Happy New Year, y’all!
See you next year!*
*I’m sorry. I just love saying that. I know it’s all 4th grade but that’s where my humor gene is stuck, I guess!
The holidays can be such a difficult time for some families. All crowded in the same house. Forcing civility. Trying each other’s patience. Accommodating. Pleasing. Or trying to please with the same childhood insecurities and failures rearing their ugly heads.
Here is a post I wrote a while ago. A little Jane’s wisdom. I am a work in progress. And so are you. Hug yourself and let go.
I’ve made a conscious decision in my adult life to focus on people who reciprocate. I don’t mean in a tit-for-tat kind of way. I don’t keep score. I have some friends from far away that make an effort to visit and some that don’t. With some friends, we need to talk a few times a week and with others we can pick up where we left off after months of no contact. I suppose my criteria is different depending on the relationship. But for the most part, it has to feel like we’re both making an effort to nurture the relationship.
A very wise man once gave me the following visual about marriage. He said that there are times when a marriage is like this – and he made a fist with one hand and covered it with the other. And then there are other times when a marriage is like this – and he reversed his hands. But for most of the journey a marriage should be like this:
He interlaced his fingers, joining them together.
That visual made such an impression on me. I was in a relationship at the time that was so lop-sided. I was co-dependently orchestrating our journey. I left that relationship – thank goodness. I’ve applied this visual to other parts of my life, both with family and friends.
I recognize that we need to carry the other person sometimes. We all have struggles in our lives where we need others to pick up the slack. And sometimes, we’re the one who needs to be carried. Being able to lean on your friends and family from time to time is essential. But for most of the time, for most of our journey, we need to be working together to nurture and care for each other.
Journeys shared are the journeys worth taking. I surround myself with people who nurture me and allow themselves to be nurtured by me. People that listen with their heart. Act with compassion and kindness. See with loving eyes.
These are the people who I make time for.
These are the people who matter most.
First, there was Joe Cool.
Next, there was my dear friend, LL Cool Joe.
Time to make room for the next generation.
Looks like you have an idol!
Or at the very least, some new competition!
Dude! You are stylin’!
Where do you get your threads?
Were you raiding Joe’s closet again?
Sorry for the second re-run. This was my Christmas Eve post from last year. But after Wednesdays post, this needs to be said again. Colonel Harry Shoup and our now retired local Santa Claus – their examples to us – this is why I still believe. There IS a Santa Claus – in all of us. We just have to let him out.
In 1955, Colonel Harry Shoup received a phone call at work.
A six-year old boy began reciting his Christmas list. Colonel Shoup wasn’t amused. But when a second call from another child asking to speak to Santa Claus came into the Continental Air Defense Command office (CONAD) he was determined to get to the bottom of it.
Evidently, Sears Roebuck & Co. printed an ad with a phone number for children to be able to speak to Santa. The newspaper printed the wrong phone number. When Colonel Shoup realized this he instructed his staff to field all calls from children and give them the location of Santa Claus.
When the United States and Canada combined their air defense units (North American Aerospace Defense Command or NORAD) a couple of years later “the tradition continued.”
Since 1955, volunteers man the phones on Christmas Eve to field calls requesting information on the whereabouts of Santa. Santa tracking went worldwide in 1997 when it was introduced to the web. According to Wikipedia over 500 volunteers field a half a million calls, over 12,500 emails and the website receives over 1 billion hits.
A misprint in a newspaper started a phenomenon. And Colonel Shoup, just another of Santa’s helpers, kept the magic alive. It’s been said that one of his staff drew a little sleigh on a large glass map of the world that they had in the office. When Col. Shoup noticed it he called the local radio station and said, “We have a UFO coming across Canada. It looks like a sleigh.” The radio station played along and reported the news.
I remember turning on the television as a child to watch for news of where Santa had been and where he was headed. When my oldest was a child I logged onto the internet and showed her Santa’s trail. Now, I’m sharing that with my sons and with you – all because of one man’s belief in the magic of Santa Claus.
It’s Christmas Eve where I live. Santa has already begun his journey around the world and will be arriving here soon! Click here to follow Santa as he travels to our homes.
Merry Christmas, my dear blog friends! I hope this post finds you happy, healthy, and surrounded by those you love. And may Santa bring you everything you’ve asked for!
(Below is an edited version of a post from last season. It has the same message. And I am as passionate today about the message as when I first wrote it. It needed to be said again.)
I believe in Santa Claus.
I’m shocked when I meet someone who doesn’t.
Recently, I was perusing your blogs out there and I found not one, not two, but three blogs dedicating posts to the evils of Santa Claus.
Santa = Evil?!?
And there were comments, lots and lots of comments agreeing with them.
I was angry. I was outraged. I vowed never to read those blogs again. I started taking names to avoid reading the blogs of people agreeing with such blasphemy.
And then I stopped myself. Jane, I said to myself, You believe in God. You have friends who don’t. You read their blogs. You’re fine with their difference of opinion, faith and beliefs. You preach, “One mountain, many paths.” How can you completely disregard another blogger’s right to disagree with your belief in Santa Claus? How can ONE post nullify all the other posts you read by them and enjoyed?
So….reluctantly….because logic won with this internal struggle…..I re-bookmarked all three of those blogs and I tore up my McCarthy list.
But not without defending my stand!
When my daughter was about three-years-old a friend told me about a wonderful Santa that I absolutely must take her to. We did. He was elderly. (Of course) He had a genuine white beard and longer white hair. (Of course) He wore a red suit with shiny buttons and he sat out in his sleigh every night between Thanksgiving and December 23 (because he’s very busy on the 24th!) listening to children, finding out about their lives, helping them to narrow their lists (he only allowed 2 toys because his sleigh was only so big!) and chatted with the parents.
He must have had an eidetic memory. Through the years he would remember what school my daughter attended, her love of gymnastics, that she had a cat, even a few of the gifts he had brought her in the past. Before any of you start jumping up and down yelling, “Creepy!” I can assure you (and I’m quite sensitive to creepiness) it never, ever, ever, ever appeared creepy.
He was genuine. He was sweet. He was Santa Claus. And he did this out of the goodness of his heart. He was a member of our community – recently retired. His many acres of property were decorated with Christmas lights that brought people from miles around. He dedicated his time to help children believe in kindness, in goodness, in unconditional giving. He cared about the children in his community and took collections to “pay his light bill” and to give to the local Boys and Girls Club. He reminded them to study hard in school, mind their parents, brush their teeth. He reinforced strong values and the “real” reason for the season.
There is a 10 year age difference between my daughter and my sons. So for a time – she felt too old to see Santa in person – we skipped visiting. Oh sure, we always rode by to see the lights. If he wasn’t busy with another child he always waved to those passing by. But then we moved to another part of the county and once my boys arrived we skipped seeing Santa because we felt they were too young.
Then, they were 3 and 2 years old. They were ready! And I was so excited. I couldn’t wait for Santa to see how our daughter had grown. To meet her two new brothers. We talked to the boys about Santa. My daughter filled them in on what was to come Christmas morning. She helped them make a list. Just before we turned down the street I cried, “Let’s look for Santa!” But the street was dark. Only a porch light was on at the house. The area for parking wasn’t marked off anymore. My #1son asked, “Where Santa?” My husband quickly piped up, “Oh no! He’s not here tonight. I forget to check the schedule. I’ll bet he’s at the mall this evening.”
It’s a good thing my husband spoke up. I couldn’t. A tear made its way down my cheek.
When we got home I scoured the internet. I found our local online paper. The headline read “County Santa Will Return to the North Pole.” I was crushed. But he was getting older. His health wasn’t as good. And he just couldn’t keep up the hours anymore. He had been doing it for 13 years from 6pm until 8pm every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The article showcased parent after parent talking about all he meant to their child’s vision of Christmas and to our community.
He truly was Santa to all of us.
Santa is not about commercialism. He’s not about greed. He’s about giving for the sake of making someone else’s eyes light up. He’s about wonder and imagination. He’s about love and kindness.
And if you’re looking, you will see him. He may not be dressed up in a red suit. His beard may not have grown in. You will find his spirit in every act of generosity and grace during this wonderful season.
But you have to be willing to suspend your cynicism. You have to be willing to accept gifts without the expectation of something in return. To my knowledge, Santa doesn’t discriminate. As long as you believe, the gifts will come. Some are wrapped. Some are not. Some are obvious gifts. Some you realize as a gift only later.
But Santa is real.
If only you believe.
Fade in. Interior of Jane’s car, complete with discarded straw wrappers, miscellaneous school papers, sand and errant leaves. Two disgruntled boys sit in the back seat with arms folded.
#1son: Why do we have to go to church?
Jane: Because it’s good for you. It’s a place where you can learn how to do good things.
#1son: We already know. Ms. Park (#1son’s teacher) always teaches us about that. How to “do unto others” and help people and give to the poor. Stuff like that.
Jane: Well, that’s great. I love it that she’s teaching you those things, too. But church is another place where we can learn those things.
#2son: But we don’t want to go. Plus, we’re already good.
Jane: I beg to differ. What about the two arguments over xbox I had to break up this morning?
#2son: If we already know what we’re supposed to do to be good, why do we still have to go to church?
Jane: Because we want to show God that we’re making an effort to do good things. And when you listen to the sermon, you might learn something new, something you hadn’t thought of before to continue to do good things. You might be reminded of ways that you could do better.
Silence. Arms still folded in defiance. (The boys in the back seat, not driver Jane.)
#1son: Mom? What’s a gangster?
Jane: A person who does bad things to people.
#1son: Like kill them?
Jane: Yes. Like kill them.
#2son: Do gangsters go to church?
Jane: Probably not.
#2son: Well, maybe they should be going to church this morning instead of us.
Ahh, from the mouths of babes.
Love it or Hate it?
I’ll tell you. (My answers are in parenthesis)
Then, you tell me.
1. Snow days when school gets cancelled and there isn’t any snow on the ground and the roads are clear? (Hate it!)
2. A real Christmas tree complete with dropping needles? (Love it!)
3. Asymmetrical haircuts? (Still hate it!)
4. House guests in your home for 20 straight days in a row? (It’s love/hate for me)
5. Shopping online? (Love it!)
6. Shopping at Whole Foods? (I love it! My wallet hates it!)
7. Tuna Noodle Casserole? (I loved it as a kid. As an adult, I’ve pulled a 180. Hate it!)
8. The Apprentice Season 10? (Loved it!)
9. Amazing Race – any season? (Love it!)
10. Reality shows on MTV? (Hate it!)
11. College bowl games on December 31 and January 1? (Love it!)
12. Spreading out the football games from December 18 – January 10th? (Hate it!)
14. Eggnog? (Hate it!)
15. Truman Capote’s boxed set of The Thanksgiving Visitor and A Christmas Memory? (Love it, love it, love it and I read it every year and never tire of it!)
16. Pixie haircuts? (Love it! Just wish I could pull it off.)
17. Creating a Facebook page for your baby? (Hate it!)
18. Trying to complete this post on a dinosaur of a computer with a slow internet hook-up? (Hate it!)
19. Being completely finished with Christmas shopping a week before the big day? (Love it!)
20. Having a blog that, not only provides a creative outlet, but has introduced me to some amazing people and some amazing writing? (Love it, love it, love it!!!)
What do you love and hate?
Traditions. Traditions. Tra-di-tions!
I never realized how essential they are to me until one is forgotten, or lost, or cancelled. Now, I make it my mission to continue old and create new traditions for our family. We have traditions that we follow throughout the year. For birthdays, for Halloween, for our favorite vacation spots. At Disney, we always start and end with Magic Kingdom. At Hilton Head, as the rest of the family is settling into the condo, I go to Fresh Market and stock up and that evening we take a long walk on the beach after dinner.
But Christmas? That’s when the traditions start the month before. This has to be my all-time-favorite season. I get into the Christmas spirit long before the actual season arrives. For goodness sake, I never put away my Christmas cds. I listen to them all year-long.
Our traditions are many…..
1. We always decorate the house on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, get our tree the weekend after and put the finishing touches on Christmas cards the week after that.
2. My mother-in-law has made us two advent calendars. One for me, a beautiful quilted piece where I add a quilted square each day until all 25 squares are completed and Christmas has arrived. One for the boys, little pockets filled with coins, candy and tiny gifts.
3. Honeybaked Ham on Christmas Eve and Turkey on Christmas Day. Only the side dishes vary. The one time I made beef tenderloin the family complained. We’re back to the traditional menu this year.
4. We always open one present on Christmas Eve and it’s always a pair of pajamas. Although, I always pretend I have no idea what we’re opening and act surprised at my own gift. (I’ve purchased all of them, for everyone, including my in-laws who share Christmas with us every year — another tradition, of sorts.)
5. We all know the reason for the season. Don’t worry about our salvation – we are well aware about the true meaning of Christmas. But Santa Claus is a really big deal in our house. My kids still believe in Santa and more importantly, I still believe in Santa. (A message to little Brandon in #2son’s class at school: I respect YOUR beliefs but if you hint/tell/try to convert my child one more time about the “myth” of Santa Claus I will come to your house, beat down your door and give your entire family a stern talking to. There is nothing wrong with teaching my children about unconditional giving and surprise and wonder.)
6. On Christmas Eve, after dinner, we all pile into the car and go enjoy the Christmas lights. A few years ago, my sons asked why they had to put on the pjs but the big people didn’t. We do this because they typically fall asleep in the car and it made it easier to slip them into bed. My mother-in-law said, “Yeah? Why don’t the big people have to put on their pjs?” So a new tradition was born. We ALL get into our jammies, pile into the car and see the Christmas lights now. God help us if the car should ever break down!
7. The kids sleep with us on Christmas Eve and they can’t leave the bedroom until we wake everyone in the house (their sister is 10 years older and the grandparents want to be in on the fun, too!).
8. We open gifts one at a time. One present at a time. Everyone taking turns. Yes, this can last hours. But this is the way our family focuses on the giving rather than the getting.
There you have it. A few of our family traditions. I would love to hear what you do to enjoy this wonderful holiday season.
What are some of your traditions?
You see, I decided I needed to walk-the-walk if I was going to talk-the-talk.
I’m in my forties. I’m older. Wiser. Life is short and I only make room in my life for the people who matter. You must surround yourself with people who nurture you, who feed your soul.
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
But Judy (names have been changed to protect the she-devil) was still my “friend” on Facebook. She’s a Queen-Bee-Wanna-Be in our neighborhood. She throws lots of parties. And I’m conveniently left off the guest list every time.
Two years in a row, she called me to apologize for inadvertently leaving me off the invite list, but I was still welcome to come. I came both times. (Pathetic, I know.) Even though I was invited after the fact and just a few days before the event. I wanted to go. She invites just about every woman in our neighborhood and many of my friends were going. Or women I wanted to get to know better. Plus, it’s a party. Who doesn’t like a party?
But then, I did the unthinkable. I dropped out of her book club. Well, not her book club. But she’s a Queen-Bee-Wanna-Be. She thinks of it as hers.
That year I was left off the guest list and that year I never received an after-the-fact-invite.
No biggie. Part of why I dropped the book club was my plate was very, very full already. I was mildly annoyed that I wasn’t invited (yet again) but only mildly annoyed.
I was left off the guest list again this year. No big surprise. But it bothered me more than last year. Why? I’ve been wondering the same thing myself.
Maybe it’s because last January, in our glossy, professionally printed neighborhood newsletter another neighbor gushed a huge thank you on the neighborhood news page to Judy and her husband for opening their gorgeous home not once but twice during the holiday season and they had so much fun and they’re such wonderful hosts and blah, blah, blah.
Wait. So I hadn’t been left off just one guest list but two?
Then, this past October, pictures popped up and gushy thank yous all over Facebook for the amazing time everyone had at her Halloween party.
Nope. Not invited to that one, either.
No one likes to feel left out. Many women that I socialize with attend her parties. She-devil or not, it hurts.
But how to make it hurt less……hmmmmmmmm……
I took her off my Facebook. But not without first scanning all of my other ‘friends’ on Facebook to make sure that I truly only had people who I wanted to stay in touch with. Ok. I admit. There are still about 6 people in my friends list I have no interest in forging deep friendships with but they’re neighbors and they’ve always been kind to me. As far as I know, they’re not throwing huge neighborhood bashes and not inviting me. (Just attending them.)
But She-devil, I mean Judy? She’s phony to me in public. She’s invited every Tina, Deb and Henrietta – new neighbors and old – to her home. And I’m an after-thought, or not even thought of.
Wait. That sounds bitter. Well, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. I am. But I forgive myself. Because I will get over it. I’ll be over it by the time I press “Publish.” And quite honestly? She’s not someone I really want to get to know any better. I’ve seen enough. And from what I’ve seen? We don’t share many of the same values.
So, I unfriended her. My friends list is pretty trim. Some family. Lots of friends. Some former students. Some neighbors. But chock full of people who care about me. People I wouldn’t hesitate to call/email/text/write on their wall.
Those are the kinds of friends I want on Facebook.
Those of are types of relationships I want to nurture.
Life is short. Too short.
Time to unfriend the she-devils.
*I hestitated/used urban dictionary/consulted my daughter about using this phrase. Nothing else would do. But it sounded so mean that I went to erase it and my daughter grabbed my arm and said, “Put on your big girl panties and say what you mean!” So, it stays.
“When Toni Morrison said ‘write the book you want to read,’ she didn’t mean everybody.” ~Fran Lebowitz
I’m conflicted, as you can plainly see.
Just as there are better novelists out there, there are better bloggers. Better. Different. Some interesting. Some less so. There is a delightful array of blogs from which to choose. Different strokes for different folks.
But each and every blog contains a little of the same thing. Self-absorption.
“Too many people are writing books.” Why is this? “Because you have been taught to have self-esteem.” ~Fran Lebowitz
We all have something to say. We all say it, here on our blogs. Is it worth saying? That lies, my friend, is in the eye of the beholder.
Frankly, it amazes me sometimes, at the perceived (my perception) popularity of some bloggers. I measure popularity based on the number of comments, or advertised hits on a blog. I’m sure you’ve noticed but some mediocre writing is getting lots of attention.
And then there are the blogs I follow that inspire me. Where the writing is fresh and interesting. If you measured some of their popularity by the same parameters? They land in the uncool category, for sure.
We all possess, at least an inkling, a notion that someone out there, anyone out there, wants to read what we’ve written. Some of us find more readers than others. Some of us need more readers than others (as evidenced by the many contests decorating so many blogs). The trick is finding the balance. We need to find what a healthy, rational psyche can thrive on – a blogging balance that feeds our need to put our thoughts out there and validate our thoughts at the same time. We must avoid the trap that false validation can bring and ground ourselves. Know that you aren’t going to please or entertain or inspire all of the people all of the time. And that’s OK.
The number of followers you have does not assure you a higher seat in Bloggers Heaven.
“Very few people possess true artistic ability. It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort. If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.”~Fran Lebowitz
As much as her comment gives me a chuckle, deep down, I disagree. I’m glad the internet is limitless. I’m happy to have found Blog World. I’m glad I’ve found a place of my own. I enjoy the variety of bloggers out there. The amazing writers that I admire, encourage me and inspire me to be better. A better person. A better writer. A better mother and wife. A better friend.
Call me narcissistic, but I write, hoping to inspire others in the same way.