Tell Me Christmas Are We Wise

 

Merry Christmas! Yes I know it’s the day after Christmas. It’s time to firm up our plans for New Year’s Eve and start putting away the Christmas decorations. Christmas 2019 was great but Father Time keeps moving on and so must we. In just a few nights we’ll be welcoming in the 3rd decade of the 21st century. Can you believe it? It seems like just last year we were all partying like it was 1999. Time does indeed move on. And quickly.

So what did you do this day after Christmas? Did you do some gift returning or exchanging? Did you stock up on sale items for Christmas 2020? Did you spend one more day with family before heading out tomorrow? Did you binge-watch the final day of Christmas movies on Hallmark, Ion, Lifetime, and Netflix? Or did you spend this day sitting at home, doing pretty much what you do every day, spending it alone?

This afternoon a friend and I went to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) performance of Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Let me tell you the rock and roll road show still exists and man was it fantastic! Awesome guitar licks. Glass shattering vocals. Music that really did rock my socks off. And a light and pyrotechnics show that was better than anything I saw in the 70s. The TSO musicians are true rockers and they made this 60-year-old guy feel like he was 20 again this afternoon. Yes, we went to the matinee performance – I am 60 you know.

You can google the history of TSO to see how Paul O’Neill and his collaborators brought great rock musicians together in the late 1990s to create an entertainment explosion of song and stage. I get goosebumps whenever I hear their music and think about how they took classical music compositions we pretty much all know and rocked them out to reach into another genre. If you haven’t heard them before you should give them a listen. And if you have never seen them on stage, you really need to. Get ready to see the longest hair you’ve seen since Cher in the 60s. And that’s just the guys in the group!

Christmas Eve and Other Stories is the weaving of basically three stories. The original Christmas story of our Savior coming to the earth. The story of God sending an angel today to see if the spirit of Christmas still exists in the hearts of humankind. And the story of a run-away young girl trying to get home to her father who longs for her return. The music that brings all these stories together is beautiful. Each song tells a story within itself and when the songs are put together it’s very moving

There’s one song that always moves me. It’s called Old City Bar. That’s right, in the midst of a Christmas performance there is a song about a bar. Remember this is rock music.

This song tells the story of the run-away girl trying to find a way to get back home on Christmas Eve. It’s sad and inspiring at the same time. It’s a song about how we’re all connected, especially on Christmas Eve, and how we all share the same hope for love and belonging. I’ll include a link to the song at the end of this post. Maybe it will talk to you and maybe it won’t. Maybe this style of music isn’t for you. But the central message of Old City Bar, as well as the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories performance, is a message for all of us to think about not just on Christmas Eve but every day of the year.

That message is pretty much summarized by this one verse:
If you want to arrange it
This world, you can change it
If we could somehow
Make this Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
To know who needs help,
You need only just ask.

Change the world. We all have ideas on how to change the world to make it better. But better for whom? For a neighbor? For a stranger? For ourselves? The story of Christmas is perhaps the greatest story about change that has ever been told. You can choose to believe it or not. That’s your right and privilege. But I suggest to you that no greater change for a better future has ever been given to humankind than that which occurred on that first Christmas. If we want to make this Christmas thing last, this spirit of Christmas, of peace and goodwill towards men, then perhaps it is as simple as just asking if someone needs help. Even if that someone is ourselves.

The other song that always moves me is called This Christmas Day. It’s the song the father sings once he learns his daughter is on her way home after receiving the help of the bartender of the Old City Bar. If you’ve ever had a child or other loved one that’s been struggling away from home, you will relate to the father’s words.

Here is the first verse:
“So tell me Christmas are we wise
To believe in things we never see
Are Prayers just wishes in disguise
And are these wishes being granted me
For now I see the answering
To every prayer I’ve prayed
She’s coming home this Christmas Day”

Just as this father saw his wish, his prayer, being granted, I think we too will see the answering to our prayers for those we love. To believe in things we never see. I believe we are wise to place our hope in Christmas and to live out that hope every day of our lives. Think of the joy that would give our Father and the peace we will experience.

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year friends! I hope you give a look and listen to the Old City Bar link below. Check out the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories if you can. It will rock your socks off and more than likely bring you the peace of Christmas in a light show pyro-technic sort of way.

I’ll see you down the road in 2020….

Home For Christmas

“The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, L.A.”

“But it’s December the 24th
And I am longing to be up north….”

Okay I know it’s only December the 13th and I’m in Frostproof, Florida, not L.A., but the lyrics above have been stuck in my head all day. Thank you FM radio stations!

Do you know which Christmas song these lyrics are from?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite Christmas albums had the song White Christmas on it. Not by Bing Crosby but sung by Robert Goulet. If you’re under the age of 50 you probably don’t know who he was but as an adolescent boy going through the voice change of puberty, I envied Mr. Goulet’s deep resonating voice. Especially on his version of White Christmas. I still prefer his version over Bing’s.

And I would bet, most folks don’t know that White Christmas included the opening lyrics above. There’s debate where the song was written. Some feel it was started in Southern California and then finished perhaps in the New York Catskills mountains where Irving Berlin’s family had a home. If that’s the case then including lines about orange and palm trees make sense. Plus I don’t remember seeing any of those trees swaying at the Pine Tree Lodge in Vermont in the movie White Christmas.

Honestly, I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas at all this year. In fact I’m trying to avoid the snow as much as possible. But if old man Winter decides to drop a few inches in Ohio while I’m home for Christmas that will be okay. I have grandkids to play with in the snow now and they make everything more fun. Except for maybe driving in the muck and slush. And certainly not in a one horse open sleigh. The shuttle craft is AWD and stays much warmer.

This will be the first time in my sixty years of living, that I have ‘gone home’ for Christmas. I’ve always been at home for Christmas as well as most holidays, so this year is a bit different for me.

I’ve been on the road, fulltime RV living, for almost five months now. Hard to believe that much time has past by already. And to be honest, with the holidays, especially Christmas, coming up very soon, I’m feeling a little distant from my home, friends, and kids. Both in miles and even in spirit a little. It was just today that the Christmas spirit kicked in for me. I stopped playing Hits from the 70s and made the switch to Christmas music. Most of that Christmas music is also from the 70s or before but it’s music that I’ve heard many, many times and always brings a smile to my face and a lift in my mood.

So on one of the local FM stations down here, I heard the Robert Goulet version of White Christmas. I was singing loud and clear for all to hear while driving down US27 today and received a thumbs up from another driver while at a stop light. At least I think it was his thumb. As we pulled away from the light, White Christmas finished and another of my favorite Christmas songs came on…

“I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it’s a long road back
I promise you”

Ah, Johnny Mathis! His version of I’ll Be Home For Christmas is a classic and I think it too is the best version of the song. It was also on that Christmas album from my youth. I think I’m becoming that old man that thinks the only good music comes from the 60s and 70s. Maybe early 80s too. Today’s music just ain’t got the same soul. Name that tune if you can.

I love the opening lyrics to I’ll Be Home and this year they are a perfect fit for me. It will be great to celebrate my favorite holiday with the kids and grands. Our Christmas for the past two years has become quite different from the previous couple of decades. Without Barb, the holidays especially Christmas, just aren’t the same. But don’t misunderstand me. Things are different but still good. The love that Barb built within our family has remained intact and even grown stronger as we miss her. That’s part of her legacy and I plan on continuing that over the years ahead.

I remember the first time I heard I’ll Be Home for Christmas that first Christmas in 2017 without Barb. I was again in my car, driving home from work, when the song came on the radio. I had to pull over until the song finished. The words took on a new meaning for me. I couldn’t sing along. I couldn’t drive.

Barb was home for Christmas. Did she have snow and mistletoe? I don’t really know but I knew then and know still today that she is most definitely home. Sure, not at home with me and the kids but she had made it to her ultimate home. Can you imagine what Christmas is like in heaven? I try to but I’m sure I don’t come close to comprehending the beauty of it. The joy in celebrating His birthday with Him. What a party that must be. The true White Christ Mass.

Today I could sing along with Johnny and even tried to harmonize a little with him. Music brings peace to the soul and I’m thankful it does. Songs bring back memories of loved ones we miss and gives us the encouragement to keep going. To dream about the good times in the past and the good times to come. Until I, we all, are home for Christmas.

Friends, may all your days be merry and bright this Christmas season.

See you down the road….

Who Says You Can’t Go Home

Over the years I’ve lived in seven different houses or apartments. All of them were home in one way or another. Some were ranch style, some were two stories, one which was the most recent was an apartment. Although the shape and size of each was different than the rest, they all felt the same because they were home.

Be it marriages, kids, family, neighbors, friends, parties, illness, or deaths, each occasion, each happening that occurred made that building, that place, feel more like home. So I guess the saying ‘Home is where the heart is’ is true. You take home with you no matter where you go.

The Terra, the new RV home for the Doodle and I, makes the eighth home for me. We’re three weeks into RV living and other than a few maintenance issues and one oops on my part, all has gone pretty well. Both of us seem to be adapting to waking and sleeping in the Terra. Our schedules and activities have already slowed to a calmer pace. There’s still been stress in making and breaking camp at each location and some anxiety for me in driving this 38 foot condo on wheels, but really for the most part, we’re doing well.

Case in point, yesterday morning. When pulling out of the KOA in Coshocton, Ohio, I had forgotten to lower the TV antenna on the top of the Terra. But no worries, a few of the stately maple trees along County Road 10 reminded me that the antenna was still up. There was a loud scraping noise and then leaves flying in all directions. I pulled over to inspect the damage and thankfully the antenna didn’t break and still worked great. It just shifted a little from the experience. And the trees came out just fine too, although a few leaves where missing.

Have you ever had an experience like mine? You forget to do something and that leads to an unexpected situation or problem? I would bet all of us have and most likely we all still do at times. Or perhaps it’s the other way. We do something, either intentionally or by chance, that causes discomfort in either our life or in the lives of those around us. I used to get angry at myself when I would put myself in these situations. How could I be so dumb! What was I thinking! Oops, I did it again! (Britney’s song just popped into your head didn’t it?)

Our experiences, be they good or bad, do cause us to shift a little. Sometimes we come away with just scratches and sometimes we loose a few leaves. Maybe we mend and maybe we don’t. Each experience changes us from who we were to who we are. Hopefully for the better but not always and that’s a truth I know about myself. How we live life afterwards is all up to how we respond to the shift, or scratch, or loss.

Yesterday was a wonderful day as I got to visit with some long time friends. Note that I did not say old friends. Age is just a number and its really how old we think and feel that matters. After the cold beers last evening, I’m feeling a little older this morning.

I had the joy of having lunch yesterday with six of the ladies from the Great 78. All of us were members of the greatest class to ever graduate from Coshocton High School. The Class of 1978. Yes I’m a bit bias but I really think we were the best class as we still have great relationships. Our class reunions every five years are so much fun and everyone that attends has a great time catching up. It doesn’t matter if we ran in the same circle or not back in high school.

The years have shown me and life has taught me that who we were then was just the beginning of who we are now and today our circles cross and over lap and blend almost into one at times. I’m so thankful for how my relationships with my classmates has deepened over the years and as such, I can now truly call everyone friend. Our reunions and get-togethers feel like home and for that I’m very thankful.

Lunch yesterday on the patio of the Old Warehouse in Roscoe Village was very nice. We talked about things currently going on in each of our lives. We talked about our kids and grand kids. We talked about our marriages, divorces, current relationships, illnesses, and deaths of those we loved. We shared some laughs and hugs and memories of the good times. Even a few tears. I felt honored to have been invited to join the ‘girls’ for lunch.

Last evening, I was able to meet up with more high school friends and one of my nieces and her husband at the Wooly Pig Farm Brewery near Fresno, Ohio. It was a beautiful evening sitting outside on the Pig’s patio enjoying their local brew and chatting for a few hours. The beer is really good and a nice selection for such a small brewery. But even better was the time we spent together talking and laughing about our past and current lives.

I hope to get home like this again during my journeys over the months ahead. I know I’ll take yesterday with me no matter where I go. It will be home.

Bon Jovi sang the song ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’. The last verse and chorus of the song, hit me last night as I was sitting in the Terra.

It doesn’t matter where you are
It doesn’t matter where you go
If it’s a million miles away or just a mile up the road
Take it in
Take it with you when you go
Who says you can’t go home?

Who says you can’t go back?
Been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can’t go home?

Home is where you’ve been and it’s where you are. And more importantly it is a place you will always have with you. No matter where life takes you, in your mind and heart, you are home.

See you down the road my friends, see you at homeā€¦.

Front Porch Sittin’

It seems summer has come early to Central Ohio. Today, the temps were in the mid 80s as it has been for the past four or five days. Tonight there’s a cool breeze as the Doodle and I enjoy the front porch. That breeze also has the scent of rain so something is coming our way it seems.

Today was a really good day. Actually, the weekend has been very special.

Our family celebrated Mothers Day this afternoon to honor all the mom’s in our family. Three generations. This morning, our extended church family stood and affirmed our commitment to 10 young children being dedicated by their parents. Two were my grandchildren. That commitment of love makes my heart full.

Today was also my two-year-old granddaughter’s birthday and last evening we partied like a two-year-old to celebrate her presence in our lives. She and her little brother bring incomparable joy to my life.

And Friday night I was able to go with a group of friends to see a band perform the hits of Fleetwood Mac. One of my favorite groups from my youth. Music has always moved my soul.

So tonight while doing some front porch sittin’, I’m lingering in the stillness of the evening with a full heart, a joyful spirit, and a soul that is singing a song of gratitude and thanks.

Oh, how I wish my wife Barb was still here with us to celebrate these precious moments. They are the life events she loved. From the hanging out with friends to celebrating special days with her family, she deeply enjoyed times like these. And you know, I’m confident she did so this weekend.

I don’t really know if our loved ones, who have passed on, do have some heavenly view over our lives but I like to think so. Even though she is not physically present, I can sure feel her with us.

I felt her Friday night at the show and could visualize the two of us dancing away the night like we used to. She was with us last night as we enjoyed and celebrated the blessing of our granddaughter, and her spirit was with us today during the dedication of our grandchildren. Her joy tonight must be beyond abundant.

I find comfort in knowing Barb’s joy is abundant and complete. How awesome that must be. I can’t wait to experience it for myself some glorious day.

But for now, I remain here in this life. And I have to say it’s a pretty good one. I’m surrounded by family and friends that love me and one another. And with that love and grace, there isn’t any storm that can overcome the hope and joy I have.

So tonight I’ll leave the windows cracked and let the breeze blow in as I listen to the rain on the roof. It will give me peace. And there again I’m reminded of Barb and her love.

Peace to you my friends.

See you down the road…

And A House Is Not A Home

Or is it?

What exactly is it that makes the house, the apartment, the condo we live in a home? Is it the type of building? Is it the amount of time we’ve lived there? The experiences we’ve had there? Is it the people we have loved there?

I have lived in six different places in my life and I can say all of them were home. First with my parents in a small ranch. Then the first and only rental which was a house about eighty years old. Then the first mortgage with a cape cod, followed by a larger ranch, and then a two story three bedroom, and now the current two story four bedroom that Barb and I had built back in 2000. All have felt like home but for different reasons and for different seasons.

Growing up as an only child, my parents and I lived in a small three bedroom ranch on Walnut street in my hometown of Coshocton, Ohio. Yes, I was that stereotypical little spoiled snot that got almost everything he wanted. It was great and I can honestly say it has had no negative affect on me. At least I haven’t noticed any problems. Be quiet. You know who you are.

The house sat on a hillside which overlooked the town to the west. From our back porch, I loved to watch the thunderstorms come down the Walhonding valley lighting up the sky and shaking our little ranch when the thunder rolled. Mom would always yell at me to get inside but most times my dad was with me so we kind of ignored her request. The storms were just too good to not be in the middle of. I lived there through high school until I graduated from college.

The apartment was also in Coshocton and my first wife and I rented it for a year I believe. It was a cute old house with all the sounds and smells old houses come with. Some pleasant others not so much. As young newlyweds, we didn’t mind at all the shortcomings of the house. It was new to us and beautiful.

After that came the cape cod on Elm street. My first ownership and mortgage. Wonderful old home with great woodwork, much character, and wonderful neighbors. A great home to start a family in we thought and it was. Just not within my first marriage. High school sweethearts that married before really knowing each other well enough. But that’s a story for another time.

I was still living in the cape cod when I met my second wife, Barb. I think she might had fallen in love with the house first and then decided I was good enough to stay. Either way she had good taste. In homes and husbands.

We lived on Elm street for about three more years. We hosted some pretty great parties with great friends. Our Halloween costume scavenger hunt was one of them which is another story for another time. We watched the world premier of the Thriller video on MTV with the Lady Crusaders Basketball team which I coached at Sacred Heart. That was a fun night. Who knew a team of teenage girls could scream so loudly. And we celebrated the birth of our two beautiful daughters. It was a great home with wonderful memories that I think about often and cherish.

But the cape cod only had two bedrooms so soon after our second daughter was born, we started looking for a larger house and luckily found a really nice ranch home in Warsaw. Three bedrooms which were perfect for us and our two girls. The girls would each have their own bedroom. We were set. Then God blessed us with our son. The girls were still very young so sharing a bedroom wasn’t that big of a deal thankfully.

So in the ranch in Warsaw we began raising our family. That home was always busy with our kids, the neighbor kids, and the four to five other kids Barb would watch before and after school. All moms are superheroes in my opinion but Barb was the super-est. For the longest time, I could not comprehend how she cared for so many kids in our home without losing her mind. But now I know it was just who she was. A person with a beautiful heart that made a home of love. We spent close to eight years in the ranch in Warsaw before a job change necessitated a move. I still miss that home at times.

In 1995 we moved to Redlands Drive in Hilliard, Ohio. We bought a beautiful 10 year old two story home in a great neighborhood and again we were blessed with wonderful neighbors. I thank God for the friendships He brought into our lives in each neighborhood. Looking back, I can see the blessing in each move we made and I thank Him for that.

We stayed in the Redlands two story for five wonderful years but with it only having three bedrooms and the girls growing into their teen years, Barb and I decided for our own safety, that we better get a four bedroom house. Which we had built and moved into in the summer of 2000.

The two story four bedroom on Laura Lane is where I still live. At least for a little while longer. This home has seen some pretty awesome good times and some really sad times as well. Graduation from high school and college of all three kids. Many parties and dinners with good friends and family. Seventeen Christmas mornings. And the passing of Barb to her eternal heavenly home.

That heavenly home I look forward to some day but for now I’m very thankful for the homes I have had in my life and the people that have made a house a home. So I guess that’s my take on that 1965 Dionne Warwick song A House Is Not Home.

If it wasn’t for the people we have loved in our lives, a house really wouldn’t ever become a home. We can live but if we have not loved do we really have a home? I’ve been blessed by many, so very many loving people in my life that I can truly say I have had the best of homes. I imagine I have a few more to move into over the years ahead and I know each will be just what I need and desire. Especially the last one on that golden street.

But until that home, I will continue to live and love the people God brings into my life and enjoy the homes that are created around me. How wonderful it is to be home and even more wonderful to make a home for those you love. May we all be blessed in this way and build the blessing of a loving home for others.

Thanks friends. See you down the road.