Don’t Pop My Christmas – Play Me A Song With Heart

You probably already knew this, but “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (AIWFCIY) has bopped it’s way to the center of the Christmas Music Universe. From mid-November to the 25th of December, if you have a radio in your car, you will hear AIWFCIY 3,530,254 times. Mariah Carey has supplanted Andy Williams and Burle Ives and Kermit the Frog as the de-facto voice of the season.


I don’t object to Mariah – not my style but we all get our choices – it’s just that with approximately 45 days each year when Christmas music is allowable we can’t waste time re-chewing a piece of bubble gum that’s lost its flavor.

Let’s have some Christmas music with heart.

The defining Christmas music experience for me was a brave performance of “What Child is This” by an 11-year old girl at an Advent service some 18 years ago. I was home from college and went with my mom (who’s been gone almost two Christmases now.)

The lights were doused except for the cross above the altar and the candles of the Advent wreath, and from behind us came this small voice – a cappella – that grew more mighty with each line. She sang the right version – the one that goes “nails, spear shall pierce him through, the cross be borne for me for you” – and I still blink back a tear when I think about it. The kid did some heavy lifting that evening.

Of course that’s not what I expect from 97.5 KMYX (“The Christmas Myxx”) on my way home from work. It skews secular for one thing, and that little girl’s courage wouldn’t come through anyway. But we can do better than “all I want for Christmas is you, baaaybay.” (Lather, rinse, repeat.)

Friends and regular readers know I tend toward the melancholy. That’s especially true this time of year. With that in mind, here are my nominees to replace AIWFCIY.

What are yours?

“If We Make it Through December”

Merle Haggard

The Hag wrote the score for the human struggle, and this holiday contribution should get heavy radio rotation. The line “got plans to be in a warmer town come summertime” is so desperate and poignant. The hope is real but I think the plans are a lie:

“Hard Candy Christmas”

Dolly Parton

I grew up with Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton on the record player all December long. This one acknowledges the sadness a lot of us face at Christmas, but Dolly lifts the mood with assurances that we can be stronger than the blues:

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Judy Garland (original lyrics from “Meet Me in St. Louis” please)

“Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow, until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” What else is there to say?



ModelStory: Post-Holiday Buzzkill


” Jason drew the short straw and had to pick her up at the train station before sunrise the next morning.”

She comes every quarter from Corporate and spends a week rummaging through everybody’s desk and at the end there’s a department meeting where she lists “goal enhancement opportunities” and somebody usually leaves in tears.

It would be fine if she actually understood what they do, but as the Senior VP of Management-Employee Disconnect – or whatever – her visits are unchecked power trips dripping with nonsense.

This quarter she arrived on January 2 which meant an early end to Christmas vacation for everybody.

They all spent the week making colorful graphs and charts from meaningless spreadsheets – someone figured out a long time ago that content isn’t important to her, but if you know how to click “format data series>fill>gradient fill” she’ll pant like a dog.

On New Year’s Day most of the department stayed at the office until past 10 then went out together and got solidly blitzed. Jason drew the short straw and had to pick her up at the train station before sunrise the next morning.

It became apparent early on that her focus this time was something called an “enterprise-wide desiloization initiative.”

“Process compartmentalization challenges our core imperatives,” she announced. “We’re evolving our platform to facilitate cross-mission force integration.”

(She’s enthusiastic about corporate jargon.)

She was armed with stacks of inaccurate, outdated reports and sat at everyone’s desk and asked how they drove internal-external partner engagement with their centers of influence. Frustrating conversations that only served to reveal her utter lack of operational understanding.

She actually said to Michael:

“I see that for December your ratio of source optimization in the departmental space decreased sharply on the 25th. Explain that to me.”

Of course he couldn’t, so the entire department got the assignment to identify the internal and external partners most impacted by process compartmentalization and develop a plan of action for transitioning the paradigm toward desiloed competency achievement. She wanted a spreadsheet with backup data. And graphs.

“And wouldn’t it be cool if we could track which day of the week we are most likely to properly flow-out unit implemenation?” she added. “Let’s build that into the matrix.”

Sixty hours of horse-apple work, due tomorrow.

No one was willing to remind her that a year ago, she declared cross-mission force integration inefficient and formed a committee to proactively mitigate the trans-pollination outreach realm.

Vivian was on that committee. She pulled up the spreadsheet they built for that project and with some deft “find and replace” work had the new document complete. She’ll hold on to it for a little while, change the colors on the graphs.

Meanwhile, they’ll all update their resumes and come to grips with the unhappy realization:

The Holidays are over.

(Custom-painted Model Power figure, Play-Doh luggage (read more), Walther’s Cornerstone Pella Depot, Kato Superliner.)

Christmas is Merry, Whether We Know it or Not

wreath scout

“If you haven’t bought a wreath yet, there’s still a ton of them in my dad’s truck.”

The secret to Christmas magic often lies in what you don’t know.

Cases in point: The Scouts of Troop 303, caroling mightily for the last-minute shoppers in Salvation Point.

They fill the air with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night and Oh Little Town of Bethlehem, and every few songs there’s a commercial break: “If you haven’t bought a wreath yet, there’s still a ton of them in my dad’s truck.”

Salvation Point is a small town and the Fighting Three-oh-Third has mustered just three wise guys tonight. One’s in second grade, one’s in seventh, and the tall one is a senior in high school.

Three case studies in the magic of what you don’t know.

Christmas magic is easy for the second grader. Santa Claus is still totally real and is totally going to bring a PlayStation 4. What he doesn’t know is Dad bought the thing weeks ago and has been sneaking it out late at night. When they face off on Christmas morning, the old man will for once have the upper hand in electronic gaming.

For the seventh grader, it’s Christmas magic that makes his otherwise too-cool older cousin don a Santa hat and play the part of jolly elf, loading Christmas trees onto SUVs and tying them down with a smile and warm holiday wishes. What he doesn’t know is the tips are good, and cousin’s desperately fighting his way out from under a $28,000 Visa balance.

The senior’s got a small box of Christmas magic in his dresser drawer – a pretty expensive necklace and earrings for Samantha. He figures she’ll cry when she opens them and she’ll know he’s serious even though they’re both leaving for college next fall. They’ve been going out since homecoming, but what he doesn’t know is she’s got plans for New Year’s Eve and they don’t include him.

Three fragile Christmases made magic by what they don’t know.

The trouble is, once they do know, the magic is gone.

This has been a year of error and loss in my house. My holiday spirit is less Gene Autry (Here Comes Santa Claus) and more Merle Haggard (If We Make It Through December). What I don’t know is deep and wide, but that’s not making for much magic.

So I’m sticking with what I do know:

“For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

It’s not the kind of magic that necessarily makes for twinkling memories ’round the tree. To some it’s no more real than Santa Claus. But to the Christian it is a hope that brings peace in every circumstance. The knowledge of Christmas – the light and life of the risen Savior – is cause to celebrate even when we don’t feel like it.

Christmas is Merry, whether we know it or not.

May your Christmas be joyous, and your New Year bright.