Sunday, December 25, 2011

Virtually Home for Christmas

Not everyone could get to Utah to attend our annual Christmas dinner in person this year. God bless us, everyone. And God bless Skype.  We all ate together, anyway.

A Sabbath Christmas

In honor of Christmas, enjoy one of my favorite songs my mom and her sisters used to sing. (Obviously, this isn't a recording of them, but Bing Crosby sang it pretty well, too.)
Many people attend church only for Christmas. In contrast, many of us Mormons attend church every week—or even more often, if you count midweek service projects, socials, educational activities, and church ball. (Personally. I wouldn’t count church ball as church attendance, but technically, it is located at church.)

In fact, we Mormons are probably less likely to attend church on Christmas than any other day of the year. So, what to do when Christmas happens to fall on Sunday, like this year?

Acknowledging that we Mormons just aren’t accustomed to spending Christmas at church, my local stake is abbreviating church on Christmas day to a one-hour service. Additionally, several members of my ward choir are going to visit a local nursing home on Christmas day to sing a few carols for a half hour before the church meeting begins.

This plan brings back warm memories for me. When I was a child, my talented mom and her four equally talented sisters had a little performing group that kept all of us busy during the Christmas season. I loved tagging along with them, both because I enjoyed the performances and because I liked the Christmas festivals where they performed.

But one of my most vivid memories of those days was a performance at a much less festive location. My mom and her sisters arranged to sing at my grandfather’s nursing home one December. The thing is, he wasn’t there. He had died about a month earlier.

I wasn’t thrilled about attending this performance. It brought back memories of the last time I was there. Just before his death, my Granddad seemed to have shrunk. He looked skinny and weak and miserable. I am not sure he recognized me, but he seemed concerned about how sad I was, so with obvious difficulty, he reached out his emaciated arm to hold my hand and comfort me.

When my mom and my aunts sang at that nursing home, I realized that they were also reaching out to those that needed comfort. Now that I was there, I recalled how often the staff at the home had mentioned to us how nice it was that my Granddad had such a steady stream of visitors—commenting that many of their other residents were not so fortunate. My relatives were lucky to inherit my Granddad’s musical talents, but that day, I was more grateful that they shared his compassion.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How the Grinch Started My Christmas mp3 Collection

With all the inspirational Christmas music playing on the radio in December, should I be concerned that my kids' favorite carol is "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,"  which is essentially a series of creatively worded insults?  Maybe, but I empathize--I love that song, too.

My kids do not understand how the radio works.  When they hear Christmas music playing, they keep asking me to play the Grinch song.  I tried to explain to them that I had no power over when the DJ plays the Grinch, but finally realized that my kids needed their very own Grinch music to play on demand.

Fortunately, I saw a sign at the library advertising FreeGal, a service in which library card holders can download and keep three mp3s per week.  Awesome!  How long have they been doing this? 

FreeGal is by no means a comprehensive database of all music ever published.  It has serious holes.  But it's free, so what do you expect?  I love the original version of the song with Boris Karloff's voice, but it wasn't in there.  However, there were several other versions of the song.  My kids enthusiastically helped me sample them and we found another version, by Newsong, that we like just as much.

Since I love, love, love Christmas music, but share my kids' tendency to occasionally resent that DJs aren't playing my favorites, I decided to use my December 3/week quota to build my Christmas music library.  Most popular Christmas songs have been covered so many times that there are several options to choose from in FreeGal.  When I pull them up and sample them, I am surprised at how many times I find that my favorite version is by some unknown (to me) artist, over more famous artists and versions.  Of course, lots of extremely famous artists made the cut, too. Here's my collection:

Bring a Torch, Jeanette, IsabellaWorld's Best Praise and Worship album
Carol of the BellsMormon Tabernacle Choir
Do You Hear What I Hear?Destiny's Child
I Wonder as I WanderThe Blenders
The Holly and the IvyRoger Whittaker
Let It SnowHarry Connick, Jr.
O Come O Come EmmanuelMichael Londra
O Holy NightBilly Gilman
The Secret of ChristmasThe Nylons
We Need a Little ChristmasGlee Soundtrack
You're a Mean One, Mr. GrinchNewsong

I can still get one more song.  Any suggestions? I've already tried these below, but FreeGal couldn't help me:

Christmas Children
I like both the Scrooge the Musical version and the SheDaisy version but neither is on FreeGal. It isn't in there at all.  No one else has ever covered this song?  Really?  It's a great song, recording artists!  Put it in your Christmas albums already!

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Plenty of Christmas albums include this one, but I felt like I couldn't settle for anything but the Judy Garland version from Meet Me in St. Louis, which wasn't there.

The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth
with Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Not there, either.

Fortunately, I already own Carpenters Christmas album.  It is a shame that they don't have it on FreeGal, though, since it is arguably the best Christmas album ever, or at least, until the 2010 Glee Christmas album, which is available on FreeGal.  The song choices on the Glee album are amazing, except for the unfortunate inclusion of Last Christmas, I Gave You My Heart, which is an okay song, but really has nothing to do with Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Power Problem Solver

After an extremely unproductive morning at work today, where the power kept going out due to severe winds, everyone was sent home early.  I explained to my three-year-old that I got to come home early because the power went out and it was too dark to work. 

He apparently put some thought into the situation in my office, because about an hour later he told me, "Mom, if the power is out, you need to turn on the light switch.  Then power will go to the light and you can see."