Have a safe and enjoyable holidays

For those who celebrate, please have a Merry Christmas. For those who do not (and those who do), please have a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Christianity is an important religion, but it is only one of several, so a blanket Merry Christmas statement may or may not be well received, even if well-intended.

Either way, time away from work should be spent with friends and family. Yet, the holiday season is a time when those who do not have others will be even more despondent or depressed. Even more so, the holidays will be a time when loved ones who have passed (or left or are in harm’s way) are missed. So, please share your home or celebration with others.

My mother passed away early Christmas morning in 2016. To me, as devout a woman as she was, it was fitting for her to pass away when Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth. My wife, brother, sister and I will always remember her passing this day. Not ironically, my mother-in-law passed away just after Christmas. Like my mother, she was a devout woman. So, we will remember her well this season.

Let me close out with a bit of humor, which is indicative of non-Christians remembering the holiday in their own way. When Elena Kagan was being vetted by the Senate for the Supreme Court, she handled a question meant to highlight that she was Jewish. Its purpose was unclear, but the following was asked in a mid-December hearing. “Judge Kagan, how will you be celebrating Christmas this week?”

Her response was priceless. “Senator, I will be eating at a Chinese restaurant like all Jewish people do.” It received a laugh even from the asker and diffused its uncertain intent with aplomb.

Being with family and friends. Sharing a meal. Remembering those not with us. Happy holidays everyone. And, travel safely. Following distance is our friend.

Communication between spouses (or partners)

For those of us who have been together for more than a few years, mutual communication sometimes takes interesting paths. My wife accurately accuses me of speaking too softly. What I learn later is I may think she heard what I said, but she may have been too tired to follow-up when I spoke too quietly. So, when I mention I told her something later, she will respond that she does not remember me so doing. This is a version of husband or wife deafness, where you may not hear everything of what is being said. I do it as well.

My wife and I both do the following and that is ask the same question we were asked earlier in the conversation. We get tickled by this, but it will follow a pattern like:
– I will ask “Do you want to leave earlier?”
– Conversation ensues and circles back
– Then she will ask “Do you want to leave earlier?”
– “That is what I asked you.”
– Then we will both laugh.

The funniest communications occurs when neither one of us can remember the name of an actor or actress, a movie, a restaurant, an old friend or colleague, etc., but we both will know what we are talking about. It is a coded language where certain references can get the point across. The dialogue will make no sense to a casual observer, but communication has occurred. It may go like “do you remember that place in Winston-Salem which had that desert the kids liked?” And, she will know.

As for actors and actresses, Iphones have simplified our lives, abetting our memory loss. We can search on the show, look up the cast and find that movie we were trying to think of or the co-star. Yet, it takes some of the fun away with the added clarity. “Isn’t that the guy in the Allstate commercial?” will start a search rather than a discussion.

Finally, couples have a form of non-verbal communication or short verbal clues to pass along a mountain of information. The cue could be touch on the arm, a pinch, a pat on the leg, a small shake of the head, etc. “Don’t go there” is a key message when a sensitive subject arises with a third party. Plus, the other spouse may not be supposed to let a third party know he or she knows a confidential matter. Or, “it is time to leave” is another key message, which comes in handy at the other spouse’s office holiday party. Or, my wife will whisper “don’t bite” when someone is trying to start a political argument.

Let me know if you have some of these communications. I am sure all couples have their own variations.

May the Force be with you – don’t click

Black Friday turned into hefty cyber sales. Today, is officially Cyber Monday, so the expectation is high for even more sales. However, a key financial lesson is if you don’t buy, you save even more money. So, use the Force to not click.

I realize I am not telling anyone anything new. But. people want your money, so they will make it easier to get it. I think there has been a trend toward more personal purchases from holiday gifts. It is clear the car commercials have gone down that path to lower year-end inventory. If you must buy a car, your best savings will be at the end of December not the beginnning.

Yet, resist the urge as much as you can. I tell people you can go broke saving 1/2 off if it leads to more purchases. The other reason to resist is the hyper-commercialization of Christmas. This is a key reason I am frustrated with the infringement on my favorite holiday of Thanksgiving.

So, use the Force. Resist the urge. Don’t click on Submit or click far less. Black Friday and Cyber Monday lead to Red Debt.

Travel safely and sanely

As we head into my favorite holiday week, the weather is starting out on a less than friendly basis. So, please take extra care to travel safely and reach your family destinations. I can assure you the interstates and airports will be crowded and at a standstill at times. If you look in the dictionary I-95 is code for stationary and an airport is a gathering place.

So, to manage expectations consider the following. First for flyers:

– you will wait in airports and have a hard time finding a parking space,
– your plane will be delayed and may be canceled, and
– your plane will be crowded.

How you let this affect you is your ball to play. You can let it bother the heck out of you or you can take it in stride. As I waited for my checked bags once, a woman commented on how calm and relaxed I was. I was sitting with a book and was waiting for the bags to come in. My standing up at the carrousel was not going to make them come faster.

Now for the drivers:

– you will be accompanied by many drivers on the road,
– you will come to a halt due to accidents and rubberneckers, and
– you will get irritated on occasion with fellow passengers.

How you let this affect you is your ball to play. Following distance is our friend. Rest areas break the monotony. Listen to your kids play lists – I had a ball with my kids doing this as they take pride in sharing. Find those side roads to avoid only interstate driving.

Please travel safely (and sanely). Giver everyone a hug for me when you get there. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday after the sugar rush

The trick-or-treaters were beneath our estimates which means we have too many candy bars left. Yikes. The rain delayed our neighborhood celebration until Friday, which may have hurt turnout. So, we will need to unload some candy when the kids are home over Thanksgiving.

One family dressed up as “The Incredibles,” including mom and dad. They get the best costumed family award. We saw a few Power Rangers, a few Godzillas, several Disney princesses, a few Wonderwomen, a couple of Princess Leia’s and Stormtroopers, an adult Pink Flamingo, a couple of dinosaurs and few more individual Incredibles. One young man was dressed as a Cyan Cube, I guess representing an inkjet for a printer, unless I am unaware of a new superhero.

Speaking of trick-or-treaters, there is a neat video of a young lad coming upon an empty candy bowl at someone’s porch. He proceeded to donate some of his candy for the little ones coming behind. It was filmed by the door bell camera. A young good Samaritan. Well done.

Based on our sample size, which offered choices of full-size candy bars of Hershey plain, Hershey w/ almonds, Peanut Butter Cups, and Kit Kat Bars, the plain Hershey’s won out followed by the Peanut Butter Cups, with Kit Kats in third. The Hershey’s with almonds were not popular, but came in the assorted box of candy bars, so were offered up.

What kind of turnout did you have? Any interesting costumes?

Go forth, be safe on the 4th

Happy 4th of July everyone! Be safe as you travel and as you celebrate with family and friends. Here are a couple of reminders.

– Alcohol, testosterone and fireworks do not mix. Adding dry hot summer days do not help the situation. I am reminded of my wife’s cousin who blew off several fingers.

– If driving, appropriate following distance will help avoid many car accidents. Tailgaters overstate their ability to stop a car, especially when following a truck they cannot see around. To be frank, that is the nicest description of a tailgater I can use.

– At large outdoor parties, be mindful of food left out on a picnic table too long. Food poisoning is not rare in these circumstances.

– Also be mindful of long afternoons of drinking, especially those fruity concoctions that mask how drunk you’re getting. You don’t want to have Uncle John going to a crowded ER after wrecking his vehicle.

– The entire group should be mindful of small kids near pools, lakes and oceans. It only takes a few seconds for someone to drown. Hosts need to make sure someone is watching if they cannot. See above about parents’ drinking – I have seen close accidents avoided that should not have gotten that precarious,

– Finally, do your best to avoid politics. If you must respond, try to stay within the white lines and say things like “I wish they would work together to solve problems” which is a safe way to make a statement and exit stage left.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday and weekend. May the 4th be with you this July.

A Rose without any thorns

I have written before about three friends whose friendship began for three of us in elementary school with one joining our group in junior high school. Yesterday, I learned the last of our eight parents had passed away during the night. It is fitting that Rose was the last one to go.

Each of our parents were fine people and raised good families. While we used their first names among ourselves, usually referring to a quirk or possible punishment for our misdeeds, we always called the adults Mr. or Mrs. Except for Rose. We all called her by her first name.

Rose was much younger than her husband, so he passed away in his late 60’s over 45 years ago while we were in junior high. So, we gravitated to Rose. She was as approachable and welcoming a person as you could find. She was not unlike my brother-in-law, Joe, of whom I wrote after he passed away in September. This Rose did not have any thorns.

Raised in Pennsylvania as an American of Italian descent, Rose was a devout Catholic. When I think of her, I remember her well-attended Christmas parties before  Midnight Mass. Each year around 10:30 pm, the party would come to a close to go hear the beautiful Mass, which was memorable for its contemporary music. When in town, I would not miss these occasions. When away, I would call around 10 pm to wish her and her son, Merry Christmas.

The other things I remember are her sense of humor and interest in others. The two went hand-in-hand, as she took delight in being teased and telling stories. Her son makes a living off a self-deprecating sense of humor and ability to tell stories, which he learned from her. Being a good Italian-American, we teased her that if you cut off her hands, she could not complete her stories. If you asked Rose travel directions, she would invariably draw with her fingers on the table. She was quite the animated person.

My wife and I last saw Rose three years ago when we were looking for a memory care facility for my mother. We stopped by to see her in her room at one of the places, as she too, was battling a declining memory. She perked up as she remembered me, most likely without knowing my name. But, we carried on a lovely conversation about the past and her son and my friendship.

Dementia and its evil twin Alzheimer’s are horrible diseases. We are glad to have seen her before further demise. Rose lived  a joyous life, filled with friends. She welcomed her son’s friends into her home and gave us all another mother to hug. Bless you Rose. And, as the Father would remind us, Peace be with you, your son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

 

Everyone needs a Joe

Everyone needs a Joe in their life. You know the person. The one who is curious in learning and sincerely knowing what is going on in your life. The one who can talk with your kids as easily as he or she talks with you.

Joe’s are the kind of people who end up being teachers because of that desire to help others grow. The one who is the teacher that cares about the kids more than anything. Joe may dress and act in an eclectic manner, but is as down to earth as it comes. Joe would give you the shirt off his or her back if you needed it.

Joe is the kind of person who gets animated about upbringing, travels, or subject matter interests. A rapt storyteller is Joe which is a key part of the charming person. When Joe gets going, his or her voice can fill a room.

We had a Joe, but his body gave out on him after only 61 years. Too many car accidents left his body in pain and his big heart likely gave out on him after so much medication for too many years. He was my wife’s brother and left a lasting imprint on more than a few. He loved teaching science and married his soulmate after two earlier marriages went awry. His wife was also a teacher having just retired. It is a shame Joe won’t be with her in this physical world. He leaves three children who love hiking and the environment like their Dad.

Bless you Joe. Our Thanksgiving table will have a huge gap, just like our lives as we carry on without you. But, we will remember you forever.

Sentimental Journey

The older I have gotten it seems the more sentimental I have become. Certain scenes from movies will cause me to tear up or become emotional no matter how many times I see them.

Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time on Christmas Eve, I am sucker for the ending. Especially moving to me is when Harry Bailey arrives and makes a toast to “My brother George, the richest man in town.” Seeing how George made such a difference through kind and courageous acts is compelling.

Another movie scene that gets me is the end of “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner. Ray Consuella, played by Costner, asks his father if he wants “a game of catch.” My Dad played catch with me often. So it gets me every time.

Yet, it is not just tears that can be evoked. There is no harder movie to watch than “Sophie’s Choice.” For those who have not seen this, it is Meryl Streep’s finest performance. Without giving away the plot, the movie climax will be as troubling as any you will witness.

The same holds true about a pair of movies that have similar themes. “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and “Life is Beautiful.” They both are about Nazi persecution. While the latter is in Italian with subtitles, it is both terribly sad and uplifting at times, with the love of a father for his son and wife.

There are certain movies where we know the endings will be tough. “La Bamba” and the “Buddy Holly Story” are sad for the same tragic event which took the lives of three entertainers. “Terms of Endearment” was heading toward the ending from the outset. All are wonderful movies.

Yet, what seems to impact me most are parent/ child moments in movies. For that reason, I will end with “Steel Magnolias,” which had a wonderful cast surrounding the mother/ daughter relationship of Sally Field and Julia Roberts. Two scenes stick out – the first is the scene in the beauty parlor where we first realize Roberts’ character is diabetic as she goes into insulin shock. The second is the cathartic moment when Olympia Dukakis’ character offers up her sour-puss friend Weezer (Shirley McClain) as a punching bag for comic relief to the grief stricken mother.

This is by no means a complete list. What are some of your favorite sentimental scenes?

 

The best way to save

I could not think of a better day to state the obvious way to save money. Don’t spend it. There, now it is out in the open.

Being a retired old fart on a fixed income, I have learned that I don’t need the latest and greatest thing, if what I have is working just fine. I also don’t value my worth by what I own.

Yes, my IPhone is four years old, the same age as my laptop. They are working fine for my purposes. Yes, I am driving the same car for over nine years and will keep it longer, as will my wife with hers. And, no I don’t want to sell my house, even though I get requests from realtors monthly to do so. Nor do I need another credit card.

I recognize people want our money. They will market consistently, often aggressively, and sometimes fraudulently to get me to buy something. Yet, we can choose not to give it to them.

So, on this Black Friday, choose not to spend. If you must, consider this option. Move Christmas back a week and buy after Christmas when retailers are looking to unload inventory.

Shop wisely, or not at all. Happy holidays.