Sunday, November 22, 2009

Step Up To The Plate- But Skip The Humble Pie

I am a lover of the English language.
I try to make good use of it, but sometimes I fail miserably.
I seem to have difficulty with "H" words. For years I believed the definition of haste was the exact opposite of what it is. The word sounds slow to me. If I came across the expression "make haste,"
I assumed it meant to slow down. I was in my thirties before I discovered my error. The same is true for the word hale.
My husband has used the expression "hale and hearty," to refer to someone healthy and robust, which never made sense to me because hale sounds sickly to me, maybe because it
rhymes with pale.
Most people wouldn't lose any sleep over these mistakes,
but I'm not most people.
Words that get me flummoxed are the ones I try to use most often. I'm a glutton for punishment, I guess.

I was housebound for a while, sidelined with an unexpected case of shingles. During one incredibly boring Friday, I did what any logophile would do; I cracked open my dictionary to a long list of "H" words and began reading them. By the end of the "H" section, I began to lose interest and my mind wandered off to other, more interesting subjects, like Christmas shopping.
Before I closed the big book however, a small group of words knitted closely together on the page prompted me to think about the holidays (another "h" word, interestingly enough).
The words humble, humble pie, humbug, and humility appear relatively close together in Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.
In my mind, humbug and pie are as common to Christmas as turkey is to Thanksgiving.
Most of us have a general knowledge of these words and I'm guessing most of us try to be humble and avoid, when possible, behaving like humbugs. But it was the definition of humbug, so soon after the one for humble, that got me thinking.
A humbug is described as "a person who passes himself off as something he is not; an attitude or spirit of pretense and deception." After careful consideration of these two words, I realized that though humility is necessary in many circumstances, it is ill-applied during the holiday season. In certain circumstances regarding ones Christianity, by being humble, we essentially become humbugs.
Allow me to explain.
I call myself a Christian.
And each year, just before the official holiday season kicks in, and before the Black Friday sales flyers arrive, I remind myself that Christmas is much more than overspending, overextending, and overeating. I make a mental list of all the things I should be doing to honor the birthday of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. These include making charitable donations, volunteering my time for a worthy cause, attending mass, encouraging my family (and myself) to remain mindful of the true meaning of Christmas, and taking a more zen approach to a season that has the potential to turn from merriment to mayhem in seconds.
Thus far, I have a few Christmases under my belt, and I'm pretty sure I've left more than a few footprints on that road to hell.
And though I blame no one but myself, the clarity of my intentions becomes quite clouded as I comply with a culture of shoppers who demand little from the giants of retail, and fall prey to the urgency of consumerism.
We Christians tend to believe that God is everywhere, and yet on one of the holiest occasions of our faith, for which we drop billions (collectively), the Holy Family seems to be M.I.A.
Most of us don't need a wake-up call from the ghosts of Christmases past. I'm guessing that the majority of shoppers, Christians and non-Christians alike, are well aware that retail has a no-room-at-the-inn policy for worship-worthy sentiment.
And let's face it, commercialized-Santa is a sleigh-load more fun than St. Nicholas, isn't he?
Modern day Santa has no strings attached; he's a jolly guy who gives great gifts, and he's temporary. A true Christian however, recognizes that he's about as satisfying as a fat-free dessert; enjoyable with no guilt, but inevitably leaves you wanting more.
We Christians may score points for such awareness, but this is exactly where humility gets us into trouble.
My dictionary defines humility as "the quality or state of being humble; not arrogant or assertive; expressing or offered in a spirit of deference or submission; apology; insignificant, unpretentious."
Admittedly, this is one ugly shoe that fits me pretty well.
At a time when trend says that God should be uninvited to our schools, meals, and general conversation, I am unwilling to accept that He and His Family be removed from our holiday celebrations. But let's face it, defending religion can be uncomfortable. No one wants to be a killjoy at the holiday party, and those cute cards with generic sentiments save us a few bucks because they apply to all of our friends without offense.
And so, I suppose that puts me among the ranks of humbugs;
I have tasted that humble pie, and resisted the urge to speak up in defense of Christ-mas. Shamefully, I have patronized retailers who dress their stores to the nines with nary a Creche in sight. I have even been drawn to seasonal commercials filled with merriment, humming along to tunes that make no reference to any holiday, taking political correctness to a whole new level of shamelessness.
And while we're on the subject of shame, let me assure you, though it's clever marketing, there is nothing holy about the angels in the holiday advertisements of one lingerie retailer.
I'm pretty sure there are no socioeconomic boundaries to this seasonal apathy either. Our town suffered a string of robberies during the holiday season last year; thieves primarily stole
blow-up holiday ornaments from well-decorated homes. Not surprisingly, the few that remained unharmed were inflatable Nativity scenes. Officers suggested it was more an act of indifference than respect, not to mention that religious decorations offer little opportunity for resale.

So where does that leave us?
You will glean what you will from my discourse and
make your own judgements.
On a personal note, I intend to take backward strides on that road to hell by correcting the error of my ways, if only in baby steps.
Perhaps I will start by becoming more aware of those establishments to whom I surrender my hard-earned pay.
I will be more conscious of those who acknowledge and return a "Merry Christmas" over a "Happy Holidays."
I will make Christmas Day the focus of our celebration instead of the end result of harrowing holiday chaos.
And I will skip the humble pie when the opportunity arises
for me to speak up in defense of a holiday none of us would enjoy,
were it not for the hospitality of an innkeeper, and the strength of
one Woman who believed.

Merry CHRISTmas!

This is my truth;


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shingles Hell

A Rash I Did Not Know
To My Forehead Made Its Way
Erupted Into Blisters, Then
On My Eyelid It Did Stay

The Doctors Gave Me Meds
Said It Soon Would Go Away
But The Pain Got Worse
So I Have To Curse
'Cause It Just Won't Go Away


Shingles Hell

Shingles Hell

Intense Pain For Three Days
It Should Have Stopped
When The Blisters Popped
Now I Fear It's Here To Stay

Shingles Hell

Shingles Hell

Shingles, Go Away-
When I Scratch The Itch
It Hurts Like A Bitch
And That's All I Have To Say!

(Now re-read and sing to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

This is my truth;


P.S. And yes, I'm on pain medication :)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Haiku for You

Humility wanes
In autumn you brag to me
Japanese Maple

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thankful For A Free Country

Veterans Day

Quite honestly, I have no business writing anything about
Veterans Day.
Folks who live under rocks, like me, are best kept silent in matters relating to patriotism and politics.
It's not that we don't have appreciation and respect for the men and women who so nobly and selflessly protected our country,
but simply that we don't pay close enough attention to
why they were called to serve.
Having said that, I feel compelled to expound on the subject.

Admittedly, I am apathetic.
I pay little attention to current political trends and I know little about our elected officials.
It is a fact of which I am not proud, but I am unmotivated at present to correct the error of my ways.
In matters of war, I can offer only that I am completely opposed.
My narrow minded view stems not from my response to recent reports that our nation is further from world peace today than it was a decade ago, but instead from an innate sense that there is always a better way.
It is a rare occasion that finds me entangled in a discussion about such matters, for I avoid extrapolating and risking the exposure of my naivete. But when pressed to do so, I share my unaffected belief that if castration were a real and present consequence of instigating armed conflict, fewer men would hasten
to pick up a rifle.

But I digress. My purpose here is to acknowledge those who relinquished the frivolities of civilian life for the austerity of military life, so that we may be afforded those freedoms we
so often take for granted.

I am proud to be an American, and I know that life would be far different were it not for our ancestors who fought so valiantly to protect our rights and freedoms.
I am honored to be the grandchild of one who served. I know little of his sacrifice however, because his stories unfolded at a time when I was too young to understand.
By the time my interest was piqued, his flag was folded and presented to my grandmother, and his stories buried with him.

Today, my limited knowledge affords me the opportunity to
know what it means to be the aunt of a grown child, a son of
U.S. Airforce personnel. He is a young man, dear to my heart who has spent time in our home while his mother served in remote places on less friendly soil. In spite of a demanding military career, she has raised a fine son.
The sacrifice however, has not been hers alone.
Intermittently, I have watched him grow from boy to man and I have witnessed his struggle to find a single definition of home.
Denied the "normalcy" a childhood in civilian life affords, he demonstrates a maturity and stoicism uncommon to his peers.
These days, he enjoys campus life, far removed from base housing and the rigors of military life, but no less affected by, or
concerned for his mother's safety in a new locale on foreign soil.

Where sacrifice is concerned, I am humbled by the dedication of our men and women in uniform, but no less grateful to the families of those who serve. For theirs is a sacrifice made without the freedom of choice, at the mercy of a government who affords such valiance a day of honor and recognition, but little else.

Perhaps it is time for me to reread the history lessons I committed only to short term memory through the course of my education.
By understanding the annals of our nation, I might be better able to digest the current state of our affairs.
Or, I could just go back under my rock.

This is my truth;


"In free countries, every man is entitled to
express his opinions and every other man
is entitled not to listen."

~ G. Norman Collie

From "Famous Quotes About Democracy"
The U.S. Constitution And Fascinating Facts About It
~ Terry Jordan

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Poe(m)

I expect that I am not alone in my amazement when I happen upon someone who bears a name so strikingly appropriate to his/her profession that I am forced to stifle a giggle.
I wish I had kept a running tally of these instances because I believe a book of such folly would be quite entertaining.
For now, the following poem will have to suffice:

What's In a Name?
A Poe(m)

Downtown there is a pastry shoppe
Once owned by Sally Baker

Dear Father had his soles repaired
By a gent named Rick Shoemaker

The nurseryman on Main Street
Goes by the name Jim Holly

So, surely you must ask yourself
Are these names by fate, or folly?

How often have I met someone
And played this mental game
Believing it no accident
That one's profession suits his name

In bygone days a name was given
That spoke of one man's trade
But today's Coopers, Smiths, and Tanners
So rarely tell what hands have made

Yet still I pause to wonder-
If names are truly meant to be,
Why is it then
That Edgar Allen's
Surname had no t ?

This is my truth;


Tuesday, November 3, 2009


On my dining table, under a circular piece of glass
sits a small oak leaf.
I am determined to preserve it.
The glass disc is the only remaining evidence of my gourmet cheesecake pan. It serves as the pan's foundation and was involuntarily separated from its springform ring last Christmas.
Though alone it serves no purpose, I refused to discard it, believing it would someday prove useful.
When time allows, I will Google leaf preservation techniques.
Perhaps my oak leaf will find its way into a shadow box and eventually, onto my bedroom wall to serve as a reminder of promises made.

This leaf and I have only just become friends.
I noticed it on my way to work this morning. It is small and unassuming.
In fact, if placed between two more vibrant, spectacular foliage specimens, it would likely go unnoticed. If not for the irritating clicking noise it made, caught beneath my wiper blade, I might have missed it completely.
Had I noticed it before merging onto the highway, I might have extracted it with nary a thought for its significance. However, I chose to err on the side of caution and wait for a safer
opportunity to remove it.
At some point along my course however, I gave pause to consider one of two possibilities; either this leaf was attempting to break free, or perhaps instead, was holding on for dear life.
Closer inspection forced me to accept the latter, recognizing the strength of this seemingly fragile specimen as it battled the elements of its ever changing environment.
Neither wind nor speed had managed to force it free.
In that moment, I realized how alike this leaf and I might be;
both of us plagued by the uncertainty of how our journey
would end.
I hesitate to speak of what this leaf has endured for we have only just met, but I dare to speculate; I understand well the uneasiness that so often accompanies simple souls, as we grasp for solid foundation while life moves so swiftly around us.
I expect that this leaf has seen and endured transformation; none of which has been voluntary. Undoubtedly, it has watched friends fall, while others have drifted away.
In its short lifetime, it has aged through many capricious seasons.
I wondered, did this leaf know when it broke free from its sheltering tree that at times, the journey might seem impossible?
So young and seemingly misguided, would it be ill-prepared to face the challenges of unexpected weather?
For most of us, only life experience affords us the knowledge that often a comfortable, warm breeze signals the arrival of a pending storm. Clearly, my leaf had not lived long enough to know most things.
And furthermore, had this leaf ever considered the purpose
of its own existence?

Halfway through my drive, as I observed the magnificence of foliage in unison, I realized this was likely too much to expect from one single leaf.
I pondered the possibility that perhaps I misjudged my new friend.
The thought occurred to me that maybe this leaf spared little effort fretting over an uncertain future, and instead channeled its energy to remain anchored during an unpredictable, yet exhilarating ride.
In this fleeting moment of clarity, I made a pact with my new friend; I promised both of us that if it held on tightly and arrived at our destination intact, I would work diligently toward change.
Though the odds were against this leaf not blowing away, the hopefulness I felt for my little leaf could prove to be the catalyst for a much needed personal transformation.
For far too long I have known an intimate relationship with fear.
By dwelling on the missteps of an uncharted past, and the uncertainty of the future, I have willingly accepted paralysis in place of present living.
I know firsthand the worry that befalls parents of almost-grown children; not fully understanding who they are, and wishing so desperately for who they might become.
As a daughter of aging parents, I am overwhelmed by a sense of urgency to stop time in its tracks, to recall every word of wisdom shared, and to preserve the lifetime of love and support they have afforded me.
I know intimately the sensation of free-falling when relationships change, the nest grows empty, and self has no obvious definition.
I am familiar with the restlessness that accompanies an insatiable need to control, and the inevitable sadness of defeat.
That leaf, weathered and lackluster, keenly aware of the possibility of sudden departure, was still holding on enjoying the ride.
And though time has stolen some of my own flexibility and sheen,
I too want to enjoy the ride.
I long to experience those sensory joys I so eagerly embraced before worry and practicality consumed me.
Though my birthdate tells otherwise, I am a child of autumn.
You can keep your primary colors, your pastels, and your jewel tones, for none have moved me quite like the colors of fall.
Not long ago, the smell of woodsmoke coupled with foliage at its peak could bring me to happy tears.
I recall autumns of my youth spent perfecting my ability to whistle through the cap of an acorn.
I rejoiced at the sound of crunching leaves underfoot.
And now I am left only to wonder where that joie de vivre
has gone.
I suspect that like me, and my leaf, it is a little bit lost.

It was my own unexpected pleasure to arrive at work with
my leaf, battered but intact, resting beneath the wiper blade.
As I attempted to remove it, I nearly tore it in half.
How surprised I was to find its papery skin anchored by such a strong and pliable stem.
I placed the leaf in between the pages of my datebook with the intent to preserve it, and made my way into the office.
For most of the day, I considered my potential instability for having made a pact with a leaf.
But this experience only reinforces my belief that sometimes, in moments of absurdity, we learn a great deal about life.
Upon my return home, as I placed my leaf under glass, I considered the most obvious messages my commute had offered;
Though at times we may feel small and ordinary, each of us possesses incredible strength and resiliency.
When our foundation is strong, we are able to endure what seems impossible. And maybe, it is how we respond in those moments when we feel trapped or afraid, that determines the quality
of our journey.
Should we be forced to take an unexpected detour, we might, by our own acceptance of all that we cannot control, learn to
enjoy the ride.
But perhaps the greatest lesson came when I observed that under glass, my leaf seemed to possess a new vitality and luster.
At one time, that circle of glass, separated from its familiar support, seemed useless.
But recognition, if only by one, gave it new purpose.
And purpose it would seem, is the cornerstone
to self preservation.

This is my truth;