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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
DEC
15

Early Christmas Present

And there she is, folks. The first copy.

Isn't it pretty??

Still two months before release, but, boy oh boy, it's an amazing thing to see this project you've spent years of your life working on in the form of an actual book.

I'll definitely curl up over my Christmas vacation, read a few chapters, and pretend I don't know how it ends.

DEC
27

Santa's *Other* Form of Transportation

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In case you were wondering, Santa drives a Subaru Forester.

He also smokes.

And jaywalks.

The illusion is shattered.

 

DEC
17

My Favorite Holiday Color

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Now, if coming home to find this blingitty bling bling gift on your front porch doesn't make up for you not winning the Ugly Sweater Contest at the holiday office party, then I'm not sure what will.

This Christmas just got a whole lot better.

PS - My sweater was hideous.

DEC
04

The Tree Lighting

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I had visions of Rockefeller Center dancing in my head when I heard about a tree lighting in the beach town just north of mine. Now, to be clear, I assure you I did realize there would be a difference. Like, a big one. Even as I arrived a mere twenty minutes before show time and got a spot pretty much right in front of the tree, I was excited. Even as I first took in the little tree (much smaller than I was anticipating, even for a tiny oceanside town), I was not dismayed. Because once the switch was flipped, the tree in its entirety would be transformed, set aglow by a healthy coating of spectral colors. I mean, isn’t that why we go to tree lightings? To experience that moment of contrast? To appreciate the difference?

I hate to call the holidays a distraction, because they are certainly more meaningful to me than that, but sometimes it feels as if their sole purpose is to temporarily buoy us up. From life. From reality. From depression and loneliness. From evil and despair. From your college football team not being in the playoff running this year. One of the pre-lighting speakers, some city official or other, basically asked us to—just for this moment—be happy. Just for this moment, be grateful and feel blessed. Just for this moment, celebrate. Southern California in general has been a bit gloomy and on edge this week, such that I guarantee I wasn’t the only one amongst the tree-lighting crowd who swiveled her head in between the high school show choir’s numbers, wondering if some crazy was lurking in the corner, locked and loaded. (I wish I could say I was just being dramatic, but I think for many Americans, the idea of public safety has been permanently shifted to the morbidly paranoid.)

The actual flipping of the switch (the lighting of the tree) was achingly underwhelming. Even having prepped myself for such a scaled-down version, I think I needed it to be more. More than just a faint star and one string of regular lights that you’d see on a regular house in a regular part of town. Maybe it’s that I’m struggling to feel like it’s Christmas at all, what with the temperatures being so warm and the fact that I was at the moment of lighting standing in between a palm tree and a bird of paradise plant. Maybe it’s that the holiday ornaments I bought to make a garland for my living room walls only made enough to go around three-quarters….of one wall. Or maybe it’s that I don't feel as buoyed up by the season this year. But I’ll keep trying. Because I know that for the most part, people are good. I know for the most part, I am safe. For the most part, the blessings in our lives are easy to spot and comforting to cling to. And most of all, I know that it’s Christmas. (Despite the fact that I’m going to spend the day tomorrow at the beach in 80 degree weather.)

NOV
17

On Christmas Lists

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My sister is a great gift-giver. The best I know. She almost never asks me for ideas, she just spends the year quietly collecting things that make her think of me, things she thinks I'll like, and then I open her Christmas gifts having absolutely no idea what to expect. These kinds of gifts are my favorite to open, and they are usually spot on. Which proves what is possible when you truly know someone.

Cases in point. She bought and restored an old writing desk I adore and have schlepped across the country twice and still use. She tracked down the album of songs that a well-known hospital clown sang at Oakland Children's when I was a patient there in the late 1980s. Songs that I listened to for years afterward on a tape I eventually lost track of. Silly I guess, the songs, but being reunited with them so many years later was one of the biggest and most thoughtful surprises I've ever received. One I didn't ask for but loved.

If I ever had a child and found myself doing the family thing, I'd be tempted to implement a no-list policy. Meaning no one would be allowed to ask for specific things; rather we'd all just shop for each other based on what we knew the others would like. It means more, right? It's better, right? Of course, it's also harder. Not to mention, not everyone can do what my sister does. I think she has a knack. A gifting skill set. Whereas I always seem to say--about my own siblings and parents--"What on this green earth can I *possibly* get them?" Which seems an odd thing, being unsure what to buy for, say, the woman out of whose womb you tumbled forth. Um, maybe a pedicure? Some chocolates? I just DON'T KNOW!

Just yesterday I sent off my Christmas list to my two brothers and my parents, and it reminded me that 1) lists make it SO EASY to shop for people, and 2) on the receiving end, you know you'll be getting things from that list; things you definitely know you like/want/need/have been coveting. It's sort of like the proposal conundrum I talk about in Jeweled. How a girl probably appreciates the Leap of Faith more than the Slam Dunk, but then again, she does want to like the ring she gets. Insert something about tradeoffs here, and I don't have the answer. But I am curious, dear reader, do you prefer giving and working off of lists, or are you won over by the idea of the heartfelt crapshoot? Please answer. These things keep me up at night.

 

 

My sister is a great gift-giver. She almost never asks me for ideas, she just spends the year quietly

collecting things that make her think of me, things she thinks I’ll like, and then I open her Christmas gifts

having absolutely no idea what to expect. These kinds of gifts are my favorite to open, and they are

usually spot on. In terms of how much I like them. Which proves what is possible when you truly know

someone.

Cases in point. She bought and restored an old writing desk I adore and have schlepped across the

country twice and still use. She tracked down the album of songs that a well-known hospital clown sang

at Oakland Children’s when I was a patient there in the late 1980s. Songs that I listened to for years

afterward on a tape I eventually lost track of. Silly I guess, the songs, but being reunited with them so

many years later was one of the biggest and most thoughtful surprises I’ve ever received. One I didn’t

ask for but loved.

 

If I ever had a child and found myself doing the family thing, I’d be tempted to implement a no-list

policy. Meaning no one would be allowed to ask for specific things; rather we’d all just shop for each

other based on what we knew the others would like. It means more, right? It’s better, right? Of course,

it’s also harder. Not to mention, not everyone can do what my sister does. I think she has a knack. A

gifting skill set. Whereas I always seem to say—about my own siblings and parents—what on this green

earth can I possibly get them? Which seems an odd thing, being unsure what to buy for the woman out

of whose womb you tumbled forth. Maybe a pedicure? Some chocolates?

Just yesterday I sent off my Christmas list to my two brothers and my parents, and it reminded me that

1) lists make it SO EASY to shop for people, and 2) on the receiving end, you know you’ll be getting

things from that list; things you definitely know you’ll like/need/want/have been coveting. It’s sort of

like the proposal conundrum I talk about in Jeweled. How a girl probably appreciates the Leap of Faith

more than the Slam Dunk, but then again, she does want to like what she gets. Insert something about

tradeoffs here, and I don’t have the answer. But I am curious, dear reader, do you prefer giving and

working off of lists, or are you won over by the idea of a heartfelt crapshoot? Please answer. These

things keep me up at night.
DEC
24

Roots and Wings

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I love living in New York, but it's hard to beat this view out your back window. Yes, I love living in New York, but I'd be lying if I said it was stress free. Au contraire. It's noisy, it's expensive, and the woman downstairs keeps whacking her ceiling as hard as she can every time my cat runs across the room. Of course, these things seem less significant when compared to all the wonderful things about living in New York, but still, there are days it wears me down. There are days when the woman downstairs wins. 

All of this is to say that I am enjoying my extended Christmas vacation in Oregon perhaps much more than I have in other years. The contrast is so refreshing. Everything is quiet and the air smells clean and piney. There are tree-covered hills in every direction. There are high school friends raising families. There is my jeweler who asked me once again yesterday how long before I am ready to buy his store. Of course, these things seem less appealing when compared to the economic challenges and realities of living in rural, southwestern Oregon, but still, there are days when it wins me over. There are days when the city can't compare.

I know, I know. A girl can certainly have roots and wings, and I guess I should consider myself fortunate that both places are so special to me. And with that, I must return to my Christmas Eve activities. There's a pie to bake, presents to wrap, a party to attend. I can promise that before stepping into the building tonight, pie in hand, I will pause, surrounded by green on all sides, and take a deep breath in. And it will smell like rain and trees. More than that, it will smell like home.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

DEC
11

Rockefeller Center, 6 AM

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Perhaps not as sexy as Fifth Avenue, 5 AM (a delicious title by Sam Wesson), but I did find the suggestion to do my Rockefeller Tree viewing in the early AM to be a good one. The tree is lit at 5:30 each morning, so your pictures will still have the "night time" look, but unlike the daytime hours, when the whole plaza is flooded with people, there isn't another soul around. The spot where I'm standing in this picture is blocked off during the day, and if you want a photo-op, it'll actually cost you money. So if you happen to be in New York this Christmas, do yourself a favor and set your alarm early one of these mornings. Just maybe wait until it's a morning that is not torrentially downpouring. And maybe one where you don't have to go to work after. Or have to go anywhere, really, for the rest of the day, as your coat will still be wet through at nightfall.

DEC
04

He is the Gift

I've been planning this post for a few days, spurred on by the holiday cheer in the air, snapping pictures of NYC at its most festive. And in terms of Christmas prep, I've never been more on top of my game. My cards were all mailed on December 1. I finished my Christmas shopping on December 2. Last night was the Rockefeller Tree Lighting (what the what, LeAnn Rimes??). Tonight I'm going to see a production of A Christmas Carol. And at the homestead, I've got a plate of Christmas cookies I decorated myself and a big, fabric Christmas tree draped over a closet door.

So, yes, I've been planning this post for a few days, a picture of a building off of 5th Avenue with lots of lights and candy cane decorations selected to go with it, but then some friends shared this video with me today. As a Christian, it's hard to watch it without feeling chastened. And maybe a bit teary. (Er...not that this happened to me.) As a society, we forget. I forget. I get caught up. In sparkles and packages. In snow and ribbon and parties. In mashed potatoes. Although I challenge you to find me a person in this country who doesn't get caught up in the mashed potatoes, still, the point is valid.

The point being that we should be better than this. We should be more aware of and more grateful for this first gift of Christmas. I'm going to do my best to be better. As long as I can keep the mashed potatoes.

 

DEC
28

Carols with Sharps and Flats

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You've probably never thought about it before, because your family probably doesn't have a permanent slot on the Christmas program every year at church. Not that I'm complaining. I rather look forward to the Annual Picking Up Of My Violin, an instrument I played rather seriously for more than a dozen years, but now only play at Christmas. And maybe that's the problem with the annual Christmas number...that the majority of us who play ONLY play once a year. Not that Christmas carols are necessarily hard to play, but if you ever flip through the Christmas section of a hymnal, if such a section is even normal in traditional hymnals, you'll notice they vacillate drastically from key to key. And when you play them back to back, it's near impossible to remember if the song you're currently playing is the one with the E and A and B flats or if it was the one you just played. Or if the C sharp applies to an entire song or just one line. Or if this is the song where everything is normal and the next one is the one where everything is not normal. Or if this is the one where you have to use fourth finger instead of an open string for the E on the last line. Or if your bra strap is showing from all this bow-manhandling.

Somehow the annual Christmas number always turns out better than I think it will, and I know this is a strange way for me to illustrate this point, but I like knowing that in a crazy an unpredictable world, I can always count on the annual Christmas number. And I can count on my aunts, mom, and grandma to be standing right there with me. Of course I can also count on forgetting a few sharps and flats and consequently causing at least one person in the audience to wish this silent night had been a little more silent, but the point is, the annual Christmas number is important to me. It's Christmas. It's tradition, it's family, it's rosin and bows and piano and sheet music. It's also baby Jesus (I have not forgotten my previous post on sparkle), but mostly, for those few moments, it's me and my violin.

And those damn flats.

 

DEC
20

Sparkle

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I was asked to be the speaker last night at a Christmas-themed event, and I confess it was nice to get down to the heart of the matter. You know, Christ. Bethlehem. The manger. I would never want to seem insensitve or to offend those who don't share my beliefs, but it does feel weird to constantly hold back the Merry Christamases I always want to shout out at this time of year. So it was nice to be able to get it off my chest last night in front of a gathering of people who had asked me to do just that.

The Christmas season sparkles, there's no other way to say it. And I'm a person who loves sparkle. In studying diamonds, I've learned a lot about what actually creates sparkle, and between the angles and proportions needed to maximize sparkle in a diamond, I find it fascinating. When evaluating sparkle in a diamond, one of the main things you look for is fire. Actual flashes of color. In a truly excellent diamond, you'll see all the spectral colors when you rock and roll the diamond. The more color, the more fire. And hence, the more sparkle. As a lover of all things sparkly, sometimes I get caught up in the sparkly aspects of Christmas--the lights and decorations and food and parties--but I'm grateful for reflection, conviction, and, ultimately, the reason behind this holiday in the first place. It is, after all, the best gift I'll ever receive, and I'd take that over sparkles any day.

Well, most days.

Merry Christmas.

 

DEC
17

For-e-ver. And e-ver.

'Tis the season. This makes me smile every Christmas. Enjoy.

 

JAN
03

On Thank-you Notes

I suppose this is in some way related to my Christmas card post from last month, but once Christmas is over, you're usually left with a decent amount of people who need thanking. In our house growing up, my mom catalogued everyone's gifts as they opened them, such that by the end of the morning, she had constructed a matrix-style chart we could reference that showed a summary of everything we received along with who gave it to us. She'd then task us with writing thank you notes, and I'd be lying if I said my teenage self actually enjoyed doing this. To be fair, I sort of hated it. But it was what we did, and I have to say all these years later that I'm very grateful to have had a mother who raised us on thank you notes. I remember sitting through a business school lecture on this very topic (the professor and her remarkable class about the little things that can set you apart in the professional world are mentioned in Schooled) and thinking fondly of my mother. So ahead of her time.

So as I'm preparing to mail out a bunch of thank you notes this week, I guess it's reminding me just how strongly I now feel about them, and how surprised I often am that more people don't send them. It's not that a giver regrets giving if he is not thanked, but it's a gesture that shows not only that the receiver cared enough about the gift to send a note, but also that she's the sort of person who takes the time to do such things; the sort of person who makes that effort. It's a gesture of caring and gratitude, and I see the value both personally and professionally. Or maybe I'm just old school. It's entirely possible. Regardless, if you haven't yet (or haven't ever) mailed thank you notes, I'd encourage you to add it to your repertoire. It will make someone's day. Probably yours.

DEC
24

Here's to you, Longfellow

I've just spent the weekend with a large portion of my extended family. My grandparents have lived in the same house for 43 years, and small-town Oregon still serves as the meeting place for our holiday gatherings. I love everything about the town. From the lights on the small main street to the impressively renovated library (that stocks a couple copies of Schooled, I'm pleased to report), to the gravel that replaces the pavement once you get far enough away from city limits, being there with the fam is the closest I can come to being completely happy.

On these holiday weekends when we're all together, we have a Christmas tradition of caroling several houses in the area. Yes, I said caroling. As in a big group of people singing Christmas carols. In someone's front yard. Until they open the door. As we caroled the other night, I was struck by one house in particular. The woman who lived there was so touched, she put a hand to her mouth as tears welled up in her eyes. As some of us hugged her, she began to openly weep, and while it was probably just a happy, holiday spirit kind of cry, it made me think of all the people this holiday season who are sad, depressed, and lonely. In some ways, I think we all are. It's hard to live in this world and not be affected by the sea of crap that we as a society seem to be perpetually swimming in.

And so I've been thinking about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem about the Christmas bells. You may have heard it, but what you might not realize is that he wrote it out of sheer despair. His wife had died in a tragic accident, and his son had been severely wounded in battle. The most heart-breaking stanza:

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then he ends with the most powerful and inspiring stanza of all, and one that to me is a very literal reminder of the biggest source of hope we have.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

On this Christmas Eve, I hope we can each find the peace and comfort we seek, and that those of us with the resources to be of service to others will feel inclined to do so. Even if it's just a Christmas carol on a rainy night.

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