As 2013 skips (limps?) into that metaphorical sunset leaving behind only memories, we face another new year full of possibilities. And as we consider this “beginning,” resolutions of things to accomplish are written down, discussed, kept secret, or turned into a PowerPoint presentation to be shared with everyone. Most of these resolutions will soon fade away, like the traffic at my gym around February, only to be brought back as 2015 peeks its head around the corner.
I discussed this with Chloe (age 8), and she was adamant that resolutions get it wrong: they cover too long a time frame and should be more of a daily thing. So with that in mind, I present to you . . .
Chloe’s and Steven’s Daily Do List for 2014
Daily Do 1: Keep perspective. Things in life are very seldom completely one way or the other. Most events, people, or moments are a shade of gray. You very rarely have a 100% good or bad day; you have days full of good and bad moments all along the gray scale. And when you consider that there’s always someone that has it worse than you do, it helps you keep perspective on how blessed we all are.
Daily Do 2: Remember that your opinions aren’t facts, for you or for anyone else. They are opinions. They are neither right nor wrong, but some are more informed. If your opinion hurts, mocks, or takes away someone else’s ability to live a fulfilling life, then your opinion should evolve. But that’s just my opinion. (And Chloe’s.)
Daily Do 3: If there’s something that you want to do that betters your life or someone else’s . . . do it. We make things more complex than they actually are. So this year, let’s put aside the excuses, the fact that it’s hard, or any other reasons we come up with that keep us from doing something and do it. You want to get in better shape . . . then do. You want to sign up for a dance class, write a novel, quit smoking, spend more time with your kids, have more fun, then do. No matter how hard something is, no matter the millions of excuses you come up with not to do it, it all comes down to a choice. And that perfect day that you’ve been waiting for to do those things? It’s today. Right after you finish reading this.
Daily Do 4: Take the focus off yourself and put it elsewhere. Self-centeredness starts the day we’re born and continues in some form throughout our entire lives. So this year . . . put your focus elsewhere. On others, on a good book, on making the world a better place, or on whatever you happen to be doing at the moment. You’ll find that you are happier and accomplish a lot more this way.
Daily Do 5: Don’t forget that everything is temporary. That wonderful moment you shared with someone? Temporary. Your kids being kids? Temporary. That really terrible day? Temporary. Those great moments in your life? Temporary. Everything becomes a memory at some point. In an instant, the moment is gone and the present becomes past. Remembering that on a daily basis is not a negative thing: it’s a call to make the most of whatever time you have. There are billions upon billions who would love to be in your shoes today.
So those are mine and Chloe’s “Daily Dos for 2014.” Use them as you will.
By the way, Chloe wanted to add four more daily dos but that would have made nine. So I’ll include them here: Brush your teeth, be nice, eat a cupcake, and have fun every day. If you do all those things, plus the five above, on a daily basis (except for perhaps eating a cupcake – maybe once a week for that one), well . . . who knows what might happen?
Around this time of year, parents everywhere deal with the same thing. Can they make it last one more year? Or will some kid from school finally take it away? And if it does happen, how will they deal with the child whose sense of wonder, of magic, is now dimmed.
I’m talking about belief, of course. Not just in Santa, though of course that’s on my mind today. I’m also talking about belief in the impossible. A belief that it is quite possible, and highly likely, to deliver presents to every kid in the world in one night. That there are fairies flying all around us even though we can’t see them, and if we take the time to decorate their houses (a tree), then they may just leave us presents. And that there is a kingdom, somewhere, where unicorns fly around in the sky.
Some people feel that it’s wrong to foster a belief in the man in the red suit or any other thing like that and believe in teaching “the truth” early. And maybe they’re right. Maybe it is a bad thing. Or maybe we should take a moment to consider how much of our life we spend searching for that belief we once had. That there is more to life than what we see with our eyes. We try to find this meaning, or magic, in our everyday life, taking the most innocuous moment and hoping, wishing, that it meant something more. How we wish for that belief we had when we were young. When the impossible didn’t exist because magic did. And I personally think that allowing a child to keep that belief, to hold on to it for as long possible, if not forever (in one form or another), is vital to a successful and happy life on a planet that is full of too many people have lost that sense of wonder that they used to hold so dear.
The real world will strike soon, and once it does, its hold will forever remain. Reminding us of things that we would rather not believe to be true. Things that as kids weren’t true. Because we believed then. In the impossible. The magic. Sometimes I wonder if the truth is not that our eyes are opened as we get older. Maybe it’s that they become closed.
So to me, there will always be a Santa, in some form or another, as there will always be hope for something unseen. And every year I will do my best to make sure my girls keep believing the same thing.
Merry Christmas everyone!
I have enjoyed watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer ever since I was a kid. I remember sitting in front of my TV, Christmas cookies in hand, delighting in the wonderful adventures of that red-nosed little guy and his friends. I haven’t missed a year since. And today, as I eat a bowl of Christmas Crunch cereal, I’m watching it again . . . but this time, for a different reason. I am watching it today to pinpoint the moments that give me pause. The things that cause me to question what life is really like in Christmas Town. Here, in no particular order other than order of importance, are 10 questions for which I have no answers:
10. Why does Fireball turn on Rudolph when he discovers that Rudolph has a red nose?
Rudolph and Fireball are fast friends when they meet at the reindeer games. They laugh, play, and Fireball even encourages Rudolph to go talk to that bow-wearing vixen, Clarice. But later, when they’re playfully locking horns, Rudolph’s prosthetic nose (how did this nose even get made?) falls off. Fireball’s eyes go all crazy, and he turns on Rudolph like the others. Why? Because you think he’s a freak, Fireball? Have you considered the fact that you are the only reindeer with blond hair and freckles?
9. Who trained those in charge on how to work with their staff?
Seriously, both the coach and the head elf are terrible leaders. Coach finds out that Rudolph has a red nose and then mocks him in front of his peers by sending him away and then saying “We’re not going to let Rudolph play in any reindeer games – right, guys?” What a jerk. And the head elf is no better. Hermie tells him that he doesn’t like to make toys. So what does the head elf do? Does he pull him aside, away from all the other elves, and explain to him the importance of what he does? The happiness that he brings to children everywhere? No, he doesn’t. He blasts him in front of everyone, openly mocking his life choices and then yelling out “Hermie doesn’t like to make toys!” This leads to all kinds of gossip right in front of Hermie, like an elf version of the telephone game. And now Hermie feels awful. I’m sure he’s really motivated to be a team player now.
The actions of both the coach and the head elf lead to one very important question: Who trained these bastards? Let’s go straight to the top.
8. Why this Santa is a bad CEO?
Sure, he makes toys for all the good girl and boys (although the naughty list is never mentioned, perhaps because almost everyone in Christmas Town would be on it). But if you examine those in authority who report directly to Santa (see #9), their poor treatment of subordinates must be learned. And is. From the big man himself, who clearly cares only about the bottom line. When Rudolph returns after being gone for months and asks Santa where his family is, Santa says they went looking for him. No mention of a search party, or the fact that a child (Clarice) is missing too. All that Santa cares about is not having Donner to lead his sleigh.
And his day-to-day interactions with his employees perfectly exemplify the type of CEO he is. A day after Christmas, A DAY, the elves are performing a song that the head elf just wrote. And sure, the choreography is dreadful, but the song is delightful. But Santa hates it and criticizes them – harshly. Mrs. Claus tries to defend the elves, but her feelings are dismissed (the way all the females’ feelings are in this special). Santa leaves in a huff, telling the elf choir that they better improve.
Why? Their job is to make toys, not to entertain him. Especially the day after Christmas. I would imagine that they’ve been a little busy. MAKING TOYS. (As a side note, the head elf appears to have somewhat of a Sybil issue in this scene because he has two distinctly different voices.)
7. Why would anyone want Hermie as their dentist?
Hermie learned everything he knows about dentistry from a book. No training except for his using a hammer on dolls’ teeth. A HAMMER. His only living client, Bumble, is treated by having all his teeth yanked out. So, two clients: one who gets hit with a hammer and the other who loses all his teeth. What?
Not only are his techniques suspect – his schedule management is highly questionable too. Near the end, Hermie schedules an appointment for the head elf. For like two weeks later. I’m not sure why he can’t do it, I don’t know, like tomorrow. But I do know this: If I’m the head elf and the elf I made leave in shame wants to work on my mouth and I know what he considers “dentistry,” I think I’d stick with a mouth full of cavities.
6. Speaking of Hermie, why is he living in a snowbank?
After Clarice finishes singing “There’s Always Tomorrow” and she’s yanked away by her father, who later shows zero concern for her whereabouts (there’s that treatment of female characters again), Rudolph falls into a snowbank. Hermie pops out, looks at Rudolph, and says “Oh, is this your snowbank?”
Okay, A, why would it be anyone’s snowbank, Hermie? And B, was THIS your plan? To run away from Christmas Town to . . . live in a snowbank? That’s terrible. Then Rudolph and Hermie decide to be freaks together, and Rudolph says they can hang as long as Hermie doesn’t mind his red nose. And Hermie says “Well, as long as you don’t mind me being a dentist.” You’re not a dentist yet, Hermie but you were living in a snowbank. And if I were Rudolph, I’d be more concerned about that.
5. Why won’t Santa eat?
Mrs. Claus makes it abundantly clear that, even though it’s not healthy, people want a fat Santa. Okay. So why doesn’t he eat? Has he became health conscious? Is he eating too much between meals? Is he being a stubborn petulant elf? No. The reason he won’t eat is clear. Ms. Claus feeds him what appears to be purple clay. It doesn’t even look like food. It looks more like the fork. And the plate. And the walls. The only people who would eat that are three-year-olds, and then only accidentally.
Notice that when Mrs. C finally feeds Santa something real (soup, of all things), he gains 300 pounds instantly. So why doesn’t she do that at the beginning? Why the purple clay?
4. Is Ms. Claus happy in her relationship with Santa?
This one I can answer: No. And why would she be? They clearly aren’t getting along, and Santa sees her more as a mother figure than a wife. Where’s the romance? Where are the moonlit dinners? Where’s the thank you? Nowhere – because this Santa clearly doesn’t value the others around him, especially not his wife. So Mrs. Claus stays in the shadow, feeling unappreciated, and doles out purple clay as if everything’s okay. But it’s clearly not. And I don’t think Ms. Claus can put up with this one-sided relationship for an eternity. If Santa doesn’t change his ways, his Christmas present may be an empty bed.
3. Why are there misfit toys?
Seriously, think about it: Let’s say that Santa and his elves make all the toys. That would mean that they originally made these misfit toys. That some elf made a train with square wheels, a gun that shoots jam, a doll suffering from major depression, a cowboy riding an ostrich, an elephant that has spots but is completely adorable, and many others. Why would they be made if Santa knew that they would be unwanted in the first place? It seems rather cruel. And their only dream is to get back into Santa’s bag and be given out by the same person who made them misfits in the first place?
How could this possibly be a good idea? Have you seen how misfits are treated in Christmas Town? And when Santa promises to find them a good home, why didn’t he do it the first time? Because the truth is . . . he doesn’t like things that are different. Misfits.
2. Why does losing all of his teeth make Bumble humble?
He’s still huge. Still has giant claws. And he hated anything to do with Christmas. So why did losing all his teeth change this? Shouldn’t he be angrier? He’s a carnivore who’s now going to eat what? Snow? Ms. Claus’s purple clay? He shouldn’t be humble. He should have ripped them apart with his bare hands. (Note: I’m not saying that should have actually happened in the movie, I’m just saying that it would have been logical if he had.) Later, adding insult to injury, he lets Yukon pull him by a rope around the neck, so that he can brag to the good folks of Christmas about crushing his spirit. Making him “humble.” Then Bumble puts on the star on tree for a holiday that he doesn’t even celebrate. Why? Perhaps his teeth were like Samson’s hair. I don’t really have an answer. This one really bothered me as a kid too.
1. Why is Rudolph’s nose the thing that keeps Santa from canceling Christmas?
It’s clearly a major storm. Christmas trees were damaged, shingles were ripped off buildings, and homes were completely buried in snow. So Santa quickly cancels Christmas until he finds he has a red flashlight to guide his way. What? It’s not even that bright. And how did you see all those other years in the dark without Rudolph’s nose? I thought the problem was the storm, you know, the snow and the gale-force winds, and a red nose doesn’t stop any of this. Or does it? When you watch the end, you see that there was no storm. Just a regular night. Which kind of negates Rudolph’s unique usefulness.
Even accepting all of the above, you’re still left with an absolutely charming Christmas special. Because in the end, Rudolph does the right thing. When Santa asks him “Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” logically, he should have said no. And walked away. But he doesn’t. He says yes. Perhaps he did it for the kids. Or to take his dad’s spot because his dad was clearly not part of this year’s team. Most likely, though, it was to show Santa that so-called misfits have a place too. Which is something I think we should all be grateful for.
This scene, is a “mad” excerpt from my play Awaiting Wonderland. Hope you enjoy. If you’re interested in reading more, you can click on the picture at the bottom of the page.
Introduction to scene: Alice has been thrust into a world that she doesn’t understand. She’s been told that the Hatter has the answers she needs. All she must do is find the Hatter at a tea party. Alice excitedly searches with the . . . “help” of two rotund creatures, but nothing could prepare her for this tea party of the mad.
AT RISE: The woods. A table is set up haphazardly. Plates are scattered. The Dormouse is asleep, with his head on the table. The March Hare enters looking frazzled, carrying tea cups.
HARE: AHHHH! Nothing will ever be ready in time. Time. (Turns to Dormouse.) You there, wake up! (Dormouse looks up.)
DORMOUSE: (Sleepily.) No! I shall not wake up. I shall stay asleep.
HARE: You’re awake now. (The Dormouse looks around.)
DORMOUSE: So I am. Is it time for the party?
HARE: The party never ends. Nor does it begin. So I suppose it’s always time. And never time. Now pour the tea while I go get the plates.
DORMOUSE: Oh, I’ll pour the tea all right. Right in these cups I will. (Mad Hatter enters. Dormouse looks up.) Hello, Hatter.
HATTER: Goodbye, yourself. (Hatter sits under the table.) I’ve always found it quite delightful to sit a under a table. You see things you don’t normally see.
DORMOUSE: I don’t like seeing things I don’t normally see. I prefer they stay unseen and I’m quite sure they prefer the same.
HATTER: Where’s the March Hare?
DORMOUSE: Getting the plates.
HATTER: Ah, yes. The plates that never leave the table.
DORMOUSE: Yet he always comes back with them. (March Hare enters without the plates.)
HARE: A tea party isn’t a tea party without plates. (Places the plates that he isn’t holding.)
HATTER: Hello, Hare. (March Hare jumps.)
HARE: The table’s speaking to me again!
HATTER: No, silly. If I were the table speaking to you I would have said . . . something about the plates being . . . well, I don’t know where. (Note: During this exchange, the March Hare grows more and more irritated.)
DORMOUSE: On you.
HATTER: On me what?
HATTER: Don’t follow.
DORMOUSE: Yes. Plates.
HATTER: They’re there?
DORMOUSE: I would say so.
HATTER: Indeed. They’re always there.
DORMOUSE: On you.
HATTER: On me?
DORMOUSE: The table.
HATTER: Ah. The table. Me.
HARE: Could you two stop? She’s going to be here any minute
HATTER: You’re right. Our dear Alice will be arriving shortly. We should prepare. (March Hare and Hatter move to chairs and take a pose. Dormouse does not move. ) Are you prepared, Dormouse?
DORMOUSE: I don’t like having tea parties with others. I like them alone.
HARE: You’re never alone. We’re always here.
DORMOUSE: Which is exactly the way I like it. Now, to sleep I go. (Dormouse puts his head back down and goes to sleep, snoring loudly. Hatter and March Hare remain frozen. Moments later, Alice enters.)
ALICE: Hello? (Crosses over to them.) Hello. Why on Earth won’t you - - (She pokes the March Hare, who screams, jumps, and runs off. Alice pulls back.)
HATTER: Hello, Alice.
ALICE: Are you the Hatter?
HATTER: I am. Do sit. It’s time for tea.
ALICE: Oh. I do love tea parties. (Alice sits down at the table.) Will the . . .
HATTER: March Hare?
ALICE: Ever return?
HATTER: I don’t know. I suppose we should ask him when he returns.
ALICE: But . . . (March Hare returns and sits down and slurps his tea.)
HATTER: March Hare, are you planning on returning?
HARE: Never. Shall we begin our tea party?
HATTER: We shall. (Hatter pours himself a cup and turns to Alice, who is watching him intently.) Would you like some, Alice?
ALICE: Very much so. (She pours and nothing continues to come out. She then hands a cup to Alice.)
HATTER: Drink up.
ALICE: But there’s nothing in my cup. Oh, is this a pretend tea party?
HATTER: I don’t know. Are you pretending?
ALICE: No, but there is clearly no tea.
HARE: No tea! I made it fresh this morning. (Starts muttering under his breath.)
ALICE: I did not mean to offend you. I shall drink it.
HARE: No, it is too late. It is much too cold now. (Dumps the drink out. Starts to pour and looks in the container. ) Now we are out. I shall make more. (Leaves the container and exits in a huff. Alice watches him go and turns back.)
ALICE: This is an odd party.
DORMOUSE: (Waking up.) More like a mad party.
ALICE: Oh dear, I didn’t see you there.
DORMOUSE: You would have if you had been looking at me.
ALICE: I suppose you’re right.
DORMOUSE: I suppose too.
HATTER: I supposed yesterday. Twice. And three times the day before that. (The March Hare enters, empty-handed.)
ALICE: I thought you were making more tea.
HARE: I did.
ALICE: But it’s not . . . (March Hare looks at her meanly.) It is full. Wonderful. (Fakes a drink.) Hmm. Delicious.
HARE: You’re telling untruths.
ALICE: No, I - -
DORMOUSE: You can’t drink what hasn’t been poured yet. (Hatter pours them drinks.)
ALICE: But that was - - -
DORMOUSE: Drink up. (Alice looks at the Hatter, who nods. Alice picks up her cup and drinks. A surprised look comes over her face. She looks in the cup and then up.)
ALICE: Wonderful. I taste it and feel it, yet when I look . . . there’s nothing there.
HATTER: Yet, still it remains. You should a try a biscuit as well. They are quite delightful. (Alice looks to the empty plate and reaches for a biscuit. She takes a bite. A smile comes over her face.)
ALICE: This can’t be real.
HATTER: You will find in time that what is real is only an illusion and no more real than make believe. (Lights fade on the tea party and up on the King, who is watching them.)
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.