Friday, December 13, 2013

Otherwise known as party pooper

I am resigned that I am not normal, and I am fine with that. What I am not fine with is people acting shocked or scandalized when they learn I do not do life the same as everyone else.
I am not rude about it: when people say "Merry Christmas!", I smile and say "thank you, same to you!" When people ask if I am ready for Christmas, I smile and say "ready as I'll ever be!"

I do not even bother explaining that I do not celebrate Christmas. I do not give them a lecture about dubious traditions and the commercialization of quasi-religious practices, nor do I rant about the use of phrases such as "It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas" or "Let's keep Christ in Christmas" being a façade of man-made practices taking the place of what was originally intended to be nothing more than a celebration of Emmanuel, God with us. The fact that the date is wrong is not even worth arguing about.

Really, what is the point? They would not appreciate my bashing of their cherished traditions any more than I do when they do the same to me. Besides, as I have said elsewhere, you do not change people's minds by winning an argument. And I am not so sure I would win any here, because people are comfortable with what is familiar.

Having said all that, I do my best to compromise and keep peace in my family when it comes to celebrating family times. I just ask that we keep the commercial separate from their so-called sacred. In that vein, it is our tradition to exchange gifts and have a family get-together on a day other than 12/25. We started that many years ago, and I find it to be the least offensive to everyone involved. Besides, it leaves plenty of room for spending 12/25 with their in-laws, and it works all around.

And, with that same tradition comes the obligatory photo op, which I think came out well this year.
Fun with the fam on Santa Lucia night!
But I did have a little fun with someone when they texted me first thing in the morning on 12/25 with "A Merry Christmas to you!" by texting back: "Enjoy your Saturnalia Celebration!"

My orneryness is showing. ;-)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thursday to be Thankful For...

Popular culture dictates that we should list one thing on Facebook every day this month that we are thankful for. We should out-perform even Martha Stewart with the Thanksgiving table. We should score the best deals at door-busting sales. We should dress up the fam for Christmas card photos and trek to the earliest open Christmas tree lot to get started on the holiday cheer. If you did not know by now, I don't play This Game by the same rules. Heck, I'm not even sure sometimes if we are even playing the same Game.

My Thursday was spent with my family, that much we do have in common. And for that I am indeed thankful, because so many souls have no family to spend any day with, much less a holiday. So many people have neither the means nor the physical ability to travel the distance to be with family who are far away. So many folks have "family" which are no family at all... or so toxic and unsafe as to warrant keeping your distance. I have none of that. I have two of the most delightful daughters anyone could dream of - both close at hand, two men who loved said daughters right out the door, and two precocious and hilarious grands to top off my Most-Amazing-Honey... making my holiday and my every day something I never take for granted, and am ALWAYS thankful for.
Three people who make my life a living JOY

One thing we did not do was spend money. We did not bust down any doors. We did not, by any of our activities, compel any other person to give up their time with family or friends to stand behind a sales desk in order to witness hordes of people grasping over imaginary "deals".

We watched children talking to chickens, people experimenting with new flavors and recipes, not worried about getting things "perfect", dogs getting underfoot in the kitchen hoping to get lucky, people working together and laughing, pushing back from the table and groaning, and after all that, we gathered to watch a movie that we had all seen probably 100 times and could all quote the lines to.

Then we dragged our tired bodies home in silence and tired reflection about how very blessed we have been and are, and so I am going to bed filled with much thanks tonight.

I am so very thankful for two sets of parents who set the standard high when it came to putting value on the truly valuable. It is not our country. It is not our jobs. It is not our portfolios. It is each other. We are richer than rich in the things that truly matter. We have love and respect. We laugh together, we cry together, we support and encourage each other, and we cherish each other.

We are the most blessed of families every day. And today we paused and said it out loud.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Day in the Life...

So, the day before Thanksgiving and my car is in the shop, I'm at work about to walk home where I will commence decorating for Hanukkah tonight, cleaning up the kitchen, and planning out my strategy for tomorrow's cooking.

DH made this swell window-safe Hanukkiah for me!
Thankfully, DD#2 is hosting this year's TG shindig, so I have been relegated to:
  • Brocolli/mac 'n' cheese-y goodness
  • Rice pilaf-y mushroom something
  • Some Dutch oven cobbler dessert (which will hopefully be cherry crisp, if I can get to the store.)
  • Lemon-Ginger kombucha for the Littles
I am also wallowing in thinking good thoughts about the rest of my Fam, who are scattered hither and yon on this holiday weekend. I have officially spent over 2/3 of my life apart from them - which does not prevent me from missing them and wishing we were closer. 
Thankfully, we were together this summer!
MY DH has been commissioned today with picking up our "race packets" for tomorrow's annual Run For Food which I wouldn't miss for the world... ok, maybe a little rain... but something that has turned into something of an iconic event for our little town.


He also has been sent to fetch yesterday's groceries from the trunk of my car (which is holed-up at the repair shop), and take the interior front door panels from said car to the body shop where they will hopefully be given a fresh lease on life and I will no longer have to cope with crumbling foam adhesive getting stuck to my clothes every time I get in and out of the car. (Yeah!)

Oh, I just started reading The Law and Grace by Todd Bennett. The mind blowing has now commenced.

So yeah, things going on. Life as usual. Carry on.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy "Whatever"

This seems to be the time of year when people can get a little wound up about friendly greetings. I see it all over social media these days... I tend to refer to them as "guilt trip posts."


So, just to satisfy my own curiosity, I did a little number crunching research...

How many "religions" are practiced in the United States
(where I happen to reside), and how many of those religions
observe a holiday during the winter season?

According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, there are quite a number of folks who self-identify with the "Christian" religion. (I would statistically fall within that category, but by no means do I share any number of practices with the rest of the folks who fall in that category.) And let's say for sake of argument that Mormons generally consider themselves to fall within the category of "Christian." That would come to (as Gallup claims) 77.3% of the U.S. population that prefer the label of "Christian" when describing their religious preference.


And, even though their numbers do not total 100%, there are still 4.9% of the U.S. population who affiliate with another religion. (I am not exactly sure where Pagans, Shinto, Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus, Bahá'í, or Rastafarians fit into that dynamic.) I never could determine how many religions are actually practiced, but I think it is really beside the point.

But from what I can gather just online, these U.S. citizens also celebrate holidays during the Fall and Winter months.

According to http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/tools/calendar/, holidays or celebrations observed by other religions between the months of November and January include:
  • Jews - Hanukkah/Chanukkah and Tu Bishvat.
  • Hindus - Dhan Teras, Diwali, Kartik Poornima, and Makarsankranti / Pongal.
  • Muslims - Hijra - Islamic New Year, Ashura and Milad un Nabi.
  • Sikhs - Guru Nanak Birthday, Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom, Guru Gobind Singh Birthday, Maghi - Lohri, and Guru Har Rai Birthday.
  • Buddhists - Bodhi Day, and Mahayana New Year.
  • Shinto - Shichigosan (7-5-3 festival), Niinamesei, Oshogatsu (or Shogatsu), and Seijin Shiki (Adults' Day)
  • Bahá'í - Birth of Baha'u'llah, Day of the Covenant, and Ascension of Abdu'l-Baha, 
  • Pagans - Winter Solstice
  • Rastis - Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I, Ethiopian Christmas Day.
  • African-Americans (of any or no particular religion) - Kwanzaa.
Add the above to the 20 Holidays / Feast Days / Saints' Days that are celebrated by the "Christian" church (in all of its incarnations), and you can see why I think it is absurd to take it as a personal affront whether others say "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas" around this time of year.

How is a perfect stranger supposed to know 
what you do or do not celebrate?

Folks, we Christians did not invent the concept of a holiday. And if you want to get quite technical about it, let's start a discussion about why the Christian church celebrates holidays that are not even in the Bible... especially in light of Colossians 2:16 - Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.
(And there are thousands of Messianics / Hebrew Christians / Netzarim who identify with Jesus/Y'shua as the Jewish Messiah, but eschew the current popular observances of "Christmas" to be pagan in origin. So, where does that leave them?)

Can we stop with the arguing, already?


When someone says "Happy Holidays", just smile and take it in the manner it was intended: a friendly greeting. Period.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Life and Death... Redux

I posted recently about Mom being ready to go home, of a time when one gets weary of being on this ride.

We said good-bye to Mom last month and send her off to be with Jesus. With Dad. With Mawmaw and her sis. She was ready to go, and we grudgingly let her... but not without a tear or two.

What a blessing, though, to see things through to the end. What a gift to be able to say "good-bye". It does not escape my notice that many do not have that privilege, and so it was with great sense of honor that we sat and held her hand as she walked though that door.

Now, when we take the Grands to visit GiGi after church, this is what we mean...

Hopefully they will also learn that death is not to be feared, but the next step in the great adventure of life.

Friday, September 27, 2013

I Don't Think So!

I have been told I am rebellious. Maybe I am. Because I can tell you, when someone says "You HAVE to ... [read this book... watch this movie... see this video]...", usually my immediate (if inward) reaction is, "Oh yeah? Try and make me!"
Does that make me rebellious? I don't think so. I think I'm just a literal person, and the statement "you have to [anything]" is the trigger that challenges my individual choice-making. At least to my way of thinking.

Realize: I am completely aware that people mainly are making a rhetorical statement. They obviously don't literally mean to say that I am being compelled to do any such thing. It is their way of expressing approval about the topic at hand.

The problem is that in using that statement, it comes across to those of us who are literal/visual that we are going to be forced to do something. Granted, that something is not usually even an unpleasant thing, but the mere suggestion that I do not have a say in the matter is the issue with me.

I just need to get over myself, I suppose. But is it really too much to ask for people to say what they actually mean?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Passion

Judging by the evidence that I have obviously not written "something every day" recently, I would conclude that it is safe to say that my passion is NOT writing. Which leads me to ponder just what is my passion?

That is difficult for me to even contemplate, because I am not, by nature, what you would call a passionate person. No, I am more of what some may label as "melancholic" or even "phlegmatic". (There was a time when those labels held some interest for me, because any tool that helps one gain an understanding of "how to do" social interaction is a good thing in my book.) So the very notion of being passionate about anything seems at odds with my entire personality.

So, let's just lay that aside and I will mull over things that I care about.... and leave it at that.

Most everyone will say, when making a list of this sort, that Family is #1. And I would say that, as well. But I will also qualify that by saying, "the love and importance of belonging to a family" is #1. It is the place from which most people are launched into the person that they become. And without that centeredness (is that even a word?), one is hampered until they find that place where they can trust and know-that-they-know that they "belong." Because "family" has come to mean different things to different people, and just throwing out the "Family is #1 with Me" statement, takes on a different color depending on how you even define and relate to family.

I care about being able to Trust people; knowing that they are honest, telling the truth, are reliable when they give their word. I also know that the reality is: you cannot just throw out your trust to someone who has not earned it. The same goes with loyalty. I will admit, I have a really, REALLY hard time with people who act / think / say they are your "friend", but don't appear to have any qualms about disappearing without a trace when it comes to being there.

If there would be any one topic I come close to being any shade of "passionate" about, it's Injustice. But I am apparently not so passionate about it that I will rise up and go to any lengths to overturn it. Because deep down in the heart of me, I have only a little faith that I can even make a difference. So boycotting things, signing petitions, slapping a bumper sticker on my car, marching, or even "occupying" anything seems ludicrous to me. Because, in the end, what does it even accomplish? Show me how to put my boots on the ground, let me assess if I have the strength to carry it to the end, and then I can embrace taking a stand. Otherwise, it is just rhetoric. And winning an argument rarely changes anyone's mind, I have found.

Friday, August 30, 2013

What Do You Support?

Recently I was in a position to overhear part of a conversation where the speaker raised the question: "What do you support?" The discussion had been revolving around a national environmental foundation, so it was a natural segué.

In light of the recent brouhaha about wanton brazen behavior exhibited by some in the entertainment industry, it started me thinking about his question... although possibly in a different light than the speaker originally had intended.

Nowadays, we support public figures (such as the un-entertaining entertainer referenced above) by feeding into their need for attention by ranting about the negative behavior that so disgusts us.

If, according to the movie Field of Dreams, "If you build it, he will come", then the same logic would seem to apply in this situation as well. Reinforcing negative behavior with any kind of attention only perpetuates more negative behavior. I would say this is another instance of "Mom was always right" when she said, "Ignore him and he will stop." (Sure, Mom was referring to my little brother sticking out his tongue at me... but I think the logic still applies.)

All of us support something. Frequently we support causes unknowingly by supporting businesses that use part of their profits to support a particular cause. Many years ago I followed the common practice of "taking my dollar elsewhere" rather than have my hard earned money go to a cause that was anathema to me. While I do not condemn that idea, in real life it is hard to follow up. Lists change. Sponsorships begin and end. It costs money to keep up with the current "list." Seriously, I have better things to spend my (increasingly limited) energy on.

What is the answer? How do we determine if our time and money is being channeled into causes that we agree with? I believe it begins in knowing what we believe, and why. It is not enough to rally around a flag. We need to know which army we are rallying around, what 'war' is being waged, and what the intended results are.

Unfortunately, all too often most people don't think past the hype and glamour, or what I call the "rah-rah" mentality, that is designed to spur crowds to show up, rallying around a cause because of a sound bite, or more recently, a disturbingly graphic post on social media. It is too easy to get sucked into the drama without stopping to evaluate the content of a cause. Be it fundraising for an environmental group out to save the planet, a morals group trying to reign in the hedonistic behaviour that is dragging down any semblance of human decency, or civil rights advocates out to rectify the wrongs perpetrated against minorities, women, ethnic groups or the like. I am not saying any of these causes are wrong. What I am saying is that we should not blithely follow along behind a feel-good campaign that does nothing to right any of these wrongs, but only champions rhetoric that fosters division. Much would be solved by taking the time to UNDERSTAND people and issues. And that takes effort and time. Sadly, too many seem to be unwilling to invest those commodities to that end.

And that, I believe, is what I support. I support the human factor.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Finding My Groove

There are so many things that I would like to do, and sometimes I wonder what I must have been smoking to have come up with such an absurd bucket list. For a time, I faithfully subscribed to "43 Things", a website dedicated to helping people keep track of the list of things they hoped to accomplish in life.

Now, I am not saying it is a bad thing to have goals in life. We have (most of us) heard the adage, "Without a vision, the people perish", but I wonder if we lose sight of the goal by concentrating on the list. I, for one, am a great maker-of-lists. And if I didn't think to put it on the list in the beginning, I would for sure put it on the list if I did it anyway. Sort of an affirmation of my right to existence... "See? I accomplished something today!"

Neither am I saying we should do away with lists. Lord knows where my brain would be without a list. I swear, going shopping is the absolute worst. If I walk into a store without a written list, it doesn't matter how few things I need to remember, and it doesn't matter if I concocted a rhyme to remind myself of everything I need to find... I know there is some kind of invisible, magnetic force that wipes my brain clean as soon as I walk through those doors. You know what I'm talking about.

But as for accomplishing the goals I have in life, the hard part is that they are always changing. Have you ever noticed that you can spend time researching, gathering supplies, and learning what you need to know to be able to do that next thing on your list - and no sooner that you cross it off, it has become mundane. I know that, for me, the reasoning is: "If I could do it, then it must not be that hard."

Nevertheless, I still have my list of goals. Not the kind of goals they are asking you to dream at one of those multi-level marketing meetings. I have never dreamed of having a ski boat or BMW. And to be quite honest, there are a number of goals I have managed to cross off. Some of them seemed impossible, but they weren't. They were hard, but they weren't impossible. Along the way I made some discoveries... share your dreams. Share your "list" with someone. But before you do, make sure you are OK with people questioning your sanity. Be ready to say why you have any one thing on your list. Because here is the thing about sharing your goals: You may find a kindred spirit who has the same dream. You may find a mentor who has climbed that mountain. You may find a cheerleader who believes in you. You may find the inspiration you need to see the next step to take.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

No Drama Zone

Let's face it: Life is full of drama. And if there is one thing I know: I am no actress.

I have come to believe there are people who enjoy the drama and create it where ever they go, or leave it trailing in their wake. And there are those who feel the responsibility to clear the sets off the stage and make life ready for the next performance.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Examining Our Motives

I have found myself, on more than one occasion, wondering aloud why I seem to be so often misunderstood.

Cruelest of all is the time that you try to do something nice for someone only to have it come back and blow up in your face when your motives are subjected to scrutiny. Never underestimate the power of someone to misunderstand you.

Unfortunately, the reality is that my under-underlying motive is often the unwitting belief that the recipient of my generosity is somehow unable, incapable of doing for themself. Or even worse, they don't understand just how right and kind I am. What a load of kablooie. I realize that is nothing more than my latent "helicopter parent" revving up my motor. Now that I no longer have kids at home to swoop in and rescue, I have broadened my field and look for others who need my wisdom.

Once more, I need to take that key out of the ignition and park this baby in the hanger.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Life and Death

Sundays are the day we visit Mom. Of course we visit her more than once a week, and various members of our family make a point to drop by and see her at various times to cheer her up, but also to check up on her and report back any changes.

There have been changes. Those of us that see her frequently may not notice them as much, but the family that come from out of town remark on them.

And so much depends on the time of day that we pay our visit. Mom is 94, and she is tired of it. It shows in her face, in shows in the way she can no longer hold her head up straight. It shows in how often she asks, "I don't understand why I can't just go home."

It is hard to watch someone you love, someone who you have fond memories of laughing together and doing so many unimportant things with, having lost her love for life. Living has become a chore to her, something she is wishing she could just be through with and go out to play.

I think of it like that, because I know she is thinking that there must be more to look forward to than her liquid diet and the daily loss of dignity when others come in and decide for you when to dress, when to eat, and if you can shower that day.

I have to be honest... I am not looking forward to that day.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Appreciating Friends... and Life

I just returned from spending several hours at the hospital bedside of a woman who has become like a sister to me over these past 20 years. It seems amazing even as I ponder that, because when I first met her, I was not even sure I approved of her.

Now I marvel that she has been an important part of my life for more years than I previously spent in the company and companionship of my own sisters. When you make your adult home far from your immediate family, this is something I have found important: Find new people to make your "Family." Of course, no one can ever replace my family, or my own brother and sisters. But for the every day ups and downs of living life, you need a "sister" close by who can hear your heart. She may not agree with everything you do, but she has your back.

So today, we had another heart scare... which blessedly turned out to be other than heart this time. Still, it gave me a chance to reconfirm my love for her and for her sweet family. It gave me another opportunity to stand with her in crisis and be a part of that tribe that cares about its own.

It is important to have family. It is important to have friends.

There was a spell in my life when I could not take one more friend moving away, so I shut up my heart to letting anyone become that close again. That was a foolish choice, in retrospect. Hurt and loss is always going to be a part of life. It is healthy to learn how to face it and deal with it.

Some times we have to walk through the shadows to appreciate the light.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Write Every Day

My friend Kathryn recently offered some advice: "Want to be a great writer? Write every day. Write badly if you have to but write every day."

Now, I am not sure that my career - or even life - goal is to be a "great writer." Not that there isn't room on the board for more writers, but let's face it: at 62, it's rather late in the game to be taking up a new calling.

No, but I do think that there is always room for improvement in anything we do, and to that end, I am challenging myself to write every day for one month and see if I can cultivate a new habit.

Watch this space. I may be sharing thoughts or conclusions or posing questions. Mostly I will be practicing writing. (Except weekends... I will probably skip those unless I have something specifically profound to share.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Redefining "Holidays"

In the past, I used to celebrate the same holidays as everyone else I knew. I did not know any Jewish people, so I did not know about their holidays. I did not know any Muslim people (I did not even know what a "Muslim" was, to be quite honest.) I only just found out about Jehovahs' Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventists when I was in high school.

To say I led a sheltered life is probably a cliché, but I honestly was not aware.

Now, as I am older, I have had opportunities to meet different people and explore the fact that not everyone comes to the table with the same plate. And that has given me the gift of being able to examine the things I grew up with so that I could decide if I wanted to keep them for my own.

One of those "things" is the way I celebrate holidays... or even how I define "holidays". And something I have added to my plate is the celebration of what many people refer to as "Jewish holidays"... when in fact the Bible refers to them in Leviticus 23 as "The Feasts of the Lord."

I am still learning, and since I am not Jewish, I cannot celebrate them in the same way that a Jewish community might. But that does not mean I can't learn about their origins and significance and apply them to my life.

This year, I hosted my first Passover. I downloaded a "Messianic Haggadah", some kosher recipes, cleared the furniture out of our living room, filled it up with banqueting tables, and invited some friends. We had a delightful, meaningful evening... the first of what I hope are more to come.
What I have learned by doing this is that there is a deeper richness to my faith that has still to be explored.

When you grow up in the Evangelical church, you can sometimes tend to miss the "why" behind the "what" in the things you do in life.
Passover 2013