Seeking recognition is a downward path for a legend who performs his tasks in the veil of night.
Recently, a fellow portrayer of Santa posted an image on Facebook that they constructed to look like a magazine cover with him on it and several story snips like many publications have on their covers. You may have seen it if they are your friend on Facebook. It looks okay. The composition is good, but the rendering when uploading it to Facebook became distorted it and it is quite pixelated when you look at it from a development standpoint.
What got my goat was his choice of accompanied text, “Finally got a little recognition…”. Let me say that his post was all in jest, I am certain. This man is one of the kindest, gentlest, giving souls you will come across. I love him as a brother. Yet his unintended incursion on the spirit of the Claus legend got me more than a little flustered. And I know it would be last thing he would want anyone to get from this posting.
If you are in this to seek recognition, get out. Plain and simple. It’s the last thing that the real Santa Claus would have wanted. It’s the antithesis of St. Nicholas, for whom Santa is mostly based.
More and more, I see the ego of man rearing its ugly head in the Claus community. And this comes from one of the vainest individuals you would ever loath to meet. My mother, rest her soul, would chuckle and get all sorts of entertainment over my time in front of the mirror as a youth. As my hair fell out and turned grey and I stated portraying Santa, it became less of an issue of ego and more of an asset to putting forward the best portrayal I know how. And yet attention to Felix Estridge is the last thing I want. Last year, I was elected as President and Executive Director of the Board for Lone Star Santas Charities, Inc.® I tried to refuse but the Board felt it was best moving forward with the group as the current President & Executive Director was retiring from guiding the organization. I still felt awkward in that it might bring me some kind of recognition that I did not ultimately want. But, for the good of the organization and at their begging, I accepted. When asked for my name after having had news footage or news photos shot of me as Santa, I tell them “Kris Kringle” and wait for the response. I will never give my real name unless I am forced to do so, and, even then, I have been known to refuse. I always tell them that the magic for people remains in the mystery of the legend of Santa Claus. They then understand.
And all who portray him should strive to keep that magic alive.
As I recently defended, I am no one’s arbiter, police, or any authoritarian on portraying Santa. I merely offer this perspective as a personal opinion from simple observation over time. I am less learned than many, many others. I just happen to be passionate about this issue. I will never give up trying to protect the legend.
Do no harm to the legend.
Many of you know that I shaved my beard completely off after Christmas. It was for personal reasons.
Before the holiday season started, I had told my wife that I was considering shaving off everything but my eyebrows after Christmas. She had commented that it had been quite some time since she' seen "the man she married" and that she loved my beard, but, if I were to shave it off, I had to leave the mustache. I told her that I would consider her request. I knew that I would look so much younger without the beard and 'stache, but perhaps leaving the 'stache would not make it where I looked drastically younger. And I told her that I was only shaving once with it starting to grow back immediately to be in the best shape possible for the 2016 holiday season.
Like everyone else, my body has changed over time. What was underneath my face frock now? That was my motivation to shave. So I did it. I came back from handing out presents at the hospital on Christmas Day morning, removed my outfit, put on some shorts and went into to get the trimmers. In an effort to surprise Reana, I had said to her in the prior week that I was reconsidering whether to just trim back or completely shave. She had replied each time that it was up to me. So when I passed her to get the trimmer, I told her that I was just taking off the head hair and trimming back the beard some. She was in conversation with her mother but said, "Okay" and went back to their topic. I went into the bathroom and closed the door, locking it to finally make sure the surprise was possible.
Then...it happened. I cleaned up, packed up the trimmer, broke out the razor and shaving cream and smoothed it out. "Holy crap," I thought to myself. I looked like a stranger. Lets see what my queen had to say. My mother in-law was the first to see me and her mouth dropped open. Reana had her back to me as I walked into the kitchen and she did not see the look on her mother's face, either. When she heard me walking up behind her, she stopped talking. As I do often, I stopped and put my hands on her shoulders. She reached up with one hand for my face and then looked up at me. Her mouth dropped open and she began crying. I came around in front of her and she buried her face in my smaller tummy and just caressed my face (I'd lost 22 lbs during the holidays). Then she said, "Why?" I told her that it was my plan all along and I what I said was an effort to surprise her.
Boy...did that work or what?!
I'm as vain as the next person. My mother would have said that I was more vain when I was a teenager. Vanity is about ego and I have tried to live my life with the character of St. Nick without ego. It is not easy. It takes work at putting others before yourself. It is something we all should do in our everyday lives. I call it the "Claus Effect" and its something every single person who chooses to portray the Jolly Old Elf should know & experience first-hand. If you don't, then you should consider your motivation. It can be life changing.
An unanticipated observation of this entire thing...the Claus Effect mindset did not leave me. It never crossed my mind before. But it makes sense. It is who I was all along but never really had anything to put it in the forefront of my daily thoughts like the Claus Effect had done. God knows what he is doing. Never doubt it.
This is an unsolicited review of beard balms that I have tried. These are my personal opinion and are the results of my personal use. My beard is used for seasonal work so I have to keep it in the best shape possible. Thus, I am very particular to what I use. Take what you will from this. I hope it helps my fellow Santa Clauses and others who grow their own beards to decide what works best for them, or, if they do not use a beard balm yet, to start using one as it definitely improves overall beard health.
Wonder Balm, by Beard Commander: This was my first foray into a beard balm. As with most beard balms, their scent selection is limited. They currently offer their Original scent (prominently sandalwood), Supreme Peppermint (light scent), and Old School Pipe (strong yet smooth). This product comes out of the tin easily but might feel somewhat grainy at first. After rubbing it between your palms for just a few seconds, that graininess disappears completely. It is a really smooth application. Taking your time to work it in all the way down to your skin is the best way to get your money’s worth in a beard balm. A great side effect of Wonder Balm is that it also an excellent skin conditioner. Many who grow a beard know of the dry skin that can occur from time to time. One application and the dry skin goes away, completely. The scents are awesome!!! The Old School Pipe is my favorite of their current 3 scents. It can easily last well over 24 hours. The Supreme Peppermint does not last quite as long, but it lasts at least a full 12 hours, if not longer. The Sandalwood is the faintest of the three, but it has its unique characteristics, too; smooth, calming, and fresh. The softness of my beard is very apparent and it lasts all day. They even supply instructions on use and application. http://beardcommander.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1&zenid=df739d0de18c48863a28a3609f25e208
Bodacious Beard Balm, by Sleigh Master: This was my second product to assess. Their scent selection is quite varied, actually. They offer anything that Santa Claus could want; Candy Cane, Christmas Pie, Jingle Berry, Three Kings, Christmas Tree, and their latest, Secret Santa for those who just want conditioning and control but no scent to compete with other products that Santa might be wearing. The Sleigh Master has given quite a bit of thought into his product line. He also offers beard oils in the same scents as his beard balms. The consistency is nice and smooth, no graininess at all but like the smoothness of lip balm and thicker. The 2 scents I have tried are their Candy Cane and Christmas Tree. They are absolutely wonderful when opening the tin, very sharp, crisp, and fragrant. Application is smooth and easy to work down to the skin, too. This is less oily than Wonder Balm but it does not condition my skin under my beard as well. In fact, I will have some dryness at the end of the day on my chin like it is pulling oils out of my hair follicles and skin. The scents wanes after about 20-30 minutes and then it is gone except for the softness which lasts only for 3-4 hours. Another application is needed at that point. If you were to use the beard oil in conjunction with the beard balm, the scent will last longer and the softness does, as well, but this requires multiple applications throughout the day. http://www.sleighmaster.com/product-category/beard-balms/
Beard Balm, by The Art of Man: This was my last product to try out. They have quite a few scents, too; Angry Apple, Creed, Lust, Sniper, T3, and Winter Warrior. They also offer these same scents in oils, like Sleigh Master. The 2 that I have tried are Winter Warrior and Lust. These are similar in consistency to the Sleigh Master product as there is no graininess, just smooth, firm balm. The Lust is an awesome scent and seems like it would work well with a similar cocoa-scented cologne I have for Santa. The Winter Warrior has an over smell of spearmint and is nothing like I have smelled before, it seemed almost candy-like. Both scents also did not last long, like Sleigh Master. The softness lasted longer with this product than Sleigh Master. Their oil also helped rejuvenate the scent, but required multiple applications to keep it going. http://www.aombeards.com/shop/?category=Balms
Wonder Balm by Beard Commander is by far my #1 choice of beard balms. This is because these products do more than what is advertised by their scent lasts longer so much than any other beard balm I have tried. As I come across other offerings, I will post them, too.
Thanks for taking time to read through all of this. I hope it might help someone with keeping their beard in the best possible shape.
The magic of Christmas was a major thing for me when I was a small child. It was a feeling that never really went away during the year but hibernated for periods until I would get a comment from my GrandDaddy about how being good was important and that Santa Claus was always watching.
My GrandDaddy was the sheriff of our county for many years until he passed away. He used to pick one of us (between my brother, sister, and I) each week to take to work with him at the courthouse for a day. I think he took my sister more than my brother and I, but that was okay. Whenever you were with him, he made you feel like the most important person on the face of the planet. My mother commented many times after he passed away that you would always see him running around the county with someone's child, if not with his own grandchildren. He even had extra diapers in his car and back pocket...that's how much he loved children.
Now...about that most vivid memory. On Christmas Eve, my parents would aways host a dinner for both sides of their family. My mother's side would come every single time...Grams and GrandDaddy were always there, no matter the situation. My father's side would be there for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, but not both. Ma'maw and Papaw weren't as outwardly loving. The dinner was always our favorite goodies...nothing elaborate at all. Finger foods, snacks, and sweets as the next day we'd go all out with the big meal. We'd start serving and talk while we mingled throughout the kitchen, dining room, and living room. The Christmas tree always was put in the corner of the living room where it met the hallway that led to my parent's and my bedroom. I'd sit down on the floor by the tree to consume my goodies, anticipating what surprises were in store for me after we were finished eating.
You see, our family always opened their gifts to each other on Christmas Eve. My parents did this because both of their parents did, but, amazingly enough for the same reason...to emphasize a line of demarcation as to what gifts came from family and what gifts came from Santa Claus. After opening the gifts, the adults would watch us kids act out being the models from the Price Is Right with our gifts. Once the living room was mostly clean, my father would then read Twas The Night Before Christmas and Grams would read the passage on the birth of Christ. Then, we'd say our "Good night!" and get ushered off to bed. All 3 of us were required to sleep in the same room together that night. Every other day, my brother and I shared a bedroom which was on the west wall of the living room and my sister had her bedroom on the east wall. How could they accomplish the magic of Santa Claus with having to worry about threats from both directions?
Okay...really...on to my most vivid memory.
It is the sound of bells shortly after being tucked in bed and the door shut, and from what sounded like the rooftop to all 3 of us. At first, it was most certainly Santa Claus waiting for us to be fast asleep. Later, when the doubts started happening, we all agreed it sounded like the bells on decoration my mother would always affix to the bathroom door. At that point, one of us would crack the bedroom door to peek at the bathroom door. NO! The door decoration was there and as still as it could be! It must be Santa Claus...for real! We would slam our eyes shut so he wouldn't see us awake. Somehow, we were all able to get to sleep reasonably quick after the jingling of the bells. We'd awake the next morning, throw open the door and run down the long hall, into the kitchen, through the dining room, and finally into the living room where the Christmas tree seemed to glow with magic. The stockings were full of all sorts of goodies from Santa...mixed nuts, fruit, wax lips, Life Savers, chocolate candies, along with a few small toys like MatchBox cars. There was always one or two gifts under the tree from Santa for each of us. We'd play with our gifts from Santa, pick up the trash, and then off to get ready for company and that scrumptious meal.
WOW! What an annual experience!
After discovering that it was my parents acting on Santa's behalf, the bells were silent after going to bed. I'm not sure why, but I never asked about their source. Not until 3 years ago. We surprised my mother on Christmas Eve. My sister and me (and my family) were the only ones who knew about our coming for Christmas. We drove all day on Christmas Eve to get there just perfectly at dark. Talk about being flabbergasted! She couldn't speak at first (which has never happened before...obviously a red letter day). What brought her to the door to see us was the ringing of my sleigh bells from my Santa ensemble. After we came in, she told me that chill ran up her spine when she heard them. She explained that all those years, before his passing, it was my GrandDaddy who got up on a ladder across on the south side of the house, above my parents bedroom, and rang bells each Christmas Eve. Grams and him would leave and he would take Grams home each Christmas Eve and then drive the 4 miles back to our house to jingle on queue. She thought she was about to have an Ebenezer Scrooge moment. We both got a good chuckle out of that!
Marinated Chicken Enchiladas with Black Beans
Serves: 6; Servingsize: 1 enchilada
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 tsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp chili powder
2 scallions, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp olive oil
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
6 (6-inch) whole-wheat tortillas
2/3 cup reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese blend or Monterey Jack cheese,divided
1 1/2 cups canned enchilada sauce
1. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken with the olive oil, limejuice, chili powder, scallions, salt, and pepper.
2. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour andup to 24 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 375°F.
4. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard any excess.
5. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Addthe chicken and sauté for 7 to 8 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
6. Remove the chicken to a bowl and add the black beans.
7. Divide the chicken-and-bean filling among six tortillas. Topeach with 1 Tbsp of the cheese.
8. Roll up each tortilla and place seam-side down in a baking dishcoated with cooking spray.
9. Pour the sauce over the enchiladas and bake, covered, for about20 minutes.
10. Add the remaining cheese and bake, uncovered, for 5 minutes until cheesemelts.
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