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Monday, November 30, 2009

An Uncomplicated Christmas

This year I would like to have an uncomplicated Christmas...simpler, happier and without any undo drama or stress. That's not to say that past Christmas's have been unpleasant. Quite the contrary. Our family Christmas's have always been joyful and merry but they have been complicated. I generally spend at least a solid week decorating the house inside and outside and then tweaking, tweaking, tweaking to get all the gala holiday decor just perfect. But before the decorating can even begin, I must head down into the basement, find the ten huge bins bulging with Christmas stuff and haul each of them upstairs. After hours of unpacking every item, it's finally time to decorate. Once the house is festively adorned, it's time to invite people over. What's Christmas without a jolly party? Each year we have several holiday gatherings which although they are loads of fun, they involve lots of preparation, buying food, cooking, cleaning and a great deal of effort on my part. Can't forget the Christmas cards...selecting them, spending hours writing personal notes inside each one, addressing all of them, buying stamps and sealing every card. Then of course, there is the holiday gift buying. Shopping, shopping, shopping, wrapping gifts until my back feels like it's broken and standing in line for what seems like days, at the post office to ship off boxes. Oh, did I mention frantically sprucing up the guest room and then racing to the airport to pick up overnight guests? Honestly, the holidays can be exhausting.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not bah-humbugging Christmas. I love this glorious season and I usually enjoy all the gala extravagance that the holiday entails. However, this year, our family situation will be quite different from years past and I'm thinking that it might be the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate Christmas in a much simpler fashion.  This year our daughter who lives in Florida will be giving birth to her second child two weeks before Christmas. My husband and I live 1000 miles away. We'll be driving down to be there for the big event and to help out with our three year old grandson, Cooper.

So I'm thinking that this year, our family should embrace the real spirit of the Christmas season. The humble and peaceful setting of the Christ child's birth should remind us of the true meaning of this holy season. Afterall, the birth of our own brand new baby grandson will be the best Christmas gift of all. We don't need to buy a ton of presents like we usually do. Of course my husband and I will buy some fun things for Cooper and several items for the newborn. But the two of us don't need anything and I've told my daughter not to buy us any gifts. Being with their family is a gift in itself to us. I eliminated decorating our home up North because obviously we won't be there.  Our daughter's living room will boast a beautifully decorated 12 foot tall tree put up by our hard-working son-in-law. But we won't be throwing any extravagant parties, cooking and baking like maniacal Paula Dean wannabes, entertaining dozens of revelers or shopping til we drop. Instead, the tropical sunshine will provide us with warmth, brightness and sparkle. We'll be happy to trade the dreary, lifeless trees of a Northern winter climate for the swish of swaying green palms and the enticing fragrance of a fresh sea breeze.

This year, I'm hoping it will be a calmer, less extravagant and more contemplative Christmas for our little family. It's not like we'll be imposing draconian measures and not celebrating the holiday at all. It's more like downshifting a bit...lowering our gears and our expectations so we can see beyond all the holiday glitz and glamor and discover what Christmas is like on more simple, less complicated terms. Who knows? We may prefer the old extravagant ways. We may find that we like all the holiday fuss and frolic afterall. Or perhaps this year, our hearts will glow with an inner serenity and spirituality that sometimes get overshadowed by the hoopla of holiday frenzy. It may be a slightly less complicated Christmas but we won't feel deprived. We'll all be together including our son who will join us. We'll still enjoy laughter and music, good food and the pleasure of our own company. We'll be filled with happiness with all of us being together and thrilled with our precious new bundle of joy. Isn't that the way Christmas is meant to be celebrated?

Yah, right...good luck with that, laughs the evil grinch on my shoulder. Let's get real. Perhaps my hopes for an uncomplicated Christmas sound way too sweet and sappy, too pollyanna. Well, who knows? We'll try our best to make it happen. Stay tuned. Our road trip to Florida begins this week.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Wild Turkey Tales

They strut across the bare winter woodlands like swaggering, fat, little soldiers, in a wobbly line formation. This time there are seventeen of them. Cocky and grunting noisily, they bob their heads back and forth as if in beat to an Ipod tune. They are wild American turkeys. And they roam sassy and free and fearless in the quiet forest behind our home. I see them almost every day. Each bird is enormous. They spend their time foraging for food like acorns, seeds, small insects and berries. Their two scrawny legs, thin as bamboo skewers, hardly look as if they could hold up such a massive body. But their legs and feet are agile and powerful. In summer, throngs of turkeys invade our yard digging up the dirt in the garden beds hunting for bugs. They make a huge mess, tossing dirt and mulch everywhere. Their powerful web-like toes are strong enough to move large rocks in their hunt for food. Here's a little poultry tip: never get into a fight with a wild turkey. It could claw your eyes out. 

During the winter, on very still evenings under the cover of brilliant moonlight, when the fluffy white snow blankets the entire forest, magically transforming our little woods into a spectacular winter wonderland...sometimes we go out for a moonlit walk in the woods. The pure driven snow and the glow of the moon bring a radiant luminescence to the forest primevil. It was on just one of those illustrious winter nights that I spied way high in the treetops several mysterious, large, black, blob-like forms up in the branches. The dark shapes were a stark contrast to the white forest. Suddenly, one of the big, bulky shadows rose up and flew away. It was a turkey. Yes...turkeys can and do fly! It was a startling revelation for me. I had no idea that these hefty, waddling, feathery creatures can fly high and quite far. Turns out they sleep up in the tall treetops at night to keep away from predators.

Wild turkeys like the ones in our back woods, are different than domestic turkeys. The domestic turkeys don't fly. They are raised on turkey farms, bred and fattened up especially for human consumption. No wonder the wild gobblers in our little forest swagger around like plump, old dowagers. They lead a charmed and lucky existence, knowing full well they won't be the centerpiece of our holiday table this Thanksgiving Day. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Red Chair in the Woods

Outside my window lies a small but beautiful forest...a lovely, dense glade of leafy green trees, bushes and vines that are home to deer, rabbits, wild turkeys--each one as big as a Volkswagon and a few sly red foxes. In the summer, the canopy is so thick that I cannot see beyond the perimeter of emerald foliage. But when fall arrives, the forest puts on a spectacular color extravaganza of brilliant reds and yellows and oranges that rival a sunset. Now, it is mid November and the autumn leaves have all fallen. Suddenly, a wondrous and magical new view of the secluded inner woods unfolds before my eyes.

As soon as the trees had shed their leaves, I spied it from my window. At first all I could see was a glimmer of red. The red color stood out amidst the dark browns and grays of the leafless trees.  I looked through my window closely, but still could not make out what this odd red thing was in the middle of the woods. Finally I was able to identify the peculiar object. It was a red chair...a bright red Adirondeck chair perched smack in the middle of the woods. This is very strange indeed because this particular woods is not an area that people walk through. It's private property. There are no trails, no picnic tables, no bike paths. It's strictly a pretty wooded glenn on the edge of our condo development that offers refuge to wild animals. So I was amazed to see something as civilized as a chair smugly occupying space there.

It's been about 2 weeks since I first spotted the red chair. And I like it. I'm glad it's there. I find it almost inspiring to see the cheerful red color peek out amidst the bleakness of the woodland's winter gloom. I hope it stays there all winter. Just last week, I noticed one of our neighbors strolling through the woods with his toddler grandson. This is very unusual. Nobody ever goes into this woods. But it was a good sign. The grandfather and his grandson shuffled through the forest floor of fallen leaves and decayed tree stumps and eventually came upon the red chair. I think they were as surprised as I was to discover it. The little boy hoisted himself up and plopped into the chair while the grandfather knelt beside him quietly talking. Then the little boy got out of the chair and motioned for grandfather to sit down. Once the man was seated, the little tyke curled himself into grandpa's lap and the two of them sat together for several minutes...almost as if they were pondering the silence of the forest. After a while, they sauntered off hand-in-hand, having shared a special bonding moment in the red chair in the woods.

Today, I gaze out my window in front of my computer desk and again I see the red chair in the woods. It looks a bit lonely...all by itself out there among the tall, barren trees and the wild creatures. But I think it's happy out there. I think it likes being one with nature...a restful repose in the shrouded inner sanctum of the forest. To me, it's like a reminder that even in the darkest of times, a bright spot appears when you least expect it. I'm guessing most of our neighbors don't know about the red chair in the woods. For the very few of us who have seen it, it's like our special little secret.....I'd like to keep it that way. Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Living Will

Recently, I invited my adult children over to my home for a serious discussion. I said to them: I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug.

They got up, unplugged the computer and tossed out my wine...... Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Humans Behaving Badly

Over the edge. So many people are falling over the edge these days. Violent perpetrators who take innocent victims with them. Seems like every single day we hear about another disturbing incident. Sadly there are thousands more crimes that go unreported and/or unsolved. Here's just a sampling of recent horrific crimes in the United States where humans have demonstrated atrociously bad behavior. Will we all eventually go mad?

Vail, Colorado: A 63 year man is accused of opening fire in a popular area bar, shooting 3 people and killing one of them.

Orlando, Florida: Unemployed man shoots at least six people in high rise office building, killing one person.

Ft. Hood, Texas: An Army Major and psychiatrist opened fire and killed 13 people and injured at least 38 others.

Deerfield Beach, Florida: Five long time friends and school mates set their 15 year old buddy on fire. The teen survived but just barely and is still in very serious condition.

Cleveland, Ohio: Authorities discover at least eleven bodies at the home of a convicted rapist. Police say the former Marine lured women to his house, strangled them and hid their bodies around his house.

Phoenix, Arizona:  An Iraqi immigrant father drove over and killed his 20 year old daughter with his car because he thought she was becoming too Westernized.

Richmond, California: A 15 year old girl was raped, robbed and beaten by multiple attackers outside her highschool homecoming dance, while dozens of other teens watched, laughed and snapped photos.

Antioch, California: By now, we've all read about the capture of the convicted sex offender who kidnapped a young girl 18 years ago, kept her as a sex slave in a tent behind his house and fathered two children with her. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Facebook...Friendships or Humiliation?

Is Facebook submitting some of its users to personal humiliation? Lately I've noticed on the side column of my Facebook pages, little notices like: Molly Smith has only 4 friends. Suggest more friends for Molly. A photo of Molly is displayed so that the world knows what a pathetic, friendless loser, Miss Molly is. Luckily, I have not seen my own name appear in one of these humiliating notices on my FB page. But I wonder if it's showing up on the Facebook pages of my friends. Although I have a tidy niche of FB pals, frankly I don't want the Facebook people to plaster my picture on its site like some hapless sucker on a wanted poster begging people to befriend me. Nothing like being subjected to worldwide degradation.

Recent statistics reveal that the average FB user has approximately 130 people in their social network with a core of only 5 close friends. Many FB users pad their list and boast massive numbers of cyber acquaintances...adding friends of friends of friends. Recently, I read that you can actually "buy" friends to beef up your FB ego. Yes, that's right...friendships can be bought.  Turns out there's an Australian company that sells Facebook friends ranging in price from $177 for 1000 new buddies to over $1000 for 10,000 BFFs. Facebook users who pay for an extended network of friends often exploit them to sell products or market services to them.

When I first joined Facebook, I thought: Hey this is cool. I can reconnect with old pals and keep updated with friends and relatives. I had no idea it would turn into a competitive numbers game...with people claiming bragging rights to their mountain of FB friends and making me feel like a pitiful, miserable dweeb if I don't have as many as they do. Today, our social standing is commensurate with the number of friends in our Facebook network. I just learned that if you have over 5000 friends in your network, you've attained the premier status of "whale". Well, I can tell you right now, I have not reached the whale category. Not even close. I'm more in league with the sucker fish, the bottom feeders, the pitiful urchins of the sea that float around aimlessly in search of an invite from a friendly school of fish or a poke from Nemo. I just pray that the Facebook company does not single me out for further humiliation by urging people to befriend me. I can do that myself. I'm not too proud to beg...or pay. for friends...I wonder if they give an AARP discount.
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