Bing Crosby is Slowly Killing Me (Did I Say That Out Loud?)

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…just like the ones I used to know….”  Bing Crosby, singer & actor

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?  Exactly.

One of my favorite aspects of the Christmas season is the music.   Growing up, I recall the local radio station playing Christmas music solely on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  That meant that we had to get out our little boom box and cassette tapes and record as much of it as possible.  This served as “seed” music for the following Christmas.  And boy did we wear those cassette tapes out!  Today, it’s a different story.  Often times I hear Christmas music playing way before Thanksgiving…and I’m not the DJ orchestrating this holiday magic!  In shopping centers, restaurants, and even on the radio, the Christmas tunes are cranked up loud and proud early in the season.  I don’t mind really…and then again, maybe I do.

I mind because it seems that every year (without fail) one song seems to capture the season for me.  A Christmas song brain worm if you will.  On good years the song is something fun and light-hearted…a sweet ditty sung by Michael Buble, Mariah Carey or even that little cutie, Justin Beiber.  Other years, though, the song is something that stirs up a completely different (less cheery) feeling.  I don’t necessarily want to call it darker or deeper or even more soulful (yes, I know I’m talking about music and not coffee!) There’s just something about that one song that touches the most tender part of my heart…a melody that evokes such profound emotion that it almost always manifests itself in near tears (ok, occasionally one leaks out.)

In the past, these “other” songs were always familiar Christmas tunes…but for whatever reason, they took on a new flavor.  For example, a few years ago Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” could completely kill my yuletide joy.  Still, that makes sense, although I love, love Elvis, the title is “Blue Christmas.”  Other songs on this glum list include “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” by Josh Groban with its added military personnel audio (oh, the tears,) Dan Fogelberg’s “Same Old Lang Syne” with its resounding sad tale of lost love (more tears,) and need I say ANYTHING about those stupid “Christmas Shoes” by New Song?  Boo hoo hoo.  And then there’s the overwhelming “whoa” of “Please Come Home for Christmas” by Charles Brown…just to name a few. During these years, I can’t decide whether to avoid the song completely or just play it on repeat until the feelings subside (which doesn’t work by the way.)

Today, with the onset of digital music streaming, we can customize our own playlists in a matter of minutes.  This is awesome because who doesn’t like personalized stuff?  A “just-for-me” anything speaks to the most narcissistic part of our brains and makes us feel important and special.  I’m all down for that…I have a zillion custom playlists.  So basically, my game plan is to just avoid the song altogether.  (Avoidance is one of my favorite psychological strategies.)  Still, there are algorithms. And try as we might, people, we cannot escape them!  Now that Pandora (such a fitting name by the way) knows ALL of my Christmas music favorites (thanks to the thumbs-up-thumbs-down buttons) I am at her mercy and this year’s song has been a doozy!  A Christmas classic, a favorite among favorites, such a BASIC Christmas song that it is altogether inescapable…no matter where I turn.  I’m talking about the beloved holiday staple, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.”  Yes, that’s the one breaking my heart this year (can I say that out loud?)

Who doesn’t love “White Christmas?”  I mean, I absolutely adore it!  It’s the best-selling Christmas song of all time!  But this year, whenever I hear it a sadness ensues.  It’s like I’m hearing this familiar tune with new ears.  I remember the song from childhood, fell in love with it AND Bing Crosby while watching the old black & white version of Holiday Inn…and the song was further impressed upon my heart when I discovered the movie of the same title a few years later.  Bing sings the song so effortlessly.  As I write this I can picture him at his piano…the debonair crooner drawing us in with this perfect song.  His voice so melodic and rich…all the casual sophistication of an American icon just pouring out of every single note.  Did I mention that I adore this song?  One can only imagine how surprised I was to find that this song, this tried and true favorite could cause me such grief.  It was like walking into a door…and I never saw it coming!

Turns out that I shouldn’t be surprised at all with the heartbreaking aspect of “White Christmas.”  It’s nostalgic.  Wistful.  There’s a sense of longing…and hope.  A wartime favorite, “White Christmas” was the song American soldiers clung to following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It was a staple on Armed Forces Radio as soldiers tuned in while stationed overseas during World War II.  For many, on the war front and at home, the lyrics told of bygone days and easier times…a reminder of a “normal” that they hoped to reclaim.  For the songwriter, Irving Berlin, the lyrics were much deeper as many believe he wrote the song during a bout of extreme homesickness.  Still, other music historians claim the song was actually written to memorialize Berlin’s infant son who is said to have died on Christmas Day. Given this history, the song certainly takes on a different significance and gains a depth that I wasn’t aware of before.

For these reasons (and so many more) Bing Crosby is slowly killing me…at least he is this Christmas.  And while at first this slow, figurative death was limited to “White Christmas” it has moved far beyond.  Now, it’s EVERY Bing Crosby Christmas song…and there’s no way to avoid it.  I immediately recognize his voice and something just gets caught in my throat.  My heart sinks a little.  My eyes get damp in the corners.  I can’t explain it.  I’ve been jokingly (and seriously) blaming everything on hormones lately, but really I know it’s something more.  It’s me.  It’s today.  It’s nostalgia.  It’s dreaming.  It’s gratitude.  It’s a brokenness.  It’s hope.  It’s this present time and place.  It’s perfect and imperfect all at the same time.  It’s Christmas…just listen.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

 

 

Advertisements

Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves

When you stop believing in Santa you get underwear.  –unknown

Okay, so I’m not really a member of the official Santa Claus family, but Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year!  I am well versed in all the songs of the season, know the “Code of Elves” verbatim and I’ve successfully completed several Christmas-themed Buzzfeed quizzes.  So OBVIOUSLY I’m practically an adopted member of the Claus household 🙂 and as a self-appointed Christmas authority I feel obligated to share these 12 little goodies with the planet to ensure you and yours experience your best Christmas yet!  In no particular order, I present to you Anna Claus Holiday Must Haves….

  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris.  I read this collection of short, satirical (and politically incorrect) stories every December for many, many reasons.  Mostly because who doesn’t love the escapades of a grown man parading around Macy’s as an Elf, the unlikeliest Christmas Eve houseguest EVER and the snarkiest review of children’s Christmas pageants you’ll ever read?  Nothing gets me in the holiday mood quite like this fun (and funny) book.  Complete brain candy, it is good for continuous laughs.
  • Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas  If you love jazzy, upbeat Christmas music this album is for you!  The 60s style jazz offerings are traditional yet they possess that special “zing.”  CAUTION:  The “cool cat” vibe this album induces may cause scatting!  Wonderful background music for doing just about anything holiday related.
  • Candy Canes  Nothing says Christmas like candy canes.  Sweet and pepperminty I try to consume as many as possible.  Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s it’s not unusual to find these tasty treats (and their tiny crumbs) in my purse, in my pockets or in my mouth!
  • IMG_2064Pandora’s Swingin’ Christmas Radio Station  This is the ONLY internet radio station I listen to during the holidays.  On the computer and on my phone this is my go-to background music for the holiday season.  Here you’ll find everything from the Rat Pack Christmas album and Louis Armstrong offerings to Michael Buble and everyone in between.
  • Santa Hat (Reindeer Antlers optional)  My all time hat of choice, the Santa hat comes out right after Thanksgiving and lives among the coats all Christmas season long.  This year I’ve decided to add reindeer antlers to the list of approved December head-gear.  Very festive!
  • Starbucks Christmas Blend and Peet’s Holiday Blend Warm, sweet and spicy…this is what Christmas tastes like!  For a coffee lover like myself this is a terrific blend that gets the day going…also serves as the perfect addition to an evening dessert.  Would I like another cup?  Of course!
  • Nativity  Nativities set the scene for a Christ-centered holiday.  Our family nativity is my all-time favorite and I love to share the story about how we acquired such a unique set.  I also love visiting the homes of family and friends and seeing their nativity displays.  Most times it leads to another wonderful story as well.
  • Cookie Baking  I am probably guilty of too much cookie baking during this time of the year, but I love it!!!  I wish we could live off Christmas cookies, but I’m afraid of what we might look like if I got my wish.  Too many favorite cookies to name, I especially love making treats to give away to family and friends.
  • Holiday Movies  The Christmas season would not be complete without holiday movies.  My all time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life.  Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas is a must.  I also like to sprinkle in a little Christmas with the Kranks, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story and Elf among others.
  • Christmas Cards  I love the tradition of Christmas Cards, but I’ve noticed that this tradition is fading.  Sigh.  As someone who has lived in several states and many cities (towns) over the years, this is one of the best ways I know of to catch up with far away friends and family.  Be sure to throw in a zany family photo or funny Christmas letter!
  • Christmas Lights Tour This is a tradition that goes way, way back for me.  I can remember piling up in the car as a child and checking out the Christmas lights in my little hometown.  Today, my husband and I continue to take (drag) our children out to look at the lights.  This year we cranked our adventure up a notch with a Holiday Lights Scavenger Hunt.  Great fun!
  • Snow Never a guarantee, but snow really makes it all perfect.  It seems that whenever it snows the world seems to slow down a bit…offering us a moment to take in and savor everything around us.  The holidays typically fly by…I need a little snow to take it all in.

A few honorable mentions to my list:  cocoa, caroling and Christmas parades!  They don’t call it the most wonderful time of the year for nothing.  Wishing you the Merriest Christmas!

 

Adios, Summer….

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Summer is definitely NOT my favorite season.  Too hot.  Too many bugs.  Idle hands (and all that entails.)  And yet, of all the four seasons, it is the most magical!  Anything can (and usually does) happen in the summer.  Long days lend themselves to contemplation, soul-searching and deep pondering…three of my absolute favorite things.

Summer is complicated and easy at the same time.  For me, innumerable hours of drive time, ball games and travel make for a hectic schedule, but it’s a good kind of busy.  Dealing with active/bored teenagers 24/7 has its cons, but with each passing year I experience so many more of the pros.  Soaking up sunshine and staying up late under starry skies makes for a happy heart.  (And hiding out in the AC is equally as good!)  It’s during these times that I find true gratitude and real, meaningful peace.  I know it won’t always be like this.  Maybe that’s why I savor these summer days so much…and I’m so incredibly saddened when this special season ends.

As we wrap up Summer 2018, I offer up my “song of summer.”  I choose one every year…a habit that began in my youth.  This summer’s song sparked tons of dialogue on long car rides as I FORCED any (and all) passengers to sit and listen.  And if you think pop stars Macklemore and Kesha have little to offer…think again.  My kiddos could probably write a paper about why this song speaks to me and then list the lessons in it for them as well.  I’m not trying to say this track will change the world, but as far as summer songs go…there’s something to be said about the “Good Old Days.”  Adios, summer….

“Someday soon, your whole life’s gonna change,
You’ll miss the magic of these good old days…”

 

 

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 15

Laughter is an instant vacation.  –Milton Berle

Me in Hawaii…being eaten alive by tropical mosquitoes. Yay!

Have you ever tried vacationing with an introvert?  It’s the absolute worst!  I know because I am THAT introvert.

Basically, I’m a home body.  I’m perfectly content with staying inside ALL DAY.  This becomes problematic when your entire family is made up of extroverts.  They like to do things (like go out of the house,) hang out with friends, see new things and try adventurous stuff…in the HEAT of summer!  Ugggghhh.  I’m not “anti” all of this…I’m just a lot more particular about how it all gets done.  Thus, the worst introvert to vacation with.  EVER.

So what does this have to do with the last song on my summer playlist?  A lot actually.  “Vacation” by the Go Go’s was a smash hit in 1982.  Quirky, fun-loving, and surfy…these girls really nailed the pop/punk rock/girl power kind of sound.  A tune about trying to use a vacation to get over a guy–well what could be more practical than that?  (Introverts LOVE practical!)  “Vacation” further cemented the popular girl group as 80s icons resulting in the song earning the number eight spot on both the Billboard Top 100 and the Rolling Stone Best Summer Songs of All Time list.  And while these ladies seem like the “vacation” type, interviews and soundbites reveal that they were actually a little salty.  Group members wrote their own songs, learned how to play their own instruments, scoffed at the record label executives, and basically did everything on their terms.  Which sounds a little bit like my approach to vacationing…why do we need to go, what will we see there, how much is this going to cost, is it really worth my time, is it safe and (my favorite question) how many people are going to be there?  So who wants to travel with me now?

Seriously, I love this song and remember thinking as a kid how cool it would be to perform synchronized water-skiing with my best girl friends.  We all wanted to be Belinda Carlisle and the catchy chorus still brings a smile to my face.  Besides, the music video actually depicts the best kind of vacation ever–virtual!  Enjoy YOUR summer!

 

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 14

Worst. Summer. Ever.  -author unknown

I wish summer could be all sunshine, popsicles and flip-flops, but we all know the truth.  There are bad days out there.  Sometimes the bad days have our names written all over them.  And yes, sometimes those bad days occur in the middle of summer.  Like when you friends can’t hang out, some kid vomits in the local pool, its scorching hot outside or worse- IT WON”T STOP RAINING!  Then…there’s evil humidity.  Boo.

Leave it to a rebel music icon like Eddie Cochran to write, sing and sum it all up perfectly in the song, “Summertime Blues.”  If they say, “expectation is the root of all heartache (Shakespeare,)” then summer expectations are the worst.  Cochran was a rising star in the late 50s and (depending on sources) co-wrote this Billboard Top 100 song about being broke, working all the time, and life as an overlooked youth.  Ouch!  Still, this upbeat, rockabilly favorite has become a summer anthem for a number of generations.  Originally a B-side single, “Summertime Blues” has been covered countless times and in a variety of musical genres.  Cochran was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and his song is ranked number 73 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  His untimely death further cemented his legacy as a rock-n-roll legend.

I’m pretty sure I came across the song via pop culture…most likely though the 80s comedy, Caddyshack and especially the biopic, La Bamba (love, love that movie.)  Now it’s a permanent fixture on my summer music playlist.  Cochran’s guitar and the juxtaposition of such a cheery-sounding song with the teen angst expressed in the lyrics…it’s just so relatable.  And you can’t beat that hand clapping!

UP NEXT:  Song 15…”vacation, all I ever wanted….”

 

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 13

Walk towards the good life and one day you will arrive.  –Atticus

I’m not gonna lie…”500 Miles” by the Proclaimers is on several of my personal playlists.  Both catchy and campy, this song contains a quality that resonates with many…especially since one does not have to know how to sing in order to sing along with this little ditty.  And who doesn’t love a song like that?

Now a world-renowned hit, “500 Miles” first appeared on the music scene in 1988.  The Proclaimers, made up of Scottish twins Craig and Charlie Reid, first topped the charts in Iceland, Australia and New Zealand…but it wasn’t until 1993 (with the release of the movie Benny and Joon) that the song reached epic status.  From there, “500 Miles” has topped the charts worldwide, been featured in additional films, on TV, and in commercials, rewritten for charity and covered by countless bands.  Penned by Craig Reid (reportedly in less than one hour,) he said in an interview that he knew it would be a hit…although he had no idea just how popular the song would be!  The duo’s only American Top 10, it initially received limited air time, that is until station managers realized the term “havering” actually didn’t mean anything “naughty.” (The slang term actually refers to endless babbling.)

The song has come full circle for me.  While the lyrics seem to suggest that this song is about a couple, I think it can also fit any type of love relationship or friendship…probably one of the reasons so many are drawn to it.  It was my best friend’s favorite song back in high school.  We played it countless times on the way to and from school, while cruising Main Street on  warm summer nights, in the Sonic drive-thru…I think you get the picture.  I carried this song with me to college…playing it over and over as a fun reminder of days gone by.  Eventually this one-hit wonder drifted away from my mind until my teenage son “discovered” it on Netflix via the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.”  Apparently the song has regained status among a new generation thanks to the antics of Ted and Marshall.  Today, “500 Miles” has become something of an odd family favorite as we all know the words and typically sing it at the top of our lungs while cruising along in the swagger wagon…a zanny anthem for sweethearts, friends and now…families, too!

“Da da da dun diddle un diddle un diddle uh da….”

 

Up Next…SONG 14…”their ain’t no cure for the summertime blues….”

KEEP CALM, Summer’s Coming (15 Sunshine-Inspired Songs) SONG 12

There are only 18 summers in childhood.  -author unknown

To be honest, I’ve been putting off writing about this song.  I decided to include “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. on my summer playlist for two reasons.  First, I remember it playing practically non-stop last summer (2016) and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around its success.  And second, because (eventually) its haunting lyrics and melody spoke to me in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.

A piano ballad on the Billboard Top 100 might be unusual, but the term “unusual” pretty much describes this song from start to finish.  The Canadian singer/songwriter Ruth B. said she wrote the first line of the song after watching the television show Once Upon a Time.  She then “debuted” her partial song via the Vine app.  Fans encouraged her to write a full song, and thanks to internet demand, she released a YouTube video in late 2015.  Record labels finally took notice and an official music video arrived in Spring 2016.  Many in the industry thought the idea of a song about Peter Pan simply wouldn’t fly (pun intended.)  Several said it was too “Disney” and others wrote it off as anything but a summer music hit.  Obviously, they were wrong.  A ballad about a young boy who refuses to grow up, a rebel of sorts who will not conform, a carefree character who chooses fantasy over reality…it was a song that resonated with so many…even a 40 something year old mom.

“Lost Boy” was the song that played on the radio when we headed to the ballpark and played again on the long rides home.  On nights when our team won, the song’s melody suggested that these were absolutely the very best days.  Peter Pan was definitely on to something–never, ever grow up! On nights when the team lost, the song resounded with a heartbreaking quality.  A reminder that perhaps these were indeed “lost” years, where boys transform into men despite the alluring idea of living in “Neverland.”  Watching your children grow up is something that no one can prepare you for…believe me, I know.  I’ve read all the books, sought out advice from everyone under the sun and I still sit in awe.  My mind can barely wrap itself around the idea that these kiddos are becoming adults and my heart practically refuses to believe this is even a possibility.  Yet here we are.

I remember what it was like to be fifteen.  It was the absolute best and it was the absolute worst.  It was fun and it was lonely.  It was exciting and it was scary.  It was pivotal.  Neverland never looked so good (at least to this mom.)

UP NEXT:  Song 13…”I would walk 500 miles….”