Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 12 Authors of Christmas - Marlo Schalesky

Please welcome author and friend, Marlo Schalesky. I know Marlo mostly via email, but looking forward to meeting her in person one day soon.

Tell us about your first Christmas memory?

I must have been about four years old. I remember running into the family room and seeing the presents under the tree. Later I unwrapped one for me – a black stuffed poodle that actually barked. It was wonderful. I had never seen anything so magnificent in all my life.

Of course, I don't have that poodle anymore. I don't even like poodles so much (being more of a boxer person ;-)), but I'll never forget that little black dog that barked.

(rh: Still, a great memory!)

Growing up, did your family have Christmas traditions? Tell us how you incorporated them into your family life. Or, how you created new ones.

My favorite Christmas memories (and tradition) from when I was a kid, is of getting up before dawn on Christmas morning, running to fireplace with my brother, getting all the stockings, and racing back to my parents' bed.

My mom was always awake and excited. My dad pretended to be sleepy and complained. Then, with lots of giggling and the thrill of anticipation, we'd pull out the gifts from our stockings one by one.

They were simple things, boring really - M&M's, a toothbrush, some silly plastic toy. Things that would be used up or forgotten in just a few short days. And yet, there was something special about being together, being happy, laughing, that makes those times such neat memories for me.

So, now of course, with kids of my own, stockings are a big deal. We open them first thing on Christmas morning, on our bed. And it's still just as fun as it used to be, even though I'm all grown up!

(rh: A lovely tradition and memory.)

When do you put up your tree? At my house, it goes up right after Thanksgiving. My husband works assembly and outside lights. I do the rest.

When I was growing up, a fun tradition was putting together the artificial tree together. But when I got married, my husband's tradition was going out to cut down a fresh tree from a Christmas tree farm the day after Thanksgiving.

We've been married for 19 years. And for 19 years we've cut down a tree after Thanksgiving, cleaned it, put it up, and spent the remaining weeks trying to keep it watered and cleaning up needles from the floor (oh, that was tons of fun last year when the twins were one and crawling around!)

But this year, something amazing happened. My hubby said on Thanksgiving day, "Maybe we should get a fake tree this year. They've got some really nice looking ones at Costco."

After picking my jaw up off the floor, I smiled and said, "Great idea. Maybe we should." And we did - the 9 ft. one with matching garland for our log staircase and rails. No watering. No needles. I am a happy woman. And it looks fantastic.

I also bought a pine-scented candle so the house smells like pine tree. The best of all worlds. Yay!

(rh: Great story, Marlo. We finally went "fake" a few years ago, too. Stringing lights got to me. I said, "Forget it, let's get a tree with lights already on it!" Plus, the expense of a real tree just didn't seem worth it.)

Describe the decorating at your house.

"No, no! Put it ON the tree. ON the tree. That's not for your mouth. Put it back. Don't hit your sister over the head with that. Ahhhh! That one's breakable. Give it to me. No, no, don't throw it. That's it. Here, this nice soft one is for you. No, not to eat … ON the tree."

(rh: ROFLOL!)

Explanation: Two-year-old twins, along with 2 older sisters, ages 4 and 7.

Decorating pretty much consists of putting all breakable ornaments way up high on the tree, and redecorating the bottom third with the "safe" ornaments about every half hour, as they remove them and hide them in odd places.

As for other decorations - nativities, little trees, old fashioned santas - all breakable ones on the mantle or the high shelf in the kitchen. Stuffed snowmen, dogs, etc., down to play with.

Also, a big hit is the Little People Nativity in a Christmas basket. Basket comes out every morning for play, back away every evening for a little bit of order for Mommy's sanity.

What is your favorite Christmas song or album? I grew up with a Johnny Mathis Christmas CD and it's still one of my favorites. My other is a copy of Mel Torme singing his "Christmas Song."

I love "We Will Find Him" on Michael Card's CD "The Promise: A Celebration of Christ's Birth (1991)".

But then, I'm a big Michael Card fan in general. Other than that, I love to hear Nat King Cole sing the old favorites like "O Come All Ye Faithful" (my favorite Christmas hymn), "O Little Town of Bethlehem," and "O Holy Night."

Seems to me snow and Christmas go together, but I've been a Florida girl for 33 years! Tell us about your Christmas setting?

Mid-California. No snow. Only fog. Lots of fog.

It's Christmas Eve, describe your day and evening.

Usually, we'd get together with my husband's family - parents, brothers, their wives, exchange gifts, eat soup (it's always soup!), and enjoy.

This year will be different, but just as fun. It'll just be us - Bryan and I and our four girls. We'll get to go our church's Christmas eve service, then come home for hot cocoa, cookies, and the opening of one gift (just one!)

I'm really looking forward to it!

(rh: The first Christmas Hubby and I stayed home without family felt strange in thought, but we really had a nice day!)

Confession time. Shop on line or at the mall?

Three words: Four. Little. Girls. And I've mentioned their ages already. So, as you can imagine, a trip to the mall spells n-i-g-h-t-m-a-r-e.

I shop online as much as possible, or even better, have my hubby shop on line.

Christmas grows more and more commercial every year. Setting the hustle and bustle aside, what does Christmas really mean to you?

Oh, I love Christmas! It's the most wonderful birthday party of all! The birthday of God incarnate, when the infinite God of the universe was born as a tiny baby in a stable. Wow! So, I love Santa Claus, because at Jesus' birthday we ought to have the best birthday clown ever.

(rh: ROFLOL! What a great observation!)

And who's better than a jolly guy in a red suit? I love the decorations, because Jesus's birthday party ought to have the most fantastic, sparkling, beautiful decorations of all.

I love the gift-giving, because what better way to celebrate the greatest gift of all than to be generous with others? I love the warmth, the laughter, the way people are kinder to others, give more, and get together to enjoy the season.

That's just "right" for a celebration of Jesus. So, to me, Christmas means that God loves me, loves us all, enough to do the crazy-impossible - to become one of us, to be born a baby, and to someday die on a cross and raise from the dead - all so we can be with him, forever.

So, that's Christmas to me - a celebration of the incredible love of a wondrous, vivid, breath-taking God.

It's Christmas day, what's for dinner? Do you make cookies or other traditional foods?

The most important thing, of course, is the Christmas sugar cookies. That's the big tradition at our house. Every year, all of us (yes, even the littlest ones), make and decorate Christmas cookies, from scratch.

(rh: My mom had a great sugar cookie recipe, too.)

We have cookies cutters in the shape of trees and fat Santas, stars and crosses, bells and gingermen. It's so fun to see the kids, their tongues sticking from the sides of their mouths as they work on frosting Santa's tummy.

Other than that, we like ham, bread, glorified rice (Bryan's mom makes that), corn and more cookies.

What are you plans for this season?

Ah, a simple Christmas this year, of enjoying the family, singing Christmas carols, having fun, and working on a big, fat marketing questionnaire that my editor just sent me for my next book. Hmmm, something here doesn't sound very Christmas-y. Let's go back to the cookies.

Any final thoughts on Christmas?

This year, I find I'm thinking a lot about the memories I'm making now - for my kids, for my hubby, for me. And I'm thinkin' that I don't want those memories to be ones of a Mom who's running around with too much to do and too little time to do it.

I don't want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don't even want them to be of the cool stable-and-horse set that my girls will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap kid's guitar for my oldest, or the new "ooo-ahh" (stuffed gorilla) for one of the twins.

'Cause toys break, get old, get lost, or they outgrow them. But they don't outgrow the happy memories of family times together. The memories of decorating Christmas cookies with laughter and joking - those don't get old.

The times we make a gingerbread house together, or sit down and watch the Grinch - those don't break. The simple things make the best memories. Times when we're together as a family, having fun, enjoying the traditions we're building together.

So, that's my goal this Christmas, to weave memories of peace, love, togetherness, because that's the best gift I can think of to celebrate Jesus's birth - Memories that bring a smile to the face of children and to the face of the King.

(rh: Great thoughts, Marlo. You are so right!)

The official world on
Marlo Schalesky

She is the award winning author of six books, including her upcoming novel BEYOND THE NIGHT, which will release in May of 2007. BEYOND THE NIGHT is the first of Marlo's "Love Stories With a Twist" - poignant love stories with I-never-saw-it-coming ending twist.

Her novel released in 2007 was VEIL OF FIRE, a historical mystery which explored the great Minnesota firestorm of 1894 and the figure who appeared in the hills afterward.

Marlo has also had over 500 articles published in various magazines, had her work included in compilations such as Dr. Dobson's Night Light Devotional for Couples, and is a regular columnist for Power for Living.

Marlo recently earned her Masters degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently working on three contemporary novels for Multnomah-Waterbrook Publishers, a division of Random House.

She lives in Salinas, California with her husband and four daughters.

(rh: Marlo, thanks for a fun interview. Everyone, remember to stop by Tricia Goyer's site later this week for more author interviews, and Camy Tang, who's hosting a tour as I write! Blessings!)


Kim said...

Great interview! This is a new author for me, and I have got to check out her books! Veil of Fire sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing this!


Ausjenny said...

great memories Marlo, we use to do the take the santa stocking into mum and dad also. (you know thinking back they were such early risers but had to stay in bed till we woke them up just thought of that)
I love the memories you are making. Christmas and cookie baking go hand in hand. we use to decorate ones but we make ones with a cookie press and ice them together and give to neighbours. I love eating the dough but i remember helping mum make them for years. it was a good memory. We also have the fake tree and its is much less messy and no ones alergic to it.
the decorating sounds really fun. but good memories.
thanks for the laugh and sharing with us.

Rel said...

Yep, I'm with you on the shopping, Marlo and I only have three girls!!