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Archive for songs

collect . My Childhood Christmas in Vinyl

I don’t remember us having a record player at our house until I got the little green and blue kids version from Santa one year. He brought my eight-track cassette player with the removable speakers too, and my first stereo. The turntable took a back seat to the double cassette deck in that one. But as far as vinyl goes, Christmas music was synonymous with the big white record player at Grandmother’s house – and the small collection of classic Christmas albums we kept there. I can clearly remember lifting the cover of the record player, choosing the speed, moving the arm, and hearing the scratch of the needle, an experience practically lost to my children and their digital world. I’m slowly trying to pique their interest these days with our little orange Crosby.

We’ve been at Mom’s this week, making merry with an updated set of traditions. But, yesterday I pulled out the records from Grandmother’s and found so many of my favorite songs and memories staring back at me. In fact, some of my first memories of music center around this collection of Christmas records. Each year growing up, we spent about two weeks at Grandmother’s house on the farm, and the records served as the background score for a lot of holiday traditions and fun. They are an odd mix of unnamed choral singers, big band crooners, and old school country – with a little pop and folk thrown in, courtesy of Aunt Betty. Most are classics now. Some were already classics in the second release versions we had. And not only the music. The album covers! Like favorite book illustrations, they instantly send me back to childhood Christmases.

The Little Drummer Boy (late 60s?) and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1962) compilations — those illustrations! I don’t know the singers, but I’m pretty sure this is where I learned most of the Christmas carols I know.

No Christmas is complete without Elvis’ Christmas Album (1970 re-release of 1957 classic) and the classics, “Blue Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” in his one and only style. I think everyone in the family took a turn as background singer on this album each holiday season. I’m betting this album is also why I know my mom saw Elvis at the Tupelo Fair before he reached iconic status. Stories just seem to abound around old Christmas albums.

I attribute a lot of my love of show tunes, crooners and the big band sound to Saturday evenings at Grandmother’s watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” on E-TV… and to The Dean Martin Christmas Album (1966). For sure, it’s the reason why I sing ” Marshmallow World” every time we make hot chocolate! My grandmother loved the Perry Como (1961 reissue) and Bing Crosby (1973 reissue) albums, with their rich voices. My favorites were “C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S” and Bing’s iconic rendition of “Adeste Fidelis”.

My Aunt Betty loved records. She always brought new ones home. The old John Denver and Olivia Newton John LPs she handed down to me where my favorite childhood songs. I have most of her records now, but her love of classic country music didn’t really stick. I’m sure she’s responsible for the country and folk albums that were part of our Christmas collection… Tennessee Ernie Ford Christmas (1971), Glen Campbell’s That Christmas Feeling (1968), Christmas in My Hometown (1970) from Mississippi-native, Charley Pride, and Emmylou Harris’ beautiful Light of the Stable (1979). I love Tennessee Ernie’s version of the Negro Spiritual, “Children Go Where I Send Thee”, along with Charley Pride’s “They Stood in Silent Prayer” and Glen Campbell’s cover of Willie Nelson’s “Pretty Paper”. I also remember thinking as a little girl how cool The Partridge Family Christmas Card (1971) was, since it was so obviously a younger sound. I felt like I was a girl in the know listening to it — even though it was really before my time!

Memories, memories! When I look through the issue dates on all these records, I realize what classics many of them already were before I ever heard them in my 70s childhood. I realize it every time one pops in my head in response to some family activity. It’s fun to think about what the sounds added to how we celebrated Christmas. I’m already humming them again!

sketch journal 070417 . Let Freedom Ring

My country, ’tis of thee,’
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring

~ Samuel Francis Smith (1831)

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It started out as a threat. I’m not ashamed to admit it. School mornings are tough at our house. School Monday mornings are tougher. Nobody wants to get up, including the Mommy in the room. I try my best to keep it positive, but sometimes that first hour of the day tries to do us in with cajoling, begging, groaning, and more often than not, a little raising of the voices as I try to pry my children from their beds to get started with the day.

Sometimes I resort to threats. The first (and least invasive, in my singular opinion) is this: “Do I need to start singing?” Yep. I threaten to sing if I don’t get a response to the admonitions to wake up and sit up. Now, I like to sing. And, my children are used to me adding my own brand of wackiness to situations by breaking out in show tunes, or 80’s tunes, or jazz tunes, or the occasional beat box. There was a period when they were younger (and the words were simpler) when I sang a song for every spelling word on their lists as we practiced for tests. But, that’s another story.

So, singing is not really all that unusual or earth-shattering around our house. In the mornings, however, it’s gotten pretty rare because of the groaning responses emanating from their beds. Enter the threat. Usually the morning singing threat is met with a chorus of “NO!”, followed by begrudging movement under the covers as they attempt to open their eyes to the light. This morning, however, something astonishing happened. When I asked the infamous question, “Do I need to start singing?”, Elisha Bug gave a small, half-sleepy grin and responded, “Maybe.”

Holy wow. Maybe. For a Monday morning, that’s pretty amazing. So, I brought out my usual morning song — the old Lake Forest Ranch camp favorite we sung at morning council to “wake up” the echo living on the other side of the lake.

Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!
Rise! And shine! And give God! The glory, glory!
Children of the Lord!

I sang it. I got some giggles — so as to indicate an actual awakening of the 4th grader. And then, this from Bug: “We might need the kick.” (More giggles.)

Now, Bug was clearly toying with me. Another good sign that we were actually waking up. “The kick” refers to my history of inserting a cheerleader kick/clap under the leg after the third “Rise! And shine!”

I was all in now. So, round two of Rise and Shine came, including the requested kick, more giggles, and the morning routine begun.

Just a morning. Just a Monday. Just an ordinary moment. That I hope we’ll never forget.

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A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices… Merry Christmas, friends.

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We heard this song today (Silver Bells) during carpool! I can’t believe how very soon it will be Christmas Day.

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I’m trying to get back into the routine of drawing or painting each day — at least each work day. I guess the holidays aren’t necessarily the best time to begin or renew habits because our days tend to be prone to extra craziness this time of year. But, early decorating escapades around our house, the excitement of my children’s smiles, and some great wisdom I read during the Thanksgiving break from The Artisan Soul by Erwin McManus have me unusually motivated this week. ‘Tis the season to be jolly!

[My 11×14 sketchbook gives me a little room to work more on composition with some of my lettering practice — an area I think I needs work!]

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Well, my kids are just a few hours away from having the first week of school under their belts for 2015! We’re excited about the new year ahead, and each of them are enjoying their new classrooms and schools. I guess I’m also getting back to some routines after the fun of the summer and the joy of a more relaxed (and kid-punctuated) schedule. Aside from a couple of client illustration projects, I took pretty much a complete break from watercolor this summer. I took some time to focus on new block printing, get back to a little drawing and doodling, and also just slow down the creative process. It was a nice break and shift of media that sometimes adds a freshness to the creative process. This morning, I picked up the watercolors again for lettering practice. I’m a little rusty, but Eddie Vedder helps to prime the pump!

“When I walk beside her 
I am a better man.
When I look to leave her
I always stagger back again.”
(Hard Sun)

I’m kind of staggering back again, but it feels good to get back into some of my creative routine. Happy Friday, folks!

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A little David Bowie for the morning letters today! Let’s Dance, Tuesday!

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Just some quickie watercolor script practice today. Happy Monday! Hope yours is loverly!

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I’ve been working on some illustration projects this week, and this is my first chance for practice work! Not sure why this lyric came to mind, except I’ve been working with my Baby Girl on some paper craft projects this week too. If there was ever a girl who saw the world through a kaleidoscope, it’s my Baby Girl!

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