"I've discovered that my own little postage stamp of native soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it."
- William Faulkner

Friday, December 21, 2007

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mississippians and their mutts make the news

Whenever Kell and I don’t carpool to work, I’m in trouble. He usually keeps me on task and doesn’t let me dilly-dally in the morning when I’m getting ready. After all, we are both dedicated public servants who strive to ensure that your tax dollars are going to good use. But this morning, I was my own babysitter, and I didn’t exactly keep pressing forward as I typically do when I have distractions and no supervision. And I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of great stories (with thanks to Fox and Friends), both of which feature Mississippians.

Agree or disagree with the war in Iraq, one thing is for certain: the men and women of the US military are the best in the business. They’re the best-trained, best-equipped and bravest team in the world. Whatever your opinions are on the conflict in the Middle East, our troops are the one thing we all support. In March of this year, Cpl. Dustin Lee was killed in an attack on Fallujah. Along with the Quitman, Miss.-native’s family and friends, his eight-year-old bomb-sniffing Marine dog was in attendance. With shrapnel still in his body, Lex didn’t want to leave his fallen master and had to be dragged away from Dustin and the scene of the attack. He recovered from his battle wounds and reported back for duty in Albany, Georgia, where he was first trained by his best friend.

A veteran himself, Lex has served two tours in Iraq, and still was eligible for two more years of service. After months of much lobbying and persuasion, the Marines decided that Lex will be going home with Dustin’s family to Quitman. This morning, the courageous canine will join his new family after what was no doubt a meaningful ceremony in Georgia. Though the Lees will miss Dustin this Christmas, I am sure Lex will help them feel closer to their own fallen soldier.

On a lighter note (and another canine connection), former Mississippi State Diamond Dawg-turned Boston Red Sox pitcher Jonathan Papelbon, recently told the Hattiesburg American that his bulldog Boss ate the ball from the final out of this year’s World Series. OK, Paps, this raises more than a few questions: 1) Since when are bulldogs able to jump on a counter? 2) Why exactly was this most valuable of souvenirs on your counter and not in a case somewhere? Evidently the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown has Paps’ glove in their safe possession but weren’t interested in the ball itself. Watching the news this morning, the broadcasters reporting and commenting on the story were surprised by this. Come on, any real Bulldog fan knows better. We’ve seen that wild look in Paps’ eye too many times on the pitcher’s mound. Why should we assume his dog would be any different?

Friday, December 14, 2007

it's the most wonderful time of the year

Yaya featured this Christmasy line of questioning, and I decided to take part because I know you care what I think. Happy Ho Ho Ho to you!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I typically have an aversion to the gift bag despite its convenience and even quite often, its cuteness. I don’t dislike receiving gifts in bags, I just prefer to give a box with wrapping paper and bow because I love to wrap presents. However, this year, due to the odd conglomeration of your gifts, Yaya and Claire, yours will be in bags. It is no reflection upon our friendship. Scout’s honor.

2. Tree--Real or Artificial? I’m not fanatical either way – real trees provide the great smell while helping local farmers and the environment, but artificial trees are convenient and cost-effective. We have a real tree currently in our apartment since Kell has certain holiday demands. Plus, it’s probably safer for the twins to eat real tree branches as opposed to artificial. My energy goes into the lights.

3. When do you put Christmas tree up? I grew up with an artificial tree, and we used to put it up the day after Thanksgiving. However, Kell’s demand for a real tree prevented us from being able to do that. We actually just got our tree decorated this week.

4. When do you take the tree down? As soon as possible after Christmas. I think the tree loses its luster on December 26th.

5. Like egg nog? Nope. And I’m over it. I do however like a little bit of hot chocolate with my marshmallows.

6. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, I do. Not sure where it is right now, but I have one.

7. Favorite gift received as a child? I can remember getting a set of Legos every year even into my teens. I kind of wish I still got them. But, the twins might think they are treats.

8. Hardest person to buy for? KELL. No question.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Harris, Yaya, Olive and Charlie.

10. Worst Christmas gift? I can’t personally recall a terrible gift I’ve gotten, but Harris got a doozie a couple of years ago – a pink nightlight with a picture of a cat on it that said “Princess Kitty.” And, yes, I did say a couple of years ago. Not 15.

11. Mail or email a Christmas Card? Mail for sure. I love to get mail.

12. Favorite Christmas movie? The (original) Grinch, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Christmas Vacation, Elf, Polar Express.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? This year, I began early on accident when I came across something I found to be Christmas gift-worthy; I bought the very first one in July. My goal was to be finished by December 1, but I failed miserably - I purchased the last one this week.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes. In fact, I’m doing it this year. It’s a part of a grander gift scheme, but re-gifted nonetheless. And I’ll never tell.

15. Favorite food to eat on Christmas? My family usually eats breakfast for dinner on Christmas Eve, and I LOVE it. I did have the worst heartburn of my life on Christmas morning after a smoked sausage binge the night before. I limit my intake now to 3-5 smokies.

16. Clear or colored tree lights? You know, I used to be really passionate about the white lights, but I must say the colored ones are growing on me. When I grow up, I plan on having 2 trees, one for each. Colored or clear, there just has to be enough. Kell asked me last year if I was planning on having an airplane land in our living room.

17. Favorite Christmas Song? Please see previous post.

18. Travel during Christmas or Stay home? I’ve always traveled on Christmas, and one day I’d like to be home. But, I can’t imagine not being with family on Christmas Day. Maybe they can all come to me. I can serve smokies and marshmallows.

19. Can you name Santa's reindeer? “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen…But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all? Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!” There’s also Olive the Other Reindeer. I think Santa’s original Elite 8 reindeer team is underrated. One foggy night and they lose credit for hundreds of years of successful Christmas runs. Now they live in the shadow of an illuminate red nose.

20. Angel or Star on tree top? Either way. I have a star on my tree.

21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning? Why can’t we do both? It only comes around once a year, so savor the season while you can. I remember one year my mom letting Harris and me open one gift before Christmas Eve. It was a Michael Bolton tape.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? I agree with Yaya: America has lost sight of what the world’s most celebrated holiday is all about, and I’m just as guilty as the next person. It’s too easy to concern ourselves with what we’re getting for him, how much we’re spending on her and how we’ll pay for it once it’s all over with. Sure there are non-biblical things that have become Christmas commonplace, but the Greatest Gift of all was born in a manger thousands of years ago. He received three gifts from three Wise Men and became the King of Kings. Merry CHRISTmas to you and yours!

Your turn!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

And it really is. Though it doesn’t feel wintry outside, stores are buzzing, traffic is fierce, and office parties are a dime-a-dozen. Parking lots are full of shoppers more than willing to empty their wallets for the perfect gift, only to do it all over again at the next store. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the tangible things that the season brings; after all, we’re bombarded with commercials, advertising and tinsel earlier and earlier every year. I’ve found that each person has something that really defines the holidays for him or her, and without it, Christmas just isn’t the same. Be it green bean casserole, a real tree, lights on the house a la Clark Griswold or your grandmother’s Nativity scene, people begin to associate their holiday with a favorite aspect of the season.

For me, it’s the music. Last night I began putting together an all-inclusive Christmas CD for a friend, and through the beauty and magic of iTunes, a new galaxy of holiday hits opened the compilation to songs old and new, secular and religious, unique and repetitive. However, I found myself still gravitating toward the songs I’d always loved. My own personal catalog has evolved over time but essentially hasn’t changed much. Here’s my abridged list along with my favorite versions:

“Carol of the Bells” – my all-time favorite. I was very influential in Mrs. Moore’s choosing this one for our performance in high school chorus. I love the idea of voices sounding like bells and that everyone knows the tune, but not the words. I can teach them to you if you’d like. Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition is the best I’ve heard, but I also love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s electric guitar version.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” – my favorite secular Christmas song. From James Taylor to Coldplay to Old Blue Eyes, I’ve never found a version that I don’t like. I love its message of enjoying time together with the ones you love and keeping your troubles “out of sight.” It’s a little mournful, but there’s nothing I’d rather hear.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Again, a little mournful. I like to imagine a young man working really hard at his office and writing this song as a letter home to his mom. If I were Michael Buble’s mom, I would think he really was coming home for Christmas.

“Ave Maria” – The Charles Gounod version. I love it so much I made it a part of my May wedding. But, if you can’t get Janie Diaz to perform it for you personally, believe it or not, Jewel does a great job with this one.

“Step into Christmas” – Sir Elton John’s Christmas song makes me dance every time I hear it. It’s kind of flamboyant…just like him.

“Little Drummer Boy” (a.k.a. Pa Rum Pa Pum Pum) – My dad’s favorite has now become mine as well. This endearing song embodies so much that is Christianity and is a musical reminder to always humble ourselves before God. Everyone’s gift is valuable, and we should use them always to His glory. Plus, I like that the ox and lamb keep time – I imagine them wagging their tails with the beat of the drum. Jars of Clay has a great interpretation of this one.

“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – Only one version of this song will do for me. Though the silver screen adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic is good, the original “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is superlative. There’s a reason it’s been around for over 40 years. How can you argue with a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce?

“The Christmas Song” – Does it get any more “classic” Christmas than this? Have you ever seen a Christmas movie that doesn’t weave it in at some point? Almost every phrase is a dedication to the most wonderful time of the year. I don’t think I need to say that Nat King Cole owns this song, but Stevie Wonder and India.Arie also put a jazzy spin on it.

Honorable Mention:
“Breath of Heaven” – Amy Grant
“Must Have Been Old Santa Claus” – Harry Connick, Jr.
“Merry Christmas, Baby” – Otis Redding
“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” – Jackson 5
“O Holy Night” – Martina McBride

If you’re not familiar with the songs on my list, give them a try. You won’t be disappointed, and you may find a new favorite of your own. Did I leave off your favorite? Please share…

Thursday, December 6, 2007

she lets the dawg out...

I wonder if Bully appreciates his life in the lap of luxury and the laps of Bulldog fans everywhere. I could get used to bottled water waiting on me, treats on demand, rides to work in a golf cart and hugs wherever I go.

Here’s to the good life! Woof!
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