I can't keep track of my hospital time. It all sort of blurs together. Evel Knievel
Last month I got another new belly button. I was in the hospital. For 17 consecutive days, I was tortured, strangled, bled, beaten, starved, hobbled, weighed like cattle, sleep deprived, and connected to more machinery than the Large Hadron Collider. My bowels were monitored like the CIA monitors Putin. Yes, and I was given yet another new belly-button. I don't know why.
What the heck? Although the exact date of my injury is not certain, officially, I suffered from a hernia and bowel obstruction. So how on earth did this happen? I don't know. I am blaming a gardening accident. Why not? I was gardening in the world's tiniest garden.
Here's what I remember. At the beginning of June I'm not feeling well and I (a) call my daughter, and (b go to the hospital and I say "I have horrible heartburn symptoms similar to a heart attack I once had," and the hospital says, "take some antacids and pay this bill for $3,545 and go pay your primary physician another $350. " Okay. I take the antacids, and that doesn't work, so I (a) call my daughter, and (b go back to the hospital and say "I think I'm having a heart attack." And the hospital says, "doesn't look like it, but pay this bill for $7,322, and go pay your cardiologist some more money." And then the third time I (a) call my daughter, and (b I go to the hospital and I say "I think I have a hernia?" and they say "Well you DO have a hernia and we are performing EMERGENCY SURGERY TONIGHT and then we will keep you in the hospital for a month in the cardiac unit and the bill will be about as much as the national debt." Ready, set, go.
Dear Santas. I can tell by reading your blogs and entries on Facebook that an awful lot of you have health problems - - a lot of them major. Of course, many of you suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and other day to day ailments of the aging populace who may not be taking as good of care of themselves as possible.
Personally, I've had breast cancer (twice) mastectomies, reconstruction surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, bone disease, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and just general after effects of being a human medical test subject, or as we like to say in super med-code, participating in free "clinical trials." Don't you want to try the latest drug unapproved by anyone? Don't you want to help humanity? Uhm, no.
I tell you my friends, beware of sepia toned illustrative booklets called "Reconstruction and your Femininity" or "This is your Heart." Please run if your surgeon pulls out a black Sharpie and starts drawing on your skin! Your belly button is in danger.
Going to the hospital is not for pansies. Common sense goes out the window at the hospital parking lot. The things we know absolutely without argument that are good for us - - a good night's sleep (or other rest), fresh air (the windows are sealed), good food (Oh, let me go on!), a warm shower, privacy in the bathroom . . . these are things that will be denied to you the entire time you are in residence at the hospital. Even standard nursing care is not what it once was. My nurses spent so much time trying to keep my major i.v. pole ( which I named T-Rex because of it's large and unruly size) from making loud alarm noises and trying to unwrap medication while wearing plastic gloves, they didn't have time to give me enough cord to get out of my chair to pee.
I'm worried what the bill will be - - because the price of wrapping a Pepcid A-C in 17 layers of plastic wrap is expensive - - and then there's the labeling, tracking, scanning, unwrapping, and serving it in an individual paper/plastic mini cup …
Yes, there is one good thing - - I have a morphine pump. When it runs out, (and after a loud alarm sounds for fifteen minutes) it takes three RNs and a special key to change it out to make sure that no nurse has access to any of it. It even has a "suck proof" plastic tube that runs the entire 19" from the machine to my arm. Apparently, tube-sucking hospital workers are a giant threat in the medical world.
I also have a heart monitor with a plastic thingy that goes on my finger. There are certain things I cannot do with a plastic thingy on my finger, and so I occasionally take it off. This causes the heart monitor commandos to storm my room and demand that I reattach the plastic finger thingy immediately. I cannot lock them out of the bathroom because the door doesn't close. I can still hit, though.
The hospital has provided me with an adjustable bed, and an adjustable chair. After a couple of days of being forced into a fetal position in the middle of the jack-knifed bed, I move to the semi comfortable adjustable chair. If I pile the pillows in a certain way, I can make a sort of nest/pallet on which to try to doze from time to time in between being tortured. This is usually between 2-4 in the afternoon when the floor lights are dimmed and everyone watches General Hospital on T.V. It is much more interesting than the real hospital.
If I complain loudly enough, I am allowed to get halfway into the shower while holding T-Rex outside the stall. Do not allow the CNA to "come back in a few minutes" to do this. They will never come back. It is like them saying "manana." For those of you who do not speak Spanish, manana does not mean "tomorrow" - - it means "not today." My shower requires several layers of saran wrap and water proof tape. Make sure to put a sign on the door, or the cleaning staff will think it is a superb time to disinfect the clock on your wall. (They will not empty the bucket of bile by your bed, because they do not have the right color uniform.) If you insist, someone may bring you "towels" - - a 4x4 loofa cloth to dab yourself dry.
On day 15 I was allowed to eat broth. Nurses say: If you want to EAT anything, we will give you another shot after you eat, so be sure to buzz us if you see any FOOD so we can do this HURT shot some more, okay?"
If you stay in the hospital day after day and night after sleepless night, you begin to learn certain things. The food people are not allowed to remove your food tray from your teeny-tiny room. The food people can only BRING you the tray. You should know that, you idiot.
The CNAs are allowed to take out the food trays IF they have time (this could be manana). They wear a different colored uniform from the RNs. Be sure to find out what the different colored uniforms mean, they are: White lab coat with optional stethoscope - probable doctor; dark blue - Registered Nurse; burgundy - Certified Nurse Assistant; Black pants and vest - food bringer; white uniform - visiting nurse (unable to help); khaki pants and white shirt - cleaning staff; Cleric's collar - holy person. You do not, generally, want to see the holy person - - it could mean "the end is near." Also, while colors may vary from hospital to hospital, the cleric collar is pretty standard.
I begged the nurses to dispose of the dialog they wished to accompany each and every shot that was administered day or night, whether or not I was awake or asleep "WAKE UP! Now, I'm going to be giving you a very stingy SHOT in your STOMACH (because there is not enough room in the 25 I.V.s you have running in both your arms). This will only HURT a little, and I am going to rub your stomach with alcohol and squeeze and bruise it so it doesn't HURT so much, and let me know - - where do you want me to give you this HURTY stingy shot?"
Silently, the nurse will muse "I will be sure to unwrap and display this shot right in front of your eyes, even if you do not want me to tell you about it. Look at the drippy medicine coming off the sharp needle. It HURTS."
I am a lady. I do not like to talk about poop. Not how it comes about. Not how we dispose of it. Not what it looks like, or smells like, or it's color, texture or size and shape. When I have to examine another's poop I gag. Whether the poop belongs to a small person in a diaper or a large dog, I gag. This is the only reason I do not own a dog. I love dogs. Dog Poop makes me gag - wretch - vomit. Also, my mom did a really good job. I can't poop unless it is in a safe, secure bathroom. Preferably, my own. Preferably with aroma therapy candles. The door must be locked and the acoustics silent to the outside. I do not camp, because I cannot poop in the woods. Therefore, after three days at a scenic lake side, I am uncomfortable, irritable, and likely to harm you with camping equipment. Does a Nana Bear poop in the woods? No.
Unfortunately, the entire dependence of my GOING HOME from the hospital, became linked to my poop. If I did not poop a certain amount, during a certain time period, under certain specifications, I would not be allowed to go home, and the torturing would continue. This was difficult for me to do, as stated above.
Finally, day 17 - - I poop. A bat signal goes out to the universe. Heraldry announces: The Queen has Pooped - - Long Live the Queen! Staples and i.v.s are removed. Bluebirds alight on my shoulders.
The emergency surgeon had promised me a tiny 1" incision on my abdomen. It turned into a 4" incision and a new belly button. That's okay. My old belly button (post 2nd mastectomy) was about two inches beneath my previous left breast. Now, it's lower and to the right. I still have no idea why anyone thinks I need one. I have never been consulted on this. This could make for a good sepia-toned illustration - - or perhaps a graphic novel. Travels of the Mystic Belly Button
I am not going to post a picture of my new belly button. I was tempted to post a picture of my stapled scar, and the tubes running in and out of me, and the giant equipment pole I called "T-Rex" - - but I have stopped myself. It is a rule I have about posting pictures from the hospital - - although I did finally break down on day 11 and announce on Facebook I was in the hospital. I needed sympathy and support.
Thanks to all that gave it! That's the other thing everyone needs to recover. Sympathy and support. Oh, and sushi - - but that's another story.
Be good, for goodness sake!
Holy week (or Passion Week) has always been especially meaningful to me. In my family, Lent was a time to reflect and renew. During this time of reflection, I am often brought to tears of humbleness thinking about the sacrifice that was made for me. The last week of Christ's life, as told in the Bible, is filled with amazing accounts, leading to the gut wrenching account of betrayal, denial and crucifixion. Then ending in the great crescendo of Christ's resurrection.
This week I attended yet another family funeral; number 4 in about 10 weeks. First two wonderful elderly Aunts, then my sister and now a cousin (younger than I). As I sat in the church, observing the draped crucifix, I noticed a realistic looking rooster high in a window, perched on a red draped small bale of straw. A vivid reminder to all of us, how we all fall short of our good intentions and promises. As I looked at all of this, I thought of all that has transformed these past few weeks on ClausNet. We argue and discuss, like a dysfunctional family reunion. All having the healthy need to agree and disagree in order to grow. One theme always comes out. Jesus is the reason for the season. But there is an added truth. The one factor that makes Christians different from any other religion is THIS season. All great philosophers are born and they die. All have followers who idolize their teachings. But only Christians have a living savior. He is risen. He lives. Not only does he live, but He took our place. We are the reason, for this Season. He died for us. Without this, celebrating His birth makes us no different from any other religion.
Bill had a beard long before he became an Ambassador for Santa Claus. Most of the time, he's just plain, old Bill who happens to have a white beard. But looking around this sanctuary I realized , at least i think I understood a bit better, that if we tried to make him be Santa all year long, we were only reminding people of Christ's birth, or Christmas. That is only half the story. The real story is in His Resurrection.
These are the musing of an old woman working through her grief in the loss of a sister, whose fate lies solely in the hands of God, not mine. I do not mean to impose my beliefs on anyone. Nor do we plan on having Bill shave his beard. But I am hoping that maybe this blog, poorly written as it may be, will be of comfort to others who chance upon it.
David Meece wrote a wonderful song that seems to fit so well into our life ( Bills and Mine). I hope it will be a Blessing to anyone who reads this. God Bless you. Judi
When I was a little boy I thought (as many little boys do) that my Dad had the greatest job in the world. He was the sergeant of police for a little town in West Virginia called Nitro. My Dad would drive down our street and would turn on the sirens for my friends and I who ran out to wave at him as he passed - such an Opie-like thing to do. But at Christmas my Dad had a very important job to perform. He was the chauffer of an international celebrity. When things were calm in Nitro my Dad would drive Santa Claus all over town to visit as many as 30 families an evening. At the end of the evening it never failed that Santa Claus would stop at our house to rest before Dad would drive him to a little field outside of town where he had landed the sleigh and tied the reindeer.
Of course, I now know Santa was none other than Santa Claus Hall of Famer Jay Long. As I look back I can only imagine that he was hot and uncomfortable. But Jay (MY Santa to this day) would sit in the floor of my living room with me and play with my toys and talk with me. He would laugh and have fun with me just as if I was the first child of those 30 visits. He always seemed just as happy to see me as I was to see him. Despite the discomfort and heat, despite the family that was waiting for him at home, and despite not having his dinner Santa Claus took time to play with a little boy and truly give him a memory that sticks with him to this present day. I have learned quite a lot from Jay. He is my number 1 mentor. But that scene goes with me everywhere. I learned from Santa what it truly means to give of yourself to a child who believes. And that is what I strive to do.
As I look back on those visits I am reminded of the thousands of men (and women) who have visited so many little boys and girls in towns across this whole wide world. I think of how they went out, often in the snow and cold, to see each child. I think of the discomfort, the warm houses and even warmer suits. I think of how they missed meals and their own Christmas festivities with their families. I wonder why they did it. Then I realize that it was for that smile of a child. I realize that they sacrificed for that one precious thing. A child's hopes and dreams meant something. You know what? They still do. More than silver, gold, sacrifice, or anything else you can imagine.
Many of these folks we will never know. Each had a life, dreams, hopes, and beliefs as all people do. Because of fate, they will remain nameless citizens of the past who, outside the red suit, are lost to time save for being Santa to a child one Christmas long ago. Their face might be recalled as someone finds an old picture album or something of the sort and they are pointed out. Perhaps a department store archive holds their names and old addresses. But to the world at large they are Santa and Santa alone. But they were linked in their belief of making glad the heart of childhood. They truly were servants of childhood.
I guess I am a horse and buggy in a jet age. I am truly sorry, but the more I strive to be a simple "Hometown Santa" I find that I am not up to the standards of the "new generation." I could care less about being a year-round Santa millionaire and star. Santa isn't the star of Christmas, never has been. He is a herald to the Reason. But not the way it is seen today. It seems to me that folks are too busy getting all of the bells and whistles without the propulsion system that drives a Santa Claus. Why, in a recent search and examination of websites belonging to Santas I found more posts about a beard than I did about how important it is to the Santa to bring joy to a child. Real or not, with a good picture on the page and public knowledge of what he looks like, Santa doesn't have to advertise that he has a beard. That is vanity. While viewing a video posted I read the title was something like "Thanks from Santa." It saddened me that the word "children" was never really mentioned - it was a pitch for more and bigger business along with a five minute speech on where he had performed. I read posts both for and against children seeing multiple Santas in one place. I hear "I, I, I," and "Me, Me, Me." "I am Santa here." "They should hire ME for that instead of the Santa they have." Product after product touts that "I am the REAL Santa." Social media has created a monster in that all of these things are celebrated in group after group. Read some of the daily posts. Folks are too busy worrying about the physical appearance and about getting the other Santa's gig. Instant stardom is the unachieved fashion of the community. Not sure why, as everyone seems to truly be an expert. Education in any field is a good thing. But every teacher SHOULD NOT have his or her own school! I find it all so EGO centered and so contrary to the pattern set down by not only those Santas who have gone before but also St. Nicholas. Would he even recognize us as carrying on his legacy? In my studies of his character and life I have to logically conclude that he would not. If we have departed that much from the model, then I am saddened and afraid for what the future holds!
In all of this nonsense, we are forgetting what it means to be a Santa. We are forgetting the belief and standard that was given to us - the joy of giving of one's self and the bringing of magic and wonder to children. Not to mention the spreading of the Message of Christmas. We need to stop and reevaluate this thing. I am afraid that the iceberg is ahead. I am trying to post a picture with this blog of a Santa and children from a New Orleans department store circa 1955. Look at the faces of the children, particularly the eyes. Trust and full belief. Then look at Santa. There is a sense of duty and compassion, wrapped in love. Please, evaluate why you put on that suit. Are you in it for the paycheck or fame? Or are you in it to serve? Now more than ever, these little ones need a role model to look up to. It is time that we stop all of the foolish fads and ego trips and get to work!
The Light at the End of the Tunnel...We Need a Little Christmas!
When I fell in mid November, I had no idea that it would be over four month before I was truly walking again. Now, while I've already written a few times on the subject, I'm happy to say that I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel!
This week the staples were removed from my final surgery that took place two weeks ago and I will transition into regular shoes by the end of April. Now, this might sound funny but having MATCHING shoes, for me, is going to be a very exciting time. I've gone from braces, to casts, to walking boots, and now a walking shoe. Just having a nice pair of matching tennis shoes is going to be a CELEBRATION!
I'm also looking forward to building back muscle and having a fully functional body to get to the gym and exercise. It's amazing how tiny my whole leg is now in comparison to the other.
Yesterday, as I was scheduled out the next few weeks and reviewing my calendar for work, a song popped into my head. It was Angela Lansbury singing "We Need a Little Christmas" from the musical "Mame." I just smiled as I thought about the song...I need a little Christmas.
It's truly amazing what the Christmas season brings and the feelings that come with the sounds of the season. I'm excited and looking forward to a wonderful Christmas this year and wishing you all an amazing year as well.
A giant thank you to my Clausnet family and all the support you have given me.
I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.
I had a date with myself last Friday night. I made something special for dinner, and popped some corn, and bought an actual Coca-Cola and some Red Vines. I get movies at home via Amazon dot com, so I cued up "Saving Mr. Banks." I love Tom Hanks. I love Walt Disney. I loved Tom Hanks as Walt Disney. And then there's Emma Thompson (P.J. Travers), another favorite, all in a "true" story about the making of a classic movie - - Mary Poppins. It was a movie about the story behind the story, and how it affected how things got done. Mrs. Travers did not want animated penguins in Mary Poppins. I don't blame her.
When the movie was over, I was soaked in tears and nearly shaking from the sobs that come when I watch a sad movie. I knew the movie was going to be a tear-jerker, and I had a box of tissues handy. But what happened with the massive waves of tears that went on for an hour after the movie ended, was more complicated than just the superb performances - - and it took me awhile to realize what it was.
The year that Mary Poppins was released, I went to New York City to visit my grandparents. They had a list of wonderful activities planned - - The World's Fair (it's a small world after all), a trip to Rockaway, deep sea fishing (major puking), a trip to Bloomingdales (my first bra), and the world premier of Mary Poppins at Radio City Music Hall. All meant to delight a young girl, and rightfully so - - until something went horribly wrong.
Grandma and Grandpa lived on the sixth floor of an eight story walk up on 52nd and Riverside. They had a tiny two bedroom apartment, and two not so tiny Dalmatians - - an old one, and a puppy named Ali. The morning after I arrived, Grandpa woke me up and we climbed up to the roof where he kept a cage with pigeons. (Later I would learn that pigeons are called "squab" when you eat them for dinner.) Grandpa opened the pigeon cage and a couple of birds flew out - - and Ali flew playfully after them - - over the edge of the roof - - into the blue, blue sky.
I heard my grandfather scream. I heard people on the streets of New York - - eight stories below - - scream. Grandfather was screaming for grandmother. I was on my hands and knees peering over the edge of the roof, looking down to see Ali squished like a cartoon dog hit by an anvil. I heard my grandmother screaming.
I don't really know a lot about what happened then. My grandfather had to run several blocks to get a car. My grandmother was on the street covering the dog with her good quilts. Everyone looked like ants. No one remembered that I was on the roof. I was frozen with fear and stayed there until it was dark and cold, and finally my grandmother came back to get me. The dog was alive, but all his bones had been crushed, and it would take days and days for him to die in a cage at the vet's.
The next afternoon we went to see Mary Poppins. My grandfather, a big, macho, Croatian man, wept quietly during the entire movie. I thought the animated penguins were stupid. I hated the fox and the hand drawn carousel horses. People laughed, and clapped and sang around us. "Let's Go Fly a Kite" was the last song of the movie, and I just kept picturing that beautiful spotted dog flying - - flying - - flying off after the pigeon on a beautiful summer day.
Now it's 50 years later, and I'm bawling my eyes out - - remembering that day - - that trip - - that dog - - half a century ago.
So what's the motto of this story? Only that I was glad I was alone, because it would have been nearly impossible to make somebody understand why I was crying hysterically after seeing a movie about Mary Poppins. I guess the point is, and what "Saving Mr. Banks" was about, is sometimes people are carrying around stories that we don't really understand - - and sometimes they don't understand them either.
Well it was eight months ago I hung up the badge after 35 years and began retirement. No more call outs in the middle of the night, no meetings no court appearances or out of state travel for training . Finally all the projects that were often planned for Saturdays that never got done are now in progress or completed. I miss the people I worked with but many of my friends who worked with me or in other law enforcement agencies have retired as well. I don't miss the crazy hours or the administrative drama. I have had more time to devote to my hobbies and working on the beards and wigs. What used to take days to complete a wig set I can now do in a day or two now that I have time. I have experimented with some thirty year old sets I had in storage and have refurbished them. If anyone has some old sets that they want to give a second life to contact me. I am looking forward to spring so I can finally get back into the garden and work on the koi ponds. May brings the Santa gathering on Cape Cod which I am looking forward to. I plan to attend more Santa events I never had the time to in the coming years.
Given the snow this past winter it was great to be retired and not have to venture out in the storms. Spring can't come soon enough!
I usually wait quite a while before posting to my blog. But this subject is one that I find myself constantly thinking of these days and I feel that it is important to get my thoughts across. If they can be a provoker of thought, then please read on. I hope you leave this entry with a deeper perspective and appreciation for the subject matter.
Since the days when a man named Nicholas of Myra walked upon this Earth there has existed a sacred nature to the role of Santa Claus. That bond has been the bedrock foundation for not only the connection of Santa Claus to Christmas but also to the hearts and imaginations of children. You see, children share with Santa Claus their faith, hope, and trust wrapped up in their innermost wishes and needs. To some children, Santa represents someone who loves them and will never judge them. To some he might be the only ear that listens to them. The Santa/child bond is a precious one. Santa is not a childhood celebrity. In fact, he is a childhood servant.
Saint Nicholas had a very special bond that brought out the very best in him - a relationship with Jesus Christ. He understood the importance of the Gift that God had freely given and of what it means to be connected with that Gift. Like it or not, that bond is a part of the Santa of today as well. We cannot ignore the significance of the past. Perhaps this message does not enter in to your mind or portrayal as Santa. I use it to illustrate the roots of the character. Saint Nicholas, out of faith, sowed seeds of faith in everything he did. When we decide to take up his mantle, we declare that we are going to do the same. We agree to portray this man in a manner that respects the bond that he created, likewise sowing the seeds that he sowed of faith and hope. With his fully anonymous gift giving, Saint Nicholas truly set a standard that we need to return to today.
For 170 plus years the anonymity of the man in the red suit was preserved, becoming a standard. Over the past few decades many have come to the role that have precipitated a shift in the focus of the role. Other priorities, agendas, and philosophies have been brought in to suggest that Santa is an amalgamation of many different things. These have touted him as a mythical creation, even though historical fact proves otherwise. He is declared secular and is further distorted in image and meaning. But none of those who think this way can dispute the bond that Santa has with children, no matter how hard they try. It is emotional, it is spiritual, and thus it is sacred. It is an echo to the true vine of Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker.
Now, I ask you, why would anyone wish to tarnish this beloved figure? Why would anyone dare to desecrate something so sacred to the hearts of children? Has it become a trend? What causes this? Money? Fame? Greed? It is all these things and a lot more. Perhaps in some ways we, the portrayers, have brought it on by making it more than a calling and simple vocation. It is not wrong to make money on Santa as a worker is worthy of his hire. But the motives behind the thing are, in the words of Shakespeare, the rub. Though we are merely actors portraying the part, we each are entrusted with the preserving of that sacred nature. When you look like Santa, when you purposely go out of your way to draw attention to that fact, you are doubly so!
As an actor, I have learned many things that have helped me to be Santa. One important lesson is that when the curtain comes down you must return to yourself. Put the character aside and be yourself. It becomes terribly troublesome to maintain a character when you are not required to perform. Charles W. Howard, our legendary educational leader, made a full distinction between self and Santa. As did Jim Yellig, who when not in the suit maintained a post as commander of the American Legion and was a tavern owner. Look at the man who spends more days in the suit than any other man living that portrays Santa Claus, Phil Wenz - he completely separates the hustle and bustle of Santa's Village to be just himself. Take off the costume (both inner and outer) until the next performance. Actors have suffered terrible mental illness for not allowing themselves to do this. That said, I have never played a part that didn't leave something with me. In portraying a character like Santa you don't have to maintain the role 24/7/365 to be enriched. I have learned that you don't need to look the part and dress the part all the time to BE Santa. To be Santa you need to give! And I think that that again speaks to the sacred nature of Santa - he continues to instruct.
Over the past many years we have seen quite a bit in our Santa community. The fact that we can still come together as a brotherhood and sisterhood is a testament to the sacred nature of Santa Claus. Would some of the things that have happened never have happened had some taken off the suit? That is for you to ponder and decide. I am in no way degrading anyone for the choices they make. But I am asking you to consider being yourself. When you make an opinion or an action that is not Santa like while you are clearly identifying yourself as Santa Claus, then you must be ready to deal with it. The eyes of children of all ages are ever upon you, as are those of the brotherhood that you represent. We all are looking at you to be your best while carrying the image of Santa Claus. But remember, an officer that wears his badge is on duty. When off duty he takes it off and goes about his life. Santa should be the same way. In both ways, the role is preserved and respected. Both have a sacred duty.
With this said, I want to encourage everyone to really think about the calling and vocation of Santa Claus. Think about your place in it. There are children that identify you as this iconic figure of Santa Claus. They share their innermost selves with you. Perhaps they see you outside of the Season in your red shirt and white beard. They immediately recognize you as you as their Santa (yes, you belong to them now). They don't know you as you, they only know Santa. You have made a sacred bond. You have become a memory that can bring joy or hurt. What will your next action bring? I hope that you will ponder this and truly will make a stand for keeping this bond of Santa Claus with the children sacred.
Food For thought. Think of what Phil always says. "There is no I or E,G, or O in the word Santa Claus. There is no room for I or EGO in Santa Claus. But there is an US, and it takes all of us to make Santa Claus."
One hundred years from now, it will not matter....
What kind of beard you had, designer or real...
What kind of suit you wore, velvet or wool...
How much money you charged or if you charged at all....
Nor the events you appeared..
Or what group you belonged....
What matters is ...
That you played Santa with honesty and integrity.....
You shared with your peers to help foster fellowship..
Your conduct exhibited was worthy of Santa...
But most importantly what matters....
Knowing that you are blessed to have the opportunity....
to make the world be a little brighter and better because....
As Santa, you were important in the life of a child.
Poem Copyrighted Santa Claus Oath Foundation
The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'
Sorry, but Freud was an idiot. Thirty years of research? Did he ever ask a woman what she wanted?
What do women want? I will tell you. They want HELP! That's right, gentlemen. If you think that women are incredibly complex creatures who cannot ever be pleased, think again. Women will tell you specifically what they need help with. But, you have to LISTEN, and do what they tell you.
Here is an example. When you get home, find your wife and observe what she is doing. Then, kiss her gently on the check and say these words: "what can I do to help you?" If she is cooking dinner, she may say any of the following "can you please empty the trash?" "can you take the dog for a walk" "can you get the kids out of the kitchen until I'm done?" Do at least one of these tasks before you grab a beer from the fridge. Do not under any circumstances say these words to your beloved: "in a minute." Once I was falling off a ladder, holding onto a light fixture and calling frantically for my husband to help me. He kept saying - - "okay, in a minute . . . " until I finally fell off the ladder and fractured my arm.
If you have returned home and your woman is in the garden, ask her "what can I do to help you?" Then grab that shovel and dig a hole for her. Go to the hardware store if you don't have the right shovel. Pick up some geraniums and a bag of dirt. Ask her first, though - - what color geraniums do you prefer? She has a plan for the garden. It includes colors and textures and fragrances.
Is your lady in the garage? "What can I do to help you?" Then clean off that work shelf and find the screwdriver she needs. Not "in a minute." Now. Do at least one thing before you go and flop into that easy chair.
Are people coming to visit? "What can I do to help you, my darling?" Change the sheets on the guest bed (by the way, this includes the pillowcases, guys)? Sweep? Clean the bathroom? She'll tell you. She has a plan. She sees the big picture.
Put gas in her car. Wash the darn thing. Scrape the snow off her windshield on a frosty morning. Fix those closet doors. Take the vacuum in to be serviced. Give the kids a bath and read them a bedtime story. Mend the screen door. Bring her a clean set of towels. Pick up your socks. Just help the lady out, will ya?
And, finally, if you ask her "what can I do to help you" and your wife or loved one says to you "nothing." You're in BIG trouble. Better go get some flowers, or jewelry, or chocolate, or something she has TOLD you she likes. (Maybe she likes Nascar, for all I know - - but she better have told you that, mister!)
The little lady does so much for you and everyone else - - and she can use a little love - - and a lot of help!
Nana's hint for the week: When you speak highly of the girls and women in your life to others, you set an example for all those around you, most especially your children. By showing respect to others, the world becomes a kinder, gentler place for all of us to live together in peace and harmony. And bluebirds will alight on the shoulder of your princess and woodland creatures will sing.
One day, through events that are unique and special to you, you decided to become a Santa Claus. Maybe the mantle was passed to you or maybe you just wanted to try on the suit and the idea stuck. Maybe you were a middle aged man of girth with a beard whom neighborhood children pointed at with a certain familiarity. If you were like me, you were asked as a child to perform the role in a Christmas pageant and it stuck with you. In many ways the suit can call. Because you are here it is a good assumption that you answered.
So, you have a suit and a beard of either natural or synthetic design. You belong to a group or two of Santas and maybe you work at a Mall. Perhaps you have been to one of the schools. That is all very good. But it doesn't stop there. What is it that is going to truly transform you into the character of Santa? My friend, the answer might come to you as a surprise. You must prepare.
Easily said, but how does a Santa prepare? Just like with any role that an actor might play (you do realize that because you put on the suit does not mean that you become the true and real article), to go out onto the stage or before the camera without preparation is deadly. A Santa must never go out for his annual rounds without truly preparing. You see, every character needs to be built, nurtured, and developed. This is doubly true with Santa Claus, as there are certain standards that you will be held to by the general public - particularly the children. It is more than a role. It is a matter of childhood hope and trust!
Below are three things that you can do to create a memorable and effective portrayal:
1. Read! Read! Read! - So your wife may think that you are crazy for going to the library at odd times of the year to check out books on Christmas. Big deal! As Santa Claus you are going to need to know what the popular and historic image of every aspect of Christmas and Santa are. It is folly to think that a school that lasts anywhere from a few days to maybe a week is going to teach you all there is to know. Do your research! Create a finger friendly archive for yourself where, if you can't recall an answer to a tough question that a child might ask, you can find it. Read to understand the history and meanings of Christmas and Saint Nicholas. Soak it all in. You are embarking on a mission that has been shared by jolly men for over 1700 years (1000s more depending on your source). Know the accepted and expected facts of the role.
2. Know who you are! - Every actor will usually develop a back story to a character. That story will tell everything from where the character grew up to what kind of bubble gum he likes to chew and more. Lucky for you, Santa has a full back story developed. How do your ideas about Santa match up? Better work this out before the kids work you over about the facts.
3. Brotherhood - That we know, Saint Nicholas had no familial brothers and sisters. That is established history. But the Santa Claus of today sure has. Every man that puts on the suit is now your brother, or sister depending on circumstance. Talk to them, ask them questions, and generally support them as they will be a great support to you. Remember, what you do in the suit reflects on them and vice versa. Behave yourself and realize that we are all in this together.
4. Walk a mile - The old statement says in order to know a man you must walk a mile in his shoes. Do you have to become a toymaker or even a Christian Bishop? No, no. But you do need to know how to give and talk to children. If you really want to learn these valuable skills then take part in a local children's charity or benevolent work. Volunteer! Give of yourself! After all, the greatest and truly the only gift that you will ever give while in the red suit is of yourself. Volunteer, and bring joy and smiles all year long. You will begin to feel like Santa.
5. Christmas Spirit. A Santa who does not know what Christmas is all about is a neglected Santa. I cannot stress enough the need to understand that the Christmas Spirit is not a feeling, but is a Person. The joys, hopes, and miracles of Christmas begin and end with Him - that Baby born in Bethlehem. Not preaching, but know who Jesus Christ is and understand His significance. After all, they named the holiday after Him!
Why do all of these things? Well, it is very simple. To build a house you need a foundation. In the same way, to build a character you need a foundation. Take great care in building a strong one, a good one. You will soon learn as you visit the children that you will constantly draw encouragement and strength from your foundation. So, be sure to make it a firm one and be sure to cling to the authentic, historically proven, kid tested model of what a Santa Claus should be.
In closing, a word of warning. As you grow in the character and community of Santa Claus sometimes it is easy to become careless with the responsibilities connected to the role. You might begin to think that you are the center of it all. You might begin to covet your brother's opportunities and begin to think that you are better than the rest. You might forget yourself and begin to say and do things that are against the image you have worked so hard to create. Remember, an over-developed ego does not a good Santa make. If you see this happening then take a moment and self examine. Fill that crack in the foundation with solid material made of love and wisdom. Remember, you are a servant. Remember, as you serve the children in a pure and loving way (as Santa should) that good will be given to you. You will be surprised at where you might go as long as you remain the Santa that you should be - a solidly built, authentic replica of the Santa of legend. An authentic Santa, the Santa of our childhood, is one that will be cherished.
I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.
When I was young, I got to be involved in a lot of “causes.” I was part of the women’s movement, part of the fight for racial equality, and an anti-war protester during the Viet Nam War. We, as the former youth of America, had a lot to say about what was fair, and how we wanted the people in our communities to treat each other. My mother was able to break the bonds of boredom and wifedom to get an education and become a professor at a full-blown University. My black friend and neighbor was the first negro to attend the Air Force Academy. Girlfriends who were banned from sports programs became soccer coaches - - and as the years passed, many of us forgot that these were all privileges we had to fight for - - many with their lives.
I have been fortunate enough to have had a challenging career, gotten an education, travelled, and raised a family alone. While I never broke any ceilings, I made a comfortable living and my girl children never really thought there were things that they wouldn’t be allowed to do “just because” they were girls. They could join the military, go into space, play professional sports, program computers, find the cure to cancer - - be the President of the United States!
Of course, we are cognizant of the fact that other countries are not as progressive. We have seen a young girl shot in the head because she wanted to go to school. We have seen women tortured, beaten, demeaned and used as sex slaves in other countries - - and we don’t like it one bit. We won’t tolerate it, will we?
Yet, here in America there are still pockets of our society where women are not welcome. I was puzzled, appalled, and downright angered to find that PARTS of the Santa community are like that. While at first, this was merely annoying, lately it’s become a little more personal.
There have been a series of posts on “Facebook for Santas” indicating that there are scholarships and prizes available for Santas through an organization called The Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas. Since I am interested in continuing my education as a Santa (i.e. Santa’s SISTER) and meeting as many people in the Santa community as I can, I wanted to “enter to win.” Unfortunately, I have been informed that I cannot become a member because I am a female “unattached” to a Santa member. Well throw me on the funeral pyre and light the torch!
Listen gentlemen (and ladies, too). I know that you can have any darn fraternal brotherhood tree house club festival that you want, but you are leaving out some mighty wonderful women folk, while you’re at it. There was a time when men thought the universe would collapse into a dark hole if women were allowed on the golf course, and guess what - - it ain’t happened yet. Of course, there are a million other examples, but you get the point.
For those of you who think you should support the independent women in your community, you should know about this.
And for those of you who think I’m crazy, it’s a club for BEARDED Santas, I assure you - - I spend a fortune at the waxing salon to get rid of mine.
In conclusion, I want you to know that I did not join the Santa community to be disruptive, or anything other than kind, generous, and the magical sister of the magical Claus. But sometimes you have to stand up for what you believe. I have been treated wonderfully by many other Santa organizations, including ClausNet. I have also received a lot of support from my local and not so local brothers and sisters. I’m hoping that we can help bring the others around to the 21st Century, soon.
Well, this is the year. Our off-the-rack Halco suits will be our "work-horse" suits, our go to suits for Breakfast with Santa events, our Tanglewood Park appearances, Krispy Creme Doughnut store visits, and other functions where sticky fingers can play havoc with fur.
This is the year for my epitome of Santa costuming - the custom suit, Huzzah!
My Mrs. Claus and I are very excited about this process. Last year we found a seamstress who seems delighted and fascinated about doing work for Santas. We sent items to her for some minor repairs to gauge her work. She passed the test, so we are proceeding with the suits: matching Santa and Mrs. Claus outfits.
My Mrs. C and I met with her last week to begin the process. I am looking for a 3/4 length "Continental" style coat, vest, and 2 pairs of pants. One regular pair of pants, then another pair of "knickers" style pants for a different look.
My Mrs. C is going for a "Victorian" look, but one that will not clash but will coordinate with mine.
More to follow.......................
Jan. 29, 2014
A topic that no one wants to approach.
One way of looking at it is:
"“Naughty” Joke To Adults Get's Beloved Macy's Santa Fired"
or another headline on the same story:
"Bad Santa Fired From Macy's Over Lewd Joke | The Stir"
Two different headlines on the same story. This happened back in 2010 and was perhaps a bit of an over reaction on the part of the adults involved (No children were present or privy to the joke telling) and also of that on the part of Macy's but it is a problem that is growing.
The Santa involved with the first example was John Toomey told a joke to the adult couple that had asked "Why are you always smiling?" His reply was "I know where all the naughty girls and boys live." Macy's pulled John out of the chair before the next break. No hesitation on the part of the employer to get that Santa out of their building once they had a customer complaint. This is after working the same location for 20 years.
John after he appeared on the "Tonight Show" and shared his story was later hired by the Pub "Lefty O'Doul's" where John collected over 10,000 toys for the children of his city and also earned much more money than he ever did working for Macy's. A small silver lining. Sadly John Toomey passed away in July of 2011. Age 69
In 2013 we had:
"Man arrested, banned from playing Santa, after Hanover Mall incident"
"Herbert Jones, 62, now faces indecent assault and battery after cops say he got handsy with Santa’s Little Helper, leaving the teen in tears as she recounted what had happened to detectives, The Smoking Gun reports.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/mall-santa-62-molested-female-teen-elf-barred-playing-st-nick-cops-article-1.1528938#ixzz2rrfvusVu"
Which even if he did not do what he is accused of here, means he has to fight the case in court, then find a new venue to perform in and on top of that, has lost an entire season over what was possibly a bad act of judgement.
"Winterport lawmaker fired as Bangor Mall Santa after saying 'I don't give a damn'"
"Joe Brooks, who had been working as Santa six days a week since Nov. 15, said he was very upset when he was fired by two female representatives of Noerr Programs Inc., which operates shopping center photo services nationwide. They called him during his evening break, he said.
“At about 6 o’clock I got a phone call from corporate headquarters in Colorado. Two women called me and said they were relieving me of my duties,” he said by cellphone Friday. “When I asked them, ‘Why?’ They said they were not going to tell me. I said, ‘This is a pretty serious matter, relieving Santa Claus five days before Christmas.’”"
"“They said, ‘Two weeks ago you were apprised of a complaint. This is a continuation of that,” the four-time state representative, now an independent, said. “They would not tell me what it [the complaint] was in reference too.”
"Brooks said the only thing that he can think of that could possibly have led to a complaint was a conversation he had with a staff member about three weeks ago during which he said, “I don’t give a damn.”
“Yes, I was in the kiosk and I probably should not have used that word,” Brooks said. “It was a private conversation. I didn’t think twice about it.”
What is the point of all of this? Simple. We need to become more aware of the things we say and the way we conduct ourselves in the public eye. Especially in the High Volume Venue such as a Mall or BPS.
We are products of our upbringing and what was acceptable in the 70's and 80's as we grew into adult stature has become criminally actionable and socially unacceptable in the middle of the 2010 decade. As we have seen, the telling of an off color joke can now have major consequences. The act of touching anyone without their express permission is equally actionable. There is no such thing as a private conversation while you are dressed as Santa and in the public view at any time.
There is a reason for wearing white gloves while taking pictures. That is so your hands can be seen and you have proof you had not touched anyone inappropriately during the picture taking process.
Now we need to be just as aware of what we say and the context it is being said in if you wish to avoid the problems these recent cases have brought to light. At the least they can result in a reprimand all the way to losing your season and criminal prosecution
Always remember you are there to bring Joy and Fun to those that visit with you. You having "fun" is not part of the Job description. If you can not enjoy working this type of venue, then it is not for you and you should seek other venues to play the role of Santa such as home visit, Corporate event or the new emerging Video Chat visit with Santa that has begun.
For those that say "Bah! I will say what ever I chose! It is a free country and I know how to be Santa!" this blog is for you!
May your season be Joyous!
No one special
I Spoke With THE Perfect Santa!..WHAT!?
by Santa Johnathan
So, I will apologize to you, my fine Clausnet friends, right off the bat...this might not be the best reading as I'm just going to throw my thoughts into this blog as they come and I might ramble. If you are able to make sense of it all...well, BRAVI!
Now, I am always grateful for the opportunity to speak with fellow Santas, it's really a fun experience. However, one such conversation this week had me rather at a loss for words. This individual will more than likely read this blog post, and I can only hope it will act as a sort of wake-up call or perhaps we can name this an Inter-Santa-vention. Ho, Ho, Ho!
While speaking to this Santa on this past season, lessons learned, and a few things I'm working on to improve my "Santa" for this coming season, he commented on his own journey and where he is at this moment. As best I can from memory, these were a few of his words, "I've pretty much seen it all, learned it all, and am confident in my portrayal...this old dog doesn't have any more tricks to learn." The phone conversation ended shortly after this statement and I was left speechless...almost. What just happened!? Did I actually speak to THE worlds one and only PERFECT Santa!? ...no.
I'm a true believer that we can all bring something to the table, whether this is your 1st season or your 30th season, I believe everyone has something we can appreciate and learn from. We are all at different points on the map of our "Santa journey." While I agree that there MUST be a great amount of confidence within ourselves to portray Santa correctly, we CANNOT find ourselves at a point to say there is nothing more to learn.
We can all put the "teacher" hat on at times, but every great teacher I have ever met, was just as quick to put the "student" hat on too. I would think that if you find yourself in a place where you don't want to learn any more, or think you can't, then perhaps it's just not that important to you.
I think we have all seen those individuals, even on Clausnet, some are here for the social fun, some are here to learn and study, some are here just for just the networking, and some unfortunately are here just for the marketing with little participation...we are the "Santa demographic" in their sales projections. I cannot lose sleep over another Santa thinking they are perfect, but I can assure you, none of us are there.
I know this blog post has been a giant soapbox, I'm sorry. I have a great deal of respect for the Santa I spoke with, I have a great deal I can learn from this individual, but he certainly is not a perfect Santa. I get excited when I learn something new, I get excited when I've figured out a better way to do something. While someone might find themselves in a delusional state thinking they have learned all there is to portraying Santa, I would just say...you are missing a great amount of joy in your life in this frame of mind. Don't let your ego get in the way of being an amazing Santa Claus...we can all learn to be great, but we all must never forget to keep learning.
##END OF RANT##
Well, the 2013 Christmas season is now over. Our suits are back from the dry cleaners and stored, and we have repaired/replaced the little bits and pieces that broke during the season. I had a button from my cola suit and a button from my vest fall off mid-season and was so busy that we did not have to have them replaced! Fortunately they were not in the camera's view!
So, the season is over. What is the real work? Preparing for 2014! We started preparing for 2013 in June of last year thinking that surely 5 mos. will be enough time to get our act together. WRONG. We were pulling almost all-nighters building shelves and installing counters in our "Santa Workshop" for Tanglewood Park..We barely finished in time for the Park's opening.
This year, our major focus for the 2014 Christmas season will be new Santa and Mrs. Claus matching custom suits. I am trying to tell my wife that we need to start this process NOW.....................I want everything for our upcoming season to be ready set go by the end of August. Will make the deadline, or will be waiting on the night before the 1st gig waiting for the last button to be sewn on? Only time will tell.....
Every season, new Christmas characters are introduced to the public. Mrs. Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Elf on the Shelf, and now SANTA'S SISTER! What a great way to spread the Christmas joy. Did you know there are currently almost TWO BILLION children in the world? Santa can use all the help he can get! Besides, FAMILY is the best way to share the work and happiness when it comes to the holidays. Don't worry, my brothers. No one can ever replace you!
Interview with Santa Nana
Grand Junction, Colorado
The 2013 Christmas Season was quite overwhelming for Santa Nana. After moving to the “other side of the mountain,” I got involved in the Christmas activities for three communities: Palisade, Grand Junction and Fruita. I was on the steering committee for the Palisade Olde Fashioned Christmas, and worked on an open house event, as well as pictures with Santa, a ride on my own float in the parade, appearances at the holiday market, the gingerbread contest, and other Palisade holiday events. I got to ride in my very own fancy limousine in the Grand Junction parade, and finally, I rode on an antique fire truck in the Fruita parade. I was on TV! I was interviewed for newspapers! I’m exhausted.
Sometimes it is better to go into things without any expectations. This year, a lot of people made a lot of promises about a lot of things they had no actual knowledge of - - and that is as nicely as I can put it. We have a dozen ways to communicate with people - - phones, cell phones, text, e-mail, Facebook, twitter, snail mail, pigeons . . .and yet time after time I showed up to meetings that had been cancelled, events that had been rescheduled or relocated, and I scrambled to handle last minute changes with unexpected requests. I worked with agencies that did not know how to use e-mail, didn’t answer the phones, closed early and often (including if it snowed!) and were generally negligent in keeping everyone advised on what the heck was going on. I’m still trying to understand how I got put on the back of a flatbed truck with a small elf and nothing to hold on to for a bumpy, bumpy ride! That was certainly the scariest night of the season, as I struggled to hold onto the kid, and keep from falling off into the frozen, icy street in a velvet costume. My fingers got frostbitten.
But ladies and gentlemen - - I showed up. Even when my appearance was suspect. I covered for those who couldn’t make it, filled in for the sick, stepped up for the feeble, donated time, resources and talent, and kept my attitude happy, happy, happy. I meet some fantastic Santa brothers, (most especially Santa Greg Lough of Glenwood Springs, Colorado), some lovely citizens of my community, and, when I recover from the trauma, I will probably have some funny stories about my year in Mesa County.
Finally, I would also like to report that the people in my current community have been completely accepting of “Santa’s sister.” Unfortunately, this year brought continued criticism from some in the online Santa world who feel that women have no place here. Thanks to all of you who continue to support me, and your wives and daughters, in our creative endeavors.
Best wishes for a Happy and Prosperous 2014.
Santa Nana's Tip: I tried making a video this year and posted it on YouTube. It was fun and easy. If you have Skype, it is a snap.
My Santa Inspiration: A Look at Art
by Santa Johnathan
As those portraying Santa Claus, we are able to express so much through our personal choices in that portrayal. Our Santas vary in personality, demeanor, and appearance by quite a bit. Now, these choices happen as a result of many things; our own imaginations, our childhood memories, books, poems, fellow Santas, films, and so much more.
Today, I wanted to review where I personally have found much inspiration in my portrayal, and that's ARTWORK. Speaking of the the American Santa Claus, what we might say is the base foundation of Santa Claus has evolved as artists placed their own personal touches and choices within their art. Some artists can be attributed with much of what that "foundation" is...while others have taken that foundation and added upon that. Either way, I wanted to share with you, those artists that have made a difference for me...pretty much all of my favorites; historic and contemporary.
...a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment, it must be St. Nick.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he hand flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
While we have these iconic words found in Clement C. Moore's famous 1822 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas," it was artists who shaped from those words and their imaginations, what we know today.
While I would love to go into detail on the history of each artist, this is really an opportunity to share my favorites and those that have made a difference for me. While some of you might have stumbled into portraying Santa and just thrown on the suit, some or all of these images might be new to you. My hope is that you can find some inspiration here too in creating YOUR Santa...inside and out.
So, let's begin!
Thomas Nast has been credited with making the first real dent in the image of the American Santa. You can see many changes in the time of his work. From clothing to size...Santa begins to really take shape with many elements of the image of Santa still around today. From the look of his face/beard, his big belt, even the fur rimmed hat...we truly begin to see Santa.
Now, I'm a collector at heart and finally finished a full set of original Thomas Nast prints this past year featuring Santa Claus. His work has and will continue living on for the ages.
Thomas Nast (1840-1902)
Now, this is quite a big jump in years, as American illustrators after Nast were creating all kinds of artwork that focused on Santa. My next favorite though would have to be J.C. Leyendecker. He was certainly WAY before his time and many actually see his work and first think perhaps it's from Norman Rockwell. He has a sense of warmth that I LOVE in his work and he is one of my very favorites. As with most of my favorites, these images are rich with detail and keep the eye moving. Just look at that little boy...don't you just want to pinch his cheek!
J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951)
We could not go into any kind of look at the history Santa art without featuring the work of Haddon Sundblom. His work on the image of Santa for the Coca-Cola Company is truly iconic. While drawing from past artists, Sundblom added his own touches that can still be seen in how many professionals choose to portray Santa Claus to this day. While many, I believe give too much credit to Haddon and the image of Santa, his work and the driving force of the Coca-Cola Company brought the image to the masses.
Haddon Sundblom (1899-1976)
Next on the list is a family favorite, Norman Rockwell. I grew up with the art of Norman Rockwell, as he was my grandmother's favorite artist. They would actually write back and forth and her home not only had many of his prints but also a few personal sketches of his as well that he sent to her.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
The next artist worked primarily as a book illustrator and became a favorite of mine on his 1940's-50's work of Santa's surrounding. There is so much detail here, this is something I really look for.
Moving into what I would call "contemporary Santa Claus art", we start things off with a brilliant artist, Scott Gustafson. His work is truly beautiful and I find it quite inspiring with his rich but soft details.
Moving on to another favorite, this next artist has truly brought not only beautiful imagery to Santa Claus, but also creates rich and magical environments. There is more of a classic feel in style to his work in color and tone...but certainly with a magical touch of contemporary illustration.
The next artist is probably the most successful contemporary artist today when it comes to the image of Santa Claus, Tom Browning. I've had the opportunity to visit with Tom on a few occasions and his work is quite fun and can be seen in almost any store you enter during the holidays with his work found in greeting cards, wrapping paper, gift bags, and more.
The next artist is Myles Pinkney and he is yet another favorite on my list. His mixed media approach to art creates quite a unique look and his styles is saturated with details. You will also notice, out of all of these artists, Myles' work had the biggest impact on my own suit design. Myles works focuses on many fantasy subjects, like fairies, dragons, steampunk genre, and Santa Claus. His Santa work for me certainly stands out.
As a performing and visual artist, I love to step into these paintings and illustrations. There is just SO much there to experience. I also like to look at these paintings and image, how would this particular Santa move, act, speak, what's going on in the background, etc.
Not only have I used art as a way of inspiring my portrayal, I've also used art in my portrayal. A concept that I began this past year was to create a unique and special card to say "thank you" to my clients. In this card, I wanted to have an illustration or painting that depicted not any Santa but my personal portrayal as Santa, offering clients a glimpse of their Santa in the middle of doing something they would never actually see me doing. I'm not sure that makes sense but the feedback I got was overwhelming. The cards are handmade by a professional card maker and feature the print of the years painting/illustration, as well as artist information and my own wishes for them. Here is a peak at last years painting that was used.
This brings me to my last artist I wanted to feature in this blog posting today. I first stumbled upon his work a few years ago and fell in love with his unique style. A rich a creative look with a slight twist, I love the detail rich images and the hand drawn feel. Robb is another artist I've been able to visit and he has been commissioned to create the 2014 season's image and I am excited at what we will come up with this year.
My fellow Clausnet friends, I hope, regardless of where you find it, that you find inspiration in how to portray Santa. It certainly is not a cookie-cutter goal but finding how to put your own special touches and feelings into your portrayal. Fine tuning your inner character, and then moving to your outward appearance is exciting.
I wish you all the best in how you choose to portray Santa Claus and that we all continue to grow, learn, and improve. I pray that the families and children we come into contact with will feel that they have spent a bit of time with THE Santa Claus.
It has been quite a while since I have written about anything regarding Santa Claus for our community. That I am going to try to remedy with this article that I hope will be found to be light hearted, yet thought provoking. This is to be the first of many of these types of items that I am going to tentatively title “Mistletoe Musings.” In many groups such as ours (whether historical, theatrical, or literary) there are those who seek higher learning and understanding of what the subject is about. I feel it should be no different in the study of Santa Claus. To get the clear picture of whom he is and what he represents only benefits the portrayals of each of us. He is more than a doddering old man or town drunk as depicted in popular interpretation. Santa is something more. I hope you will enjoy pondering these ideas, and by doing so may we grow closer as a community as we endeavor to portray our beloved Santa.
The Rudolph Question
Every Santa Season we are asked about that one particular reindeer who’s known as the “most famous reindeer of all.” Everyone knows the other eight. But they are dismissed when it comes to that one little fellow with the glowing red nose – Rudolph. Thanks to a popular song by Johnny Marks, an RKO cartoon, and several Rankin Bass Christmas specials he has become as inseparable to Santa as the Jolly Old Elf’s big black boots. Rudolph is a part of the Christmas canon now, and there seems that there is no child worldwide that doesn’t know his name and story.
Rudolph was born in the mind of Robert L. May way back in 1939. May’s poem was used as an advertising blitz by Montgomery Wards – or “Monkey Wards” as they were popularly called. And the original story is very different than that of the little reindeer and his elven friend and dentist who travels to the Island of Misfit Toys. Copies are still readily available, and I suggest if you haven’t read it that you do. Rudolph and his story have been everywhere, even to the Hit Parade by both Gene Autry and Burl Ives respectfully. His has become one of the most recorded Christmas songs in history. Since Christmas 1939, Rudolph has been a part of every child’s visions of the Christmas Eve flight. Even at the age of 74, Rudolph still leads Santa’s team across the sky and into the hearts of children of all ages.
I have often pondered the role of Santa’s partner in relation to other companions he has in various incarnations across the globe. He is definitely less threatening than Krampus – the devil like figure of many Alpine countries who accompanies St. Nicholas and takes care of the naughty children. He is definitely cleaner than Schmutzli – the helper of Samischlaus in eastern Europe who not only carries the sack of goodies but also makes sure the chimneys are clean and children are behaved. He is much less controversial than Zwarte Piet or “Pete” – Sinterklaas’ helper in the Netherlands who assists him attired in black face paint and colorful clothes and has become a sign of racial prejudice. No, Rudolph’s presence is both practical and benevolent. Not only does he teach that differences are to be celebrated, but that everyone’s talents, no matter what they are, are relevant. Rudolph proves that being different is being great – a lesson that children of all ages can use.
While in the chair this past Christmas I was asked all about Rudolph by one little fellow who was eager to learn. I, of course, explained that Rudolph is doing very well and he does remain very active on foggy and inclement Christmas Eves. The youngster was very happy to hear that. Jokingly, I also said that he has become quite a snob thanks to the song and movies about him. I furthered the story by explaining that the elves can’t even get his autograph these days. The little fellow laughed. But I reassured them that Santa still loves him and all the other reindeer love him too. When asked how old the reindeer was I responded that this would be his 74th Christmas flight. The little fellow’s eyes grew large and he ran to tell his parents in his excitement. I am sure Rudolph would approve of this telling of his story.
Rudolph’s story and character hold something for everyone and are equally loved. So, remember to tell the little ones you meet about that dear of a deer and what he means to old Santa. His story is one that is inspiring and should be told. And when you are asked about your favorite cookie, be sure to remind the little ones to think of the reindeer. Rudolph loves an extra carrot – it helps his battery charge so his nose will glow even brighter through the Christmases to come!
This was my fourth season as a Santa. For the last three years I've been the Santa for the local elementary school Christmas program. Santa closes out the show with an appearance, some candy canes and with a crush of some 50+ youngsters in the last hour as parents shoot pics up at the stage from the floor below. It represented some unique difficulties best discussed elsewhere.
That was the preceding two years. This year, due to weather and travel issues they postponed the elementary program and consolidated it with the high school program running them in sequence: grade school-intermission-high school. So Santa found himself as 'filler' between programs this year.
It was an ad-hoc jumble-XXXX of an affair passing out the candy and being completely surrounded by yelling little ones. Midway through the candy canes I saw her. 6 or 7 years old, dark haired, and mad as a wet hen. You could see it in her face. I pulled up short and asked her what was wrong. She said, "All I want for Christmas is my dad to be nicer to me..." What could I say or do? Given the circumstances, not much. I told her I'd say a prayer for her. It sounded lame to my own ears even as it rolled off my tongue. I finished the candy passing, did my 15 minute set, and cleared out. I looked for her as I left, but didn't see her.
And what she said, and my response gnawed at me. And I hoped and prayed I'd get a chance to do more, say more, make some kind of a positive difference with her. And two weeks later, at a late season daycare booking; my chance came.
There she was standing in front of me, just as cute as before but looking sad now rather than angry. She was the last one to come to sit on Santa's lap. I said, "I saw you at the Christmas program." And she allowed as how I had. I asked her what was wrong and why her dad was mean to her. And it just came tumbling out. He yelled at her and never apologized but she always apologized afterward when she yelled at him. That was about as much context as I could pull out of wet eyed, trembling lipped little one, I'll call 'Mary'.
I told Mary that sometimes Daddies and Mommies make mistakes too just like children do. And that some people have a very hard time saying they're sorry. And that one of the hardest lessons to learn is how to forgive someone after they've hurt our feelings. And she started to cry.
I pulled her close and whispered in her ear that she was loved. She was special and no one could take that away from her no matter what they said or how they said it. I asked her if she wanted to pray and she said yes; so we bowed our heads and said a silent prayer. When I looked up, I felt that I hadn't gotten down to it with her. She needed something more...
All the while, there's an elderly lady sitting 8 feet away on the living room couch very carefully not paying any attention (but hanging on every word) . So I pulled Mary to me for another hug and whispered to her that Santa had a secret to tell her.
I told her that she had control of her feelings, "And that nobody can make you feel anyway you don't want to feel. They can't hurt your feelings without your permission. They can yell or say something mean or hurtful to you and you can choose how to feel about it. You can say, ' Nope, I feel too good today-I'm not gonna let you hurt my feelings'. You can choose to let hurtful things just roll off you like water off a duck's back."
I looked at her again, and she smiled. Really beamed. I'd said the right thing at the right time and really reached her. I'd made a tiny positive impact in a young life. And far more importantly than how I felt, Mary had a new tool in her toolkit for the future.
That's my favorite memory of the 2013 Christmas season.
During the season, it doesn't take long for us all to see the magic that exists when portraying Santa. There are so many experiences that take place with families, particularly children, that can put a smile on your face; a tear in your eye, and joy in your heart...all in the same moment.
While I'm certain there are a few Santas that focus solely on money and trying to get ahead on the business side of things, pushing those around them aside. I'm fairly confident that most still put the needs and dreams of children first, regardless of if there might be financial gain or not.
This Christmas morning, I was not Santa...I was a father, and proof was left of Santa's visit to our home without my help at all. My two young children popped out of bed early and ran in to wake their mother and I. There excitement could be heard in their voices and seen clearly on their faces...Santa had come, Santa had made the journey, to bring them something special, just for them...and they were both on cloud nine.
While it truly is wonderful to be a part of so many families lives and play even a very small part in their own Christmas celebrations...this obviously was different, the magic of Santa was there for my own children, and I was once again a spectator and not a participant.
Now, I've mentioned this before...I'm a giant baby. When I see my own children enjoying the magic of Christmas morning...I can't help but have tears in my eyes. These are the moments, and I am under no illusion in knowing, these years will quickly pass by. Both children seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds this year and I couldn't help but review in my own mind, "was I an active participant?..or did I take a back seat?"
This Christmas was like no other with my broken foot. With strict orders from the doctor to keep my "toes to my noes" to keep my foot from swelling, staying in bed; my amazing wife was pretty much in charge of all things Christmas. Being a season that was largely my job to prepare for, I was always the one that did the bulk of the preparations. My wife, my friend and hero, did the shopping, did the decorating, and even dragged the 8 foot tree into the house. This year, my wife was Santa for all of us. She did the shopping, she did the wrapping, she did the decorating, she made it all work and I am so grateful.
Christmas was wonderful, the gifts were amazing, the food was fantastic, but more importantly, we were also celebrating the "reason for the season" too.
We have a tradition in our family, that while our beautiful porcelain nativity comes out with all of our Christmas decorations, finding a place of importance on top of one of the grand pianos; the baby Jesus is not set in the nativity scene yet. "Santa" places the baby within the nativity when he comes to visit to celebrate His birth.
This is the first thing we ask the children to check, is Jesus in the manger? After this, we move to the stocking and gifts under the tree. We treat Santa, the gift giver, as a special symbol of the love of Christ for us all...giving us all gifts seen and unseen. As my five year old said this year, "Jesus must love us so very much if he's giving US presents on HIS birthday!" ...yes, he loves us more than we can comprehend.
Christmas was an extra special one this year. I was truly just a spectator and participated in very little in all the preparations of the day. I did what I could, but my wife was my Santa this year, and she worked so very hard to make this an amazing year for us all.
Is Santa real? Very much so. I've never met the one and only, but I've seen his mark on the hearts of many. I've seen the magic of Santa Claus many times, and I've seen the beauty that comes from children believing and us all letting our imaginations and hearts dance together.
I truly hope, with all of my heart, that Santa visited your homes, that he touched your lives and hearts, and that the season was so much more than just a job. I hope and pray that each of you had an amazing Christmas, that you continue enjoying the season, and wish you all an amazing and happy New Year!
For me the 2013 Season began in it's planning stages in 2012 like most. Brainstorming all the things I would add and do to improve my portrayal for the upcoming year's Christmas season. December 26, 2012, I would begin the long process of growing a new season's beard, complete with a massive amount of hair care products and supplements for a healthier and stronger beard to survive the harsh process of turning my young beard into a more Kringle worthy look.
As the season quickly approached, there were props and additions large and small that were added. A packed schedule with more events being scheduled daily, parades, schools, hospitals, tree lightings, and more! There was even my Santa Claus concert; which required a myriad of additional planning and resources. There was no way to know what was coming up in my future...
November had arrived, the beard was looking good and the schedule was now packed. Mid November, on a brisk morning walking to my classroom to direct my children's chorus, and carrying their newly arrived tshirts, I took a fall that would change everything.
I knew something terrible had happened but it would be another week before I'd discover I was out for the count. Having suffered a fracture and obliterating the tendons in my right foot, there would be two surgeries to try and correct the issues caused by my swan dive. There is projected a total of two to three months before I will start to walk again. And my foot is currently littered with screws and plates that will cause any TSA agent a little apprehension.
So, I will not lie, I will not hide it...I was angry...REALLY angry. I probably spend 20-30 hours each week volunteering my time to others, I'm involved on numerous boards in the community, I support various charities, and more. I'm not boasting...I'm just saying, I'm one of the good guys, and I was angry. My anger initially was directed at myself, angry for not having paid more attention, angry that I was the cause of such a massive amount of stress. My anger then turned to God, why did I have to deal with this!? Why did I have to be tested in this way!? It just wasn't fair! My internal child-like tantrum did not last long, it was probably needed, as this was a growing opportunity. I was given a few moments of clarity in my life, and learned of a few trials going on in friends lives that had me feeling guilty for my outburst.
Why was I going through this all? Well, because I had something to learn, something to experience, perhaps an example to set, and in the end...because I'd be just fine and stronger in the end.
It was devastating making those calls to cancel my appearances. With each one, I wanted to just cry. It wasn't too bad with my corporate events, but when I had to tell families, and hospitals I wouldn't be able to make it...I could hear there sadness and it broke my heart. I had visits planned for children on hospice, I had numerous charity events, I had the preemies at the Children's Hospitals...all cancelled, special visits that Santa would not make.
Despite two days out of surgery, I managed to get through my Santa show, performing through the haze of heavy pain killers. I truly don't remember that much of the show but everyone loved it, I just knew...it was NOT the show I had planned and look forward to being at 100% next year. That being said, I was able to reach out to a young girl who left me a touching letter and I felt I made a difference for her.
I was able to return with a few adjustments to the America's Children's Holiday Parade. It was an event that I really was able to enjoy in the moment. They were kind enough to put together a new sleigh that I could get in with my broken foot and we made a cast cover that closely matched my Santa boots.
My other events that I was able to manage were charity, a pancake breakfast, and a few schools...all a bit different because I lacked the ability to walk around and mingle.
Last night I had two of my last opportunities for the season. I had donated a "Santa visit" for charity last Spring and the local Vice Mayor won the opportunity. While I had planned to visit his home, we were able to arrange him to come to my house. He brought his sweet son, a young man with autism to visit. I had many things memorized and at the ready from his teacher and dog's name, to his favorite toys. I was told he would not want to be close to me and that I would not be able to understand him.
It took a few minutes, trying a few different things to interact with him with my experience with autistic children...he soon was in my lap, and cuddling with Santa. He wanted to be held, he wanted to hold my hand, and hug me. We had a conversation, and while the parents were there to translate, I understood his words, I could see his excitement.
I had heard that he loved dinosaurs, so I took out one of my books in my collection, "How do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?" While sitting on my knee, he and I read the book, taking turns sounding out the words. I had not planned it, but as he was about to leave, I check my "Naught & Nice" watch, I told him he was being such a wonderful example for us all, and told him I'd like to give him an early Christmas gift. I hugged him and handed him the book. I cannot express in words his reaction but to say it was pure joy.
Shortly after this wonderful family left, a neighbor dropped by with their family, and a 6 month old little guy that would not take a picture with Santa...they had tried 3 times. They came to try immediately but I said, let's wait. We chatted, and the little guy just soaked it all up with bright eyes. It seemed he had warmed up a bit and we finally tried, he came to me and by the end, was resting his head on my shoulder.
The moments this year as Santa, for me, were few and far between but they were incredible moments. I'm feeling now, knowing I'm all done for the year, fulfilled and blessed. What an amazing opportunity we have and what a blessing it is to be invited into these families lives and to participate in such a unique way in sharing the Christmas season. I have been blessed with so much and even getting in my suit once and seeing someone through the eyes of Santa, makes it all worth it. My extra time with my family has been such a blessing too and seeing so many friends and family gather around to support us has been humbling.
Next year will be here before we know it, and I look forward to a season where I'm walking again. This season will surely be a season to remember and I'm grateful for all I've learned through my own struggles on how to be a better Santa and not take things for granted.
I wish you, my fellow Clausnet friends, an amazing and wonderful end to your season and a happy and prosperous new year. Thank you for all you do and for the examples and lessons you teach and provide me...this is an amazing community and I feel honored to be a part of it.
The Other "Gift Giver" in Italy - La Befana
by Santa Johnathan
There seems to me, to be a lot of misunderstanding on Italy's dear Befana. After watching the 1994 "Miracle on 34th Street" last night, and seeing Santa (Richard Attenborough) list off all of the names he is known by, including "La Befana," I thought I'd write a little bit about the Italian "gift giver."
First off, Santa and Befana are certainly NOT the same person. Santa, known as Babbo Natale in Italian, translates to Father Christmas. The word "babbo" is actually more a familiar and loving word for father, similar to Daddy or Dad in English.
Babbo Natale shows up in Italy late Christmas Eve and there are all sorts of Italian traditions surrounding Christmas there from unique foods, to when you open presents but that's for another time. Now, back to the Befana...
La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col vestito alla Romana
Viva, Viva, La Befana!
The Befana comes at night
With shoes all torn
With clothes in the Roman style
Live, Live, The Befana!
La Befana is the traditional "gift giver" of Italy and is often called the "gift giver" more than "La Befana." This Italian character is certainly celebrated as Santa is here in the US, and children flock to her when she is portrayed by an individual throughout the country.
Described as an old woman, she has become very much, a magical witch-like character. Traveling the country on her broom, delivery toys to the children. She is old and ugly, with rags for clothes, but she IS kind and loving.
From my experience an an American living in Italy, it felt like they were getting ready for Halloween, which they do not celebrate, as the streets are decorated with witches on brooms.
It also amazed me, while my childhood taught me to fear the image of the witch, children would flock to the ugly old woman when she would show up in the form of an individual portraying her.
A Bit of the Tradition
Italy's tradition and history of La Befana is very much a religious story. The story goes that the wise men were journeying afar to find the baby Christ child. They came upon an old women and asked her for directions. After the directions were given, the kings invited her to join them and celebrate the birth of Jesus, but she declined as she said, she was just too busy.
Shortly thereafter, a shepherd came with the same inquiry, but again, the old woman said she was just too busy to go.
Later, as she gazed up at the North star, she realized she had made a grave mistake. She wanted to be there, and celebrate this special baby. She grabbed what she had to give as gifts to try and catch up to the kings and shepherd.
To this day, she has vowed to honor the baby Jesus that she never found, by honoring all good boys and girls gifts, and charcoal for those children who do not listen, like the day she did not listen to her heart and follow with the Kings and Shepherd.
Celebrating La Befana
The Befana brings many gifts, filling stockings and also bringing wrapped gifts too. While there are many similarities between Santa and the Befana...they are very much two separate individuals.
While tradition has been that the Befana is quite old and ugly, she has in recent years began to be more and more beautiful. In Italian television it is not uncommon now for La Befana to be portrayed by a beautiful young actress with a grey wig and a patchwork of clothes.
Santa continues to show up Christmas Eve, while the Befana's day of celebration is the night before January 6th, known as the Epiphany...and for much of Italy, is an even bigger celebration. As time goes by, outside cultures are bringing more Santa in a big way but the Italians are holding on to their traditions and La Befana is alive and well within their hearts.
Last Wednesday I made a brief Santa visit at the senior center's Adopt-A-Grandparent Day. The kids seemed to enjoy it as Santa arrived, and began to hand out little gift bags (put together by an activities coordinator). It's the first appearance I'd done in over a year and I was surprised at how nervous I was. I knew I was rusty when I decided to ask the kids to help sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and suddenly tensed up because I was afraid I'd forget some of the words during the song!
But I made it through, with the kids singing along with gusto.
I ended the visit telling the kids to listen to and respect their parents and teachers, be good to each other, and that Santa would be back in a couple of weeks with some wonderful surprises.
Today I heard that some of the seniors were disturbed that I didn't take the opportunity to talk about Jesus as the reason for the season. I suppose they have a point, but I wonder why they couldn't just enjoy the event like most of the other people seemed to enjoy it.
This might be my only appearance this year, but it was great to get back into the suit and bring smiles to kids and adults alike.
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