Just Call Me Scrooge

Just call me Scrooge, but I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love the love but hate the hate. Don’t preach to me about it being a celebration of Christ’s birthday. I know that. That’s the love part.

And I don’t hate the Santa Claus and gifts part either. It’s the memories that part brings up and the realization that many children will soon learn too early there is no Santa. That’s what I hate. And don’t preach to me about that part, either, about Santa being the spirit of giving, blah, blah, blah.

The memory of those children from the past blend with knowing that many children in the present will have no Christmas this year. They’ve joined the little ghosts that walk in the back of my mind. Like a Greek chorus. A mute one— because what can they say?

So now that I’ve made you indescribably sad let me add that phrase the elitists like to use: it’s the human condition. Distance yourself from it. What else can you do? Provide for your own and put some change in the Salvation Army’s bucket after you buy your Christmas turkey or ham.

But for God’s sake, don’t whine and carry on about it. If there’s anything I really, really hate it’s a whiner! Merry Christmas.

New Year Grandma with a Tic in My Eye

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better person. – Benjamin Franklin

I’m still trying to come up with a New Year’s Resolution by December 31st that won’t finish wiping me out. The ones I made last year turned me into a gum-smacking grandma with a tic in my right eye.

You know how it is when you think you’ve arrived? For instance, let’s say you’ve lost five pounds and now it’s time to celebrate with a cup of hot chocolate, marshmellows on top, and a delicious doughnut – or two. Or three, or four. Come on, this is a party, let’s celebrate. Whee! Next day you get on the scales and – what? You’ve gained five pounds? On one doughnut? Or two, or three, er four doughnuts? Geez! Life isn’t fair.

That’s the way I was feeling a short while ago. Although I’d kept my resolution from last year not to smoke another cigarette, I’d become addicted to nicotine gum and had to break that habit, so I quit the nicotine gum habit by switching to sugar free Dentyne. And I will not–I repeat, I will not quit my Dentyne gum.

As if quitting smoking and quitting nicotine gum was not enough, I also made a retroactive resolution (not a good idea, retroactive) to go on a tight budget in order to replenish my savings account slush fund. It had sprung a leak while I was chewing all that nicotine gum, which cost as much as cigarettes and one motivation for quitting smoking was to save money. I had saved even more than I thought because the cost of cigarettes had gone up another dollar a pack. The only problem was I spent it on comfort food, rewarding myself for all the stress I was going through from quitting everything, including spending money, and the next thing I knew I was not only broke, I had to go on a diet.

As you can imagine, by this time I was really in a black mood. I was so tired of all these restrictions I almost threw my bathroom scale in the dumpster and would have if I hadn’t thought of something better. I moved that little circular thingamajig at the bottom that corrects the scale. Ole! Down five pounds.

Now, this morning when I got on the scale and looked at my weight a wise-guy sitting on my shoulder snickered while he added five pounds to the number I saw. I started to wallop him one, but the nicest thing happened. The sweet angel who sits on my other shoulder told me not to pay any attention to him, that he was the last of a dying breed who doesn’t realize he’s become defunct. He’s now sitting in a trash heap along with my bathroom scale.

In following Ben’s advice, I’ve won a battle against some of my vices, and I believe I’ve stayed on good terms with my neighbors. If I don’t begin the New Year as a better person, at least I’ll be healthier, if you don’t count that darn tic in my eye.

The View From the Crypt

Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines, it’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mines – Miner’s song

I’m trying to find my sense of humor. I seem to lose it this time of year but I know it’s around here someplace, probably in the passage in my brain known as Places You don’t Want to Revisit. The last time I went there I was looking for a bit of macabre humor to support my latest thesis on What’s Wrong with the World in Five Hundred Words or Less.

Well, if that’s where it is, no wonder I lost it! That place was like a dungeon, like dark shafts in a coal mine. It was the pits. An utter nightmare that sent me running so fast I must’ve left my sense of humor biting the black coal dust behind me. But I have to go back in; I must find it. I know God does not expect me to live the rest of my life without my sense of humor. He gave it to me to help me through the travails of this world; without it I will flounder in a mass of black despair.

As I go in, I find the passage to the Places You don’t Want to Revisit and turn onto the Black Humor Trail. Since I am armed with resolve to find my sense of humor, I march forward firmly into the dark, into the place from which things have on occasion sneaked into my conscious awareness, providing me with chilling humor of the worst kind. Alongside the trail I spy an instance of macabre humor and feel compelled to stop. Since everything plays its part in the order of the Universe, I assume I am meant to pass this story along.

It is a thing that leaked out many years ago from the crypt of a widow I will call Mrs. Wallace, who lived near us in our old neighborhood. This was in the days of Beige and Butte Knits and Simplicity and the widow Wallace walked with an erect carriage in her proud clothes. I knew from another neighbor that Mrs. Wallace had gone to school with another old lady who lived across the street from her, a little old lady in a print housedress. But Mrs. Wallace had nothing to do with her former classmate because, she said, the woman had “no class”, referring to the print housedress and the gray, frizz-permed hair, I presume. Mrs. Wallace also had a sister who lived in town whom she never saw for the same reason. Her sister had “no class”, she said.

When Mrs. Wallace died I missed her funeral but another neighbor came over for coffee after I got off work to tell me about her view of the widow in her open casket. “I couldn’t believe she had that dress in her closet!” my neighbor said. She described the dress Mrs. Wallace was buried in as a print dress with huge red roses all over it. I looked at my neighbor for a moment, open mouthed. “She didn’t have it in her closet” I exclaimed. “Her sister bought her a new dress to bury her in.” Now, this might not strike some people as funny at all, but I found it so hilarious I couldn’t stop laughing.

That’s what I mean by my macabre sense of humor, you see.  Imagining this poor little old lady with “no class”, tears of grief running down her withered cheeks as she bought the pretty new dress to bury her sister in, and Mrs. Wallace in the open casket for all the world to see, trying to roll over so nobody would recognize her. Here she had all those classy clothes in her wardrobe and her sister had probably given them to Goodwill! I’m sure when Mrs. Wallace reached the pearly gates she apologized and explained to St. Peter about the dress, but I wonder what she thought of the robe. Or, for that matter, if St. Peter let her in.

The thing is–even though I’ve recovered my lost sense of humor, I find I am unable to wash away the black coal dust. My mind has become tainted with it.  It clings like bats to the walls of a dungeon.

Bah Humbug Revisited

Well, yippee! The release of my built-up negative emotions lurking behind my feel-good front has cleared the air once again and I’m ready to take on Father Christmas, the presidential candidates and the winter storm coming in for the weekend. I mailed my last Christmas card yesterday, giggled about Romney fudging his facts, watched Huckabee trying to walk on water (and drowning) and stocked up on groceries. I’m cozy in my little house and have parked my guilty conscience in the back of my ingratitude journal until it’s time to call it out again. Gee, I can’t do everything at once.

When I was a child my baby brother and I decided we no longer believed in Santa Claus. Of course this was in July. I think we had first begun to doubt the Christmas before, but as December drew closer our disbelief began to waver. Maybe there really was a Santa after all (and if we didn’t believe in him he wouldn’t bring us any presents). That turned out to be the happiest Christmas of our childhood. The following March our Daddy died. And the Christmas after that, we no longer doubted, but knew. There was no Santa.

Except that we learned the true meaning of Christmas through our older siblings. They cared for us, saw that we did not go hungry, and shared their loving spirit with us. If there were few gifts at Christmastime, they were lovingly made and although the tree they found in the woods was so tall it had to be topped, and took up far too much space in the tiny house, we created room for it.

As I enter my second childhood and romp with my wonderful grandchildren, I try to balance my good memories with the harsh ones, for the world requires a balance. Between what I perceive as the good and the bad I hope to see the truth. I’ve watched goodness take on the badness of self-righteousness. I watch the future leader of America and the free world, one of those people on the stump who are making asses of themselves, and I feel discouraged. I watch them attempting to usurp the glory of the birth of the Christ child and claim God’s sponsorship, and I know that He will not be persuaded but will only give us the one we deserve. And that scares me most of all.

So let’s try to be deserving of a strong leader who will truly lead the American people, who will not force his/her own personal beliefs on us but will help us to live up to the ideals of America and the American Creed. And let’s celebrate, each in our own way, the beauty of God’s earth and His gift of the Christ Spirit.

Bah Humbug

Here it is, only a week until Christmas and I’m trying to find my Christmas spirit. I looked under the bed this morning but all I found were dust bunnies. I heard on the news that stores were slashing prices to tempt people to spend more money. Is that the solution to everything? Spend more, eat more, and waste more? I know. I’m a mess. Here I am, a positive look-on-the-bright-side and joy-to-the-world Christian and I wonder why God even thought we were worth the bother. Why didn’t He just admit He made a mistake when He created man and send a flood?  Oh, that’s right.  He did.  Ha Ha. Well, we’re back at it again. Sinning and hating and tripping over our own shoe laces.

I can’t blame the politicians as they’re just another symptom of the problem with all their blah blah blah. Same old thing. They don’t inspire me and I want to be inspired. I’m ungrateful. I just know Santa is going to put coal in my stocking. Which reminds me. What’s this about clean coal? I grew up in coal country and there’s no such thing, at least not for the people who have to breathe the coal dust. But, of course, those people don’t count, never did.

See what I mean? After I finish depressing anyone who has the misfortune to read this diatribe I’ll return to my sweet old self and sing Joy to the World, off tune of course. I can’t carry a tune in a lard bucket (I’d change that to coal bucket but lard is cleaner). The only good thing about my day is that after I awoke before dawn this morning to let Winston out I saw a dark silhouette of a rabbit against the snow. It stood so still, waiting for dog danger to pass that it stirred my heart. Sadly, I let the day deteriorate from there. But the memory has given me a new resolve. Instead of looking under the bed at the dust bunnies, I’ll remember the beauty of the rabbit in the snow. I will remember. I will remember.

Beware the Ghosts of Christians Past

“If we take you with us,” he said, in solemn words, “It can only be as believers in our creed. We shall have no wolves in our fold. Better far that your bones should bleach in this wilderness than that you should prove to be that little speck of decay which in time corrupts the whole fruit. Will you come with us on those terms?”  Joseph Smith in The Country of the Saints — Arthur Conan Doyle 

Here we stand, at war between the past and the future, still fighting the same old battles. When are we going to learn that religion and politics don’t mix? I don’t care if it’s the Church of Christians Past or the Church of What’s Happening Next, religion is a private choice. Government is what we have to agree on, and good government takes work. Mix in religion and we might as well throw away the last two hundred plus years of progress.

Although all formal religions should be shown respect none should have special influence within the government from the seat of power. That includes the Mormon religion (which is also Christian and believes Jesus Christ is the son of God, by the way, something that’s been misunderstood) as well as believers in Creationism who want it taught in the schools as an alternative to Evolution.

Romney and Huckabee are both Religious with a capital R. Yet they will both tell you they can carry out their presidential duties without inserting their religious beliefs–these two men to whom Religion has been such a core part of their existence. Romney served as a missionary for two years and Huckabee was a former Baptist minister. We aren’t talking about faith.  Millions of Americans have faith, even Faith with a capital F.

Although we call ourselves a Christian nation and rightly so, our foundation is built on freedom of religion, to such an extent that in 1960 when John F. Kennedy was elected as the first Catholic president people had the unfounded fear that the Pope would rule America from Rome. But there the similarity to the current situation ends. I’m sure most would agree with me that JFK was not Religious with a capital R. He was only a believer and follower of his religion, not a propounder taught to induce people to his beliefs. By nature of their callings both Romney and Huckabee are propounders.

Since we want a leader who has high morals, it’s tempting to believe morality goes hand in hand with religiosity. But just look to the past and sadly you’ll know, it just ain’t so.