Saturday, November 30, 2013

Because Jesus Wants You to Have That Discounted TV

Nothing makes me think of the New Testament and the birth of Jesus, which some bumper stickers self-righteously claim is the "Reason for the Season", than a Wall Street Journal headline "On Day of Frenzy at the Mall, The Real Fight is Online". "Frenzy" and "fight" - I know those two words make me think of the holidays. I'm imagining a very pregnant Mary screaming at her iPad because her swollen fingers are not nimble enough to snag that deal on the super cute sweater she had her eye on. Or rolling up to a WalMart on her donkey, hopping off and elbowing her way through the crowd, perhaps hollering profanities and violent threats to angry shoppers, keeping her eye on that flat screen TV on sale for the next two hours. I'm sure Joseph might have sucker punched anyone who got in Mary's way and God is kicking back in his La-Z-Boy recliner up in Heaven, nodding in approval because this is pretty much why he sent his Son to earth so we humans could horde discounts at WalMart where employees can't get decent health benefits or livable wages. 

So here's my proposal (albeit perhaps a day late) how about we all put down the consumerism Kool-Aid or hop off the crazy capitalism train or whatever analogy you choose, and get a grip on the holidays. A local station ran a WalMart (sorry - I can't seem to get away from WalMart and it's really too easy) commercial during every break in the football games to let shoppers know that they didn't miss Black Friday. It was Thursday. My sons looked at each other and shook their heads. It made no sense. Plus, it was Thanksgiving and I can not recall so much push to get people out to the malls and online before we even get to the left-overs. Did I mention it was still Thanksgiving Day? 

At the risk of sounding a bit preachy, I'm going to suggest that we've completely lost our senses and need to refocus. I understand that not everyone who celebrates Christmas claims to believe that God even exists or the birth of Christ or all that sub-plot to the holiday, but at least we were once sane about gift giving and maintained a focus on family and tradition. I worry that we have totally - not just a little or more than a little - lost the point of Christmas. Does everyone need to be at midnight mass on December 24th? No - not the point. However, equating Black Friday and gift giving for Christmas is incredibly flawed. And trust me, the stores know how much they need to charge to still make a healthy profit and charity and goodwill is not part of that formula.

We I need to simplify. At one time, Christmas was about decorating the tree together, making cookies or candies as gifts, looking forward to family visiting. We didn’t need the madness and stress of shopping the day after Thanksgiving, which is ironically the day we are thinking about all we cherish but let’s not let that get in the way. Many friends refused to shop on Black Friday and I respect that. I would take it a step further. How about we downshift. Instead of 5 gifts for a kid, 3 gifts and 2 for Toys for Tots. I truly believe we need a shift back to what used to make the holidays special and it wasn't about frenzy and fighting and online shopping.       

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Hypocrite's Thanksgiving

If these darn kids, all three of them born past their due dates - healthy - in hospitals with state of the art technology in case they were not, would leave me alone for TWO seconds to write my obligatory "Why I'm Thankful Today" blog, it might make me the happiest mother this side of the Philippines which I'm pretty sure is still trying to recover from that recent weather crisis. Anyhow, I always feel like I need to take some time to - now what?? I can't even remember what that buzzer was for - perhaps the giant ham in the oven, maybe the potatoes or carrots or apple pie or rolls - oh, for Pete's sake, I can't remember with a kitchen full of food! If I had my own office in this four bedroom Upper Westside apartment overlooking Morningside Park, two blocks from Columbia University and ten blocks north of Central Park - perhaps one of the most beautiful parks in the world - I might be able to get some writing done. But no - I'm sitting in this warm apartment - make that HOT since I can't control the heat and have to open the windows to let the extra heat go out into the twenty degrees... Anyhow. So back to what I'm thankful for - seriously?? I just answered two texts from family and now ANOTHER one from one of our four living grandparents, both couples who will have been married for fifty years and in relatively good health and happy spirits. If I ever get done with this obligatory blog on what makes me thankful, yadda yadda yadda, I'll give my mom a call to see how she's doing since my grandmother passed away last weekend - at the young age of 94 and surrounded by friends and family with good insurance and hospice care. I'm rambling. Maybe I'll get back to this during my paid five day vacation - we'll see. In the meantime, I should probably brainstorm about what makes me thankful.

I jest. Too many blessings to count. Wishing all a wonderful Thanksgiving ~


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Death Makes Us All Religious

My grandmother passed away on Sunday. We anticipated her final hour for days, assuming on Friday that the slowing down of vital signs, the coma, the cold extremities meant the end was near. She tricked us. She made a liar out of me. I told my children Sunday morning that I was sure she was waiting for someone or something - no different from her mother who lived to 94 and after waiting to hold her only great-grandson, peacefully passed away the same night. Not ten minutes after sharing my theory with my boys, my mom called to let me know Grandma - or Bachan as my children call her - had passed away. Boy did I feel silly.

We want to make sense of death. We want to tell ourselves there is more - something beyond this earthly existence, which makes us no different from our relatives from the beginning of time. There is something in our beings, in our genetic make-up that encourages many of us to become religious in those final minutes - and immediately following death. People in my family agree she is in a better "place" but how many use the word Heaven? They know she is with her husband of fifty years - but how many use the word spirits or souls? How many attend church on a regular basis or share their faith? As a whole, we don't. But when someone we love dies, there is a feeling, an inclination, something in our - dare I say souls - that begs for an explanation. And I find it interesting, intriguing that no one says God or faith or Heaven as we prefer to use euphemisms and even stutter when the word "Heaven" would so aptly fill that space in a sentence.

The day before she finally passed, I told my boys that I was SURE it would be Saturday because it was November 23rd. I had this epiphany while taking a shower at 5:00 am. They knew exactly what I meant - 23 is my lucky number. It was a lucky day! We were heading to a tournament to freeze our tushies in Long Island, to watch my oldest son play in four lacrosse games, leaving New York City at 5:45 am and we were excited! Excited because we were SURE Bachan and Grandpa would be two more spectators at the game. And we laughed - my boys and me - because it was fine. We even used words like God and Heaven. And it made it all okay.