And now, a Christmas Story (repost)

There is really no Christmas memory of mine that can top this one.

Enjoy...and Merry Christmas, friends!


It's that time of year again.

The stockings are hung. Carols abound. And the smell of all things delicious is continually wafting through the air.

It is said to be a time of peace. Of joy. Of forgiveness. Of hope. Of tradition.

While Christmas (excuse me, holiday) traditions vary from home to home, most include the belief in a gift-giver of sorts. Of unabashed over-indulgence. And of quality time spent with those you love.

In my family, such quality time begins with Grandma telling an often-inappropriate story around the Christmas tree (last year's topic: necking) and inevitably ends with my father reminding everyone about The Year Sara Was Duped...which goes a little something like this:

It was the most wonderful time of the year and I had just reached that age when the magic of Santa was beginning to wear off. While part of me desperately wanted to ignore any inklings that shed doubt on that jolly old soul, I couldn't help but feel a bit wary of it all.

So when my four-year-old brother Brian suggested we mail our lists off to the North Pole, I played it cool. Sure, I agreed to record his requests for Legos and a bicycle and any super-powered, turbo-engine item he could find, but I had no interest in including a wish list of my own. No matter how bad I wanted that American Girl doll.

I dutifully wrote down each item, sealed the envelope and gave it to my father to mail--expecting absolutely nothing in return. Time went on and within a few weeks I had all but forgotten my letter.

One Saturday afternoon, I found myself tapping my foot impatiently outside of Santa's Workshop as I waited in line to see the big guy (or the big guy's helper, I suppose). Surrounded by tufts of fake snow and smiling elves, I tried to mirror my brother's enthusiasm, but instead found myself squirming uncomfortably in my scratchy Christmas sweater as the runny-nosed toddler in front of me let out a piercing wail.

Three sticky candy canes later, we were finally--mercifully--at the front of the line.

As Brian tugged on my father's coat sleeve in eager anticipation, it was all I could do to paste a wan smile on my face and hope that the visit was over quickly. Brian bounded up the stairs as I trudged sulkily behind him until--

"Well come on up, Sara and Brian!" The Claus bellowed heartily. "So great to see you!"

I stopped in my tracks. Wait. Hold on a second. Did he just say...

"Dad!" I hissed. "He knows our names!"

My father smiled from underneath the (enormously cumbersome) videocamera. "Go on and say hello," he urged.

I continued up the stairs and as I approached, I heard Brian peppering Santa with questions.

"Don't you get hot in that suit? Did Jacob the Horrible make the Good List this year? Are you sure you know how to get to our house this year? We moved you know..." he said breathlessly.

"Ho! Ho! Ho! You sure are a spirited fellow," Santa chuckled. "So nice of you to join us, Sara!"

"Um, hey Santa," I mumbled.

"Santa! Santa!" Brian interrupted. "Don't you want to know what I want for Christmas?"

"Of course!" Santa said with a twinkle in his eye. "But Brian, I already know what you want for Christmas."

And to my complete and utter amazement, he proceeded to remove an envelope from the inside of his breast pocket.

MY envelope. With MY handwriting. It was the very list I had written!

Impulsively, I snatched the envelope from Santa's hand.

"But...but..." I spluttered. "But I wrote this! How did you--? I mean, I thought you weren't...I mean, Christina said that you were..." I trailed off, the color rising in my cheeks.

Delighted and oblivious, Brian rattled on with his latest additions to his list as I sat dumbfounded.

"...and Hot Wheels...and a parachute...and a Ninja Turtle!" he finished triumphantly.

"You sure will keep those elves busy this year! Ho! Ho! Ho!" Santa said, a bit of spittle gathering around his yellowing beard.

"And you?" Santa asked, turning towards me. "What do you want for Christmas?"

I slowly and dazedly began recounting the items on my wish list, still unable to take my eyes off the envelope.

"...and a Barbie Dream Home." I finished. "Please." I added in a small voice.

"Well ho! Ho! Ho! Looks like we've got a believer after all!" He smiled revealing coffee-stained teeth.

"Yeah..." I said decidedly, gaining more resolve with each passing moment. "You're right!"

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" he chortled again. "Merry Christmas to you both! You kids be good now!"

And with that we scurried off to join our parents.

As I recounted the tale, my voice full of wonder and increasing volume-- "You don't underSTAND! He knew our NAMES! That was MY HANDWRITING! MINE! Did you SEE THAT?! DID you?!"--my dad gave a knowing wink to the jolly, happy soul and whispered, "Thanks man--see ya at work tomorrow."

In that moment, I decided to push aside my doubts, ignore my questions and blindly embrace my belief in the magical. The fantastical. The imaginative side of life that some so quickly dismiss as improbable.
...that is, until I found the packaging from all the Easter candy sitting on top of the trashcan a few months later.

As Michael Scott would say, "Fool me once, strike one. Fool me twice, strike three."



Part 3: And this is what I will do.

This is a time to be merry and bright.
This is a time of singing and laughing,
list-making and bank-breaking,
Good smells and good cheer.

Trading sleep for memories
And sanity for family,
Hopes and little-kid dreams,
play out around the glowing tree,
As we nibble little gingerbread men
In our tacky Christmas sweaters.

...And it's pretty much the worst time ever to say
Ye glowing, cheery carolers!
Amidst your holiday hullabaloo
and spiked eggnog
and buying of last minute OH CRAP I FORGOTs,
please remember those faceless people we'll probably never see
(who are dying in factory fires as we speak)
and don't patronize x and y store.
(Possibly a, b and c store too, but I really can't be sure.)
Or maybe just buy from fair trade stamped places?
Or maybe just buy from thrift stores?

And oh dear, I fear I have confused us all.

So, dear friends, in summary,
I decided to write about this now as opposed to then--
because no time is a good time and now is just as good as any.
because I don't know what to do but I have to do something.
And because I won't do a thing if left to my own devices.

I am going to have a merry Christmas.
I hope you do too.
I am going to try and soak up joy and people and fun and memories
Because I believe 'tis the Season.
And because I have a lot to celebrate.

And when the parties have ended
and the gifts are unwrapped,
I am going to start digging.

I won't make some lofty pledges here,
but I do promise this--
I will look into five companies.
(maybe more...not less)
Companies I either love or think I should hate.
All companies I currently support.

I will see what I can find.
I will write them to see what they say.
And I will tell you what I learn.

I hope you will stick around to find out.

And in case you haven't caught it before,
Thank you for reading.

*Am I turning into a conspiracy theorist?


Part 2: From everyone who has been given much.

Wealth is attended with power, by which bargains and proceedings, contrary to universal righteousness, are supported; and hence oppression, carried on with worldly policy and order, clothes itself with the name of justice and becomes like a seed of discord in the soul.
--John Woolman, 1720-1772
       (emphasis mine)
 Read Part 1 here.
I could write all day about sweatshops, about the people--living, breathing people with hopes and dreams and steaks of ugly and beautiful all swirled together, just like us--and about how much easier it is for me to see nothing beyond my dollar except the shiny, new things I take home with me.

But that isn't really saying anything new, now is it?

We all know that they--the people--exist.

And we also know that sweatshops exist. And more or less how they continue to operate.

(And despite what corporate suits try to tell me, I'm sorry, but I really don't think your company swooping in and paying people pennies, ignoring terribly work conditions and forcing child labor is saving them or doing anyone a favor. As my husband and I discussed recently, that old argument was used to defend slavery years ago and I'm afraid it was found without merit, so let's please give your factory workers enough dignity to recognize that if you have to keep forcing an end to the idea of unions, your workers are not satisfied, and they are most certainly not praising the day you arrived.)

((Sorry. I was trying to keep from any rants. But that idea, as my Grandma would say, "really burns me up."))

Friends, the point in me sharing this with you is that it has been on my mind. It has been on my heart. So much so, in fact, that I wake up thinking about it in the middle of the night and can't stop. It has been, as Woolman says above, "a seed of discord in my soul."

This is not a cry for you to donate all your possessions and live out of a box. This is not me shaking my fist at myself, at you, at America and saying that we are all terrible and that everything terrible in the world is our fault.

This, instead, is me believing that you and I, while we may not have our 15 seconds, while we may not ever step foot in Washington, or Hollywood, or command a battlefield, we do have power.

We have power everyday in the way that we choose to spend our money--where to buy groceries, which brands to support, which corporations continue to thrive.

And the professed virtue of capitalism (but really its greatest fear) is that nobodys like me will step up and say, "HEY! YOU, CORPORATE LEADERS! Unless you treat people--all people--with dignity and stop plundering the world for a buck, YOU CAN'T HAVE MINE!"

I'm just one person. A nobody.

And they won't see my face and they won't hear my voice and they won't miss my dollar.

But you. And you. And you and you and you.

If we join together...

Well, then, they just may start to listen.

Part three will post tomorrow. Thanks for reading!


Part 1: I support sweatshops (and you probably do, too)

NOTE: I write all of this to challenge (myself, you), to confess, to share, to grapple with. But not to judge. So please hear that before reading!


Nearly two years ago, I posted on fair trade.

I explored this issue. I researched, I discussed, I asked myself what can I do? What am I willing to sacrifice?

And in two years, some things have changed. When my running shoes (okay, FINE, more like "walking when I'm feeling really motivated" shoes) wore out, I chose to not replace them with my usual standby, the frequent (and current) sweat-shop supporter, Nike, and instead chose the ethically-touted New Balance. And life went on.

Also, I stopped supporting Wal-Mart. I love to save money--seriously luh-HUV it, people--but to me, I could not in good conscience continue to support a company that is repeatedly (and currently*) in the news as human rights violators. Their violations are so huge, in fact, that the International Labor Rights Forum lists ending Wal-Mart Sweatshops as one of their three primary action points in creating a sweatfree world.

This decision hurt a little more than boycotting Nike, since it had an effect on the pocketbook and, for awhile, at least, on my time (I lived just minutes from a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market and would have to drive further to get groceries anywhere else). And I'll be honest, I have shopped there in the last two years, so it hasn't been a clean break, but I would say that in total, I have been there just a handful of times in two years, which is a big change from my previous shopping habits. (Also, I have since moved and Wal-Mart is no longer a convenient option, therefore, it really isn't much of a sacrifice outside of getting less for my dollar.) And life went on.

I don't tell you these things so you think I'm awesome.

--Okay, maybe a little bit. I mean, it does feel pretty amazing to say whoa, yeah, I can actually cut companies out of my life and still live to tell about it! Because sometimes it really doesn't seem like that is possible anymore, you know? And though I'm still quite tangled in the corporate web we've weaved, it's like, I don't know, I can at least wiggle a pinkie toe now. So, that's something.

But more than that, I've just felt like I've let life go on a little too much lately and have stopped challenging myself to face my own personal responsibility in this world. Specifically in the power of my dollar.

So, again, I have to ask myself,

What am I willing to sacrifice? 

To be continued. Thanks for reading.  (Part 2 is now posted here.)

*please note that the 2010 publication is dated November 2009. I was unable to find a more current list. It seems the 2011 list has not been released yet so this really is the most current information that was readily available. I would welcome a more current list if anyone finds one!


Vote of confidence.

Scene: Co-worker's baby shower.

IMPORTANT NOTE: NO BABY ON BOARD OVER HERE.* Give me a freaking heart attack.
Me: Some of my friends are just so awesome about the whole being a mother thing! I really hope I'm laid back...

Her: Ha! No way. You'll be the most nervous mother yet.

Me: ...?!...

Happy weekending! Hope it includes peace and joy...after all, 'tis the season!

*In fact, let's just be crazy and forget what is apparently a (rather appalling) social norm and instead of inquiring on my baby status and checking out my waistline while doing so (rude and weird and horribly uncomfortable...yes, EVEN when you do it with a smile)...let's just assume that this is a baby-free zone** until further notice.
**I don't hate babies.



"It just seems like, I don't know--" I paused, searching, twisting my gloved fingers, uncertain how the words would really tumble out.

"--like a couple years ago, we were all thinking and dreaming and hoping together, you know?"

"Yeah," he said. "I remember."

"And it was a crazy time. An uncertain time. And well, it scared me," I continued.

I paused.

"...but it seemed like we were on the cusp of something, didn't it? I mean, we hadn't figured it out but it was just right there and we believed  it was right there and we wanted it to be right there...at least, mostly." I said, as my two-year-ago self quavered in her boots and said shut up shut up shut UP!

"Yeah," he said.

"And then this happened then that and I don't know, I mean, really great things have happened since then"--I said catching sight of my ring, smiling.

"And it's not about what was going to happen or who it was going to happen with exactly," I said.


He looked over, waiting.

I was nervous now but feeling something--what was it exactly?--something deep within that said yes, go on! You must go on!--I took a deep breath

"...but now and then I just think to myself so...was that it? Are we done?"

And he said, "Yeah, I know."

And the city lay before us.

And we were quiet.

And we drove right into the heart of it, its glimmering lights winking as if to say, kiddos, 
it ain't over til it's over


Snack attack: Cheery Cranberry Orange Chex Mix

It's been one of those you weren't chosen for that thing + your shoe squeaks + an all staff email WITH A TYPO kind of days.

Waah, waaah, etc. etc....okay, let's talk Chex Mix!

My mom made this recipe over Thanksgiving break and I loved it! Normally, there is really only one Chex mix recipe for me, and that is puppy chow (OMG I love that stuff), but I think this is a great treat...especially during a time of year that is saturated with chocolate-y, extra-sugary, super sweet and heavy desserts!

(Okay, I actually NEVER get tired of desserts in any form* but most people, such as my husband, do.)


Cheery Cranberry Orange Chex Mix

5 c Corn Chex
4 c Rice Chex
1 cup sliced almonds
¼ cup (half stick) of butter, melted
¼ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup frozen orange juice concentrate (do not dilute)
½ c dried cranberries

Heat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix cereals and almonds in very large bowl.  Microwave butter, brown sugar and juice concentrate in a 1-cup microwave-safe cup, uncovered on HIGH for 30 seconds; stir until well blended.  Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until evenly coated.  Pour into large ungreased roasting pan (takes a pretty large pan/roaster or two 9 x 13 pans would work well too).  Bake uncovered 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, stir in cranberries, cool completely about 1 hour.  (If you add cranberries before placing in oven, the mix will stick to bottom of pan, so not fun!).  Store in airtight container or plastic food storage bag

*except cheesecake. Yes, I hate cheesecake. I repeat: I do not eat cheesecake. Most people find this unbelievable. It makes me want to gag. I hope we can still be friends.  

p.s. Got a snack recipe to share? Do tell! 


All the beauty.

Image cred
Typed with ink stained fingers
And a rather fussy heart.

May your weekend be joy-FULL, friends.



I was about to post about a quote I read recently that keeps popping into my mind and is just so true and I couldn't wait to share!

... but alas, I haven't posted said quote...because I googled it....because I didn't have the foggiest* where that quote came from...and THEN realized that NOT ONLY did I incorrectly remember said quote...BUT ALSO that it came from not a book at all, but the good ol' romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally.

Annnd there goes my credibility.

(Even more so when I confess what book I read IN TWO DAYS. I don't know what it is about that series and I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW it isn't exactly intellectually stimulating...but I couldn't stop myself! That British lady gets me every time with her ridiculous antics!)

It wouldn't be so bad but I've actually referenced this quote at least twice in the last week or so (because I do that sort of thing...see also the time this fall that I reported incessantly about the pumpkin shortage which lasted UM two weeks or something and resulted in me looking like a total wacko**--thanks for nothing, LIBBY'S!).

THE POINT IS, according to Marie, "Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn't possibly all have good taste." 

But I think what she really meant to say was, "Everybody thinks they are rational and have a sense of humor."

You are welcome for blowing your mind.

...Maybe I should have written instead about how a 14-year-old tried to steal from me yesterday?***

*does anyone other than my mother use this phrase?
**what is WITH my sayings today? Yeesh.
***that's right, I said tried. I'm from Topeka, boy, you better get your story straight.


And that's even better.

Turning over these words from Donald Miller:

"I wish I could go back and talk to myself when I was twenty. I’d say to myself 'listen, don’t worry about the things you’ve been worrying about. Everything is going to work out great.' And I’d likely clarify with myself that 'In the future I get everything I need?' And I’d say back to myself 'No, you just realize you didn’t need it. And that’s even better.'"