Merry Christmas!

Greetings, friends,

I apologize for my long absence.  I’m dealing with some significant health issues but hope to return soon.  I wish you all a joyful Christmas, as well as any other holidays you observe.  Peace and love,

~Rachel

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‘Tis the Season

I bet from my title, you can already guess the theme of today’s Throwback Thursday.  However, you might still be wondering how I plan on incorporating that into something currently happening in my life.

When I was a kid, the best Christmases were of course the ones where I got the best presents.  The year I turned two was a great Christmas.  Three days after my birthday, Santa came and left me a purple tricycle, a green desk that was a chalkboard on the top and a flip-open magnetic board inside, and my favorite Raggedy Ann doll that I carried everywhere until about three years later when my dog ate her head.

Three days after I turned eight was also terrific, because that year, I got two baby dolls instead of just one!  I wasn’t much of a Barbie girl, but I loved playing babies.  However, I never kept their names that came on the boxes.  I don’t know if you can read these dolls’ boxes or not, but the big one’s name was Fran, and the little one’s name was Agatha!  YIKES!  Those sounded more like grandmother dolls than baby dolls.  Their names were immediately changed to Heidi (from the book by the sane name), and – get this – Phronsie (from the book Five Little Peppers and How They Grew)!  Yes, really!  What was I thinking?

These days, the best Christmases are the ones where I can afford to get my kids tons of gifts, get my friends something nice, actually pull off all the surprises I have planned, and have the rest of the day to do something relaxing.

So why did I choose to talk about Christmas today?  Because today, I’m actually busy directing and producing six commercials that I wrote for my boss, and one of them is a Christmas ad.  That means that despite the 90° that feels like 113° (UGH!), last weekend, I spent both days actually shopping for Christmas items to use (Yes, Hobby Lobby actually has a lot of their Christmas stuff out already!) and putting up two Christmas trees.

We’re also filming a Thanksgiving commercial, so my sister Michelle has been doing tons of holiday baking this week.  And we’re filming Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day commercials, so I got to make a “Memory Wall” which I can’t wait to photograph and share with you.  And the two remaining commercials are not for holidays.

So, tell me, how are you spending your day?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal or put up and decorated a Christmas tree?  What’s the earliest you’ve ever shopped for holiday decorations?

Second Verse, Same as the First

The following is a repeat of a post I made shortly after I started blogging.  I thought that since I’ve been getting comments regarding the intensity of my microfiction these past few months, this would be fitting .  Remember, I write Psychological Thrillers.  By the very definition, a psychological thriller is a thriller story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states.

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It’s Throwback Thursday again, and this week I want to talk about intense writing. Sometimes people think my writing is a little too powerful.  But in my stories, I draw a lot from my own personal experiences, which I admit have not all been upbeat and cheery. As such, too often, I may be numb to what others find disturbing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t all have the luxury of a Disney-version whitewashed life.  We all cried when Walt Disney showed us Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters, but have you ever read an unabridged edition of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale?  Those were a couple of sick and twisted individuals (not to mention the audience that bought their stories to read to their children)!

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Little Gingerbread Man.  The story was first published in the May, 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine by an unknown author who claimed that a servant girl had told it to his or her children, and he or she felt it was worth preserving.  Apparently the servant girl claimed that an old lady told it to her in her own childhood.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, quite basically, it goes like this:  An old couple is hungry, and they have few ingredients on hand.  The wife uses the paltry amount of food in her kitchen and bakes a single gingerbread man for the two of them to share, but upon opening the oven, the gingerbread man jumps out and runs away.  He encounters several barnyard animals who all want to eat him, and as a pursuit ensues, the old couple and the animals chase the gingerbread man, but they aren’t as fast as he.  He inevitably tells them all, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.” Finally, having outrun all the hungry followers, he encounters a river, but he unfortunately can’t swim.  (That’s right.  Gingerbread cookies can, in fact, outrun even the fastest gazelles, but by golly, they don’t float!)  So a seemingly kind-natured fox offered to swim across the river, carrying the gingerbread man on his back.  The gingerbread man figured he’d be safe on the fox’s tail, but as the water got deeper, the fox persuaded him to climb higher, first to his back, then his head, then his nose, and of course you can guess the rest.  As the gingerbread man climbed onto the fox’s nose, the sly fox flipped him into the air, then snapped his mouth shut and ate the poor little guy.

(Yep, that’s me and my grandparents above.)

People who know me, know that my grandparents raised me from the time I was born, so I consider them both my actual parents.  And because my birth mother was their last child, they were older than a lot of my friends’ grandparents when they got me.  Now, the cool thing about living with my grandparents (which I didn’t appreciate until I was grown and had kids of my own) was that I got exposed to older culture than my peers.  And I’ve learned to truly appreciate the old-fashioned way of doing things.

My grandparents had already raised their kids and didn’t expect to have to take care of another one in their golden years.  So they weren’t necessarily equipped to look after an active child.  But, that turned out to be a good thing in the end.  You see, while other young children were hearing ’Twas the Night Before Christmas every December, I could count on Grandma reading me Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And while other little kids were hearing Jack and the Beanstalk as a bedtime tale, Granddaddy was reading me Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.  

If anyone ever questioned my grandma as to why she might find it appropriate to tell a young child such graphic stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to sing them a song that her mother used to sing to her and her siblings in the 1930s called “Babes in the Woods.”  This little ditty was apparently a true story of a couple of children whose parents died and left them in the care of their aunt and uncle.  But the uncle wanted their inheritance, so he told his wife that he sent them to live at a school in London, when in fact, he actually paid someone to take them into the woods and kill them!  It’s not unlike the original version of Hansel and Gretel where the children are actually eaten by the witch rather than them killing the witch and escaping as they do in the sanitized version.  And if The Tell-Tale Heart isn’t enough to give you nightmares, just take a look at the lyrics to Grandma’s song:

Oh, don’t you remember, a long time ago / Those two little babies, their names I don’t know / They were stolen away one bright, summer’s day / And left in a wood, so I’ve heard folks say

Chorus: Sweet babes in the wood / Sweet babes in the wood / Oh, don’t you remember / Those babes in the wood

Now the day being gone and the night coming on / Those two little babies sat under a stone / They sobbed and they sighed, they bitterly cried / Those two little babies they laid down and died Chorus

Now the robins so red, how swiftly they sped / They put out their wide wings and over them spread / And all the day long on the branches among / They sweetly did whistle and this was their song / Chorus

So, in conclusion, I don’t think I was depraved because I heard all these stories as a kid.  I actually think it enhanced my creativity.  Am I going to tone back my writing because someone might think it’s too intense?  Nevermore!

Oh, Christmas Tree, Oh, Christmas Tree

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I present to you a piece of art I made in kindergarten.  I have absolutely NO IDEA what those two tall, purple presents are on each side.  (Golf clubs, perhaps?)  Have a Merry Christmas, friends!

You want to talk?  Tell me, what are you doing today?  Are you with family or friends?  Is there anything special on the menu?

The Tables Have Turned

This (below) is my first Christmas.  Actually, it’s technically my second.  Because I was born three days before Christmas, my first Christmas was spent coming home from the hospital.  The hospital wrapped me in a giant red and white Christmas stocking that day.

Sadly, no one cared to take a photo of my homecoming or my stocking bunting.  I used to love to look at that stocking when I was a kid.  It was at the foot of Grandma’s bed in her cedar chest.  I always wished I could hang that by the chimney and that Santa would fill it with wonderful surprises.  And I was always disappointed when Grandma wouldn’t let me, and I had to hang a normal sized stocking instead.

Each year, I eagerly looked forward to sitting on Santa’s lap and telling him what I wanted.  I vividly remember just how exciting it was when Grandma and I went to the department store and we saw the red and white arrows leading to Santa’s chair.  (I always thought it looked more like a throne.)

Back then, they didn’t offer photos with Santa, so this is the only picture I have with me and the big guy.  (Considering my Grandma’s mentality of “don’t waste the film,” I’m actually surprised I even have this one.  Isn’t it funny that after her raising me with that mindset, I grew up to be a professional photographer?)

Now that Grandma’s ninety-five years old and lives in a nursing home, she can’t take me to sit on Santa’s lap anymore.  And now, instead of me sitting on Santa’s lap, I take photos of other children with the big guy.  Only I don’t just sit the child on his lap.  I like to do artistic photos with Santa, including having him read a story to the children and have cookies and milk with them.

My son, when he’s available, is actually who plays Santa for my studio now.  And on Christmas Day, when my kids and I go visit Grandma at the nursing home, Jeremy (begrudgingly) dresses as Santa to see his great-grandma.  And I just smile because I went from getting eagerly excited to go visit Santa to being happy that I gave birth to him.  And instead of Grandma taking me to see the big guy, I now take the big guy to her.

The tables certainly have turned!

My daughter, Stefani, my son, Jeremy (as Santa), and my Grandma Toby.

Talk to me:  Did you used to look forward to sitting on Santa’s lap?  Would you have allowed your child to hang the giant stocking on the fireplace?  Would you have taken a photo of your new baby in the giant stocking?

Sleuths, I Need Your Help!

When my kids were small, I was a paralegal, and I only did freelance photography on the side.  I shot the occasional wedding and portraits, and a bunch of concerts.  I didn’t own a studio yet, and as such, I didn’t have access to my very own Santa.  So I had to rely on the Polaroids they sold at the mall.

However, one year, a friend told me about a new mall where you were allowed to bring your own camera and shoot from the side as long as you purchased the overpriced Polaroid.  (Obviously, this was way back in the dark ages before the days of cellphone cameras.)

So the year I moved from Florida to New York, I was quite surprised early one morning when my kids had a friend over and we heard a fire truck in our little neighborhood.  We looked outside, and lo and behold, Santa was stepping off the truck to visit the kids in the neighborhood!  I’d never seen anything like this!

I hurried to get the kids’ jackets over their pajamas, then Jeremy ran upstairs to grab his wish list while I got my camera.  I was only able to get about a half-dozen shots, but the memory was captured, and it was priceless!  The only thing that made me a little sad was that Santa kept Jeremy’s letter.

kingston christmas (01)

kingston christmas (02)

Jeremy, Stefani, their friend, Santa

kingston christmas (04)

At any rate, I do have two different letters my son wrote to Santa on different years when he was six and seven.  (My daughter was never so inclined to write the Big Guy for what she wanted.)  The unfortunate part, though, is that I didn’t write down the translation at the time when I knew what they said, and now neither he nor I have a clue what his little heart desired on some of the items listed.  (The even funnier part is that I can decipher much more on either list than Jeremy can now.)

(The reason this means so much to me is that because of my son’s Autism, this is literally probably the most he ever wrote at one time, and honestly it’s probably more than he wrote all year long for most of his childhood.  Besides being Autistic, he’s a lefty, and handwriting has never been easy for him, even now.)

So I’m appealing to all you detectives, sleuths, and problem solvers to help me on my mission to determine what is on these lists.  Below the photos of each list, I’ve typed what it says as well as the translation for everything I can decipher.  The parts I cannot decipher are in red.  If you think you can help, I would greatly appreciate your guess.  Thank you.

The envelope says “North Pole Santa Claus.”

 

I wont for Crismis (I Want for Christmas)

  1. soos thet tel you haw (Shoes That Tell You How) {Contd. on #2}
  2. fast you run and haw you jup (Fast You Run and How You Jump)
  3. *BLANK*
  4. A new bic with handbracs (A New Bike with Handbrakes)
  5. *BLANK*
  6. Sile Pute (Silly Putty)
  7. A motersicul Nintendo 64 (A Motorcycle Nintendo 64)
  8. a aer pup (An Air Pump)
  9. Lens with a hui on the back (All I know is it is NOT a lens of any kind.)
  10. Laptop (A Laptop)
  11. Monster truk lunchbox (A Monster Truck Lunchbox)
  12. New morcers (No clue.)
  13. New belt (New Belt)
  14. Hot wels (Hot Wheels)

Fofm Jeremy (From Jeremy)

{{Page 1}}

I want for Christmas
to walk eegkece (No clue)
a go cart (A Go-Kart)
a dert bic (A Dirt Bike)
a micro scooter with red wels (A Micro Scooter With Red Wheels)
a pokemon gameboy coler (A Pokemon Gameboy Color)
a kittens (A Kitten)
bowpins (Blo-Pens)
red pochl (No clue)
a toy drep thet you can driv (a toy ___ that you can drive)
a rel fon (A Real Phone)
aaon carder CD (An Aaron Carter CD)
a aaon carder vidio (An Aaron Carter Video)
a playhouse (A Playhouse)
a wakumoke (A Whack-A-Mole Game)
slle sixpines (Silly Six Pins)
pats with a smoc (Paints with a Smock)
a CD player (A CD player)
a hoce stics with a hoce gol (A Hockey Stick with a Hockey Goal)
a playstashin with a rugrats gam (A Playstation with a Rugrats Game)
a Holwen fireman costoom (A Halloween Fireman Costume)
buloonmajic (Balloon Magic)
majicstri (Magic String)
insectorix (No clue)
a moc inchrel car (a remote control car)
ater helcopter piecman (The only word I can decipher is helicopter)
cotin cand ma (Cotton Candy Machine)
plado mickdonlelans (Play-Doh McDonalds)
 
{{Page 2}}

puppyraser (Puppy Racer)
a resuling math (A wrestling match)
brit lit (Light Brite)
legodinoilid (Lego Dino Island)

Time to talk:  Did you used to write Santa letters to let him know what you wanted?  If so, did you mail them or deliver them in person?  Did you ever live where Santa visited your neighborhood?  Do you have any clue what my son wanted above?