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1. What to you is the most joyous aspect of the holidays?

For the past 25 years, I have taken vacation time over the holidays and this year will be no different. I love being at home, relaxing, not thinking about work, and getting together with loved ones. I especially love to build a fire, enjoy the lights from the Christmas tree, and not feel any pressure to get to bed at a certain time or be a particular place by a certain hour in the morning.

2. Do you get much snow where you live? If yes, do you enjoy winter sports like skiing or would you rather stay in by the cozy fire?

As a general rule, Lodi does not get snow, although there have been isolated instances of a few flakes falling over our little village. In 1968, we got enough snow to scoop up every last flake from our front lawn and build a small snowman that remained for several days before melting. But our version of “White Christmas” usually involves plenty of fog — a good reason to stay home where we are warm and safe.

3. Have you ever been on a sleigh ride or a carriage ride? Do you even like horses?

The Lodi equivalent of a sleigh ride is most often a ride on the back of a flatbed truck, seated on bales of hay while singing Christmas carols. Our church youth group did that a couple of times when I was in high school. Afterward, we warmed up with hot cocoa and cookies back at church.

While in New York City in March 2007, my good friend and I enjoyed a handsome cab ride through Central Park.

Our handsome cab driver and his faithful companion.

The view from the cab.

Even though it was late March, there were still a few ice skaters in Central Park.

Another view from the cab.
My friend Barb, who made the trip to NYC with me.

4. During the busy week, what do you do to relax?

Just being at home is relaxing for me, even if I’m puttering around the house doing various chores like laundry. I’m enjoying my new home so much that I just love being here. I’ve always been a homebody at heart, but since I moved into my new home, I am even more inclined to choose staying in rather than going out.

5. Do you get stressed during the holidays?

Not at all. I learned years ago to keep the holiday celebrations low-key, relaxed, and without a lot of expectations. I am planning to have a Christmas Eve smorgasbord-type feast. We will light the fire, open presents, and just enjoy being together. For Christmas Day, I am going to cook a nice dinner. But again, it will be very relaxed and we will eat when we are ready, not at a pre-established time. It will again just be the six of us — BigBob will be here, as will Buddy and Sophie. We are just happy to be at home, healthy, and together.

I spent many years as a church musician. On Christmas Eve, I used to play four services, followed by another on Christmas morning. It was just too much, so after a few years of that, I began sharing the job of church organist with another woman and it worked out really well because we loved to play different services. So she was always happy to play on Christmas morning when I wanted to be at home with my kids, and had no desire to play the 11:00 p.m. Candlelight Christmas Eve service — my all-time favorite service of any year.

These days, my Christmas-season musical commitments are over well before the holiday arrives. For instance, this year, I will be performing in a couple of concerts, as well as at a holiday open house. That will be a lot of fun because I am partnering with a local pianist. We will play flute and piano duets, and each take a turn at some piano solos. I expect it to be a very enjoyable afternoon. Sometimes providing background music is more fun than being center-stage because you can revel in the joy of making music without being in the spotlight.

6. What holiday song could you happily never hear again?

The Elvis Presley recording of “Blue Christmas.” It is completely annoying.

7. How do you decide on what present you pick for a person?

I base my gift choices on the individual’s personality and tastes. I always ask my boys what they want in order to make sure that they receive gifts they will enjoy. But I try to notice what other people like and then get them something that is consistent with the behaviors I have observed. For instance, I have one friend who is addicted to Starbucks. She’s definitely getting a gift card that will help her support her habit, along with a nice travel mug which she has been meaning to buy for herself.

8. What does this holiday season mean to you and why?

This year, Christmas has new meaning for me. For the past several years, I have barely decorated my home because I have not felt very festive. But I really enjoyed decorating the new house . . . I have many decorations out that I haven’t used in years, including the Christmas tree itself. In 2002, I found a beautiful, pre-lit tree at Costco. Funny . . . it didn’t look that large in the store! It is six-and-a-half-feet tall with white lights. When I got it home and we put it in the living room, it looked huge! So we did not use it again . . . until yesterday. Here in the new house, I have the perfect spot for it and it doesn’t overwhelm the room the way it did the living room in my other house.

Santa welcomes visitors to our new home!
Once inside the front door, my mother's carolers continue welcoming guests.
We're going to add the ornaments this evening.

9. What holiday movies best describe the season for you and why?

I’m still a sucker for “White Christmas” starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. I watch it every year. But I also love “The Family Stone” which was released in 2005 and stars Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Both films have the same message: Christmas is about being with those you love, even though they are not perfect, either as individuals or when brought together. It is also about giving to others, which we should do each and every day of every year.

Click here to see the list of other participants and links to their sites where you can read their responses.


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