Trish and Harold's Weblog

News, information, and random thoughts from the busy lives of Trish Egan and Harold Phillips.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12 Posts of Christmas: Warming Your Holiday Belly

We're almost there, folks! Christmas Eve... that dark night before the brightness and warmth of Christmas morning!

As you might expect, I'm a little busy today... my stepson Jesse and his wife Jessie (no, that doesn't get confusing at all... REALLY!) are coming over for dinner. Tomorrow morning we'll head down to Salem to spend some time with Trish's sister Mary Lou and her brother Pete... and then, on the 26th, we head up to visit my family in the Blaine/ Ferndale WA area (near the Canadian border).

With all that travel, you'd think I'd just chuck the whole "12 Posts of Christmas" idea and admit defeat, huh? HA!! As my good friend Kert will tell you, "Harold never gives up!" (Long story from high school involving a pen-and-paper wrestling game... see, we all made characters based on our group of high school/ college friends and - wait. I'm stopping right now before I sound even MORE geeky... if that's even possible!). I've scheduled a couple more posts to fire off while I'm "otherwise occupied"... think of it as this channel's "pre-recorded" content.

So, what says "the holidays" better than the smell of cookies baking in the oven? No matter who's been tasked with cooking the holiday meal, everyone can throw in on bringing some sweets to the party... here's a couple of my fave's; they're pretty easy to whip up, and they'll make your house smell nice and warm as they're baking!

Traditional Christmas Cookies: The simplest cookies of all! I'm not big on the frosting, but a little brown sugar sprinkled on top is a nice alternative to the usual sugar sprinkles...

Rum Balls: This is a simple recipe that actually uses up some of those old vanilla wafers you've got hanging around the house... and you can use Rum Extract instead of the "adult beverage."

Chocolate Snowflake Cookies: My mother wasn't big on baking sweets when I was growing up, but when bake-sale time came around, this was one of her stand-bys. Pretty simple to make, and they taste GREAT out of the oven!

Leibkuchen: There's a much larger degree of difficulty to these little molasses cookies I got hooked on when I was living in Germany... if you do them right, though, they're a knock-out!

So there ya go... fire up the oven and stick some confections in as you do that last minute present wrapping - by the time you're done, you'll be smiling from all the smells pervading your kitchen!

Happy holidays...


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Post Of Christmas: Gifts For The Actor in Your Life

Hello again, folks... here it is, the 23rd of December - just a couple of days until the main event. If you're among the people thronging to the mall or your local retail stores for last-minute Christmas shopping AND you have an actor or performer on your list, I have a couple of quick suggestions that might just ease some holiday stress:

Notebooks: We actors need to record a lot of information... notes from directors, directions to set, our mileage as we drive back and forth to auditions... a nice notebook like one of these from Powells Books can come in handy - you can be sure it'll get used (and when your favorite performer whips out his or her notebook, you know who s/he'll think of!

A Good Bag: Actors are mobile professionals - we're constantly on the move between home and rehearsal or a set or a meeting with a director... and we end up carrying a lot with us on the go! Now, most of us have SOMETHING to carry our stuff around in... but that SOMETHING might be a second-hand backpack or duffel bag from Goodwill. A nice messenger bag or leather satchel will help us keep our various needs together, and give us the opportunity to walk into that meeting looking just a tad more prosperous than we might be. The more pockets the better, and expandability paired with elegance is always a plus!

Clothing Gift Cards: I know, I know... most people don't like getting clothes for Christmas... memories of your great aunt who didn't really know anything about you giving you socks on Christmas morning come screamingly to mind. Actors need clothes, though - often, they need very specific outfits, or pieces that can be paired together to create the "look" of the character they're playing or auditioning for. As you might imagine, clothes can become a big expense in a given year... you can help the performer in your life out by giving him or her a gift card to a moderately-priced clothing retailer (Ross, for instance, or TJ Maxx). Chances are, your performer is already skilled at stretching his/ her clothing dollar, and s/he'll be able to pick up just the right items to make an audition outfit work!

Planning on giving a cell phone this Christmas? Consider making it a "smart phone" - as I've often said, actors live and die by our schedules; we have to keep track of rehearsals, meetings, networking events... and family get-togethers like the ones we'll see you at later this month! You don't have to pop for a Blackberry or IPhone, but the performer in your life will be exceptionally grateful for any phone that will keep track of his or her schedule and contacts (but please be sure that the phone can back up its data to a computer; nothing is worse than entering a ton of information into a device and losing it when the device crashes or gets lost). There are lots of phones now that have these functions... take a look at the performer's wireless carrier's retail outlet and see what's available.

An addition to your performer's "office": Remember, actors are independent business people... and just like any business person, we have to have an area to conduct business from. I myself have a room in my house that Trish and I use as our office... but I know lots of actors who work off the corner of their kitchen tables, have their headshots piled up on top of their dressers, and borrow their friends computers (or use a Library computer) to check their email. You can help the performer in your life become more successful and organized by giving him or her something to help make the workflow better - an addition to his/her home office. Maybe it's a chair, a wall-mounted filing system, a desk, or maybe even a computer (remember, even a second-hand, four year old computer will let him or her get online for email and networking sites). You can make all the difference in your performers life by helping him/ her get organized and do the "business" part of show business better.

And finally, (You knew this was coming...) a PerformerTrack subscription. You've heard me trumpet all the benefits of Holdon Log's PerformerTrack system... it truly is a one-stop shop for managing a performer's career. Income and expenses are tracked so taxes are easier. Contacts can be recorded and linked to the projects they've worked on together... details of auditions and projects can be tracked that will help the performer work better. I could go on and on about all the great things PerformerTrack has done for me... but I think I said it all in this recent article. Want to see a snap-shot of what PerformerTrack has to offer? Take the "virtual tour" on Holdon Log's web site (or watch this snazzy-jazzy video!) The best thing about PerformerTrack is that it helps the performer in your life think about his or her career as a business - it trains the brain. If the performer in your life takes the time to track all the information s/he's asked for in this system, they'll start thinking about getting that information... which will start them thinking about how they do business... which will help them work the business side of show business that much better. It's truly worth every penny (and it doesn't cost that much!)

Hope that helps... try and stay safe and sane while you're out shopping!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Posts of Christmas: Support Your Local Filmmaker Edition

(Sorry, James - I did it to you again!)

So, as I said in my first post in this series, I'm not a big believer in the commercial aspects of the holiday season... the sense of anxiety people work themselves into about having enough money to spend to get the "right" gift for someone, the debt, and the commercial frenzy are actually, in my opinion, directly counter to the whole point of the season (well, ok, not just my opinion... Big-daddy Phillips put a comment about this on his blog the other day as well!)

That being said, gifts are a part of the season. Contrary to what the retail sector (and CNBC) would have you believe, however, the point of giving gifts isn't to load up on more material possessions, or to "win" by giving people the most expensive/ impressive/ quantity of gifts. The point is to give those you love a token to remind them that they have a spot in your hear and in your thoughts. The best holiday gift doesn't have to be big or expensive - it just has to be something that speaks to the person you give it to, or speaks to you about the person you're giving it to.

So, as we enter into the last week before Christmas (sorry Hanukkites - I didn't get this up in time for that holiday. My bad...), I've got a few suggestions for gifts for your loved ones before the online shipping deadlines hit. Now, you might remember the last time I defaced poor Mr. Garner's poster for Support Your Local Gunfighter... the holidays are a perfect time to support the actors and filmmakers in your area. Jon Reiss on Huffington Post had some great ideas for how to support independent film during the holiday season - I'd like to add a couple more Portland-based options to his list, if I might.

Now, of course, I'd love for you to visit the Store section on and consider sharing one of the films you find there... but there have been some great films produced in Portland that I haven't been in, and you or your loved ones might find them interesting.

First off, one of the most successful family-oriented films to come out of Portland in recent years is Phil Branson's popular movie Trainmaster. It's a great family film (featuring some fine local actors like Michael Biesanz, Jon Ashley Hall, and my good buddy Mercedes Rose )
about a group of kids who get trapped on a runaway train... it's thrilling AND inspiring! You can purchase it through Amazon, as well as other places.

Veterans, or those interested in World War II may want to take a look at Everyman's War, on sale through the film's web site through January 1 (at that point the national distributor takes over). The film has been hailed by almost everyone whose seen it since it won Best Picture at the GI Film Festival in Washington DC earlier this year.

Another film festival favorite, The Waiting List, (featuring my good friend Audrey Walker and, again, Mercedes Rose) is now available for order online at IndieFlix. Inspired by a true story, The Waiting List follows a group of parents (or, in one case, a potential future parent) confined for a night in a preschool where they vie for a spot on the attendance sheet for their child. The night takes a series of turns ranging from the uncomfortably crude to remarkably poignant and ultimately presents a riotous and genuine look at parenthood.

Finally, if you're into a wild adeline-filled ride, I'd highly recommend Todd Freeman's film Pray For Hell, which recently went on sale at Amazon and other retailers... this highly stylized and bloody vengeance tale isn't for the kids, but it's a thing of beauty.

Like I say, there's still time to order all these films and get them to you by Christmas Eve... consider giving the film-lover in your life something a little different (and giving your dollars to some local filmmakers!)

'Til next time...


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Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Posts of Christmas: Get Out And Share The Spirit

As I've said so often before, it doesn't really feel like Christmas unless I get the chance to get up and perform for an audience at least ONCE during the holiday season. Part of it is sheer habit - I've been doing holiday shows for so long that a December without one just feels odd... but the larger, more enduring reason I love performing during this season is the sheer joy of sharing the holiday spirit with people I've never met; seeing a room full of people laugh or cry or cheer (depending on the play) as they all come together to share a joyous moment during this joyous time.

Unfortunately, schedules didn't permit me do any holiday performing this year (our trip to Maui kind of got in the way of things), but I'm not planning on missing out on that shared experience entirely - Portland has lots of options for live holiday entertainment, with shows and live music running throughout December (and, in some cases, right up to Christmas Eve!) My bet is that, if you live outside Portland, your town or community isn't all that different - there are lots of options for live entertainment during the holiday season.
Now, I can hear some of the cynics out there muttering to themselves about these holiday themed shows... "...cashing in..." "...hoping to sell tickets to carry the company through the rest of the year..." "...same old-same old..." Well, I say a hearty Humbug to that kind of talk. Sure, theater companies are trying to sell tickets to families this time of year, and yes - often the holiday show is the big seller for the year that helps them get through the rest of the year.
So what?
Seriously, the reason holiday shows help balance the budget for a lot of theater companies is simple - people want to be entertained during this time of year. They want to see familiar stories retold in new ways, or they want to see new stories that help evoke that warm feeling in the audience's heart. A well-done holiday play helps to infuse us all with that sense of joy and wonder that this season is supposed to be about - and it does it to a whole roomfull of people!

So, go on! Get out of the house; brave the weather and meet some new people in the lobby, sit back and enjoy a show - theater is a magical experience at all times, but during the holidays there's an extra dash of something special that you get to share with people all around you; people you may know or may not. By the time the curtain goes down (metaphorically - I mean, how many theaters have curtains these days?) you'll be closer to each and every one of them.
And that's kind of what the season's about, isn't it?

Friday, December 18, 2009

For Your Consideration...

Hey Folks!

As I'm sure you're aware, by now, "award season" has started. No, you're not going to see the Oscars or Emmy's on TV for a few months... but nominations are being announced and projects are being considered for all the major entertainment awards... including the second annual Streamy Awards. Not familiar with the Streamys? They're the official awards honoring "the highest achievement in open entertainment. Inspired by the independent spirit that drives creativity on the web, the Streamy Awards celebrate those who don’t wait for permission to make and share their art."

Bet you didn't know that web-based entertainment had its own awards, did ya?

Last year's Streamys were a breath of fresh air in the nacent "WebTV" industry - a chance for those of us who work in that field to celebrate the growth of the medium, and honor some of its rising stars. This year's promises to be even bigger, since the webseries world has grown so dramatically.

Submissions to the comittee considerting who to nominate for the awards are open to the public; I know it's a long shot, but I'd LOVE to see one of my web series projects, like Lady Wasteland or Animus Cross added to the roster of the amazing entertainment honored at the awards show in April. You can help one (or both) of these shows get to there by submitting them to the comittee - just visit, or click the boxes below!

You'll note that you can also nominate individuals associated with projects by clicking a link at the top of the Submission page - Best Director, Best Writer, Best Cinematography... you get the picture. I've nominated a few people associated with my projects (check my Twitter Feed to see who and for what). I'd really appreciate it if you could nominate the same people; this gives them a better chance of being considered by the comittee for the awards.

If you have the time, please try to submit every day between now and January 15th, when the submission proecess closes (From The Streamy Comittee: "you can submit one entry per category, per day, until January 15 at"). The more submissions we get, the more likely we are to be considered for a full nomination.

Thanks, from all of us involved in both projects, for your support over the past year... and for the hard work of bringing us to the comittee's attention!!


WHY Should Actors Use Social Networking?

I see people roll their eyes at me when they hear me talk about someone I'm following to on Twitter. I hear it all the time... "I'm just too busy to waste time on Facebook and Twitter." "What's the point of sitting in front of your computer typing to each other?" "How do you find the time do do all that?"

Well, I make the time. It's part of the job... and it pays off. How? Let me tell you a little story...

As you probably remember from this post back in October, I'm playing a role in a new short by writer/ director Erick Mertz (and producer Stewart Boyles) called First Day In The City. The shoot date has been "bumped" a couple of times because of scheduling and location issues... but at long last, we're shooting my scene in the film today at a local hotel.

Stewart called me in a moderate panic yesterday. "Hey, do you know someone who can play our "Nice Young Man? The guy we had slated to play that role isn't available tomorrow for long enough to get the scene shot!"

So, I wracked my brain... I was driving, and couldn't really access the extensive database of contacts I keep in PerformerTrack, so I had to go a bit off-the-cuff. As I combed my mind to think of the right person amongst all my contacts for the role, who should stand out... but someone I follow on Twitter? Someone whose photo I see every day in my Twitter Stream? Someone who'd JUST "tweeted" about another film project he's working on that morning.

"Hey, do you know _____?" I asked Stewart?

"No, I don't... can you put him in touch with me?"

Fast-forward to later last night, and my twitter follower had booked the gig. Stewart was happy, he was happy, and I was (as always) happy to help get someone work.

Social Networking is just like any other networking. The point is to make yourself memorable in the minds of your contacts - to remind them that you're around, that you're capable, and that you might be the perfect fit for that project they're thinking of. I've been the beneficiary (many many times) of calls from directors or producers who thought of me because I keep myself out there in all those online forums... and it felt great to return the favor!

So, actors, how much of YOUR day is spent networking? Remember, it's part of the job...

Ok, that's it for now. Have to head to the set. Hope you're all doing well!


Monday, December 14, 2009

12 Posts of Christmas: PDX Doesn't REALLY Suck...

(... though those of you currently struggling through the freezing temperatures Portland is going through might disagree with me. Not to rub it in or anything, but Maui's feeling pretty nice right about now...)

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, the holiday season is, to me, about "the human family turning away the dark and cold by enjoying the best that we have to offer one another." As Dickens said in A Christmas Carol, it's a time to drink deep of the "milk of human kindness" and celebrate the best of ourselves and those around us.

I'll admit it - that can be pretty hard to do, especially in the cold and dark winter months, when unemployment is high and the times ahead seem dangerous and uncertain... but there are always glimmers of light in the darkness - moments of joy that we can grasp in the pit of despair.

Even that Sultan of snark Robert Wagner, co-host of the daily internet radio show (live at 8:00 AM PST, or available 24/7 in podcast format) gets it. Those of you who follow the show (or follow me on Twitter) know that PDXSucks and I have an... interesting relationship. I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm on Robert and his co-host Sabrina's radar. Out of the blue, they started mentioning me on the show, and have even added posts about me and my career on their blog. I, in turn, started listening to the live stream and podcast regularly, and throwing a comment their way... which they mention "on air" from time to time... like I say, it's an interesting relationship.

Anyway, back to the holiday spirit... about this time last month, Robert added this blog post to the blog. It's not a "holiday" post, by any means - it's just a meditation on the inherent good of the people in our little town - a celebration of the human spirit rising to the challenges faced in these troubled times.

He might not have meant that post to be a holiday post... but it's that spirit of coming together that we celebrate at this time of year - whether you call the season Hanuka, Kwanza, Christmas, Weinacthen, or whatever, that light in the darkness that we all gather around is the light within ourselves; that spark that allows us to stand up together and warm each other before we head out once more to battle the chill that surrounds us.

So, take a cue from Mr. Wagner; look around. See the good in your city, town, village, or what have you. Think about the people who've found it within them to spread joy and happiness in the face of their own misfortune, and celebrate them and their accomplishments. That's one of the keys to happiness this holiday season.

Ok, enough schmaltz for one day... I'll see you next time!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

12 Posts of Christmas: Sounds of the Season

I know, I know... here it is mid-way through December and you've probably been surrounded by Christmas music since Thanksgiving! Every shop you walk in to has it blaring, there's at least one radio station in every market that plays it 24 hours a day.

A lot of you are sick to DEATH of Christmas music being forced down your throat - and I don't blame you! Might I humbly suggest, however, that you might not get sick of Christmas music... if you picked the music yourself? It might be that you're tired of hearing Nat King Cole singing "The Christmas Song," but a chilled-out version by Six Finger might be more your cup of tea. You might be ready to fly into a murderous rage if you hear Bill Haley and the Comets sing "Jingle Bell Rock" one more time, but how would Hall and Oates' treatment of the song fit your mood?

Let me get you started with this Pandora Christmas station that I started: it's an eclectic mix of standards and more... exotic Christmas faire. If you like a song it plays, click the "thumbs up" button at the lower-right of the song's box. If you don't like the song, click the "thumbs down" button at the lower-left - and you won't hear that song again. Create your own mix of holiday music and see if that helps put you in the spirit... who knows; you might like a song so much that you want to buy it for your own collection (you can do that from the "Menu" section at the bottom of the song's box).

Hope that helps keep your jingle-bells jinglin'...


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

That's The Biz, Sweetheart...

I know, you were expecting another holiday-themed post, weren't you? Well, it occurs to me that I'm way overdue in updating you on what's been going on in Trish and my professional lives... and come on, can't you see Santa in the picture to the left?

Actually, the older guy with the whispy beard in the background is a Korean fellow named Chiun. He's the master of a small villiage in Korea named Sinanju (I can feel some of you nodding your heads knowingly already...). The fellow in the foreground? Well, he doesn't look like Fred Ward, but that's an artist's interpretation of pulp-fiction-martial-arts-bad-ass Remo Williams.

So... what does pulp-fiction-hero Remo have to do with our acting careers? A certain catch-phrase of Remo's has been rattling around my head lately... if you didn't bother to click the Wikipedia link above, let me tell you a little about Remo... he's an assassin who works for the US Government (sort of). From time-to-time in the Destroyer books Remo will dispatch a bad-guy and say, not unsympathetically, "That's the biz, sweetheart." He doesn't (usually) say the phrase with any malice - it's just an acknowlegement that some times things aren't fair, some times they don't go as planned. Some times you do everything you're supposed to, and you still end up with a master-of-Sinanju-in-training plunging his hardened thumbnail into your aorta (ok, to be honest, that's the least of what Remo does to the bad guys).

Again, you ask... what does this have to do with Trish and my acting careers? Well, you remember this post from a month or so back, talking about all the stuff Trish and I had coming up in November?
Thanks so much to all of you who wrote congratulating us on how busy we were going to be... but about half of those projects ended up not happening.

That's the biz, sweetheart. Projects get pushed, scheduling becomes an issue, actors have other commitments that force a production to re-set. It happens all the time... that's one of the reasons that Trish and I keep our schedules so full; at any time one or more of the projects we're involved with might get put on hold - so we're always booking things a month or so out to fill in if needed.

Lets be honest, empty time in our schedules almost always gets filled... I told you about one such incident in this post; a similar thing happened to me last weekend - I was slated to shoot a scene in a short film, but another actor had a conflict with that schedule... which opened up time for me to shoot a spec commercial with Ryan Bartley-Grimley and A.J. Gordon (the production team behind The Truth). It all works out... after all, that's the biz, sweetheart.

So, with that in mind, lets take a look at what's coming up in the next couple months:

>> First off, I'm VERY excited to start working on Wake Before I Die, the new feature from Portland-area directors Todd and Jason Freeman. You've heard me talk about this film throughout the last year, but I've referred to it by a different name. The film used to be called My Soul To Take... unfortunately, Mr. Big-Time-Director Wes Craven put the kibosh on that title back in October. It was something of a blow to us to find out that Craven was going to call HIS film My Soul To Take, but Todd, Jason, and their father Dale (the author of the book the film is based on) had the right attitude about it... Dale said it best in this blog post on his production company's web site.

So, we soldier on! The film has been financed in full, and we'll start production in mid-January with the new title. This project has been gestating for a long long time, and I'm really looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting into it. Aside from getting the chance to work with Todd and Jason again (as well as fabulous actors like Audrey Walker, Benedict Herrman and Marilyn Hickey and the production team, which includes Robert Blanche and Todd Robinson), there's another bonus to starting production in January... a few extra holiday pounds will look just fine on the pastor I'm playing in the movie!

>> Trish is very excited about a new play she'll be performing in, called Feather. Feather (produced by Lights Up! Productions) examines the lives of two brothers both touched by abuse and the lengths they go to as adults to confront and deny their histories. Sincere and stunningly original, this simple account follows the violence of rural, Missouri life and the struggles of two men facing what it means to be family. Trish will play the young men's grandmother in this powerful new play, which will be directed by Leigh Fondakowski. Rehearsals start in January, and the show goes up at Theater! Theater! here in Portland in February.

>> I'll be appearing in the voice cast for a new "motion comic" produced by Polar Studios in Atlanta. What's a "motion comic?" It's a comic book that's got... well, motion incorporated into it. You'll get a good idea from Polar Studios' current run of The Cricket. I'll be playing two voices in their next project - Y-ME: Young Mutants Everywhere. The series launches in February, 2010.

>> And, finally... I'm back on drugs! That's right, it's time for yet another National Tour with the Clinical Trials Network of the National Institute of Health. If you're a long-time reader, you've probably heard me talk about this gig in the past... essentially, I play a drug addict who goes through the intake process for clinical studies run by the NIH at drug treatment centers around the country. Because of the production schedule for Wake Before I Die, I won't be able to visit as many sites as I have in the past - I will be headed out to Tucson and Pittsburgh in February, though... so if you see me looking a little scruffy and unshaven, standing in line at the airport - you'll know what that's all about!

So, Trish and I are looking at a very full first couple months of the year - we're really looking forward to taking a break with our friend Marnice in Maui before things start heating up (well, ok... I just checked the weather report for Maui - things will be heating up quite nicely later on this week). I'm sure other things will pop up as the month progresses... schedules will change, plans will be made and thwarted - but as long as we have things on the horizon, we'll keep moving forward.

Because, like Remo says, that's the biz, sweetheart.

12 Posts of Christmas: Holiday Travels

Just for the record, the afore-mentioned upcoming holiday-related posts are in no way an effort to pre-load posts that will appear on the blog while Trish and I are visiting our good friend Marnice in Maui later this week and into next week. Nope. No way, Jay!

On the off chance that they show up while Trish and I are away... uh... I wrote them then. In the future, I mean. Yeah... that's the ticket...

Hey, look at that! I just wrote another holiday-themed post... knocking 12 of these suckers out will be no problem!

Well, ok... this one won't really count unless I offer some holiday travel suggestions to you - namely, try and get out this month. If you can afford to visit friends and family, please do - they'll be so happy to see you, and even though the hassle of traveling during the holidays may not appeal to you, you'll remember why you went to the effort when you see their smiles.

If you can't afford to travel (and lets face it - neither air fare or gas are cheap right now), close your eyes and take a mental trip. Go back to that time and place that feels the most like "home" to you. Smell the air... feel the temperature. If you have family members that are no longer with us, picture them there, pour a cup of coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or your libation of choice, and have a conversation with them.

Like the song says, it's so nice to be home for the holidays... don't miss out on that opportunity. If you can't get back in person, let yourself go back to a happy place and time... it'll help you remember the reason for the season.

'til next time...


Monday, December 07, 2009

12 Posts of Christmas: A Change of Season

(Let me note right at the outset - the title of this post isn't meant to be exclusionary. Those of you who know me know I'm not one of those fervent "Merry CHRISTMAS (!!!)" types - Bill O'Reilly could do us all a favor and shut up for a while. The "12 Posts of Non-denominational Holiday Spirit" just didn't quite fit in the title box :) )

So, here we are again... the festive Holiday season. Can you feel it in the air? Can you see it on the faces of people passing on the street?

Um... yeah. Probably not. This year's holiday season is a tough one... the national unemployment rate is at around 10% (of course, that's the "non-adjusted" rate; when you look at people who are working part-time, who've fallen off the unemployment rolls, or who have given up looking, we're talking about a much higher number). Obama just announced he's sending more troops to Afghanistan. The amount of political division in the country is at an all time high... People are, frankly... worried this holiday season.

Now, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I'm kind of a sap when it comes to this season... As I've said so many times before, I don't LOVE CHRISTMAS in the way some people do... the season isn't, in my opinion, about commerce and presents and decorations and spend-spend-SPEND!! This year more than most, it seems, we're being told that we MUST go to the mall and buy everything we can - it's our patriotic duty to support the corporate economy, right?

I've always rejected that notion (probably because I was raised right, huh Dad?); whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanuka, The Solstice, Kwanza, Toji... this is a season about people coming together and celebrating each other - it's about the human family turning away the dark and cold by enjoying the best that we have to offer one another.

We all know that's what we should be doing right now, as we hunker down and stare at our checkbooks and the news and fret about what Aunt Zelda is going to expect us to do at the family dinner... we know that we should be indulging the child within us, that we should be trying to re-capture that holiday magic even as the adult in us sweats the concrete realities of our lives. When you think about it, that's the very definition of "holiday magic" - putting aside the worries and concerns of daily life and focusing, instead, on that child-like joy that comes from doing things for other people; from gathering with friends and family with no agenda other than to share their company; from finding the warmth inside ourselves to battle the chill of modern reality.

Well, it seems to me that this season is a collective effort - we can keep the spirit in our own hearts, but we won't feel it in others unless we share it, and encourage those around us to help. So, as the title of this post indicates, I'm going to be focused on doing just that for the next 18 days. I'll still blog as infrequently as usual about what's going on in Trish and my life, about our work and play... but this month I'm going to try and share a little holiday cheer with all of you - and I'd ask that you help spread it around to your own friends, families, and contacts. I don't know if I'll actually make it to12 whole posts (you know how things get in the way of my blogging...) but I'm certainly going to give it my best shot.

So, be prepared for festive holiday posts ahead... and if you see me in person, don't be surprised if I reach into my pocket and hand you a candy cane!