Sunday, December 30, 2012

God's Quirky Sense of Things, See you in 2013

Back before college at the beach, my favorite place in the world, sitting on the deck, patting my dog and talking with my dad, I prayed a big prayer, though I didn't know it at the time. College felt alien and I worried I would be as lonely there as I had been in high school and middle. The lurking...what if it's me? doubt wouldn't let me go. I asked for someone to love me...just for me.

I met the man I would marry three days into school.  I'd also prayed to have lots of people who would always love me.  I would argue ten kids equals a lot.   Now God knows I got the joke long before even kid five, but rest were His equivalent of a rim shot. 

The scripture "Ask and you shall receive" direct from Christ has always held great comfort to me.  I've also always known when a prayer has been answered, because it is accompanied by "laughter."
So when prayer is hard for me, usually, my sense of humor is off as well.   It is a good gut check for me.

There was a series of weeks when our family was running perpetually everything. 

Frustrated after multiple missings of good things, I prayed to God to help me find a way to get us where we needed to go before we were expected. 

God knows I'm a writer. I'm always hoping/pitching/writing stories to get published.    God's not subtle with me, but then He knows absent blunt instruction, I'm clueless. So the week after my prayer, I got asked to write a humor piece on getting to mass on time.

I could hear God laughing as I typed.   We'll be there I promised.  And things got better.  You could say we paid more attention to the clock or I implemented the tips I'd written, but the reality is things got easier, and it wasn't fully us that made it so. 

This past two years, I've said a rosary, faithfully, every day.  Then, after Christmas, it became very difficult.  I'd get through a decade, two, forget which decade I was on, fall asleep during, start over, it has been a stumbling bumpy path of trying to will through the prayer. It wasn't because I was sad or angry or scared or frustrated or even busy.  It was simply the prayer muscles seemed to have become gimpy, distractable, undisciplined.  

Around the same point, writing became excruciating as well, a laborious task that lacked humor.  I thought it was merely the many tasks of Christmas and the fact that my laptop fried.  But all the stories seem dried up.  I know they are there, locked in a well of my brain somewhere and I can think of 16 different cute/amusing/sweet/crafty/clever type events that came from having all ten home over the holidays, but they don't coalesce into a coherent whole.  All the half and third and fifth decades don't equal a rosary and all the little quirks and cute moments don't equal a story.  Both the prayerful and the creative parts of my brain feel locked.  

I have two paths.  Beat my head against this wall. (It has always worked before, I'm remarkably oblivious to the pain when I set my self up this way but I've been doing that for about a month).   Stop and listen to what it is that God wants.  Since the prayer theme this year was "Be Still and Know I am Here" I'm guessing I should probably go with the later. I'm counting on God to be rather direct about this, big Neon sign can't miss it if you tried kind of notice. 

Immediately the panic bird of my brain says, "But Sherry, if you stop writing, you're not a writer. You've worked hard to craft a following of 133 people (Hi 133 followers), and have a modestly successful blog.  You've even got Google ads up to $40.00 --they don't pay until you get to $100.00, but last year you were at $14.75!  You have close to 200 hits a day.  If you don't put things up, that will stop! 

But I'm going to trust on this one. 

God gave me the talent, God gives me the will.  God will give me the words, or not.  It's that simple.  So I'm taking a two week break from the blog, I'm disciplining myself that it will be two weeks, which doesn't seem like a lot, but to a blogger, it is an eternity.  I'm also going to allow myself to try a simpler prayer like the Chaplet in the meantime, and hope the Rosary comes easier.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holding onto Christmas

Keeping Christmas is not easy.  It is plagued by our endless ability to be distracted by tooth aches and bills, piles of paper and boxes from the early morning feast of giving and the need to go to the grocery store and do all the ordinary things of fallen living.

Yesterday, it was a fight to keep Christmas when the play dough had been opened and merged and decimated in the living room and thus become one with the floor.  The cardboard train had already been tackled, wrestled to the ground and declared DOA.   There were moments when the clutter of life threatened to crowd out the room in the inn, like when all the drawers were open and cascading out with clothing, or when two children created a three foot wide puddle on the carpet using newly acquired buckets to form a brigade from the bathroom sink.  

The temptation to lose Christmas lingered beneath the bad homily of the Children's Christmas eve mass that included a reading of the Three Bears and the story of Peter Rabbit as indicative of how important stories were. 

Below the slush that caked the driveway and needed three children to clear it and in the pile of dishes that included paint water and thus had stained the sink and several dishes an unattractive purple, the world prince lurked to snatch away and devour joy.   Broken toys already and a newly colored wall, all these opportunities for the teeth of the world to bite at the essence of what Christmas is.  But all the world can do is bite away at what Christmas is not, some sort of Martha Stewart perfection, or a zen like state of being indifferent to the trials and toils of the world, it can reveal all our messy broken indulgent neediness, but all that biting illustrates, is our desperate need for the great gift of Christ's birth.

The common phrase now is "Christmas is the greatest story" ever told.  It was used in the fairy tale homily to tie in the children's literature to the children's mass.   I've never liked that description of Christmas, because it implies a "the end." to the event.  While Christmas took place for the first time at some point (5 BC I believe Pope Benedict XVI indicated), it is ongoing.  Christ is ever seeking to be welcomed into our hearts, ever seeking room in the inn.  It will not change the existence of bills or speeding tickets, dental appointments or dust bunnies with bonus piles of ribbons and tape galore, it will merely allow us to endure all these things.  

If we hold the promise of Christ to be true, there is no end to this Christmas love story, to this constant gift.  There is no last Christmas present to unwrap before returning to ordinary time, we cannot exhaust His love, nor can we cease needing it desperately.  

So Merry Christmas! Joy to the World!  Peace on Earth to Men of Good Will! Celebrate this third day of Christmas not be getting back to work or the ordinary, but by holding on to that mysterious reality of the Holy Family in the stable, not letting the world crowd back over the place in the heart we are to keep for Christ, and knowing that if we do even the slightest bit of cooperation on this point; God will make that space for Him ever bigger.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kid Rules and Regulations for Christmas

10) Any time after 4:00 a.m. is late for getting up for Christmas but Mom and Dad refuse to move until 5:30 so it's best to just wait.

9) Parents should understand that any present that requires assembly/craft time or quality time must be opened and played with today. Otherwise, it doesn't count. Ditto for books unless you read them to us.

8) You may consider clothing a great thing to find under the tree Mom, and we may need it. Just don't expect us to get really psyched about such things.

7) Fudge, pie and Busche Noel make for a great Christmas breakfast.

6) Expect a toy coma to hit around 2 pm. It is then we will count up our Christmas loot, admire our gift cards and ask, "When can we go shopping?"

5) Food Network worthy feasts for Christmas day dinner are ill advised. Remember, we raved over instant mashed potatoes and Pillsbury crescent rolls.

4) No matter how much food you bought, there will be a need to run to the store. After all, we can't make ice cream with the new ice cream maker if we don't have heavy cream...(see rule 9).

3) Some assembly required should be done outside our eyesight. It ruins the mystique of the My Little Pony Tent Club House if an adult and 12 year old are having a vigorous discussion about how the thing assembles and one is saying...."But I READ the directions" while the other is explaining the top has to have three assembly points and this one has four.

2) Ignore what we said back in #8. Can I wear my new tutu with the new t-shirt and sparkly socks? Today? Tonight for bed? Tomorrow? Forever?

1) Thanks for not shoeing the Lego Sponge Bob Square Pants Crabby Patty Restaurant off the table even if it did mean we didn't use a table cloth for dinner. The fullness of Christmas is in our eyes and hearts long before we ever get it in our heads, thanks for playing along and being patient about the whole business.

Merry Christmas!
Originally run on December 25th, 2011.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Can We Do?

The surest sign that we are made for something better than suffering and death is our absolute shock, aversion and puzzlement when faced with monstrous evil.   We do not understand the deliberate destruction of the beautiful or the innocent.  Further, when faced with that final reality, we come easily to see that everyone is beautiful and innocent; that we don't want anyone to die.  

This past week's killing spree left everyone holding their own children a little tighter.  We should recognize how precious and fragile the soft hand of a 6 or 7 year old is, and how much we should treasure when they want us to walk with them, read one more story, or fix just a little more breakfast.  

But when evil manifests itself so gravely in our midst, (even when protocols and policies and laws were properly enacted to protect against such unthinkable acts), we wonder what should we do?  What could we do?  What must be done? 

There will calls for gun control restrictions. There will be calls for better mental health care programs.  Both are reasonable responses and if politicians can be reasonable, perhaps some societal good shall come from a great evil. However the real work cannot be done on a societal level, because what happened was not the end result of society, it was an act that is outside of society, it came from inside the heart of a single person.

If we need proof that society is full of people of grace, we need only look at the custodian who ran through the hall warning teachers, or the kid who led his class friends out, or the teacher who lied and died to protect her students or the principal, or any of the adults who sought to keep a touch of normal in an unnormal situation, to preserve a touch of childhood when the world had gone mad.   There are far more people seeking to be light in the worst of situations, than those who seek to create the ultimate darkness. 

There is a terrifying unspoken element to this story, that each of us contains within us, a heart capable of darkness.  Not the same darkness, but there are all kinds of ways that we contribute to the isolation, loneliness, darkness, hunger and thirst of the world, by our words, by not talking, by our refusal to act, by our refusal to get involved.  Getting involved in the world is a dangerous thing, it is messy. Furthermore, if we do act, we will not be the same.

But the everyday courage of going out your door and engaging other people, as you shop, as you park your car, order food, help with homework, greet a teacher, see a neighbor or sit in a pew, these are the little acts of love that can knit and mend 1000 cuts if they are repeated every day all our lives.  We cannot stop sin in any hearts but our own, but we can encourage grace in others as we live by our lives.   So read a story, decorate your home, make gifts, give generously, hug fiercely, feast with your family, pray through your anger, pray through your frustrations, pray through the tedium that eats at good will and good humor.  It is the only way to be a light against the dark that seems often to gather and grow.  

Everyday courage is love in action.   Everyday courage involves meeting actual people and seeing them as beautiful, treating them as worthy of preserving, of serving, of walking with them, reading one more story, fixing one more breakfast.   Everyday courage sees Gollum as Smeagol and hopes he can be saved.  Everyday courage hopes even the killer of all these beautiful people, has found healing and forgiveness and peace, because everyday courage recognizes that "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement."  even when it seems easy to judge.

What can we do?  Light the pink candle, celebrate Advent, and be the people of hope, who do the everyday things with everyday courage.    

Thursday, December 13, 2012


Yes, I know it is December 13th and I am behind by a month and a half.   In October, I signed on to the Adopt a Catholic Speaker Month, a program run by Brandon Vogt over at his blog.

I picked Tony Melendez.

Then life happened and while I fired off an email, the project sat untouched.  Brandon was gentle about it and sent me an email and quite honestly before the week was over, it left my brain again.  

So I am here attempting to apologize. 

I saw Tony perform back in 2000 at our parish as part of the week of the March for Life.  What struck me was not simply his talent, his illustration of the infinite value of all of us, but the relationship he held with his brother. 

His brother introduced him.  There was a humorous tale about their youth.  But the affection was not a show.  The genuine filial love they held for each other, was part of the manifestation of grace that is Tony's message, that all of us, are necessary, that all of us help each of us, to love more as God loves.  This is a story of family as much as it is an illustration of brokenness being made whole via grace, via beauty, via love.

Tony's talent of playing the guitar with his feet is illustrative of dedication, determination, imagination, fierce will and proof that the limitations of our bodies are no where near as great as the limitations we have in our minds.   He is a great witness to the world to not dismiss the differently abled or visibly handicapped, and to all of us to not listen to the "Can'ts" of the world that have to do with who we are and what we dream.  

I didn't get to interview Tony for this write up, but the message he sang for Pope John Paul by his performance and the message he still teaches today each time he picks up the guitar is the same.  With God, all things are possible.  We are all infinitely loved, and we are all called to infinitely love.   Most of our limitations to develop skills, create beauty or grow friendships are our own.   His performance will inspire all of us to consider how stunted we are, how much we limit our own capacity to reach others, to grow our talents, and to persevere when the world tells us to quit.  

What we forget, we who have all our limbs and thus do not see our brokeness easily, is courage is always needed to perservere, we just often forget to ask for it because we think (foolishly), it somehow should be possible to do all God asks, without asking God. 

If you would like to book Tony for a speaking engagement for your parish, here is his website:  

If you need me, I'll be over here planning Thanksgiving dinner.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Decadent Life of Mine

Recently I came across a post from a New York magazine entitled, the Decadence of Procreation. It argued that because children cost so much, some odd unknown number between 12,290 and 1.8 million, having them is a status symbol and a sign of decadence --of having something inaccessible and rare as versus the masses.   To me, there's a huge difference between the just over 10K and the 1.8 million in a year, but that may be my 1%er brain not getting that there isn't any difference.  I didn't even know that people coveted dressage horses and third beach houses.  Clearly, I've got to work on my covetous heart, it isn't nearly decadant enough.

I'm also scratching my head here because in order to have masses to rise above, don't we need masses, ergo children?  And don't those who don't engage in "procreation" thus have the money we've spent on our little crumb crunchers to then lord over us with homes and live styles that are happy meal and mini-van free?   Does someone actually think people have children to lord over others....we don't even get to lord over our own masses, let alone others.   Children are not trophies or show ponies who do tricks for treats...they barely agree to go to bed under threat of a mother sitting outside in the hallway, working on her laptop acting as a guard dog.   I do growl.  

But apparently, mine is a life of luxury, the likes of which only few can reach. 

"Hello, I'm Robin Leach and I'm here with another addition of the Decadently Procreative. This time, we visit the house of one Sherry Antonetti.  With ten children, this woman has it all.   A shop vac in the kitchen....a couch full of laundry....and a 12 passenger van parked outside.  Yes, it's diet coke and mac and cheese dreams for this lady on the go.  

At 5:45 she starts her day.  Fixing seven lunches and 10 breakfasts, then it's time to load the car and get the elementary set to school by 7:55. Her husband has already shuttled their two high school daughters to their separate stops (the bus and the metro) at 6:45.  Returning home but not before stopping to snag the clothes at the dry cleaner, she meets the bus that will take her four year old for his half day program. 

However there's a slight snag.  He's kicked off his shoes and the backpack is still up in the house.  A brief run up the 10th of a mile drive way and an impressive backing up of the E350 down the s-shaped driveway backwards and she puts her little son on his way to school.  Now it is 8:30. Time to patrol the house, make the beds, collect the laundry, empty the trash cans, plunge any toilets, pick up the trash, remember it's trash day and run out the door to bring the cans down and then back again.  It's 9 o'clock and finally, she can eat some breakfast.  Clearing the table, she spies it already prepared and abandoned by someone... Rejected pop tart anyone?"

So go ahead...envy me.  


Monday, December 10, 2012

The Course of Doing

This weekend, I had the rare opportunity to take four children skating.  They had never been.  I anticipated having to hold up two or three while they clogged around maybe 5 times before someone asked for hot chocolate.  

I was wrong.

Before I finished lacing the second child's shoes, the first was gone on the ice. She'd never skated in her life but fearless and oddly skillful, she launched out alone.   I didn't see her except as a whiz of pink and smiles for the next hour and a half. The instructor had to lead her off the rink for the Zamboni to make its run. 

The second, a more nervous child, went out, fell smack on his head and required ice to the back of his head to go back on the ice. We then learned helmets were free. Once he got the protective head gear on his noggin, he too was off to the races.  It was the equivalent of Dumbo's magic feather. 

The third had roller skated often. I told her it was almost the same.  She too, launched and while I heard (she catalogued her falls) about her spills, before we left the rink she lobbied for lessons, skates, return trips every weekend, you name it.  Visions of gold medals danced in her head.  

Then came the fourth little skater. She was the youngest to attempt this feat of the feet.  I hadn't planned to bring her, as I worried I wouldn't be able to teach her or give ample time to anyone. But she overheard and asked, "Can I come Mom?" Something about her brown eyes, sweet smile and absolute soft voice makes it impossible for me to ever put my foot down.  She asks. I have to say yes even if the practical animal in me says, "What, are you mad woman?"

She loved loved loved it.  We walked around the rink at least 17 times.  My legs and back were crushed but she never wanted to leave.  Maybe being number 8 of 10, this was one on one like she almost never gets. Maybe she just loved skating, maybe it was being part of the "big kid crowd," after all, kindergartners hanging with the 5th, 3rd and 1st Grader felt pretty glamorous.  She wasn't lumped with the babies and she could do this...with Mom acting as a rail guard.  

It was admittedly dull for a time, dodging falling skaters, waiting with the five year old clinging to me while people took photos, my legs ached and the skates were heavy.  Part of me wanted to get a lap or two in myself, to feel that rush of gliding I'd once upon a time known, but  but her eyes still sparkled with every moment, she wasn't bored clinging to the side and me, she didn't want to stop so we didn't.   My speed remained somewhere between dial up and a slug on the ice.  But somewhere in that swirl of ice and skating, I felt a different tug of the sense of time, that this was fragile sacred time, Advent time.   Blessed time seized from the every day.  Her eyes shined.  We stayed until her feet and mine ached.

You can tell me "Sherry, you just took them skating."  but walking back to the parking lot, with nary a complaint, and a not really meant solid chorus of "Can we get pizza? Can we get McDonald's" followed by much more heart felt "That was the coolest thing I've ever done in my entire life!" and "When can we go again?" confirmed it. 

And I know what they're getting under the Christmas tree now...and me too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fighting the Elimination of Substance

Maybe the pre-Advent Christmas Pop Culture sugar rush of 24-7 secular treacle and tinsel just got to me. The non Christmas Holiday specials on television coupled with the non Christmas carols on the radio culminated in a feeling of supreme dullness. Granted it was Disney but these stories which lack genuine conflict, risk, sacrifice and depth of feeling,  not to mention actual history, and these songs which overdose on sentiment without context or actual company felt like so much bad fruit cake.  

Then it occurred to me what all of these shows that sung about friendship and reunion without the trials or actual feelings that form bonds or make renewing such bonds significant, and all these radio tunes that chirped along merrily about winter, lacked...substance.  Personally, I get why there are bands dedicated to Summer --but there isn't a snowy month equivalent of the Beach Boys because snow and ice don't generate that kind of "let's party joy." fall, isn't something that by itself, lacking the actual occasion of Christmas, generates a call to song.   I was tired of holiday trees and winter festivals and love songs about how cold it was outside. I'd had enough. 

My kids howled when the tv was turned off, even worse, I changed the codes.  I also put on the boring "classical music" which oddly enough, only the teenager really objected to...hah!

I declared it shall be, a drive towards a less secular Christmas for most of Advent and even worse (horrors), took away the plug to the wi-fi.  While initial protests were mutinous, without recourse (I hid the plug and the remote) the house quieted down. 

Two children went upstairs to play. My daughter did the dinner dishes.  We gave baths and read Christmas stories and said prayers.   Yes there were still skirmishes.    "Mommmmm, he said I'm a rat boy!" and "Mommmm, she's in my room!"  and the like and yes there were still long repeated commands of, "It's bed time. No more talking." and the obligatory patrol to turn off all lights and take away flash lights.   We made cookies. Some of us even visited and laughed.   It wasn't perfect, but it was closer than what had been a means of killing time and losing it. 

I know this is a battle that will go on and there will be weak nights, but I know not giving in beats letting them consume the constant flickering of content/calorie free "holiday" food put out there by all the networks.  We got out the classic films, we've got out the Christmas books (we have scads).  Taking back Christmas will take real carols, walks in the actual cold, prayer and a fire in the hearth to build a fire in their hearts.  

Christmas is about Christ. We all know this, but the world keeps trying to somehow have all the trappings of Christmas without the reason. It isn't a war on Christmas, it never was, it is what it has always been; since the first Christmas when Herod ordered the soldiers out to kill the innocents, a war on Christ, a war on God, a war on love and the fruits of love, be it children or family or hearth or home or peace.

What should be a feast of love has become a feast of abundance and overkill. It is hard to talk of such things and not sound the grinch ...because Christmas is, even if Herod orders the soldiers and Christmas is, even if Black Friday results in fights and fines and people confusing preparing for the feast with getting flat screens and Wii U's and ten thousand other gadgets that mean no one has to share and no one has to play with anyone else. Christmas somehow breaks through despite our best efforts to muddle, muck, confuse and ignore its existence, because love is like water, it seeps in through every hole, it permeates everything, and it is necessary for our continued existence and the only source of actual happiness.

Advent, the time of blessed waiting is upon us, advance a bit towards Christmas every day, by doing something for others, so as to grow closer to Christ.  
Have a blessed Advent. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Winter Holiday Government Recommendations

It began as a simple inquiry from the government to the gentleman who has gone by the name Santa or St. Nicholas or Santa Claus or Kris Kringle or even, Father Christmas for as long as anyone can remember.   "We want more openess and transparency in the process and to understand how this organization works."  the letter sent back in July to the Christmas palace at the North Pole.

Santa refused to comment, such that eventually, he was requested to show up at the E.P.A. to answer questions.  Other representatives from other agencies took the opportunity to also make inquiries about the fat man's annual actions. 

Amongst the most glaring concerns, the practice of giving coal: 

Owing to the desire for "cleaner energy," Santa Claus and his entire organization up in the North Pole has been notified that providing children even with "clean coal" shall be deemed an environmental hazard.  A bureaucrat at the E.P.A. who asked to remain anonymous suggested that this practice of giving lumps of compressed carbon to minors could also be considered a toxic health hazard, "The smoke emitted from the heat when these small pieces of rock would be dangerous to inhale and could cause any number of respiratory conditions, some of which are serious."   When pressed for an alternative for "bad" children, he suggested a solar mirror. 

The Department of Education weighed in on the "judgmental attitude of Santa." "The notion of bad children is a severely outdated moniker that could lead to self esteem issues for the children involved.  Bribing children to behave by providing negative reinforcement is akin to spanking.  It is not appropriate in this evolved age when we know that all behavior is neither good nor bad but merely a cry for attention that has been reinforced by the adults surrounding the child."  He also suggested Santa make use of the federal website guide to parenting. 

Additionally, the head of Christmas Inc, a.k.a. Kris Kringle was also directed to consider a more health conscious image for himself, "He should stop smoking a pipe, shed about 100 pounds and at the very least, lose the dyed fur jacket.  What message does it send...fat jolly, smoking, fur wearing....Think of the good you could do if you jogged to every one's home on December 24th and just left some fruit?" It wasn't all bitter though, the federal government suggested that if Saint Nick would be willing to deal, he might earn a spot on the first lady's "Let's Move" campaign once he'd shed enough weight to make a noticeable difference.   However even that incentive didn't prompt Saint Nicholas to speak.  The meeting between the US Government and Mr. Claus could be described as tense.

Not to be left out, the labor department raised multiple concerns about the labor conditions of the elves. (We've heard stories...we know they have excellent dental but what other benefits are provided?), hours and wages are rumored to be worse than Walmart.  They also requested the last ten years of accounting books. (Have you filed taxes for all revenue you receive from U.S. Sources?  What is the source of your revenue?) and the criteria for being placed on the "nice" as versus "naughty list."  

"The process seemed fairly subjective, leading to questions of fairness.  Why should rich kids get things? Their parents can buy it."  Lastly, the government official indicated that unless some of these questions are answered, the famed character who flies the skies on Christmas Eve may not be given clearance over U.S. skies.   Given that there are only 8 reindeer with flying capabilities known to exist in the world, why have these creatures not been given protective status to avoid such exploitation?"  

Finally, when all the charges were laid out, when Saint Nicholas was pressed to make a statement, he took out his pipe, lit it, blew a wreath at all of the government officials in question and said two words.  "Merry Christmas." 

Socks were Hung by the Chimney with Care

Followers of this blog from over more than one year know that gift giving is not one of my talents.  In particular, I stink when it comes to my husband.  The poor man has received socks.  Socks! 

Worse than that was the year he received a re-gifted book because I'd stressed out due to pregnancy and the present I'd purchased for my mom, she'd already owned.  "Thinking of you as I wrap this gift." has become synonymous with Christmas.  My husband opened up his candidacy for sainthood by quipping, "Next time, just get me socks." 

So this year, I have vowed.  It will be different.   Normally, I start making a mental list and go through the children one by one, but that leaves me tapped out physically, fiscally, spiritually, emotionally, creatively by the time I get through them all and on to my spouse.  Hence, socks. 
I'd say ten kids does this to a person, but the book incident happened when we only had two.   So it's me.  

The problem isn't a lack of love, devotion or desire.  It's that I also stink at waiting.  I'll buy something and then because I see a need, I give it.  Ergo, we get to Christmas and there isn't something he needs or  Everything just feels like stuff to stick under the tree and you want a gift, a Christmas gift, to be something better than...socks.   

I have a few ideas, for replacing some things that have broken over the years.   I intend to shop for him first.   But I also wanted his input. 
"What do you want for Christmas?"

"I could use some socks." 

Maybe it's not just me.  

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!