle Bells Church.

It was there in 1857, while serving as the church’s musical director and organist, James Pierpont finally copyrighted One Horse Open Sleigh, the Christmas carol now known as Jingle Bells, which he had composed in Medford, Massachusetts, at least seven years earlier.

What a beautiful church, I thought. The stately stone edifice was recently renovated. I tried to imagine Pierpont sitting at the organ, playing his spritely song to the congregants every Christmas Eve. The man led a complicated life. He moved to the South and fought for the Confederacy, while his brother, John, served as a Union Army chaplain. He died impoverished though his nephew was the great financial titan, J. Pierpont Morgan, said to have more money than the U.S. Treasury.

I would like to have stayed in Savannah a few days more, but the road beckoned. I phoned Renate at the end of the day. “Honey, I’m in heaven,” I said.

St. Helena Island, South Carolina
Mary Had a Baby

“You’re headed to South Carolina tomorrow, right?” she asked.

“Yes, to St. Helena Island,” I said, “just fifty miles north.”

St. Helena Island, one of South Carolina’s sea islands, is home to one of Christmas’s most precious treasures, the carol Mary Had a Baby. Composed there somewhere in the early 19th century, it’s one of the few surviving slave-written carols.

The line that never fails to move me is its last one–“People keep a-comin’ an’ the train done gone.”
There’s no agreement on its meaning, but the interpretation I like best is this one: Trains represented an escape to freedom. And though this particular train had gone, with faith surely they’d find another opportunity.

No one knows for sure the plantation where it was written, and today the Coffin Point Plantation is the only one on the island that remains. At one time it occupied 1,120 acres and housed 63 slaves. I found the three-story manor house, white with red-roof shingles, down a quiet back road, near the sea.
Built in 1801, it’s a private home now. No one was there. I backed off the veranda and stood on the ample lawn. I sang the song softly to myself and thought of what the peace of Christmas must have meant to a slave.

Murphy, North Carolina
I Wonder as I Wander

The next morning I drove six and a half hours, from St. Helena Island, to Murphy, North Carolina, in the Great Smoky Mountains.

In 1933, I had read, the renowned folklorist and folksinger John Jacob Niles happened to be visiting the tiny Appalachian village, intent on collecting and recording traditional songs.

In his unpublished autobiography he wrote of a revivalist preacher’s daughter, who “stepped out to the edge of [a] little platform attached to [her father’s] automobile. Her clothes were unbelievably dirty and ragged, and she, too, was unwashed. But in her untutored way, she could sing.

“She smiled as she sang, smiled rather sadly, and sang only a single line of a song.”

Niles, enthralled, asked her to repeat the song and the lyric. She sang it seven times, Niles paying her 25 cents each time.

After the seventh take, he wrote, he had “three lines of verse, a garbled fragment of melodic material– and a magnificent idea.” From that he composed the haunting carol I Wonder as I Wander.

Niles’s carol is one of my favorites. Murphy was exactly as I had pictured it–the main street ran two blocks. There was an old bank, a drugstore and a town hall where I met the mayor Bill Hughes.

“Sure, I know the song,” he told me. “Everyone here does.” He stood up from his desk. “Come on with me,” he said, and led me down the street. “This is where Niles stood when he first heard the girl sing,” he said, indicating a spot by a fountain.

I thought of Niles’s lyrics, so simple yet so profound. Great beauty needs no adornment, I thought.

Concord, Massachusetts
The Little Drummer Boy

After a full day of travel to All Saints Episcopal Church in Pontiac, Michigan, the source of inspiration for the Alfred Burt family carols, I headed east to Concord, Massachusetts, to visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where composer Katherine K. Davis is buried.

In 1941, Ms. Davis wrote The Carol of the Drum, known today as The Little Drummer Boy. Davis taught music at Wellesley College. She penned more than 600 songs. It is said she based her famous hymn on an old Czech carol. In a long-ago interview, she said the song “practically wrote itself.”

But it wasn’t an instant hit. In fact, 17 years passed before she got a phone call one day from a friend. “Kay, your carol is on the air, all the time, everywhere on the radio!” she said.

“What carol?” she asked, surprised.

Harry Simeone and Henry Onorati had turned it into a top hit, with a new title and some minor changes. Simeone even had claimed authorship. Davis eventually proved she was, in fact, the songwriter.

Wayland, Massachusetts
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

The First Parish in Wayland, a Unitarian Universalist church in Wayland, Massachusetts, a scenic town outside of Boston, was my next stop. It was there Edmund Hamilton Sears, author of It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, served as minister.

What I love so much about the carol is that Sears wrote it as a prayer for peace more than as a carol. The Mexican War had just ended and the Civil War was on the horizon when he penned it Christmas Eve 1849.

A year later, his friend, the soon-to-be New-York Tribune music critic Richard Storrs Willis, set Sears’s poem to music.

Cambridge, Massachusetts
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

After a visit to the nearby Edmund Hamilton Sears Chapel, I set out for Cambridge. I had an appointment to see Dr. Jameson Marvin, director of choral activities at Harvard.

“Did you know,” I asked, “that a number of Harvard professors wrote carols? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote Christmas Bells, the basis for I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

“Christmas Eve, 1863, he was grieving over the death of his wife in a home fire, and of his son, who had been wounded in battle. The professor was awake late, in a desperate mood, when he heard the peal of church bells. Christmas had come.

“He sat down and penned his now-famous poem. Its last lines, famously, were, ‘With peace on earth, goodwill to men.’ Longfellow’s mood had changed.”

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
O Little Town of Bethlehem

From Cambridge I drove to Philadelphia, to The Church of the Holy Trinity on Rittenhouse Square. I wanted to pay homage to Rev. Phillips Brooks, the rector who wrote the poem O Little Town of Bethlehem, after returning from the Holy Land in 1866.

Brooks had traveled there following President Lincoln’s assassination, and the deaths of so many of his parishioners in the Civil War. He was struck by how peaceful it was in Bethlehem.

“The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight,” went his lyric–a message that he yearned for a similar peace in his homeland.

New York, New York
Do You Hear What I Hear? and White Christmas

I saved New York City for last. First I hoofed it to the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 50th Street, and inside what was then the Beverly and is now the Benjamin Hotel.

Pianist Gloria Shayne was playing in the hotel’s dining room. Composer Noel Regney was instantly smitten. The two married and in 1962 together wrote Do You Hear What I Hear? as a hymn to peace in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and not originally a Christmas song.

My final stop was 17 Beekman Place, in Midtown East, for decades Irving Berlin’s home. The composer of the classics God Bless AmericaEaster Parade and Puttin’ on the Ritz believed his best song was White Christmas.

Christmas had always been a sad day for Berlin. He lost a son Christmas Day 1928, and over time grew increasingly reclusive. In 1983, when he was 95, carolers gathered outside his home and serenaded him with his wonderful song.

His maid invited them all inside. Berlin greeted them and told them how touched he was by their gesture. Carolers continued to serenade him through 1988, the last Christmas of his life, and still gather to sing outside his home–now the Luxembourg House, the country’s United Nations consulate.

I was back in Cape May the next day sweeping Renate into my arms.

“Thank you,” I said. “This was the Christmas present of a lifetime.”

Divorce Diva of the Month

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edith-piaf-grangerEdith Piaf:  singer, born December 19, 1915

Known as La Mome Piaf (The Sparrow Kid), this tiny femme with the big voice lived a life straight out of a Charles Dickens novel.  She started singing for pennies on the streets of Paris and made it all the way to Carnegie Hall.

In the middle of the German occupation during World War II, she penned her signature song, “La vie en rose,” which loosely translated means looking at love/life through rose-colored glasses.  

Piaf was briefly married to a singer before she met married boxer Marcel Cedrean.  The two fell madly in love and Piaf hoped to one day be Mrs. Cedrean.  Sadly he died in a plane crash, leaving Piaf inconsolable.  Her last husband was twenty years her junior and by her side when she died at the age of forty-seven.  As another of her song titles so eloquently described her brief life, she lived with “Non, je ne regret rien” – with no regrets.

Santa’s Symbols Of Christmas

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Just a week before Christmas I had a visitor. I had just finished the household chores late at night, and was getting ready to go to bed, when I heard a noise in the living room. Much to my surprise, Santa Claus himself stepped out from behind the Christmas tree, and whispered, “Shh. Don’t be scared. It’s all right.”

 

I started to ask him what he was doing, but stopped in mid-sentence when I saw that his usual jolly manner was gone and he had tears in his eyes. He told me he was sad because children all over the world were not being taught the real meaning of Christmas.

He reached into his sack pulling out a small green Christmas tree. He said, “Teach the children that the evergreen tree remains green all the year round. Green is the colour of abundant nature around us and indicates the everlasting hope of mankind. God created trees to be of great service to people, providing wood to build homes, fires to keep us warm and to cook on, and paper to print books for us to learn from.

Santa reached into his sack again and pulled out a bright, shiny star, and said, “Teach the children the star was the heavenly sign of promise long years ago. God promised a Saviour for the world, and the star was a sign of the fulfilment of that promise. The countless shining stars in the night-sky still give us a reminder of that star so long ago telling of the birth of our Saviour.

Santa put the star on the top of the Christmas tree and took from his sack a glittering red ornament. He said, “Teach the children that red is the special colour of Christmas because it reminds us of the blood that was shed by our Saviour so that we could all gain Eternal Life, which is the greatest gift Heavenly Father can give us.”

As Santa returned to his sack I heard a soft, tinkling sound and saw he had a bell in his hand. “Teach the children that in the old days animals were very valuable to people as they provided transport and food for them. They put a bell round the neck of each sheep or cow, so they could hear where they were if they got lost. In the same way God values all people, wherever they are, and they are never lost to Him. In some places church bells are rung on Christmas Day to proclaim the good news of this special day.”

Once again Santa reached into his sack, and brought out a candle. “Teach the children that a candle was used in the old days to light the way so people could see where they were going. When it is dark we are afraid, but the light casts away our fears. Jesus came into the world and taught that He is the Light of the World. People used to put candles on Christmas trees, but nowadays we have coloured lights instead as they are safer.”

Next Santa produced a candy cane. “Teach the children that the candy cane represents the shepherd’s crook. This was a strong stick with a curved end that could be placed around the neck of a sheep that had slipped down the hillside, so the shepherd could pull it up to safety. The candy cane represents the helping hand we should show to others, and reminds us that we really are our brother’s keeper.”

Reaching deep into his sack Santa pulled out a Christmas wreath and said, “Teach the children that the wreath symbolises the eternal nature of love. It never stops or comes to an end. It is one continuous round of affection. It is made up of many colours, and many different items, and shows how different we all are, but how important each one of us is to the whole creation.”

Santa then took from his sack some tinsel and ribbon and said, “Teach the children that tinsel adds brightness to Christmas just as the many kindnesses we do for others brings brightness into their lives. The ribbon is tied into a bow to remind us that our lives are intertwined with each other, and the help we give others is constantly returned to us in different ways.”

 

Finally, Santa patted his sack and said, “There will be many gifts in this sack each Christmas, but the greatest gift we can give, or be given, is love. Love takes time and effort from us to give to others in the way they need it, to bring their potential into being. Love is not an advertising gimmick, but something we learn to do, and we must teach this to our children.”

With this, Santa waved goodbye and left the same way he had come in, saying as he went, “Don’t forget to teach the children the real meaning of the symbols of Christmas.” As I watched him go, I was sure that this would be the best Christmas ever.

— Author Unknown.

This month in divorce history – Tis the Season for See ya

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4edcee086ebf52011  Zooey Deschanel & Ben Gibbard

2010 LeAnn Rimes & Dean Sheremet

Sandra Bullock & Jesse James

Nancy Wilson & Cameron Crowe



2009  Kate & Jonathan Gosselin

2009  Marg Helgenberger & Alan Rosenberg

Susan Sarandon & Tim Robbins – though never legally married, they split after 23 years and two sons together.

2007 Pamela Anderson & Rick Salomon (annulled)

Catherine Keener & Dermot Mulroney

2005 Renee Zellweger & Kenny Chesney – annulled

Valerie Bertinelli & Eddie Van Halen

Christina Applegate & Jonathan Schaech

2003 Sofia Coppola & Spike Jonez

1997 Kirstie Alley & Parker Stevenson

Office Christmas Party

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320546_10152296457200705_1510288469_nSome of you might have the misfortune of working for the same company as your ex.  You’ve thought about quitting but realize that you need the income now more than ever.  It’s bad enough the whole office is aware of the situation and some may even have taken sides.  If your ex is boss, you might have already been transferred to another department or banished to the darkest corner cubicle.

You’ve tried to make the best of it, while your resume flounders in career cyberspace in hopes of landing another job without having to explain too much about your reasons for seeking new employment.  So far, you haven’t had much luck, as employment opportunities in your field are scarce.

The office is decorated for the season.  The email that the Christmas party will be held in a nearby Hotel banquet room appears on-screen.  If you don’t go – everybody will notice.  And if you decide to attend – everybody will notice.

After much discussion with your trusted friends, you decide to attend.  You know he is going to bring a date.  Said date could be the woman he left you for.  Worse, she could be his assistant.

You’ve enlisted your best girlfriend to attend and vow not to drink too much.  You nixed the idea of bringing a play-date because you just don’t feel like pretending to be enamored with an acquaintance or a neighbor which could spell trouble later.

The party is in full swing when you arrive.  Your co-workers have brought their spouses and significant others and have formed a Congo line.  Sweat beads appear on your forehead.  You’re about to turn and run, when your ex who has clearly had too much holiday cheer grabs you and plants a wet one on your lips and attempts to pull you into the Congo line.  He laughs and points to the doorway where several branches of mistletoe are hanging.  A hush takes over the room as everyone focuses on what they hope to be a holiday smack down.  He says, “Ho Ho Ho. No hard feelings, right baby?”

Do you: A. Play it off and whisper to him, “how low can you go,” before taking a place at the end of the Congo line.

B.  Reach for the mistletoe and stuff it in his mouth.

C.  Grab your girlfriend by the arm and leave before you commit a felonious assault.

D.  Pat him on the cheek, wish him Merry Christmas and join the party.

Answer: D. Always take the high road whenever possible.

If you and your ex did not work together, attend your company party.  You never know who your colleagues might bring to the bash.  Let everyone see that you are just fine and looking forward to the holiday.

Remember what happened to him last year….09sexy-and-funny-xmas-pics

Home Alone?

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mary-poppins11The first holiday alone can only be made worse if you insist on becoming the Ghost of Christmas past.  Don’t watch old home videos or thumb through old holiday cards and photos.  You’ll just end up crying and/or cursing you, him, God and everybody in between.

Although you may wish you were at the North Pole right about now, you can get through the cavalcade of commercials and holiday specials.  Avoid them all together if the pain is too much.  One I wouldn’t skip is “A Christmas Carol.”  If you’re feeling bah humbug about the whole celebration, this tale will remind you what the holiday is all about.

If you find yourself facing the holiday alone and you want to be alone, so be it.  If you can’t face your family or your siblings and their offspring, but don’t want to stay home and watch It’s A Wonderful Life  a dozen times, then make a like a reindeer and disappear.  Behold, I bring you travel tidings of great joy:

Christmas Cruise – Unlike Noah’s Ark, not everybody aboard will come in pairs.   Put the word out that you’re looking for a travel mate, if you’re not ready to cruise solo.  You’ll be amazed how many of your single friends would relish skipping the family gathering and the assorted fruit cakes that show up every year.

Christmas in Cancun, Cabo or the Caribbean, Yah Man! –  Make any island your Christmas Island.  You’ll enjoy the locals and return with a fabulous tan, and memories of mistletoe under the stars with an island elf.

Most resorts do fill up around the holidays, so plan early.  Once you’re there, enjoy a day at the spa (no waxing), a Jet Ski and para-sailing.  Invigorate yourself.

Visit a friend in a far off land, or another city

If you’ve been tied down for years or decades doing the same ole holiday hooray, it’s time to go see how your friends do it.  Pick a friend who is also alone.  If you’re in need of a reality check, spend the holiday with a friend whose children bear no resemblance to angels from above.   Whether you crave chaos or comfort, seek it out.