Resolutions Update 2/5/18

Resolution Update

1. Goal Weight: 160lbs
This week has been harder, as I thought it would be. I have really wanted to cheat! I actually have cheated, which has set me back a bit, but remarkably even this is still controlled. In the past I would have let the whole day go and gorged myself, inevitably gaining 3 pounds and setting myself back essentially 6 days. So far I’ve only gained a pound at a time or simply not lost as much as I could have. Today I am at 188.4. My first goal is 180, which I should be easily able to do before this round of Omnidrops is over.

2. Record weekly positive events.
This week’s positive: I am continuing to enjoy my new relationship with my cousin! In addition, I was very productive this week. Granted, Noah and I skipped a couple days of school work to go to my grandparents’, which I got some things done. I always feel a little guilty about skipping school, but he enjoys it and it’s good for him to see the family.

3. Pay off credit card debt (without accruing more).
I won’t be posting my debt, and due to my current income situation, there is difficulty in creating a specific plan, but I have been keeping up…I may have used my credit card one or twice this week. However, I did return to donating plasma, which brings in some income that I have been putting on my credit cards. I was bringing in around $300 a month donating plasma and using it only for credit cards, but had a hang up when my protein was too low. Getting back on track – though I hate the process – is helpful.

4. Pass Out Supply Bags to Homeless.
This week: This week I finally took inventory of my supplies and started buying additional items to put in them.

5. Complete 2 Scrapbook Pages per Week:
This week: Yes! I actually did it! I’ll work on posting pictures next time. These pages were of my nephew on a slide, and washing the toy car my sister and I had as kids.

6. Get up at 6:30am M-F.
This week: I hate this so much. It’s been hit or miss and a lot of times I go back to bed. I did, however, make a morning “to do” list for myself so I won’t feel lost when I get up and feel okay going back to bed.

7. Read the books sitting on my shelf at the rate of 1 per month.
Currently reading: I actually did finished a book this week! I almost feel like it doesn’t count because I have been reading it for months while donating plasma, but it is indeed finished.This is the one I just finished: get-me-out-of-here-9781592850990_hr
This is the next one: 85e88fa8eddc8bcf0f83a1a8e22fb7e2

8. Keep homeschool on schedule.
Nope. Bad bad bad.

9. Clean the bathroom every other week – applies to two houses.
Done for this week! I even did it during the week so I had Saturday all to myself! This week is off, except for minor clean up.

10. Accomplish something new or make progress on an old goal.
Yes! I feel so with it this week! I talked on the phone with my best friend for 3 and a half hours, after not talking to hear for over a year. I moved around and liquidated a lot of items in my grandparents’ basement, and listed several things on for sale on OfferUp. I organized my desk space and scrapbook supplies, and completing my two pages applies here, too. I’m grateful to be getting 2018 into a new rhythm.

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Derek

To my sweet cousins……Thank you sooooo much for such creative and thoughtful gifts. I’m so very proud of you both. You turned into such lovely ladies. It was a true pleasure. Love Derek

I exchange a glance with my sister. “Guys don’t talk like that,” I say affectionately. I can see my sister shares the full emotions I am experiencing after such a precious night. I can still feel my cousin’s arms around me in a tight and genuine hug and hear his deep voice sharing story after story of his board sport adventures and injuries. Our week of reconnecting with our cousin has left us warm, fuzzy, and fulfilled.

Though I had actively missed him for 20 years, periodically trying to reconnect, and vainly trying to gain his contact information for the last year and a half, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine he would be so wonderful. The little information I had been getting suggested he would be uncommunicative. My experience with men in general prepared me that he would likely be polite but indifferent. More recent information claimed he might even be difficult to be around.

What we found instead was openness, tenderness, sentimentality, gratitude, and admiration.

Powerwheels

I have 3 cousins. When my friends spoke of activities and friendships with their cousins, all I had to cling to was annual Christmas eve with the three boys on my mom’s side. The older two were brothers five and seven years older than I, of whom I have no memories beyond Christmas eve and attending their weddings. Derek, however, the son of my mom’s twin brother, is three years older than I and close enough that we spent some time playing together. I watched him skateboard in front of our grandma’s house. He would pack me and my sister into the Powerwheels Jeep and drive us into the open field, off to war. I snooped his Garbage Pail Kids tucked in a drawer in the “on flimits” room (my misunderstanding of Grandma’s instructions that the room was off-limits). I groaned at his display of snorting yogurt up his nose and making it come out his mouth.

I was disappointed when he moved to California with his mother when he was 12 and I was 9. That was a very difficult year for my family, so life superseded that disappointment, but I missed him ever after, seeing him only twice and longing for that friendship back.

In my teenage pen pal years, I asked my mom to ask my uncle if Derek would write to me and was told that Derek probably wouldn’t, that he wasn’t a communicator. He never did call. He talked to my mom on the phone a couple of times in his absence, and I heard through the grapevine of his plastic surgery due to a surf boarding accident. I never really expected to have much of a relationship with him, but I hoped to someday be in touch again.

In June 2016, I received a random call from Derek’s mother. She had found my phone number in Derek’s things, which means he got it from his dad at some point (and never called me, BTW). I knew they had moved to my area some time before. After catching up for over an hour, she invited me to call back when Derek was home. I procrastinated for 6 months only to then find the number disconnected.

Thus began the attempt to reunite the family. After the passing of my grandmother in 2003 and then my mother in 2006, that side of the family slid further apart. Family Christmas eve became “sometime in the general vicinity of Christmas” and then non-existent. I heard rumors that there were hard feelings toward my part of the family for reasons that were inaccurate, and I anxiously sorted it out to bring our family back together for another dinner. The last one. Now as I called Derek’s dad I left a voice message every weekend for weeks to no avail.

A call to my other uncle produced a polite but pinched conversation where he seemed open to the possibility of getting the family back together, but he was very hesitant to talk to me about family history and stories.

Another year passed until my sister and I decided we were going to put us back together and invite the family over for a gathering. I started by mailing Christmas cards to my two uncles and two eldest cousins. I was shocked when my mom’s older brother sent me a card back! His handwritten note sounded glad to reconnect and he invited us for dinner sometime. When I called him he sounded genuinely glad to hear from me and open to getting together. He was waiting for an appointment to take place before planning anything, so I decided to wait until after that date to pursue things further.

In the meantime, the card sent to my mom’s twin was returned in the mail, so I took it and showed up at his house. I had tried this once before and left a note, only to not get any response, but this time I was successful. He was surprised but very happy to see me. We visited for 2 1/2 hours and had such a genuine and invested conversation. I learned several new and hard things about my family that helped me understand better why we hadn’t kept in touch. I also saw the life attitudes held by my uncles that make relationships difficult. I felt welcomed and left with contact information for my cousin Derek.

I continued to wait until after the date of my uncle’s appointment and started calling him to check in. I was also contacting my oldest cousin’s wife, who I used to be friendly with and babysit their girls, hoping to be connected with the other cousin, but got no response. Still I didn’t call Derek, partly because nothing else was coming together and partly because I just don’t like to talk on the phone and I was shy.

Then came an email from Derek’s dad saying that Derek would be moving back to California so if I wanted to see him “do it now”. I had already resolved to call him that very night because I knew I had already waited too long.

Finally, I called the number, heard his name and left a message. A text returned an unexpectedly lengthy and open response. Finally that night I talked to him for some time, caught up, and made plans for my sister and i to visit the next day!

From what I had been told all these years, I expected some kind of brooding wisp of a person lost in his own interests. What I found instead was a warm welcome, attentive listening, animated stories, and eye contact. His mom was also there and had worked as a nurse alongside my grandmother and had precious memories to share about her and my grandfather, who I never met. My four-year-old nephew was warmly nurtured as his little body wiggled all over the living room.

We stayed until after midnight catching up on 20 years worth of life – my sister and my entire adulthood and then some. When it was time to leave, like a gentleman Derek walked us outside to the car. We chatted openly for a few more minutes and then received warm sentiments and tight hugs. I told him I love him and he said it to me. Beside my nephew, no one has said that to me in a long time.

The following day I was floating on Cloud 9, exchanging texts with my cousin and making a phone date for that evening. As I was waiting for my nephew and my nanny charge to fall asleep for nap, I checked my voicemail and discovered a message from my older uncle. I had left several messages to check in about his appointment and didn’t have a log of his call. His voice message was not promising.

As soon as the kids were asleep I gave him a call. I told him I had reconnected with Derek and had recently visited my other uncle. He quickly cut to the chase. He wanted to express that he thought we would never be close. The best we could expect would be Christmas cards. We had nothing in common. The truth of the matter is, he explained as I asked questions, that he continues to be upset about things my mom did, from being the “chosen child” to becoming a Baptist despite her Catholic upbringing, to how she handled Grandma’s funeral service. It all revolves around grudges he holds toward my parents about things I know are not true. I give him the benefit of admitting that I was not present for all of his relationship with my mother, his sister, but I sincerely believe his perception of my mom is completely inaccurate. She loved him. She was a very genuine and transparent person and also selfless. Unless she was a different person around him than I ever saw. Also I am 1000% certain his anger toward my dad is contrived. I now believe these attitudes are due to some childhood trauma and I feel deep compassion for that.

He was polite, but direct and told me he is not interested in a family reunion and would not come, he is not interested in hearing about my nephew (which is mostly what my life is about right now) and is not interested in talking about family history and sharing “family secrets”.

5 Cousins

I did tell him that he is always welcome with us should he change his mind. After 10 years of pulling teeth trying to get the family together, there is some relief to this measure of closure. Nonetheless I was bummed for the rest of the day, feeling like I had just been broken up with. The blessing in it was being able to talk to Derek on the phone that evening and share my disappointment. The payoff was in hearing him sympathize with me, rally that we would stay in touch with each other, and as for our uncle, it was his loss.

If only we had connected when they first moved back to Washington. If only I had called a year and a half ago! If only I had called immediately after I got his number again! I would have gone with him back to Grandma’s property to reminisce. I would have shown him around Washington. I would have invited him to my Elf party.

Instead, with one week to moving day, time was tight. My sister and I started putting together road trip care packages for him and his mom, who would be driving separately. The first baskets I bought were too small and had to be replaced with ones at least double the size! My sister made her very popular chocolate chip cookies. I made khrushiki, a Polish donut our grandmother used to make. We filled the baskets with all manner of snacks and helpful items, but our favorites were the treats inspired by Grandma – chocolate covered cherries, strawberry hard candies, circus peanuts, and Grandma’s original nut bowl with the nutcrackers. And Garbage Pail Kids.

Timing was tight and Derek, his mom, and Derek’s sister who came to help, were in over their heads with packing, but we made a plan to visit one last time. We were willing to come help or to drop off the baskets and leave, but they made time for us. We brought them Kentucky Fried Chicken – another Grandma memory – and ended up staying for three hours. When the baskets were revealed, my sister and I were not disappointed. In accordance with Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, both of us show love best by giving gifts. Pouring our hearts into these baskets was our way of pouring love on these long-lost family members. The time they gave us visiting, listening, and exclaiming over all the details of the baskets filled our love tanks. She and I both receive love through spending quality time, so their eager hospitality spoke volumes to us.

I knew they were anticipating being up all night to pack up and I was prepared to leave at that point, but when they offered ice cream to my nephew, I figured they were not in a hurry to kick us out, so I asked if they would like to look at family photos. When I was preparing to move out of my dad’s house about a year ago, I had the time to sort though all our keepsakes, photos and papers, and neatly organized the extended family memories into a tub, which I had brought along.

Though I’ve always been closer to my dad’s family, and even live with them now, I always proudly identified with the Polish heritage I received from my mom. Without the relationships to back it up, my search for family history and memories had reached a dead end. Even Ancestry.com, AncestryDNA, and paying a researcher has not yielded the information I crave. After learning background about that side of the family, I understand better why, but have still felt a void left by that side of the family. Sitting with my maternal cousin and his mother, who knew and loved my family, and hearing them appreciate the photos I hold so dear was an affirmation I have been starving for. No one else can or will treasure those memories the way I do. My private revelry is finally shared.

The hugs after that were tighter and longer as we bid our goodbyes. Derek walked us out again and spent another 20 minutes regaling us with stories of his “troubled” days and how God had showed up in his life. I said, “you must be important”. He sure is important to me.

Now I wait as he drives 1200 miles to his new/old home. My sister and I will be visiting him in July, if everything goes as planned. I can hardly wait!

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Resolutions Update 1/28/18

Resolution Update

My heart is so full from this week that I can barely put it into words! I will have to blog about these events soon, but it’s going to take some work. In the meantime…

1. Goal Weight: 160lbs
As of today I am at 191.8, having started at about 202. I’m finding it easier to lose this time, though I am entering week 3 and already craving everything. I told my sister we have to make this stick this time because I don’t want to do this again.

2. Record weekly positive events.
This week’s positive: OMG, this is why my heart is so full! After 20 years of separation, and nearly as many years of trying to reconnect, and actively trying to reconnect for 2 years, I SAW MY COUSIN!! He is the most amazing person – far above my expectations and I am on cloud 9!

3. Pay off credit card debt (without accruing more).
I won’t be posting my debt, and due to my current income situation, there is difficulty in creating a specific plan, but I have been keeping up. I have used it a bit, though, to buy gifts for special occasions this week. Shame on me.

4. Pass Out Supply Bags to Homeless.
This week: Still no progress.

5. Complete 2 Scrapbook Pages per Week:
This week: It’s been too busy this week.

6. Get up at 6:30am M-F.
This week: Uh… geez I”m kind of failing this week, aren’t I? This is hit or miss. Sometimes I have let myself get back in bed and snooze. What I intend to fill my morning with is learning to invest in the stock market. Tomorrow I will be babysitting, so I will be getting up on time.

7. Read the books sitting on my shelf at the rate of 1 per month.
Currently reading: Fail again. I guess I haven’t been working on this very hard and certainly didn’t succeed in finishing a book for January.

8. Keep homeschool on schedule.
Not bad, though Friday was spent making a special treat for my cousin while my nephew persistently built a tent in the living room.

9. Clean the bathroom every other week – applies to two houses.
This is up to date and not due until next week.

10. Accomplish something new or make progress on an old goal.
If you count reconnecting with my cousin (which totally counts!) this was the best ever! I really need to blog about it soon. It’s too amazing!

So… my percentage isn’t great this week, but it was such a wonderful week!

Resolution Update

Apparently my resolution to update my resolutions is something I forgot to do this week. Oops. Here is Take 1.

 1. Goal Weight: 160lbs
Down about 6lbs this week and feeling great! I already see changes in my body. I feel prettier and it’s easier and more pleasant to move around!

2. Record weekly positive events.

This week’s positive: I got to visit with a childhood friend and his mom and, in doing so, was reconnected with another childhood friend via Facebook. I had a great conversation and learned all about her and her sister’s lives.

3. Pay off credit card debt (without accruing more).

I won’t be posting my debt, and due to my current income situation, there is difficulty in creating a specific plan, but I have been keeping up.

4. Pass Out Supply Bags to Homeless.

This week: Not much progress, but at least I’ve started planning what I need to add to it.

5. Complete 2 Scrapbook Pages per Week:

This week: I forgot about this one. No progress here.

6. Get up at 6:30am M-F.

This week: I’m so bad at this. To be fair, last week I was fighting a flu so I let myself sleep when I could to try to keep it from coming on. It worked! This morning I managed to get up at 7am, which isn’t bad considering I’ve slacked so much.

7. Read the books sitting on my shelf at the rate of 1 per month.

Currently reading: I took my stock book (A Beginnier’s Guide to Short-term Trading) to work to read on lunch, but ended up having a conversation with my coworkers about stocks instead. I didn’t get any reading done, but I got to build relationships and gained some great resources for stock trading!

8. Keep homeschool on schedule.

Big fat fail here, but not 100% my fault. This week we had Tuesday, Thursday and Friday when I didn’t have to babysit/bring preschool to another house. Tuesday I was feeling sick so took advantage of not having any commitments and gave us a rest day. Thursday I was asked to sit with my grandma, so we went there instead and I spent Thursday cleaning that house, and Friday working on curriculum and organizing. It was productive, but not for school.

9. Clean the bathroom every other week – applies to two houses.

As mentioned before, I was successful in thoroughly cleaning my grandparents’ bathroom. Meanwhile, the other bathroom is glaring at me…

NEW!

10. Accomplish something new or make progress on an old goal.

I love to be productive. I mentioned several things already: cleaned grandparents’ house, organized several things in my space at grandparents’ house, found/contacted old friends, stuck to my diet and lost weight, prepared meals.

Not every week is so pleasant or successful, but seeing the progress keep the spirits up!

Put the Seat Down

qsm0fPutting the toilet seat down is an age-old argument. It is referenced in books, movies, memes, and general arguments. I get it. Some people see it as a courtesy. I don’t know anyone who enjoys a wet butt when they don’t realize the seat is up. I almost encountered this the other day, saved only because my butt is too big to fit (though I expect this to be remedied fairly soon). Celebratelove.com suggests this is an opportunity for men to be more considerate of their partners, thinking ahead to what their woman needs.

I get it. I’m an advocate for noticing the little things and thinking about your partner instead of yourself.

I propose, however, that it is not the man’s job to simply think about the women in the house, but that everyone should develop the habit of putting down the seat AND THE LID.

Ok, this post is silly. Does it really matter? No, and it’s definitely not worth a fight. This is not a pet peeve of mine and I don’t actually relate to the annoyance in this discussion.

I do, however, see the logic in my proposal, especially after my recent dropping of my toothbrush in the toilet. It’s amazing it hasn’t happened before since the cabinet is directly above the toilet. I’m just lucky the toilet had been flushed, since this is a habit my four-year-old nephew is still developing. I needed a new toothbrush anyway and luckily I had one.

However, this could have been avoided if we had all developed the habit to put the lid down. Not only is it safer for my toothbrush, but it is more aesthetically pleasing all around.

On the other hand, I might not be as motivated to clean the toilet on a regular basis if I don’t see the mess inside, but that is where my new year resolutions come in.

So, ladies, give the guys a break and be sure to include yourself in the goal of keeping the seat – and the lid – down.

New Year’s Resolutions

A few years ago, I actively pursued my New Year Resolutions and posted updates each week. I have decided to do that again this year. I may add more as the year goes, but here is the beginning.

 1. Goal Weight: 160lbs

My sister and I will be starting the Omnidrops program tomorrow. Several years ago this program helped me lose more than 50lbs, which I put back on due to dating and then a breakup. This is the first time I am doing it with a partner.

2. Record weekly positive events.
This week’s positive(s): a lovely massage, 3 days to myself, lots of sleep.

3. Pay off credit card debt (without accruing more).
I won’t be posting my debt, and due to my current income situation, there is difficulty in creating a specific plan, but I have been keeping up.

4. Pass Out Supply Bags to Homeless.
This week: this week I will purchase some supplies to round out what I have.

5. Complete 2 Scrapbook Pages per Week:
This week: this week I will work on organizing my space to get back in the zone.

6. Get up at 6:30am M-F.
This week: 3 for 3, and then three days off. Yay!

7. Read the books sitting on my shelf at the rate of 1 per month.
Currently reading: a book about stock trading which title escapes me.

8. Keep homeschool on schedule.
As I am homeschooling my 4-year-old nephew and helping prepare him for kindergarten, I am striving to keep us on a schedule, beginning with 8:30am breakfast, 9:30am school start, and extending through center time to a 12:00 lunch time.

Thanks for bearing with me as I take this journey. It may not be an exciting read, but maybe it will inspire you to meet your goals, as well!

Christmas Past

The magic begins with a tedious task I won’t appreciate for a dozen or more years. Box after box is lowered from one parent to the other, through the attic floor, a hole big enough only to fit the largest box. Soon the small one-car garage (in which we have never parked a car) is a maze of cardboard boxes of all sizes and shades of brown, from the light tan boxes which used to be white, to the tattered cardboard standard of Kmart Corporation.

The boxes are as much a part of Christmas as what is inside them. To my parents they were probably what was available when storage was needed, and they represent a chore as they are taken out, unpacked, put back, then taken out again to put things away. Eventually they will be replaced by uniform storage tubs, which are more practical and better suited for the homes we will later move into, but someday I will miss those flimsy, damp boxes. Memories live in those boxes. They smell like Christmas: fragrances of potpourri, popcorn, artificial fir garlands, and a pleasant musty smell of cardboard that has nestled snuggly in a carefully pieced together arrangement of storage to be left through all seasons.

The scent of Douglas fir permeates our tiny dwelling as our carefully selected tree is arranged, adjusted, trimmed, and screwed into place. In the earliest years, we were bundled up in snowsuits and trekked into the snowy mountains to find our annual decoration. Later it is cut from tree farms. Someday it will be replaced with a more convenient, but less loved artificial version.

Popcorn is popped, strings are measured, needles are threaded, and White Christmas is popped into the VCR. More popcorn goes into my mouth than onto my thread, and more time is spent untangling knots than making popcorn garland. I will be relieved when we abandon this tradition. I won’t miss it until Mom has been gone for more than ten years, then I’ll try it again.

20171230_195432Two huge boxes of Christmas tree ornaments are lugged into the tiny living room, where the tree is carefully situated in the corner, between two wall heaters. It creates a perfect place to sit with the heat blowing and the tree glowing. These two boxes are time capsules. The process is a lesson in physics – heavy ornaments on the thicker bottom branches. It is a history exercise – first Christmas ornament, handmade projects from preschool, gifts from Grandma. It is a practice of design – the balls go inside the tree to reflect the lights. It is training in patience – no, we aren’t done yet. All the ornaments must be put on the tree.

The kitchen explodes in a flurry of powdered sugar. Tupperware containers are everywhere as ingredients are gathered, the temperature of the milk is tested and reheated; dough is rolled out; walnuts are crushed; cookies are rolled and baked; pans are removed from the oven; more powdered sugar is sifted; cookies are snitched; and plates are prepared, wrapped, topped with a bow, and gifted to everyone we know. I will complain endlessly about this tradition when I am old enough to be forced to help. I will make them myself once or twice. I will treasure the tradition and the story behind it, but I will hesitate to take it over. So much work!

Bing Crosby’s voice fills the house. There are parties to go to and crafts to make. Nativity Mary and Baby Jesus go for a ride on My Little Pony. Stuffed Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer plays with Raggedy Ann and Andy until his head falls off and Mom sews it again, then puts it back under the tree.

The presents under the tree begin to appear as soon as the tree is up, and the pile grows all month. Santa does not come to our house. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. We get to open one present on Christmas Eve, after we return from our mom’s family Christmas. It is always pajamas or slippers, except the one year Mom selected the wrong box and it was a Smooshee.

20171226_225135Christmas morning is a waiting game. I’m sure our parents are grateful we are not early risers, but they still are not quick enough for us. Sometimes we read the Christmas story from the Bible. Stockings come first while we are still in our pajamas, an orange in the toe, a banana in the top, and a matching set of stuffed animals spread among the four of us. Afterward, we indulge in our close friends’ tree-shaped walnut pastry and anxiously listen to the shower as our parents get dressed. Is it time for presents yet? They have been calling to us for weeks! We never peeked, but we knew where the ones with our  names on them were.

20171230_195230Wrapping paper begins to tear and litter the living room. A pile forms for the presents going to Grandma’s house. A random gift from a friend is a special treat. A shutter snaps and Polaroids are lined up along the half wall, grainy and with humorous expressions. They are not worth any money, but they are priceless. Our piles of treasures grow. I love them all, but I most love watching my family open the gifts I chose. Mom’s feet are always really happy.

We sing along to “White Christmas” and “Let It Snow” as we ride, surrounded by brightly wrapped presents for family. It never snows on Christmas in Washington. My sister and I hate when “Christmas in the Northwest” comes on the radio, beginning in the early 90s. Christmas is supposed to be white, even though it never has been.

My grandma is preparing Christmas dinner as my aunt sets the festive table. Stealing olives and pickles is mandatory, as is my uncle playfully scolding us for it. Turkey, stuffing, green beans, rolls, layered ribbon jello salad, gravy, cranberries, and sweet potato nests are passed to us at the kids’ table. By the time we outgrow the kids’ table, there is a new little one to keep company.

Our adult aunt and two uncles are more eager to open presents than we are. Grandpa and Uncle Wayne take turns with the video camera, Uncle Benny is “Santa”. Garbage bags are prepared to contain the scraps. Dolls and books are my favorite gifts. Someone always gets a gun.

Pie and leftovers come out to make a dinner that is better than the lunch, and we break out the board games. Over the years we collect half a dozen versions of Clue and almost as many versions of Uno. Mom likes Pictionary. When I introduce Sequence and Chicken Foot (Dominoes) in my teenage years, those become the staples. My sister and I get in the way as we explore our new toys.

It is way past our bedtime when boxes are packed back into the car. We fall asleep on the way home. Tomorrow we will bask in the delightful chaos left from the night before and enjoy our decorations for one more week. We begin our mental wishlists for next year.

Santa Doesn’t Come to Our House

Christmas for our family is about the birth of Jesus. I was always taught that Santa Claus was a fictional story. He was not banned from our house, but we never had photos with Santa or expected presents from the sky.  Our Christmas tree overflowed with presents for the entire month of December and we excitedly waited for our opportunity to open ours and pack our families’ presents to Grandma’s house.

I remember being around eight and rolling my eyes in my mom’s direction when my grandma told me Santa brought a present for me. Didn’t Grandma know Santa wasn’t real? However, when the same grandma banned me from one of her rooms because “the elves were working in there”, I was very confused and curious. Elves weren’t real. What was going on in there??

As I’ve grown up and come to work with children, I have adopted the disdain for teaching children that Santa is real, and we are now raising my nephew to know that Santa is pretend. I can see him trying to process this as his friends talk about Santa and he sees things on tv, but he also will verbalize that Santa is just a story.

Recently I shared this photo on Facebook: 23795780_10215114032864626_3208123645945498560_nI love physical comedy and the visual I get from this meme looks something like this:troll2

However, my reason for thinking this meme is also mean is the same reason I do not believe in teaching children that Santa is real.

Santa Claus is a manipulation tool, not to mention a little creepy. “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake”? Throughout my work in childcare I have regularly listened to parents try to goad their children into behaving because “Santa is watching”.

Is that really why children should behave? Because they won’t get any presents? Do we do the right thing so we can get something, or because it is the right thing to do?

Some people see Christmas as a holiday for children, but it isn’t. It’s not about presents or dependent on individual performance, 1 and I don’t believe we should be encouraging children to think it is. Christmas is about Jesus and should be a time of worship and learning that we are not the most important person in the world. As a matter of fact, we are flawed and undeserving. This is an opportunity to find the beauty and gratitude in realizing we are loved enough that the Creator of the Universe reached out to us.

I know Christmas has roots in pagan traditions and the date was chosen to offset winter solstice and other holidays. Many of the traditions are spin offs of pagan traditions or wives’ tales that have evolved into standard fare. If a person has a problem with these aspects of Christmas, by all means don’t include them in your celebration.

At its core, though, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ or, even if you don’t believe in Jesus, it can be about family. It is about giving – first God’s gift of Jesus, then the gifts of the wisemen to Jesus, and finally about giving to those we love. Receiving is involved, but a selfless person should not be focused on that.

Santa Claus began with the gifts of St Nicholas, who bestowed money on a family who could not afford a dowry for their daughters. His gifts prevented those girls from being sold into slavery. It is a story about selfless giving. However, the modern Santa and his elves, reindeer, and sleigh originated with Clement C. Moore’s “The Night Before Christmas” poem, and Santa’s suit was conceptualized by a cartoonist. Why did this become standard fodder for Christmas?

Because parents want to capitalize on it. It’s an easy way to convince children to obey and behave… so they can get STUFF.

Children should be taught to obey because they are under authority. Parents are charged with their children to teach them how to live. Parents know more about life than children can understand and so children must be taught to respect and obey their parents so the parents can guide children in learning how to think for themselves. Obedience is not for the purpose of getting rewarded, though that has its place in motivational charts and such. Ultimately obedience is for safety, learning to live, and learning to obey God and other authority, like government. It is the right thing to do. I do believe we will be rewarded by God for our good deeds, but sometimes right is right and we do it because it is right.

In addition, there will come a day when a child learns that Santa Claus is just a story. I have never experienced this realization for myself or anyone I was close to, but if tv and movies are any indication, it can be quite a shock. Imagine learning that your parents have been lying to you your whole life, particularly if you have ever poignantly asked if Santa was real and had the parents say yes. It is important to me to be honest with the children in my life. There are definitely times when pretend is fun or a child isn’t old enough to understand that cartoons only exist in tv or they may not be old enough to know about certain things, but I want to always be able to say that I was honest, even if just to tell a child “I’ll tell you when you are older”.

I did not miss out on anything by not believing in Santa. If anything, I think it did me good. I adore Christmas, so much that I had a Christmas-in-July wedding! I put up my Christmas decorations right after Thanksgiving (my sister put hers up on November 2), I have an Elf party every year, and drive around to look at Christmas lights. There was never a time when Christmas lost its magic and came to a screeching halt because I learned it was all a lie. It has always been the one day a year my whole family gets together, the time when I got to see my cousins and do fun activities with friends.

Most of all, the heart of Christmas is not magic, but miracle. It is a celebration of when God loved us so much that He sent His only son in such a humble way. It’s most likely not Jesus’ real birthday, but that does not mean it’s not an opportunity for us to develop wonder that heaven could touch our world and to gain perspective of what is important.

Santa is still around, of course. I love movies like Elf, The Santa Clause, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We even have several decorations depicting Santa Claus bowing down to baby Jesus. I wear a Santa hat on Christmas when I pass presents to my family. As a preschool teacher, I don’t assume it is my place to burst a child’s bubble by telling them Santa is fiction. Mostly I simply acknowledge when a child tells me a story. I do, however, share the nativity story whenever appropriate and avoid the topic of Santa. I hope my students will always know they can trust me to bring real magic and miracle to Christmas and to train them to obey and make good choices because it is the right thing to do in response to the gift we have already been given.

http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/santa-claus

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/12/131219-santa-claus-origin-history-christmas-facts-st-nicholas/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/what-is-the-origin-of-san_b_6343482.html

Hunting Ghosts

I believe in life after death, but not as spirits trapped on earth. I believe in heaven and hell, angels and demons, and that you live once and die once and are either with God or away from Him. 

Even so I am enamored with tales of hauntings. I guess I could honestly say I don’t believe that human spirits become trapped in a house or place, and I don’t believe in telepathy or psychics. I do believe that demons might pretend to be those things but probably I don’t really believe it will happen to me. I’m still a little bit careful, though. 

As a theory, though, hauntings are existential. If ghost hunters could solidly prove there are hauntings, they would know the meaning of life. If they could prove what kind of life or event would categorically lead to becoming one type of ghost or another, such as a hostile entity or simply a scene from history that replays regularly, then those scientists could help people choose what kind of eternity to have. If near death experiences could provide incontrovertible proof of heaven or hell and what gets you there, humanity wound have no choice but to convert to a universal belief system. There would no longer be need for faith.

I guess the production of proof begins with a belief. If shows like Ghost Hunters are any indication, there are people who believe in ghosts and energies and are spending their time pursuing these beliefs.

The people I know generally begin with the presupposition that the Bible is true. To my knowledge, they feel they already have the answers and the proof comes from time to time in the form of personal experiences.

If I had my way, live would be the end of it. I think people like believing there is life after death and that they will see their loved ones again. I, personally, would prefer to be done with it all. Regardless of what my acquaintances say, there is a lot of pressure to be a certain way and I can’t seem to do it right. It would be so much easier if there was a way out.

For the most part, I like the mental exercise of considering the theories, but I don’t really want to believe any of it. 

A Person, Not an Ideal

When you enter a committed relationship, are you committed to a person or to an ideal? Is your desire to grow and learn with that individual person, or are you only along for the ride as long as things are going your way?

When I was married, I was in it for an ideal. I have gone into every relationship with an idea of what a husband and a marriage was supposed to be. I expected the guy to behave a certain way and I would verbally lash out when he didn’t meet my expectations. When I was married, I had to realize the painful truth that I’m not even the wife I thought wives were supposed to be. I thought wholesome families have a working father and stay-at-home mother who entertains her children without television, gardens, and feeds her family organically.

Of course, I now realize these expectations are unrealistic and unnecessary. Even the women I know who do fit this profile may not have started out that way. They are who they are and have grown and learned as they have gone. They have struggled and fought. They have hurt.

I wonder if a lot of marriages start with expectations and then end when one person is no longer fitting. At some point someone wants to change or grow and the other person says no.

It seems like couples should be able to grow together. Instead of dismissing the other person for changing, I think marriage is a commitment to change together. Sometimes it might be hard. As life progresses, we all learn things about ourselves we didn’t even know, let alone the other person knowing. Life changes, situations change, medical issues come up, necessities crop up.

In a marriage, it seems that one person’s desire must become the other person’s desire as well. I have always thought that whoever is most passionate about something is the one who makes that choice. For example, if one parent is passionate about homeschooling and other does not care, the family should homeschool. If one person is passionate about eating organic vegetables and the other can at least accept it, the vegetables should be organic. You want to take a dance class. Let’s go! We have to live in a trailer while you start your business? That sucks but let’s do this (and BTW, please get us out of here ASAP).

It might require some discussion, but there needs to come a point where the two desire together or at least respect the other’s point of view instead of belittling it.

This has to be hard sometimes. In cases of physical or mental illness, the partner has a choice to check out or they can provide support. I know a wonderful man who chose to marry a wonderful woman who had a debilitating disease. Even though he chose it, it can’t be easy. It must be so much harder for people who did not know they were going into that. Remaining committed to that person requires changing one’s life to accommodate.

Even in cases of danger there is a way to continue to be committed to a person. It might become necessary to protect oneself or children through legal means, but commitment to a person might mean remaining open to reconciliation under the right circumstances. It might be painful. It might mean giving up things you wanted in life. However, I think this is what marriage was supposed to be. For better or worse, richer or poorer, sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live, not “for as long as it feels good and I get what I want”. I wonder if the excuse of “he’s not who I thought he was” is even good enough. Are any of us who we thought? Do any of us stay the same?

Most likely, the downfall of relationships isn’t danger but boredom or lack of commitment. People turn their focus to themselves instead of to the other person. When the partner says “I want that” the other person says “You can’t want that. Stop it. I won’t allow that.” Instead, the partner could and should say, “Okay, let me want this, too” or “I will help you get that” or even “I will protect you from being overtaken by that”.

It’s got to be hard. Maybe it is better not to go there and risk the unknown. Many days I appreciate the wisdom of being single and not having these things to think about. I hope that if the time ever comes for me to make a commitment like this, I will have a full and open understanding that I absolutely do not know what I am getting into and that the only thing I will be able to know about my future is that I will be doing it, whatever it is, with that one person. For as long as we both shall live.