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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

It’s the happiest season of all, right? But what to do if you’re not Christian, or even a lapsed-Catholic or Christian-light, or maybe Jewish or Muslim? Well, child psychologists can always tell us what to do, and lately they’ve been taking all the fun out of December.

First it was, teach your kids they don’t have to hug Aunt Fannie – that relative you see maybe once or twice a year who insists on a hug and a kiss. And now, we are being told to spill the goods on Santa – don’t lie to your kids about Santa!

“Do you believe in Santa Claus Mommy?” the Love Bug asked my daughter in the car the other day. Why do they always come up with such earth-shattering questions in the car? Of course I wanted to know what she said, but the Bride only said she stalled, making me feel like somehow I’d failed. Because even though Bob and I were raising our children in the Jewish faith, I never gave up on Santa Claus

I mean I didn’t leave him milk and cookies. We didn’t have any naughty elves sneaking around our bookshelves. There were no blinking trees in our living room either. And they never knew when Santa would arrive, silently gliding down our chimney – it might happen during Hannukah, or maybe on Christmas morning. But I felt it viscerally, that memory of a big, kind guy in a red suit visiting children all over the world to fulfill their wishes. And I wanted to keep that magic alive in my family.

But according to this BBC article, if a child is old enough to ask about Santa, they are old enough for the truth. No, Virginia, there is nobody.

“You shouldn’t lie about Santa because you are encouraging your children, usually with made-up proof, to believe a morally ambiguous lie. I’m not alone in being devastated learning of my parents’ elaborate deceit about Santa, leaving me to wonder what other lies they had told.

Santa supposedly encourages imagination but, as noted in this article, and others, you’re really asking children to suspend criticality and believe a fiction. As this piece suggests, fantasy and imagination work because we choose to believe what we know isn’t true. Far from promoting wonder, the Santa story encourages children to be consumers of others’ ideas.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181211-why-you-shouldnt-lie-to-your-children-about-santa

Today is the sixth anniversary of the shooting at Newtown Elementary School. Those children, who were the same age as my grand daughter, will never have the chance to ask about Santa Claus. They will never go caroling again with their parents. When our government failed to pass any meaningful gun control legislation after that, long before Sandy Hook, I lost my faith again. Only this time, it was with our country.

Last night we read about a 7 year old Guatemalan girl who died of dehydration and exhaustion at the border of New Mexico. She was in OUR custody with her father for more than 8 hours before seizures began. This actually happened last week, according to the Washington Post:

“The ACLU blamed “lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP (Customs and Border Patrol)” for the girl’s death. “The fact that it took a week for this to come to light shows the need for transparency for CBP. We call for a rigorous investigation into how this tragedy happened and serious reforms to prevent future deaths,” Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said in a statement.”  

So maybe we should tell our kids the truth, always. Because buying into a fairy tale, quasi-religious belief that leaves Mrs Claus at home in the North Pole while her husband gets all the credit for one night’s work does seem antiquated. Maybe we must be brutally honest with ourselves first. And not expect falsehhoods to turn into facts simply because a great, orange-headed beast keeps repeating them…

It’s almost like selling someone a bill of goods about fossil fuels, and promising to fulfill all your wishes, just because you have your name on a few buildings.

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Who is (or was) St Andrew? According to Wikipedia, “He is the patron saint of Cyprus, Scotland, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople,San Andres Island (Colombia)Saint Andrew (Barbados) and Tenerife.” He was a disciple of Jesus Christ, a fisherman who preached Christianity in Greece, where he was crucified. Of course I think of golf when I hear his name and not my old Catechism.

Today, St Andrew’s Day, November 30, is a bank holiday in Scotland; with Brexit looming larger and Ukraine closing its border to Russian men, not women mind you, we may all want to light a candle to this saint!

Our family will start lighting Hannukah candles on Sunday night. Since we follow a lunar calendar, you never know when this holiday will pop up. The Amazon smile boxes have been piling up all week, and lucky for us there were no “porch pirates” in sight. I’ve always had mixed feelings about online shopping, wanting to patronize local businesses during this critical sales period. But when it comes to toys, Amazon always wins.

The Love Bug just asked the Bride if she believes in Santa Claus. I told her I hope she said “YES!” Because this was the one thing I could never give up for my children, the magical mystery of elves and reindeer. Santa always left a little present for Jewish children, a shining red and green package amidst the blue and white decorations. And since the Bug is about to lose her first tooth, I hope my daughter keeps the Tooth Fairy alive as well.

In fact, I believe the going rate for a tooth is astronomical!

Whether you believe in saints or santas, I believe the L’il Pumpkin will be delighted with his first Hannukah present. You see, he and the Rocker watched two Star Wars movies back to back over Thanksgiving, and as you probably already know, our Star Wars history runs deep. From creating stop-action films in our NJ garage with his toy action figures, to composing music for the new films, our son never ceases to delight and amaze me – just like his red headed nephew! And his new furry friend.

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If Mirriam Webster is on to something, they just let the world know. The Word of the Year for 2016 is “surreal,” or “having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic;” and after the past few days and months I’d have to agree: a truck plows through a Christmas Market in Berlin, mimicking the Nice attack earlier this year; a Russian ambassador is assassinated in Turkey while being filmed by an AP journalist, just as citizen journalists have been documenting killings by police and streaming them in real time in this country; a Twitter-babbling, boisterous billionaire wins our election with a little help from Russia, just as many populist politicians all over Europe are disrupting the status quo.

The past year does seem like a nightmare, surreal, only we are not dreaming. Yesterday the deal was sealed with the Electoral College, and Melania (or Ivanka) will get to pick out the new White House china, not William Jefferson Clinton. Will it be American (I love my pattern from Lenox, which was once produced in NJ) or Slovenian? Just think, if Hillary had won, Bill could have just recycled the fine china Hillary picked the first time around! This would have saved taxpayers plenty!

I wonder what kind of food Mrs T will serve at state dinners? I heard a fascinating author discussion on NPR about the history of First Ladies and how they have sparked culinary trends in the past. Think of Jackie O introducing French food to the American palate. She and Julia Child shaped my young interest in all things French. I nearly burned down my first home trying to make coq au vin.

Just as Eleanor Roosevelt told her chef not to produce any meal costing more than the average American could afford during the Great Depression, Michelle Obama has been instrumental in getting our country moving and making sure her chef, Sam Kass from Chicago, planned his meals based on Real Food.

Kass changed the Obama’s diet—more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; less processed foods and desserts. As first lady, Michelle Obama passionately told her family’s culinary story, especially how it benefited the health of her girls. She and Kass turned to broader health initiatives beyond the first family’s table. They grew a vegetable garden on the South Lawn, launched the health and lifestyle initiative “Let’s Move,” tackled school lunch reform and redrew the United States Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid as a simplified icon called “My Plate.”http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/09/504693961/first-ladies-often-forge-food-trends-but-melanias-menu-is-a-mystery

If I were to apply the term surreal to Mrs T’s gastronomical philosophy, we might imagine a state dinner consisting of her favorite fruits. After all, this is what we know, she eats 7 fruits a day. So perhaps the first course would be a baked fig? Followed by a blueberry and raspberry terrine? Would she serve a third course, a potato or pasta dish? Maybe she would branch out and serve cauliflower rice in a lovely crystal bowl? For dessert, it would have to be apple pie…or maybe strudel? We already know Mr T doesn’t drink alcohol, but I’m sure they would have to serve the appropriate wine pairings to their guests of state. Right?

This week we are off to Nashville for some grandparenting fun. It will be the first year in a very long time when Bob will NOT be working on Christmas, however our daughter WILL be seeing any and all comers in her ER on Christmas Eve. She loves her urban hospital as they see lots of ages and real life and death problems – unlike a suburban hospital’s typical run-of-the-mill, free-floating anxiety problems. The staff really cares for their homeless population who tend to come in as the temperatures drop. I hope she doesn’t mind my little synopsis.

I’m looking forward to my enforced news sabbatical and will try to write between grating potatoes for the Bride and Groom’s Hannuka party and warming up the dreidel. Hope whatever holiday you are celebrating this year is filled with family love, cheer, real food and friends. And I hope your dreams are filled with nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies! Thought you might want to see my tiny, surreal tree!

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What’s a girl to do? It seems the UN has spoken and Wonder Woman will not be the  “…honorary ambassador to promote messages about women’s empowerment and gender-based violence.” The campaign to sack the first female super hero in herstory was successful; a sexualized, Barbie-doll image combined with a sado-masochiostic costume were the deciding factors. Her detractors insisted the image she projected was “not culturally encompassing or sensitive!” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38300727

Well I don’t know about you, but I sure wish Hillary had that lasso of truth to wrangle some sense out of Mr T, particularly while he was stalking her during their debates. And let’s not forget Mr Comey and the FBI’s eleventh hour letter about her emails. What in the world was he thinking? Given the latest CIA intel about Russia’s interference by hacking our election and swinging more votes toward Mr T, I’m really really wishing Wonder Woman could swoop down and have a word with our Electoral College. Wishful thinking.

Still, if you’re out and about wishing and hoping to find the latest toy trend, shopping for Christmas, Hannukah and what-not, and you happen upon that Amazonian Princess from Themyscira, chances are she was made in China. Last night I stayed up until midnight watching a fascinating documentary on PBS, “Having Xmas Without China” http://www.pbs.org/program/xmas-without-china/

Imagine you have two small kids and this young Chinese American guy asks you to empty your house of everything that was made in China – the coffee maker, the Xbox, the computer, the toys – and for the whole month of December, until Christmas Day, you can’t buy anything that was made in China! I was hooked from the very beginning, and you will be too. It asks us to re-examine the true meaning of the holiday and Tom Xia, the film maker, shares his coming-of-age journey between two worlds in an intimate and tender way. http://www.pbs.org/program/xmas-without-china/

I tried doing this once. I was looking for a hostess gift for my brother Mike and his wife Jorja as we’d been invited to stay at Walter Place during their daughter’s wedding week. It had to be something beautiful, and classic to fit into their Antebellum home and I noticed a gorgeous silver picture frame. Perfect for a wedding picture! It was a Kate Spade, something that says this designer’s name on the box also presumes it is coming from NY. In fact it says, “Kate Spade of New York” on the box. But when I looked deeper into the packaging as I was wrapping it, it was designed in NY and made in China! I had been hoodwinked!!

What a great old word “hoodwink” – some synonyms are “dupe, cheat, swindle, gyp.” Kind of like this last election don’t you think? The one that saw Hillary win almost 3 Million popular votes!

I told Bob this year I want a Christmas Tree. We’ve never had one since we were raising Jewish children, even though I kept Santa Claus in the loop. But this year in particular, we all need a little Christmas, and Hannukah starts on Christmas Eve. The tree is simply an old pagan ritual, it shouldn’t be blue or white and try to resemble a Jewish idea of a tree. It doesn’t even have to be a real evergreen tree, dropping pine needles everywhere. It can be small and only needs to sparkle, and lift our spirits just a bit. We are currently in negotiation.

Is Super Girl the new Wonder Woman? Where have you gone Lynda Carter? Well I happen to know she lives in Nashville, the Bride may have run into her once or twice, at a coffee shop, and she is still fighting for social justice. This is what she told Joan Rivers on the Tonight Show in 1987:

I think that you’re probably familiar with a problem in Hollywood, and that is that they market you, and they use you. They did a mask of my face and put it on the doll, and they put my name on for the first run of it. And then they took my name off and said they didn’t have to pay me anymore. So it’s the kind of thing that you can be used so much in this industry. I make nothing. I don’t even make anything from the reruns. Don’t ever settle for net profits. It’s called creative accounting.

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I grew up in a quaint, working class town on the western fringe of NJ. We didn’t have much, but on the other hand, we didn’t need much. Here is a blog about Dover, NJ you might enjoy! The photographer is the father of a dear friend. http://blogfinger.net/2015/03/22/dover-ata-christmas-1960-by-henry-boschen/   1960 Dover, NJ picture by Henry Boschenboschen

I lived in a tiny house on a hill outside of town with one bathroom, but it was a house filled with love and a nurturing though agoraphobic foster mother, Nell. I never thought of myself as poor; but when I moved to the Flapper’s big Victorian house in town, with older siblings, I must have noticed the difference.

My life immediately expanded to include a glamorous sister in NYC and two brothers, one still in high school. I acquired step-siblings and a step-father, who was a well respected judge in town. We lived across the street from the Jewish synagogue, and I remember my first visit on Purim with my step-father and boyfriend/future husband Bob. This Catholic school girl was delighted to hear people talking during the service, making noise in fact, and generally not listening to the Rabbi. No more kneeling, rosary beads or silent praying in Latin!

So raising my children Jewish, in a wealthy Jersey suburb should have been easy, right? Wrong. Rumson was and probably still is a mix of “old” and “new” money. The kids’ cars were much better than the teachers’ cars in the RFH parking lot. And my children’s peers pretty much got whatever they wanted, when they wanted it. I developed a saying for the Rocker, “Want? Work. Wait!” The three “W”s it was called. Just because all his friends had the latest gizmo, didn’t mean I’d run out and buy one for him. When the Bride wanted a car, we offered to pay for half and she ponied up the rest of her cash from summer jobs.

And so I give you Day 5 of Hannukah’s Yiddish saying:

Ich darf es vi a loch in kop!

In other words, I need it like a hole in the head! Yiddish words convey beautiful bits of sarcasm. In this season of giving, and getting too much, it’s important to differentiate between what our children want, and what they actually need. They may want a drum set, but you need that like a hole in the head! Most toys are played with for a few days, and thrown away because they break or they are lost forever at the bottom of a toy trunk.

I love the approach some parents are using – they have their children make a list for Santa of four things: 1) something they want, 2) something to read, 3) something to wear, and 4) something to give away to a needy child. Perfect right? But I’d have to come up with four more for Hannukah!

How about: 5) something they need (like an educational game), 6) something for or from nature (like a terrarium), 7) an experience (like Nutcracker tickets, or a trip to Rockefeller Center), and 8) how about a kiss? That’s always what my foster father wanted for Christmas. He got that with a can of Prince Albert pipe tobacco every year!

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Good Morning Yiddish fans! And Happy second day of Hannukah. As a lapsed Catholic, I tried to compete with Christmas for my kids. I’d have Santa leave a present, I’d wrap up something big for the first and last night, and continue to wrap smaller presents for all the nights inbetween. We played the dreidel game with M&Ms. I fried latkes, potato pancakes, because there is always a special food item associated with each Jewish holiday. I really really tried…

Needless to say it was a mistake. There is no competing with Christmas as I learned after attending Rockefeller Center’s Holiday Extravaganza with the Bride when she was about 7 years old. Walking up Madison Avenue, tears streaming down her face, because Hannukah wasn’t even mentioned. They had a camel on stage, but no menorah. “It was ALL about Christmas!” she wailed. And I was stumped since I love the Rockettes and expected her to love it too. Which leads me to today’s expression:

Vos ahfen lung iz ahfen tsung

Which means, “What’s on his mind is on his tongue.” We all know someone like this. They are childlike in that every thought gains expression; on the Monopoly board of their mind, words tumble out, they do not pass Go at all, and sometimes this lands them in Jail.

As we age, this kind of short circuitry may happen more often. We forget social cues, our super ego steps aside and we say whatever pops into our head. Doctors call this a disinhibition, as if the filter in our brain is too full, so all our thoughts tumble out without mercy. Ada’s husband Great Grandpa Hudson is notorious for this. At 90 years of age, of course it’s allowed and amusing at times.

Like that Jim Carrey movie “Liar Liar” about a lawyer who can’t stop telling the truth, thinking aloud can be an affliction. Maybe this is part of Trump’s appeal. He is saying what his followers would like to say, only they know it would sound horribly fascist, except wait, Trump is saying stupid things so maybe their bigoted belief system has merit? This morning even Dick Cheney denounced Trump’s rhetoric. Will wonders ever cease?

I no longer try to compete or fight with Christmas. Here we are at the hospital “Holiday Party.” Note the beautiful red and green holiday wreath behind us!

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Someone once told me that you have to live in a place for at least 10 years before it becomes home. When I was young, I called Victory Gardens home. It was a development in NJ for the support staff that worked at an arsenal during WWII. It was meant to be temporary; four rooms and one bath made out of concrete. We lived on Washington Avenue, all the streets were named after presidents. I would dream about this house for years, because this is where I learned what love is.

When you marry an Emergency Physician, you also learn to love moving. It was never easy. I’ve made friends in other states that will never be replaced, the kinds of friends who know where the spoons are in your kitchen. Women who would supply all the flowers and food for the Rocker’s bris without ever asking or saying a word about it. Women who would show up to escort an au pair to the train station, thereby saving her from physical harm and me from an arrest record.

And I learned to love each place. The snowy farmhouse at the edge of a bird sanctuary in the Berkshires. The brick, mid-century modern between two rivers on the Jersey Shore. And I’m learning to love my view of the Blue Ridge, on the cusp of Mr Jefferson’s Monticello and his Academical Village. This is the place where the Bride met her Groom and now the next generation is just beginning. They are making their home in the Music City and the Rocker and Ms Cait are feathering a new nest after super storm Sandy.

“Home” is the best gift we can give our children. That feeling that we belong, that we are loved unconditionally. It doesn’t matter where we find ourselves today. We were all tucked in our beds, in TN, VA and NJ. Well except for the Bride. Santa found her anyway. Wishing you all a warm and lovely Christmas.
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