Holiday


Postcard picture for New Year's; eBay store We...

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I bring this up only because I was recently reminded that the last decade was fraught with “two-thousand this and that year” as people balked about the “aught” they ought to have employed.

For the fourth year running, we did nothing at all to mark the change-over. I haven’t gone out on New Year’s Eve since 2006 when I ended up at a local restaurant with a couple of girlfriends, one of whom – my BFF – tried to pick up strangers for me.

I had a little black dress for the occasion that I ended up not wearing because the evening was bitterly cold and icy. I think I was in bed by midnight and if I remember correctly, I chatted via email a bit with Rob. He’d gotten a midnight phone call from some widow on the board, who was stalking him with increasing intensity.

Aside from that low-key ringing in of 2007, the Aught’s weren’t noted for festivity on New Year’s Eve for me. I think 2000 was the last party I attended and I am pretty certain I haven’t had a raucous birthday celebration since that year as well.

Oh, I am dull.

Being stricken with colds from the depths of Tartarus, Rob and I cuddled up and watched the last few episodes of season four Tudors and then listened as the neighbors ran up and down the back alley blowing paper horns and shouting.

Fortunately, there were no gunshots trumpeting the new year as well. Back in the day, when I lived in Valley Junction, shotgun blasts cracked the midnight hour along with illegally obtained fireworks from just over the Iowa-Missouri border.

Sleep eluded me a bit due to congestion and an overall inability to find a non-awful position to sleep in. About five or so, I stumbled to the bathroom for pharmaceuticals to relieve blocked airways and some ibuprofen for the aches and pains and then slept til nearly noon.

It’s 4:38 as I type this and very little has been accomplished by me though Rob is grimly stripping sixty year old goo off the stud walls and wiring the front room for future awesomeness.

For Dee I created a knife and a lightening bolt out of paper towel rolls. She got the latest Rick Riordan novel from her great-auntie and we’ve been burning through it every evening before bed. The child desperately wants to be a child of a god and fight monsters. She’s torn between Zeus and Hades – don’t ask me why.  She’d rather be a child of Athena, I think, but she can’t bear to give me up as her mother.

I did manage a bit of online shopping for proper wedding wear. Though I prefer to try things on, between the driving and dealing with humans, online is easier and quicker.

We are flying to the Okanogan in a few weeks for Rob’s mother’s nuptials.

The Fiance is a nice man. Retired Air Force. Former drag-racer. Current collector of coins. Both Rob and Silver got on well with him as they found that easy language of men who reno and tinker. I noted that he and MIL don’t have many shared topics. Whenever one was talking the other’s eyes glazed, but what brings people together and holds them goes beyond laundry lists and hobbies – in my opinion. They held hands, shared knowing looks and somehow weathered a few revelations that I imagine would have torpedoed a good many couples when combined with family meet/greet and holiday stress.

Last year, aside from Spring Break in Iowa and a couple of camping weekenders, there was precious little vacationing. This year there is the upcoming wedding jaunt followed closely by Spring Breaking w/fam in the States and not long after – a week at the time-share in Fairmont. And all before summer, with its camping, arrives. Bounty indeed.

But I went casual for the wedding with Dee and I in a tunic and shirt dress respectively paired with leggings. MIL’s first wedding to Rob’s father was a Protestant church affair, so she is going all out Catholic with the trimmings this time.

“Have you ever been a to Catholic wedding mass?” I asked Rob to which he replied with a “have we met?” look.

“They can be … lengthy.”

He grimaced but with a “I’ll man up” undertone and I have to admit, I am less than enthused myself. I haven’t been to mass since dad’s funeral and before that I hadn’t bothered with church for several years.

For Dee the exotic nature of Catholic mass has worn off. When she was wee, she loved going with her Grandmother and cousin, but that was when wiggling, non-attentiveness was cute. At nearly nine, she can’t roam the pew, climbing and scooting without irritating or reflecting poorly on our parenting skills. Would her DS be beyond bounds of acceptable distraction or would a book be better?

I sometimes tried to sneak a novel along when I was in my young teens. Mom wasn’t that observant but Dad was a hawk. Most of the time, I read ahead in the missals. As a result, I am extraordinarily well versed in the bible for a Catholic.

As a treat, we’ve booked a suite at a resort hotel on the lake. Dee is elated. I am a bit paranoid about bedbugs and lice, but there’s a saltwater pool at least. We swam a bit at the Hampton, where MIL and Fiance stayed this last week. The water was so heavily chlorinated it gave me a semi-rash on my legs and scorched my sinuses. I haven’t tried saltwater and am hoping for the best.

Rob’s sister and her fella might be at the wedding too, so it has the makings of a family “do”.

The older kids would have a hard time getting time off and throw church into the mix – not much incentive to try.

Off to gag down  a cup of herbal tea and find a sweater, ironically, the warming trend here makes the house colder.

It’s twenty-eleven. Remember that now. No good to look stupid in the opening days of the new year after all.


Happy New Year 1910!

Image by Puzzler4879 A Blessed New Year To All via Flickr

As the last days of 2010 speed by, some of us are plotting new courses for a new year, and this means – naturally – making those awful, and often fruitless, resolutions.

Most people concentrate on the concrete. Resolving to lose weight, which more often ends up with the health club having a fatter wallet and no significant body improvements for them save a skinnier bank account. Diet improvement or renouncing counter-productive habits are biggies, as is the ever popular “getting organized”.

Make-overs are big because of the broad applications. Nearly anything can be “made over” and “improved”.

A smaller portion of the population tackles the interior with goals intended to improve, cultivate or jettison relationships.

Typically, I don’t make resolutions anymore. I have goals but my success is not measured by how quickly they are achieved. Rather I look at how they incorporate into my life and I would say that my goals are in a constant state of refinement as I pursue them in a non-manic way.

One thing I have noticed about myself as I head into my fourth year living in Canada, is that I am more and more myself.

In my old life back in Iowa, there were obligations and responsibilities that obliged me to stifle who I am more often than was good for me (though it probably benefited a small group of others). I don’t employ many of the checks by which life was precariously balanced. Nor do I masque myself.

Oh, I can still be inscrutable, but more often, what you see is who I am.

This year, I resolve to continue being more and more myself.

Perhaps you might too. It would certainly be easier and more inexpensive than a lot of other superficial options.

In case I don’t see you again before the new year, have a joyous and peaceful one, dear reader.

You were not meant for crawling, so don’t.
You have wings.
Learn to use them, and fly.
-Rumi


La Catrina – In Mexican folk culture, the Catr...

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Halloween once marked the beginning of the holiday season that stretched from October’s end to the New Year.

When I finally became a homeowner in the summer of 1997, I felt free to decorate and celebrate with abandon. I dressed up for Halloween to hand out candies and had pumpkins and lights.

And it only became more awesome when Will and I became a couple the following fall and the tradition of building and working the Jaycee Haunted House began.

I was a Corpse Bride long before Tim Burton thought of it. In a tattered white gown with a purple-streaked black wig, skeleton mask and black leggings, I sprayed my exposed arms with white hairspray and slipped skeletal gloves over my hands to slink along the hallways of a pitch dark maze, scaring the bejeezus out of teenagers.

Hand me a chainsaw (defanged, naturally) and I floored them literally. There is nothing like that revving roar to turn people around and create a terrific panic.

By the time Will was too sick to notice Halloween, there was Dee to consider. While our friends reared their kids in the corridors of the construction of the haunted house and had them running about during the running, Dee has always been too .. tender … for that. Her dad’s illness aside, we would have ended that tradition anyway.

So this naturally shifted to fairy and princess costumes and Trick or Treat. Beggar’s Night it was called in Des Moines. An odd tradition of kids telling jokes for treats and the celebration was never held on the 31st. Don’t ask me why. I tried to ascertain the rationale for shifting it to the 30th but never heard the same explanation and as nearly as I could figure it grew out of a mixture of the rabid Christian culture and a misguided notion that teens would be less inclined toward mayhem if it wasn’t the actual Halloween date.

And then we came to Canada.

The first year I suggested decorating the yard as a cemetery, but Rob wasn’t keen even though he’d once endured the scorn of his Bible thumping Kansas neighbors over a fake cemetery he erected in their yard when the older girls were a bit older than Dee.

Shelley, I am told, loved Halloween and dressing up in elaborate costumes. She’s passed this along to both Edie and Mick. This year, for example, Mick designed and sewed costumes based on Alice in Wonderland. And Mick always had multiple costumes a year as they make the rounds of the various to-do’s in the city.

Dee also has a box of costumes that she adds to every year. She is a huge fan of dress up play anyway and I have done nothing to squelch this instinct. Her scariest costume is a ghost number that I picked up at Walmart a few days after Dad died in ’08 and we Trick or Treated old school suburbia with DNOS, BIL, our two and a gaggle of neighborhood kids.

Day of the Dead, however, is not Halloween. Even Halloween is a corruption if original intent counts for anything.

The 7th grade team I worked with in middle school got it into their heads to construct a cooperative unit around Day of the Dead one year. One of our teachers was enamoured of the Hispanic tradition and being a former nun had more affinity to the November 1st Christian observance than the 31st.

At any rate, we weren’t allowed to celebrate Halloween. Our population had a sizable number of extremely wing-nut Christians. One of the local churches actually bordered scarily on “cult”, so my co-worker pushed the Day of the Dead idea, which is ironic because it is more objectionable than costumes and candies on many levels.

I was lukewarm.

First, it’s a tradition that is not symbolic and one really needs to be raised in it to not find it distasteful and/or morbid. North Americans are death fearing to the point that most of us see death as a personal affront that simply should not happen in our modern times. That death is the natural progression and that much of the early death that occurs is due to modern times collateral damage – we simply don’t want to acknowledge.

Second, I loathed dealing with the family trauma that bubbled like toxic sludge just below the surface of most of our students’ lives. Parents who would be skeptical or hostile and require much coddling and cajoling* also factored into my reluctance.

Finally, Day of the Dead is religious. There is no getting around it and we were a public school. Separation of church and state and all that entails. If we weren’t studying the traditions surrounding death in all cultures in addition to Day of the Dead then what we were doing was highly questionable.

But, we did it anyway.

And it was a minor disaster that dredged up emotional muck, angered some parents, offended the über-Christians and was a small joke to a small segment of the students, who insisted on honoring their dead pets.

Traditions that honor the departed are widespread around the world. The more death-fearing a culture, however, the less likely one is to find them. What one notices instead is a fixation on the grisly and horrific.

When I was young, November 1st was the anti-climax. We went to mass. It was boring in comparison to the evening before which meant running the neighborhoods in costume with hordes of other children, trailed by uninterested parents or older siblings. In my family, the dead were considered honored through masses and living our lives to their full potential. They also endured through the wonderful memories passed along through stories.

So here is one for you:

My dad and his siblings had a couple of horses they shared between them. Co-ownership was not unusual. The family was poor and there were five children. For example, they had a single pair of skis that they took turns with out in the pasture until my dad’s oldest brother collided with a pig and broke the poles.

One of the horse’s was a gray mare named Blue. Dad’s youngest brother, who died when he was 39, took Blue one day when he and a neighbor were heading to the creek – probably the one at my now departed as well Great-Uncle’s place down the road. When they arrived and dismounted, my uncle left Blue standing by a tree.

“Aren’t you going to tie him up?” his friend asked.

“Nah,” he replied and continued walking.

The friend ran to catch up, casting a glance back at the horse which appeared to be content and uninterested in wandering off.

“Well, aren’t you afraid she’ll run off?

To which my uncle said, “Blue’s blind. She don’t even know we’ve left.”

There is no record of what the friend thought about having traversed a good mile up and down hilly fields and narrow dirt paths on a blind horse that my uncle barely bothered to “steer”.

A happy and peaceful day of the dead to you and yours.


 

Halloween costumer, New Orleans.

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As theories go, this has more validity than most:

Most people dress up as themselves for Halloween.

And I can buy this. We tend to select costumes that are merely extensions of or amplifications of parts of who we are every day.  Or who we think we are.  After all, many of us haven’t the vaguest idea of who we grew up to be though most of us don’t spend as much time over-thinking it as I do.

But for something completely different this Halloween, the premise of really personifying one’s shadow self was recently put on my table.

What is a shadow self?

It is the “you” that cannot be allowed to be for reasons that only you would know but are probably too hesitant, outright fearful or have completely buried.

Shadow Self is potential you.

Carl Jung put it this way,

“in spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness—or perhaps because of this—the shadow is the seat of creativity.”

Keeping in mind that “creativity” is a highly subjective term then, the shadow of who you could be is being held in reserve, or check, by you, the expectations – outside and self-imposed, denial and/or fear. And we haven’t even talked about simply being a clueless, completely indoctrinated lemming though I have to wonder what the shadow of a lemming might look like.

So while dressing up as a sexy witch or maid or princess or vampire is just an extension of sexy you that you very likely hint broadly at most of the time anyway, shadow you could be Thomas Edison. Unless someone is Mrs. Edison, Thomas is about as far from naughty librarian as it gets.

This is not to say that your shadow is devoid of characteristics you express strongly or vaguely on a daily basis.  Shadow you is someone who no one would expect to meet – ever – let alone on Halloween, locked and loaded.

I wonder then about my shadow. Because if shadows are not extensions, she is not a writer or teacher. Perhaps I embraced her on the yoga mat? But that seems like an extension of known aspirations and qualities to me.

‘Tis a puzzlement. And an exercise of interest, but perhaps not one that needs to be indulged in for such a frivolous occasion.