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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Sometimes You Just Have to Venture Into the Neutral Zone Without Your Shields Up

     Last week, I went to church. At our church, there is a point in the service where everyone in the congregation says a prayer out-loud holding hands. A beautiful notion, right? A hundred-something people joined together to pray as a unified group. Except that if you look around, people only hold the hands with the people in their respective parties. They stand next to strangers with their hands up as if they are going to hold hands, but they don't actually touch each other. I looked over at the choir. The two ladies who run it, who are apparently friends and very active in the church, were standing next to each other with their hands up, not touching. I find this very interesting. Why aren't they holding hands? What are they afraid of? Germs? (Don't even get me started on the futility of worrying about germs in public places.) There are more germs on the Misselette than on the lady standing next to you.  A minute after this, they are going to shake hands anyway and say, "Peace be with you," but they won't make eye-contact. In church aren't we all supposed to be family? But we can't touch or look at each other, can we?
     What has happened to us as a culture? We live in such fear of other people. Fear of what? What they might think or say about us? Are we really so weak? We have become so cold and distant. We walk through life with an invisible force field around us. Don't make eye contact, someone might look back at you. We talk on our phones in public: connected to someone miles away and disconnected from everyone around us. We text or just play with our phones. We hide inside our technology. At dance class or swimming lessons we don't talk to the other parents, we all just stare through the window at our own kids and maybe chat with a parent we already knew. We might commute on a train or bus everyday with the same people and never say a word. Or run on a treadmill next to the same woman every Tuesday night at the gym, and not so much as smile at her in the locker room. Why are we so isolated? What are we so afraid of? These are not thugs in a dark alley-way. They are just other moms or other dads usually in the same the position we are. They are usually the people we are most like. People who are sharing the same experience as we are. But we'll never connect if we pretend we can't see them.
     I too walk around in this bubble sometimes. It has become the default setting for most of us. But I am trying not to do this anymore. I'm tired of living in fear of nothing... of what? Another person's judgement? Sticks and stones, my friends... The connections we can make with others when we drop our force field are far too precious and exciting for me.  When I walk by strangers, I look at them and smile. When I see another mom struggling with her 2 year old at McDonald's, I laugh with her when her son sticks his french fry up his nose and my daughter shoves her apples in ketchup. I've made some of my best friends by introducing myself as "the-one-with-the-Shirley-Temple-hair's mom." I'd be the one to tell the woman on the tread-mill that she's starting to really tone-up. I used to think it was so weird and embarrassing when I would be out with my Ya-Ya in a store and she'd strike up some random conversation with a stranger. Now I laugh to myself when I find myself doing the same thing.
     Recently, I have begun taking the hand of the person next to me at church regardless of who it is. Yes, I AM that weirdo! What are they going to say about me really? "OMG! Some weird woman took my hand in church today and prayed!" "How awful that must have been for you! Who does that?!"
     In 2011, I wish for you to reach across the 6 inches of space between you and the stanger next to you at church.  Make new friends. People are interesting... and insightful.... and beautiful.....and sometimes lonely. A small connection could mean nothing to them, or it could be life-changing. It could be the beginning of a life-long friendship. You'll never know with your shields up and cloaking device on.

Be well, be happy and give love....May your new year be full of joyful moments and precious memories!

Live long and prosper...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why I Love Christmas From A-Z

 A special post dedicated to my
mother and sister.
A is for  Advent Calendars. They are so much fun to open...especially if they have chocolate in them!
B is for Birthday...mine that is. And yes, I DO love having my birthday on Christmas Day. It's the happiest day of the year! Sure most people forget to say happy birthday to me, but I love the fact that its not about me. And I get to see my entire family AND eat all day!
C is for Cookie, or should I say Cookies...my mother makes like 14 different types, and I can't walk past the tray without eating one...or two...or six.
D, E, F is for Decorate Every-Freakin-thing. In my family we have decorations for everything. I have all the obligatory decorations, of course. I also have Christmas china, Christmas mugs and goblets. All of my everyday knick-knacks and most of my picture frames have been replaces with their Christmassy cousins. Even my toilet is wearing it's Christmas best!
G and H are for Gingerbread Houses. This is a relatively new tradition in our family, but it's a great time. We head over to my Mom's for dinner, and each adult takes a kid and decorates a house. Everyone goes home covered in frosting with a tummy-ache. 
I
is for Infant, as in the Infant Jesus. The reason for the season. We celebrate the birth the man Who would change the world. Even those who do not believe in His divinity cannot deny that His teachings and way of life are inspiring and worth celebrating.
J is for Jingle Bells,the ultimate sound of Christmas.
K is for Kindness. I am humbled by the spirit of giving that dominates all of December and most of November. Food drives, coat drives, giving trees, Secret Santas...it's all so inspiring.  
L is for Love. This is what really makes the season so special, surrounding yourself with people who you love.
M is for Mistletoe, after which I was named. XXXXX
N is for Needlepoint Stockings. The ones that would be "hung by the chimney with care" if I had a chimney. (Instead they are hung on the staircase.) All of our stockings are hand made needle-point by my Nanny (my paternal grandmother). She just finished the baby's, and my collection is complete. She turned 87 this year. I cherish them.
O is for Ornaments. I love decorating my tree. As I take out each ornament, I remember when I got each one. Some of them are from my childhood. Some are from former students. Some are my children's. All are special, and I cherish the memories that come flooding back to me as I unwrap each one. 
P is for pajamas. Every Christmas eve my mother gives us each two gifts: an ornament that symbolizes the events of the year, and a set of Christmas pajamas....which my neighbors can tell you, I wear all year 'round!
Q is for Quietly sneeking around the house after bedtime, hoping not to wake up the kids. Santa won't come if they're not sleeping.
R is for Reading. Every Christmas eve as a child my mother would read Twas the Night Before Chistmas to my sister and me before bedtime. We would then say a prayer and un-wrap the Baby Jesus. After that we would lay in bed and listen for the jingle of Santa's bells while "visions of sugarplums danced in (our) heads." We still practice this tradition on Christmas eve, except now it's before we head out to mass and our children take our place in our mother's lap.
S is for Singing. Nothing is more timeless than Christmas music, nor is any music more fun to sing. From "Sleighride" to "Santa Baby" it never gets old....until December 26th, that is.

T is for Traditions. There is so much comfort and joy  to be found in rituals that families repeat year after year. This is what Christmas is really about. Bringing families closer together, sharing experiences in love.
U is for Un-birthday. December 26. Boxing Day? Maybe, but for me it's my un-birthday. When I married Mr. Jones, it upset him that he would never have me all to himself on my birthday, so we began to celebrate my un-birthday on the 26th. We go out to dinner and spend the day together with our kids.
V is for Visiting Santa. Every year, on the first weekend of December (since I was a baby) we go into Macy's at Herald Square to visit with the real Santa. (He comes in for a week on Thanksgiving and makes a special appearance at Macy's Santaland.) My parents, my sister and her husband and kids, and my family and I go in together. We then take a walk to see "The Tree" and have a nice dinner all together. It is my favorite day of the whole year (maybe even more than Christmas itself).  
W is for Winter Solstice. It's no coincidence that Christmas falls during the Winter Solstice. Jesus was most likely born in the spring, but the solstice is the "coming of the light," as the days begin to get longer. The Romans chose to celebrate Jesus' birth at this time because the symbolism of light defeating darkness represents "The Light of the World" defeating the darkness of evil. 
X is for X-mas. It used to bother me that people would use this abbreviation because they took Christ out of it. But the more that I think about it, I realize that a lot of non-Christians celebrate the holiday. Not the birth of the Lord, just the spirit of giving. And that's okay! All Jesus ever really wanted was for us to be kind to each other. And the spirit of giving seems to transcend our religious differences. 
Y is for my Ya-Ya. (My maternal grandmother) She loved the whole Christmas season. I cherish all of the decorations and ornaments that she either passed on to me, made or bought for me. Especially the snowmen. She LOVED snowmen.
Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzzz. When it's all over, my head hits my tempurpedic pillow it's all Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.


I could go on...I really could. This time of year is just so magical. A lot of people complain about it. They lose sight of what it's all about. Love, Family, Faith, and Kindness. I hope you are all celebrating with your families. As crazy as I'm sure they are, they are yours. Love them and hold on to your memories and traditions. Because in the end, that's all we really have.

Merry Christmas, My Friends!