Tag Archives: truth

All I Want For Christmas Is Some Peace and Quiet

I was rummaging through some old papers and documents the other day when I ran across this little gem from an English Composition class.  This was an argumentative paper that reflected just the opposite of a topic that the writer strongly believed in; I chose Christmas.  Now here comes the disclaimer; I love everything about Christmas!  As you read through this narrative, you may notice that there are distinctive undertones of cynicism, yet between the recesses of the lines and words, there are significant truth bombs more relevant now than ever.  I hope you enjoy reading, “All I Want For Christmas is Some Peace and Quiet”!

Here it comes again.  I can see it in the stress-etched faces of passers-by, eyes fixated in terror.  Soon there will be no turning back for anyone; no credit card will be left untouched.  As Thanksgiving approaches, one has a sense of urgency and uneasiness, of unjustified dread.  Unjustified that is, until you are stretched out on your favorite sofa, channel surging one evening and you come across a commercial just bursting with holiday cheer.  It is only then that panic permeates your entire body, leaving you numb and listless.  Santa Claus is coming to town again, corrupting your children and robbing you blind in the process.

Not that there is anything wrong with the holiday season.  Peace, good will toward men is a very noble reason to celebrate Christmas, not to mention the Christ child’s birthday.  But given today’s emphasis on sensationalism and commercialism, the three wise men would do well to present gifts of Prozac, Valium, and Ritalin.  The distorted, commercialized ritual of Christmas begins with shopping for the unappreciative, followed by the search for the elusive perfect tree, and finally climaxes with the distribution of gifts to family members, immediately followed by the requests for the receipts of such sought after gifts.  So why DO we do this to ourselves?

Shopping has always been a fun, leisurely sport, enjoyed typically by those who actually have money to spend.  But when the Christmas season hits, it is every man, woman and shoplifter for him or her self.  Mothers and wives exchange their aprons and pot holders for pepper spray and baseball bats, anything that will give them an advantage over the other toy hoarding citizens that no doubt have already given one of their kidneys for the newest gizmo on the market.  One week before Christmas, everyone is so dazed and confused, they continue to buy that something special for individuals not even on their Christmas list.  All that matters now is that we have sufficient gifts for whomever may drop by; the mailman, the minister, the local orphanage—it is of no consequence; just be prepared.  As the shopping comes to an end, there is a slight pain in the pit of the stomach as you realize, “Man, I have to wrap up all of this crap!”  After all the gifts are beautifully wrapped, we try to stuff the mini mall of merchandise under a tree that only has a floor to tree clearance capable of accommodating a comic book.

Finding that special tree has always been an exercise in tolerance and ambition.  Some folks like to travel the hillsides, scanning the horizon for anything that still looks green, spruce like and big enough to withstand the weight of five tinsel laden boxes of holiday cheer.  Others prefer to wander through the fire retardant forests of Walmart, torn between the permanently snow laden pine or the ever famous, one piece, sit and trim.  Finding the right tree is the easy part; trimming the tree can be suicidal.  There is an unwritten rule that a string of Christmas lights will work as long as they are not attached to the tree.  Once applied, the Christmas tree lights have a mind of their own.  Rule number two deals with the application of decorative bulbs and garland.  No matter how many boxes of tinsel you have, it is just not quite enough.  The last rule applies to the tree itself.  There are always five times as many gifts as there is room under the tree to place them.  But why worry; the gifts will soon be given to family and friends anyway, right?

Family gatherings have always been the mainstay of the holidays.  One can almost feel the anxiety and irritation rising from the depths in anticipation of another “encounter”.  The location may vary, even the time frame may hover within two weeks of Christmas but the “encounter” remains a constant.  The gathering begins with the initial greeting at the door.  While still clinging to a favorite relative, you begin to scan the interior of the house for a “safe place”, a little bit of territory to call your own.  Next comes a little chitchat, a review of deaths from the previous year and a little catch up on the families’ aches and pains.  Any potential discussions relating to recent surgeries are reserved for the holiday meal.  While the adults are wasting away the hours bemusing themselves with nonsense, the children are circling around the gifts, perfecting their scotch tap removing skills, and preparing for the impending gift opening frenzy.  When the time arrives to open the gifts, the kids are oblivious to anything around them except for the shiny new toys unwrapped by other kids.  Their sense of greed overwhelms their sense of excitement and a squabble is sure to ensue.

The parents, on the other hand, have a more succinct sense of dread as everyone sits around in the circle of judgment and waits their turn.  One by one, the adults open their gifts as everyone else waits for the recipient’s reaction.  It is wise at this time to “psych out” the spectators with a broad smile and approving nod; sharing your real impressions of the gift can wait until the interesting drive home.

Again, that nagging thought crosses the mind, why DO we do this to ourselves.  It is time to start shopping for compliments for one another, not for the material trash we bestow upon our friends and family.  Wouldn’t it be better to embellish someone’s self-esteem than to spend hundreds of dollars prettying up a dead tree?  When it comes to family gatherings, I think that all of us would enjoy the Christmas holiday just a little more if we could just drop the dramatics and be ourselves.  Christmas is all about the Christ child, childlike fun and tradition, not unwarranted guilt and obligation.  So go ahead and deck the halls with boughs of holly; I’ll be the contented one in the corner, having a very merry Christmas of my very own.

Finding the Thanks in Thanksgiving

laughter

Every season seems to evoke its’ own set of memories which reflects perhaps that same time of year so many years ago or possibly a not so distant past. For many, the Thanksgiving holiday triggers the feeling of warmth, of family, of pumpkin spice and football games, of fun and food and thankfulness. Unfortunately, however, this holiday has often times been reduced to a well-worn speed bump, as folks rush toward the Christmas holiday; just a Black Friday Eve, a commercial high jump into the commercially charged holiday season.

As a kid, growing up in my parent’s house in SE Ohio, Thanksgiving was an unwritten commitment on the calendar, an assumption made that if mom was cooking, you had better be on your death bed rather than miss Thanksgiving dinner! I never really thought too much about being thankful during this time, unless you count being thankful when the event was finally over; when the last sheet of saran wrap was finally snapped off the roll and carefully wrapped over and around the last dish of left overs. It seemed to me to be a very stress filled time, consisting of a whirlwind of activities, all culminating into one feast laden smorgasbord laid out in the middle of a large table surrounded by elbow to elbow humans, passing around dishes of delicacies and plates of plenty with the intricacy and synchronicity of a well-choreographed dance. But I digress; let me take you with me to a time when life seemed simpler and mislaid worries of a young lad was unwarranted and unnecessary.

The Thanksgiving season in Ohio varies from year to year in regards to what type of moisture falls from the sky but there remains one constant; gray skies. Like dove gray colored cotton batting that hung over the surrounding countryside, possibly for the next several months to come, the gloomy gray heavens seemed to blend with the browns and tans of the bare trees and dead leaves dispersed throughout the landscape. Often times, the cool crisp breezes were accompanied by an occasional flake of snow, dancing and floating lazily downward. Inside the house looking out the front window, the desolate scene was made complete by the condensation hugging the single pane windows, giving an official nod to the chilling temperatures outside.

The turkey made its’ appearance a couple days in advance as it hung around in the refrigerator until the lifeless carcass was deemed thoroughly thawed. The night before Thanksgiving, mom would lay out several pieces of bread so they could grow stale (dry out), to be used in the dressing the next day. Mom made two types of dressing: regular sage dressing with celery, egg and other ingredients and the other, the same sage dressing enhanced with oysters. I always interrogated mom regarding which was the “enhanced” dressing, lest I get hold of a slimy surprise within my portion of goodness. Very early on Thanksgiving morning, mom would get up, prepare the dressings and proceed to have her way with the celebrated bird, cleaning it and giving it a little dance before filling the cavity with dressing, providing a deep tissue Oleo massage, seasoning the ample fowl and throwing it in the oven. It always struck me with a sense of wonderment how mom could actually create such a feast with a regular four burner electric stove with a two rack oven. All I knew was that it smelled really good, while I was content to lie on the living room floor, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

The time for the feast finally arrived with the presentation of turkey, dressings, mashed potatoes, candied yams, rolls, cranberry sauce (canned of course, shaken out of the silver vessel into a crystal bowl and sliced evenly with a butter knife no less), green beans, corn, sweet gherkins and deviled eggs. After a request was made on who wanted what to drink, everyone filed in around the wood grain laminate table, capable of extending out with not one but two leaves, depending on the crowd for that year. There was an unofficial seating chart or more like pecking order that ensued; Dad at the head of the table, mom on one side of him so she could get up and down to meet the needs of guests, older siblings and their spouses or friends filled in from eldest to youngest until all of the high backed, vinyl green floral print chairs were filled. The overflow landed at the “kid’s table”. Being the youngest of six, I was very familiar with the kid’s table. In fact, after I got married and we had a child of our own, we would at times, find ourselves back at the kid’s table, with knees touching the bottom of the table top! Before we ate, we always said a corporate prayer that we had adopted as our family prayer; “God is great, God is good and we thank Him for our food. By His goodness all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread. Amen”.

After the meal was finished and the desserts were handed out, (pumpkin pie was the staple dessert followed by some kind of cake) folks would start migrating to other rooms. The men would naturally gravitate to the living room to watch the game but would ultimately end up snoring like bears in a den. That left the daughters and daughter-in-laws to perform a visual game of rock-paper-scissors to see who would wash and dry the large stack of dirty dishes. Mom was exempt of course, since she prepared the feast. After that, it was an afternoon of playing table games (five hundred rummy, dominoes and Aggravation being the favorites), talking and perhaps taking a walk if the weather permitted until finally, the leftovers were divvied out and the families left, one by one.

You may be asking yourself why I would go into such details to describe an event that took place so long ago and the answer is quite simple. It’s to remind you of what’s important, to trigger similar memories and experiences of your very own and to think once again upon the many blessings God has bestowed on you these past however many years. We take so much for granted, that those we love so much and hold so dear to our hearts will always be with us, but that isn’t necessarily true. We need to learn to appreciate each moment more, whether it be just a regular day or something pretty spectacular with those around us, to cherish the sound of a giggling child or the wisdom wrapped up and presented to you by a dear old friend or loved one. Thanksgiving is not all about the food, football games or how clean your house is; rather it’s about counting your blessings and allowing these present times to become the blessings you will count tomorrow.

Many changes have occurred since we once sat around that old table. Beloved faces no longer grace us with their presence; so many family members have scattered across this great land of ours. But one thing still remains; Love. The love we have for one another binds us through both the times of celebration and those moments of grief. God’s greatest blessings are all around us if we only take the time to look. And the act of being thankful is to be exercised every day, not just on one holiday. This year, take the time to find the “thanks” in Thanksgiving. Try looking around your own table of family and friends; breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to God for your own many blessings, both big and small.

Family Thanksgiving

Fall’s March Madness

Springboro Band 1999

Even though I wrote this twenty years ago while our own daughter was in marching band, this reflection still holds true today.  For there are thousands of band parents and family members that embrace fall as their time; when their own beloved teenagers transform into musical warriors…enjoy!

Along with brilliant colors and cool crisp nights, autumn ushers in activities that have long been anticipated. Football games, fall festivals and pumpkin patches are each eagerly welcomed with enthusiasm as multitudes of folks try to take advantage of the last remaining weeks of good weather. However, there is one spectator sport that is usually overlooked at this time of year, even though it is just as exciting as the other fall events. High school marching band competitions have more to offer the public than just a pleasurable experience for the eye and ear. A marching band can be a source of pride for a local community, county or even a state. For the supporters of the marching band, a high school marching band invitational can be more thrilling and rewarding than the proverbial, Friday night, high school football game. The 20th Annual Troy Invitational was a perfect platform to prove this point.

A very cold, stiff breeze from the North swept over Troy High School stadium, converting the aluminum bleachers into what seemed to be cold, marble mausoleum benches. Mother Nature’s treachery had turned this early October weekend into a frigid preview of the oncoming winter’s wrath. Squirrels scampered about on the green just north of the stadium, trying to locate last minute morsels that could be stored away for the long haul. The sun was just setting, playing hide and seek behind drifting clouds. The sun’s rays warmed the face and gave a temporary reprieve from the cutting wind. The aroma of popcorn and hot chocolate mingled together as it wafted past the nostrils of hungry patrons waiting to be seated in the stadium.

Parents, relatives, friends, and music lovers representing different school districts began to fill the stands. The entourage, wearing the school colors of choice, carried everything necessary to cheer on their band as well as an ample supply of blankets, hats, and gloves to help combat the numbing cold. As individuals began making their way into the stadium, the school colors they wore became an instant identifier, attracting other like members into their self-proclaimed cheering sections. These colorful groups of spectators made the stadium appear as if it were draped by a giant’s patchwork quilt. Trophy laden tables were displayed in front of the spectators; the trophies served as laurels given for a battle well fought. The anxious crowd fidgeted with anticipation as the first band prepared for war.

The first ensemble meandered onto the field and began to perform a “fingernails across the chalkboard” rendition of “Hooray for Hollywood”. The field commander fought for control of the unruly mob of musicians but reluctantly resigned herself to follow the laboring beat of the bass drum. The color guard cautiously pranced around while watching one another, unsure of the next routine. Tonight was not the night for this unit to clinch a victory; another weekend perhaps. All eyes were already staring at the next band to engage in musical combat.

The Springboro High School marching band stepped on the field with a confidence and self-assurance worthy of their reputation as a tough opponent. The musicians wore royal blue and black uniforms accentuated by a silver sequined sash across the chest. The performance began with a dramatic fanfare, followed by an intricate African beat. The color guard moved and gyrated to the music, transforming bright, colorful flags into spinning, hypnotic dervishes. The band continued moving from one complex formation to another, horns resonating melodies and exchanging fluent harmonies with the woodwinds. The performance ended as it had begun, with the same addictive fanfare. In the stands, the cold lifeless spectators sprang into animation as the crowd stood to their feed in applause. For a brief moment, the stadium belonged to the one hundred plus teenagers on the field. But only for a fleeting moment, for as in real life, there always seems to be bigger and better competition to battle against.

As the competition came closer to the finale, the largest marching units prepared to perform. The full, rich sounds that radiated from the field could only come from a band with over two hundred plus instruments. Grove City would be the easy victor tonight, take the Grand Champion award. In actuality, all of the performers were victorious; they were true winners.

The next time you are at a football game and the band marches out on the field during the halftime show, remember this. They are not actually there to entertain you; it is just another practice. The real competitive performance occurs every weekend in front of family, friends, and others who give up their fall afternoons to become band supporters.

This dedicated group of encouragers will cheer with enthusiasm whether or not their band is the best or worst. They will sit in the stands through sun, wind, rain, or snow just to offer one more, “YOU CAN DO IT!”. And their favorite band will gratefully respond back with a melodic, “THANK YOU”.

Jennifer’s Ashes

Today marks the end of the Thought of the Day.  One year ago today, I started to post these on my blog post. These “Thought of the Day” statements were created for my sister, Jennifer, to attempt to temporarily get her mind off of her daily struggle with stage four melanoma; I would call and leave them on her answering machine or text them to her.  I hope you have enjoyed reading these thoughts as I have felt these were God inspired and it was my privilege to be the presenter of God’s “thought provokers”.  Reflected below is a final tribute I wrote for my sister, Jennifer…may God richly bless your lives and may you truly appreciate every heartbeat of life…

 

Jennifers headstone 2

 

Jennifer’s Ashes

Gone are the happy go lucky days

Where days went on forever and forever we played,

When I had your back and you had mine

We were just siblings, but how our lives intertwined.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Wishing I could somehow turn back time,

Back to when you were healthy and happy

Back to the days when laughter chimed.

 

You taught me to drive and I pulled you through hell

From the torture of Algebra, we worked through it well,

I must confess, I teased you too much

But you got me back with your screams and your pouts.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Wishing I could be anywhere else,

My head knows you’re gone but my heart’s in denial

Time heals all wounds but I still have an aching pulse.

 

We both grew up and became adults

We both had families and bills and the lot,

And even though we didn’t see each other very often

We made up for it, on the phone or in person.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

Hating myself for the guilt I feel,

For I’m still alive being healthy and happy

And your life is over, a life gone too soon.

 

Standing here on your birthday, May 23rd

Barely listening to the Pastor, his words scarcely heard,

For my mind continues to wander and I kind of worry

That this date will be forever stamped with a bittersweet memory.

 

And now I’m just standing here, burying Jennifer’s ashes

I’d rather be celebrating with you still alive,

You often stated that your birthdate meant time for spring planting

But none of us knew just how your words would now be implied.

 

I know your soul rejoices for where you reside now

Among the angels and the Son of God,

Please be patient with me big little sister

As I try to cope with placing your remains beneath the sod.

 

And now I’m leaving behind Jennifer’s ashes

Moving ahead with the rest of my life,

Yearning for the day when I once again get to see her

Where the heavenly realms is flooded by God’s Holy light.

Jennifer 1958 2