It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, by Paula Rose Michelson

In memory of the Sandy Hook Children, and the years before I received Messiah’s sacrifice as my atonement, I’ve posted a true story about the year my husband, children and me did something for no other reason than ‘It was the Season of Giving!’

It’s Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas

            Every year for as long as I could remember, my husband and I would wait until it was dark and have our daughters, Danae and Cheryl put on their warmest clothes and jackets. We’d grab some warm blankets as we scurried out to the car with a thermos of warm coco and a feeling of Christmas cheer. Then we’d turn on the radio and listen to Christmas music as we drove to Candy Cane Lane. During any other time of the year, we would never have been able to find the place. For you see, Candy Cane Lane, just like Christmas itself magically appears then disappears every year. Just as everyone knows that Santa Clause lives in the North Pole, we thought Candy Cane Lane with its myriad of lights and festive regalia appeared and disappeared yearly like Brigadoon, to remind us that who we are and what we do matters more than what we get. However, that certainly didn’t seem to be the case on that one Christmas so long ago. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So let’s begin at the beginning since that’s where any good story begins.
            I remember it as if it were yesterday. Although looking back now and counting the years it was a long time ago. Nye onto thirty years or more if my memory servers me…Yep, I think that’s about right because my kids were still little. Just like you. And it was Thanksgiving…just like it is today. It was one of those rare holidays where we’d eaten early, cleaned up quick, and everyone who’d come, including grandma and grandpa left just as is was getting dark. So my husband and I looked at each other, smiled and nodded towards the coat closet.
            I hurried into the kitchen to make some coco.
            “Girls put on your warmest clothes,” Ron said.
            As if on que, they joyfully shouted, “Hurray! We’re going to Candy Cane Lane.”
            They rushed off and Ron forged in our linen closet.
            A few minutes later, we smiled at each other as we gathered in the vestibule.
            Then with a nod and a wink reminiscent of old Saint Nick, Ron opened the front door and we ran to the car, faces aglow. He joined us and backed the car out of the driveway, while I turned on the radio and heard Andy Williams singing,

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Everywhere you go;
Take a look in the five and ten glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

            Before we knew it, we were singing along to the old song. Now to an onlooker this might have seemed odd since we were Jewish, so let me share that as far as we were concerned, having holiday cheer in our heart had nothing to do with what faith you practiced. It had everything to do with wishing for peace on earth and extending good will towards men…and women. And as far as Candy Cane Lane or even Christmas itself was concerned, everyone who knew me and mine knew were we always ready for a party of any sort…so off to Candy Cane Lane we went.
            While Ron drove into the night, we reminisced about all the years we had visited the lane. We remembered the year we had seen carolers dressed as if they were characters from a Dickens novel caroling up and down the street. When we noticed that the women carried baskets filled with muffins, the men had thermoses filled with hot apple cider, Ron pulled over. We hopped out, got a muffin and some cider and got back into the car much to the consternation of those in the cars behind us that let us know what we had done caused the traffic through the lane to backup more than it usually did.
            But we didn't care because we knew the ride through the lane was for family and memories. We loved the fact that a drive, which should take five minutes or at the most ten, took at least an hour. While we waved those in a hurry on, we listened as Cheryl  reminisced about the first time she’d seen the giant Snoopy rotating in time to Christmas carols. Then Danae spoke about how lovely each family had decorated their tree and wondered if their choices reflected the people within the homes. When she spoke about that, we talked about what it would be like to live on this street. After our reminiscences were finished, we oohed and aah-ed as we pointed at each and home. Our giggles and joy mingled with the music in the air and the Lane worked its magic into our hearts. 
            We had heard that when the people who began Candy Cane Lane sold their homes their children, relatives or dear friends bought them thus keeping this tradition alive from generation to generation. By the time we visited the place, I believed generations of families had visited. Knowing that brought me a sense of community and a feeling that as difficult as things could get, for one brief moment, everyone really did want to bless each other. And as we inched our way along in a sea of cars which seldom moved more than two at a time and gawked at the beautiful, amazing, religious, funny, outlandish, and at times thought provoking decorations, I believed everyone thought as I did.  
            Some believe that all good things must end…I don’t …Neither did my family the next night when we turned on the news and discovered that vandals had defaced Candy Cane Lane and ruined all the decorations leaving the owners forlorn. That’s right…that bastion of cherished values, of joyful memories, a place where children could experience the wonder of people going out of their way to bless their community and others who made the yearly trek sometimes pulling over in their car to catch a few winks before they hurried on…had vanished. Where once the song “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” was heard, now on the news the faces of homeowners who had remind behind the scenes were lined with concern and they bemoaned the passing of this legacy which they had pledge to continue.
            As the reporter interviewed one of the owner, I realized that he stood in front of the home where, just the night before, we had heard the song,
Have a holly, jolly Christmas, 
It's the best time of the year, 
I don't know, if there'll be snow, 
But have a cup of cheer,
being played as a child sized choo-choo train chugged between presents wrapped in red and green, which were as large as a side table or larger, and my kids had wondered if there really were presents inside them. Now we knew that whether there were present in those boxes or not, it didn't matter. What mattered was that someone need to do something or Candy Cane Lane would vanish into the either as surly as Brigadoon did. However, unlike that fabled town, if our beloved yuletide street vanished it would never appear again.
            Each of us wanted to do something. We each knew without saying anything that whatever we did would have to gain media attention and be done anonymously. Just as the homeowners had gifted our community, we would bestow an affirmation upon them, which was a tall order because how could one family of four gift a block of people and do it in a way that the newspapers would carry the story? We didn't know. And being Jewish we didn't have anything in our home that gave us an idea. So we got in the car and drove to our local five and dime where we scurried up and down the isles in search of an idea.        A few minutes later, we gathered by the art supplies and smiled. Above us hung a Christmas display, at eye level were the supplies needed to make what we saw. Danae got a cart and we packed it full. Of course we weren't going to make a replica of their display…in fact we weren't sure just what we were going to do until we got home, opened the leaf in our table, dumped the bags of supplies and reviewed what we had. Glue - check, poster board - check, markers - check, extra red and green markers – check, and check. Red and green ribbon - check…And the list went on. We had bought out the section which meant we’d be eating allot of noodles with guess what…noodles as the side dish. But that didn't matter. What mattered we realized, as we stared at the supplies, was coming up with an idea that would overshadow what the vandals had done…And we had to have the project done and place on Candy Cane Lane before daybreak.
            Ron and I voiced idea after idea. None worked. Time ticked by. It was way past the kid’s bedtime and they were yawning.
            I looked at the clock and said, “It’s getting late and you guys have school tomorrow.”
            I’ll never know if it was the idea of leaving the project undone or the fact that their hearts hurt for the homeowners, but it was at that very moment that the girls suggested, “How about if we tell them we love them.”
            Ron and I nodded and smiled.
            The next night we turned on the news and saw the same reporter interviewing the same homeowner. Only this time instead of the man sounding forlorn he was joyful. In fact, all the homeowners were because someone…and we swore we’d never tell who, had hung or tapped poster boards with, “We Love You Candy Cane Lane,” as far as the eye could see. The camera scanned the street. Where the day before all we saw wreckage now posters proclaimed what we and generations before us had felt…love for those who had gone out of their way to make our holiday a little more special than it would be without their gift.
            Today my kids have kids of their own and Danae, my eldest daughter, lives a few miles from where we did. Each year she and her husband bundle their kids up and take them to Candy Cane Lane. I’ve never asked her or Cheryl if they ever told anyone about the year that Candy Cane Lane almost vanished. But since that was a long time ago, I think its okay to tell the story today. In fact as we approach Hanukkah and Christmas, I think it’s more than okay because stories like this remind us that people matter…even people we don’t know.
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This is Much More Than…, by Paula Rose Michelson

When my friend, and sister in Messiah, Heather Micaela wrote, “This is much more than a romance and I recommend it to men and women alike. I felt intimately involved in the challenges facing Naomi, Chaz, and the others that are involved in their life. The author has a way of making you really care about the characters. You feel as if you are in that house in Spanish Harlem. I could hear the accents of the people as they spoke; even the way they spoke English as bilingual people was very real. I am eagerly awaiting Book Two,” I had no idea how God would show me that what she wrote was true! Yet that’s exactly what he did when a lady walking her dog stopped to talk to me while I was inscribing Casa de Naomi: The House of Blessing a few Sundays ago.

I must share that our discussion seemed decidedly odd since she told me she didn’t have time to read fiction. However, her questions were thoughtful, and no one else was walking up, so I answered them in more detail than I usually do. When she told me, she was a Dean at The University of California, Irvine and knew the Dean of Social Services was looking for speakers for the program being developed for the Dream Act Students who would soon enroll, and asked if I was interested, I realized this was an ordained meeting!

Aware that it was the book that caused her to stop and that there is nothing on the marketplace like it, I mentioned that if the University would like the novel, I was certain my publisher could assist since a portion of these students’ expenses is being offset by the government. My publisher agreed! And that my friend is all I have to share for now, except to ask that you lift this up in prayer because I will be contacting the Junior Colleges, Colleges, and Universities in my area to if they would like the book too. 
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The Mommy Syndrome, by Paula Rose Michelson

For much of my life…looking back I think it began when I was seven, my job was to take care of others. Though I enjoyed this role my mom foisted upon me, it’s taken several decades to discover how taking care of others meant I seldom told anyone if I needed help or felt ill until I was really needy or sick. Even then I’d try to put others first perhaps because it made me feel good about myself or perhaps because, like my brother, they seemed to need me.

The mommy syndrome served me well until Book One of the Casa Saga was published and I had so many additional ‘Must Does’ on my list that little by little, I began to disappear as I became a person doing instead a person being. A little at a time being an author who needed to tell others about the book God asked me to write seemed to eclipse just being. It was during this time that my posts on this blog became irregular, and though I was saddened to pat my first child on the head as I hurried to post on my Casa de Naomi Reflections blog, I told myself that the blog for the book had to be posted because the url for that blog was on the back jacket of the book!

Little did I know that it would take a six month undiagnosable illness, which had me almost bedridden for me to discover that my water purification system had algae growing in it! A quick email to my Osteopathic Doctor confirmed that this system made up of living rocks and minerals which supposedly did not need a new filtration system, was indeed the source of my illness.

Thinking it best to throw the entire unite out, my husband did that before the doctor told me that we needed to keep everything as it was because if I did not feel better the lab would grow that particular algae culture to find out what would kill it and not me! Having a limited income and insurance plan, I decided to take a wait and see approach, which was, I believe best, given the reality that I’d taken a lot of medications and all of them weekend me.

It’s taken me three additional months to get back most of my energy! Where before I gladly though of others before myself, as I had been trained to do, now I find that I need to Mommy Me!

If your life revolves around the ‘Mommy Syndrome’ I pray you remember King David’s    admonish to his son in 1 Chronicles 28:9And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.

Until we meet again,
May you experience God in all you think,
Do and say… today and everyday!

Shalom, my friend
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