Reclaiming Christmas

I’m determined to be politically incorrect this year.  While airports and municipal buildings are taking down trees and Nativity scenes over fear of lawsuits and everywhere you go, all you see are signs saying “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings”, I’m reclaiming Christmas.
After all, what is Christmas but the observation of the birth of Jesus Christ?  (Although some experts believe his birth really falls sometime in the spring but I won’t go there.)  I don’t see anyone making a fuss over Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday or Abraham Lincoln’s or George Washington’s.  OK, while the presidents’ birthdays got lumped into one long weekend and no one has yet wished me a Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I think you get my meaning. 
What’s the big deal over saying “Merry Christmas”?  Whether you believe Jesus is the Son of God, a prophet or just a nice Jewish guy who met an untimely end, you can’t deny the impact he made.  What’s wrong with celebrating the birth of a man who preached about love, peace and forgiveness and asked people to treat each other the way they want to be treated?  I can’t think of a better time when we could all use a little love, peace and forgiveness.  If people actually treated each other with kindness and caring instead of apathy and disrespect, this world would be a better place to live.  We’d have a lot less broken hearts and broken lives. 
So say “Happy Holidays” if you will or change the name of the decorated spruce in your living room to a “holiday tree”.  As for me, I’m going to honor the birth of a poor carpenter who just wanted us all to get along.  Merry Christmas!!!  I wish you all love, peace, happiness and laughter.
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It’s so hard to say goodbye…

The gray puppy with the steel-blue eyes was what I wanted.  She was small and cute and cuddly with a round belly.  However, the rescue organization, Start II, made us fill out a questionnaire to see if we’d be a good family for the tyke.  As it turned out, with our busy schedules, we weren’t deemed the right fit.

“How about an older dog?”, the volunteer asked.  “They’re already house-broken and you can see their temperament.”  I wasn’t thrilled but she led us to where some dogs were waiting in kennels.  “This one is Spice.”  She was a lovely dog of indeterminate breed (we figured out the German Shepard part but the other half could be anything from Chow to Shiba Inu), about 3 years old, the color of ginger with big brown eyes… the name certainly fit.  The volunteer opened the kennel and my ex-husband squatted down beside her… “hey girl!”  She licked his face and pretty much sealed the deal… and our lives were forever changed.

Spice had a rough start in life.  She was found wandering the streets… starving, dehydrated and pregnant.  She had her litter and was a good mother to the pups who were found homes.  Now she was coming to our home, arriving on March 17th, 2000.  She fit into our family as though it were meant to be.  Calm, loving and klutzy… you’d never see a bigger kid at Christmas.  We’d put her presents in gift bags so she could retrieve them but she was excited over every package under the tree as if they were all for her.

I can fill countless pages with stories of Spice… how she’d love to play with her stuffed toys, especially if they squeaked or made animal sounds.  How she won over my divorce lawyer with her sweet disposition so I never had to go to his office… he’d come over to my home just to pet and play with Spice while I signed paperwork.  How we’d call her a “hootchie” because she’d pretty much fawn over every male friend my kids brought home.  How almost every time we went for a walk, someone would invariably pay her a compliment…. some comparing her to a fox.  How few bare legs in our home escaped her tongue, earning Spice the title of “the best knee licker in all of New Jersey”.   I’ll cherish the memories.

This morning I’m sitting, feeling numb, having made one of the most difficult decisions ever.  Last fall, Spice was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure.  It wasn’t going to get any better, all we could do was put her on a special diet and make her as comfortable as possible.  Lately, despite our best efforts, it’s become obvious that she’s in pain.  As much as we want her around, it’s a kindness to let her pass in a dignified, painless manner, surrounded by the people who love her and were loved by her.  This wasn’t a decision I came to lightly… my kids and I have talked about it endlessly and just came back around to the same conclusion.

In a few hours, my Spice girl will be gone.  It hasn’t really hit me yet but I’m sure it will soon.  Right now I’m just numb.

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It was 20 years ago today…

June 26th, 1991.  I was 28, in a black velvet dress given to me by an acquaintance who had lost weight.  He was 31, in a second-hand tuxedo which had been purchased for his fledgling magic business (the man was a wiz at performing card and coin illusions).  Not able to afford gold rings, we exchanged silver bands.  We took vows before our children and a small group of family and friends and giggled when Pastor Jones said the words “if anyone objects to this marriage, let him speak now or forever hold his peace” and our 3-year-old son, Jason, yelled out “Noooooooo!” (he was fidgeting and wanted to get away from whoever was keeping him from running around the church… looking back I think it might have been an omen).  The reception was held in our tiny apartment with a lopsided cake that I baked, cheap champagne and finger foods that his mother helped me make.  Every picture a friend took and pasted in a home-made wedding album featured us making goofy faces, not all of them intentional.  Our honeymoon took place in one of those “hourly rate” motels… our best friends at the time booked us a room with a Jacuzzi and waterfall running down one of the walls for 5 hours.  The room number was 13 (another omen?).  Our wedding was certainly not the one I dreamed about when my friend, Denise, and I pored over issues of Bride but it was unique, it was US and, at the time, it was wonderful.

If this were a fairy tale, we’d be at a surprise party thrown by our children, celebrating 20 years of marriage which followed 10 years of living together (I’ll save you the math, we started shacking up when I was 18 and he was 21).  But this is reality…

About 10 years ago we divorced.  It wasn’t pretty nor amicable.  Now we’re living different lives on opposite ends of the country.  He’s remarried and I’m pretty sure he’s happy.  I know I’m happy, in love and living with my best friend who makes me smile, laugh and feel cherished each and every day.

So why am I writing about this?  It’s not about rehashing the negative… there’s no point in digging up dirt except to get dirty and muddy.  I think it’s because I need to acknowledge that it wasn’t all bad and that those years together helped shape the woman I am today… and it’s a damned terrific woman if I do say so myself.

This is a “thank you”… Richard, we may not have been the best partners for each other but there were lots of fun times we had, rough spots we somehow managed to get through and, most importantly, two beautiful children who recently embarked on their own marriages with the faith and assurance that they will weather their storms better than we did.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… Happy Anniversary.  Weird huh?

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Here’s an etiquette question…

I bet Emily Post or Dear Prudence haven’t been asked yet.

First, let’s go into the reason for this question.  Last night, I made the acquaintance of a group of people.  To protect the innocent (or guilty), no names will be mentioned.  One of the group was a woman in her 30’s who invited along a gentleman she met on a “sugar daddy” dating site.  This was their first face-to-face meeting and she told us she felt better about it happening during a group outing. 

The gentleman, a widower in his mid-50’s and relatively new to the dating scene (or so he said), was very cordial and charming.  He conversed with everyone (all women) and purchased 2 rounds of drinks for the group.  We all were having a good time talking and getting to know each other when he mentioned that he had to leave; he and his “date” excused themselves to converse privately for a few minutes. 

Upon her return, she flashed a wad of money and announced that he had given her 500 dollars to buy drinks and whatever else she and the group wanted for the remainder of the evening.  She then informed us that she was going to use the money to get her hair done instead.  She didn’t offer to buy any more rounds nor the nachos that another member of the group and I shared.  No one questioned her on it… maybe they, like me, were shocked by her bold admission that she regularly gets men to pay her way without engaging in any kind of relationship (including sexual).  

Now, here’s where the etiquette comes in.  Considering they met on a “sugar daddy” site, does that give her carte blanche on how the money’s spent?  Should she not say anything to him about it (if he doesn’t ask, that is)?  Or should she offer to return the money since he specifically mentioned spending it on whatever she and the rest of the group had for the evening?  I have no intention of telling her what to do… she’s a grown woman and her conscience is her own.  However, I’ve never been witness to this kind of situation and it’s hard to wrap my head around it.  So, dear reader, what do you make of it?

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Here I go …

As Professor Albus Dumbledore explained to Harry Potter in “The Chamber of Secrets”,  phoenixes are “Fascinating creatures… They can carry immensely heavy loads, their tears have healing powers, and they make highly faithful pets.”

Can’t say I know anything about being a pet, but otherwise I can relate to the phoenix, especially the dying in flames and being reborn from the ashes part.  And while there aren’t as many flames as before, I’m ever growing and changing.  So far, so good. 

So here I am, continuing a blog that started about 5 years ago.  What could I write about?  Lots.  Observations, opinions and recollections about my past.  Some may ask, “why dredge up the past?  You’re in a better place, leave it in the past.”  In reply I paraphrase, if you forget the past, you’re doomed to repeat it.  And I sure as hell don’t want to repeat parts of my past.  Sometimes those memories make me cringe but I’m compelled to write it down, to remember and refrain.  Maybe along the way, someone else will read and learn from my experiences.  God knows I’m as far from perfect as one can get but I think I’m turning out OK.  It’s still a work in progress….

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Rest in Peace, Debra (MzCrunk)

The world is a much sadder place without you, not to mention our chat room.  I bet you’re already cooking up an awesome meal in heaven, singing a duet with your favorite singer, Luther Vandross, and beating the angels at trivia.  I’ll miss you terribly.
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So much to be thankful for

This week I’m turning 45 which is a milestone of sorts… the halfway mark between being considered middle-aged and becoming eligible for membership in the AARP.
It’s also been about 6 years since my ex-husband walked out on me and our kids and the progress from shy, insecure person I was to the stronger, more confident woman I’ve become has been fantastic and something I’m very proud of.  Yes, there have been hardships and heartache along the way but they have been valuable lessons.
Although my life isn’t exactly as I wish it to be, as I look back on the past year, I find so much to be grateful for.
First and foremost, my children are healthy, happy and wonderful.  It’s been a year since Clara moved to Massachusetts to be with her boyfriend, Bill, and they have a great relationship.  Together, they’ve created a warm, inviting home, she’s in a job she loves and her life is great.  She recently overcame her nervousness about flying with her first plane trip and is now planning future trips.  She and Bill also recently became "parents" to an adorable puppy named Samson which makes me as close to being a grandmother as I’m going to be for now.  As I write, I’m very much looking forward to seeing them on Thanksgiving.  Clara’s excited as this will be her first time hosting the dinner.  Although she’s vegetarian, she’s roasting the fatted bird along with other dishes that I’m sure will be tasty as she’s a great cook.  Or maybe Bill, the omnivore of their household who’s also a great cook, will deal with the turkey.  Either way, I’m not cooking so it’s all good… LOL!
As for Jason, he’s taken to college like a fish to water.  He’s in his second year now and doing so well.  He made Dean’s List and was elected as treasurer to NJCU’s division of the Campus Crusaders for Christ.  Although he parted ways with Humble Offerings earlier this year, Jason found new outlets for his talent and creativity with the Crusaders which is why, along with his friend and former Humble Offerings bandmate, Joey, he’s been asked to host several of their events at NJCU as well as other college campuses.  This year he began working at the college gymasium and, at his church, was asked to teach Sunday school to the teenage members who love him dearly.  Six years ago, I couldn’t have forseen this transformation from a smart but smart-ass and lazy child to the hardworking, humorous, earnest and serious young man who’s admired and respected by the peers and adults he comes in contact with. 
On a side note, I must mention George Haviland, the music teacher and band director at North Bergen High School who saw much potential and promise in Jason, took him under his wing and helped Jason realize his musical talent and leadership.  Because of Mr Haviland’s example and involvement with the Bible Study Group at the high school, Jason also found his spiritual path and love of God.  I’m not a perfect parent and believe it does indeed take a village to raise a child.  With all the negative influences a teenager comes across and the many turns Jason’s life could have taken, I thank God for Mr Haviland’s kindness, insight and wisdom.
This year I began forging a new relationship with my mother and saw my parents become friends again almost 30 years after their divorce.  While for now I can take my mother only in small doses (the woman doesn’t know the meaning of the word "tact" and still embarasses me on occasion), I’m glad we’re on our way.  This Thanksgiving will be spent with my children and parents, something I had hoped for but never before believed would happen.
I also travelled by myself to attend the first annual Las Vegas Fest for Beatles Fans.  I met Pete Best, the Beatles original drummer and Victor Spinetti who was in several of their movies.  I saw LOVE which was absolutely spectacular and definitely worth seeing again, walked along the Strip, Fremont Street and the top of the Hoover Dam, took a gondola ride at the Venetian and marvelled at the decor in the Bellagio as well as its dancing fountains.  I also met some wonderful people with whom I’d been chatting for years and found they’re just as cool in person as online.  My only complaint is that my time there was too short which gives me a good excuse to return.
Last, but by no means least, is David… wonderful, caring, loving and kind.  As cliched as it sounds, he came into my life when I least expected.  He shows me every day how much he cares for me and I hope I make him feel as cherished and happy as he makes me feel.  Only time will tell if he’s the one who I’ll spend the rest of my life with but for now I’m basking in our love and the wonderful times we share.  He’s coming to help celebrate my birthday on Wednesday and I can’t wait to see him.  While we’ll spend this Thanksgiving with our respective families, I’m sure there will be many holidays to celebrate together. 
To those who read this, I wish you a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving with family and loved ones.  As many problems as we have, there are so many blessings in our lives if we just stop to think about them.  Please remember those who are less fortunate and offer up prayers for them. 
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