Monday, December 26, 2011

See The World




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This phrase sailed many an adventurer over the waters to view different cultures and taste unusual delicacies and marvel in the wonders of this globe. Away from the usual into the unknown, our species seems to be driven into exploring.

Unfortunately for those who welcome the strangers in to their way of life, they are often killed and their land and resources stolen.

Recently a couple of friends were discussing all the places on this blue marble they had visited and made me think (or I wouldn’t be writing this).

It was a rite of passage to grow up and see the world. This was the theme of recruitment for the Navy with ideas of a girl in every port and coming home a well rounded more intelligent young man having experienced what the globe offers and needing some shots.

Industries of travel agents promise the getaway from the routine dull and boring mundane life each of us live everyday with a full color brochures showing perfectly white soft beaches dotted with cool drinks under palms swaying in the breezes served by attractive natives at your beckoned call. Any location will be provided on multiple levels of exploration - for a price.

But you can only stay for a short time before you have to leave and return to your routine dull and boring mundane life. The next batches of travelers have to be shown the routine of antiquities and worthless bargains that wouldn’t be sold in Wal-Mart.

The guides intoxicate the visitors with tales of kings and queens, mysterious scoundrels and romance while the continuous train of consumers grab up over priced trinkets and unusual delicacies that often does not set well with their normal bland diet.

My parents sent me to Travel-o-loges perhaps to get me interested in traveling or maybe to peak my interest in learning about all these far off places. I found the pictures and movies and lectures interesting but they only scratched the surface, much like history class.

Sure I’ve gone a few places and seen some stuff, but the travels I cherish and remember with great fondness are about “the people” not the places.

I was lucky enough to learn enough of the guitar so many of my early travels brought people together with music. Strangers can become life long friends over a pint and a song.
Other, more distant travels required exploring places not on the tour list. Don’t ask the hotel Concierge for directions to the local hot spot, but ask the bus boy where the locals hang out.

Even without knowing the language people can relate to one another, but be aware to observe. This is what travel is all about. See how people, just like you, relate to each other.

(Side note: in today’s internet, we communicate with people all over the globe without taking off our pajamas, but it is different in the smell and the heat and the sound of a different environment).

Being invited into a stranger’s home and partaking of his or her normal dinner is the real treat of travel. It is always good to carry a treat to repay such hospitality.

And though this is not as easy as following a pre-assigned schedule and you will not get any photos of the usual sites, you will get a feel for the culture and what makes us all similar yet different.

Perhaps I’ve been lucky with the limited adventures I’ve had, but each is the memory of people and not the places. A return trip might bring a different reminder or a totally new exploration.

But I never found anything or anyone better than home.

And home is wherever you are.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Home (alone) for the Holidays




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The season of festive behavior and camaraderie is here. Much dressing up and drinking and acting silly with loud laughter and peculiar behavior end the year as the holiday season takes us to give gifts to strangers, feel good about spending money and the occasional excuse to cross boundaries. 

Some times we travel to visit family and friends for a brief meal and some catching up before repacking and slogging home. 

And sometimes we stay at home.

For the past two years I have traveled down to a little historical tourist town to spend my holiday but this year was different.

Due to a cold and the lack of inspiration of staying in a hotel on Christmas, I stayed home. 

It is a quiet day. One of the most undisturbed days with everyone inside lighting the fire, opening presents, call their friends and preparing the feast. Most of the travelers have reached their destinations unless they wander to a nearby family banquet or party. The one-day a year when everyone is content to stay inside and not run leaf blowers 

As I walk into the yard there is no movement, no sound. This is a little rare for the creatures that live here don’t know it is Christmas. A flutter in the trees and an unwanted visitor leaves explaining the lack of activity. 

A few neighbors walking their dogs or meeting at the local church or testing out their gifts from Santa dot the way, but for the most part it is quiet. A few cars are being loaded for the family caravan-visiting grandmother to hugs and lots of sweets. And everyone is smiling with friendly greetings. 

Upon completion of my daily journey and no other place to go, I feed the yard and wander inside.
There is no pile of paper on the floor or giant boxes under a tree glistening with lights. There is no sound of video games or children laughing. There is no kindly tips from mother to daughter on secret recipes only given during this season or old stories remembered by those who’s time is fleeting reliving memories which only they understand. 

Instead of the smells of turkey basting and scented pine candles, the house is the same as when I left. The same as it was yesterday. The same as it will be tomorrow. 

No, it not as bad as living on cardboard under a bridge. There is a half of a coffee cake given by a neighbor covered in so much sugar and lard it will be washed down by a quart of orange juice. The speakers play guitar Christmas carols and in the tattered and worn snuggle’s the room is warm and well lit. There is nothing on television until tonight’s football game so the decision is made to try and get across what this day is like for those of us home alone for the holidays.

After a few years of traveling back and forth between families sharing holidays I got an excuse to get out of the seasonal struggle – work. When I became part of the 24 hours operation, someone had to work the holidays, and without children I seemed the perfect choice. The day was not difficult and the celebration could be performed much later, but it was a different schedule than the rest of the world. 

So the last few years, there is no decoration or baking for guest because no one comes over and no gift giving or receiving (except for the coffee cake, but I think she is trying to kill me with all that stuff). Only the warm greeting from Blue and Millie when I return, but I have nothing to offer them as they accept a pet on their heads. 

So I look around at the piles of projects in front of me and think, “This is what the holidays are going to be like from now on.” 

Having already given myself a Christmas present I must make a note to buy and wrap something next year, just to keep it different. And there is a pine wreath on the door with shiny trinkets from Williamsburg past so I did decorate a little. 

And this is better than being in a hotel where people are biding their time to be able to leave and join the festivities. Even though hotels spend time and effort trying to decorate for the few who decide to leave home during the holidays, it is still a hotel room. Even the complimentary champagne does not give the same warmth as friends and family, so I should stay home with my yard buddies and my toys and enjoy the quiet of the day.

For Christmas day is like every other day when you are home alone for the holidays.

Next decision: Whom do you kiss for New Years?


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Teddy Bear Picnic


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If you go out in the woods today
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go out in the woods today
You'd better go in disguise.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears.

If you go out in the woods today,
You'd better not go alone.
It's lovely out in the woods today,
But safer to stay at home.

For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic
Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears.

Every teddy bear, that's been good
Is sure of a treat today
There's lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic
Picnic time for teddy bears,
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch them, catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily dance about.
They love to play and shout.
And never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mommies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

We’ve Got That!



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Some call it “Keeping up with the Jones” but this habit of buying what everyone else has is how we were brought up.

Consumption or consumerism was taught to us at an early age as the gauge of success that meant wealth.

Wealth brought esteem from those who coveted the amount of goods and wares one owned.

Advertisers promote the latest, shiniest, biggest and newest appliance, mobile machine or shelter hypnotizing the public in the need to purchase and proudly display.

Gatherings of office workers, potential clients, friends and family are brought into your abode to show off your furnishings, d├ęcor, electronics and landscaping.

To keep up with the Jones, we reply, “We’ve Got That!” as if joining a consumers club.

This season is suppose to be for the children but after the early morning decent on wrapped boxes and bows the kids discover the socks and underwear and shaving cream and tie clips and watches and usually a one big toy that Santa left for them.

After the paper is gathered and thrown away and the ritual family portrait of the loot, the kids were dismissed to go to other kids and see what they got.

Merry Christmas.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

What is your foundation?



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During the giving season, more request than normal present themselves to us with pictures of children and puppies and tugging at our emotions to part with some of our hard earned funds.

And there is a new good meaning organization or charity or foundation of special fund set up every minute to provide comfort to those less fortunate than us.

When you give to one, the others come knocking, under a network of good will to all.

Some of us set aside a certain percentage for charitable donations to the groups that have touched us personally, like cancer or heart or animal rescue, but even those have been fractured into subgroups specializing in weekend yard sales, concerts, 10k races, clothing, books, and even celebrity endorsements.

If someone is making good money, you know, the 1%, then they will form a foundation to feed the hungry, or teach the dumb, or offer financial assistance to the poor. A foundation or organization with names like “Human Response” or “Caregivers International” or “Love For All” pop up on every corner giving good sound bites to afternoon television and giving dozens of telemarketers something to do. And since they are non-profit, they are a tax deduction.

So while you are writing all those checks to save the water or education the world on the dangers of global warming or help some child in a far off land living in squalor get a new pair of used shoes, feel good in your righteousness knowing full well your pennies are making a difference.

Yet there are still poor and hungry and damaged because all the good will cannot overcome all the bad our species can inflict on each other.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Guest


Tis’ the season for cleaning, decorating, and celebrating this special season, but why?
It is all in preparation of entertaining the “guest”.
Invitations are written and mailed, the best china is brought out of storage, pictures are replaced on the wall, carpets are vacuumed, funky items only used once a year are dug out of dark places, silver polished and candles lit to impress strangers invading our living space. Old socks are picked up off the floor, scented arrangements are strategically placed attempting to hide the normal odious smells, and children are dressed in their finery and paraded about to be tiny servants.
But do these “guest” who come into our abode appreciate all the effort or do they just want to drink our wine and eat our food and make loud noises while destroying family relics then stumble home leaving their trash and putrid behaviors.
OK, look now. you won’t invite them over to invade your space if they weren’t someone special to you right? Well, they may be relevant to the occupation environment or perhaps long lost relatives in close proximity for the holidays.
But they are still “guest”.
Normal behavior is put on hold so you can gather their wraps and place them on the bed while welcoming them into your house presenting them with the tinsel and glitter hoping to divert their attention from the spread of sliced meats and veggies on the dining room table, but they quickly gather to munch there.
The careful selection of seasonal musical entertainment is drowned out by the clinking of glasses and drunken laughter.
Conversations of how the health of family members are without really caring and lying about how wonderful their appearance is, all the while the “guest” are surveying the surroundings with crocodile smiles and pleasantries until they can leave and tell hateful comments while swerving home.
And once they are gone, the lights are turned down and the tree unplugged and the fancy clothes replaced by the comfortable cuddly garments we really wanted to wear with a deep sigh.
So why do we go through this?
Well, it is the season for entertaining others and to entertain we must invite people we do not normally hang out with to our home.
But don’t worry, this zany season will be over soon and they will not invite you to their homes, so you can relax and get back into the habit of living your life the way you want to.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Knowing No One



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Knowing No One
Wake up troubled. Long dreams filled the night with lots of problems including being trapped on a railroad trestle over water and being scared of heights. Listen to soft news and shaking it off preparing for the day. The usual windows are opened to the sunshine and the day is welcomed as the water heats for the shake of creamer and sugar and instant coffee mixture. Wondering if the dreams were due to being too hot settle down before the big screen and fire up the news of the world and whatever people want to share with others. A sip of tap water to loosen up the leftovers of last night and type in the password wondering if the shop who updated this machine remembered it. A sip of hot liquid as the mind starts to wake in the light of the morning reading that a daughter of a high school friend is engaged. What is the reaction? A smile and a quick email are sent and then the continued search of the news locations as the morning breakfast treat disappears. After an hour it is time to wander onto the next journey. The usual change from flannel to jeans with an additional layer due to an evening of below freezing temps. Open the front door and take a breathe of the morning air. Review the layout of the land as done every day and pause to reflect on the past evening and present yourself on the dawn. Double lock and take a scan of the inside before opening the back door to the forest. So far the only words to leave the lips are, “Good Morning Day!” when the shades are adjusted to let in the light. Step down after securing the back door and pause to introduce you to the yard. They pause and adjust to the voice of “Hello” (which seems to be the phrase to whatever new awaits) and slow their panic due to the familiar tone. The awkward yet trained steps over the broken trail of wooden beams to the platform next to the pond. Looking around and taking a breath, the day has begun. Leaves and pine tags carpet the floor of the woods and all is quiet, except for the distant leaf blower. Saddle up a pony and prepare to ride only to look at the water and wonder if this view will be seen again. Across the gravel and into the traffic lanes adjust position and breathing for the adventures that lay ahead. The usual pattern is to deviate onto a different path, but today will be different. Not quiet as steady as normal, the venture follows the daily route knowing it will change to return around the long hills and into the city. Then the thoughts come which are the reason for the ride. Waiting for a light and the traffic to decide which way they intend to turn notice the young couple walking by and think, “Nice rack” as she smiles knowing full well of her endowments and the young lad parading her with pride across the street from a church where the blind are leading the blind. Over the rough roads layered by years only to avoid some holes showing the true original dirt establishing the path. The morning pace is starting to pick up since this run is a little later than normal. Again the thoughts of the strange dreams of faces known but events confused intermingle with songs of the season and themes repeated last night on the guitar. A group wanders down the street, perhaps students, passing by a man photographing a house front, possibly a realtor but there is no sign and the jeans are examined. A quick turn to return home and stranger thoughts pause at the light. The third story windows where she said she had lived are reviewed as the bottle refreshes. A knowing yet frustrated smile continues the wonderment and so the pedals move forward. “We will stay over on this side to stay in the sunshine” a father tells his daughter on this Sunday ride. Another father daughter will be seen later while the slow pace is approached and space given. So the thoughts continue. Names and faces and actions and reactions and conclusions continue to form thought visions into the unknown. Passing by the museum with a reflection into the window the thoughts of past times continue. The young girls in this neighborhood who were searching for the same future yet their God did not allow it and the ones who did soon devalued the attention. The tennis players are not on the court on the return possibility due to the cool weather or the lack of interest in the game. A turn toward home with a wonderment of seasonal plastic images lying dead on lawns under trees filled with large colored balls. Yet none of these houses have names or occupants who are known. Thinking of what would happen moving into a new neighborhood or more so a new city. Strange surroundings and surrounded by strangers. What would happen? How would one find people to talk to or even friends? Most moves of this nature are due to occupational changes so the workplace is the social ground for making associates into familiar faces and possible friends. It gives a playing field to ask the questions and make common references to events and minded agreements. Many times the workplace is where romantic relations start. So if that central grouping ground is missing, what happens? Clubs and nightspots, if ventured, can connect unknown persons to one-another even though there is a fee. And if these are not explored does that make a hermit? A hermit who is living life apart from the rest of society? Making a lifestyle that eliminates the luxury of companionship sharing experiences only to review them years later that only the two will understand. Making a lifestyle that only one understands or is content in it’s meaning. Making a lifestyle that is perhaps misunderstood by the outside but answers the questions that maybe we don’t have to be friends with our neighbors. Perhaps leaving their beliefs and feelings and life baggage alone makes the trip lighter. There is enough to carry by you. On the way back to the four-walled box ahead are two riders on horses walking calmly through the neighborhood. No explaining but it makes sense.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gifts





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This is the season for presenting and sharing and giving. This is the season for decorations, food, warmth, song, and best of all…. GIFTS!

That is what it is all about isn’t it? Getting something that you hoped for and even asked a mystery man named “Santa” for.

You know on December 25th, you will be waking your mother and father before dawn with the great anticipation of going down stairs and viewing the piles of brightly wrapped boxes stacked under the tree which is mysteriously already lit.

Gifts of all sizes and descriptions on this one-day of the year when access is tolerated.

Now some gifts are practical like the socks and ties you had been wanting (not so much) or a blender (though functional will not make points on the response meter), but what is really scrabbled for is the games and toys and wonder gifts that could not be purchased during the hot days of summer or the fall leaf raking time or the attention of the family was on some other important issue like cutting the grass or taking out the trash.

This is the time to make up for all of that. This was the time to ask for unbelievable treasures and hope to be rewarded.

Piles of boxes and bags prepared in paper and bows that an entire industry survives on this day with cute cards tapes to the mystery box assigning the recipient from the giver.

These small offerings are expected to relay affection or reply in kind of other gifts.

And they should be surprises!

Boxes and bags containing mysteries presented to the recipient for a reward.

Covered up to continue the wonderment of discovery, the paper is torn and discarded to awaken what hopes reveal.

And if the reward is not what was expected, how do you react?

Sometimes the best gifts are those that were never perceived or contemplated.

The diamond ring hidden down in a second pair of wool gloves might make the day.

The trail of construction paper red hearts leading down the walkway to your house up the steps and into the bedroom covered in rose petals.

Maybe the last M*A*S*H program presented with sheets covering the ceiling like tents and dog tags and sweatshirts with special significances and a dinner out of tin pans and laughter.

So while you are out there spending your well earned cashed to reward someone else with the reward of happiness, think about this.

After the paper and ribbons are thrown away and the decorations are taken down and stored and the cold grey days creep in, what will be remembered?

Tis' The Season





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Tis’ The Season for the holiday season.

From November 24 to January 1, everyone is in a frantic festival mood, on ladders stringing their abodes with flashing lights and strange objects that would get them arrested during the summer and urgently trying to purchase items beyond our budget buying affection from people we only see during this time of year.

It is the time of overindulgence and slovenly attitude, dressing up in costumes and eating too much poultry.

There is even special music for celebrating the last of the year
(Note: recording a Christmas song includes the artist into the royalties of all that performed that song before. Not a bad gig)

A time for family and friends to gather exchanging pleasantries and wrapped surprises, acting as if the roof didn’t leak or Aunt Sally wasn’t moving to an assisted living facility close to you which would require you to go and visit regularly or your son-in-law can not find a job or the scent that may distract others goes unnoticed or the new administrative assistant seemed to be giving extra attention during the Christmas party or the bill for the braces to your daughter was due or you wonder why the curtains needed to be changed just to impress the in-laws as if they need to be guided into a belief that your spouse married a righteous provider or wearing the green and red vest with reindeer and snow flakes that is too tight and would not match the 10 best looks in GQ or either saying the wrong thing to a neighbor trying to give some holiday cheer that will be regretted for another year or dropping a nickel into the red pot fulfilling your commitment to give to charity or giving your kids more than you can afford in hopes of buying their warmth or falling asleep during the evening gathering or forgetting the words to “Jingle Bells” with a bourbon in your hand or laying in the snow to make a snow angle and not being able to get up or hoping this time of year was over.

It will be soon.

Tis’ The Season.

Given Name




 
What single word identifies you?
The one word that identifies YOU is your “given” name.

Given to you at birth, due to the requirements at the hospital at conception or state registration licensing, hopefully by the people who spawned you, this one word will be carried to the grave.

Your “given” name has lots of different origins and definitions and your “given” name can designate your existence on this planet.

Now your last name is a family name declaring which clan you came from, but the “given” name, your first name, is chosen and handed to you without your approval.

So I looked up some of my friend’s names and was somewhat surprised.

(* Editors note: I never went through this process of identifying another human being, so this was a bit interesting to me.)

Many of the names were Hebrew from the Christian “Good Book”. Names like prophets and chapters reveling “The Lord is God” or “Beloved” or “God is Gracious” or "Who is like God”.

Some were ancient Britannia like “Artos” or Greek meaning “Water” or “Crown”.

I know where mine came from thought the researched meaning is now very exciting.

“Riverbank” is the earliest destination of the meaning, but in the geology of my ancestry it probably fits. It seems my clan wandered up through Europe selling salt.

The significances of my name come from the person I was named after. An uncle I never met who downed his plane in the Pacific during World War II.

At first I was not very happy with the name because it was rough like a “Bob” or “Butch” or “Hank” but over the years I recognize the honor of wearing his name.

But what’s up with hit middle name?

Not the name that everyone calls you. That’s the first name, your given name.

Not the last name that is the family name, usually from your father’s side. Everyone in the family carries that name. Even mom changed her last name to his name when she got married. That is part of the rules.

But like “middle school” is not elementary school or high school, but caught in the middle what’s up with a “middle” name?

And yet, those few years were probably more formidable than we would like to think.
So what the heck is a middle name?

On applications, all they want is an initial. Does that make the “middle” name less important?

Some are silly combinations with the first name like “Joe Bob” or “ Peggy Sue” which indicates the family couldn’t decide what to call you.

And some decide to keep all the names presented to them or even in extreme fascination to recreate their personal identity, legal change the word that is used for a call to attention in a crowd of others.

And that special word, used so many times to identify so many others, is your “given” name.

Embrace it for it is who you are.



Monday, December 5, 2011

Biding My Time





When are you the most comfortable? What do you do on your “free” time?
Sitting back and entertaining you without a schedule to meet or someone to see or chores to do we bid our time?
Sounds like “lazy doesn’t it? Yet, this is the time that we all say, “We don’t have enough of” and hold as precious. But do we really?
As soon as there is a little time on your own to do whatever you want without any restrictions, what happens?
Turn to the electronic distractions to waste what freedom there is.
And when you don’t need any clothing or furniture or transportation or communication or housing or food and there is no one else around to interfere with your “free” time or ask you to share in his or her projects or wishes, what do you do?
When the pile of dirty cloths can wait or the spider webs don’t bother or kicking around dust balls becomes familiar, then one realizes I’m just biding my time.