Wednesday, December 21, 2011

5 Greatest Christmas Presents

As you likely know, Christmas time is upon us. So, as I've been sitting here at home, I've reflected on what I naturally remember most from various past Christmases- what I've gotten. This is a countdown of the top 5 most amazing Christmas gifts I've ever received.

5. Nerf Gun Crossbow

I don't know if you have ever had the opportunity to hold such a thing of beauty in your hands, but one year I was lucky enough to unwrap the most magnificent Nerf weapon ever created. Perhaps my brother's Nerf blaster with the rotating bullet shooting thing was quicker, but mine was more powerful. One hit from the crossbow, and you had a welt the size of a quarter.

4. American Girl Doll with set

If you were a girl and you were alive in the mid nineties, you know what an american girl doll was. This was back in the day, before the internet, so everything was ordered out of a catalog you received in the mail. These dolls were based on books (or were the books based on the dolls? I have no idea). Each one of the books followed a sort of formula. There was the introductory book, the birthday story, the school story, etc etc. Each girl character was taken out of a specific time in history such as the American Revolution, World War II, etc. One year, I received my coveted doll... the Abby doll. Now, I did already have a Samantha doll. She had brown hair, brown eyes so my parents figured that was the best fit. But for those of you who had read the stories, you know that Samantha was one of the most boring. She was an orphaned girl living with her super rich grandma at the turn of the 20th century. Yawn. Abby, now she was interesting. Her first book is about her escaping from slavery for heaven's sake. Not only did I receive my awesome Abby doll, but I also got the doll bed, the doll quilts, and a doll desk. I'm pretty sure I was the coolest girl in 3rd grade.

3. Mike’s Creepy Crawler Maker

Ok, so maybe this isn't something I personally received, but I definitely got to use it. See, this was back in the day when my brother was nice and shared things. He got this sweet Creepy Crawler bug maker, and I got an EZ bake oven. Now don't get me wrong, the EZ bake was amazing, but it didn't make brightly glowing worms or centipedes. I remember sitting on his bed as he pulled gross looking worm after worm out of that thing. Honestly, there was little more that year I could imagine I could want.

2. Machete/Ax

I didn't receive this gift until well into my teens. You see, every year my uncle send us intentionally bizarre gifts. One year it was the box full of aviator glasses (before they made their comeback) that we could all choose from. Another, it was modeling beeswax. One year though, we hit the gift jackpot. I'm assuming my uncle had been to some sort of outdoors adventure type store because not only did we all get fully functional headlamps, but also machetes and axes. Let me tell you, they've been put to good use.

1. Volunteering Outside for 4 1/2 hours

Ok, now I don't mean to get all cheesy or anything, but this truly is one of the best Christmas gifts I was given. Now, just so you understand, we don't get too sappy in my family. We aren't ones to reenact the nativity or sing carols or anything like that. Every year we watch Ernest Saves Christmas, Muppet Christmas Carol, and Christmas Vacation. I know many of you have deeply meaningful Christmas traditions, and I truly think that is great. It just didn't really work for us.

Now, one Christmas morning when I was younger, we left our warm house to go out and serve warm apple cider to people standing in line for hours for gifts at the local disadvantaged school. Now, I wasn't feeling very charitable at the time, in fact I'm pretty sure I complained bitterly. It may have been a frigid 45 degrees, it was foggy, and I didn't get a chance to play with any of my new things. But it has really stuck with me. The people happily walking out of the school didn't have arms full of amazing gifts. They had things like socks, toothbrushes, sweatpants. Maybe the occasional action figure, and that was it. It was really a smack in the face to my 9 year-old self. I had seriously so many things, and I had been so self-absorbed. My parents explained to me that most of the kids going to school there were homeless. Sometimes their parents were renting out motel rooms, sometimes they were in shelters.

I had done nothing to earn what I had, while kids my same age were given so much less, but were so happy and so grateful for the little they received. It's an important perspective to have. Again, this is maybe the best gift my parents, or anyone, ever gave me.

Anyway, to anyone reading this intentionally or by accident, I love you all! Have a Merry Christmas! (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Chrismukkah or Yuletide or whatever)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Life Lessons From the Movie Twister

Friends and random Malaysians/Russians/Saudis, one of the greatest influences of my life has been the movie Twister, released in 1996. This magnificent piece of cinematic art did so much to mold me in my formative years. As I've grown and matured, I have carried these lessons with me. I believe that much of what I am to day is derived directly from this masterpiece.

1. No matter how dysfunctional a relationship is, spend some time in a truck together and everything will work out. This truth is reinforced not only by this movie, but by all sorts of road-trip bonding type movies where the characters start off hating each other, but by the end have grown to love and respect each other through mutually trying experiences/revelations. I dare you to try and brainstorm fewer than 5 movies where this has happened. They even used it on Vampire Diaries for heaven's sake! And a little bit in Twilight. Obviously, this must be a fact of life.
2. The 1996 Dodge Ram is the most amazing truck ever built. Not only can this thing directly withstand being in a tornado (on a bridge no less) for over 40 seconds doing little more than turning in a circle, it also has amazing self-healing abilities. One of our favorite hobbies as a family is to try and count the number of times the windshield gets cracked by flying tricycles or the like, then will magically fix itself in the next shot. The truck bed should have been crushed by the falling utility pole, but survives with merely a dent. This behemoth can drive through houses, corn fields, and exploding tankers. Not to mention giant trees in the road. The one Achilles heel, the thing that can bring down this magnum opus is if you have to drive into the shoulder of the road. In that case, you will get a flat tire.

3. Don't worry about your archenemy. In the end they will get impaled by a giant pole. If you skipped the mid-nineties and have yet to see this movie, don't read that last title. This one has been very useful throughout my life. Karma will get you, backstabbers. If not now, then when you're driving stupidly into an F-5 tornado.

4. Never mess with Mother Nature. You will be hunted down. And it will be by a scary tornado that makes the same noise my tummy does when I haven't eaten breakfast. It doesn't matter if you're watching The Shining at the local drive-in, or making weird giant metal wind chimes.

5. As long as you're with someone as manly as Bill Paxton, you will be capable of defying the basic laws of physics and meteorology. All this man's man needs to do is pick up some dirt and look significantly into the sky, and he automatically knows which way the tornado is headed. Unless, of course it is headed directly towards him, as it does when they're at the drive-in. He can ride in the truck bed amidst heavy debris and hail, stuff that kills lesser men, and survive without a scratch. Not to mention outrunning an F-5 tornado, yes the same one that ultimately shish kabobed his rival and took out The Ram. Later, he was able to strap himself and his lady-friend to a pole, then hold both of them down as the F-5 swirled around them. Now we know that not only are thousands of razor-sharp sensors flying around in there, but also his nemesis, his nemesis' truck, his Dodge Ram, dozens of John Deere tractors, pieces of auntie mae's house, and likely his ex-fiance and some cows. They did walk away a little muddy. I'd like to see Bear Grylls do that.