Choice Is King – My New Years Post 2017

 

It’s a New Year. I wonder how many articles, blogs or puff pieces have started with those four words. It is true none the less and here we are fatter, thinner, richer, poorer, wiser or as the real case may be, dumber. What ever little New Years resolution we did or did not live up to, we have arrived at the beginning of one fresh, unspoiled, hopeful year and left that begging, harsh no good tramp of 2016 in our dust. This year will be the BEST. YEAR. EVER!

At least that’s our plans.

But as Judith Vorst helped Alexander discover in his ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day”, life has a way of taking all your plans, looking at us dead in the eye as if to say, ” Oh THIS is your plan? Ha! You stupid, stupid girl (or preferred identity )…”. Then she crumples up all our plans and does a hat dance on top of our hard thought out goals. And life can do a pretty good hat dance too, she’s quite agile.

What are we left with as we stare longingly down at all our dreams laying broken on the ground? Our choices.

As good old Albus Dumbledore said to Harry in The Chamber of Secrets, “It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” This statement seems contrite and very “easy for you to say” in the face of an uncertain future, joblessness, death of a friend, depression or anything that is less than a perfect life. We as humans have come to expect that nothing bad should happen. This is the future dammit! Long past are the days of famine and misfortune. We have dentists, doctors and take out Chinese food! We demand that life gives us the best and that we rise to the top like cream.

Dr. Seuss put it best in Oh The Places You’ll Go! A book that at any chance I get, I buy and give to small children, teenagers and adults alike. It is the best self help and life guidance you will ever get. He writes (excuse the long excerpt):

“You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you.”

We live in an alternate reality called Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or even this here blog. We judge ourselves and our lives and how it should all be sailing by the people online. It doesn’t stop there, commercials and life styles of the rich and famous reinforce these thoughts. We are so surrounded by all of these perfect pictures of how life is supposed to go ( at least in our heads) that when we are thrown a curve ball or bite down on a lemon, we crumble.

Back to that Choice bit. We have a decision to make when life fails to live up to our expectations. We can shake our fists in the air, blaming the economy, the boss, the wife, the president, the parents, etc and so forth, No matter whose fault it is, if any is to be assigned, in the end it’s our fault if we choose to lay down and just grumble. Our other choice is to pull up our big girl panties and get on with it. That doesn’t mean we can’t grieve or get angry. It means to choose each day how much you are going to let a situation or failed resolve to affect the rest of your day. How much power will you give it? Some days will be harder, you will fail and that’s okay. You can start again the next day or even the next hour. The right choice isn’t always the easy ( or the most attractive, lucrative or fun)one.

I write these words to encourage anyone who is still reading  this and also to encourage myself. Like many of you, it’s been a hell of a year. I don’t think 2017 will be a magic elixir that will make 2016 seem worth it. I do believe that if I set my will and work hard towards my goals and choose each day what I’m going to give power to and how I will react, that my days will be better and I will be better for it, not just better but happier. Happiness isn’t a feeling, like love, it is a chosen path.

What ever your resolve this year, get thinner, establish a better routine, not eat so many muffins (me), if shit blows up, just remember to choose where to point that fan.

Be happier this year folks.

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A Parting Gift: My Very Opinionated Thoughts on Gift Giving

Christmas is a joining of Christian celebration and Winter Solstice. Therefore it is a co-mingling of the ideas of re-birth and sacrifice, two  main ingredients in  faith. In Christianity, it was God’s  son and in neolithic  and Bronze age times, Winter Solstice was the time of year that you celebrated the re-birth of Gods and goddesses and the start of a new year. But with every new thing comes sacrifice. With winter solstice in ancient times, starvation was a very real concern and often happened, so they would kill their cows so they would not have to feed them through the winter, but this sacrifice made it possible for the people to have fresh meat and it helped assure them that they (or most of them) would make it through the harsh cold. In Christianity, it is the sacrifice of God’s son that makes re-birth possible and gives hope and a new fresh start.

Whatever faith you find yourself in, sacrifice plays the most important part. Most religions require some sort of sacrifice on your part. It is what spurs on the success, it is what touches us deeply and shows us what is truly important.

This idea of offering something more than ourselves for the good of all and our future brings me to my mom’s yearly Christmas letter written just for her kids. This year, her letter was especially good.

Influenced by the times we live in economically and by personal experience, she wrote that the real gifts we receive in life are those that cost us something, something real, our time, our effort and sometimes our last penny. Recalling her childhood, she remembers being in 5th grade living in Arizona when for Christmas she received two small gifts, a set of paper dolls and a cross necklace that if you looked very closely had the The Lords Prayer in it.This was also the same year my Grandpa, her father, slipped a disk in his back and lost his business, his home and everything else they owned.

She went on to say, “I remember those gifts because I was old enough to know that small as they were, they were a huge sacrifice for my parents. They gave to us, out of their need.”

She then quotes David from the Bible saying ” I will not offer offerings which cost me nothing” and  she recalled all the gifts we (My two brothers, their wives and my family) have made her and how those were her favorite because she knew it took time out of our day.  “I know, I know, it sounds like Little House (on the Prairie), but the point is, it is the time and the sacrifice behind the gift that makes it special, not the cost.”

I agree with my mom.

Not to say that store-bought gifts suck and you didn’t think about what you bought Aunt Nan. I am also not saying you should try to make all your gifts, but with commercialism being the focal point of the holidays, it takes less thought and time to give something to someone. Sometimes we buy gifts because we feel we have to, not because we truly want to. It’s very easy just to grab something that’s trending now and wrap and pass it off. It leaves me questioning if  a gift doesn’t come from the heart than is it really a gift at all?

In trying to think of how to wrap up this blog I still keep going back to the word Sacrifice. The Pagans did it, knowing that starvation may indeed come but also knowing that with the sacrifice they would also be assured food  and more celebration. At the root of Christianity is the belief that God’s son was sacrificed to bring peace and hope to everyone, a sacrifice of one man to save the whole army idea.

So In closing, I love giving gifts and I love buying them and also making them but always I think gifts should be of the heart, not obligatory or thoughtless, whatever that means for you. If that means searching the aisles until the perfect gift is found and not settling until it is, or if that means making something unique for a friend or spending your last penny for your child ; just make sure it’s truly from you.

For Christmas this year I hope, as my mother put it so eloquently, ” that you give and receive gifts of sacrifice this year.”

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad,Mele Kalikimaka, Happy Kwanza and Happy Winter Solstice.

Christmas Hell

This is the part of the year where I post an article I wrote several years back on my experiences growing up at Christmas time. For those of you who have read it, I hope you enjoy it again and those who have not, I hope it gives you a little laughter in your day.

Christmas Hell

Christmas. The time of year to gather with loved ones in fellowship and
harmony; a time to set the table with the finest, perfectly cooked turkey, heads
bowed in thanks for nature’s bounty; a time to trim the tree, sing carols and
smile jovially at one another with warmth and love… unless you’re a member of
a normal family. If you were part of my family you might find yourself receiving
cow patties wrapped in brightly packaged boxes or find yourself gazing in wonder
at a tree suspended from the ceiling with fishing twine because your Dad,
though a great man, was too cheap to buy a tree stand.
Unique, quirky, surreal and obscenity-laden are a few ways in which many
describe the holidays. It is no secret with family, friends or neighbors who have
heard the obscenities streaming from our house around this time, that my dad,
a Vietnam vet who is still unhappy with the government, is not necessarily a
lover of the Yule Tide season, either. To top it off, he looks like Santa Clause
and has been repeatedly offered to play old Saint Nick at stores and Christmas
parties. He tries his best and puts forth a good foot for my mother but in the end,
strings of holiday curses flow from his bearded lips and when they do, it usually
has to do with “The Tree.”
On the surface the procedure seems simple: procure a tree and successfully
set it up. But, in practice as most people know, the outcome can sometimes
be wildly different. Over the last 27 Christmases with my family, I have learned
a few things about the Christmas tree. Whatever could go wrong, has. So here
are a few tips I’d like to share to maybe enhance your holiday and, most importantly,
keep you from losing your cool (even though it is entirely appropriate to
do so).
TIP 1 : DON’T LET YOUR KIDS SKIP
SCHOOL TO GO TO A TREE FARM
For most people, the hunt for a Christmas tree begins just after the
Thanksgiving decorations come down and the initial and most important decision
most families grapple with is where to buy the tree. Sure there are Wal-
Marts and K-marts in every town but why miss out on the good old fashioned
masochistic fun of going to a tree farm? They’ll even let you cut down your own
tree. What a bargain. When you leave your back hurts and you’re tired but at
least you have a tree.
Whenever you decide to go, I don’t suggest you allow your kids to skip
school to go tree hunting. It seems like a great idea and a very jolly way to
spend time together, however most schoolteachers tend to disagree. When we
were younger, my mom woke us at the crack of dawn on a school day and
announced that we were going to buy a tree. She’d insisted it was fine so long
as we explained ourselves to our teachers once we arrived late. Yeah, right.
Needless to say, when we finally made it to school after the great tree hunt the
teachers didn’t believe our excuses. I remember Mrs. Barstow, my second
grade teacher, staring at me, the mole on her upper lip like a third eye, and that
uncomfortable moment when I was sure she thought I was lying. Somehow,
though, she and my brothers’ teachers were able to find the charity in their cold,
black hearts to not put us in detention. Your kids’ teachers may not be so kind.
TIP 2: BRING YOUR OWN SAW
Before heading out to the tree farm be sure to bring your own saw.
Besides making the process go faster, your saw will undoubtedly be better suited
for the job than the antique the tree farm will provide.
One morning, we piled into our Ford Escort and looked forward to a family
Christmas memory at the tree farm that would last a lifetime. My mother
insisted on finding the perfect tree and asked my father his opinion on each
one. My father didn’t care– and voiced it more than once– but he eventually
agreed
on one out of necessity and boredom. Here is where bringing
your own saw comes in handy.
We borrowed one from the old guy who ran the place,
a rusty number, missing teeth that hadn’t been used for
years (the saw, not the old guy). At this point my brothers
and I were playing “hide and seek” in the trees, the snow
falling serenely, and wait… is that cussing I hear? My father
had heaved himself under a Scotch pine and was spouting
off one obscenity after another while my mom scolded him
under her breath. My father is not a small man either so
heaving himself under the tree was truly a show of love for
my mother and a bit of a contortion act. After a couple
hours of this spectacle the tree finally came down. The
moral: bring your own saw.
TIP 3 : MAKE SURE THE TREE
FITS IN YOUR HOUSE
You see the tree outside in all its majesty and glory.
It doesn’t look so big, in fact it seems to be the perfect size.
You take a walk around it, look it up and down, maybe test
the branches by pulling on one or two to see how many needles fall off. Now
before you make a wild decision, at this point I’m going to suggest that prior to
procuring your tree, you have measured the area in your home where you hope
to display it. Get the height, width and depth of the area and write it down on a
piece of paper and take it with you. Take a measuring tape to the tree farm, too.
In fact measure everything twice, just to be sure. You know the old saying:
measure twice, cut once.
Once, my family arrived home from the tree farm with a tree and unloaded
it onto the front porch. Since we had skipped class to cut it down, we were then
taken to school. After school we came home and made a beeline for the den
where our treasure would be set up and ready to decorate. We immediately
noticed that it was… a bit large. In fact, it took up the entire den. For that entire
Christmas season if one wanted to sit by the tree you had to sit in the next room.
I am not sure how we managed to put all our ornaments or even the angel on
top but we did. As a matter of fact, I’m not sure how my dad managed to get the
thing in an upright position. My mom would not admit to the trees enormity saying,
“Oh it’s not too big, it’s just full.”
TIP 4: DON’T SCARE THE CHILDREN
WHILE TRIMMING THE TREE
Christmas tree trimming parties. Everyone has had one or been to one.
Cookies are baked and wassail or hot cocoa abounds. It is a popular thing to
do with children. They like getting together, chatting, flirting and throwing tinsel
at each other. It’s a fun and festive way to begin the holiday. But before sending
your child to or hosting a trimming party of your own, please answer this one
simple question: can you or the host effectively put up a tree without getting
frustrated and throwing it out on the lawn?
One year my folks hosted a tree trimming party for my brother’s church
youth group. After many failed attempts trying to put the tree up, there went my
dad, tree crooked rather expertly under his arm, marching in a determined fashion
out of the den, through the house to the back door where he pitched the tree
into the back yard. He then wheeled around and announced to my mom that if
she, “wants a fucking tree there it is, go get it.” Most of the kids in the youth
group giggled while some stared in shock at the use of the “F” word at a family
church function. I am not sure who ventured out and recovered the tree and
then put it up but I am relatively sure it was not my dad.
TIP 5: SCREW IT. GO ARTIFICIAL
Yeah, having a real tree is nice and it has an appealing aroma and gets
you in the holiday spirit, but sometimes you have to ask yourself if you have
more of an artificial tree personality. If your Christmases have been anything
like mine, full of toothless saws and trees catapulted out of doors, then I would
kindly suggest that you spend your money on a fake tree. They don’t get pine
needles all over your floor, are relatively easy to set up and they last longer
than a month. Plus, in the long run your saving money.
Years have passed and now even my folks have an artificial tree that my
mom puts up and takes down by herself while my dad smokes his pipe in the
lazy boy, drinks his creamed coffee, continues to give my mom hell and smiles
all the while. Our Christmases have always been a little out of the ordinary, at
least if you believe the commercials are the standard of a true family. We have
indeed nailed our tree to the floor and hung it from the ceiling. As a child seeing
the suspended tree glistening with tinsel and bulbs was magical and perplexing
because no one else I knew had a floating Christmas tree. My mother
one year decided to bake all her ornaments only to have a little gray field
mouse my dad had befriended eat them. During the evenings they would sit
together companionably, the mouse on its branch quietly nibbling away at the
star shaped cookie and my dad in his easy chair smoking a pipe, his blue eyes
twinkling from behind his glasses.
No family is perfect. We all celebrate life and holidays in our own different
ways and all have quirks that are often border on the bizarre. Some might
like to keep their family eccentricities private. Me, I write and I like a good story
so I have exposed my family stories in hope that it makes everyone feel a bit
more at ease with the “abby normal” in their own holiday madness.
I now have my own family and we have our own set of crazy traditions
to fulfill. Back at the folks house the argument has changed from “The Tree” to
“When are going to take all these damn Christmas decorations down Brenda?!
For crying out loud it’s January!”
It’s nice to know some things haven’t changed much.
BY MAGDALENE KELLETT

Gift-mas

Christmas comes and everything gets disorganized, turned upside down and loose. I am speaking for myself of course, as I am sure there are many out there who are extremely stream-lined and together with their weeks no matter what holiday is knocking on the door.

When the holidays approach with their stealthy and sneaky ways as they do, I have always been attuned to the fact that not everyone can give their kids presents and toys for Christmas. This year we have satellite television. How does having satellite T.V. and present lacking children go together? Well read on my friend, read on.

I flip on my T.V. at night, this is the time for me to unwind, maybe get onto my Pinterest account and look at creative ideas and pictures to spur me on in the world of art and home-making. Now, it has been some years since we have had any kind of cable or just regular T.V. When everything switched over to digital a few years back, my husband and I just said “Screw it”. And so, we have lived fairly content without the stimulant of visual entertainment.

However, when we moved up north, we knew we would need something in the winter times to keep us sane, as we do not deal well with cold weather. My husband being a born and bred southern boy and myself having lived the majority of my life in the South as well, snow and frigid winds are like our Kryptonite. To battle this weakness, we purchased satellite T.V.

I forgot how much Christmas takes over the T.V. Your regular programming is not so regular and everywhere you look, someone is desperately advertising some cool new gadget that “your kids will love!”.  I have been disgusted quite frankly, with the amount of Christmas commercials. Wether it’s for kids or for adults, it just seems so….greedy. And here is where present-lacking children and satellite t.v. collide.

I enjoy getting gifts and buying things, we all do. But, speaking as an American and having knowledge of our economic status here in the states, I have to wonder where these companies think we are getting our cash from. Yes there is the all mighty Credit card. My personal opinion and some may largely disagree with me, but having been incredibly in debt and also having dug myself out with hard work and luck, and then also having used a credit card in the past for gifts for my children, I can honestly say I will never buy a gift for anyone, including my kids, that I can not buy outright with cash. But that is hardly the point.

I want  my kids to have the best and yes I want to give them a great Christmas, but the overwhelming attack advertising of the media is sickening. An alternate reality plays for us on T.V., where boys and girls get everything they desire and the regular Father can afford brilliantly clear diamonds for his regular average American wife. It’s nothing short of a lie. Yet we are made to think that this is what is normal and what should be, so the pressure is on to live up to that standard.

To clarify, I think it is great if you can afford do this for your family, if you have the means to do so (and it isn’t sucking you further and further into the black-hole known as debt), after all we all want to provide the needs and also give some of the wants as well. When I look around at the state of our great nation and the children in need at our footstep, I can’t help but think that all the overboard spending could be spent in a better more productive way.

So buy your kids something, buy them 4 things but don’t forget what Christmas should be about, it’s not just gifts and spending our selves silly. In the words of the famous book How the Grinch Stole Christmas,

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow,

stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.

It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

And yes this message can be cliché and already I can hear people saying “That’s all good and fine but it is about gifts.” I don’t argue their side as commercials show that to be true, but perhaps if we invested ourselves a bit more in the ‘Christmas is about celebrating each other’ side of things, when hard times come it wouldn’t feel so lonely and poor but rich and warm.

In the end, the toys break and we lose the diamonds but our friends , children and family are there.

This holiday I will be toasting my friends and family near and far, celebrating their lives and their contribution to my own life. May you do the same, enjoying your gifts and gift giving but treasuring your loved ones more.

Happy Christmas Folks.

Choose Your Destructor…and be thankful!

" Choose, choose your destructor!"

 

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and like in the movie Ghostbusters, we will have to choose what will eventually do us in. For me it is always a toss-up between desert and Dressing. My Mother-in-Law’s dressing is pretty hard to beat. She is like Paula Dean, only a thousand times better and she’s from Georgia and so Southern cooking is literally in her blood. Also being featured is her Giblet gravy….I know some of you squirm at that thought but, well,…. you are missing out.

Tonight as I sit at my computer writing and listening to Ghostbusters in the background play swooney music as Bankman and his lady-love embrace, I am pondering all of the things in my life that I have to be thankful for.

Sometimes as the day progresses I find myself complaining and grumpy, even my children avoid me.  At the end of the day I reflect on my day or on problems and I try to pick out all the good and focus on those. The things I can not fix or control, I throw to the sky and hope for the best. So I am thankful for the nights, as they make me reflective of my daily life and they play an active role in my progress as a human being.

My folks have been in town. We, over the past few years haven’t seen eye to eye and have argued a bit, even going for a time without speaking or communicating. Tonight, I am thankful for another chance to come together and talk and realize that some things aren’t worth the grudge. I am thankful that we can all let go and focus on the future, not forgetting the past but learning from it and moving past it with each passing day. I am thankful to share my table with my mom and dad tomorrow, it is a blessing to myself, my husband and my kids.

I can hear the TV coming from my daughter’s room where she and my son lay upon the bed watching ‘Clue’ the movie. My daughters strange personality and passion for the strange and hilarious makes me smile and laugh, sometimes out loud, when I think on it. My son’s smile can warm me no matter how angry or sad or frustrated I am. He goes, goes, goes all the time but it is a true blessing to me. We, if we allow ourselves, learn something different form each child we have. The lessons I have learned from my daughter have been personal life  lessons. I have seen myself through new eyes, and not in the most flattering either. It has made me stronger and more gentle as a mother. Hattie is strong and lively. Her spirit is unique and beautiful. Her style is all her own and I wouldn’t change a thing. …Odin has offered me smile since the day he came into my life. From a half way wanted and halfway unwanted pregnancy to a labor that was actually a wonderful experience, till now, he has brightened my day. He walks on rainbows and rides on unicorns as far as I am concerned. Even when he’s being a total ass, he’s still my little man. My children make life worth living some days, I am thankful for them as they are. No more, no less.

Already his sense of style is coming through....

 

My beautiful lady with Edgrrr, our pit and her faithful companion.

 

I am often discouraged and frustrated by the fact that I have many interests. I have invest a good bit in each one, though I have never picked a particular one to make my career. And though as I write I am still upset by this, I am also thankful because it keeps me curious. It keeps me looking for more passions, more things to know or learn. As my husband said, “If you can’t decide on one, do them all.” So I attempt that with as much patience as I can muster and without spreading myself to thin. Which all this brings me to my nest thankful thought…

My husband. Though at times I want to pull out all his hair , he has had more patience with me and my weird, hippy ways. He has encouraged and supported me in all my interests, even though he knows I could likely drop one over night. I am so thankful for him and his Job-like patience.

Finally, I am thankful for Mysteries. Yes mysteries, the unknown, sometimes in the form of a good story, sometimes in history and other times and most often, in our lives. We do not know what the future holds or whether we have tomorrow, let us try to live today to its fullest.

So for thanksgiving, I wish you all a full day of laughter and love, may you live the day to its fullest.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Yay! for Metal, the musical kind.

To those about to rock, we salute you.

 

Motorhead doing Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’

 

And now just Metallica

 

Everythings better in leather.

 

Now lets’ all feel good….

 

 

And as much I am NOT A FAN of Axel Rose…..You gotta admit this song really works.

 

 

Now maybe AC/DC isn’t metal but hey it’s my blog and I am sure enough people from metal bands stole from or were influenced by them . Shit Angus alone. And Nobody does it better than Bon Scott.

 

 

My daughters fave and a great song and a good mix of rock and metal, plus they did play with Motorhead, or Motorhead played with them…..Haha.

 

Now it’s time to get right with Sabbath, Black Sabbath that is.

 

 

Van haylen- the guys who made metal pretty.

 

And last but not least, The Hellacopters doing a cover of Sabbaths ‘Dirty Women” , the god part of that song anyways.

Behind and catching up.

Today I ran out of coffee. I know, I don’t know how it happened and I am so ashamed. Luckily, I happened to have some Lapsang Souchong lying around from when my mom brought over tea. Lapsang Souchong is a smokey black tea, though now that I say that, it could be a roobis tea. Either way it is delicious and is hitting the spot. So This morning I am thankful for tea and the hands that brought it to me, my mom.

I am a bit behind on the thankfulness train. It’s not that it has been terribly busy, but at the same time I also feel like I haven’t had the time to sit down. So I think I owe two more thanks and who know maybe I will throw in a another for the hell of it.

Last night myself and my children along with my cousin and her kids went over to my Aunt Teresa’s (my cuz’s mom) and met her and my mom for food and wine. The kids played and we ate and drank for several hours. It was a lot of fun. It’s been a long time since all of us have been in the same spot so it was very nice and to have the time together. Growing up my cousin and I were as close as sisters. We have remained close. Of course now we are both married and we both have 2 kids and hopefully our conversation is more mature (though that might be debatable). It has been a bit of a tradition since we were kids for the four of us (moms and daughters) to get together and do stuff when we could and though it had been many years, that tradition was carried on again last night. So, I am thankful for the ladies involved in this group, my mom, my Aunt Teresa and my Cousin Crystal. I hope for may more years of this.

Okay One to go.

The other day a friend of mine traveled an hour to do my daughter’s hair, which was really awesome. Hattie is now sporting black and pink. She loves it and I am so happy she was able to get it done. Growing up restraints on music and clothing and hair were never put on me and it was possibly one of the greatest gifts my folks could have passed on. I just feel that there are far more important things to put your foot down on, hair shouldn’t be one of them.

The Lady Hattie-Belle

And last not least, I received a blog award! So I am very thankful for that because that means you like me, you really like me! I will blog about this in my next blog. It truly helped to turn a mad day of not so great things, into a better and beautiful day.