My week in review with recommendations and favorites to share:
- The art of Christmas. I have loved the Advent study guide this month from The Small Seed. One of the things about it that has really impressed me is the collection of artwork portraying scenes from Jesus’ life that go with each of the small, daily studies. Works from Bloch, Hofmann, Veronese, Murillo, Rubens, Latour and others. I was already familiar with some of them, but others are new to me. I appreciate perspectives of women from other Christian faiths to broaden my own understanding and experience of this season, and my own faith. This one was new to me and I love it. The rest of the paintings are at the end of this blog post.
- Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown. You guys, this is a MUST READ for everyone. Whether you lead a team or company, or a family, or just yourself, this book is one of those critically important studies for every single human. I have long loved chapters and segments of Brene’s books, speaking and research. While none of it is a surprise, it really connects the dots for me in understanding myself and others. I am still working my way through Dare to Lead but was especially impacted by the chapters about her conversations with military members. They spoke of feeling overworked and exhausted, something I think we all can relate to, and I definitely see this with the active duty service member I live with and his coworkers. It was a defining exploration of our need for community, connectedness and being okay to say when we are lonely, and knowing what to do about it. I don’t think there is a single page in this book that you will not underline or take note of something, it is that good. From her website, this is “The ultimate playbook for developing brave leaders and courageous cultures. Daring leadership is a collection of four skill sets that are 100% teachable. It’s learning and practice that requires brave work, tough conversations, and showing up with our whole hearts.”
- Really, really terrible Christmas music. I guess this a recommendation of what to steer clear of, or something I highly recommend if you want a good laugh. I posted earlier about how Christmas revolves around music and the memories that are tied to them. Usually the feeling associated with those memories and melodies are joyful and wonderful…but, let’s be serious here, there are some really, truly, awful renditions and arrangements of some the best songs, and some horrible original holiday creations, too. When my two youngest brothers were visiting last week, we stayed up late one night laughing to tears at the songs that we hate the very most. My awesome friend from Texas wrote an amazing blog post last year on her “5 Christmas Songs that Take Away Holiday Cheer” which I am totally on board with. My overall list could get quite lengthy so I’ll share just a few that take my own humbug prize. Christmas shoes. It’s terrible. Why is a child out on his own at night when his mother is at home dying? And why on earth would he be buying shoes for her to die in? I get that the sentiment is supposed to pull at the heart strings, but the singing is terrible and the story is not my favorite. I really don’t like this one. Mary Did You Know. Nope. I just can’t. Too much pop singer voice on this one. Whatever Mary wondered about just doesn’t seem to fit this setting in music. While this version is especially bad, I really don’t like any version of this song. O Holy Night is actually one of my most favorite Christmas carols, but this arrangement is about the most painful, actual recording you will ever listen to. Needles in the ears. It’s awful and I’m sorry for sharing it with you. And then there is John Denver’s Please Daddy don’t get drunk this Christmas. I’m sad this is a reality for some, but why write, sing, record and release a song about it? For some funny Christmas originals, you have to include the ones from the Osmond’s Family Christmas Album. These gems were on the original release, cassette tape I grew up with, but were cut from the CD re-release. Thanks to YouTube, they are again available to share with my kids so they know how awesome the songs of my childhood were. “If Santa were My Daddy”, “It Never Snows in LA“, and “Sleigh Ride“. You guys, I can sing these from memory still from listening to them every Christmas season back in the early 80s! My brain is a steel trap for the really important things. Haha.
- Bright Eye Complex. Shameless plug here because this has changed my face. If the hustle and bustle of holiday celebrations have you looking as tired as you feel, this is the thing. This eye serum is my go-to, simply-can’t-live-without product, especially since genetic dark circles already graced my face before the fatigue of motherhood settled in. It eliminates dark circles and puffiness, leaving me looking awake and refreshed, even f I am not feeling so inclined. This is eye serum targets the thin, fragile skin around the eyes–often the first place to show signs of stress and fatigue–and brightens the area for a more rested look. It instantly illuminates and soothes, and over time, improves the appearance of stubborn dark circles, dry skin around the eyes, and under-eye puffiness. This single product changed my whole morning routine because there is no more need for under-eye concealer and it hydrates in a way that other eye products just can’t.
- Christmas Eve traditions. I sat down on Sunday this past week and talked to my kids and husband passing in and out the room…getting us all to sit down aside from meal times is getting more difficult lately. With our very full schedules, work deadlines, school programs, and parties, and on and on, I realized I need to cut to the chase and get to the most important things we want on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. “What things would you be sad if we did not do/have/eat/watch/play, etc?” That was the question I was asking. I love how it was not the grand gestures and productions, or the beautiful decorations that everyone wants. It seemed to just be the simple things, like fruit juice for Christmas morning breakfast, a family game, gingerbread men. I wrote everything down and felt relief, like, I can do this. I can cut the fat and the things that I stress over, and keep it simple. For us, we have a nice meal on the nicest dishes, with the best candles, on Christmas Eve. I think every year I long for a meal that is the same, that we know is always on Christmas Eve, but having lived so many places, we are usually switching it up to what the locals do and love. This year we are feeling nostalgic and going with a classic British Roast meal with mash, Yorkshire puddings, and all the trimmings. My husband is a big help in the kitchen so this is a no-stress meal. We have Christmas crackers at each table setting to start the meal with a bang and a prize. During dinner we light the Advent candles and talk about Jesus and the year that we have had. Dessert is peppermint chocolate mousse with an almond hidden in one of the servings, and whoever gets the almond gets to open the first present. After dinner, we read the Christmas story from the scriptures, sing a carol, and pray as a family. Then, we open presents! It’s new pajamas for each person, a new Christmas book to read together, and a new family game to play. We leave out cookies, carrots and milk for Santa and his reindeer, and then go to bed. I love Christmas Eve as much as Christmas Day!
Here are some of the other paintings that have taught me this month from the Advent guide I have talked about:
Merry Christmas, my friends!