Archive for Thursday, December 2, 2004

Bits and Pieces

Snow, shopping reminders of hectic season

December 2, 2004

Snow. Could you believe five inches the day before Thanksgiving? Many Thanksgivings find us still enjoying balmy weather with the kids playing outside. Usually there is only a hint of winter -- just enough for a warm jacket when the sun goes down as we venture out for a walk to settle all of the turkey and the carbs we have consumed. As you know and as Paul Theverajoo reminded us in his column last week, Thanksgiving is mostly about feasting.
The kids had a great time in the snow while it lasted. Lots of snowmen cropped up all over town, and some of the kids made it to the hill to sled by Kansas Highway10's Church Street intersection. As with most early snows, not a trace remained Monday. Serious snow and serious sledding will have to wait until after Christmas, when once again we have the dry kind of snow that peaks on rooftops and stays there for weeks in the bitter Kansas cold.
The day after Thanksgiving ushered in the big rush for Christmas shopping. I could not believe that people actually camped out all night in order to get a laptop for half price at Best Buy the following morning. Neither could I believe that shoppers stormed the stores exactly at 6 a.m., waiting in line before the crack of dawn to grab bargains.
I did join the madness on Saturday with my grandsons, Gabe and Garrett. Now 10 and 11, their childlike wonder of Christmas is already beginning to fade, as they exchange a knowing wink about Santa when their younger cousin, Grant, is around. Their taste in gifts is also becoming more sophisticated, as we shopped for video games and CD players. They did wander over to the toy aisle where they stopped to view the action figures and Hot Wheels, still not quite able to make the break from childhood to that pre-teen era that seems to come sooner these days. I even heard a toddler telling his mother that a particular toy was "cool."
To counter the Christmas consumption mania, the Lawrence Journal-World last week offered tips under the headline, "How to Survive The Holidays (without getting fat and grumpy)." I'm not sure about the fat part -- I did notice today that my jeans are much too tight, and they are "always the first to know," as my niece Annie says.
The grumpy part, I guess you should ask my family. Actually, I love Christmas time. I do always have a touch of the "blues" that pervade the season. But for the most part I'm game for every sparkly item that twinkles in the stores. Many of them offer enough glitter, twinkle and sparkle to fill your need for the next year.
Before this turns into a piece totally devoid of any substance, I would like to spiff it up a bit with some book selections I feel would be good gifts for both young and old.
Several weeks ago, I heard a review of a new children's book entitled "Guji, Guji" by Chih Yuan Chen, which I think is especially delightful. The main character, Guji, is an alligator who happens to fall into a nest of duck eggs when he was but an egg himself. Upon hatching, the ducks accept him as their brother and believing he is a duck as well makes for some funny situations in which Guji emerges as the hero. This one is for all ages but especially for ages maybe 4 to 7 years old.
Another book we are giving this year to grandchildren is "The Giving Tree," by Shel Silverstein. This is one that has been around for many years and many of you know it, I'm sure. By the author of such classics as "Where the Sidewalk Ends" Silverstein has delighted, excited and tickled our fancy through lots of adventures and characters. This one teaches a moral about giving and loving and it's still in hardback making a really nice gift.
My grandson Garrett, as well as lots of others his age, is in love with the Lemony Snicket series of 13 books. These are different and quirky, and the kids love them. The fact that Jim Carrey is appearing in an upcoming movie adaptation of the first book in the series adds to the attraction as well -- all the ads on TV, you know.
Speaking of Garrett, he wrote a short story for school that seems to be a precursor of great things to come. Entitled "The War of The Turkeys" it features the turkeys versus the humans, who have been affected by a satellite dish planted by a UFO, which makes humans want to eat only turkey all the time -- not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Complete with oven guns, flame throwers, gravy shooters and their most fearful weapon -- a giant butcher knife -- the humans wage war on the turkeys who defend themselves with cow bazookas, egg machine guns and sausage shotguns. Eventually a peace is secured, and the turkeys return to being our favorite only through the holidays. This is a three-page funny romp and play on words that I wish I had written.
For the grownups on your list who are interested in regional books as well as KU basketball, I recommend, "A Fan's Guide to KU Men's Basketball in Allen Fieldhouse."
The author, Mary Burchill is a friend who has been an avid fan of KU basketball since 1953. Growing up in Lawrence, she attended the first game ever to be played in Allen Fieldhouse and has attended every game since. She and her husband, Brower, have been marketing this slim, colorful volume complete with a Jayhawk on the cover for the past few months.
If you have ever wondered about a particular detail, and I mean even a minute detail, about what's happening at a KU game, you will find the answer in this book that takes you through every aspect of the experience of attending a game. This is a must for every Jayhawk fan of yours and a great stocking stuffer at only $8 to $10.
Strolling through the bookstore these days is an overwhelming experience. I found two I added to my want list, "Kate Remembered," the latest biography of Katherine Hepburn, and another that promises to be a real kick, "The Stupidest Angel" by Chris Moore who cautions "Don't give this one to gramma or the kids." A complete reversal intrigues by the title of "If God is Love" by Phillip Gully and Jamie Mulholland, which asks, "Why are Christians fearful and hateful?" and "Why does religion create more pain than healing?" There is also a huge volume of "Peanuts -- A Golden Celebration" as well as new volumes about Churchill and Howard Hughes and new mysteries by Janet Evanovich, "Metro Girl," and Sue Grafton, "R is for Ricochet."
Personally I just finished a terrific book "The Secret Life of Bees" by Sue Monk Kidd.
To inject a note of introspection into the frivolity of the season, I would remind us that during this manic time we Christians remember that it is Advent, which is set aside as a time of reflection and quiet before Christmas. If you can find a minute, remember all of those who are far away in Iraq at this special time of year. The hymn "O Come, Oh Come Emmanuel" which ushered in Advent this past Sunday includes these words, which seem appropriate:

"O come, O Dayspring from on high And cheer us by your drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadow put to flight.
O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of humankind;
O bid our sad divisions cease, and be for us our King of Peace."

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