Living a life through books

Christmas 2018 Special

Hello everyone.  I’m Dr. Shahnaz Ahmed with Living a Life through books and happy holidays Welcome to our last special and last episode of this year.  This is our Christmas special. I want to say, just getting here to this point, at the end of this year, feels surreal.  What started out as an innocent reading project has turned into this.  Wow!

Before I go on, a real quick announcement.  I have a webpage now.  I should by the time of listening to this.  It is shahnazahmed.com.  S H A H N A Z A H M E D.com.  I’m working on 3 different projects, so look for “living a life through books” and you should find the blog version of all the podcasts.  I have a Facebook page called “living a life through books” and this will give you all the opportunity to connect with me.  Comment on my Facebook page or on my actual website.

With that all said, on with the episode, but first a disclaimer.  I’m a Muslim and I don’t celebrate Christmas, but I kinda do in a secular manner. Walking through the malls you cannot avoid the music and uplifted spirits of everyone around you and you can’t help being happy and singing along, so when I think of Christmas, I think of the music and the movies and Christmas trees and winter and being merry.

I think of being bundled up in front of a fire, wearing warm wooly socks, a warm cup of cocoa or tea, reading books, while it snows outside.  And of course, I think of Christmas gifts.  This is the BEST part of celebrating this holiday in a secular manner.  Great time to exchange gifts, even for adults.  For a brief season, we feel special because we get gifts.  And let’s be honest here.  Who doesn’t like gifts?  I think it’s one of the love languages, right?  I haven’t read the book but I’m quite sure it is.

Speaking of gifts, for as long as I can remember, if I got a gift, any gift, for any occasion and the gift was rectangular in shape, I would hope for one thing.  Please, please, please be a book!!!  I look at the teen fantasy section and especially during Christmas the full series are there in boxed sets:  Maze runner, Harry Potter, and just so many other series, come in neat little boxed sets.  And somewhere I wish for myself to unwrap those one of these sets.  Now, I will have to say this.  If you have switched over to e-reading, I guess, it’ll still be fun to get a gift card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  That way you can buy what you want, but the only negative to that is the “surprise” element.  When you open a package and you don’t know what book it is, it’s sooo much more fun. I’m not downing a gift card, I’m just looking at gift giving through a different lens.  Oh, early next year, I will plan an episode about reading paper books vs e books but somewhere in this gift giving season, I will request Amazon gift cards to buy ebooks on my Kindle.  It’s not as much fun as unwrapping a gift and opening an actual book, but it’s the same thought.

So, Christmas is the best time to get books and with that, here’s a Christmas gift story about books.

Several Christmases ago, I was working with this one office and they had a grand Christmas party every year with a grand gift exchange.  I used to love it.  Again, who doesn’t like gifts?  Having the assistants buy the doctors gifts was just something that was required in that office but I don’t know if I really felt about it.  I personally did not think that it was fair.  But anyway, the assistants would ask me every year for what I wanted.  And every year I told them that I wanted nothing more than peace, love and joy. And they would say, that’s all fine, but we need to get you something so tell us what you want.  As you can imagine, this whole gift giving thing was a serious affair in that office.  So, the assistants put up a bulletin board with a list of possible gifts the doctors may want and we had to go and fill it out.  I didn’t like the concept of them having to buy me gifts but then I thought about it and thought about how much stress it was creating them, to a. have to buy us a gift and b. not knowing what to get us.  And then it hit me.

I started writing names of books, classics like Gone with the Wind, A Scarlet Pimpernel and put the words “hard bound copy” in front of each title I mentioned.  This is a bittersweet story.  That was my last Christmas with that office.  Things did not work out as planned, but it was one of my favorites.  I still have the books on my shelf and I haven’t read them yet.  I was going to and well, when things don’t go as planned, stress takes over and your desire to read, just plummets.  So, the books made it to my shelf and have stayed there since. This was 12 years ago.  I think about this Podcast and this episode and here I am 12 years later, thinking about opening one of the books and unwrapping the plastic around it.  Yes, the plastic is still wrapped around some of the books.  The thought feels surreal.  In my memories of things not working out at that office, strangely, knowing that the books are on my shelf, cradles me and comforts me.  Through those books, I find myself again and I find yet another way to heal wounds from years ago.  Strangely, the books allow me to forgive and move forward.  Can a book really do that?  I would have never guessed.

So, for this Christmas episode, I would yet again, suggest the gift of books.  It’s something that people keep.  It has the power to comfort and to heal.  I will add this.  Over a month ago, I read an article about what to get someone who is an avid reader. And then I thought that maybe this episode should be published sooner than on Christmas day.  What good would listening to this podcast be, if you are looking for a gift idea and it’s already Christmas.  I’m sorry, but you will have to wait for next year I suppose. I went back and forth on this, but I finally decided that the Christmas episode must be published on Christmas, so here we are.

Another side note, while this episode is being automatically published like clockwork through my Anchor app on this Christmas day, I am out of the country in warmer climate.  Sure, I recorded the podcast when it was nice and cold, but for today, It won’t be hot cocoas and blankets for me.  It’ll be beach chairs, pina coladas, my sunglasses and my Kindle.  Between long walks along the beach, my husband and I will take reading breaks. Massive reading breaks and I’m hoping to get a lot read.  The books I finish or do not finish by the year’s end will ultimately determine my reading goals for next year.

Since this is a Christmas episode, I want to talk a bit about tradition and perhaps creating a new tradition.  I know children want to open their gifts first thing on Christmas day.  I wonder, if there can be a Christmas reading tradition. Here’s my thought.  What if a parent bought a child a book for Christmas, every Christmas and when they opened it, they would all sit and read the book together and that would be the child’s Christmas memory.  I don’t know if that’s a super dumb idea.  I don’t know if the kids would grow up resentful that they had to spend Christmas reading for a bit?  Or would it be one of those Christmas memories that they cherished for life?  Would they say, “I remember the Christmas when we started blank blank blank book!” I don’t have the answer to that. I’m just throwing the question out there into the giant cosmos.  I don’t have children of my own to experiment on, but it was just a thought.

Another tradition could be reading certain books every Christmas.  So, my husband watches a list of Christmas movies, every Christmas. That’s just what he does.  What if there was a special book that we read only at Christmas.  I would think it would probably be a different book for each person, but what if we did use the season as a way to recapture our memories of favorite books. What if Christmas time was re-read time?

You know how I said that everyone was just happier this season?  I often wonder why we couldn’t be that way all year round.  With books.  Are there times we read more or less?  Why could we not be consistent and read no matter what.  Read what makes us happy and read what helps us understand. That would be the true miracle of the season.  A miracle that lasts.

So, with that, I wish you all a miraculous season of love, happiness and joy.

My website and logo is designed by Aalia Rahman, a St. louis based graphic designer and surreal artist. You can reach her on Aaliarahman.com. That is AALIARAHMAN.com.

I have a whole line up of podcasts for you for 2019.  So, stay tuned and I’ll see you there.  We will start 2019 with the New Year’s special and I have some exciting news for our listeners in the St. Louis area.  So hang tight.

This is Dr. Shahnaz Ahmed with Living a Life Through Books signing off.  Remember to water the seeds within you, it’s time.

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