Christmas Is Up To You

Santa in Hammock

I’m guessing that, with Christmas falling on a Thursday this year, this blog is probably my last in 2014. I’m pretty convinced the world won’t spin off its axis, that it’ll still rain in Seattle and you’ll have watched at least one of the versions of “A Christmas Carol”. (the 1952 Alistair Sim version is really the only version)

So, with that buried deep in my sub-conscious, I’m being more observant of all the things going on around me. I’ve thought about going several directions with this piece and I’ve decided to go in all of them.

Today, I was at the Post Office, trying to get out my parents and sister’s Christmas package in the mail so that it would arrive before the big day. I walked in, saw a HUGE line at the in-person desk (with only two clerks), but there was a six-person wait at the automated machine. No-brainer. I get in the line, waited….and waited for my turn. I was almost there, when the person ahead of me informed me that the machine was full and could no longer do packages.

So, I headed over to the in-person line, which was even longer than when I first arrived. About ten minutes into that, the person who had been in front of me in the other line came over to give me the good news: the machine was working again AND there was no one in line! By the time I had taken care of the postage, I was in and out of there in less than 25 minutes. These days, that’s pretty good.

To my next story.

Without going into the “who”, I saw an acquaintance yesterday that I knew had been having health issues. Here it is, the “happiest time of the year” and she was one of many people having to deal with real life. This particular friend had spent last week getting medical treatments. This week, she was home, but you could just look at her and know things weren’t right.

The other day, I got a call from a friend, going through her first Christmas without her husband of 38 years.

Then there’s the tradition that was rekindled this morning, when I record “A visit with Santa Claus” with my radio buddy Bryon Mengle for his radio station back in Iowa. Something that I wrote and that is most likely heading to next year’s Christmas CD.

That’s another cool tradition. For the 14th year, I’ve put together a compilation of Christmas songs and comedy bits for a CD I call, “Ho Ho Brother.” This year’s edition is “Ho Ho Brother 14.” In all those years, I’ve only used the same version of a song once. Otherwise, every collection is different. I thought, for a while, about just offering it as an audio file, as CD’s are this close to extinction, but I know too many people on my list that still use that technology.

I’m rambling. But where I’m heading with all this is that Christmas happens during life. There will be ups and downs. I’ve got a dad who is failing in health and may not see another Christmas. This is the year to make it count. To enjoy every carol. To watch the amazement of kids when they meet Santa or rip open that present on Christmas Day. To realize that being happy and hopeful and full of dreams is a much-preferred way to live.

As I wrap this up, terrorists from North Korea forced Sony Pictures to stop the release of a movie. A fictional tale of an attempt on the leader of North Korea, but an idea that was crushed by international bullies.

So, what’s next?

I’ll tell you what’s next. Next Wednesday night, millions of kids around the world will find it hard to sleep because they don’t know what Santa will leave for them and what he’ll put in the stockings they left out.  Will he take a bite of that cookie they left on the hearth? And drink the glass of milk?

It’s Christmas. Let it be a magical time for you and yours.

And then, come December 26th, we’ll get back to dealing with all that real world stuff.

Merry Christmas.  See you all next year.

 

Tim Hunter

God Rest Ye This Old Guy

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I came to a stop. The light was red. I had slipped into my spot in the left turn lane when, over the Christmas music playing in my car, I heard yelling. I turned off the music and since the light was still red, searched for the source. Maybe it was someone in trouble?  Maybe this was my big chance to help someone, just in time for the holiday season?  How special would that be?

I looked out the rear passenger window and there was an old man yelling out of his car window while looking at me. He looked more mad than troubled, but maybe his face just contorted that way over the years. I’m sure he was at least in the 80-year-old club.

So, using those new-fangled power windows of mine, I rolled down the rear passenger side window to listen: Doesn’t anybody go the speed limit anymore? Why do you people just speed around? Was I going too slow for you?”

I asked for clarification. “What are you talking about?”

“You know goddamn well what I’m talking about. You and the others just whipped right passed me. Don’t you know what a speed limit is?”

At this point, I’m getting a little ticked. Here I was, out of respect for a senior, opening up my window to hear what he had to say and all he could do is be a bitter old man.

I could have said so many things. “If you had a front lawn, I’d be walking on it right now!” or “Prunes! That’s the answer!”

But instead, when his outrage at the world paused for a moment, I just stared at him for a second, then yelled out, “Merry Christmas!”

I rolled up my window, turned up my Christmas music and re-entered the world that he had apparently left a long time ago.  The spirits have another job to do this Christmas.

Tim Hunter

Here Comes Dennis Brown! Here Comes Dennis Brown!

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Tucked away in a little booth-like store in Bothell’s Country Village is a sculptor named Dennis Brown.

Dennis has been doing what he loves and making a living out of it for 45 years. He’s mastered the art of taking some clay and turning it into his own, unique figurines of Santa Claus, elves and other mythical creatures.  And somewhere along the line, he decided to embrace the fact that he looks like Father Christmas.

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To walk into his shop, you could easily feel like you accidentally wandered into Santa’s hobby shop, where he goes to get away from the clanging of the toys being made or Mrs. Claus asking him to eat more & maintain his bowl full of jelly appearance.  Except, he genuinely appreciates you coming into his craft room, where he works on more pieces while displaying his various works all the way up until the second they’re sold. And he does sell out every year.

We stopped by and chatted with Dennis on Saturday and heard the thumbnail version of his story.  While he maintains his store year ’round, starting November 1st he’s at his little shop selling his crafts 7 days a week until the last one is sold. It’s then that he’ll relax and enjoy the holiday season or at least what’s left of it. Because on January 1, the process starts all over again as he begins to restock his shelves with more of his unique-looking clay sculptures.

People actually come from all over to buy his works.  Dennis told us the story of the family from Connecticut who  has a 16-year tradition of flying out here just to see him, buy some Santa’s, and then head back to Holiday Inn country. His works are hard to resist and we left with a family heirloom for the kids to fight over some day.  I asked if he would pose with the one we bought.

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Dennis is the one on the left.  We now have our first Dennis Brown Santa on display at the Hunter household and I have this feeling that it won’t be the last.

So, if you’d like a little kick-start to your holiday season, want to just hang with Santa and maybe even start collecting a few pieces of hand-crafted art, aim your sleigh towards Bothell’s Country Village Shopping Center and say hi to Dennis Brown.  Or, you can always just order things from him online here.  Good guy.  A right jolly old elf.

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

 

Random Thankfulness

turkey

It’s the day before we’re supposed to officially be grateful for all we’ve got, but I thought I’d get a head start.

I tend to over think things and so, the first place I go is that “if you talk about all the good things in your life, you’ll make someone having a tough time right now feel worse.”  That is not my intent.  Intention has to count for something, right?  This collection of words is about gratitude.  As we approach a season dripping with “What can I get?”, I’ve already got plenty and I just want to acknowledge it.

I have to start with the fact that my wife and I are in good health and our kids are all doing just fine. Life will never be perfect, but each challenge is an opportunity to grow and help better equip you for the next bump that comes along. They happen.

As recently as yesterday, I found out that we’ll have all the kids with us at Thanksgiving brunch.  We might actually be able to get in a group picture and as you get up in there in years, you know how challenging that can be to have everyone in the same spot at the same time.  This year, Photoshop gets the year off.

I’m waking up every day and doing exactly what I want to do and that’s among the greatest blessings anyone can ask for.  In the almost two months of Tim Hunter Creative Services, I’ve had a steady stream of meetings and projects that pay the bills. You just can’t ask for much more than that.

I find it ironic that a day originally designed to be free of gifts, commercialism and want has been invaded by stores being open and sales that intend to make you want more than what you’ve got.  You can shop any time. In this day and age, wake up at 2am, think “I need that”, go to the computer and order it and it’s there two days later.  Do everything you can to keep Thanksgiving a day of reflection, football, roasting turkey or tofurkey in the oven and just talking with family who won’t always be there.  These are the times we’ll remember in the years ahead.

I’ve been around long enough to realize that “the good old days” are actually right now.  Over time, our selective memories filter out the blemishes and we’ll recall that year back in 2014 when we started making sure that every Thanksgiving Day counted.  When we  remembered all that we have instead of all that we need or want.

The happiest of Thanksgiving to you and your kin.

Tim Hunter

Soda A Nice Thing To Do

One of my most often-read pieces on this blog had nothing to do with the writer and everything to do with the topic: the late photo-journalist Bill Strothman.

I met Bill in college at the University of Washington and I loosely stayed in touch over the years. Bill, his wife Nora and I were members of Bothell First Lutheran Church together. He worked at KOMO TV when I worked at KOMO radio.

You may not have known Bill personally, but all I have to say is “that KOMO photo-journalist who was killed earlier this year in that helicopter crash” and you know who I mean. But, for all the good deeds and amazing body of work Bill compiled during his days on earth, it would seem a shame to identify him by how it all ended.

And so it is, with a huge pile of gratitude that I’d like to thank the folks at Jones Soda for the tremendous salute they gave Bill. I love subtlety, and it was during the summer that Bill’s son, Dan, first pointed out that the folks at Jones Soda used an old photo of his dad on one of their sodas. Dan posted the picture they used on Facebook and it’s a free-spirited, hippie version of Bill, just as he began conquering the world. It turns out that one of Bill’s neighbors worked at Jones Soda and spear-headed the efforts to get him on the package. There, at the bottom of the packaging, a handwritten, “Bill Strothman…Bothell, Washington.”

I was in the Holman Road QFC the other day, when Dan posted on Facebook that he was lucky enough to nab the last “Bill” soda’s in his nearby Thriftway. That was a perfectly timed reminder for me to check QFC to see if they had any.

I headed straight to the soda aisle and, at first glance, it appeared I was out of luck. I began removing 4-packs and going deeper into the shelf until I found one. I felt like I had won the lottery!

Now I am a proud owner of a Bill Strothman pack of Jones Soda. I have placed it in a spot of honor in my office, surrounded by Husky memorabilia. It seems like a perfect fit.Bill Strothman

Most mornings, when I stumble downstairs to begin another day of writing, I look up and there’s hippie Bill, reminding me to make the most of this day and every day I’m lucky to still be around.

Good reminder, Bill. Very cool, Jones Soda.

Tim Hunter

I’m In Love

OK, I’ve had this relationship for several months now and it’s official–I’m in love with my Surface Pro 3.

One of my biggest faults is being a Microsoft early adapter.  A new operating system comes out, I install it, disaster ensues.  I’ve made a career out of it. Yes, the next time something comes along, I’m in stalling the beta version and hoping that this time, it’ll be the greatest ever.

That’s been true of all the various forms of Windows that have crawled out of Redmond over the years—’95, Me, Vista–I embraced them all.  I even struggled through the first version of Windows 8 and for a while, regretted ever giving up my 7.

Truth be told, I did not rush out and buy a Surface when they first arrived. I waited until this spring, when finally, the hype became unbearable.  So, on that opening weekend, I went to the Microsoft store, took a Surface Pro 3 for a test drive and the honeymoon still continues.

There are plenty of reviews by experts, pro and con, on every electronic device ever made.  If you’re an Apple-head, there’s nothing I can do for you.  Most of them are pretty elitist when it comes to computer and a PC will always be below them.  That’s OK.

But if you are in the market for a laptop or tablet, here’s your chance to get both at a bit less than you’d pay for an Apple anything.

The details–I got the $999 version.  Add in the keyboard and the unconditional warrantee so even if I drive over it, they’ll replace it….oh, and the tax….and it clocked in around $1,350.

From my view, the pro’s–

  • The touch screen–OMG, once you’ve had one, you’re hooked.  Now, when I want to get a closer look, no matter what computer I’m using (I have 5) I try to adjust the screen by touching it.  Much like your phone.
  • The keyboard magnetically attaches, as does the charging cable.
  • The kickstand lets you use the tablet or laptop version with ease. (not available with a Mac)
  • It has a USB connection. (also, Mac’s are above that sort of thing)
  • There’s the electric pen that lets you write on the screen and take notes.  Awesome.
  • The size–it’s in-between a full and a mini, but a comfortable size.  So, the next time you’re on a plane and the guy in front leans back, you can still set it up and work.

The drawbacks

  • Windows 8.  Bill, you still got a few things to make easier on the user.

Seriously, the best thing you can do is go in and take one for a test drive. Or not.  Just trying to make your life a little easier for you.

I consider it one of the best investments I ever made.  And, I remain, in love.

Tim Hunter

Maybe After All This Time, It’s You

What a difference a couple of years can make.

What a difference a couple of years can make.

Politics is such a touchy subject.

I’ve blogged about this before, at the risk of alienating some friend or relatives.  But that would be OK.  If you are that far off the chart, then we probably should communicate less. For the greater good.

Because, you see, I’m pretty loosey-goosey when it comes to politics and religion.  I have my ideas, my beliefs and they’re all mine.  I continue to search for input and growth, but how I think is entirely up to me.  The same is true for you.

Witness the election results from the past week.  Once again, there was a political swing in this country.  The ones on the losing side discount it or belittle those who voted that way.  The winners gloat, as if they’ve been given permission to revolutionize the planet.

As always, the truth is right there, smack dab in the middle.

When you don’t have an agenda, or a checklist that you measure everything with, you can actually have an open mind.  That gets back to that “thinking for yourself” outlook on life.  It’s a great place to be.

As you saw with the TV political maps, there are red areas of the country and blue areas.  However, they didn’t just print those maps up a couple of hundred years ago.  The reds and blues, much like the website passwords I can never remember, keep changing.  Yes, there are areas that will always be blue or tend to go red.  So let’s remove those from the discussion and focus on the rest of the country.  I’m proud to say, it swings based on how people feel the job is getting done.  There were states that voted Reagan in who elected Barack Obama to be our president.  This last election, there were states that elected Barack Obama who voted out senators and congressmen in his party.

I’ve watched the posts on Facebook.  I live in a fairly liberal, very blue part of the country.  You would have thought Martians had landed and taken over.  Nope, those are Republicans who went back to the basics of the party, rather than the fringe wackjobs that have forced themselves up on the stage in recent years.

Being an “in the middle” guy has its drawbacks.  Because there are a lot of things I don’t like about both of the major parties.  I want our government to help people, but not to create a land of dependency.  I’m glad to give you money to improve our lives, but not to recklessly spend it.

Maybe you’re one of those who fills out your ballot by looking for the D or the R.  You’ll always be red or blue.  But as we go back to the map, you’ll see that the majority of the country went red this time.  A lot of those people were blue just two years ago.  That gives me hope, as people are realizing they have the power to tell our politicians to do their job, or we’ll find someone who can.

While the negative campaign ads drive me nuts, election night results are the payoff.  Vote how you feel the world should be run and then let’s see what the majority thinks.  I’m not always in it, but I’ve been around enough to see the country swing right, then left, then right again and back to left.  It’s healthy.  It’s what a democracy is supposed to do.  Those people who voted differently than you this time are just voting with their hearts and minds.  It’s how they feel.

If you can’t understand how they could possibly go away from the promises and rhetoric of a party, consider just for a moment–instead of them being less qualified to vote on the important issues of the day, maybe it’s you?

Tim Hunter