Monday, November 30, 2009

The spirit of real Christmases

Last night I watched A Dog Named Christmas, because I've always thought myself to be a total sucker for sentimental holiday movies, not to mention sentimental movies about dogs. Getting both in one made-for-TV movie was a can't-miss proposition. Or so I thought.

But as I watched the idyllic scenes of the McCray family farm I thought, where are such farms anymore? Family farms are disappearing, and those that remain probably don't support the kinds of lavish Christmas parties that the McCrays were hosting. I looked at the huge spread of food that was being prepared and thought, who has time to do that? And even if they have time, who does it? I stopped baking my favorite cookies--recipes for which have been in my family since 1941!--years ago because they were such artery cloggers.

Then there was the school calendar. Mrs. McCray was a teacher, and her school let out for the holidays around December 15? Who does that? Our local school district goes up through December 23.

And then there was Christmas--the dog, that is. He was portrayed by a 10-year-old canine actor named Johnny (yay for the senior dogs!) but his character was impossibly angelic. The worst thing he did was grab a couple of Christmas cookies. Otherwise, he was a perfect gentleman. Meanwhile, our family has been trying to figure out how to keep Allie from damaging our Christmas tree and pilfering ornaments short of spending $100 or more for an exercise pen to put around the base of the tree like a fence. We haven't put presents under the tree before Christmas Eve for years, because Allie likes to unwrap said gifts ahead of time.

Then there's the dialogue that ensues when we put up our Christmas tree, which we've just finished doing. There are certain ornaments that one person likes that the other two do not, so decorating the tree is as much a matter of hiding ornaments as bringing them out into the open. Each of us--Julie, Stan and I--attempts to supervise the other two. I protest against what I consider to be the "boudoir effect" of certain decorating combinations, such as long strings of beads trailing out of glass bowls much like ladies' jewelry on dressing tables of old (speaking of which, what woman has a dressing table anymore?). My husband laughs at me and my daughter calls me a Scrooge. Similar name-calling ensues when either Stan or Julie expresses a decorating opinion that runs counter to what the other two members of our family think.

No, our Christmas certainly comes nowhere the near the picture perfection of the fictitious McCrays. And yet, right now, I am supremely happy.

Because Christmas isn't about perfection. It's about being who we are and celebrating that. It's about realizing the love that runs beneath the banter. It's about appreciating the fact that a Golden Retriever who wreaks havoc on a Christmas tree whenever she gets the chance will lie at our feet when we're in the living room gazing at that tree, simply because the only thing she wants is to be with us. It's about knowing how lucky we are to be together, the four of us, for yet another holiday.

To me, that is everything. I'll take our real-life Christmas over the McCrays' Hallmark perfection (but then, the show was sponsored by Hallmark, so I guess such perfection is appropriate) any day.

May your holidays be as joyful for you--because they are uniquely yours, imperfections and all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I'm grateful for

On this national day of gratitude, I'd like to give thanks for a variety of people, places and occurrences -- some momentous, some not:

-- After just having watched the taped National Dog Show on NBC, I'm grateful that shoe designers and manufacturers have come up with footwear that looks reasonably chic but also allows female handlers to sprint around the ring without having to wear athletic shoes and socks.

-- Although I'm taking a day off from said writing today, I'm profoundly grateful to have the chance to write a book about my current heart-breed, the Golden Retriever, and get paid for doing so.

-- I'm always, always, always grateful to have friends with whom to share history, good times and, in many cases, love of dogs and writing.

-- I'm equally grateful to have a loving husband and daughter, both of whom are healthy and here, and who have been my mainstays not only during 2009, but always.

-- I'm just as grateful to be sharing my life with the namesake of this blog, who amazes me every day.

-- And, finally, I'm super grateful just to be here. I know it could have been otherwise.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cue the Twilight Zone theme. Now.

Finished what I needed to do for today on Golden Retriever, my book in progress. Ran some errands, came back to the house, opened the mail, sat on the living room couch to read it. I could hear Allie moving around in our bedroom on the other side of the house.

A minute or two later, Allie walked into the living room with two black objects in her mouth, placed the objects on the carpet and looked up at me expectantly.

The objects were my slippers.

I did not teach her to do this.

Definitely an omigod moment.

At least I had the presence of mind to thank her.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Coming up for air (briefly)

I'm in the midst of writing a book about Golden Retrievers, and the manuscript is due January 1. That means, effectively, that I've got to finish the manuscript by Christmas and use the week between Christmas and New Year's to proof and edit my opus. Hence, my posts here have been even less frequent than usual.

But I had to take a minute to hail yesterday's triumphant run at the Breeder's Cup Classic by Zenyatta, the five-year-old mare who'd been undefeated in her 13 previous races. Yesterday made it 14--and this time, she raced against the boys.

I don't ride horses and I don't bet on horse races. I've never even been to a race. But I am of the double-X persuasion, not to mention being as easily thrilled by a spectacular come-from-behind effort as the next person. Those are the reasons that I salute Zenyatta.

If only Rachel Alexandra had been there.