Browsing Category Holidays

Reconciling a New Year, Old Resolutions, and Pet Peeves

Wow! A new year rising. Who would have thought after the last hellish four years that any of us would survive to see 2021? Many of us did. Sadly, numerous souls did not. They succumbed to various causes, including more than 300,000 deaths related to the COVID pandemic.

Enough about the dark side. I promised myself that my first blog post of the New Year would be upbeat so, let me get back on track.

First off, I wish good luck to those ambitious folks who are making a list of resolutions for the New Year. I don’t do it. For years, I tried, to no avail. Then, one year, I created what I determined would be my final list of New Year’s Resolutions. I wrote.

Number one. Win the Mega Millions lottery. Too farfetched. You have to play to win. I don’t play. I scratched out number one.

Number two. Find and marry an African Prince. What was I thinking? I’d rather be a queen than a princess. Scratch number two.

Number three. Nah. Too risqué. Scratch that one, too. (Oh, wouldn’t you like to know?) I balled up the page and threw it in the trash.

I could have stuck with traditional resolutions — eat better, exercise more, and swear less. They are run-of-the-mill but attainable. Instead, I got resourceful. I created a list of non-resolutions and combined it with my growing list of pet peeves (You know, those things that annoy you like an eyelid twitch.). At the end of each year, I evaluate my list of Peevelutions. (You are right. I made that word up. Peeves plus resolutions equal, you got it, peevelutions.) At each year’s end, I either applaud my successes or move a goal from a lower status to higher on the list.

Some of the Top 20 items below are carry-overs from previous years; others are works in progress.

In 2021, I will . . .

  1. Stop squeezing my butt into Victoria’s Secret undies and start wearing big girl drawers.
  2. Conceal my weight gain by wearing baggy clothes.
  3. Stop hoarding paper towels, toilet paper, and coffee in the storage locker.
  4. Enroll in a 12 step program for political junkies. The last four years took me to rock bottom.
  5. Learn another foreign language besides pig Latin.
  6. Stop fake-smiling during a Zoom meeting, even when it is as tedious as folding fitted sheets.
  7. Finish reading a book before starting another, instead of reading two or three books concurrently.
  8. Stop letting my audiobooks read me to sleep at night, forcing me, the next day, to rewind and figure out the point where I dozed off before I can resume listening.
  9. Stop procrastinating and work on finishing my book instead of playing online word games.
  10. Devote myself as enthusiastically to working-out at home as I did when I was going to the gym.
  11. Stop unfriending people on Facebook who get on my nerves; continue to ignore them instead.
  12. Stop grumbling when the person delivering my groceries arrives 30 minutes early while I am still in my jammies; better that I complain to him about being 30 minutes late. At least I will be presentable by then.
  13. Acknowledge that Smart Phones, Smart TVs, and other alleged smart devices are fallible and, when they malfunction, are dumb as soap.
  14. Have more tolerance for people who never contact me unless they want something, forcing me while cheerfully saying, “Oh, hello, there!” to think hypocritically, What do you want this time?
  15. Resist rolling my eyes when I hear corny phrases like, “wrap my head around it” and “it is what it is.” The first expression sounds like you are doing mental gymnastics, and the other one begs the sarcastic response, “And what if — what it is — isn’t?”
  16. Avoid reading a book before watching the corresponding movie; then I won’t gripe about what was omitted in the film.
  17. Avoid feeling pissed-off when someone does not reply to my email or text or acknowledge receipt of a gift I sent them. Who doesn’t know that it is fricking rude not to respond?
  18. Be more tolerant of people who sit down beside me in a communal place, like on a park bench or in a waiting room when I am enjoying some quiet time, and begin chatting with me like we are old friends. I’d rather they pretend that I am an insect repellant and bug off.
  19. When I am dining with someone who not only talks with their mouth full but keeps shoveling it in while talking, stop pretending that it’s okay and don’t resist the urge to ask him or her to please shut up and eat.
  20. Keep being the good-natured person I’ve always been and remember the words of William Arthur Ward, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.”

Happy New Year!

6 Comments

Keeping the Merry in Christmas

While radio and television programs are broadcasting Yuletide carols and reminding us to be jolly, COVID is sucking the merry out of Christmas. That sad reality is the reason why this usual glass-half-full optimist is fighting the pandemic blues. I am not alone. I know this because many of my friends tell me that they feel it, too. We compare our symptoms. Short tempers and long-lasting anxiety. Mood swings from hopeful to hopeless. And the WTF (where’s the food) all we can eat syndrome.

Since the pandemic began ten months ago, it has dragged on from season-to-season, and the set of new rules to live by has become old. We’ve all got the instructions memorized. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings. Socializing with family and friends at birthday parties, reunions, holiday get-togethers, even weddings, and funerals is a no-no. I imagine that some employees are not too happy that this year’s Christmas office parties are zooming. Who doesn’t feel like screaming, “WHAT THE ELF? ENOUGH ALREADY!”

As an (often mild-mannered) spiritual person, I wonder if the global pandemic is a Biblical prophecy and punishment is being levied on humankind for our sinfulness. I suppose that atheists and scientists would dispute that statement; it is an ever-lasting argument. So, I’m going back to talking about Christmas. Foremost, December 25 is a day held in reverence. It also happens to be my cousin Jo Jo’s birthday (a shout-out to you, Cuz), and for wide-eyed children everywhere, it is the day when Santa Claus makes their day.

Unlike Scrooge, I don’t need spirits to show me Christmases past, present, and future. I remember, and I envision.

In my mind’s eye, I am about seven-years-old. My mom and my siblings, and I are cheerfully jockeying around the live Christmas tree in the living room. Dad is seated on the sofa, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, clutching a Kool cigarette between the index and middle finger of his right hand. He is all into watching a John Wayne western on the old black and white TV set as I am into hanging my made-in-school decorations on the tree. Occasionally horizontal line interference forces dad to leave the sofa and walk over to the TV. He sticks his cigarette between his lips, takes a long drag, and then removes it, exhaling a puff of white smoke before tightening a small piece of aluminum foil that is wrapped around the tip of the rabbit ear antenna. The picture clears up and dad returns to the sofa. As he is sitting down, he glances toward the tree at our handiwork and nods approvingly. We continue hanging decorations. Simple ornaments created with Popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, pipe cleaners, colored beads, and a red and green chain garland made from construction paper share space on the spiny branches alongside store-bought string lights, shiny, fragile bulbs, and long strands of silver tensile. Some years, we add tiny candy canes – and then we wait. Christmas morning is only days away.

During the evenings leading up to the big day, mother sometimes lets us stay up past our 8 o’clock bedtime to watch televised seasonal specials about Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Old St. Nick. On Christmas Eve, she doesn’t need to tell us to turn-in. We eagerly hurry to bed because we know that the next day will be magical when we awake. In the morning, the joy and laughter of enchanted children fill the air as we gush over the gifts that Santa left under the tree. Our family’s meager income prevented us, four kids, from getting many presents. And often Santa didn’t bring us precisely what we asked for, but we always got a few things each, and for that, we were thankful. Mother’s lessons of expressing gratitude for everything were not lost on me even to this day.

The sweet scent of fresh pine needles lingers in our apartment for days, and it seems to take forever before every stubborn spike that lodged in the rug or slipped into a crack in the aging wood floor bordering the carpet has is gone.

In the postwar era, many parents observed – and children believed in – the long-standing tradition of Santa Clause. Some of today’s contemporary parents feel that deceiving children about Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and other fictional characters hinder a  trusting relationship with their children. So, they don’t adhere to any of the rituals that created beautiful, lifelong memories for their grandparents and parents.

Christmas wasn’t the only day that held magic. I was a curious child. Whenever I would shed a tooth, I would place it under my pillow before going to sleep. The next morning I would wonder and sometimes ask mother how the tooth fairy could lift my pillow and replace my tooth with a shiny coin, usually a nickel or dime, without waking me. Mother played along, leading me to believe that she was as perplexed as I was. I treasure those memories, and I think that mother enjoyed the games as much as we children did.

I know that it is the parent’s prerogative when it comes to observing traditions with their children. Still, I’d bet four calling birds that some of the same parents who say that they don’t want to lie to their children about imaginary characters don’t hesitate to fib to them about other things when it serves their purpose. As I see it, our parents fooling us with myths about the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and the Easter Bunny may have been telling us lies, but they were good lies.

Sometimes, when I am stressed and longing for a temporary respite from everyday living’s harsh realities, reflecting on traditions involving make-believe activities that my family observed during my childhood makes me happy.

Christmas present is eight days away. I doubt if many folks would disagree with me when I say that the best stocking stuffer all of us could receive would be a miraculous, immediate, and complete disappearance of COVID. I’m not promoting fake news, I know it’s not a reality, but nevertheless, that’s my wish for this Christmas.

My visualization for Christmas future, 2021, and all years after that is for love, brotherhood, joy, and peace in the world. That, along with good health, is my wish for my readers and all of humankind.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may God bless you all!

6 Comments

Enduring a Not So Happy New Year’s Day

I had planned to write an upbeat post for the New Year, but situations that occurred during the past few weeks changed that. And although last year was generally a wonderful ride, the road got bumpy toward the end, and that’s an understatement.

Since a few weeks before Christmas, I’ve talked with many of my close friends and relatives and learned that a lot of folks are dealing with illness, death, and grief in their families during this holiday season, and joy is elusive. I am no exception. I have a dear friend who was perfectly healthy a month ago, but she suddenly became ill and is now in hospice. Aside from that, I lost someone dear to my heart. Right now, I find that my ability to lift anyone’s spirits (including my own) with encouraging words demands every ounce of my mental energy. As my cousin, Vanessa, said to me this morning. “It’s been a rough ride.”

It is times like this when I must keep repeating to myself a mantra that I’ve so often said to others, “Count your blessings.” I’ve been blessed to live to see the beginning of another year, and if you are reading this, then so have you. However, my gratitude doesn’t ease the burden on my heart.

Few people know this, but for decades, my Aunt Ida called me every year at midnight, or not longer then a minute after that, to wish me a Happy New Year. If I wasn’t at home, she would leave a message on my voice mail. In more recent years, she stopped calling precisely at midnight, but without fail, either she or I would initiate the call a few hours later on New Year’s Day, and exchange well wishes for the coming year. It was our intimate tradition.

This year the tradition was broken because my beloved aunt died three days ago. Few people, except maybe our immediate families, hers and mine, will know how close Aunt Ida and I were. She was my friend, my confidant, my “other mother.” Always encouraging me to follow my dream; always praying for me. I miss her immensely; as I write this I am fighting back tears. Our traditional “Happy New Year” exchange is over. Therefore, instead of publishing the New Year’s post that I intended to put on my blog today, I am dedicating this one to my aunt, Ida Staton White, and including one of my favorite photos of her taken during her younger years. I know it may be futile and it may even seem silly to some of my readers, but I am going to say it anyway, one last time.  “Happy New Year, Aunt Ida!” This one is for you.

0 Comments

Being Still

“Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

The other day I took time to relax. What’s unusual about that, some will ask. It’s unusual for me because it’s something I rarely do. Perhaps it was mental fatigue that led me to stop scurrying around and be still for a moment.

Being still is difficult for me. I’m a little bit hyper. I feel compelled to always be doing something because doing nothing seems like a waste of precious time.

When I am at home and not out and about, typically I am undertaking several tasks simultaneously. Doing laundry and house cleaning. Cooking and reading. Taking online classes, researching something on the web, or composing essays while listening to the TV – generally a political talk program – always on in the background. I know that so much busyness isn’t conducive to flawless productivity. So, I decided to take a break. Give it all a rest. Do nothing, but be still, sit back in my recliner and relax for a while. Some would equate that to meditating.

But it wasn’t working.

Feeling determined, yet antsy, I decided to add some music. I closed the blinds and turned on an all-music station. Appropriate for the season, they were playing Christmas songs.

Most of the tunes were popular during my childhood and early adult years. Christmas oldies, I call them, though those songs never get old. Music stations play them annually. Sometimes they combine the old school Yuletide hits with contemporary Christmas music by Fantasia, Taylor Swift, John Legend, Mariah Carey, and others of a younger, hipper generation. In my opinion, there is no comparison. Ask any boomer, and they will tell you that our generation had the best music.

I remember as a child hearing Eartha Kitt seductively purring Santa Baby, and Bing Crosby croon about dreaming of a White Christmas (Do the PC police now consider that phrase politically incorrect?) Kitt and Crosby were great artists in their time. However, their songs don’t compare to Darlene Love belting out Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). I love having Luther entertain me with At Christmas Time, but nothing beats a melody of hits from The Temptations’ Give Love at Christmas album. And how can I not tap my foot and sing along to Donnie Hathaway’s version of This Christmas? When Gladys Knight and the Pips sing, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” I whisper, “Oh yeah. I  hear it.” My blissful mood continues as Carla Thomas exclaims Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas. There is no better way to relax than to be serenaded by old school R&B Christmas hits and slow jams.

My self-imposed, quiet times don’t last long. I suppose it’s nervous energy that compels me to constantly move around, do something, keep busy. I think (too much) about the chaotic state of the world and I need a distraction to help take my mind off of it.

I was a child of the sixties. I am a boomer. And as bad as some of my fellow boomers may think that our formative years were, given a choice, I prefer the sixties decade over the current era.

Back then, time seemed to move at a pace slower than an impeachment hearing. Sure, there was social unrest. People were protesting and fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, and anti-war, while politicians were posturing just like they do today. Wars abroad, crime and discrimination in the states, and the assassination of prominent leaders; for the generation of my youth, that was our normal. Mass shootings in schools and a cocktail of other “new norms” were not.

When Charles Dickens wrote his book, A Tale of Two Cities in the Nineteenth Century, he was recounting the period leading to the French Revolution. I don’t know how many times I find myself thinking that he could well have been describing the present. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness.”

These days it looks like we are cursed to live under a spell of Darkness ruled by the Dark One. The tranquility that many of us relish is quelled by irreligion and ungodliness. If we are wise, we will bring God back into our society instead of trying to erase Him. Perhaps then, we will survive our “winter of despair” to see the “spring of hope.”

My readers, I thank you for continuing to read me and support this blog.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël, whatever your preferred greeting. May your holidays sparkle with peace, love, laughter, goodwill, and light, and may the year ahead be full of happiness.

Now turn up the volume on your speakers and enjoy this, my Christmas gift to you.

2 Comments

Reminiscing Thanksgiving Holidays Past

Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday. Not everybody celebrates it, and if you are one of those bodies who don’t, that’s okay. It’s your prerogative.

But tradition is ingrained in my soul, and every year around this time, nostalgia embraces me like a Snuggie blanket. As I write this, Thanksgiving Day is slightly more than 72 hours away. And I remember.

I remember when I was a very young child, Thanksgiving was the time when our family would often kiss the city goodbye and head south to visit our relatives in the Tar Heel State. Usually, we stayed with our maternal grandmother at her farmhouse. Some of grandma’s other grown children would arrive with their families, and we would reunite with our numerous cousins and other relatives, those who arrived for the holiday weekend, and those who lived in the small town near grandma’s farm.

During the years when my family did not go to grandma’s house for the holiday, Mother would sometimes prepare the Thanksgiving meal and we would pitch in to help. As her children grew older and we had families of our own, we’d sometimes bring a dish that we prepared at home; creating sort of a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember one year when I volunteered to bring the collard greens. What I did not realize after cooking what I thought would be a chef-d’oeuvre, not only were the greens undercooked, they were poorly seasoned. I had failed to add any of the staples for making a delicious pot of southern-style greens. No ham hocks or fatback or smoked neckbones. Minus those cholesterol clogging meats I should have seasoned the greens with table salt, but I didn’t think to do that. Can you say bland?

I don’t remember anyone complaining about the greens during the meal, although some of the suddenly wide-eyed expressions by folks when they began eating them should have been a giveaway. One forkful and everyone around the table knew that those were not my mother’s collard greens. Mother was born and raised in North Carolina, and back in those days, if southern women learned nothing else, they surely learned how to cook. And when it came to cooking collard greens, my mother could burn. She put her foot in it. If you are not familiar with the vernacular, those latter expressions are compliments, meaning mother’s greens were supreme.

After dinner, mother pulled me aside and trying to spare me from hurt feelings; she gently told me, “The greens were okay, but you should have cooked them a little bit longer and added some seasoning.”

That was my first attempt at cooking fresh collards. (Canned and frozen greens were the norm for this busy working mom.) Lesson learned. Do not volunteer to prepare a dish that you’ve never cooked for a family holiday dinner. Since then, thank God, I’ve learned to properly cook and season greens.

Sometimes, after our holiday dinner, we would clear the table, cleaned-up, and enjoy playing Bid Whist. (A note for the uninitiated — Bid Whist, is a card game where bidding partners strive to earn high points to win).

My younger brother was often my partner. Sometimes mom and dad played against us or my sister would be mother’s partner. If other whist-playing relatives, like my Aunt Sarah and Uncle James, were visiting, they would be partners. When there were enough people playing we would play rise and fly. That’s when you lose, and if there are other folks waiting to play, the losing partners get up, and another couple sits down to play.

I cherish those good times.

Unfortunately, as unavoidable as it is, things change, and so do people. Our family Thanksgiving holiday gatherings at my parents’ home ended way too soon. I’ve tried to maintain the tradition with my immediate family including grandchildren with the hope that after I’m dead they will have as many treasurable memories of family holiday gatherings as I have, and the tradition will become part of the family legacy for them as it did for me.

Due in part to PC and sometimes to religious beliefs, Thanksgiving Day, like Christmas and so many other festive occasions, has become a cause célèbre. I see the day as a time for gathering, to be with friends and family. If the history and origins of celebrating Thanksgiving Day bother you, then don’t think of the day as celebrating Thanksgiving. Think of it merely as an opportunity to get together with family and friends, some of whom you may not have seen for years (except at a funeral) and enjoy a good meal. It certainly is a convenient time to have the family gathering on a day when a lot of working people have the time off.

Life is short. IMHO sometimes, we need to temporarily set aside our convictions and seize the opportunity to enjoy spending time with those we love because opportunities don’t last. We never know if a loved one that we spend time with today may be gone tomorrow. A missed opportunity can sometimes be a huge regret.

I don’t wait for a particular day to acknowledge things for which I am thankful. I am thankful every minute of every day. I am thankful for my family and friends, including my blog and Facebook friends. Some of my online friends are people who I’ve known for much of my life. Perhaps we met in grade school or grew up together in the old neighborhood. We were friends long before there was social media. And some of the friends who I’ve met online, I’ve known them long enough now to consider them to be genuine friends. They are friends with whom I occasionally talk on the phone, and sometimes exchange birthday cards, email messages, or notes. I am thankful for real friends and also for good neighbors.

I am thankful for good health. I am thankful every day of my life.

0 Comments