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What “Christmas Shoes” Means to Me

shoes!

Guess which ones are mine and win an MCC No-Prize!

No, not the song. Egad, no. No no no no no.

Once again it’s the season for family making the visitation rounds for the sake and spirit of Christmas. Our largest family gathering every year is at my father-in-law’s place, where this year over three dozen relatives and plus-ones convened on Saturday morning, though just to brag for the record, Anne and I were among the three (3) people who could be bothered to arrived on time.

One of the major house rules is shoes come off at the front door, because older couples who think white carpet is a splendid decorating choice are finicky that way. By the time everyone arrived and got down to eating and mingling throughout the afternoon, the entryway was a cluttered war zone of castoff footwear. No heels, no Manolo Blahniks, nothing you’d wear to a shoeshine stand. Neither our families nor our gatherings see high rollers like that. Anyone who would object to such carefree shoe storage would be recognized right away as Not One of Us.

And yes, I see you number-crunchers out there scrunching your nose because you count two dozen pairs at most in the photo. Several more pairs were offscreen to my left. It’s also possible that a few of the toddlers were allowed to keep theirs on. I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t looking because no one assigned me to Christmas Shoe Police duty.

The shoe pile is emblematic of our gatherings themselves, whether it’s holidays, kids’ birthday parties, or the annual reunions where we’re joined by a few extra strangers of shared blood. Everyone who’s a citizen of our tiny microcosm nation agrees to throw in together and make one big mess. At the end we agree to retrieve the parts of the mess that were our fault, one by one, family unit by family unit, until order is restored and my in-laws have their foyer back.

It’s Christmas. It’s what we do. In our finer moments it’s how we can be as a family in other matters as well.

Merry Christmas to you ‘n’ yours from us here at Midlife Crisis Crossover. May your days be merry and bright, may your celebrations of our Savior be blessed and comforting, and here’s hoping the circles you belong to will set aside their reservations and come together in happy, sloppy, love-filled pileups of their own.

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7 Things to Know Before You Go Out Christmas Caroling

Muppet Carolers!

The Swedish Chef, Beaker, and Animal proved with “Ringing of the Bells” you don’t need a great singing voice to go caroling, but you may need safety equipment.

My wife Anne loves singing Christmas carols. She used to be first among her coworkers to begin singing them every year until she bowed to peer pressure and agreed to wait till at least after Columbus Day. I learned most of the catalog in grade school and willingly participated in three consecutive Christmas programs, even soloing once on “The First Noel” for an audience of hundreds of parents, none of whom had the clout to offer me a recording contract. Our old Bible study group used to visit group homes and nursing homes, serenade residents with a medley of timeless classics, and bring them baskets of cookies and/or fruit in the spirit of the season.

We love Christmas songs. We have a lot of fun singing them to appreciative crowds. We love being given the opportunity to sing for others as an act of service, an outpouring of faith, and an outlet for our pent-up expressive hearts. We’d join multiple caroling groups if the right offers rolled in. I blame our inactivity on our agent, George Glass.

But Christmas caroling isn’t as easy as it looks, especially if your fellow singers aren’t on the same page. We regret we’ve learned this the hard way. If You, the Viewers at Home, have ever considered singing Christmas songs to others, whether to praise Jesus or to have a good time, we offer you seven handy tips for simplifying your caroling mission, bringing a merry gleam to the eyes of others, creating a pleasant memory, and hopefully remaining on good speaking terms with the rest of the choir by the end of the night.

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Stalking the Great White Elephant

White Elephant OfferingLike too many others, our extended family on both sides has given up on the ancient tradition of buying gifts for everyone they love. Few of us can afford to buy that many gifts, and it’s likely that the affluent minority wouldn’t have a clue about our interests, hobbies, or character traits. Heck, I don’t even know what some of them do for a living.

Some years we’ve agreed to buy gifts only for the kids, who were easier to treat as interchangeable when they were younger. As they’ve aged, they’ve become just as finicky and inscrutable as their parents. The process might be simpler if we lived near each other and/or spent time together. I hear that works well for some families. It’s not that we hate each other — if that were the case, Christmas gatherings wouldn’t be scheduled in the first place. But we seem to be a bit more fractured and preoccupied with our own doings than those families you see in movies or TV shows that do everything together. We can glean minutiae about each other from Facebook, but in most cases it’s not enough to influence our major Christmas purchasing decisions.

For the last few years, some factions in our families have livened up Christmas gatherings with a white elephant gift exchange. You chip in for a gift; you receive a random gift in return. It’s a way to say “I acknowledge you as part of the family” without designating a specific person as the recipient of the sentiment. More succinctly put: “Dear whoever: you technically matter.”

Preparations for this year…

“Die Hard 2”: That OTHER Technically Christmas Movie

John McClane, Bruce Willis, Die Hard 2

Bruce Willis. Guns. Fake snow. Yep, it was that time again.

It’s an old joke among internet guys that, when asked about the best Christmas movies ever, they’ll mention famous favorites with scenes set at Christmas, even if the entire movie isn’t actually about Christmas. Old reliables such as Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and maybe Gremlins make strong showings on such lists, though Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a solid dark-horse candidate and I expect a few tongue-in-cheek votes in the future for Iron Man 3.

Sadly, I never see anyone show any Christmas love for Die Hard 2: Die Harder, which may be one of the two best films of director Renny Harlin’s career and is set entirely on Christmas Eve. Sure, its older brother hogs all the glory as the Greatest Action Film of All Time according to me and occasionally polls, but if you watch too closely and never mind the unfair comparisons to the One That Started It All, you’ll notice it has all the necessary elements of a basic Christmas movie, not to mention a few reminders of Christmas with your own family.

Where’s the Christmas in Die Hard 2? Count the ways:

* Snow! Die Hard had no snow. None. Not a flake. It was set in L.A., which has no snow because it hates Christmas. Die Hard 2 is set in Washington D.C., where snow is everywhere, even though most of it is fake movie snow that would make decent pillow stuffing. Even fake snow has more of a right to be in a Christmas movie than palm trees do.

John McClane’s Christmas list goes on…

The Fading Attraction of the Family Gathering

family dinner gathering, Gray Bros. CafeteriaOnce again it’s that time of year when Christmas pervades our thoughts and retailers, when we have hard decisions to make about which relatives and friends deserve free tokens of affection or obligation, when our diets are at their most compromised, and when every family or circle remotely connected to us tries to fill up our December calendar page with nonstop, wall-to-wall action and excitement.

Wait, no. They just want everyone who meets their invitation criteria to get together, eat a meal in the same room at the same time, and check off the item on the holiday to-do list that reads “mandatory visiting”. Action and excitement are optional. Too, too optional. Sometimes it’s best not to ask about presents, either.

More on this…

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