Tag Archives: Christmas

New digs in sight!

I took the liberty a little while ago to send a message to Princeton (Texas) City Manager Derek Borg, asking when the city will move its operations into the “new digs” it is building east of where the current city hall operates.

He responded with a single word: “February!!!”

The multiple exclamation points suggest that Borg is quite excited about what lies ahead for his staff, the city council and the public that comes to city hall to conduct its business.

The city financed construction of the new municipal complex through certificates of obligation. An architect drew up plans for the building being erected on donated land just east of Princeton High School. All told, the project costs around $20 million.

Mayor Brianna Chacon told me a while back she had hoped to put a Christmas tree on the site. I guess those plans went away.

I drive by the site frequently and I am impressed with the finishing work that is now underway. The city deserves to present its taxpaying residents with a structure worthy of a growing community … and Princeton is growing — rapidly!

Borg told me the new complex will give employees about seven or eight times more room to operate. They have erected a “For Sale or Lease” sign in front of the soon-to-be-vacated city hall.

The city manager isn’t intimidated by the pending move. He told me he managed the move into the current site. This next move will bring plenty of smiles … when it’s all done.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Yes, Virginia …

I have shared this editorial with you before. I am doing so again today. And maybe next year and the year after that.

It is an iconic piece of writing by Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of the New York Sun. He wrote it in 1897 in response to an 8-year-old girl’s plea for him to dispel what her friends had told her.

Here is his response.

***

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Giving thanks at Christmas

Christmas gives millions of Americans an opportunity we shouldn’t save just for the holiday. Yet many of us merely grumble our way through the year until the holiday season arrives.

Then we put on our happy face while wishing each other tidings of joy and hope for the year that is about to dawn.

I won’t do that. I instead will offer my thanks for the year that is passing into history while counting the many blessings I have as an American, a husband, father, grandfather and brother.

My wife and I turned 50 years together this year. What a ride it has been and what a joyous journey awaits us. My sons continue to flourish and prosper. Our precious granddaughter continues to give us joy and love. My sisters, too, give me reason to smile and to rejoice in their lives. One of them battled through a serious illness caused by the coronavirus pandemic and I am especially grateful she is with us to enjoy the fruits of the holiday season.

I am proud of the nation of my birth. I will not be sucked into the naysayers’ realm of bitching, moaning and complaining about whatever ills others may perceive. Do we live in a perfect place? No! We do not!

Remember, though, that our founders didn’t promise us a “perfect Union.” They vowed to create a “more perfect” nation that should prompt us to improve it whenever and wherever possible.

My retirement journey continues to take more unexpected turns. It did so just recently as I accepted a temporary challenge to work as a part-time editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News. I continue to freelance for the Farmersville Times and for KETR-FM, the public radio station at Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Those gigs will continue until (a) my bosses no longer want or need my services or (b) I no longer can string sentences together. I hope the former happens before the latter.

And so … the holiday season has arrived. I am in good health. I have much for which I am thankful. I’ll continue to grind my teeth on occasion while commenting on the state of affairs out there.

I will do so with a smile on my face. Hey, it’s Christmas!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

‘Lights’ make us smile

(File photo.)

We are engaged fully now in the holiday season where we seek joy and fulfillment at the end of the year … and this year — just like the previous one — has given us plenty of reason to search for reasons to smile.

I want to call attention to a celebration that is occurring about seven miles east of where my wife and I live. It’s in Farmersville, Texas. They call it “Farmersville Lights.” It was the creation that came from the heart and mind of the mayor, Bryon Wiebold.

The year 2020 was tough on everyone. Community events closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Americans everywhere were down in the dumps. We were anxious. Some of us were afraid. Too many of us were sickened by the virus and too many of us clearly died from it.

Wiebold wanted to give visitors to his city a reason to smile. He came up with an idea to light up Farmersville Parkway, a thoroughfare that runs from Texas Highway 78 eastward into downtown Farmersville. The lights would decorate the parkway and the downtown square.

It proved to be a big hit. City officials estimated that 50,000 vehicles traveled along the Parkway to view the lights. This year they expect even more folks to take them in; they also expect an increase in out-of-town visitors, too. As Wiebold told me a year ago, “Hey, it’s Christmas! How can we not try this out?”

Farmersville Lights runs for the month of December. They light ’em up on the first day of the month and douse them on the final day.

One cannot help but smile when you see the splendor of the lights.

I want to take a moment with this brief blog post to offer a salute to the creativity that Mayor Wiebold exhibited by coming up with the idea for Farmersville Lights. He wants to make it an annual event. I suspect quite strongly he will have accomplished that mission.

May they continue to shine brightly even after we get past the pandemic and emerge from what feels like a permanent state of grumpiness.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Not just any ol’ pine tree

Oh, how my aging noodle can fly into fits of remembrance at the oddest times, doing the most seemingly insignificant chores.

It happened to me today as my bride and I were running errands.

We stopped at the neighborhood grocery store. We walked past a display of table-top Norfolk pines. She said she needed something to make her “feel better,” as she had been under the weather the past few days.

My mind immediately kicked back 25 years to the day we closed on the house we just had built in Amarillo. The closing date was actually Dec. 22, 1996, which was the day we began moving in. We obtained a rental truck and emptied the storage unit where we had kept most of our belongings for nearly two years.

One of the items we had kept close to us was a potted Norfolk pine we had moved with us from Beaumont. As we began assembling the possessions in our new home, we found a stash of Christmas decorations. The tree we used? The Norfolk pine. It stood about 4 feet tall; its branches were full and quite wide. It was able to hold plenty of lights and a few ornaments.

So … we decked out the tree with lights and a few of our favorite keepsake ornaments.

We had dozens of boxes strewn about our home, containing unpacked possessions. None of that mattered. What mattered to us was that we were able to celebrate Christmas with a tree, a few gifts thrown around its base and with each other all gathered around looking proudly at the home we had watched built from the ground up.

That’s what I remember at this moment as I look at the tiny version of our first Christmas tree in the house we called home for more than two decades.

I’ll get back to more serious musings … eventually. Today, I am full of The Spirit.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Now that was some pooch!

Things you see while taking in the holiday sights near your house can at times take your breath away.

Such as the sight of the largest dog I have ever, ever laid my eyes on.

We were strolling through Historic Downtown McKinney, Texas today gawking at all the Christmas displays and enjoying the sight of all those people and the sound of their laughter. It is chilly today, but it certainly didn’t chill the holiday spirit in the air.

Then I noticed this dog. Or was it a horse? My goodness, he was, um … huge!

I asked the fellow holding the puppy’s leash: What kind of dog is that?

“He’s a wolfhound,” the fellow said. “An Irish wolfhound?” I asked. Yes, came his reply. He then told me the pooch is of a breed known to be the “tallest dog in the world.” Meaning that when he stood up on his hind legs, he was, oh I don’t know, 6 or 7 feet tall.

He was gigantic. And friendly. And utterly gorgeous.

I didn’t dare ask him what it costs him and his family to feed him. I stroked the puppy’s head a couple of times, then walked on with my wife and one of our sons.

As we walked away, I heard a young woman ask the fellow the same question about the dog’s breed. Then she said she intends to get one just like him. Merry Christmas!

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Can’t make the good-stuff pledge

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

The holiday season usually spurs me to make some sort of pledge to limit my commentary to just good stuff, positivity, to lay off the barbs, slings and arrows.

Not this year.

Yes, I am filled with sufficient Christmas spirit. My sons are nearby, along with my wife, our daughter-in-law, our granddaughter and her two brothers. We plan to have a quiet but still somewhat festive day to celebrate Christmas.

It will be more of a secular celebration of the holy day, although we certainly are cognizant of its spiritual meaning and the impact of Christmas on Christians. We honor the birth of Jesus Christ to be sure.

I cannot make the go-easy pledge for this blog. Not this year. We are in the midst of a horrible political transition, which is made that way by the conduct of the man who lost a presidential election. Donald Trump is erecting roadblocks to Joe Biden’s transition into the presidency. Why do that? Because Trump cannot stand the notion of being labeled a “loser.” Which he is. He lost the election, bigly.

So I intend to keep firing away at Donald Trump. I seek to keep a civil tongue — proverbially speaking, of course — as I criticize this individual’s conduct, but there are times when I am just unable to restrain myself.

I apologize in advance for any offense I might bring. Just understand that we are living in extraordinary times that require equally extraordinary analysis of what is occurring before our eyes.

It ain’t good. I intend to say so with all due vigor.

Yes, Virginia …

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I am in the mood to share something here.

It is a classic editorial written by a legendary newspaper editor. It comes from Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of the New York Sun. He wrote the editorial in 1897 in response to a little girl’s question. You’ve seen it many times already, I am sure. I just want to share it here in this season of joy. This essay has withstood the test of time and will do so forever and ever.

DEAR EDITOR:

I am 8 years old.   Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.   Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’   Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.

115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Welcome to Season of Stress

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

No one calls it this, but we are on the cusp of entering the Season of Stress in the United States of America.

Let me be crystal clear about this point. I vowed long ago to avoid getting sucked into the stress associated with the Thanksgiving-Christmas time of year. Think of the irony.

We celebrate Thanksgiving by, um, giving thanks for our plenty, for our loved ones, for our good health and all the things for which we should be giving thanks. Then many of us launch into the holiday buying season, scrambling at stores, plowing through the Internet for the deals of the century. Then we get bummed out when we cannot find the perfect gift to send to the special people in our lives.

It ain’t happening in our house. At least that’s my hope.

Now, what about the 2020 Season of Stress? We have this other thing hanging over us like a dark storm cloud.

It’s that pandemic. Right there we have a damn good reason to stress out.

Americans are dying daily. We set another “record” for deaths overnight. That record is likely to be broken, maybe today or tomorrow. Whenever.

The pandemic is inhibiting our gatherings. The nation’s health experts are warning us about the hazards of sitting on crowded airplanes or gathering around crowded dinner tables with extended family and friends. They tell us: Stay home; keep it quiet and simple; stay away from your loved ones; wear masks; practice appropriate distancing measures.

If that isn’t enough to cause stress in your life, I don’t know what will do it.

But … let us give thanks for this bit of potentially astonishing news: vaccines well might be on the way to a doctor or a pharmacy near you and me.

This is an extraordinary season in an equally extraordinary year. I will not shed a single tear as we say goodbye to 2020 in a few weeks. As for the stress, I am going to fight like the dickens to avoid it.

I am thankful.

That’s showing ‘respect,’ Mr. President?

Donald Trump must have been kidding when he issued that Christmas statement calling on Americans to treat each other with “respect” and “understanding.”

That’s all I can think when I read the Twitter rant he fired off about California and New York’s homeless problems and how the governors of those states should ask the federal government “politely” for help in dealing with the problem.

Trump said this, for instance: “If their governors can’t handle the situation, which they should be able to do very easily, they must call and ‘politely’ ask for help. Would be so easy with competence.”

That’s the Christmas spirit, Mr. President.

He called Govs. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California “incompetent.” He said the homeless populations in both states are setting records. The president implied that the feds won’t lift a finger unless the governors show some manners in seeking help.

I don’t mean to suggest that I actually took Trump’s Christmas message all that seriously. He doesn’t exhibit any semblance of sincerity when he makes such proclamations. How can anyone believe he means those words when the first lady’s “Be Best” campaign against bullying ignores the president’s incessant bullying via his Twitter account?

He’s doing it again and again, this time aiming his ire at the governors of two of our United States.

I should point out that homelessness is not unique to those two states. Texas also has a big-time homeless problem. The difference? Texas is governed by a Republican; New York and California are governed by Democrats. Therefore, Democratic governors become fair game while Republican governors are protected by their party affiliation.

Perhaps we should just implore the president to dispense with the shallow holiday messages about “respect” and “understanding.” He doesn’t mean what he says, so … why bother?