Category Archives: Holiday
The Holiday Salutation Admonition
It’s that time of year y’all!
Whether you call it Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all. This season belongs to all of us.
Lovingkindness, no matter your religion (or the absence of it) shouldn’t be forgotten this time of year.
I made a different version of this, one which is music I composed myself so that the social media platforms couldn’t block it.
Erika’s brother drew the original. I spent an inordinate amount of time meticulously creating and editing a png version of his artwork. I started with a picture I snapped of the artwork. There’s something intangible about this Santa, rendered with hundreds of deliberately layered scribbles. It seemed like I owed it to Chris, even though he’s gone and I never met him.
This Santa captures the unkempt fatigue of attempting to reward everyone with the Xmas gifts they deserve. (Much less the horror of knowing who has been naughty or nice.) I joke that Santa could make a fortune selling the naughty list to certain people!
As I do every year, especially now that it’s Black Friday… Don’t let the season distract you from enjoying it the way you want. For some, it is a religious celebration. For others, it is a social season, one punctuated by gatherings, bacchanalian feasts with friends, family, and events. Some sit quietly and simmer in melancholy of bittersweet remembrances of the people who’ve left them.
Xmas is what YOU want it to be. Not the traditions you don’t cherish, not the obligatory exchanging of gifts. You are housed in a body that is a gift in itself. Being yourself and radiating your wit, humor, and affection is more than enough for the people who appreciate you.
Of all gifts I enjoy, I like the goofy, surprising ones. And most of those are moments, not things.
Don’t get me wrong, I love someone surprising me with an ornate toilet seat, a collection of foul-tasting novelty candies, or even a ream of colored paper. It means that person likes me enough to have taken the time to surprise me. It also means that they are happy enough to want to share a sliver of that with me.
Giving people are rarely joyous. Have you noticed that?
Many people loathe that Xmas starts early, especially the music that often accompanies it. They complain about trees showing up in houses “too early.” The stores loaded with commercial offerings. I don’t understand that. To each his own.
The Xmas season is when people can surprise others without the pretext of a reason. Even a hug and a “Merry Xmas,” or whatever salutation you prefer.
I’ll put a picture below, one I made a long time ago – and one that surfaces on the internet with frequency.
Is Santa Real … A Cat Wonders
What do you suppose Güino is thinking? Santa brought him a couch. But Güino knows the apartment doesn’t have a chimney – and that Santa’s girth alone is too wide for such a thing, much less while pushing a couch down the chute. Güino is 13.5+ years old and too old to believe in Santa. I think he wants to leave Santa one of my protein drinks and fiber pills instead of milk and cookies. But it could land him on next year’s naughty list.
This is Santa on Dec. 26th.
Unfortunately, it represents a lot of other people, too.
Xmas doesn’t have to wind us up, tear us down, or obligate people to cook, clean, or let the holiday grind them into fatigue.
There’s another way: it is simply a matter of choice and the realization that it doesn’t have to “be” a certain way at all.
For a holiday that’s predicated on the essential spiritual meaning for so many people, I hate watching people get trapped into obligations that sap them. It’s supposed to be full of love, giving, and celebration.
Not exertion. Nor expenditure.
If you find yourself overextended, tell your friends and loved ones. Ask for help. Choose something different. Just be happy with whatever you choose.
If you can’t afford to give a gift, give your time and love instead. Encouragement. A phone call, a card with a shared memory, or a hug for no reason. Good people never fault someone for being unable to spend on them. Our value lies elsewhere. Time and presence are the gifts that enhance us and neither are replaceable.
Xmas can be whatever you want it to be. You can celebrate however you want and in a way that lets everyone relax and enjoy the season.
God’s love is an embrace for so many people.
And for others, it is the presence of people, family, and friends that light them up. For those lucky enough, the season is wrapped with God’s love and closeness with those who energize them as they are.
I hope you find your internal Xmas light this year.
All of you.
If you do, let it shine.
Jane’s Thanksgiving Tree
(This is another inspired story, from a stolen picture…)
She’d been gone five long years. Jane. To think her name caused John’s head to pulse with remembrance.
John stood at the low curb, looking up at the tree. Jane’s father Jack planted it when her parents owned the suburban house. Jane shyly let John kiss her for the first time under that tree, one Thanksgiving afternoon. There were many more such moments, each melting into the next.
A month before their wedding, her parents told them, “The house is yours. Fill it with love and children, if that’s what you want.”
They moved in three days after their simple wedding. Every fall, John jokingly complained about the mountain of leaves that the vibrant tree produced. Jane laughed like she always did, knowing that he’d faithfully rake and mulch the crimson leaves. Eventually. Often, they were still piled dutifully, awaiting John’s attention, by the time Thanksgiving graced the calendar.
After the diagnosis, John went outside each night to stand under the tree and imagine how it must feel to spend one’s entire life without fearing the next day. Or whatever day would bring finality to the love of his life.
Five years later, he stood with his hand on his daughter Jenny’s shoulder, pointing up at the polychromatic leaves. “Your mother loved this tree, Jenny, like she loved you. When the leaves fall, it’s your mom telling you that everything has its season.”
Jenny looked at the tree, then at John. “Oh Daddy, you’re so cute!”
May every crimson leave bear your name.
Happy Thanksgiving, especially to those with a heavy heart or a burdened mind.
Exhausted as I was, I was awake again at midnight last night. I didn’t initially fall to sleep at first. I died a little death, one that immersed me into blackness. I certainly wasn’t quietly whispering a prayer for 2020. This was the first year in many that my eyes were open at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
The power went out long enough to cause everything to flicker and beckon to be reset. The cat screamed and demanded attention. Because I live in east Springdale, the locals insisted on going out into the cold and rain and using their finest and largest artillery to announce the New Year. Several of the guns were truly cacophonous. I felt the vibrations in my ribs, like a discordant xylophone. It was amusing to note that I ended the year forty-five pounds lighter than I’d started it, with my sanity along for a wild ride.
For all those who made promises to go to the gym, I can save you a lot of time and money, if you’ll listen. Just ask me. I’m wrong about a lot of things, but not this. Even though we tell ourselves that there must be some external and elegant solution to most of our problems and habits, the truth is that simplicity and focus will get you there more quickly. Get those first. Your best resolution might be to take a long moment, even a month, to consider your life.
Running in place won’t get you where you want to be.
“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” – William E. Vaughn
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates
“The calendar reminds us when we are. We’d be better served if it told us who we are.” – X
“The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year’s Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you’re married to.” — P. J. O’Rourke
“If you’re making a resolution, I’d remind you that the New Year is just a way to make the same old mistakes again. Don’t make a promise to change. Be the person you are supposed to be and the rest will follow, hell or high water.” – X
“Why would I need a resolution to remind myself that I am perfect just the way I am?” – Unknown
“The most negative word of 2020 was the word ‘positive.'” – Unknown
A Son’s Gift Of Christmas
Judy’s eyes opened to see the projector clock on the opposite wall indicating 4:45 a.m. Before going to bed, she set the bedroom alarm for 5:00 a.m. and her automatic coffee pot in the kitchen for 5:15 a.m. Since it was Christmas morning, she needed to complete her to-do list before Jake scrambled out of his pillow fort. They spent at least thirty minutes last night, carefully building his sleeping fort to his precise specifications. He wanted to ensure that Santa wouldn’t find him awake in the dark. After getting Jake to stop chatting and to try to sleep, Judy pulled the presents for Jake from the trunk of her car and tucked them under the tree. It would be an austere Christmas this year. She hoped Jake wouldn’t mind.
Judy succumbed to the warmth of the bed; she pulled the comforter tightly under her neck.
The last year was beyond difficult. Judy’s ex-husband Richard spent the first four months of the year denying he had abused her. When he discovered that Judy’s decision to flee him was going to last, he turned his efforts to the court to take Jake from her. Even Judy’s mom testified against her. For reasons she still didn’t understand, the judge awarded her sole custody and granted her permission to move away. By September, she had a new apartment, a new job, and a new list of fears. Judy and Jake were on their own in every sense of the word. For ten years old, Jake somehow avoided the anguish others kids might have experienced through such a traumatic year. Judy found herself holding her breath tensely, waiting to see Jake act out. He never did.
At 4:50, Judy imagined she could smell coffee. If she overslept the alarm, the coffee always roused her from the bed. Single parents had to use a bit of creativity to keep their lives manageable. Imagining her first cup of coffee, she realized that she needed to pee. She pulled the comforter over her head as if doing so would erase the imaginary scent of coffee from her nose and the need to go to the bathroom. When she got the edge of the comforter tucked behind her head, she heard the soft melodies of “All I Want For Christmas” by Celine Dion. Most people preferred Mariah Carey, but not Judy. Celine was the voice of her angel. Deciding that she wasn’t going to quiet her mind or rest, Judy crawled from her warm bed and walked through the small dark bedroom to the tiny bathroom attached to it. As soon as she sat, she distinctly heard the music volume increase dramatically. Without a doubt, Celine’s voice played in the living room. Judy tried to finish more quickly, which only increased her need to go longer. As most moms discover, there is no such thing as quiet time, even in the bathroom. There’s always a bang on the door or an immediate need to address.
Judy quickly put on her Santa pajama bottoms and walked out into the living room. Inexplicably, the small tree next to the front window was fully lit and twinkling. The stereo next to the small television was on. Celine’s voice streamed from it. Judy walked across the narrow living room to Jake’s room. Opening the door, she went to the pillow fort and peered inside. Jake wasn’t there.
Judy quickly backed out of the room and peeked into the front bathroom. Also empty.
She turned and slid the sliding door to the kitchen open.
Jake sat at the small plain wood table. A cup of coffee sat in front of him. Next to that, a simple red box tied with twine.
“Merry Christmas, Mom!” Jake shouted as he ran over and hugged Judy around the waist. Surprised, Judy stood and rubbed her son’s hair back from his face. After a few seconds, he pulled away and reached over to grab the cup to hand to Judy. “I made this just the way you like it, Mom!”
“When did you learn to make coffee, Jake?” she asked.
“Oh Mom. That’s what YouTube is for! Plus, this is your Christmas!” Jake’s smile was as big as Judy had ever seen it. Though doubtful, Judy sipped the coffee. It was perfect. She laughed, realizing that Jake just volunteered to make coffee for her for the next ten years. “It’s delicious and so much better when someone else makes it!” She winked at him in the way that he loved.
“What are you doing up so early, son? It’s barely five.”
“Mom, I asked Santa to give you a good Christmas. He told me that I should give you a good one. I got you a gift.” Jake reached for the box on the table and pushed it toward Judy.
“How did you manage this, Jake? Do you even have money?” Judy laughed. She pulled the top bow loose to work the lid off the box.
“It was easy. I took out the trash every day for Mr. Johnson and agreed to help the building manager for a few months next year. I got Ken’s mom to get the gift at Target. Ken brought me the surprise to school, and I sneaked it home in my backpack. Simple.” He smiled. Judy knew that it had been anything but simple. Such planning for a ten-year-old was impressive. She was going to act delighted no matter what the box contained. It’s a ritual that Moms do instinctively.
Judy lifted the top off the box. She gasped. Inside the box at the bottom was a single ruby earring. Her eyes welled up as she looked at Jake. He sat, watching her, a smile on his face.
“Mom, do you like it?”
She swallowed hard to avoid crying. “Yes, of course!”
“I know that Dad took your Grandma’s ruby earrings and hid them. I could only afford one this year. I’ll get you the other one next year, I promise.”
Judy abandoned all pretense and started sobbing. She sat down hard on the chair across from Jake. Her coffee sloshed and spilled a little as she did so. Jake came around the table and hugged Judy from the side. She grabbed him and squeezed him hard against her.
“I love it, Jake! I love you.” She fumbled to pick up the single ruby earring and put it into her right earlobe. She smiled at Jake.
“Merry Christmas, Mom!”
As Celine continued to soar in the clouds in the background, Jake and Judy, mom and son, sat at the kitchen table laughing. It was a long time coming. In the living room, beneath the tree, Jake’s presents waited.
Love and Christmas were drowning them both. They swam in it.
Wherever you are and whoever you are, the season is inside you if you’ll permit it to overwhelm you.
For The New Year
“Time seldom approaches with a wild machete. It creeps from behind with a small, concealed knife.” – X
But Mel Brooks said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”
Someone more creative than me pointed out that the sand in an hourglass imprisons itself, as glass is made from sand. Don’t you wonder if we aren’t the same, becoming our own prisoners? There’s no emotion or problem that we can’t complicate, escalate, or initiate.
Noted philosopher Coco Chanel said, “Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” She obviously never worked a real job or dealt with people who have few laughs in their hearts.
My scars insist that time is real, but in the quiet moments, I wonder. I used to assume that most people had these thoughts. It was disappointing to discover that many people can’t imagine that Aslan or tesseracts are real – or walk in an imagined world where they might be the figments of a greater creature’s imagination.
“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” – Bill Watterson. I was equally surprised in later life to find people who deny that sitting in a quiet room can sometimes be better than a vacation. All good lives start with a quiet room. Add your preferred levels of crazy for a great life. Subtract what takes you further from the quiet room. It might be that simple for many of us.
“Why is that I never heard these words: ‘Let’s gather by the river, drink moonshine, and tell jokes and the stories of our lives.’ But I always hear stories of obligation and things that don’t linger in the minds of others.” – X
If you’ve never read “The Time Traveller’s Wife,” you missed this quote by Audrey Niffenegger: “It’s dark now and I am very tired. I love you, always. Time is nothing.”
Haruki Murakami said, either comically or seriously, “For a while” is a phrase whose length can’t be measured. At least by the person who’s waiting.”
Hippocrates (assuming it was the father of medicine and not the hockey player of the same name), said: “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.”
We all wonder about 2020, which ends in about a month. We look forward. Where were we a month ago? The difference between comparing now to then is a question of knowing what lies in the interim. It requires no faith. With what lies ahead, our imaginations seize us. Whether that imagination is fueled by the dread of what will come or the expectation that we will find a way to be who we need to be is our choice.
This is my New Year’s post, written a month early.
If you can’t feel time slipping up behind you with that knife, that is okay. There is no defense against it except to live a good life. You only win by yielding.
One last wise quote: “Time is a great healer, but a poor beautician.” -Lucille S. Harper
Prank Cards, Even For Xmas
For many, the tradition of holiday cards is a dying custom. I don’t envy people for their interests or habits. It’s not a good recipe for living to feel obligated to follow the old ways. For me, though, there are times when the opportunity to send cards brings out the part of me that lives in a vast world full of billions of souls, each wanting a little bit of spectacle and magic. Oddly, even those who’ve scorned social media are as likely to have given up writing letters or sending a holiday card to friends and family. It’s a dying custom.
It’s hard for me to send a simple card. I have to make it complicated and personal!
I don’t send out cards in expectation of reciprocity. That, too, is a poor way to live one’s life. There are times when I put in a little bit of effort and then am surprised when I hear nothing in response, though. That’s part of the bittersweetness of sending unsolicited bits of fun and zaniness out in the world. People don’t have the time – or always make it – to let you know they liked it or hated it. Static sometimes fills the air. It’s a gift to be able to tune it out when you put out some creativity in the world. A good response is to keep sending them cards regardless of their interaction.
A couple of years ago, I created a complex and custom birthday card online and sent it to an acquaintance. I made the card from social media pictures. It was a work of art, if I do say so myself. I used another return address to conceal my identity further. Since the company which printed and mailed my creation sent it, there was no postal marking to identify its origin. My acquaintance was genuinely perplexed and spent DAYS vainly trying to discern who might have created the artwork cards. So great was her interest that she finally posted on her social media page to beg for help figuring out ‘who.’ I was surprised that no one immediately connected the dots to me, given the work’s detail.
In a tradition I don’t always follow or do in the same manner, I send several personalized Christmas cards to people and families that I’ll never meet. In a few cases, I found pictures of LinkedIn, yearbooks from long ago, or social media. I downloaded them, and in some instances, photoshopped them before creating the custom cards that went to each of them. I chose a person at random from a yearbook for one of the lucky recipients I’d never seen before and researched them sufficiently to discover their new life. I also used ancestry to find a distant cousin and pieced together clues to figure out their real identity from the anonymous one used on the ancestry website. Using an inmate website, I found a person’s name and I.D. number and then sent him a glorious card and words of encouragement.
Though it might paint me as a bit of a weirdo, I find it challenging to explain to others how much fun I derive from sending total strangers a holiday card, especially when I personalize each with their pictures.
In each of these cases, I enjoyed each recipient’s imagined scenarios in my head, as they puzzled the personalized card from someone they didn’t know. In some cases, I used fake identities and addresses. In others, I used my real name, which might not necessarily allay concerns. “X” seems more like an accusation in some cases.
Of course, I also sent a few cards to people I do know, without using my real name and address, hoping to give them a bit of yuletide joy as they vainly attempted to figure out who had sent them a card. All those cards were customized and were a pleasure to create. I also sent a few to people using other friends and family members as the sender. I love living in a world wherein it is possible to convince people that someone else sent them a card, no matter how they might deny it.
Likely, I’ll never hear any of the stories that resulted from most of these custom cards. That’s how it works, though. Not knowing is often more rewarding than discovering the mundane answers.
Many people received Xmas cards over the years without knowing the person they thought sent it had nothing to do with it. Also? People don’t always look closely at the pictures. You wouldn’t believe the people and things I’ve edited into images without anyone noticing.
I can imagine several of the recipients scratching their heads in bewilderment, wondering who, what, when, and where – all without an answer. They may half-expect a repeat this year. Because I used an online address book for most of them, I could go back and send them another card this year. That would get them thinking.
Because much of our modern lives are now redirected by technology, the old ways provide another road to have a bit of fun.
P.S. If you are not familiar with Postable, it’s a great way to have some of the fun without needing to do the actual creation by hand. Postable – Create and Send Custom Cards You can upload pictures and design custom cards. They’ll also put it in an envelope and mail it for you – using any return address you might dream up. If you want to do Christmas or holiday cards, I highly recommend that you give Postable a try.