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December 22, 2014
7:47pm EST

Rated: 13+ | Book | Cultural | #1437803
My blog. I'm opionated and I just want to sound off.
  It's a collection of editorials or even mini-sermons. I know it's wrong to give unwanted advice if you want to have a few friends. But I can't fight the urge that I know better than they what they should or shouldn't do. I have all this wisdom and experience and it's such a shame not to share it!
Our culture needs some sound advice and I'm just the one to give it.
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December 21, 2014 at 11:56pm
December 21, 2014 at 11:56pm
Christmas Countdown
         It's getting so close! I hope Santa knows where I live and what I want. Oh, he doesn't have to bring me something I want. I like surprises!

         I pared back on everything this year, and I think it's working. Fewer gifts, less cooking, less wrapping, fewer outings, less interior decorating. Early shopping and on-line shopping helped. Only the housework remains the same. Fast and furious cooking will start Tuesday. I have to work right through Christmas Eve.

         By not getting out all the decorations, I didn't have so many boxes to put away, so many things to clean and display. Too many small children coming to visit who wreak havoc even when there are no decorations, and one old man who's getting feeble and drops expensive ornaments make less decorating desirable. I want them all to relax and have fun. Of course, I've also cut back on social activities to allow myself more time to relax and do chores.

         We had great music at church today, Appalachian and Cajun style music. I went to a relative's house for a little Christmas party late this afternoon. I still have to visit a shut-in tomorrow night and take her a plant. I have one gift left to wrap.

         So far it looks like it's going to be a peaceful, smooth Christmas. I hope it is for a lot of people. All of my bosses will be out of the office, so we can catch up on paper work and small details. We'll start out the new year better organized. (Funny, how when management isn't there, things run so smoothly, and there are no fires to put out.) I might have a stress-free Christmas this year!
December 20, 2014 at 11:54pm
December 20, 2014 at 11:54pm
Christmas .in Other Places
         Maybe it was the French teacher in grammar school, or teachers in general, but I've always been fascinated by how Christmas is celebrated in other places. For instance, the French teacher told us about the creche scene which always included peasants. Now that's not Biblical, but it was a French tradition. The yule log in the fire place would still be burning when they got home from midnight mass. They would eat a chocolate "yule log". Santa was called "Pere Noel".

         The Germans, we learned, had stollen, real fruitcakes, and other rich pastries. Danish decorated with hanging apples, drank glug, and would have a special rice dish. In Holland, they put out shoes instead of stockings on the mantle. Now, I hear that on the rocky islands of Italy, Santa uses a donkey instead of a sleigh to deliver his goods. Present day isn't always December 25, but could be January 6. In Great Britain, you have Boxing Day, and you get "crackers", little surprise packages you pull open with a snap.

         I love the Jimmy Buffet song "Christmas Island", a real place. He sings of hanging your stocking on a coconut tree. With Jimmy, you stay up "late like the islanders do, and wait for Santa to sail in with your presents on a canoe." I'd love to do that one year!

         We grew up listening to Bing Crosby. Songs are an excellent way to remember things. With the Andrew sisters, he sang "Melekeliki Maka is Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas to you." I admit as a kid, trying to learn the words, I thought they were singing "is the wise way . . ." I finally figured out as an adult, it was "Hawaii's". Still it paints a beautiful picture of a sunny day, green and bright, and clear skies and "stars at night".

         On the same album, Bing sang "Christmas in Kilarney", where "the door is always open, the neighbors come to call, and Father John, before he's done, will bless the house and all." It always made me try to take on an Irish accent and talk blarney. I finally found a true Irish man who taught me a basic Irish jig, so that I could "click my heels, and join in the fun of the jigs and reels".

         After knowing a few people from Iraq a few years ago, I did some research. Very few Christians live there, so it isn't even a secular holiday. But those who do celebrate have a small bonfire in the front yard. The younger men and women try to jump over it. If successful, they believe you will have good luck the coming year. The roofs are flat, so you can pick out the Christian homes where a single candle is placed on the roof. It is to guide the Christ child to safety.

         It's true we like our traditions. We like things the way we've always done them. We want to set new traditions with our children. But there is something so universal about Christmas, or the idea of Christmas. It makes me want to be more culturally diverse. I want to feel the connection to people from all over the earth celebrating the same thing.
December 19, 2014 at 9:57pm
December 19, 2014 at 9:57pm
Do You Hear What I Hear?
         The Scrooge in my office was complaining about this song today. Whatever version he had heard recently was unintelligible. He texts his grown children constantly, and they told him it's not Biblical. I want to address this.

         No, it's not Biblical. It takes poetic license. It's purely imaginary. The night wind doesn't really talk, and yet some of us think that once in a while it might. Lambs don't talk either. You have to suspend your disbelief to follow the poetic thought of the song. Each time the message is proclaimed, it changes slightly, like playing "Gossip" or "Telephone". In fact religion, Christian or otherwise, gets interpreted by the individual or group that is proclaiming it. The song should never be taken literally. It wouldn't have been tolerated in colonial America, where only Biblical accounts could be sung. That means there weren't many Christmas songs or hymns at that time.

         It helps to know that the song was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The married couple who wrote it, Regly and Shayne (I know nothing about them), were frightened by the news. People believed there was a real threat of nuclear war. Mr. Regly wrote the lyrics. He wrote of the king proclaiming, "Pray for peace, people everywhere" right after seeing babies being pushed in strollers on 5th Avenue in New York City. He was afraid for all those little children.

         The song was their desperate cry for peace on earth, for hope in a world that seemed doomed. They wanted their message to go from the most basic elements of nature to the ultimate authority in gathering people together for a universal cry for love and tolerance. More than fifty years later, the song is still being covered by a variety of artists and still stirs the heart to hope and pray for peace on earth.
December 18, 2014 at 11:05pm
December 18, 2014 at 11:05pm
Office Presents
         Just by coincidence the payroll clerk and I had the same idea for office Christmas presents this year. She brought hers Wednesday because today was going to be busy, and a lot of people are out Friday. I brought mine Thursday because I would miss people Friday and all next week. (I'm one of the few holding down the fort until January's first Monday.) But we were thinking alike.

         She said people were always looking for hand lotion. We're in a hospital setting, and wash our hands a lot. We have no patient contact, but people we work with do. So we still use a lot of caution and do a lot of cleaning of common surfaces employees touch. So she found a store with a sale and used coupons to buy everyone mildly scented body lotion. It was a very practical idea.

         I've had people asking for Chapstick, not exactly something to share. I don't even like the kind where you dip your finger into a small tub of balm and apply to your lips. OOOOH. So all the ladies got an 8 hour Chapstick or a flavored one, in a little Christmas gift bag. Together our gifts are very practical and useful. We couldn't have coordinated more perfectly if we tried. Last year she did big oranges, which she said cost about the same. I did candy last year, and did get by a little cheaper because I didn't wrap it last year.

         So we were pleased with ourselves. Then we spent the afternoon handing out hams and turkeys to our employees on the first shift and the outer buildings on the second shift.Lots of hugs and Merry Christmas exchanges. A good day!
December 17, 2014 at 11:24pm
December 17, 2014 at 11:24pm
Jack Frost and Frosty
         Winter Windows. When I was a child, we had the original "central heat". That means the heat was only in the center of the house.The furnace was in the floor where the doors to the kitchen, living room, and hall came together. It kept that front part of the house warm and dry, but the bedrooms and bath were cold. After the kids were in bed, my dad would put a fan on the floor to blow the heat back into the sleeping part of the house.

         We still hated to get up on winter mornings and would snuggle deeper under the covers, afraid to put limb out into the cold. The ice was thick in circular designs on the windows. We could touch it with our fingers and watch it melt slowly. The heat from the inside of the house met the glass on one side, while frigid air from outside met the glass as well. (This was before anyone heard of double pane glass, or gas-filled glass.) My mother would tell us that while we slept, Jack Frost came and painted designs in the ice. The designs were thicker in the corners and thinned out where the sun was beginning to warm up the middle.Jack Frost was not an enemy. It's just the way it was. He came every night in winter, and we accepted that as part of life.

         Needless to say, we had to wash the windows and frames frequently to get up the mess Jack left. We were well acquainted with Jack Frost. I still have to get up earlier in the winter to undo what Jack does to the car windows, although it's not as thick or creative, without a heated interior.

         Frosty the Snowman. Now Frosty is totally fictional, not based on nature. Gene Autry had just made a big hit out of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for Montgomery Wards the year before. They wanted another big seasonal hit, so a couple of songwriters created Frosty, and it was a big hit for Gene. The song was recorded by many others, including Jimmy Durante. That's my favorite version. Finally, it was made into a yearly TV cartoon, so children everywhere learned the story of Frosty. That show and the song have ingrained in us the story of a magic hat that gave life to a snow man and filled the children's imaginations.

December 16, 2014 at 11:05pm
December 16, 2014 at 11:05pm
Oyster Stew Christmas Morning
         A long-standing family tradition is to have oyster stew on Christmas morning. Forget the presents and Santa. Just give us the buttery oyster-slimy hot milk and crackers! It was my grandparents' custom, and I don't know how many generations, if any, before that. My mom's family did oyster stew as well, but I don't know if that's a regional thing, or if my dad influenced them.

         My grandfather, who lived close by, would come to our house Christmas morning to see what Santa had left us. Then he would eat a second bowl of oyster stew with us. He covered his with black pepper. It was a sea of pepper.

         When I was a kid, I couldn't eat the oysters, but I liked the oyster juice in the salty milk, with saltines. My grandmother served it with oyster crackers, the little ones that float on top. I prefer the saltines, and I like them crunched up in the stew. I have known others who like to butter the saltines and eat them on the side with their stew.

         I suspect it started as a regional thing, since we're not far from the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. However, there is a moratorium on their oysters right now while they clean up the Bay and restock the oyster beds. With modern trucking, the oysters can come from almost anywhere. If I can't get them from the mid-Atlantic, I want them from Louisiana or the Gulf Coast. I do eat the oysters these days. I try to cut back on the saltines, but I have to have them.

My dad likes some salty ham cut up in his, not cooked in, but added at his plate. These days we only have three for breakfast, not a whole house full. With children, and great-grandchildren, Santa keeps them too late to come over. And they have to hit all the grandparents, including divorced ones, so they have a lot of rounds. We don't have guests or "dates" over either any more. I miss the days when we could expect non-relatives for breakfast or lunch. But we will still have oyster stew, even if there were only one, because we like it. And because it's tradition. It's our history. Many memories are tied to it.

December 15, 2014 at 11:49pm
December 15, 2014 at 11:49pm
Christmas Disappearing
*Treepine* *Treepine* *Treepine*
         It's surprising to me how many people don't know about Christmas. They know they get a holiday at work, but don't understand why. They'll take presents, and maybe will shop, maybe not. It's no big deal.

         At my job, as a way of interacting with the employees and getting them involved with administration without talking business, I asked some fun Christmas questions. The people with the right answers first would get a poinsettia that we were using for decorations. I stayed away from religious questions, knowing that a lot of people wouldn't understand, because of other religious traditions. But I was amazed that so many people didn't get the secular questions either.

         Only an occasional person knew a Christmas movie like "Home Alone". I found about 3 people who knew that the guy in the red suit was named Santa Claus. No one knew Frosty the Snow man. A few knew Rudolph was the red-nosed reindeer. Only 2 people knew any other reindeer. No one knew Jack Frost. The Mexicans couldn't even say the lyrics of a Spanish Christmas carol, although one remembered the name Feliz Navidad. I did get 3 people to sing Jingle Bells together. Other people perked up to listen, but wouldn't help out.

         I went table to table in a very large room, and felt like I was Jay walking with Jay Leno on the Tonight Show, doing American history questions with school teachers or other people on the street. I'm afraid Christmas doesn't have much meaning even in the secular sense to many people. There are no traditions to carry on. There's no peace, good will, no charity. It's just time off from work, maybe.

         It made me a little sad. This time of make-believe and good cheer, of religious reverence, of festivity and celebration, is not prevalent even in our own close up community. I want everyone to feel excited, to anticipate family time and cozy togetherness. I want them to feel some joy even in the most adverse circumstances. They seem oblivious to it all. Doesn't anyone watch TV or read children's books?

         I hear people complaining about taking Christ out of Christmas or sending emails or making Facebook posts about the same. I think they're missing it. It seems like people just want to get rid of Christmas, period. It almost seems like a holiday that emphasizes joy, good will, peace, family, and child-like innocence is offensive. I don't believe religion is at the center of it. It seems like it's too wholesome a day in an unwholesome society. A day that celebrates the possibility of the absence of strife and hostility is too much to bear for a warlike world that looks for agitation and discord.

         Tough, I'm not politically correct. Peace, Merry Christmas, and Good Will to All. I'm going to have some eggnog, and wrap presents, hang some ornaments that I will have to dust off and put away in a few weeks, and prepare some food for guests. I will donate to the food bank; I've already bought presents for several charities. I'll attend a few concerts, and will tell the children about Frosty, Jack Frost, and will sing Christmas carols until I croak to anyone who hears, willingly or otherwise. Don't forget the elves are watching to see that you behave.
December 12, 2014 at 8:55pm
December 12, 2014 at 8:55pm
Annual Christmas Party
         Taking a break from the annual all day Christmas dinner. I'm in administration (not management) and have to be available all 3 shifts for the big party. We have to decorate, meet the caterers, receive the flowers-which become door prizes, hand out candy, distribute the company Christmas cards with receipt to pick up a ham or turkey next week, and then clean it all up. We walk from one end of the complex to the far end across the street, through over-street links, pushing heavy carts laden with things, and stand around smiling at all the employees.

         So now my feet are killing me. I could take a nap. I've had two pieces of fried chicken and think I'll be sick by bedtime. I washed counters and mopped up spilled food in my good clothes. I have one more shift to go. Fortunately, we catch them early in their shift so that we can leave about midnight. When I first started doing this, I didn't mind. I wanted to spread cheer, and meet all the employees who were just names on files to me. Now, I'm feeling differently.

         I meet them all when they have problems with paychecks, deposits, hospital bills, etc. I enroll them each year for insurance. I see them in the various offices for various reasons. But all in one day has gotten tiresome. I try to throw a little spirit in there, a "Merry Christmas". And when someone hugs me, and says they are grateful to us, it feels good. When I'm joking with someone in Spanish or Nepali, and they're blushing or whatever, it's fun. But I'd like to do just one shift a day. And we use the same caterer each time, so that's getting old. Then there are the whiners and complainers. No matter how hard you work, someone doesn't like it. And then there are the employees who want to run the whole show and act like they're in charge.

         I'm trying to turn over a new leaf. I don't care. That's the new leaf. Anyone can be in charge. Anyone can take the credit. They can complain all they want. I don't care. It sounds easier than it is. But, hey, I don't care. I'll sleep late tomorrow. I'll enjoy the moments I can. Maybe I'll be a positive force somewhere. But I'm not stressing over it. I'm too tired.

December 11, 2014 at 10:46pm
December 11, 2014 at 10:46pm
Just When You Think You Know Someone
         I'm discovering things about my father I never knew. He's 86. He's still evolving.

         He wants to write a book. He's not really into the writing part. He wants to tell a story, and let other people read it. He's always been a story teller with his halting speech. We've heard the stories so many times, we help him along or prompt him. But they're usually stories about country life back in the 30's and 40's. He can keep an audience spellbound with his simple stories. But that's not what he wants in his book.

         He wants a book about the people he's known and worked with. He thinks they're fascinating and should be know by others. He claims he's worked with 3 preachers (not the full-time kind, but regular working guys called to preach), over a dozen alcoholics, country people, including from the hillbilly areas, and many others.

         So now he's computer shopping. He's interested in the WOW computer for seniors. But it's over a thousand dollars for a desktop, and the keyboard looks normal. The screen is 22", and the images can be enlarged. So it's aimed at Web surfing, not typing with stiff, arthritic fingers. We found one similar to it at the local branch of an office supply store, for about $400 less, Of course, we could get him a micro-cassette recorder, if he would just use it, and my brothers and I could type it orderly. Whether anyone read it or not besides a few personal friends wouldn't matter. He'd have the satisfaction of writing it.

         He's never had a cell phone, but so many people around him have one, that he's thinking about a Jitterbug. I can't get him to read from a Kindle, but he wants to get modern in other ways. Maybe it's time for him to retire. He can stay home with some new technology toys, keep up with his yard work, and go to the senior luncheon once a month. We're afraid he'll sleep all the time and waste away. But he goes to church every week and sees people. If he adds in these new hobbies, and does the outdoor stuff, he'll be okay.
December 10, 2014 at 11:34pm
December 10, 2014 at 11:34pm
Changing Traditions
         I heard a song once, that obviously didn't become a big hit, that said the meaning of Christmas was still the same through time and space even though the world has changed. And I realized, yeah, Christmas has changed. Local area parades have gone away. Santa makes many grand appearances in an area, not just one big first appearance and then stores. We use gift bags more than boxes, and gift cards instead of cash.

         We're not so offended by artificial trees. They're a little safer than real ones we allow to get too dry. They're easier to clean up and put away. They don't leak sap, or come with bugs. Nobody goes out to the woods to get running cedar for garlands or shoots mistletoe out of trees. Even boxwood wreaths are easier to make now with the floral supplies not even on the market to make the old style. And colored trees are more acceptable in modern dwellings.

         Even Christmas cards have changed. Postage forbids sending them out to everyone you know like when I was a kid. The cards are way more expensive and often have silly greetings.When I was a kid, we proudly displayed all the cards we received. It was a big part of the decorations. And everyone who sent us a card this year got one the following year.

         And food changes with or without holidays. If you look at every decade of the 20th century, there were major changes and innovations in packaging, cooking, preserving, and influences. So why wouldn't that affect the holiday menu? For the last three decades, we've heard a lot about fried turkey. I have yet to try any, but I hear it's excellent. Before the huge fryers, no one ever mentioned such a thing.

         We change, too. We don't have the same energy at 40 that we did at 21, or we develop health problems, or we work too much, and don't get enough rest, or have time for parties. Our families change. The children grow up, get married, have in-laws. We lose loved ones who were central to holiday festivities. Divorces happen and things change.

         My point is that we should expect every Christmas to be like the ones we remember. It's good to shake things up every couple of years and change the routine. Decorate with a different theme. Have an alternate menu with just a few favorites. Do it at someone else's house. We set our own expectations too high. And maybe the memories of the perfect Christmases are fuzzy. Maybe they weren't that perfect. We only remember the good times, or the really bad times.

         So, if we truly believe in peace on earth, or the advent of Christ, or good will amongst men, traditions, rituals, and customs don't matter. It's what we feel, and what we share that counts.

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