Traditions

I’ve noticed, this year in particular, how important traditions are. I don’t have many that have remained unchanged over the years. Most revolve around holidays, especially Christmas.

What that does is create shared experiences. Community, when family wouldn’t always be considered friends, and where friends become family. In the absence of community, bonds can fall apart.

That’s why tight-knit families have so many traditions – the traditions are how they became so close.

And it doesn’t take many. Two or three annual occurrences, inclusive and meaningful, are enough to bring a family closer.

Weekly Roundup

Ah, Christmas. A time for relaxation, carols, food, and retail…

What I’m reading: The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I found the name while reading Horizons, had the book, and had never read it. So I just started reading it.

What I’m listening to: Corner of the Sky from Pippin, New Broadway Cast Recording. The lyrics, “The rivers belong where they can ramble. the eagles belong where they can fly. I’ve got to be where my spirit can run from. Gotta find my corner of the sky.”, have been playing over and over in my head.

What I’m spending time with: Tidying up after Christmas. Seems like a lot was going on this week, run visiting family to prepping for after-holiday festivities. I found a couple neat hacks, including these tips cleaning.

What I’ve shared:

And that’s really it this week.

365 days until Christmas

Yes, that’s right. The leap year – 2020 – adds one day to the wait for Christmastime. But that’s okay. As I wrote yesterday, it’s easy to keep the season alive all year long.

I sincerely hope it was a wonderful holiday for you, dear reader, and for your loved ones.

I’ve taken to thinking of each holiday (and sometimes each day) on a sliding scale from the beginning of my life to the end. A definite middle point (one day) indicates that there is an even number of moments before this point and after it. When I reach that day, I have fewer moments ahead of me then I have behind.

So, at some point, you’ll have fewer Christmases with your family left ahead than the Christmases you’ve been already spent together. And that can be a sobering thought. A meditation on cherishing the present moment; on loving others, and yourself. 

This is the last I’ll say of Christmas, more or less, for this year. The rest of the next seven days will be spent focusing on the year that was, and the coming year.

But my hope is that I’ve not yet reached the middle point of this holiday with my family and loved ones – that I have more Christmases left in front of me with my parents and my friends than we’ve already had together. And I hope that for you as well.

And on this Christmas

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

At last, the shopping is over. The family is gathered. The presents are unwrapped. The meals are eaten. And, at close of day, we go our separate ways back into the world. Maybe this holiday we spend with someone we only see once per year. Or less.

But as we depart, let us be reminded that Christmas is more than a day, or a celebration, or presents, or feasting. That Christmas is the opening of our hearts to those we know and those we don’t.

When the bells strike midnight tonight, do not let the doors of the heart swing shut for another year. Be open to possibility. To love and family and friendship. Find compassion throughout the year in all you do, and live Christmas not just today, but every day.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

I’ve been playing fast and loose with my writing the past few weeks. Whereas I’m getting my morning pages done every day, my posts have been hit or miss on content and creativity. With Christmas just a day away, I’m hopeful that my schedule will be more manageable in just a few days.

That being said, thanks for keeping up with the blog.

This day always makes me think of the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, as my dad would read it to me every year – for many years. In 2008, I received a DVD copy of his reading it, so that I could have it in perpetuity.

So, as the poem ends, I’ll too end by saying, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Is Christmas ruined?

I overheard in a break room that “Working retail has ruined Christmas…” for the woman who said this. And that got me thinking. Is commercialism ruining Christmas?

Radio stations start playing Christmas music in November, or maybe even October. Do they do it to get the spirit going? No, they do it to catch radio listeners, and thus sell more ads.

Television, stores, nonprofits, and other businesses use Christmas to bring in or make more money. But what does that do to Christmas? Many of our cherished Christmas traditions were marketing campaigns during the holidays, including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Montgomery Ward Department Store) and Santa’s Red Suit (Designed by Thomas Nast in Harper’s Weekly, but which was popularized by Haddon Sundblom’s Coca-Cola campaign).

Even Dicken’s A Christmas Carol created some traditions we still use today.

To answer the question of a ruining of Christmas, it must be understood what Christmas is. And that answer is so many things to different people.

So celebrate Christmas your way, and find moments to enjoy the season. It comes just once each year…

Last shopping weekend

Here we are, the last shopping weekend before Christmas. Are you done shopping?

Yesterday was what retailers call Super Saturday, the biggest single shopping day of the year.

“The last Saturday before Christmas has become the biggest shopping day of the year and we expect an impressive turnout.” – NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay

Nearly 150 million Americans are expected to shop this weekend. Now, I like stuff as much as the next person. I even did some shopping myself. But what’s the takeaway from all the spending and gifting?

Hopefully it’s that what’s important is family and loved ones, and not who’s the best shopper.

Weekly Rundown

The week that was, Dec. 20th. More work; started making end-of-year plans; brainstorming goals for 2020. The next ten days will be pretty crammed full. But I had some good highlights this week.

What I’m reading: Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process edited by Joe Fassler. Oddly enough, I first started reading this a year ago, December 2018. I did not finish it, but something made me pick it up this week. I have the Kindle edition, and with reading on my iPad I sometimes find it less intrusive when I don’t continue reading. The unfinished book stays on my nightstand, screaming at me to pick it up again. The iPad doesn’t say much at all. But led to Jack Gilbert while reading this, so I’m curious to see what other gems may come out of it.

What I’m listening to: Not impeachment proceedings, and only some Christmas music. This week I bounced mostly from podcasts to trying to pick the next audiobook I want to dive into. I’ve got several in the queue, but I haven’t been quite ready to pull the trigger on one. I’m hoping inspiration strikes.

What I’m spending time with: This week it’s a quote – “If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.” I hadn’t read Jack Gilbert before. I may have read that bit in Light the Dark last year, but I didn’t feel it like I feel it now. Another quote which has some meaning to me comes from another Jack, this one named Kerouac. “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.

Other things of interest this week:

 

Christmastime is here…

Today, I’ve set up a Christmas tree, and helped with some outdoor decorations. At two houses. Neither one was mine.

And that’s great! Helping others set up for Christmas is part of getting in the spirit. It’s not a copmpetition of who has the best decor. It’s a collaboration of good tidings.

Here’s a photo of my friend’s house.

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And my big contribution was making sure that the Y in “JOY” was lit up. Before I helped, it just said “JO”.

And everything else was extension cords.

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So, even if we’re not quite to Thanksgiving yet, “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal!”

Aug-Dec 2018 Reading Lists

Quick note: Though this had started as a monthly posting, I’ve found the longer I waited the harder it got. My intention for the coming year is to post this monthly. So, good luck me!

Books Bought:

  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen – Dennis Genpo Merzel 
  • Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers – Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur
  • Essays and Lectures – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
  • Streams of Silver – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Halfling’s Gem – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Legacy – R.A. Salvatore
  • Starless Night – R.A. Salvatore
  • Siege of Darkness – R.A. Salvatore
  • Passage to Dawn – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Silent Blade – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Worm Ouroboros – Eric  Rücker Eddison
  • The Singular & Extraordinary Tale of Mirror & Goliath – Ishbelle Bee
  • Spring – Karl Ove Knausgaard
  • The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins – Clint, Griffin, Justin & Travis McElroy
  • The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
  • Enlightened Vagabond: The Life and Teaching of Patrul Rinpoche – Matthieu Ricard
  • The California Field Atlas – Obi Kaufmann
  • Dungeons & Dragons Waterdeep: Dragon Heist – Wizards of the Coast
  • Dungeons & Dragons Players’ Handbook – Wizards of the Coast
  • Monster Cinema: Quick Takes – Barry Keith Grant
  • James Thurber: Writings & Drawings – James Thurber (Library of America Edition)
  • Wilderness Essays – John Muir
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Edited by Joe Fassler
  • Robin – Dave Itzkoff
  • Tools of the Titans – Tim Ferriss
  • The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling – John Muir Laws
  • Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog – Dylan Thomas
  • Inside Charlie’s Chocolate Factory: The Complete Story of Willy Wonka, The Golden Ticket, and Ronald Dahl’s Most Famous Creation – Lucy Mangan

Books Read:

  • Sojourn – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
  • Streams of Silver – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Halfling’s Gem – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Legacy – R.A. Salvatore
  • Starless Night – R.A. Salvatore
  • Siege of Darkness – R.A. Salvatore
  • Passage to Dawn – R.A. Salvatore
  • Little Women: The Musical – Libretto by Allan Knee, Lyrics by Mindi Dickstein, and music by Jason Howland
  • Getting Things Done – David Allen (unfinished)
  • Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  • The Art of Community: Seven Principles for Belonging – Charles Vogl
  • Influence – Robert B. Cialdini (unfinished)
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (resumed)
  • How to Watch a Movie – David Thomson (unfinished)
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Edited by Joe Fassler (unfinished)

This will inevitably be a long, and somewhat frightening list. Admitting to the sheer numbers of books bought, attempted, settled into, or set down… It’s like the first step is admitting that there is a problem.

However, I have a love affair with books and would never admit that these purchases, nor the hours spent sitting, laying, or some manner of status in-between, with a book in my hands would be a problem. Mark Cuban is said to read three hours per day. Bill Gates plows through 50 books in a year. Though I don’t know off-hand how many I’ve read this year, I could look back through these posts and find out. (Looks to be 28. Okay, 2019 – Let’s aim for 30 books.)

Amid two productions that I was involved with (one a full-blown musical, the other a small, variety, Christmas cabaret); a week in Costa Rica; two bouts of illness (the first being a cold, and the second some sort of respiratory infection): work engagements, including two other productions, both running four weeks; a second job; a burgeoning Dungeons & Dragons campaign; and familial obligations for the holidays, I managed to put down a decent number of pages.

I’ve made a large chunk in RA Salvatore’s Drizzt saga – books 4-10 mostly in August and September. November, I read two of Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Saga books: Name of the Wind and Wise Man’s Fear. Wind was released in 2007, and I just purchased the Tenth Anniversary Edition from DAW Books, partly on the recommendation from a bookseller I’ve befriended through a work partnership, but also owing to the glowing review Lin Manuel Miranda gave the book, thoughtfully printed on the back face of the dust jacket.

“No one writes like Pat Rothfuss. Full stop. Read this book.”

It was only after buying the novel (some time later in face, perhaps a month or two) that I heard the first of several recommendations for ir through The Adventure Zone, the McElroy Brothers liveplay podcast on D&D, followed by several romps through other dice-controlled fantasy games.

His novella on Auri (a somewhat minor/important character from the first two books), The Slow Regard of Silent Things, is up next on my Rothfuss reading list.

I tend to bounce around when reading. I’ve fallen in love this year with the language of Sontag and Watts, as well as this past month with the essays of John Muir. I’ve got a shelf with them, also holding Emerson, Thurber, Whitman, Joseph Campbell, Karl One Knausgaard, Neil Gaiman, and Rilke. It’s the fluidity of language, and how words can be used to showcase more than just their definition.

“When I was a boy in Scotland I was fond of everything that was wild, and all my life I’ve been growing fonder and fonder of wild places and wild creatures. Fortunately around my native town of Dunbar, by the stormy North Sea, there was no lack of wildness, though most of the land lay in smooth cultivation, With red-blooded playmates, wild as myself, I loved to wander in the fields to hear the birds sing, and along the seashore to gaze and wonder at the shells and seaweeds, eels and crabs in the pools among the rocks when the tide was low; and best of all to watch the waves in awful storms thundering on the black headlands and craggy ruins of the old Dunbar Castle when the sea and the sky, the waves and the clouds, were mingled together as one. We never thought of playing truant, but after I was five or six years old I ran away to the seashore or the fields most every Saturday, and every day in the school vacations except Sundays, though solemnly warned that I must play at home in the garden and back yard, lest I should learn to think bad thoughts and say bad words. All in vain. In spite of the sure sore punishments that followed like shadows, the natural inherited wildness in our blood ran true on its glorious course as invincible and unstoppable as stars.” John Muir, from The Story of My Boyhood and Youth.

They paint with words, and in the way that I can watch (and listen) to Bob Ross depict happy little trees, so too can I spend hours with these authors – absorbing their words in ways that just reading a sentence (or writing one) cannot accurately describe.

Then, there were the others… David Allen’s seminal work on time management and efficiency is a useful tool. But flowing from line to line it does not. I implemented a couple of his suggestions, but still find my workflow cumbersome. I’ll be resuming that endeavor and attempt to become more productive, now that we’re in 2019.

Sinek has a way of lighting a fire under your ass. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. They don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Great advice. So, what is it you do, and why do you do it? (No, making money doesn’t count.) It’s been a process. I was introduced to Sinek’s work at a nonprofit conference and instantly felt its power. I don’t have a Mac because I think it’s a good computer (though I do). Dell makes a good computer, and I was on PC up until 2006. I buy Apple products because I believe in the image that they project. It’s a creative’s tool – and I learned Photoshop on it, oh, so many years ago.

This holds true for many things that I like to purchase – camping and hiking gear; automobiles; notebooks. Anything I use on a daily basis, or look forward to using in the future.

The books by Ferriss have similar effects, and I love deep diving into his work: books, blog; website; podcast. I don’t know that he has the life I would want, but he’s done a lot of the work that I would also like to do… if that makes sense.

I’m going to gloss over the purchase list. I did buy most of the Drizzt books used from a shop I really like, and several books were digital online items during the Christmas season. Obi Kaufmann’s California Field Atlas is one I’ve wanted since seeing it first released, and I finally picked up a copy. It led me to the Law’s Nature Journaling. Now, I can’t draw. I doodle geometric patterns from time to time, a la Paul Klee. But anything that resembles an actual thing, it’s all wrong. That being said, I thought that I would give it a try. I’ve made a few hikes out through some parks nearby, and started taking photographs and labelling plants for future attempts at watercoloring. We’ll see what happens.

And that’s about it for this. I recommend Rothfuss, Ferriss, Sinek, Muir and Watts highly, if you’re interested in those topics (fantasy, business, nature, and buddhism). Really, nothing up there was something I had to just set down. I fully intend to complete all unfinished books on this list.

Also, gifts of books were made this Christmas, and friends received copies of 4-Hour WorkweekThe Jaws Log, and You are doing a Freaking Great Job. I received the Dark Horse Comics book on Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Creating a Champion.

I’ll let you know what I read this month sometime in February. Here we go, 2019!