Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Book Review

As the Christmas season begins, Molly, Dominic, and Molly’s pet stuffed wolf Francis are looking forward to all the fun that only the holidays can bring. One of the things that Molly is looking forward to is performing in the Christmas pageant. At first, Molly thinks that she’s going to be cast as Mary.

When Molly’s teacher, Mrs. Rose, announces the cast, Molly is devastated to learn that she got cast as a sheep and that one of Molly’s classmates got cast as Mary instead. When rehearsals start, Molly pitches a fit about her casting.

If this was a grown-up theater production, Molly would’ve been kicked out of performing altogether for her attitude. However, Mrs. Rose tells our little “diva” about Mary’s life as well as her reasons for casting Molly’s classmate in the leading role. Once Molly understands, she goes into a nice Hamilton pose, filled with determination to do her best in her role.

In theater, there is a saying: There are no small roles, only small people. Mrs. Egolf has told me that this story was partially inspired by her oldest child, who is currently doing theater. Mrs. Egolf also did stage managing in the past, although she never acted.

I really liked this story because of how relatable the whole situation was. I think everyone who has ever participated in a play always wished they were the lead. But most plays can’t be carried by just one person. As someone who has been in a few plays, I understood what Molly was feeling. I was never in the leading role of any play or musical, but I always enjoyed the time I had on the stage.

In the theater, the virtue of obedience takes precedent. Even if one isn’t a Christian, there are still rules everyone has to follow: Listen to the stage manager and the director, be nice to your fellow actors and the tech crew, and leave your attitude at the door or at least channel your feelings into your acting.

I recommend this book as one families should read around the Advent/Christmas time. I’m very certain that many Catholic schools are going to have their own Nativity play or a Christmas pageant of some sort. This story will remind kids to be humble and understanding.

Happy holidays!

The Naughty List Writing Tag

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This writing tag came from Jenna Moreci. Don’t worry, readers. This little game is Safe For Work.

THE RULES:

1) Provide a brief description of your novel before beginning. NO MORE THAN 5 SENTENCES.

My Ex is a Vampire is a YA/urban fantasy/paranormal novel that centers on Jane and Andy, two seemingly average teenagers who are gifted with the power to fight and kill vampires. Jane is a class rep with a stellar reputation and Andy is a delinquent, but the fight against evil compels them to work together. The fight becomes more personal when their exes become vampires. Will they take them down or figure out a way to save their exes from becoming complete monsters?

2) If your cast is fewer than 15 characters, you can’t use the same name more than twice. If your cast is larger than 15 characters, you can’t use the same name more than once.

My novel has more than 15 characters total, so I’ll use my minor characters for some of the answers here.

THE QUESTIONS:

#1 Which character is SO into the holidays, they nearly cause a street-wide power outage from all their Christmas lights?

Jane’s sister, Gabrielle. If there’s one thing that Jane and Gabrielle have in common aside from their love for all things sweet, it’s their love for the holidays. However, while Jane prefers making holiday treats, Gabrielle loves decorating and especially loves Christmas lights. She would be the one watching ABC’s Holiday Light Fight and taking notes on how to use that for her house.

 

#2 Which character attends the office new years party with ONE date…and goes home with someone else?

Leticia. She is the queen of the “popular” clique in Saint Marcellus Catholic School. Given that she’s 17, she’s not super-serious about relationships and she is willing to trade up for the most superficial reasons.

 

#3 Which character is more than happy to steal Hanukkah gelt from poor, unsuspecting children? [Note: Hanukkah gelt = chocolate coins]

Conner. Jane’s jerk of a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. Conner starts out the novel being a selfish jerk who likes to throw his weight around. He even bullies his little sister, so I can see him cheating at dreidel just to make sure he gets the most chocolate.

 

#4 Fill in the blanks: I saw ____[character]____ doing a whole lot more than ____[verb]____-ing Santa Claus. They were full on ____[action]____.

I saw Jane doing a whole lot more than eating cookies with Santa Claus. They were full on baking reindeer treats.

Jane is a warm, loving person and she loves to bake when she’s not hunting vampires. Not only would she make cookies for Santa, she would also make something for the reindeer as well.

 

#5 One of your characters decides to pregame before church and passes out in the middle of the Christmas service. Which character is it?

Donovan’s uncle, Pete. Pete is a sports reporter and he loves to tailgate, alcohol included. So if he winds up falling asleep during a homily, it’s probably because he came back from a tailgating party.

 

#6 Which character hasn’t been seen since winter began because they refuse to deal with the snow?

Principal Mallory. While nobody in the novel has much experience with snow, given that it’s set in Texas, Principal Mallory absolutely hates the cold and can be a serious grinch around the holiday season. She gets better, though, but never likes winter.

 

#7 Which character completely forgot about the holidays and ends up regifting to everyone?

Tamara is the most likely candidate for this, mostly because she celebrates Hanukkah and her parents never really give her what she really wants. So she regifts anything she gets for Hanukkah, but tries to make sure that the person actually likes what they get.

 

#8 Which character has such crappy luck, they only discover their potato allergy after pigging out on latkes?

Donovan, for sure. While Donovan is the life of the party and a great brother, he also has problems with handling his romantic relationships, so if he has an allergic reaction to latkes, Tamara is probably the one behind it.

 

#9 The Krampus has arrived to punish your very bad characters. Which character is kinda into it?

Desdemona, my villain. Desdemona has a lot of experience with sadomasochism. She would probably make the Krampus her pet.

 

#10 One of your characters should be on the naughty list, but has convinced Santa to clear their name. Which character is it, and what was their means of persuasion?

Andy. Andy, Andy, Andy. Andy may get in a lot of trouble at school and has committed more than a few acts of petty theft, but Andy is also loyal to those he loves and he would convince Santa that he should be on the nice list because his good actions outweigh all the trouble he caused.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas: A Night at the Movies (Christmas In July Edition)

I am a huge fan of the Hallmark original series Signed, Sealed, Delivered. I was dismayed when I heard that it was moving to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries because my cable sadly doesn’t provide me with that channel. So I was really psyched when I won my coworker Tony Rossi’s giveaway of the movie.

So for some “Christmas in July” fun, I’m going to recap and review this movie. If you don’t have Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, the movie is available to rent or own on VUDU. Without further ado, let’s go! (And bear with me, this review will be in rhyme.)

A few days before Christmas, all the Postables were busy. Mailing presents from Santa, they were all in a tizzy. A new “troubleshooter” arrives on the scene. Meet Jordan Marley, from the Powers that Be. Oliver O’Toole is out delivering mail and comes back in time to hear Shane’s singing fail. Shane doesn’t like Christmas, but gets Rita a dress. When they show up at the party, both their boys are impressed. Shy little Oliver hides behind the punch, but seeing Shane dance with Jordan makes him almost lose his lunch. He goes out to the dance floor and asks to cut in, regarding her rumba with Jordan a kind of venial sin. They exchange witty banter while sizzling in their dance.

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The Signed, Sealed, Delivered Christmas

When they’re all eating dinner, Shane hints for Rita’s chance. Then she realizes her necklace is missing. Jordan finds it and Oliver is hissing. Oliver grits his teeth at the new competition while Shane wryly “humbugs” in a sarcastic admission. Jordan gives them a letter that someone wrote to God so it’s back to the office to assemble the squad.

The letter’s from a girl who’s mommy is sick so they search for the hospital as quick as St. Nick. Shane scoffs while she searches for plazas, not believing in a God or in secondary causes. They go to Denver Mercy and sing down the halls, posing as carolers, and encounter some stalls. They meet a kind nurse who shows them the room with the girl and the sick mom and her dad all in gloom. The mission they chose is to make a Christmas play so that Hannah can be a shepherd and have hope for the day.

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Back in the office, over a nice game of chess, Oliver tells Jordan of how his ex-wife left. Jordan gives him a letter by a girl whose dad left alone, asking the Lord to bring him back home.

The Postables all prep for the Christmas Eve play. Oliver meets his old teacher from his Sunday School days. Shane talks to Marley about her dark and troubled past, which began with her dad making one Christmas his last. Oliver tells his teacher of a time when he was a child and encountered an angel who helped him to smile. He lost his grandfather and decorated a tree that grew out of a rock that looked out to the sea.

Shane helps the girl learn her lines for the skit but the mother’s health falters, so the two of them split. She calls up Oliver because the situation is bad and he hurries on back and they talk to the dad. In a chapel, he confides of his failure to to deliver. Jordan helps Oliver to realize he was still a good giver. He reminds Oliver that he is still good when he was helping others like a good Christian should. There’s a hint of another show that will leave you feeling “Touched,” but I don’t want to spoil the movie too much.

The play’s about to start, but they still need a sheep. A taxi has a sheepskin, but the cost is too steep. Shane gives her necklace as a reluctant trade and meets up with Oliver and the letter mislaid. Shane tells her friend about her abandonment issues which lead to “bah humbug” and her current atheism. Oliver realize that Shane’s the girl in question and pleads with her to just stop and listen. He tells her that she has a new family with Rita and Norman and himself, all three. They embrace and Shane gives a kiss, then she leaves for the play with Oliver in bliss.

Meanwhile, Rita asks Norman to tell her the truth and her friend admits that she’s a very bad cook. Everyone is ready, but there’s something they’re forgetting: the little Lord Jesus! But it’s not quite upsetting. Hannah gets a brother and her mother’s okay. And thank God for that, cuz it’s time for the play!

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It was quite a success, but it’s time to go home, but not before Norman has an encounter of his own. An owl appears, saying “Woo! Woo!” and gives Rita and Norman a sweet moment or two. Shane leaves for Phoenix with Rita in tow while Oliver takes a cab to the office alone. He returns to find a familiar tree and he starts decorating, his heart filled with glee.

The Signed, Sealed, Delivered Christmas

He turns around and finds that his friends chose to stay, so it’s time for a party with dancing and play. Norman gets his own stocking and Shane starts to hope, especially when she sees her necklace, hanging on the tree like a rope.

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So this movie is fun and heartwarming as well. But what makes it special? It’s easy to tell. Unlike other movies that skirt around the reason, this film includes Jesus in the holiday season. It’s about hope and miracles instead of romance and even the cynics can give God a chance.

I hope you give it a watch come Christmas time, and this will hopefully be the last time I write a blog in rhyme!

All images are copyright to Hallmark and Martha Williamson and are used for editorial purposes only.

 

Top 12 Least Favorite Christmas Songs

I love the holiday season. I really do. But even a nostalgia lover like me has her limits. So, following the example of 2 of my favorite internet critics, I am going to list my Top 12 Least Favorite Christmas Songs. This is a subjective list. If you like the songs, I won’t hold it against you.

12)”I Saw Three Ships.” I am a stickler for lyrics (most of the time) and I just don’t get the lyrics of this song. Last time I checked, Bethlehem wasn’t a harbor town. I know it sounds nitpicky, but they never really went into what the three ships were, where they came from, etc. What I will say, though, is that the song sounds really nice. So if I hear an instrumental version, I’d be okay with it.

11) “This Christmas.” While I like a good holiday-themed love song, this particular song sounds a bit self-centered to me. It might be because the first time I heard this song, Chris Brown was the one who sang it, but I also don’t like the lines “I’m gonna get to know you better” or “This Christmas will be a very special Christmas for me.” Christmas is supposed to be a bit more altruistic than that.

10) “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.” No list of bad holiday songs would be complete without this song. I remember hearing this as a kid and I found it weird. It still doesn’t hold up now that I’m grown up. In fact, it sounds even weirder and worse. It’s a joke of a song that’s only funny once.

9) “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” This song has the same problem as “Grandma.” It’s a funny childhood joke that does not hold up when you grow up. I can still laugh at the “Dominick the Donkey” song because it’s funny in a “hilariously bad” way, but this song isn’t even hilariously bad. Also, it’s just one verse that doesn’t even have the excuse of being longer but only being known for the opening verse like “Jingle Bells.”

8) “Where Are You Christmas.” It’s kind of a sad-sounding song and sadly the last verse doesn’t redeem it. I can get the idea of people being sad during the wintertime and the holiday season, but the problem with the song is that Christmas isn’t something that leaves you or something that changes. People change and their perceptions of Christmas change. If the person in the song wants Christmas back, they have to change instead of thinking that Christmas is lost because the world is changing.

7) “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” While this is a very cute duet, the lyrics are a bit sketchy. And unless the people in the song live in Stars Hollow or the unrealistic-but-still-seen-in-every-holiday-movie-ever-small-town-where-everyone-gossips, I highly doubt that there will be talk about two people spending the night together on a very snowy night. Also, if you really can’t stay, why did you visit your boyfriend on a day with very tumultuous weather?

6) “Do They Know It’s Christmastime At All?” The intentions of the song are good, but as they say “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Again, the main problem is the lyrics, although the melody isn’t all that good either. One particular lyric ruins the whole song: “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.” Dear Bono, I really hope you intended for that lyric to be sarcastic because otherwise, you wrote a really condescending line. I like the new 2014 version with the changed lyrics that raise awareness about the Ebola epidemic. They’re not perfect, but at least better than the original.

5) “And So This Is Christmas” AKA “Happy Christmas.” I respect John Lennon as an artist, but if I want to listen to a song about how there should be peace, there is a beautiful song called “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” I enjoy the latter song so much more because war can’t be over just because we want it to be. But peace begins at home. And in these chaotic and uncertain times, people forget that peace is a lot harder thing to have. But it is attainable. And it is possible.

4) “Another Auld Lang Syne.” This song wasn’t even intended on being a Christmas song. But sadly, unlike Die Hard which became the coolest action-packed unintentional Christmas movie in cinematic history, this song doesn’t have a cool factor. It’s a story of two exes who run into each other on Christmas Eve and drink in their car. Then the woman drives off and that’s it. I really hope she wasn’t drunk when she was driving. The melody is also slightly annoying. If you want to listen to a song lamenting lost loves that takes place in winter but isn’t necessarily about Christmas, turn your attention to this lovely song.

3) “Mistletoe.” Justin Bieber is everyone’s punching bag and everybody knows that. I hated him as soon as I heard his voice. I don’t like his duet with Mariah Carey in the remake of “All I Want for Christmas is You” because it makes both of them look bad. But another internet critic hates Justin Bieber and has critiqued this song better than I ever can. (Warning: there’s some cussing in the video I shared.)

2) “Mary Did You Know.” There are 2 types of people when it comes to this song. Those who don’t mind the song and those who change the station as soon as they hear it. I fall into the latter category. Catholics have written many a post either saying that they can use the song to start a theological discussion or cringing over it the way I do. There are better songs that capture Mary during the time of the Nativity. But my favorite Mary-related song is “Let it Be Done Unto Me” which takes us back to when Jesus was conceived.

1) “The Christmas Shoes.” My dad likes this song. And the movies relating to it. And usually I’m a sucker for songs that tell a story…but not when the story is badly written. I get the whole “faith of a child” angle that the song was trying to go for and the idea of doing a kind deed for a stranger during Christmastime, but it was all poorly executed. A Christmas Carol shows the ideas this song was trying to do in a much more realistic way.

So what will you expect me to write about next week? Taylor Swift. It’s her birthday next week, after all!