The Hypocrisy of Christmas; Ditch the Gifts

Looking at Christian traditions, one might think that the Christmas holiday time was a once a year opportunity to truly exhibit a Christian spirit and to be in good company doing that.

Instead, people feed greed : good slogan, eh? Feed Greed for Christmas.  They try to replace the spirit of Christmas with things.

Why not ask our children, “what would you most like for Christmas? One thing. One thing only. And understanding that Santa/parents may not be able to supply that one thing or may not be able to sustain it for you, e.g. a pony.

So a second option may be needed if the first request falls into one of the impossible categories (cost, maintenance etc).

The point is – choose One Thing you would like to have that Santa might be able to bring to you.

Instead of seeing a slew of less meaningful gifts under the Christmas tree, there might be the one thing you (child or not) would really like to have, could care for, could use, could cherish.

One year, for me, that was my first bicycle. It was a surprise and probably The Best Ever. It challenged me to master it, I had to take care of it, and it provided my first sense of freedom.

But the chances are that our children will not be challenged with choosing The One Thing, with facing the responsibilities of caring for a longed-for gift, and will face a slew of things that will be tossed aside, ignored, and last a short time. What for? So they can indulge in an exercise of instant gratification, never anticipating a treasured possibility, and plunge into a cycle of buying to fill a spiritual gap.

The spiritual gap. That’s what we’re really talking about. In many places, there is no such tradition of giving outrageously at Christmas time. How do they survive without having Christmas gifts raining down on them? They find joy in other ways.

Go out and buy, and wrap, and give to your heart’s delight. But understand that that is not what Christmas is about. Christmas is not about feeding an economy that harbors planned obsolescence and senseless purchases. Christmas is about honoring a spiritual tradition.

When people as a group honor the spirit of Christmas, you can feel it. You can feel the shift in focus onto loving thy neighbor, of tolerance and patience, at least at this one time of year. With any luck, those assets will continue on into a New Year.

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Getting Older or Growing Older: it’s not just semantics.

 

Life is a pot luck: a lot depends on what you bring to it, as well as what others bring.

The “others” could be people, nature, education, opportunities etc. Life is rife with choices. But, you have to keep your eyes, ears, and attitudes open. No matter what your age, the question remains: do you get older, or do you grow older? Or both.

What and how you learn depends on what is available to you combined with your own abilities and initiative. Even those considered to have “disabilities” find ways to learn and express themselves.

When we are very young, we are consumed with curiosity and an innate desire to accomplish and get ahead. These impulses drive us to learn and achieve. Watch the progression from pulling oneself up to learning to walk.

We all have fallow times (just look at the gaps between my blog posts!), when life doesn’t seem to be rolling along as we might like. These hiatuses need to be observed and honored; they are times of rest and regrouping. Ignore them at the risk of future burnout or crashes. Honoring them can be difficult as our initiative impels us to keep going, keep going. But something in our psyche or body is saying “slow down”, digest what you’ve learned, coast for a bit.

A plateau in sports is when despite your best efforts, you seem not to be progressing. This is a kind of hiatus. To push too much at this plateau point could be a serious mistake. Your body may not be ready yet for what’s coming next. So you maintain, as best you can, what you have achieved so far, kind of like treading water. Treading water becomes easier as you spend more time doing just that. You become an expert at treading water, you relax into it so it is no effort. Eventually, you will ease your way through the temporary lull, and move on.

As I am aging, there seem to be more plateaus. How one handles these depends on what we’ve brought to the pot luck feast: experiences, learnings, leanings, understandings, relationships, family, curiosity… Our plateaus require rest, and paying attention to limitations of aging. Just as when we were younger, if we push too hard, there will be consequences, only now it takes longer to recover from those consequences.

It is inevitable, so long as we are alive, that we will get older. At times, that’s a primary goal: to grow older: remember being 4,5,6… But how many of us will grow older? As the baby boomers take over the stage of the elderly, there are increasingly available programs for continued learning and communication. Hallelujah!

Staying isolated, in the age of the internet, is a choice. There are times when I need a sabbatical from my computer but in general it is an amazing resource. As you age, will you muddle along or take up the challenges and opportunities that offer themselves to you?

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Crisis times – Fear and Expectations

The household was in an uproar. Everyone was yelling, to be heard above the others. No one was communicating. Ranting was rampant, pent up emotions exploding.

Time for a “talking stick”, a tool that indicates the speaker, with the rule that no one else speaks at the same time, until the talking stick is passed on to the center or to someone who has raised a hand for receipt. The din becomes listening time. Tempers still simmer but everyone can catch their breath. Unless of course, someone throws the stick.

Why do these eruptions occur? A couple of basic and significant factors need to be examined: fear and expectations. (1) What are you afraid of? (2) What are your expectations?

Most people are, on some level, afraid of death. Either their own, or of someone close to them, of a relationship, a job, or some other form of security. Often the only way to learn your way through such an event is to experience it. Finding out that you can survive it, as they say, for better or worse, is crucial to a healing process. The chances are very high that you will survive it. The better or worse part depends on you and how you look at life.

Then the questions are: how did you survive it? What did you do? How did you prove to yourself and others that you can survive a crisis? How do you show that you can move on from a crisis?

Most recently for me it was a sudden loss of water. Standing in the shower, suds-ed up, conditioner on my hair, and then no water. No gradual tapering, no warning, just no water. Fortunately, I keep a large jug of water beside the toilet for when the electricity fails. In a rural area, if electricity fails, there is no water and no heat. Electricity starts the well pump; electricity sparks the furnace. You need to know how to cope.

A week later, there was a loss of heat. 16ºF outside, and no heat. The furnace went on furlough. Fortunately, there is a reset button which flashes red when it needs attention. But you need to know what to do.

It’s the same with other types of crises. You need to know what to do.

The first step is to take a deep breath; then breathe steadily, in and out, focusing on your breath and nothing else. Acknowledge any intrusive thoughts and let them drift away. Go back to focusing on your breath. In. and. Out.

The crisis may, however, be the result of built up emotions rather than the loss of physical comforts. You can’t fix it by repairing the part. Or can you?

The part that needs repair is your psyche. That’s where the questions come in – what are you afraid of, and what are your expectations?

Disappointment is almost always a result of expectations that were not met. You expect someone to behave in a certain way, or supply certain comforts or conditions, and that doesn’t happen. Are your expectations realistic?

What is important is how you respond to disappointment. Look for a pattern to your responses over time. Do you yell and carry on like a mad rabbit/rabid raccoon? Or do you stop and breathe, step back and assess where the underlying difficulty is?

If you are young or caught up in intricate emotional territory, you might feel trapped. When you feel trapped, what do you do? The usual response is fight or flight. Fight is where a crisis can escalate, particularly if there are other people involved. Flight gives you space, even if only temporarily, space to decide what the best next step is for you.

Words are tools. In a crisis, words take on a life of their own. As humans, we tend to remember the criticism and harsh words. Statistically, it takes a lot of positives to right a negative. The negatives tend to stay with us a long time, unless we choose a different response. The adage “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me” is wrong. Just wrong.

Moral? Choose your words carefully. When you go into fight mode, choose words you are not going to regret later. Amen.

A tactic I’ve found useful when someone flies into a rant, is simply to watch. Not say a word, just watch. Let the rant run its course. Without fuel from you, eventually it will slow down. There are a couple of exceptions found in pathological conditions but in general, the rant will die down when you don’t fight back. Just watch.

If you are seasoned enough, this is what you do: you stop and assess; you breathe.

There will be crises in life. Learn how to deal with them.

Choose your responses.

 

 

See Finding The Tiger, A Coming of Age, pp. 46 & 48.

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Turkey Alert!

Months ago, a neighbor called to ask if I might take some photo’s of wild baby turkeys (turkettes?) who had wandered off a neighboring farm and into their back yard. My timing wasn’t right at that time – no success.

Eventually, the turkey family made its way onto their porch and then moved on through the neighborhood, and finally, they came to my house for a visit.

Afternoon tea on the back terrace:

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Thereafter, they have been seen on the roads and visiting other yards.

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My cousin decided this sign was appropriate. The neighbors agreed.

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And apparently turkeys can read. Not that they need a sign…

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Nature’s Gifts

I had noticed earlier in the day that various items had been moved or knocked off shelves in the shed where the barn cats live. This was not unusual; there were often romps in the shed or things moved in the pursuit of prey. A cat carrier was on tilt, nearly falling off a shelf, some rakes were knocked down, a bird feeder had fallen off a top shelf. I replaced everything and left.

When I came home just before sunset, and the car headlights were shining on the windows of the shed doors, I saw the most beautiful round face peering out at me from inside the shed. Not a cat. An owl!

It took my breath away as I looked at this perfect creature, wondering how it had managed to get inside the shed at all. Years ago, wrens had nested inside the shed, next to a can of spray paint. Wrens are like mice in terms of wriggling through small spaces such as were present with the old shed doors. They raised four youngsters there, on the third of four shelves along a wall.

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DSC00072DSC00074 Grabbing the camera, I opened the shed door to investigate. The owl had taken refuge on the highest beam available, and gazed down at me. Feeling nothing but gratitude, I left the shed door open for about an hour, hoping it would find its way out. Well after dark, I closed the door; the owl was still in the same space.

The next morning, before daybreak, I opened the door again and left it open for about two hours. When I checked back, the owl was gone. There were no owl feathers on the floor so the cats had not had a successful owl hunt, if they had tried at all.

Later I wondered if the owl felt welcome because of some outside decorations, or if it just got caught in a bad situation.

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Comparison with an Audubon calendar photo showed the owl to be a screech owl. I didn’t hear any screeching but the markings were right.

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Occasionally, Nature presents us with the most extraordinary gifts, up close. I’ve had the privilege of such encounters many times, been surprised and enraptured each time, with a renewed sense of childhood discovery in me, a gift beyond a gift. Nice.

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Honoring the Innate

Everyone has their talent(s). It can take a while to discover them.

The “Grand-dog”, Hobbit, was here for a visit. I called her in from the yard so I could remove her electric fence collar, affix a leash and go for an off-campus walk. Mira! a cattle dog mix, was ready to go. But Hobbit ignored the call, so she didn’t get to go on the walk. She watched as Mira! and I walked up the road, with one of the cats following us.

The next day, the same routine: I called to Hobbit, she did not come, so she was left. But this time, she was not going to be left behind. She bolted through the electric fence, still wearing the fence collar. Not even a yip out of her. Straight down the road, past us, towards the creek.

Almost to the creek, Hobbit saw the pigs. No hesitation, no looking back to check if this was okay, straight under their electric fence to the pigs. The pigs were startled but did not seem overly concerned.

Within two minutes, Hobbit had rounded up the six pigs and herded them into their shed. Hobbit stood outside the shed and barked. And barked. And barked. The pigs were quiet. I was on the ‘phone, somewhat frantic, to the neighbor whose pigs they are.

The neighbor got a leash and went towards the pig shed, while Mira! and I went to the area between the pigs’ yard and the creek. Hobbit escaped the neighbor and headed towards a space near me, running under the electric fence again, just brushing it with her back. About twenty feet from the fence, she paused. I grabbed her collars.

The neighbor caught up with the leash and we all made our ways home.

The rescue had told us that Hobbit was probably a corgie/chow mix, based on her build and black tongue. But a knowledgeable vet tech spotted her immediately as a Swedish Vallhund and Hobbit fits the profile perfectly. I call her a Dirt Hund because of her love of lying in a dirt bed of her own creation.

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We now know Hobbit’s talent: herding. She came home happy. She had had possibly her only adventure using her inborn talent. This headstrong dog knew what she wanted and came home having touched on some kind of nirvana for her.

The adventure was inconvenient for me, not what I wanted, but it was a symphony of dog-dom, magnificently orchestrated, beautiful to watch, and no harm done.

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Walking The Walk

I am blessed with a doctor who prescribes a twenty minute walk in the morning to ease night-time leg cramps, and general malaise.

Do you mean that walking up and down stairs several times a day, pacing between the computer/office and kitchen, doing laundry and gardening, mowing the grass, washing windows, and looking after nine animals is not Enough?

Well. Yes. Not enough.

So the leg stretches on the edge of a stair (who cannot spare 10 seconds for this?) a few times a day, and resuming walking (before the temperature reaches 90ºF), are back into the schedule.

I love common sense. Many people don’t have it, being so entrenched in electronics and other sources telling them what to do. And when I lose mine somewhere between the car and the litter box, I am grateful that there is someone to remind me of it.

This morning’s walk was a flashback to what is good and not so good in the neighborhood. We, at least one dog and I, start out on a journey that will peak our various interests. The dogs go for the smells. I look for trash. The difficulty comes when one of the cats wants to follow us. Even though it is a country road, there is traffic, and most of the vehicles, with the possible exception of tractors, drive faster than the posted speed limits.

Known locally as the Bag Lady, I always have a bag with me for picking up trash. All that bending and stooping is good for me. Often, I carry a light weight shillelagh, not so much as a threat to speeding cars, although I’m sure the impression counts, but as a tool to retrieve trash from underbrush.

This was today’s collection:

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I have a number of unflattering terms for people who leave these things on or near the road. Amongst the worst are the people who toss their debris into a pile of poison ivy.

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Others include those who toss their butts, to be washed into the creek and kill the fish. Why can’t they take their butts home with them?

And then there are those who willfully smash bottles onto the rocks, shards awaiting an unsuspecting foot. Why don’t they just go bowling?

On the good side, besides the exercise for me and the dogs, is a renewal of connection with my extraordinarily quiet and clean neighbors. And yes, my neighbors are (still) pigs.

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