Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas to All and To All a Good Night......

 When it snows after dark in a community that doesn't often get snow, kids will go to great extremes to have fun.  As the giant snowflakes fell on Christmas night, my kids raced out into the cold in an effort not to miss a good time.  It's a sure sign they are having way too much fun when your teenage daughter is towed home in her golf cart by "the cute boy" down the street, dragging a tiny wheel and more friends behind her.   

  My kitchen was turned into a staging area for wet boots, dry towels, frozen children and hot chocolate.  The kids beat a path back and forth to the hot tub until about two a.m.  With the steam coming up into the night air and nothing but the kid's heads above water, it looked like they were basking in a big vat of soup.  Leaving them to simmer, I made my way to bed around midnight.  I could still hear the sounds of giggling kids echoing through the house.   

  About 2:30 a.m., my son woke me and said, "You know how you've always told me to wake you if something cool is happening and you don't want to miss it."  While I was referring to events such as  an alien take-over, a re-run of The Walton's Family Christmas special, or some child crafted crisis quickly spinning out of their control, I had no idea what "cool" thing was occurring in the middle of the night and had to get up to see.   With great detail, my son explained how the street lights were reflecting on the snow and everything outside was reflecting light making it appear to be daylight in the middle of the night.  At 2:30 a.m. I donned by still wet snow boots and a jacket and wandered out into the cold with my son expecting to see this great light beaming through the night.

  We walked outside and all appeared normal to me.  My son was in awe of the orange sky and the glistening trees all reflecting light across the neighborhood.  We stood there together in the middle of the night just looking out into the world.  I have seen the snow light up the night many times and it is beautiful.  I suppose my children have not seen this as much as I have and I am glad that they noticed.  As I stood outside with my son under the orange sky, by a steaming hot tub, looking out into the semi-dark street,  I wished that I could take him back to 1972 to the small bedroom window that I once peered out of, to watch in awe how the snowy night glowed and the streets lit up like Christmas. It is a beautiful sight to behold whether you are eight years old with your nose pressed against a window or you are 48 standing there in a robe and snow boots.  I'm glad my son noticed the magic.  I'm even happier that he woke me to join him.   

  So, it was a White Christmas in our southern town and that doesn't occur but about once a century.  We grabbed as much life from it as we could, and sometime before the sun rose, we all collapsed in our beds from our dreams of a white Christmas. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End of the World as We Know It

npr.org photo
    According to my husband, the Discovery Channel and a Mayan Calendar, long since given up for iCal or the Outlook calendar, the end of the world is scheduled to occur tomorrow, December 21, 2012. As luck would have it, a mighty storm blew in on the morning of Dec 20th.  We woke to total darkness and a primordial wind certain to be the messenger of prophetic things to come.  Had it only been Dec 21, a lot of people might have been asking a few more important questions….  “Why didn’t I believe my husband?”  “Is this really the end?”  “If I’m leaving, should I turn the iron off?”   

    With the world shrouded in darkness, I headed out into the unknown and knew this could be the beginning of the end as I got stuck in the early morning double drive-thru lane of McDonald’s, unable to move forward and unable to let those behind me place their breakfast orders.  I had become a place holder in a line of coffee crazed people, all watching the skies and waiting for the cash register to reset as the power grid faded.   As I sat there, I wondered what would happen if I had only one day left to affect great change in my life and assure the wellness of my soul.  Could purgatory possibly be a never ending drive-thru lane with 70’s music blaring for eternity and the smell of coffee just out of reach.   What if the entrance to heaven was blocked by a giant SUV that I simply could not get around, no matter which path I choose?  This was not a place I wanted to be.  What if I had missed the opportunity to do good for others and the end was now here?  Was my grand finale going to be simply me with my head on my steering wheel waiting for a cup of joe?  A new realization hit me that there was still a lot of work to be done and this could not be the beginning of the end.

    As the skies of gloom swirled overhead, and the smell of breakfast treats filled my car, I drove on mapping out a new plan for the end of the world that had nothing to do with December 21st.  My emergency preparedness stockpile of peanut butter and silver nuggets weren’t enough to survive a cataclysmic change in life as we know it.   It would require more than a package of non-hybrid survival seeds and fleece lined mittens. What is needed in the end of times is not a hoarding of food product and weaponry, but a change in culture where the goodness of one becomes contagious and spreads like a virus.   A stranger sitting in a diner, anonymously paying for dinner for others, or a retired lady giving an extra tip to the car hop could affect small change that they may carry forward.  Countries are not going to lay down their weapons and I don’t expect them too, but the goodness of man still holds great power and great promise and we can’t forget that we have the power to help one another even in the smallest and most anonymous of ways.   Kindness is more powerful than the greatest destructive force.  It is a tool we can all claim without a permit, a license, or a real understanding of it's long lasting affect.
    So, the world didn’t end today and I don’t expect it to end tomorrow, either.  Those are things we have no control over and they aren’t worth the time we take to worry about them.  I’ve checked my soul, checked my lists and checked out of the double drive-thru.  It is time to move out and do something good for someone else before the end of days actually does arrive or I am blocked from doing good things by another roadblock or giant SUV in my path.
Note:  It is already Dec 21 in Japan and the world is still kicking!  wooohooo

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hanging Santa


  Christmas tradition is important in our household and each year we attempt to drive around town to see the holiday lights.  I often fail at doing this in a timely manner and on New Year's Eve, the last night of the local park's "Tour of Lights", my children and I are known to fly into the park, right at closing time, in one final attempt to capture a look at the elaborate light displays. As we are driving past, in a last minute holiday panic, the lights are going out and stakes are being pulled up as it is long past time to go home.  I feel successful if I can stay just two or three lights ahead of the crew breaking down the holiday display.  In my rush, I always forget about the volunteer at the end of the tunnel of lights who is waiting with a festive bucket, in hand, to collect donations to support this attraction.  It never fails that there are no one dollar bills in my purse and I'm forced to decide between a twenty dollar bill, a box of Altoids, or a prescription for some pain killer that I never filled.   While I personally would prefer the latter, I reluctantly hand over my twenty dollar bill and drive out of the impending darkness that is quickly closing in on us.  

  The Christmas display, however, that my children and I love the best is the Hanging Santa in a very upscale neighborhood.  It is a marker of the holiday and Christmas would not be complete without it.  In a beautiful two story home, the owners have proudly displayed a life-size Santa Claus in their upstairs window.  The problem is the fact that Santa's head is cocked over to the side and if you are positioned just right on the street below, a light fixture behind Santa creates the illusion of something rising up from his head, or possibly neck, creating a disturbing image of a hanging icon.  But because we have a twisted sense of humor and we know this is not intentional, we love the Hanging Santa and look forward to his arrival every year.  I do hope they don't ever forget to display him at Christmas.  It's better than the "Tour of Lights" and brings smiles to everyone in my vehicle and those hanging out of the sunroof, trying to capture photos of this jolly elf.  

  The grand prize for holiday decorations, however, goes to a small tattered home off the main highway.  It sits in the middle of a row of forgotten houses, some condemned and some simply still trying to provide refuge to any family that lands on its doorstep.  A strand of garland has been draped over a chain link fence and a string of lights lays across the front steps.  A cardboard nativity scene has been placed in the back yard clearly telling all that this family still believes in a higher power when material goods are few and far between here and blessings may be harder to understand.   It just goes to show you that joy can be found in the most unlikely of places.  Sometimes, you have to simply open your eyes and look for it.   While the path to happiness is not always marked with a string of lights or flashing arrows, the path is there and some times we all need to set down our burdens for a minute and enjoy the view.  



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Peace, Love and What???

  There is nothing more precious than child innocence.  While it appears that this message may, indeed, be upside down, it seems that an upended pink ribbon is a call for better testing for earlier detection of breast cancer.  Who better to deliver such a message than a group of young girls with bright futures ahead of them?  While my daughter actually has no idea that she is holding the poster upside down, her mistake quietly sends a much more powerful message across this field. Who knows, but any one of these young ladies, excited about their part in participating in a campaign of hope, could go on to be the one to discover just such a test or cure.   So even if the symbols are upside down, or even fall to the ground, our youth are learning to be a part of something bigger than themselves and might just one day deliver this message exactly as they innocently displayed this Fall day in their youth.  

Picture by Kathi Kolb

Early Retirement and the Great Resignation

        At the age of 57, I stared at my 35 year career, whispered a polite thank you to the heavens and hit the send button on my retiremen...