Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Rambling: The "truth" about Santa . . . As I've come to believe it. (Reposted)

The following is a post I wrote three years ago. Time has gone by and the friend whose status update on Facebook inspired this post now has three little boys and a number of other friends of mine now have one or more children of their own. So it seemed time to dig this post up and share it again.

Hope you all are having a very merry Christmas Eve! Now excuse me while I go nibble on Christmas cookies and watch NORAD track Santa. ;)

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December 24th, 2011

School's out so I'm taking a break from the research for a bit, so for now, here's a "rambling" inspired by a friend with young sons.

She was wondering why Santa gets all the credit for the good gifts and it got me thinking. See, Santa is a special topic of interest for me. I've always loved Santa, first the guy himself, then later the legend and the spirit. Growing up in Germany I was extra lucky because we also got to celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th and he would leave candy and small gifts in one of our shoes we left outside. Over the years my mom always made a big deal about Santa in our house, every year it was amazing to see what Santa would bring. Later I started to believe what my friends at school were saying that Santa wasn't "real." For a time I believed it, even though my mom continued to sign gifts "from Santa."

At some point during my teen years I stumbled upon the classic editorial, "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause." If you haven't read it, I urge you to look it up and read it for yourself. In it, veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church, of The Sun, a New York newspaper, tells little Virginia that Santa exists, "as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy." The part that has really stuck with me over the years is when Mr. Church explains:

"Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished."

Like Mr. Church, I feel that Santa is part of the magic of not only the holidays but the rest of the year as well. By teaching children to hold on to their belief in Santa we teach them to hold on to the magic and wonder of their childhood and to bring that into their adult lives. How "dreary" indeed would life be! The real world is hard enough as it is, we need as much magic as we can find. Being excited for Santa each year helps keep that childhood wonder in our hearts, whether we're 2 or 92. Additionally, Santa is an excellent example of love and generosity we can use to teach those principles to our children.

For those of us who are Christian, Santa can work in support of the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. I've never felt that Santa and Jesus were mutually exclusive. I think a lot of American's have forgotten the fact that Santa is derived from the European legend of St. Nicholas, a 4th century saint from Myra, in what is now modern day Turkey, known as being the patron saint of children. Jesus is the reason for the season but Santa is can be an important addition to the holiday that can further the message of love and goodwill to all. Santa gives and only asks for our love in return.

This leads me to how Santa is still very important to me. As a 30 year old today, I, like Francis Pharcellus Church and Virginia, still believe in Santa Claus. Santa still leaves me gifts in my stocking and has never forgotten me or left me behind. Santa lives on and will always live on because Santa is the spirit of magic and childhood excitement that my mother has made sure I never forgot. Mom has always been an integral helper of Santa. Santa's "elves" are the mothers and fathers who diligently sign gifts "from Santa," eat the cookies and drink half the milk left for Santa, and nibble on the carrots left for the reindeer, and go to great lengths to make sure that their child gets those special requests whispered into Santa's ear.

Like the year I asked Santa for Rudolph (yes, as in the reindeer, I honestly asked for that Rudolph). Christmas morning I woke up to a stuffed toy Rudolph and a note saying that Santa needed the real Rudolph but had sent this special gift in its place. Such a simple thing but of all the gifts I received as a child, that small stuffed animal is an absolute highlight. At the time it was a sign that Santa was completely real, but as I grew up it became a symbol of the love my parents have for my sister and I, that they would look for that stuffed animal so that I wouldn't be disappointed.

So, friends with children, you may feel disappointed now because on Christmas morning your kids will be thanking Santa, but I can pretty much guarantee you that if you teach them the lesson that Mr. Church taught little Virginia, they will grow up to see just how important your role in their Christmases were all those years when they were little. The Christmas I received Rudolph, I thanked Santa, not my mom, but as an adult I thank my mom every year, not just for what she does for me now, but for all the years when I was little when she did everything she could to keep the magic and wonder of Christmas and Santa alive for me. And that is the best gift of all. Of everything my mom gave me growing up, the most important was the gift of belief: in Santa, in magic, in dreams!

By encouraging a belief in Santa, you're not just perpetuating a commercial product, you're teaching your children to believe that anything is possible. You may not receive the thanks now, but you will when they are older. I thank God every day for my mom, for everything she did to make Christmas special, including the work she did in the name of Santa. One day, God willing, I will do the same for my children, and Jessica, I bet yours will do the same for theirs.

That is the real gift that Santa gives.

Merry Christmas everyone! And don't forget to leave out the cookies and milk for Santa and some carrots for the reindeer!

Image Credit: Pinterest

Sunday, December 21, 2014

End of the year update

So, I've been a bit absent from this blog since the summer. And I didn't get around to posting all the photos from my time in the UK either. I've included some of those "lost" photos below. But first a short update on what I've been up to since getting home.

I pretty much hit the ground running, I landed on a Sunday evening and Monday morning it was straight into a faculty meeting for the new semester. I was there. I was awake. Barely. And clutching my Starbucks. The semester was pretty much a blur of teaching two sections of ENG101, taking two graduate seminars, long days of office hours, and all the other various and miscellaneous things that pop up along the way. I seriously don't know where the last 4 months have gone! I also managed to narrow down a dissertation topic and start to put together a committee. Hooray for feeling slightly ahead of the game! But only slightly. I got some awesome news/update about a project I've been working on, more news on that later next year as it gets closer (for now I don't want to jinx myself). I got a post uploaded yesterday about one of the projects I was working on this semester, so if you missed it you can check it out here.

There's also some fun things to share coming up right after Christmas but I'm keeping that secret for now. Stay tuned, all will be revealed the day or two after Christmas, but let's just say it's going to be an amazing New Year. :)

The second half of Winter Break is going to be exciting and I have a lot to look forward to in the spring semester. I'm teaching a new class and have some exciting research projects that I'll be working on, I'll try to share some of that here on the blog throughout the spring.

For now, I hope you enjoy these pictures from the last several weeks of my summer in the UK. I had a blast and most of it still feels like a glorious dream. I'm happy to look back at these photos and know that it was real.

Enjoy!


English countryside (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Countryside on the way to Stonehenge

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Coffee and camera...I'm all set.

Stonehenge  (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Stonehenge was awesome.

Glastonbury Abbey (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Glastonbury Abbey. The ruins were spectacular.

Royal Crescent Bath (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
The Royale Crescent. We stopped in Bath on our way back to Oxford.

English Afternoon Tea (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Took a day to go in to London and met Alicia for tea at Bea's of Bloomsbury in the One New Change Centre. Yum!

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Had leftovers from tea and may have also done a sneaky bit of shopping. #noregrets 

Shakespeare's Grave (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Went to Stratford-upon-Avon and (among many other things) saw Shakespeare's grave.

Gherkin London (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Hannah of Heroine Chic came to visit me from Prague and we took a day to visit London. Needless to say, the two of us in London turned out to be pretty epic. 

Leadenhall Market London (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
We walked through Leadenhall Market.

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And then down by the river we ran across Hannah's wedding reception. Just kidding.

Trafalgar Square London (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
View over the top of Trafalgar Square with Nelson's Column and Big Ben in the distance, from the top of the National Portrait Gallery in the Portrait Restaurant.

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Champagne and afternoon tea. Hannah and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And after sprinting across London (almost literally, told you it was an epic day) we definitely earned our treats.

Big Ben London (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
The iconic Big Ben.

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Hannah was very excited to visit the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, where J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and their friends met to discuss writing and philosophy. 

The Globe Theatre (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
My classmates and I got to visit and tour the Globe Theatre. We came back that night to see Antony & Cleopatra, which we had read for class.

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In between the tour and the performance it was time to sit in my favorite Starbucks (in Paternoster Square) to do some "light" reading for Arthurian Legends.

St. Paul's Cathedral (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
St. Paul's Cathedral peaking through the buildings.

Southwark Bridge and the City of London (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Southwark Bridge lit up at night with the City of London lit up behind it.

River Cherwell Oxford (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Back in Oxford, in University Parks, along the River Cherwell, one of my favorite places to walk to and sit for a while.

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Paper writing time!

Rainy window (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Rainy day in Oxford.

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Really loved this cute Oxford teddy bear.

Poppies at the Tower of London (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Saw the poppies at the Tower of London.


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Daisy, my next door neighbor in the hall had fun one night making paper airplanes and trying to get them into my open window. She succeeded a few times. :)

Latte (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Drank lots of lattes at Caffe Nero.

Afternoon tea (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
More afternoon tea!

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Made friends in the park. :)

Sheldonian Oxford (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Got to enjoy some cloudy/rainy days. Made this desert girl very happy.

Oxford rainbow (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
But also got to see some rainbows as well.

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Tea and scones and syllabus writing.

Oxford walk (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Took a long walk one day along the Cherwell.

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Imperial War Museum (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Visited the newly reopened Imperial War Museum.

Bomb shelter (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
So, interesting story about this. This is a WWII bomb shelter that people had in their homes, typically in the kitchen. During the day, it could be used as a kitchen table but at night they could sleep inside and be protected in the event of a roof collapse. My first time visiting the museum this shelter was in a different part of the museum called the 1940s house (they changed things after the renovation). As I came down to the kitchen of the replica house I saw this shelter and heard a voice over my shoulder say, "I used to sleep in one of those." I turned around and saw an elderly gentleman, who was a volunteer for the museum, and he told me stories of what it was like living in London during WWII and the Blitz. Seeing historical things is always interesting, but talking to people who bring that history back to life is amazing. I'll never forget that conversation. 

Enigma Machine Imperial War Museum (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Enigma machine. (With sneak appearance at the bottom by my Converse. Oops.)

Street art in Islington (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Street art in Islington.

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More lattes and writing.

Radcliffe Camera Oxford (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. I went in there. It was amazing! :)

Harrods (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Harrods was already decorating for Christmas and had their Christmas bears out. :)

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Another friend I made in the park. :)

Oxford (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Bridge of Sighs

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Little collection of nature things Daisy left behind. I spent a week and a half in the hall after my classmates left. Every time I walked down the hall to the common room I could see these reminders of my friend who'd gone home. :)

Pub (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Last days in the pub.

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Last English breakfast at Giraffe in Heathrow.

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I would have bought one but I didn't want to get arrested when I landed back in the US.

Phoenix from the air (photo credit: http://researchandramblings.blogspot.com/)
Hello Phoenix. England I miss you already.

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Phoenix welcomed me home with hight temps and monsoon storms.

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But also a pretty rainbow.

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Exhausted but wearing my new cardi from Joy, necklace from River Island, and ring from Swarovski in Prague. Time for the first day of the fall semester.