Christmas -4 days.

Christmas is done for the year.  We took our tree down, hauled it up to the attic and all the evidence of Christmas is gone, as if it never happened.  We each left an ornament out to remember the changes we want to make this Christmas and throughout the next year, but in our house, that’s not really out of the ordinary.

What is out of the ordinary?  Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it.  My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me.   They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away.  They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together.  After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.

Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor.  No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events.  Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens.  Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again?  I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.

After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting.  No, not shopping, treasure hunting.  Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores.  Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank.  My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys.  I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.

I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50.  Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms.  My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.

Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.

As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys.  I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do.  I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids.  “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.”  I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation.  I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism. Continue reading

Christmas day.

Here it is.  A recap of the 25 days of Christmas… in tweets.  All are 140 characters or less so copy, paste and share!  Merry Christmas.  Come back in January to see my next blogging subject.  It’s a good one.

25 days until Christmas…

SUPPORT SMALL BIZ: purchase gifts at local discount & hole-in-the-wall stores #shopsmart http://wp.me/p7CAn-3b

SUPPORT an orphanage: http://casahogarelim.com I love these kids & mama lupita #che #casahogarelim

SUPPORT locally in frisco: http://friscocenter.org volunteer @ the food pantry or frisco resale #friscoresale #tinselectomy

look 4 ‘symmetrical hazy plastic people nativity scene with flying peanuts’ in ur area. #sillyyardart #fun #embracechaos

make darla bluetooth your friend on FB. @luvplasticpeople @embracechaos #mannequinsneedluv

read 25 days until christmas http://wp.me/p7CAn-3b #25daysofembracechaos  Continue reading

1 day until Christmas…

I came home late from work last night and found a small package on my front porch. The package was not a surprise. I was expecting it and I knew what I would find inside. I picked up the vintage gray, mottled paper envelope off the ground and carried it inside.

I had received a phone call a few days ago from my mom, telling me she’s coming to see her grandkids. I had to let her know I don’t have the boys this week, they’re with their dad and I won’t get them back until Christmas day. A day later, she left me a voice mail that she would see the boys over there and she would leave some photos by my front door. My mom came to town yesterday, left the photos, just as she had planned. I suppose she saw the kids too, just as she had planned.

Although I was expecting the package to contain photographs, I wasn’t prepared for the non-accidental, odd collection of them, depicting my life. On one end of the spectrum, photos of my parents before I was even born, at the other end, my pre-divorce family photos. What was I expecting? Some snapshots of my kids from her last visit to Frisco. What should I have expected? Anything but some snapshots. What did I get? Pieces of my life on tiny scraps of matte paper, some mocking happiness, others simply evidence of my existence, all carefully arranged into a loose album of heartache. Merry Christmas.

Enough of that. Wow, only one more day of journaling the 25 days of Christmas. Although the countdown is over, I plan to push the digital pencil one final time for this project, a summary of sorts, on Christmas day.  Continue reading

2 days until Christmas…

There’s not much time left until Christmas.  It will go by very quickly though.  Looking at the Facebook news feed, I get the distinct feeling people are ready for this to be over.  People are either extremely tired or they are frantically shopping.  Well, maybe they’re just tired of shopping.

It reminds me of what it’s like to take a road trip, the busyness of preparing for the trip, running around making sure you didn’t forget anything.  Is everything packed?  Did I give the key to the neighbor?  Are all of the important items checked off my to do list?  (it’s not even possible to complete all of them)  Should I check my email one more time?  Is the iron off?  Oh yeah, I don’t have an iron.  Okay, I think it’s time to get in the car.  Continue reading

3 days until Christmas…

Three days until Christmas really means only one more day to get all of my work done.  This year we have Christmas eve and Christmas eve, eve services.  Yikes!  Short blog today?  Probably not.  😉

Last night, someone found by blog with the search words ‘why do people choose chaos’.  I doubt they found the answer to that question here, as I choose to embrace it, but now I’m pondering the question.

First, what is chaos?  Let’s take a look at the definition.  It is defined as ‘a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.’  Synonyms: disarray, jumble, turmoil.  Antonyms: order, peace, calm. Or in other words, my writing style?  Well…

So do people chose chaos, or is chaos a result of human actions?  Is it something that we’re born into, and on some level, will always have to react with accordingly?  I believe life itself contains chaos, and from what I see, an abundant quantity of it.  I do believe we can choose our own level of participation though.  Now I’m not talking about a person just choosing to be disorganized and live in a messy house, I’m talking about cultural chaos.  The chaos that results from masses of people coexisting on this planet, the development of our interactions and the outcome of our participation in society.

Cultural chaos is not only having too many choices, but the expectation that we are to participate in all of them on some level.  Since this is the 25 days of Christmas blog, let’s look at Christmas chaos.  Before I do that, I want to share a conversation I had yesterday with a couple of coworkers.

This little guy was sitting on the desk, inside a plastic bag, smiling at me.  Of course I took him out to play with him, and I also got him a car to ride.  Zoom, zoom!  Peppermint wheels!  I’m glad Sonic still believes in peppermint wheels.  (see Jody’s List from 2 days ago for the reference)

As a few us us were talking, someone said, “It’s the Wal-Mart symbol.”  I immediately argued that Wal-Mart cannot own the smiley face, as it’s a representation of happiness in the 70’s.  Can anyone copyright a smiley?  One person in the room asked, “Somebody designed it, don’t they own the rights to it?”

The answer is yes.  Harvey Ball designed it and owns rights to it, and as you would expect, Wal-mart and their high priced attorneys tried to claim ownership.  In 2008 they lost… or did they?  Continue reading

4 days until Christmas…

A friend of mine had a very interesting question for me yesterday.  He asked, “Would you still be blogging everyday if you were married?”  My reaction at that moment was yes, probably, but the process might look a little different.  I might just be blogging random stories, and would not have made the 25 day Christmas commitment.  I walked away and didn’t think much about it.

Yesterday was busy, at work in the morning, then a photo shoot scheduled for the afternoon and more work in the evening.  My Sunday afternoon photo shoots usually consist of driving to small towns and looking for abandoned houses with a group of people.  Yesterday, I photographed a band called Moving Colors.  They rock the house everywhere they play and I really enjoyed doing the shoot.  We did some silhouettes behind the big screen, what a blast!

After I left the shoot, I had to run to the bookstore to find some Luke 2 images for a video.  As I was on my way there, having a small amount of time for personal reflection, I couldn’t help thinking about the question again.  Why did he ask that?  Curiosity got the best of me, I had to email him and find out.  I typed it at a stoplight, not while driving… just for the record.  Continue reading

6 days… no, wait, 5 days until Christmas…

Whatever.  I can’t count!  Leave it to me to try and change the birthdate of Jesus.  Okay, math has never been my thing.  I’m focusing more on the artistic process here, not the time, or time-math.  Work with me people.  Only one person has been brave enough to point this out, and as soon as he gets out of the hospital, you can ask him about it.

Have you read The Five Love Languages?  I have, and although I may not know my love language, I know what it’s not.  It’s not gifts.  With that being said, please enjoy my 2009 Christmas gift giving guide.

The 2009 Christmas Gift Giving Guide by Jody Wissing (aka Jody’s List)

Your most memorable childhood gift.

What was the coolest, most mind-blowing gift you received as a child?  No silly, besides the box it came in?  Mine was a Krazy Kar.  It’s that bright yellow thing with the swirly peppermint wheels.  I don’t recall how long I had it, but I know it was several years.  I’m guessing it was completely worn out, not suitable for anything but plastic recycling, as I loved it to death.  I had no idea what this was called until last week when I posted this photo on Facebook.

The Amloid Krazy Kar Ride-On is available on amazon.com for $75.99

Product description: The Krazy Kar is as equally wild as it is wacky! Drive it forwards, backwards, or in circles for indoor and outdoor fun all year long! Features giant 3′ action ride-on and big 18″ wheels. Made with safe, rugged, durable construction and holds up to 70 lbs. Colors may vary. Adult assembly required.

Although I like the new edition of the lightening bolts, I’m a little saddened that the swirly peppermint wheels are gone.  Oh well, nothing a little paint can’t take care of.  And 70 pounds?  How am I supposed to show my kids how to ride this if I can’t?  Their Green Machines hold up to 180 pounds, not that I ever take advantage of that.  But hypothetically speaking, let’s say you want something like this so you can ride it too.

The Deluxe Whirly Wheel is available at amazon.com for $99.99

Product description: Kids use their hands to power this innovative twist on the conventional ride-on. Lightweight construction helps riders cruise right along, safely take corners, and spin 360s on almost any surface. Features a steel frame, rubber tires and a padded seat for riders up to 110 lbs.

Okay, so I don’t weigh 110, wishful thinking, but I’l only a bit over it, so technically…  Also, if you buy one of these for your kids and they choose to keep spinning in circles, keep them outside for a little while before bringing them in the house.  Is your favorite toy still available?

Creative, memorable and just downright awesome.

What is the most meaningful or creative gift you have ever received?  The most creative for me was a bouquet of paintbrushes.  I’m not a flower kind of girl, and this gift giver, although knowing me for a short period time, gave me a meaningful gift.  I was married for eight years and the man still gave me flowers when he was in the dog house.  That made me angry, spending a crazy amount of money on something that’s dead upon arrival and will look like it in three days.  I cannot comprehend this.  Continue reading

7 days until Christmas…

I was sad yesterday afternoon as I watched the large group of people leaving for Mexico.  I so very much wanted to go with them.  They are bringing Christmas gifts to the children at Casa Hogar Elim, an annual thing started last year by Jeff Harrell.  We collect shoe boxes, fill them up with small age-appropriate toys and sugar-free candy, then wrap them up.  Now these gifts aren’t just for a boy, age 6, or a girl, age 10, there’s a package for each individual child with their name on it.  We can’t put bows on these boxes, as they would be crushed under the weight of all the supplies in the cars and vans.

There are so many people from our church that want to go to Casa Hogar, they don’t even need to advertise the trips.  If you’ve been there, you’re a walking billboard for CHE.  The Thanksgiving trip even had a waiting list this year.  The ‘regulars’ have gone so many times, they can’t even tell you how many trips they’ve made.  We love these kids, and for those of us whom visit often, these kids are our extended family.

You know the old saying, ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family?’    I beg to differ.  I was thinking last night about family and friends, and all of the funny ways God placed them in my life.  God clearly has a sense of humor!  Continue reading

8 days until Christmas…

I want to talk about ghosts, those scary, shadowy phantoms that haunt all of us.  The dictionary definition of a ghost is a dead person’s soul, imagined as a vague, shadowy figure.  My definition is a bit different.  Now maybe I watched too much Casper when I was young, but I think ghosts are typically friendly and they’re usually trying to teach humans a lesson.  Aren’t ghosts just people spirits in 32% transparent bodies with a 78% vivid light outer glow?   Yeah, okay, I spend too much time with Photoshop.  I do believe ghosts can be dead or alive.  Whether it’s the dead ones that are completely invisible or the live ones that are in plain sight, their presence is known.  Yesterday I visited one ghost, and two ghosts visited me.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I have to say, I didn’t want to see this ghost anymore than Scrooge did, but I reluctantly, yet intentionally decided to visit him.  This particular ghost is one that I usually don’t go searching for, but I thought it might shed some light on my Christmas beliefs and struggles with our existing Christmas culture.  This particular ghost is a vintage Poloroid camera, as the ghost of Christmas past has presented himself in photographs.  The person behind the camera?  My grandpa.  He passed away many years ago and I miss him terribly.  My grandpa was a shutterbug and also the designated family photographer.

My first exploration took me to a large box in the garage, filled with old photos that belonged to my grandparents.  I enjoy looking at the past, captured through my grandpa’s eyes, on these little black and white squares.  I love visiting this box, but you couldn’t tell that from the amount of dust on it.  I searched though the box, looking for any Christmas photos I could find.  I found Christmas photos of my dad, aunt and cousins.

The second part of the search took me to my own childhood albums.  These albums were meticulously organized by my mother, every photo page referencing my age in years and months.  I can only imagine what these albums would look like had they known scrapbooking back then.  Not only do these albums contain photographs, but every birthday card I ever received as a child.  There must be hundreds of them, and I would venture to say, there are as many cards as photos.  I guess that explains why I don’t like cards.  All those cards are symbolic of how many superficial contacts my parents had, it was the number that meant something, not the depth of the friendships.  Christmas was no different, there were hundreds of cards taped on the wall, creating an oversized map of  numerical acquaintanceships.  It looked to me like the US, and if anyone looked closely enough, I expect they would have seen tiny little cars driving aimlessly all over it, looking for an unknown destination.  Continue reading

9 days until Christmas…

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

Only 9 days now.

Tick.  Tick.

Christmas will be here soon.  I have this gut feeling… I’m forgetting something.  What is it?  There’s no time to think about it.

Tick.

Time, our most valuable commodity.  Time, our best friend and our worst enemy.  Time is money.  I think the Eagles understand the meaning of time.  In their words, “…you can spend all your love making time.”  I don’t pretend to even come close to understanding love, but isn’t it something about relationships?  Isn’t it about people?

I was talking with my friend Thom the other day, complaining because I didn’t have enough time to get everything done, and he asked, “If you’re saying you don’t have enough time, isn’t that like telling God he didn’t give us enough of it?”  Hmm.  I think he’s right.  Why are we so busy?

I’ve received a few Christmas cards so far this year.  I don’t send Christmas cards anymore, mostly because it’s a Christmas expectation.  It’s that feisty, non-conformist part of me that just won’t do it.  I don’t want to send a meaningless, mass produced piece of cardstock to someone, only for it to get lost in a sea of empty tidings.  Everyone complains about no having the time to prepare their many Christmas cards.  If it’s such a hassle, why do it?  Do we even notice if one of our friends doesn’t send the obligatory Christmas wishes?

I do like seeing the family pictures, as this makes the cards more personal.  This is also where people get creative, maybe because they need to top last years photo or make their card funny so it’s more memorable and stands out from the others.  I have some friends that not only create the funniest cards, they have the next eight years’ ideas planned.  And we all think the same thing, “My, how everyone has changed since last year!”  Time really flies.

The cards I find the most interesting, are the ones containing family updates.  I’m not quite sure where this process originated, but I suppose if you only hear from people once a year, it’s important to catch up on the entire time span.  Limit: one paragraph per person please.  These updates usually reflect the family busyness in a comical way or highlight the achievements of the role-model kids.  If someone read these, without knowing the people, one might believe they have achieved worldly perfection.  Where are the ‘reality cards’, the ones saying it’s been a tough year?  My kids are struggling in school, I lost my job and oh, by the way, you can take his name off the card.  He doesn’t live here anymore.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.  Continue reading