Tag Archives: Christmas

And as a Bonus, Snow Started Falling


Christmas cookies, baked by Katy, decorated by adults in a contest judged by daughter and son-in-laws who could not be there. I am sad to say that “Red Dwarf,” my thick, red star, did not win.

Merry Christmas, 2017—there are still some presents wrapped in the living room, so after Mass this morning, I’ll get to find out what my wife bought for me. For her, there will be less mystery because she was with me when I selected most of her gifts, and by “I” I mean “she.”

Still, we are going inexpensive this year with only a few low-key gifts, deliberately. We purchased a second vehicle this fall, and are counting the Dodge Dart as our main mutual Christmas gift. And there is one box that she doesn’t know the contents of—containing nothing of expense or of consequence, other than I wanted her to have at least some small surprises.

I hope you and yours are enjoying family and friends this holy holiday season, and whether you celebrate the birth of the Christ child, the secular gift-giving winter (or summer) school break or neither, I wish for you the joy of loving human connection this season of kin.

Although there are some presents still present in my house, our main Christmas celebration fell on Christmas Eve. Our oldest son and his wife were able to fly out from San Francisco for a week, and most of our local clan gathered—daughters from Dubuque, Marion, Monticello; and a son from Ames.

The house was full of noise and chaos on Christmas Eve, with the sounds of a few Christmas songs played on the piano by my oldest son mixed with jazz improvisations, especially when grandchildren decided to join in. Play was constant and boisterous. One son-in-law and grandson had to skip the party due to illness, which somehow seems true to family tradition, but it was good to have a full, loud house at this time of year.


At the piano.

The youngest grandson didn’t get his nap in, and it did show by the end of the day, but that’s just life.

We had a full Thanksgiving-style Christmas dinner, with turkey and most of the trimmings (we skip the cranberries and other fancy salads, and had been snacking all day on Christmas cookies, so pie wasn’t in the picture, but otherwise it’s the full TG deal, cooked almost exclusively by my wife). After stuffing ourselves with stuffed turkey, it was time for the big gift opening, which involved a few presents for adults, but mostly the grandchildren’s gifts.


Chaos of gift opening. Scooter, used as chair, is headed my way so grandson can sit on it and chat.

Several gifts were immediate hits. Two grandsons loved the remote-control spider that their grandmother found for them. A scooter for a 2-year-old from an aunt and uncle was mostly a pushed platform that performed as an impromptu moveable chair, but it was very much in use. A doctor kit led the daughters of a mother who is in the final stages of studying to be a nurse to become a medical team treating an ailing patient (said mom). Treating her included laying on her stomach and poking her face with various toy plastic medical instruments, and I’m happy to report she survived treatment, although it looked a bit dicey for a while.

The gathering was slightly delayed. For one thing, again true to Christmas tradition, we were missing a few items and there was a last-minute shopping trip. For another, Mother Nature made morning travel a bit hazardous with her own gift to us.

A White Christmas! We are in a mild drought in this part of Iowa, and true to form winter so far has been mostly dry, with just a few flurries here and there. The best chance of snow in the forecast was Friday, and while there were flakes in the air that day, it amounted to no accumulation on the ground.

But Christmas Eve started with genuine white stuff. Not a lot, maybe three-fourths of an inch, but enough to make it officially white out. As the snow ended mid day, it turned cold and will be bitterly cold today, Christmas Day, but only in a weather sense. Inside, we’ll look out on a pretty white world and think of a coming new year, of an ancient birth and its meaning, and of family—it will be pretty warm.

All in all, thanks Mother Nature. And Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to us all and to you all. God bless us every one.

Eve Snow


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I Was Asked For A Ho Ho


Santa, students and Mrs. Claus at MMU.

It was Christmas Eve, in the morning, and I was at the gym. A janitor who chats with me now and then came up and said, “can you say ho, ho, ho?”

Well, I have, now and then. I was a mall Santa when I was in graduate school, and had minor Santa gigs this Christmas season at Mount Mercy University.

I hope your Christmas was fine. Mine was good. I’m still munching on the plethora of chocolates available due to that day (who knew the birth of a poor Palestinian refugee 20 centuries ago would be so good for candy sales?). I got and gave several nice gifts—my wife decided it was the year of the gnome for me, and I am quite fond of both the gnome coffee mug she found, and the figurine of a T Rex devouring gnomes that will no doubt grace either my office or my gardens.

For her, I mostly gave gifts related to a new three-season room we added to the house—pictures to hang there, a clock and a radio. We’ve got to have some NPR and KMRY in that room.

Christmas Day itself was a bit odd due to weather—we don’t often have thunderstorms on Christmas Day. Note to our new president: The Chinese did not invent global warming. Trust me on that, please.


Granddaughter in Christmas cat mask.

Anyway, besides the odd rainstorm, it was a great day. There were enough grandchildren running around to cause a constant Christmas cacophony, which is the way it should be. We got to Skype with the daughter and grandchildren in England, and my wife chatted with our California son. Turkey was cooked and eaten, a bottle of wine opened and consumed.

It was, in short, a fine holiday. I hope yours was filled with fun and family, if you celebrate Christmas, and if you don’t, I hope you have some fun family day around this time anyway. To celebrate the season, here are a few more Christmas lights I made pictures of.

I’ve always liked Christmas, although I’m happy to report I’m slowly growing out of the habit of waking at 5 a.m. on that day. This year, I slept in. Until about 6:30.


Santa filter glasses turn Christmas lights into these images.

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Christmas Cactus in Bloom

a02Although we’re having the Big Bird Meal today—more convenient for family, we had very nice roasted pork yesterday—it’s now past Thanksgiving.

So I guess it’s timely for this plant to bloom.


We’ve had several Christmas Cactus plants over the years, and this is one of two we have currently. The other is ailing and will be lucky to survive—but this one, which has bloomed several years in a row, is pretty robust.


Welcome to the holiday season, also known as the time of tiresome music on the radio. Has anybody in modern America ever roasted a chestnut on an open fire?


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Christmas 2013–Projectiles of Love

Red-bellied woodpecker brings some Christmas colors to my back deck Dec. 25, 2013.

Red-bellied woodpecker brings some Christmas colors to my back deck Dec. 25, 2013.

A fierce gunfight has been raging for some minutes in my living room, with my wife and youngest son Ben as participants. We’ve wondered if the neighbors could have heard recent dialogue:

“You’re lying on my gun. Quit lying on my gun!”

“You’re lying on your own gun. It’s your own fault you can’t shoot.”

It’s probably helpful to note that these are Nerf guns. And raging mother-son gunfights are one of the themes of Christmas 2013.

This was also the Christmas that Nina introduced us to record bowls—decorative bowls made my warming an old vinyl album and reshaping it. Nina asked me to pick up a couple of $1 albums at Half-Price Books, so I sacrificed Rod Stewart. It’s the equivalent of picking which albums to toss at zombies. The bowls look pretty cool. From her blog, here’s how to make them.

And this was the Christmas where we’ve enjoyed multiple birds at our feeders. It’s been colder earlier than usual, and we have about a foot of snow on the ground, but at least that means we get to see more birds (and squirrels) visiting us for food.

During the holiday season, both Ben and I have used the family Santa suit, which adds a bit to the festivities.

Santasaurus! If you're bad, you'll be lucky if he tells Santa. Otherwise, he will eat you.

Santasaurus! If you’re bad, you’ll be lucky if he tells Santa. Otherwise, he will eat you.

Finally, this is the season that Amanda, through Facebook, has introduced us to Santasaurus. It’s a T Rex in Christmas garb who has been hanging out with her girls in Norwich, England, this season. Is it bad that her 3-year-old is particularly smitten with this jolly old carnivore? I think he makes Elf on the Shelf look like a helpless wimp.

And the Christmas season hasn’t ended, yet. We still have the New Year’s Day 2014 brunch at Cate’s. And I have the Epiphany Concert Jan. 5 at St. Pius X.

Ho, ho, ho!

NOTE: As Amanda points out in a comment, it’s her 2-year-old who loves Santasaurus. And it’s also SANTASAURUS!


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Sunday Ringing, Saturday Singing?-Music Weekend

Self portrait. I'm sitting on a couch, trying to rest the camera on the end of it due to very slow shutter speech. Me as a Christmas ornament. One of my two disguises in this post.

Self portrait. I’m crouching by a couch, trying to rest the camera on the end of it due to very slow shutter speech. Me as a Christmas ornament. One of my two disguises in this post.

The above video shows Kathi and I rehearsing, or something like it. Do you like my little girl disguise? I’m the one on the left, by the way.

The Mount Mercy University Handbell Choir is playing this Sunday, Dec. 15, at 2 p.m. in a free program at the Cedar Memorial Chapel of Memories at Cedar Memorial Cemetery near Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids.

Y’all are welcome. It’s one of two times, I think, you can hear my generation of Sheller make music in the CR area this weekend—on Saturday night, my sister Cate sings in a Quire concert (or so I suspect, I am not certain). I think it’s at 7:30 at Zion Lutheran Church in Iowa City, but sadly, I am not sure (about date or time or location) so maybe check with her if you want to hear her sing. I do. So comment Cate and let the blogoverse know the true story.

Anyway, along with attempting to ring along with the group and sometimes (knock on wood) succeeding, I’ll be playing a duet with Kathi, who can ring better than I can and looks better as a little girl, too. So come on out and listen to me try to do it in a duet.

The full program includes:

  • In the Week When Christmas Comes : a poem by Eleanor Farjeon
  • Bell Peal by Derek K. Hakes
  • O Come All Ye Faithful arr. By Douglas Wagner
  • Pastores a Belen arr.by Carlos J. Avila Baez
  • Lo How a Rose ere Blooming arr. By Janis Yarbrough; solo ringer: Janis Cummings
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem arr. By Sharon Elliott Cheek; solo ringer: David Mione
  • Night of Silence by Daniel Kantor; soprano: Hillary Kaefring; cellist Ben Nelson; oboist, Abby Konzen
  • That Glorious Song of Old arr. By Tammy Waldrop; cellist, Ben Nelson
  • Good King Wenceslas arr. By Sharon Elliott Cheek; solo ringer: Brad Nachtmann
  • O Come Little Children; arr. By Douglas Wagner; duet by Kathi McLaren and Joe Sheller
  • Bring a Torch Jeanette Isabella arr. By Cathy Mocklebust
  • We Three Kings arr. By Valerie Stephenson
  • Go Tell It On the Mountain arr. By Douglas Wagner; duet sue Boyens and Jenn Boyens
  • Bidding antiphon: Let Us Live in Holiness and Love; Hillary Kaefring, soprano
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas arr, by Carolyn Sternowski

Hope to see you there! And, maybe, Saturday night, too!

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Tune For Tuesday: Enjoy! Merry Christmas

Well, somebody thought it was a good idea …

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Holiday Comes Despite “Christ” Grinches

Nativity set

I like most of our nativity sets, but this plastic one that is left on a table so grandkids can play with it is mildly creepy. No eyes on baby J.

I am not a Christmas hater. In fact, I very much like this time of year and all the family gatherings and all the food and the music (well, most of it) and going to church on Christmas Eve and the nativity story and angels we have heard are high and all of it.

(Yes, I know I miss-typed a line from a carol, no it was not a typo, yes it was a very funny, witty, insightful and advanced joke. Ha ha).

Yet, as usual, Audrey handled most of our modest decorating. Not that I don’t like trimming the tree or carols on the spinet (there’s an old saying for you college students—10 points if you can explain what it means), but December is the mad rush to finals. I am blogging around 11 p.m. when I should be in bed, just to show CO 280 students it can be done, so there.

Anyway, I do like it that, as I sit in my basement at the new “work” table, there’s a lighted tree, several nativity scenes and a glowing angel to keep me company. Here are a few Christmas photos to put you in the holiday mood.

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There, I said it, the H word. Yes, I celebrate CHRISTmas. No, give me a break, I don’t care if the governor of some tiny eastern state (Rhode Island) puts up a “holiday” tree or that people otherwise celebrate this time of years as a secular festival or when they wish me happy holidays.

Indignant Christians who get all huffy about them darn “others” who are attacking God and all that seem to forget that our “Christmas” is a stolen pagan solstice festival anyway. Somewhere there is a Druid cursing all those darn Christians for taking the sun out of solstice and sticking the son in.  Those Druids are a bit ridiculous. So are some grumpy Xstians.  (OK, that one bothers me, too.  There is no Xmas.  Even pagans weren’t worshiping the next to penultimate letter).

So, even as I celebrate Christmas,  I am fine with celebrating the holidays, too. Happy holidays! And if you want to keep Christ in Christmas, more power to you. But getting upset at “holiday” greetings?

Bah. Humbug.


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