Are you a worrier?

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“If there is no solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it.” ~Dalai Lama.

This column appeared on New Year’s Eve a year ago in the Nevada Appeal. Click on over to read… Count your blessings

Make time to actually enjoy the holidays this year

This column for the Nevada Appeal was one of my first. It was published on December 1, 1999, before they started archiving the paper online. Some of the people mentioned here have passed away, the rest have merely grown older. Our family’s video tapes are now on DVD and it’s not December 1st. But still, my little wish for you is the same.

eggnog
Well, it’s started—that temporary insanity known as “the holidays.” And like most people, I go a little nuts, a little overboard. I make lists in my planner, on my refrigerator, and while lying awake at three in the morning. Trying to get all the details right for a perfect holiday sure can take the edge off all the fun.
I keep at it because of the misguided notion that by some act of organization or will I can create a perfect Christmas. Let me tell you, those perfect Christmases don’t exist anywhere but at Martha Stewart’s house and in our dreams.

Come to think of it, even at the first Christmas—when God himself was in charge of arrangements—folks had to sleep in a barn. And the gifts didn’t arrive until January 6.

And those memorable Christmases of our childhood? I’m not convinced that they were perfect either. I think they exist as a composite, like “Christmas’s Greatest Hits” in our memory. A great meal. Snow on Christmas morning. The biggest tree. The best surprise. Everyone together. Laughing ‘til your face hurts. All those things didn’t happen in one year, and yet we can be easily overwhelmed by our efforts to recreate the fantasy.
So this year I’m giving myself a gift that I’ll share with you.
I’m making time for a few little celebrations, a few rituals that speak to the magic of a Christmas presence and rekindle my spirit. In addition to the shopping and cooking and decorating, I’ve made myself a special to-do list.
Here are 10 things I can do to ensure the last Christmas of the century is a good one.
1. Load the CD changer with an eclectic mix of my favorite Christmas music: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Mannheim Steamroller, John Denver, Eartha Kitt, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Muppets. Turn up the volume. Repeat.
2. Drink eggnog. After all, it is loaded with calcium.christmasOrnamentDecorations
3. Pull out the familiar–but-tacky felt and Velcro Advent calendar. The Santa made from a Pringles can. The lace-and-ribbon-bedecked canning lid encircling the photograph of a little girl who used to live here. Each of these small treasures has a story attached and this yearly ritual of unpacking allows for a retelling and a reminder of how precious each moment is.
4. Look through photo albums and watch old home movies. My husband’s family watches the silent 8mm home movies form the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Even though they’ve been converted to video-tape now, there is still no sound. We have to add it ourselves, like Mystery Science Theater. The unwritten script and oft-repeated jokes still cause tears of laughter to run down our faces as we watch five children with goofy hair and flannel pajamas open year after year of presents. Some of those kids are grandparents now.
5. Call my parents and my brother several times, not just on Christmas Day. If we can’t be together, at least we can keep in touch.
6. Play cards or Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit and make at least one batch of cookies or peanut brittle or chicken tacos with everyone in the kitchen. And laugh.
7. Share what I have with others.
8. Watch two movies—“White Christmas” and “Meet Me in St. Louis”—with a bowl of popcorn and a box of Kleenex.
9. Go to church on Christmas Eve. Sing the songs, light the candles, remember a birthday.
10. Read Christmas stories to a child or to myself. My favorites are The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, A Wish for Wings that Work by Berkeley Breathed, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, and Santa’s Book of Names by David McPhail. These are good for all ages. Berkeley Breathed’s Red Ranger Came Calling and Patricia Polacco’s Welcome Comfort are perfect for the slightly older, more skeptical set who may have begun to disbelieve. “Red Ranger” comes complete with photographic evidence of a “guaranteed true” Christmas miracle.
As a child, the boundaries between my imagination and reality were always a bit blurry. I’m sure I heard sleigh bells on the roof even when my age went in to double digits. I’m nearly 50 now and I still believe.
I believe in the power of faith. I believe in the capacity of the human heart. I believe in a Christmas presence.
I believe I’ll hit the repeat button the CD changer and pour that cup of eggnog.
At least I can check two things off my list today. Just eight to go and it’s only December 1. I’ve got plenty of time.

A message to that orange-haired monster

manzanar 1You know who I mean. The guy who thinks internment camps were a good idea. But you know what they say…

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  George Santayana-1905

My column, Don’t repeat the Manzanar mistake, appeared in the Nevada Appeal on Christmas Day, 2007.  I believe it speaks for itself.

You should know that Manzanar is one of ten so-called “War Relocation Centers” to which over 100,000 West Coast Japanese Americans were sent after being given 48 hours to leave their homes, forcing them to sell or abandon belongings and property. Although it was called a “War Relocation Center,” military police armed with sub-machine guns in the eight guard towers, the searchlights and barbed wire told a different story. Manzanar was a prison camp.

 

My favorites are sappy classics, like me

white christmas“White Christmas” is still a favorite after first watching it with my best friend one dateless New Year’s Eve in our teens. We both kissed my dad at midnight. I don’t care if the story is lame. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney are hard to beat. And that scene when the old retired general, played by Dean Jagger, fights tears as his former troops march in singing We’ll Follow the Old Man always gets me. Always. I can generate genuine tears right now just thinking about it.

meet me in st louis

 

“Meet Me in St. Louis” rarely makes it onto anyone else’s Christmas list. In fact, my first memory of it was watching it in the middle of a hot summer, lying on the rug on top of a cool satin comforter. I was about eight years old. And while it’s not technically a Christmas story, the big emotional payoff comes on Christmas Eve when Judy Garland sings my all-time favorite holiday song, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to her tearful little sister, Margaret O’Brien. Such a sweet, sad, hopeful song.

Sure, I like newer movies, even funny ones,  but these are on my “must-watch” list to get me in the spirit with a few happy tears. What’s on yours?

Adding a little goodness back into the world

We’ve been in our new house for a month now and we’re still unpacking the mountain of boxes filled with our accumulated material wealth. The good news is that garage no longer looks like that warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. Two cars fit in the three-car garage. My husband even has the beginnings of a small workshop out there. Even so, there is much to do. I’m still on the injured list, the holidays are upon us, and the world seems to be in a constant state of grief, anger, violence and fear-fueled hate. What’s a girl to do?

Then last week this appeared in my Facebook feed: Fifteen Things for When the World is Shitty and Terrifying. Reading it made me feel a bit better. There are things I can do in my own little corner of the planet.

light a candleYou may remember that before we put our old house on the market, we filled a couple of dumpsters, held a garage sale, and made multiple donations to a local thrift shop. You’d think we were done shedding stuff. Not quite. Many of the things I saved and packed up last summer now have me saying, “Meh,” when I open the box. Extra linens, towels, and surplus kitchen items.  All still usable. Still pretty clean even. Things I simply don’t need.

Fortunately, I discovered a Catholic Charities/St. Vincent’s (Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada) donation drop-off just a few blocks away. When they sell my usable items at one of their thrift shops, the profits help purchase food that they give to those in need–without regard to faith, race, or circumstance.  In Reno alone, they feed an average of 500 meals each day to hungry men, women, and children.

So while I may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the chaos that exists in my home and in the world, I can do something. I may not have a lot of money to share, but I do have an overabundance of stuff. Giving it away declutters both my house and my heart.

We can all seek out helpers in our communities and join them. Maybe, by adding our own goodness back into the world, we can help it heal. It certainly can’t hurt.

happy holidays