Friday, December 31, 2010

Greetings from England

Happy New Years!! In a few short hours the new year will roll over hopefully bringing with it new excitements and adventures. I seem to remember writing a New Year's Resolution list last year and to be honest, I've been a bit scared to see the things I missed. This year I will NOT be making a New Year's list full of to-do's and what-not's. Nope, I will simply be happy, be healthy, and be in good company. I know I'll be starting off on the right foot, too, since I'm here with Pyro Man and his parents here in England!!

It's been a wonderful visit so far! We visited Windsor Palace, Ely Cathedral, saw Jersey Boys in London and we've got much more to do before we leave. There's still Billy Elliot on the list to see and a trip to Germany. The best part of it all has been the time spent visiting with Pyro Man and his parents.

Dear readers, I promise I did not lie to you about posting graduation pictures--I've been a bit busy. Lots of Christmas visits, last minute shopping, and gearing up for the trip. As soon as I get back I'll fire them up along with some England pictures as well! I know I'll have some wonderful stories to share including our latest, Lost Luggage: The Frustration Continues. Mine finally arrived, four days late, Pyro Man's is...somewhere. Not sure just yet, but we've been told "they're working on it." Hmm....I've even got a good 'fraidy-cat story for you involving heights (no arm flaps, I resisted) and the possibility of a friendly ghost (cue X-Files music). Just a few teasers for you.

And with that, I bid you goodnight! We've got a big day tomorrow! Cheers!

Monday, December 20, 2010


Greetings! I'm a whirling dervish right now, but I had to take a moment to say...


My business cards now say "Julie Russell, MFA"--isn't that just fabulous? Graduation was fantastic and there's a post coming soon with pictures. I'm also planning on posting some action shots from my photo session with Simon Hurst as soon as those come in. From what he showed me, he captured some brilliant dance pictures!

Right now I'm off like a shot with my mother. We have some more Christmas errands to run, a visit to Grandma planned, a hair cut, and final packing to get through. A week from today Pyro Man and I will be headed to England!! Two weeks traveling with his family will be an absolute blast!

Wishing you all many safe travels--Holiday shoppers, man, they'll run you over! Happy Monday!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Goodbye Visitor Relations, It's Been Swell!

Today marks the end of an era, the last day at my first job.

In August of 2005, I wandered my way to my fist job interview at the Visitor Center on campus. I met my boss, Janey, not even realizing she'd later become my momma away from home. We talked all about the position and the responsibilities of being a tour guide on campus. I don't think I'd ever taken anything more seriously in my entire life.

I loved this job. I had a great time visiting with students and parents, telling them why the school was fantastic, giving them tidbits of info about programs, and genuinely visiting with them about college life. The job could be extremely rewarding and extremely stressful at times. People always think that's funny when I tell them that. How can being a tour guide be stressful?! Well, that's because the program goes above and beyond the standard tour.

Every visit was carefully put together so a student had their own personalized day. Calling professors, scheduling classes, contacting financial aid, finding a counselor to lunch with took a great deal of time and puzzle piecing together. We also had a lot of paper work to keep up. After all, recruitment is how colleges continue to survive. What is a college without its students? I had a big responsibility as a Gold Star Ambassador.

I made great friends with a number of counselors including my own, Rob. If Janey had been my momma away from home then Rob had to be the big brother I never had. He kept tabs on and encouraged me every step of the way. I would sit in Abby's office and chat about life, entertain Janelle with my expressive dance moves, visit with Brett about his adorable girls and listen carefully while Ade offered up free advice.

So many of these counselors have moved on and sweet ones have taken their place. There's Christina, Claire, Kendall, Ashley, the Michelle's and our token men, Joel and Jason.  It's been an incredible honor to have made friends with all of these folks and I will miss this supportive group.

Speaking of friends, it was Visitor Relations (Services) that brought me to my best friend, Esther. Had it not been for this job, I met never have found this dear friend of mine and what a loss that would have been. Esther and I had quite a bit of fun with this job. We hosted our own "staff meetings" at a back work area--Janey, I know you know we were really talking about boys, the weekend's drama, and what scandal happened rather than discussing actual visits.

Just a typical work day for us.

There are so many other great kids that passed through here and I feel so lucky to have had a job with the nicest people. There really was never a dull moment. I ran our glorified golf cart (aka. The Shuttle) into a bench once. And then a parked car. Visitors now and again wander off and are deemed '"lost." I've shown a strangers room before when our show room key didn't work--you learn to improvise a lot of the time. There's the occasional homeless person seeking a doctorate program--just use the right code word if you call security. I've can honestly say I've given tours in a snow storm (that happened twice). There's probably a thousand more stories to tell including good things that happened. For a long time I kept emails from past visitors that had a great time or thanked us for the lovely experience. Those kinds of things gave me the warm and fuzzies.

I gave my last official tour the Friday before my graduation from undergrad. Happily it was to my family. I've given a few others since, but mostly my work was settled in a back office, but I still consider myself a Gold Star Ambassador. I'm so proud to have worn that blue polo.

To the folks in Admissions, all the counselors, past and present, every kid who has worn a blue polo, and to my dear, sweet Janey, it has been a pleasure! Thank you for five and half wonderful years!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Tale of a Christmas Elf

Once upon a time and a long, long time ago, there was a girl who had little perfect elf ears. Their slightly pointed tips were a gift from her parents, both of whom adored their little elfin child. It complimented her tiny doll like features of rosy, chubby cheeks, her soft brown curls, and her tiny rosebud mouth.

In time, the little girl found her little ears would sometimes draw people's attention. Folks would genuinely joke that maybe she was one of Santa's little helpers. At every mention, the little girl beamed, so proud of her magic pointed ears.

In time she realized her ears were not magic and she wasn't really one of Santa's elves. Her ears were just that, ears. As the little girl grew up, she noticed her the pointed tips began to smooth over becoming, less of a prominent elfish feature. People began to comment less on her special ears and no longer called her Santa's helper. She paid no mind really. As most children do, she grew up forgetting her special features and concentrated on trying to fit in with the general population. That is, until one fateful December day.

The little girl was no longer a little girl, but a young lady of twelve. While in her daily dance class one cold winter's day, the young lady turned to notice a fellow student staring at her ears. Her eyes were glued in total concentration and her head cocked to the side. The young lady could tell her mind's wheels were turning and the child was trying to make a decision, but about what, the young lady could not tell.

The child, Taylor, could not have been more than eight.  She was a very gifted dancer, an outgoing kid who loved to move and boogie. Her short stature packed a powerful punch of energy. With big brown eyes and a wild mane of brown hair, the child bounced all over the place. She would fling herself into any step a teacher would give and when the music played, she couldn't keep still. One body part would begin to move, sending a shimmy of electrifying energy to the rest of her and before you knew it, she'd be spinning like a little tornado.

She was much younger than the other students in her class and stood apart from the rest for you see, Taylor was deaf. The other dancers did not mind. They loved Taylor's enthusiasm, it was contagious and every student cheered her on when she took the floor. Suffice it to say, Taylor was a beloved kid, a little sister to the rest of the group.

When Taylor's eyes met the young lady's, she declared, "You have elf ears!" Taken slightly aback, the young lady chuckled. It had been so long since someone had commented on her little ears that she herself had forgotten their pointed features. Without missing a beat, the young lady replied, "They are elf ears! Don't you know I'm one of Santa's little helpers?"

Taylor's eye grew to the size of saucers and her jaw fell to the ground. "Y-y-you're one of Santa's helpers!" Immediately the young lady felt terrible. A tiny joke was taken with such seriousness. She did not want to crush her young friend's sense of wonder and amazement. Before she could answer, the teacher was on to the next step, moving the children along, but the young lady could not focus. "What have I done," she wondered.

When the young lady came home, she slumped down at the kitchen table. "Mom, I've got a problem," she announced. The young lady proceeded to tell her mother about Taylor and her elf joke. "She thinks I'm really one of Santa's elves. I feel terrible about this, Mom! What could I possible do to make up for this terrible joke I've played."

"Well," says her mother, "you can be one of Santa's helpers. Put on your thinking cap and see what happens."

The young lady trudged up to her room and flopped on the bed. She had placed herself in a bit of a pickle. Though she joked about being Santa's helper, she had never really had the experience of actually being one of his helpers. She'd never been in his sleigh or helped him make presents. Heck, her ears didn't have any real magic, she was just a regular girl.

She thought back to when she was a small child, wide-eyed and dreaming of Santa Claus. "Come on, think! There's got to be something that I can do." She closed her eyes and concentrated on the spirit of Christmas. Santa was a magical man, he could do anything including flying around the world in one night. "I'm not Santa though." The young lady realized she was going about solving this problem all wrong. She didn't say she was Santa, she said she was Santa's helper! An elf, of course!

She thought of all the magical things Santa and his elves could do. Somehow she had to create her own magic for Taylor. "If I were a magic elf," she thought, "what would I do?" In a flash, the young lady had the perfect plan. She raced down the stairs and flew into the kitchen, "Mom!" she shouted, "Grab your keys! I know what to do for Taylor!"

The next day, Taylor entered the dance school, ready for the first dance class of the evening. The young lady was already in the studio, stretching and visiting with friends. As Taylor passed the front desk, the studio owner stopped her. "Taylor! I have a delivery for you!" Puzzled, Taylor approached the owner and took hold of a giant peppermint stick and an envelope specially addressed to her.

Taylor had never received a personal note like this before. Maybe on her birthday, but it wasn't her birthday. She scurried back to the dressing room and threw her bag into a cubby hole. She tore open the paper and pulled out a pretty Christmas card. The glittery green and red card dazzled the little girl. She carefully opened the precious note, curious to find out who sent it.

Dear Taylor,

My littler helper, Julie, told me you discovered her secret! Her elf ears are hard to disguise! She told me you've been such a good little girl this year and what a great dancer you are! Keep up the good work and I'll be sure to visit your house this Christmas!


Taylor couldn't believe her eyes. She read the note again and then for a third time. She couldn't believe Santa had found her! He'd sent a special note and candy cane just for her! She went bounding in the dance studio, card in hand and a grin on her face.

"Santa wrote to me! Santa wrote ME!!" She proudly displayed her card to her classmates, all of whom looked confused. Their teacher was equally baffled and asked to read the card. Taylor bounced across the room, skipping and spinning with such elated happiness. Julie stood at the back of the group smiling, not saying a word. She caught the eye of the teacher and gave a small shrug.

The dancers couldn't understand. "What is Taylor talking about? She's gone nuts! What does she mean Santa wrote her? Where did that note come from?"

Julie gave Taylor a small wink. "Must have been a little elf."

Festive Flicks

There are a handful of Christmas movies I believe must be viewed every December. These are time standing classics in the Russell household and I can't imagine not seeing these during the holiday season. Since my finals week is a little light this year, I plan on watching all of them while curled up on the couch in seasonal pajamas. Feel free to do the same!  


Tell me, what are some of your favorite holiday flicks?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finals Week!

I have made it to my last Finals Week ever! Let the celebratory dance begin!!!

Yahoo! Lots of exciting things are coming up! There is graduation this Friday, only four days away. I've got a bit of time with family next week for last minute Christmas shopping and of course some quality family time. Then there's Christmas with Pyro Man and after that, our exciting trip to England to visit his family! I've been waiting for all this excitement for what seems like years and now here it is upon us!

Well, I had my little trip to Branson last week--I can now say I've been to Missouri. Five hours. That drive was five hours long. That may not seem like a long time, but after hour three, your butt starts to fall asleep. That is not a pleasant sensation. Listen, I'm all for a good road trip. It gives me a chance to perform a whole concert of all of my favorite songs. But seriously, I ran out of Christmas songs at one point.

My little adventure started Thursday afternoon. I loaded up my car, fiddled with the Tom Tom, filled the tank, and took off. The Tom Tom and I have made peace with one another. Recently I had a very heated debate with Pyro Man and my mother about why I did not want a Tom Tom any time soon.

"I would need it if I'm traveling, which I'm not now. I would need it if I were in a new city and I'm moving back home. Bottom line, I don't need it now!"

And when this audition came up, I proceeded to eat my words. In any case, Pyro Man kindly sent his Tom Tom to me and after some tinkering, I figured out how to use it. It really is pretty handy. Kinda cool. Kinda.

So here, I go, driving down the highway, singing my Christmas songs and all. It being winter and all, the sun set fairly early in my trip. I crossed into Missouri in pitch black, guided by the light of my Tom Tom and every Branson show billboard known to man. The trip so far had been a breeze. I wasn't lost, I only had to make one stop, and there weren't many crazies on the road. Perfect! Or so I thought...

You  may not know this but Missouri has mountains. Mountains I tell you! I'm a Texas girl and upon consideration, I realized most of my driving experience has taken place here in OKC where the land is flat, flat, flat. NO MOUNTAINS. Here I am, driving down the highway, humming a tune when my car takes a nosedive down the road. I feel like I'm on a freaking roller coaster from hell. Up and down, winding right and left all the while with cars speeding past me. Can you believe people drive 65 and 70 MPH on these roads?!

So yes, if you drove through Springfield on your way to Branson last Thursday night and wondered who the heck that young grandma driver was on the road, it was me. I survived though. I managed to meander my way to my friend's house with a death grip on the steering wheel. Then, this is the best part, my friend told me that her landlady was hosting a surprise party for her husband and so there might be people in the house when I get there. No worries, they know I'm coming. Cool.

It's dark, I've been driving for about four hours at night. Needless to say, I can't see very well. I manage to get into the house, shut the garage door and am blinded by the house lights. Trying to assess my surroundings, two faces come into focus.

"OH! Hi. Ha. Um. Hi, I'm Julie. I'm uh, I'm supposed to be here, I swear. Melissa sent me. She lives here. Uh, I swear I'm not a burglar. Um, yes. OK."

Any type of calm demeanour I have ever had went out the window. I was just spitting out words, asking if I'm in the right place, not even giving a chance for these people to answer. These people must have thought I was a flaming idiot. I was so thrown for a loop, having forgotten people would be there--by the way there were another four people I didn't even see in the room. Good gravy.

We got it all worked out and chit chatted until the party showed. It was nice to visit with so many working performers in Branson. I met a group of sisters who have the most beautiful voices! Saw a friend I met working the Mary Kay show last year and of course, I got to visit with my sweet friend from OCU. There's something wonderful about performers. There is never a dull moment, always an interesting story to be told, and of course, entertainment. We listened to a young lady sing us a few of her own songs and my friends boyfriend, an OCU alum, sat down to his piano and played us a pretty tune. How incredible to be surrounded by so much talented!

Anyway, the audition! The whole purpose behind my trip! Of course, that's what I'm supposed to tell you! The audition went really well and I'm hoping to hear back from them in the next few days. It was a great experience in a very different audition setting. I performed two short thirty second pieces and had a nice interview with personnel. Not the the normal process where I'm standing in a room full of people as they make cuts right and left. Still in all, I'm glad I went. It's a great show, very well known, and would be a solid position to have for nine months.

Whatever happens I know happens for a reason. It also gave me some things to think about like jobs I'm really wanting to audition for, things I want to happen for the next year, and possible travel plans. Suddenly I'm feeling less scared about the unknown and more determined to get certain ones. A year will go by all too quickly. Branson is some place I'd like to go back to though. The people are lovely, there are so many shows, a great cost of living, and the opportunity to save! Like I said, whatever happens, happens for a reason.

I've got a lot of work ahead of me in this next coming year. I'm excited to get it started and looking forward to the challenges ahead of me. Remind me I said that when in two months time I'm having a heart attack trying to solve all of life's problems. Happy Monday!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Firsts & Lasts

Today is technically my last day of class as a student. Yes, I still have a whole other week of finals next week, three of which are dance classes and only one paper to turn in, BUT today is the last full day of regular classes. Whoa.


That's huge. Do you realize that I've been in school since I was four years old. Four. Almost twenty years I've been in school and now it's done. I walk the stage in eight days, finally completing my college education. It's insane that this Thursday is the last Thursday I'll have of class.

What's that? Why am I finishing class on a Thursday instead of Friday? Well, that's because I'm going to Branson, MO tonight for an audition tomorrow. I'm trading in my dance finals for auditions. This is the real deal, man. I'm not practicing any more and I don't think this trip could have made it any more real to me.

I'm auditioning for jobs that will put money in the bank and food in my belly--I no longer worry about getting a good grade for a thirty second combo, I have to get the job. Aside from a paycheck, which will pay for those student loans in six months (Holy. Hannah. Can't think about that now.), I will to do what I've been dreaming of since I was seven: perform. *Sigh* How wonderful!

I'm excited. I'm nervous. I've done plenty of auditions before, just not with the staggering realization that I'm actually beginning my career. Lately I've been feeling incredibly nervous about leaving school, extremely scared about attempting auditions, and doubtful of the choice I've made for myself. You can tell me that ever graduate feels this way and I'm sure that's true. It feels different because I'm actually living it right now. Then I found this quote and I knew it would be more of a mantra for me than anything else:

Only she who attempts the absurd can achieve the impossible.
-Robin Morgan

So here I go, venturing into the unknown, trying my best, and keeping my fingers crossed. I'm going to go for it all and see what happens. Hmmm. I might have to print this out to remind myself of this courageous moment I'm having. I forget all to easily about my gumption in a moment of panic.

I'm hoping to get back in town to see Home for the Holidays at OCU. It's the American Spirit Christmas show and I haven't missed it once since I've been at school here. It's so much fun to see, full of holiday cheer, a dancing hippopotamus, toy soldiers, and even the baby Jesus. Yes, he makes a glowing appearance every year for the final nativity scene--it's actually very moving. Anyway, you should come out! To all the American Spirit Dancers, break legs!

I also found out that Bryan White is doing a performance with the OCU string orchestra on Sunday. I must confess, I loved me some Bryan White growing up. He's a country singer from the 90's. You probably remember "Rebbecca Lynn," "Someone Else's Star," and his duet with Shania Twain, "From This Moment On." Yup, definitely going. 

This Christmas Elf still has some *cough A LOT cough cough* of Christmas shopping to do. And baking. And  a paper to finish. And defensive driving. And...oh man. I'm going to stop there before I start to hyperventilating. It will all get done in time!

Wish me luck for tomorrow! I'm officially up in running in the business of auditioning!! YAHOO!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Little Chrismas Help

Friday afternoon and I'm on the phone with Mom, listening to her tell me about all the Christmas things she wishes we could do together. We want to bake goodness and sing Christmas songs, go shopping, and rope Dad into pulling down our holiday decorations. Heck, we just want to spend a little time together since we haven't gotten to do that in a long time, just the two of us. On and on we lament about all the holiday things we long to do and how we're missing our mother/daughter time when it hits me.

"Hey Mom--why don't I come down this weekend!"

"You...*sniff* can do that?!" Yes, Mom was a bit teary at that point and it only solidified the solution to our predicament.

"SURE! I don't have blocking for the first time in about four years. I've got the last of my school work under control--I can TOTALLY come down!"

So off like a shot, I began throwing things in a bag, packing up laundry, and tossing Honey in her crate--don't worry, I gave her lots of loving before she paraded her happy hiney in there. She's really a pretty good traveler.

Mom was so excited about my quick trip. She decided it would be even better to surprise Dad and he was definitely surprised. I wish I had a camera to capture his priceless expression when I walked in the door. Brow furrowed, eyes squinting and a dropped jaw. "Well, hey. What are you doing here?" That's Dad's way of saying, "Yeehaw! My youngest child is home!"

Saturday we ventured out into the windy weather in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Our first trip to Home Depot, Mom walked right up the fattest tree in the lot. Petting it's pretty branches, she stepped a little closer and wrapped her arms around it, looked back at us and declared this was the tree for us. How could Dad and I argue with her pleading look?

Home we went with this year's Christmas tree in tow, ready to be decked in all the holiday paraphernalia we own. Again, I wished I brought my camera so pardon the fuzzy pictures as they are off my cell phone.

I told you we had a 12ft tree my freshman year of high school--And yes, Pyro Man, it was 12ft high. I'm going to hunt down those photos to show you, too. Well, this year's isn't a that tall, but certainly does take up an immense amount of the designated Christmas tree area. It stands 8ft tall, probably 10ft high on the platform we placed it on, but the circumference on this puppy is wide. I actually had to help Dad set this one up this year. Dang.

We had a bit of trouble of getting the tree into a perfectly right up position.

The leaning tower of O Tannenbaum.

Mom helped instruct us in the proper way to string the lights.

Dad fixed the tinsel according to Mom's draping techniques and I will say, it does look picturesque.

After hanging all of our favorite ornaments, we present you with the Russell Family Christmas Tree.

It's just so huggable!

Overall, it was a wonderful impromtu trip. Mom and I did get our shopping in...except it was more shopping for my upcoming trip to England rather than Christmas shopping. Dang. Guess that's on my to-do list for this week along with my defensive driving course. Perhaps I might have gotten a ticket for maybe going a smidge above the speed limit a couple weeks back. Perhaps. Maybe. Possibly.

I had a lovely surprise come in the mail while I was home. My godmother sent me a lovely graduation gift.

It's a beautiful silver and turquoise ring she wore everday for about fifteen years. We've been pen pals all the years I've been in school here in Oklahoma. She is actually my Dad's sister-in-law as well as my godmother. She's such a neat lady, too--She shares little tid-bits of family history in the letters and I've saved every one. What a lovely and thoughtful gift! It means the world to have a family treasure passed down and I know I'll cherish this ring.

Off to class I go--it's the last week of classes I have as a student here at OCU! 11 more days and I will officially complete my career as a college student. Crazy. After that, it'll be on to whatever adventure lies ahead for me.

Honey has packed herself so I don't forget her.

Happy Monday!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas List

One of my friends posted 30 little known facts about herself on her blog, Vanilla Bean & Er's. I really enjoyed reading her tid-bits and wanted to do one for myself...except I already have. About two years ago. Here. And I used a lot of fun colors, too! I should do that again.

Anyway, because I still want to do it, because the holidays are upon us, and because it's December 1st, I'm going to share 30 Christmas Tid-Bits! Things about Christmas' past, my favorite things, little facts, and more!

1) I love listening to Christmas music and starting the day after Thanksgiving, it plays on my radio non-stop. Play Pandora on your computer using the White Christmas station for some good classics! 104.1 if you're in OKC.

2) Going along with thought #1, I love singing Christmas songs. All the time. Especially my favorite holiday tune, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas." Get ready, I'll sing them to you all month long!

3) In the late 1930's, Montgomery Ward actually made up the story about Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer as a holiday promotion. Who would have thunk? It actually aired last night on CBS before the Victoria's Secret Show...weird combination.
4) The Nutcracker is a widely popular holiday ballet, but did you know that the Washington Ballet does a version using our forefathers? A patriotic Nutcracker! How fun!

5) Growing up, Santa always wrote us a note to leave by the crumble of his cookies and drained milk glass. Santa now asks for for peanuts and beer instead. Hmmm....wonder if Mrs. Claus approves of this mid-night snack.

6) When I was eleven, we delivered a Christmas tree to a very dear friend of ours--she was extremely ill. Her friends and family rallied together to decorate her tree and sing songs outside her door. I remember her coming outside to listen. The look of her face was priceless.  It is one of my favorite Christmas memories.

7) The first artificial Christmas trees came from Germany and they were made out of goose feathers died green. That could not have smelled pleasant.

8) I have a sparkly pink Christmas tree from my first apartment. Four girls living under one roof with a pink and black living room, how could I not purchase a pink tree?

9) That was also the year we won the Christmas decorating contest in our complex--it literally looked like you walked into a winter wonderland. We had icicle lights hanging like a canopy in our living room with pink ornaments and snowflakes hanging down.

10) It's tradition in our house to open stockings first on Christmas morning. I'm not really sure why--I think Big Sister made that up a long time ago.

11) For years, Big Sister and I would get up in the middle of the night, sneak out the living room and have a peek. The funny part is we never knew the other one did it until a few years ago. Oh how stealthy we were.

12) I've only ever been in three productions of the Nutcracker, but I could still sing you the ENTIRE Tchaikovsky score if you'd like.

13) I love holiday baking. LOVE IT. Treats like jalapeno jelly, holiday meringues, gingerbread, Christmas cookies, and more. Oh my gosh. My mouth is watering.

14) Speaking of food, my family always does Chinese food for dinner on Christmas Eve. Before that, we did pizza. Don't worry, we do a nice roast dinner on Christmas day.

15) Last Christmas Eve, Pyro Man drove through a Dallas snow storm to spend Christmas with my family. A three hour drive took eleven hours. I must be one lucky girl.

16) Did you know that "Silent Night" was written for a choir when the church organ broke? I did not.

17) It's not Christmas until you've watched It's a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Muppet Family Christmas, and Elf. In my book, that is.

18) The best version of A Christmas Carol is the Muppet version. Hands down.

19) Christmas seems to bring out the best in people. Kids are usually on their best behavior, people in general are nicer...unless they're trying to get a parking spot at the mall. All bets are off at that point.

20) In 1870, the United States proclaimed Christmas as a national holiday.

21) This is the first Christmas I'll be spending away from home--don't cry, Mom--I'll actually be visiting with Pyro Man and his family! How fun!

22) Bing Crosby's version of "White Christmas" is one of the most popular Christmas albums and a family favorite--I swear, it's not my opinion unlike # 17 and #18. We literally wore out of a cassette tape of the Binger and were forced to buy the CD.

23) Oh this one is cool! Animal crackers were actually meant to be Christmas decorations, not an edible treat!

24) I actually like wrapping gifts. I think it's really fun and I like making boxes pretty and curling ribbons. I wrap Dad's gifts every year. Oops. You didn't read that, Mom.
25) Dad set our carpet on fire one Christmas eve. While trying to start a roaring fire in our fire place, we discovered the floo was shut when spoke came billowing into our living room. Dad jumped up, grabbed the gigantic tongs (who knows what they're called), and snatched up the flaming log only to drop in our our carpet. Yup, we covered up the burned hole for about year before we fixed it.

26) You can wear holiday apparel all month long and no one judges. The ridiculously decorated Christmas sweater? You can wear that because it's festive. The light up Christmas tree tie? Go ahead and flaunt it at work--it's the only time of year it's appropriate.

27) Christmas cards are awesome. Who doesn't like opening their mailbox and find an outpouring of letters from old friends and families with pictures and updates on their life?

28) Christmas cards were actually invented in 1843 as a way of encouraging people to help those in need. The first card showed a happy family with a child drinking wine and an inscription that read "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You!" They were so popular, people continued to send them year after year. In fact, it was actually the beginning of the greeting card industry. I love sending cards.

29) Mom's kitchen is usually full of holiday baked goods around Christmas time--I'm all over the holiday treats. One year Dad actually beat out Mom in at home fudge competition. His blond fudge won by a landslide, which was shocking since he's mostly a grill man.

30) Christmas Trees--There are three stories I love that entail Christmas trees. One you read, see # 6, and the others involve Dad. We had a 12 ft. Christmas tree my freshman year of high school. It was beautiful in our living room with the high ceilings, however, getting it out was another story. It had to be cut into several pieces to be removed from our house and took my dad, my then boyfriend, and his brother to load the pieces into Dad's truck. I think that's when Mom said no more 12 ft trees.

Then there's my favorite, The Story of the Disappearing Tree. Dad loaded up our old Christmas tree in the bed of truck and took off for the dump. Hopping out of his ride, Dad let the nice dump worker know, "Hey, I got a tree that needs to be unloaded." The dump worked looked at the truck and then my father. "What tree?" he asked. My puzzled father checked his truck and low and behold, no tree! "Well, what do you know!" he exclaimed.

Dad drove up and down the highway trying to find the lost little dried up tree. He never found it. I guess we'll never know what happened to that ol' Christmas tree.

It's funny, we joke that Dad can be a Scrooge around Christmas sometimes, but oddly enough, most of these stories include him. Aw, Dad! You're an ol' softy at heart after all--maybe we should start calling you the Grinch instead!

Happy December, everyone!!
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