Archive for December 24th, 2010
It’s a well-known urban legend that suicide rates spike during the holiday season. Though this myth turns out to be false, there has always been a mean-spiritedness at the heart of the good-spiritedness of Christmas, one in abundant supply in — of all places — the holiday episode of “Glee.”
The Christmas season is one of a particular myth: a story of nuclear families huddled around the fireplace, all celebrating the same holiday in good cheer, and with good will toward all people. Yet this particular myth pretends to be universal. Everyone’s supposed to have the same families around them, the same religious beliefs, and the same good things happen to them, which we all agree upon.
But this is hogwash. Fewer than 50 percent of Americans live in nuclear family households, and precisely what makes America great is that we are different from one another — that we are not all celebrating the same holiday and the same values. So why do we suddenly feign uniformity around the holiday season?
Take the holiday episode of “Glee.” Ordinarily, the television hit celebrates the misfit, the outcast and the different. But on the holiday episode, the differently-abled character Artie gets to walk, the Jewish characters celebrate Christmas (Hanukkah doesn’t exist at all), and the now-single Will Schuester is kept company on Christmas Eve not only by the Glee Club but by his nemesis, Sue Sylvester, who had earlier played the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas (complete with green makeup) but who subsequently had a change of heart.
What a disappointment! For two seasons, we’ve been invited to see Artie’s being in a wheelchair not as a curse, but as part of what makes him special and unique. That’s suddenly out the window. And Mr. Schue, who might be congratulated for finally dumping his possessive and possibly psychotic ex-wife, is instead pitied and magically rescued from that Worst of All Fates, aloneness. Nice message to single folks.
Now, I admit that my own unease with the holiday season is because I am Jewish, and as South Park taught us, “it’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas.” But I’m not complaining here about the religious aspects of the holiday, or even the consumerist ones. And, as I wrote here last year, I’ve learned to like a lot about the Christmas holiday, thanks to its themes of “the darkening of our days, the longed-for return of light and the earth-based symbolism of the solstice.”
What I’m saying is, it would be nice to remember is that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a life-partner, let alone a nuclear family, and that some people are really quite okay with that. Just like some people are okay with not having a Christmas tree, or being in a wheelchair, or whatever.
To me, a real Christmas spirit of lovingkindness and warmth would celebrate diversity, rather than bury it. The myths we supposedly all hold on common are actually pretty exclusionary — precisely because they insist that we all hold them in common. How nice it would be if we’d celebrate difference, not hide it, or pity it, or bury it under layers of fake snow and tinsel.
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The holidays are meant to be a time filled with love, peace and understanding. But we all know that we still live in the real world and getting folks together can be challenging. There are bound to be differences in personalities, beliefs and lifestyles (especially with the stress of travel adding to things). While some holiday gatherings just involve a few hours over dinner, others last a few days. This can induce a whole host of fears and stress for many, so much so that feathers get ruffled and the holiday can be ruined.
This year, here are few tips to get you through the holidays while still making them enjoyable and not stepping on anyone’s toes!
While conversation is a must, and can be very enjoyable, over the holiday dinner table, specific topics should not be discussed. While no one likes to dine over awkward or superficial chatter, no one likes a meal to turn ugly. Obviously the biggies to stay away from are politics, religion and sex (unless of course your group enjoys those topics). For the most part, not everyone will agree on such topics and it’s best to leave them alone. In fact, this includes veganism. The holiday table is not a place to stand on your soapbox unless it has been asked of you. In addition, it is not a place for attack on someone who is different. If a topic comes up that you are uncomfortable with, politely let them know that you do not wish to discuss that particular topic at that time. Shut it down with a smile and offer up a new topic.
Never assume that a host will be able to provide everything you need. Always be prepared. It is impossible to make everyone happy and sometimes folks are left out of certain things. If you have special dietary needs, be sure to let your host know ahead of time and offer to bring a dish that you can eat and share with the group. Or to be extra safe, eat before you got to the dinner so that you aren’t left starving during the meal. The holidays are about enjoying the company of others so do your best to focus on that instead of what you can and cannot eat.
If you are hosting a meal, be mindful of others. In fact, the best way to have a happy gathering is to share the experience. Potluck dinners are the best way to include everyone and then it doesn’t fall on you to feed a bunch of folks who may or may not share your taste.
If you aren’t feeling well or are in a particularly foul mood, admit it. Do what you can to handle your emotions before heading to a gathering. It’s not healthy for you or the other guests if you aren’t up for it, or worse, taking it out on them. If you can pull through and try to have a good time, great. Otherwise, we all have bad days so do what you need to do to sort it out because nothing ruins your holiday and others like a foul mood.
Nobody’s perfect — try to plan ahead. I know this sounds like common sense, but it’s really important to remember. If you want to have people over and you’re working, don’t go crazy trying to make everything — get some food at the deli or the gourmet shop. A lot of times, people don’t mind bringing a salad or dessert. The point is to get together and celebrate with people, rather than trying to make it perfect.
Traditions can be changed. This might be hard for people, but there are a lot of people who actually dread the holidays, and some of that may be due to the way they’re celebrated. Maybe you don’t have to always be at Great Aunt Sue’s house, even though she’s hosted the holiday for years. Think of these things as being fluid and when they’re outmoded or outdated, come up with some new ones.
Don’t let the details take over. It’s difficult to find the time to get everything done during the holidays, but it’s the people who are really important to you and those who take care of you, that you must remember. Try not to be so overwhelmed doing things like writing out Christmas cards that you can’t talk to your loved ones. Don’t brush people off because of the holiday madness.
Always thank people. Whether it’s in writing or in person, you must put gratitude at the top. There’s never an excuse for not thanking someone for an invite or gift.
Remember that the holidays are about connection with others, understanding and love. The best rule, year round, is to treat others how you like to be treated, and there is no exception to that rule, especially over the holidays.
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WASHINGTON, DC – Like millions of Americans, I was so happy to see the president’s bill signing ceremony. Don’t Ask, Don’ Tell created nearly 18 years of government sanctioned and enforced discrimination. Now that it is on its way out, the president seemed genuinely happy for the first time in months.
See how great it can be to do the right thing. All that excitement and emotion at the signing ceremony was seen and heard around the world.
Barack Obama was probably one of the first prominent Americans to support gay marriage way back in 1996 when he was first running for state office in Illinois.
“I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages,” Obama wrote in the typed, signed, statement 14 years ago.
Then he switched his position, to opposing gay marriage, when he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004.
The president is undoubtedly the only person to ever change his position on gay marriage the wrong way. Every day, gay marriage opponents are switching their positions and supporting full marriage equality, but no one has ever gone the other way.
Now President Obama says that he is “evolving” (again) on gay marriage.
I hope that the president will continue to evolve and help our community end all the hate and discrimination that is hurled at us. There are way too LGBT Americans who do not feel equal. I know. I felt that way for far too long.
The lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender community is at least 21 million strong in this country, and we will no longer be second class citizens.
Gay marriage sends a very loud and clear message to LGBT youth that they are equal. When gay marriage is the law of the land, that will become our civil rights bill. What a strong message to younger people when that day comes.
Like the president said in his speech yesterday, “We area a nation that believes that all men and women are created equal.”
President Obama, please come back to the right side of history and lead. Support full marriage equality for everyone in this country, and let’s repeal the Defense of Marriage Act next year!
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Cross-posted from SpinSeason.com
The New York City Health Department isn’t full of wussy, controversy-averse, fear-of-offending bureaucrats, that’s for sure. They’re responsible for a AIDS-prevention TV spot that is gutsy, tabloidy, and has riled up some segments of the gay community.
The spot, which as been likened to a “horror movie trailer”
Here’s the text:
It’s not exactly artful, and it does feel like it was produced by the same people who crank out the political spots that warn of the dangers of invading immigrants and job-snatching Chinese. But it’s unmissable.
Some gay groups have complained that the commercial “stigmatizes victims.” Francisco Roque of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis said that “It really paints this picture of gay men as these sort of disease-ridden vessels, and so the message is really sort of, ‘Stay away from gay men.’”
The Health Department stands by the message, and Larry Kramer, the gay activist, thinks it’s just great, writing;
The GMHC has it all wrong. The New York City Health Department is the health department, not the Human Rights Department. It has very specific mission: to save lives. If they think that showing graphic footage of anal cancer will do that, then that’s what they should be doing. Just like their controversial anti-soft drink campaign – the one that showed blubber being poured out of a soda bottle – stigmatized fat people.
Are You Pouring on the Pounds Ad
Mayor Bloomberg has taken a lot of flack for his efforts to regulate healthy living, and has been accused of being the Nanny Mayor for intervention in everything from trans fats to salt to the posting of calories in fast-food restaurants. (Though the long-term results are unclear, a Stanford study did find that people consume fewer calories when confronted with the frightening numerical impact of a whomping-big bacon cheese construction project.)
While I generally recoil at government attempts to influence the personal decisions we make, I find Bloomberg’s muscular fashioning of his role to be admirable in many respects, if only for his refusal to accept the immutability of human behavior.
For as long as I can remember, public service advertising, whether it be from the health department or any other government agency, has been bland, and toothless, sandpapered down to harmless rounded edges by fearful functionaries. That Bloomerg’s Health Department had the courage to create the HIV commercial, or an earlier spot that graphically presented the dangers of smoking, is profoundly commendable.
If other municipalities had the guts to create media messages that were actually capable of changing behavior – whether it be to get parents to read to their kids, or save for retirement, or to keep credit card debt down to a reasonable level – we’d piss off a lot of people, and be a better society for it.
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‘Tis the season to be jolly — and also stressed out. If you’re feeling irritable, rushed, resentful, lonely or overwhelmed, keep these strategies in mind to help boost your happiness:
Get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation is a major disturber of people’s moods. Jet lag, traveling, parties and over-excited children all make it hard to get your usual number of hours. Making an effort to get to bed at a decent hour really pays off.
Studies show that one of the quickest and surest ways to boost your mood is to exercise. If you’re away from home and can’t do your usual routine, even a short walk will help. Even better, exercise outside, where the sunlight will help improve your mood and focus.
Stay in control of your eating.
It seems to me that guilt about holiday binging is a major source of the blues. As an abstainer (as opposed to a moderator), I’ve decided that I won’t have even one sweet during December. It’s easier for me to abstain altogether than to be temperate. It may seem Scrooge-ish not to have gingerbread cookies or bites of a Winstead’s Frosty, but I’m happier when I’m not worrying about it.
Take your time; plan ahead.
Hurrying to pack, rushing through stores, sprinting to make a flight — these are sure to put you in a bad mood. Try to give yourself plenty of time to do what you need to do.
Learn from the past.
What has made you unhappy in years of old? Think back. Avoid your triggers. Stay out of the kitchen, stay out of the mall, stay away from Uncle Billy — sometimes there’s a weird triumphant satisfaction in getting worked up, yet again, by a particular situation. Don’t do it! Don’t expose yourself to known happiness risks.
Make time for real fun.
Sometimes holiday vacations, which are supposed to be “fun,” are actually a huge hassle. Figure out ways to have fun. In my family, we decided to reduce gift-giving. All the adults “draw” for each other’s names, and we each buy stocking presents for just one other person. Also, include time for things you like to do: going to a movie, taking a nap while everyone else goes skating, or going to the gym. I plan to spend a lot of time drinking coffee with my sister.
If you sulk, snap, tease or shirk, you’re not going to feel happy. It may feel good, but only for a moment. Then you’re going to feel bad. Instead, try to help out, bite your tongue, clean up, or run to the store. Look for opportunities to say, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it,” or, “This is fine,” or “What should I be doing?” Do good, feel good — this really works! The way we act shapes the way we feel, so if you act in an affectionate, thoughtful way, you’ll feel more affectionate and thoughtful.
Fill your heart with love.
My Twelfth Personal Commandment is “There is only love.” If you’re heading into a difficult situation, take a moment to fill your heart with love. Think of all the reasons that you’re grateful to your family and friends, and the happy memories you’ve shared, and how things might look from other people’s perspectives. This can be hard to do, but it will make you happier. And if you’re happy, you’re going to be better able to make other people happy. That is the mystery of the Second Splendid Truth.
Holidays are supposed to be a time of peace, love and fun — and we can’t bicker, complain and nag our way there. Figure out what you need to do to keep a holiday spirit. Number One on my personal list: everyone must get enough sleep.
What stresses you out during the holidays? What do you do to keep yourself feeling calm and light-hearted?
I love looking at book jackets, and I really enjoyed this post with the 25 outstanding book covers of 2010.
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This Blogger’s Books from
The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
by Gretchen Rubin
Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life
by Gretchen Rubin
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‘Twas the days before Christmas
And all through the house
Lay scraps of ribbon and an
I say with a shout,
“Pick up the clutter,
Take the newspapers out!”
Yet all of my wishes
Are met with rolled eyes.
“Relax, Mom, it’s family,”
My teenagers sigh.
And so I resolve
To just do what I can,
Not strive for perfection
From my lovable clan.
Remember that Christmas
Is not just a day.
It’s the feeling of warmth
That our hearts give away.
No one will remember
Those musical elves,
Or notice the mismatched
Books on the shelves.
What they will think of
On this holiday,
Is the love that was shown
In your very own way.
So keep that in mind
As you turn off the lights
Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night!
This Blogger’s Books from
What’s Your Dosha, Baby?: Discover the Vedic Way for Compatibility in Life and Love
by Lisa Marie Coffey
Closure and the Law of Relationship: Endings as New Beginnings
by Lissa Coffey
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This was a very sad interview for me. Governor Ritter has done a superb job and I hate to see him go. We’ve been really lucky to have him as Governor. As always, he was very straightforward as he answered questions, both looking back at his term and looking forward at Colorado’s future. So with that, on to the interview.
I started with pointing out that he’s now had two jobs where you get no thanks for doing well, get pounded on for everything done poorly, and there are times where you can say yes, but the best thing to do is say no – and you get major drama. So my question is – which is harder, being a parent or Governor?
Governor Ritter replied that it’s a tie. There are days when there’s nothing better, and there are low moments. He went on to talk about how we appreciated the opportunity to serve as Governor and every day was a good challenge for him. He continued that he enjoyed it, although he did not enjoy the fundraising or politics parts. He then went on to discuss how he absolutely enjoyed moving the agenda forward and that requires politics to accomplish that.
The Governor went on to discuss how running for office is not a picnic anymore. But the governing part, the policy and thinking about the future of the state – that he has really enjoyed. He lit up when talking about being about to change where the state is headed.
I next asked about the Oil & Gas regulations. The Republicans claimed that the regulations had a major impact on how many wells are drilled, so I asked if he agreed that his regulations are the cause of the present boom in drilling. Governor Ritter responded with a Latin phrase that means “after(?) the fact means because of the fact” (or as I’ve often heard it – correlation does not imply causality). He then went on to discuss how the price of natural gas tanked after the rules were passed does not mean the rules had any impact on that price or amount of drilling.
He then went on to discuss what is presently occurring vindicates his approach to the new regulations, modernizing the rules to protect the environment and communities, and at the same time the industry can thrive here. Even with hindsight he thinks the new rules are a very good balance for everyone involved. He went on to say that he thinks they came up with a well-balanced set of rules because they brought everyone in to the process to craft the rules and listened to everyone. And the end result is we now have other states looking at Colorado as we’re now the model for effective, efficient, fair regulations on this.
Governor Ritter then said something that I think defines not just this issue, but his policies across the board – “We took the long view in so many things where we knew that we were going to have some pain at the front end of things but that it was the right thing to do for the state.” He then discussed how doing a good job governing requires that you take the long view.
I next asked him what is his proudest accomplishment. He started off saying that they made the quality of life better under very difficult circumstances. He then immediately dived in to specifics starting with education policy. He talked about the package of education policy bills that have been passed and how that is of dramatic importance for the future of our state, especially to address the drop-out rate and achievement gap. He next discussed healthcare policy, calling out in particular the healthcare availability act. He completed his list with sustainable transportation funding (FASTER).
He then switched gears and discussed what he thinks the history books will say. He thinks history will remember his administration for changing the energy culture in this state. He talked about how Colorado is now a world leader in new energy, both in where we get our energy, in the R&D facilities in the state, and in the manufacturing to provide items like wind turbines to the rest of the country. And another nice payoff of this is it has generated new jobs.
Next I told Governor Ritter he gets a time machine, but gets to go back 4 years for 10 seconds to tell Governor-elect Ritter one thing. What would it be. He immediately answered that he would tell himself to pay more attention to the relationship between labor and the business community. He then said he would go back 5 years before the campaign started and stop himself from over-promising where was then not able to deliver. He later said that this was his biggest regret.
I then asked the Governor what was the biggest surprise over the last 4 years. He said it was how difficult it was to reach across the aisle to find common ground. He thinks a large part of that was a giant shock to the Republican party to lose so much ground since 2004 that they decided to focus on harming him politically as much as they code for electoral advantage rather than focusing on what is best for the state. (Gee, I’m shocked, repeat shocked.)
He then went on to discuss how fortunately we Democrats had a majority in both houses and so we were able to get legislation through on a party line vote. But he clearly found it frustrating that at times Republicans would vote against what they knew was in the long term interests of the state merely to gain a political advantage. He then observed that once he announced that he was not running for re-election, it suddenly became a lot easier to craft bi-partisan bills, because there was no political win in handing him a defeat. Governor Ritter also gave props to the Republicans on educational reform saying that the Republicans consistently supported education.
He went on to say that elections mean a lot. If you don’t win elections, you don’t get to govern. He also discussed how the same thing happened with Governor Owens, once it was clear he was never going to run for political office again, it was a lot easier for both Governor Owens and the Democrats in the legislature to find common ground.
I asked if he was still comfortable with his decision to not run for re-election. He replied with an emphatic YES! He went on to discuss how this has improved his relationship not just with his family, but with a lot of people he knows. He talked about how this is an all-consuming job (and that’s understating it) and relationships suffer from that. He also made a really good observation that it not only is good for his family, but it’s good for him personally.
He then added that he thinks there are a lot of people who are able to do both, do a good job in office and put in the time required to have a strong relationship with family & friends, “but I wasn’t one of them.”
Next question for Governor Ritter was “what next?” He said he has not decided yet but he is in discussions with a number of folks and will probably make a decision shortly after the first of the year. I asked what type of job and he said he hadn’t decided on that yet – but he will definitely stay in Colorado (which makes sense as elsewhere would have an impact on the family).
Next I asked what is the big issue Colorado will face in 20 years (assuming we are a green energy center and education is better). Governor Ritter replied “that we can get more for less money” (he’s right – people who say that are lying!). That we can get more services, more jobs, and at the same time we can shrink government. He said that yes we need to always be fiscally prudent, but there are a number of things that would be better for the state that would cost money.
He went on to say that higher education is a good place to start. We are underfunding higher education and we cannot continue to underfund it without losing an edge. We’re 5th in the country for jobs that require a college degree. Yet our most rapidly growing segment of the population is Latino/Latina and we’re doing a lousy job providing them education. That we need to fund the programs that get people through K-12 ready for college, get them in to college, and get them to successfully graduate from college.
He went on to say “if we haven’t figured this out 20 years from now, we’ll be in real trouble.” He says the people of this state have to figure out what they really want going forward. And they have to understand the impact higher ed has on the quality of life, economic development, etc.
I asked if the root problem is that a significant chunk of the populace doesn’t care about the benefits higher ed brings, or if it’s that people think they can keep taxes low and should be able to get the services they want. He replied both. First that people don’t know, or that they haven’t made the case to the people, about how key higher ed is to the future of this state.
Governor Ritter then said that an equal problem is the cynicism people have for the government. They look at the federal government with the deficit spending and the debt to GDP ratio is worrisome. And that reflects on to the state government. And with that comes people’s lack of trust in the government to do these things, and do them well.
My $0.02: Governor Ritter is spot on about this. The biggest limit my company faces is finding qualified people to hire. And we’re a software company that sells world-wide, we’re exactly the kind of company Colorado needs more of for a better future. But without employees to fill the jobs, we’re limited in our growth. This is a problem today and it’s getting worse at present.
I next asked if he was only about to give Governor-elect Hickenlooper one piece of advice, what would it be. He replied that while he has talked to Hick, he is keeping his advice to him private.
So I flipped to, if he got to give one piece of advice to the upcoming legislature, what would it be. He immediately answered “they have to reach across the aisle.” With a split between the legislative houses and a 3:3 split on the JBC they will have to work together to create a budget that is balanced both literally and figuratively. That no one group bears the brunt of the cuts.
I next asked how he managed to handle the significant budget cuts required by the economy and do so in a way that there was no drama and everyone was pretty accepting of how the cuts were allocated. Governor Ritter first pointed out that there was push back from the business community. (Note: Just the greedy I’ve got mine so screw you businesses.) He said it was due to their warning people what was coming, that the state was in better shape than other parts of the country, and that they did their best to do it in as fair and low-impact a way as possible.
So that led to my asking if TABOR is truly a problem. Governor Ritter first spoke to how we should have built up a rainy day fund when the economy was booming but instead refunded taxes due to TABOR. He then said it is not an issue in the near future because of the Ref C adjustments, especially how the base year is now the best year rather than the last year. But he sees it being a serious issue again by 2016 because of all the necessary things we don’t fund. The state can’t survive without investing in the future.
My $0.02: I think fundamentally what has occurred over the last 15 or so years is the cutbacks have forced us to stop investing in our future and instead run out the previous state investments. In other words we’ve been spending our principal, running up the credit cards, and you can only do that for so long. Now we not only have to get back to investing in our future, but we have to invest even more just to get back to where we were.
Last question – I asked him about the money we spend on prisons and should we treat drugs as a mental health issue instead of a criminal issue. Governor Ritter first talked about how he started the state’s first drug court. But he then said we cannot legalize drugs. He then went on to say that 75% of violent crimes are committed because people are intoxicated. He then continued saying we have to continue to educate kids about the problems that come with drugs, we have to spend money on treatment, and you have to address those people who won’t obey the law. But you cannot legalize it because if you do then drug use will become normative. He then went on to discuss how crime has dropped over the past two years and with that the number of people in prison has dropped.
Saying Goodbye Sucks
Family should come first so I have to agree that Governor Ritter made the right decision to not run for re-election. But he’s done very well for this state. Minimizing the damage during economic cratering does not get the accolades that building during economic booms gets, yet the tough times are the much harder job. Getting us through the depression as well as he did makes Ritter a really good governor. Setting in motion efforts to significantly improve K-12 education and making us a green energy center, on top of handling the terrible economy, makes Governor Ritter an outstanding governor.
I have every expectation that Governor-elect Hickenlooper will also do an outstanding job. But I hate to see Governor Ritter go. I respect him a lot as both a Governor and as someone who puts family first. So I’ll leave it with this message to him.
Recording at Governor Ritter – The Last Four Years, and Some Thoughts on the Next Twenty
Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, a time of celebration. Whether we consider ourselves religious or not is not relevant; we collectively seem to enjoy this time. There is a sense of common goal: a goal to cherish and spend this time with the ones we love or care for, and a goal to do something that we enjoy. But many of us find ourselves stressed during this time, and the question is why and how we overcome that.
One of the reasons may be that we get surrounded in the shopping and the material aspects of the Christmas break too much, and we lose the real meaning of it. In other words, we may disconnect from its intention, an intention that seems to be more based on connection, self-refection, rejuvenation and detoxification (mentally and physically).
Now let’s go through a number of tips for both reducing stress and doing some self-reflection during this period.
Tips for reducing stress:
Prioritize you goals for the holidays, and spend reasonable time on each depending on what is on the top of your hierarchy of goals. Write down your list to help you visualize it and act on it.
Reevaluate what it means to love someone or show them that you love them. Is it really measured with the “things,” or is there something more to it? Find a balance between the two and take it from there.
How much is too much? And what can you do to stop yourself when you feel like you are going over your limits?
What does this holiday mean to you, and what habits do you have around it that you need to change?
Is it a material or a spiritual time of the year for you, and how can you evaluate the two and find a balance between them?
How can you use this time and the collective positive energy that surrounds it to detoxify your mind and body of the many toxins that are around us these days?
How can you focus on the spirit of this time and let go of the unnecessary distractions?
What type of irrational thinking patterns like “should” and “must” are adding to your stress? And how can you replace these with more logical and practical ones that are relevant to your life style?
Focus on the care of the soul. How are you shaping and molding your life to make sure you are taking care of your soul’s growth and needs?
At the end, remember to check yourself, be open to healthy playfulness and humor, find a healthy lifestyle that works for you, and surround yourself with positive and caring people.
And finally, remember these tips:
Being able to learn from life’s lessons and accepting and processing them for growth is something that is rooted in wisdom. Wisdom is a great gift, and if one learns to get deep into it, it can take an inspiration into creativity and give the person the ability to heal any form of insecurity and loss. When we learn to heal, we can open the door to growth and the joyful sensations that come with it.
Take a moment in this busy life. Think about any issues you may have. Try to look at things in a fresh way. The world is expanding, and so could you. The more you grow, the more you can keep up with this ever-expanding world. Is it an issue that is a normal part of life’s ups and downs, or is it a self-created one? To be able to see the difference needs wisdom.
Use your innate wisdom to turn a tragedy into a lesson. This is what love means, and an unconditional love is the ability to connect to everything, what you see as positive and what you see as negative. True love is unconditional, and it is able to connect regardless. When we learn to connect with the negative, we can release or minimize its damages
Earn your innately designed wisdom.
Learn to let go of the need to control everything at all times, and find a balance when you need to swim with the flow instead of trying to resist and control it. It is healthy to learn when to go with the flow rather than resisting it.
Let go of your irrational fears, and evaluate them to see how they are affecting your life and how they are creating what you are fearful of.
Find ways in which you are fighting yourself, and try not be block your own path.
Find a balance between winning and surrender. Surrender, sometimes, could be a positive thing if wisdom is involved.
Find ways to respond rather than react, and give yourself time to think.
Roya R. Rad, M.A., Psy.D. is the founder of Self Knowledge Base & Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to public education.
It’s been a month since the first set of Radia tapes were published by Open and Outlook. All through, these two exemplary publications have maintained their focus on the twin issues of corruption and media complicity that emerged from the tape content. Meanwhile, the rest of the usually vociferous English language Indian media has been maintaining their silence on good days, providing the public with diversions on truly bad ones. Let’s review the latest offerings – coverage on the opposition campaign on corruption related to the Radia tape disclosures – and see how sensationalism may well be the new show in town.
As of this moment there are nearly one hundred and ninety news and opinion articles on this issue. On the face of it, in terms of quantitative exposure, it would seem that the issue has finally been deemed significant. The sub-topics include the opposition demand for a JPC probe, the Congress refusal of this demand, the PM’s agreement to being questioned by the PAC, the Congress agreement to a special parliamentary session, announcements by the PAC chairman, the opposition declaration of a nation wide agitation, and reactions from the ruling alliance and opposition alliance members to each of these events.
On analysis, what becomes apparent is the framing of most reports in heavily value-laden terms that pit a heroic party against a villainous one (forgetting that both sides of this face-off are more complex and constituted as political alliances). For example, media that are alleged to be ideologically aligned with the ruling party describe the opposition demand in terms of ‘negativism’, ‘hypocrisy’, ‘destruction of traditions’, ‘an attack on democracy’ and ‘politically motivated’ while the Congress stance of a PAC alternative is described in terms of an ‘offer’ that is ‘spurned’ or ‘rejected’. Similarly, media that are alleged to be sympathetic to the opposition have described them as having ‘insisted’ on their stances or ‘stuck’ to their ground while issuing ultimatums to the government to ‘Order JPC or quit’.
Sometime during your subjection to this high-strung sensationalism you, as an intelligent reader, may recover enough to ask – what else do I need to know and why is the media not covering that?
For example, the specific institutional mandates of a JPC vis a vis the PAC in dealing with the issues – not more than ten articles cited sources that covered this vital policy information.
Linked to that, the specific charters of other regulatory agencies like the CBI, IT Department and IB vis a vis the JPC in tackling the various angles of the Radia tapes case – not a single article included this information.
On a related note, the number of times and occasions when the Indian Parliament had ordered JPCs – only three analysts commented on that.
Most revealingly, the legal and policy implications of corporate lobbying and the role of journalists in political reporting, issues that had sparked off this entire controversy in the first place – besides our two outliers on the curve of non-performance that is the traditional Indian media today, no other publication has either reportage or commentary to offer.
To sum up, instead of enriching the discourse with varied perspectives on the legal, institutional and policy dimensions of the Radia tapes issues, the focus is on a sensationalistic, blow-by-blow account of the various moves and counter moves of the two main political parties. Social psychologists may call this an engineered mass catharsis, and language deconstructionist Derrida may have been provoked to see this as a perverse interpretation of the media as entertainment, where the act of apprehending the text becomes amusing in and of itself! But let me resist the temptation to speculate on those interesting hypotheses. I am sure others would disagree, most notably two of the established media houses who have reported this week, with rather ironic timing, that Julian Assange had commended their publications for good journalism!
Perhaps the twitter community could check these facts as they have done in the past – when they revealed startling discrepancies between the content of user feedback tweets and its manipulation by TV channels. Do pass this article around, write in with more of these revelations and keep the discourse alive. Democracy is alive and kicking in India, even if the mainstream media has very little to do with it.
At times of loss, they never seem to be enough; but sometimes words are all we have.
I always feel a mix of pain and poignancy watching young women like Cate Edwards, who have the poise and presence of mind to deliver beautiful eulogies for their mothers.
When my mother died at 41, nothing would come out of my mouth — other than sobs. I was 18, too shocked and immature to sense, much less express, the magnitude of what this loss would mean for the rest of my life.
And the loss of words goes both ways. Though we had no idea she was dying of cancer, my mother never left behind any words — written or spoken — to let her 3 children know what we meant to her.
In her eulogy, Cate explained how her mother tried to do that. And I can only imagine Elizabeth Edwards over the years, trying to write that letter to her children. I’m sure the same woman who wrote two books and thousands of words struggled with the words to say.
My children were the same age as the two youngest Edwards children when I got breast cancer; and for the next few years, I became a bit obsessed trying to send messages from the grave. There were no blogs back then; so I wrote letters and made a few videos, but expressing myself was a major challenge. Even knowing what I would have wanted my own mother to say, even as a writer who never had writer’s block in my entire life; when it mattered most, ironically I was at a loss for words.
What words can you possibly find that will fill your children with all you want and need them to know? How do you fill in the gaps of all you will miss? Homework assignments. Soccer games. Back-to-school shopping. Washing dishes. School plays. First dates. Teacher conferences. Driving lessons. College applications. What can you possibly say?
I don’t know what happened to the videos; to this day I occasionally find sealed envelopes I hid in drawers. The greatest gift imaginable is that I was there to fill in those gaps myself, to see my children grow up.
Looking back, I know my children would have treasured any messages, no matter what they were; as Cate treasures her mother’s words, as I would have treasured mine. The truth is, there are no right ways to express what someone means to us — and this is a gift we all have to give — to the people we love. Doing it is as simple as what we tell our children: Use your words.
They will get the message. No matter how it’s worded. As I discovered, and I’m sure Elizabeth Edwards knew, you can’t find words anyway, for all the tomorrows. None of us know what tomorrow will bring — but we do have today.
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I’ve been looking for a new car. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Anyway, as I’ve been looking at cars I’ve gone a few times to the Audi dealership. The other day when I was there talking to a salesman, Christmas music started playing in the background. I looked at him and said, “It really is Christmas.”
Ever since I moved to California, I just never feel the Christmas spirit. I’m from New York City, and in New York City there is a ton of Christmas spirit. Everywhere you go there is a “Sidewalk Santa” next to a Salvation Army kettle, Christmas music, Christmas decorations and just an incredible feeling of Christmas in the air.
In Los Angeles, December never feels “Christmas-like.” It is little bit chillier, but it really just feels like a different variation of October and November days. There are little pockets of the area that seem to realize it’s Christmas, but for the most part if you didn’t know the date you would never know it was Christmastime around here.
You just don’t have that “Christmas is coming” feeling around here. Remember when you were a child, how intense the anticipation of Christmas was? It was such an amazing feeling.
I remember there would be a Christmas play at school every year that you’d watch, and then you’d eat the Christmas cookies that someone always brought in. You’d be in school, and you’d start to count down the number of days until Christmas vacation.
You’d know you were only days away from that ten day or two week winter vacation. Two weeks without school was like a year in kid time. Every day you could go out and play in the snow, watch cartoons, stay up late and drive your parents crazy.
I remember the anticipation of the gifts. I remember my parents going Christmas shopping. They wouldn’t actually tell us they were going Christmas, of course, but we knew.
The next day after school when my Mom was out and my Dad was still at work, my brother and sister and I would go on a Christmas present hunt. I would find where they hid all the presents to make sure that I was getting everything on my list.
I was amazing at finding the hiding place. It would usually take me 48 hours to find the hiding place, but I would always find it.
I would always find things that I didn’t want in the gifts. So of course, being the excellent communicator that I am (even back then), I would always say to my Mom the next day, “Hey Mom. I hope you didn’t get me (and I would list those things).” I would tell her all the reasons why those would be the wrong gifts for me.
Then, sure enough, none of those things would be under the tree on Christmas morning. Yes, my parents would actually go out and return those things I said I didn’t want.
The anticipation of Christmas was amazing. It was such a special time.
It was beautiful. Everything about it was beautiful.
As an adult, though, do you still have that feeling of anticipation around Christmas? Does it really make a difference?
We decorated our tree the other night. We got a “living tree” for the very first time (which means that you give it back to them after Christmas and they re-plant it). That way you don’t kill trees. I think it’s really a fantastic thing to do.
It was fun to decorate it. I hadn’t decorated a tree in a long time.
It just still didn’t feel like Christmas, though, at all. I don’t know if I’ve lost my Christmas spirit, or if age in general just makes you lose your Christmas spirit.
How do all of you feel about this? Do you have that same intense Christmas spirit as an adult that you had as a kid?
Do you still have that amazing feeling of anticipation? Are you still looking forward to putting on your pajamas with the feet and hoping that Santa will bring you something fantastic, or are you just an adult who has lost that childlike enthusiasm and excitement for this magical time of the year?
Maybe it’s time we all started believing in Santa a little bit more. Maybe we need to start dressing up as Santa for our significant others. Maybe we stop being so politically correct and start wishing each other a Merry Christmas. Maybe we should stop all the “Happy Holidays” and get back to the beauty and the magic of what the Christmas season really is all about.
So today, go out there and wish people a Merry Christmas. Put a Santa cap on and have some fun with it.
It’s the end of the year. Have some fun, be playful and find that childlike enthusiasm again for the magic of Christmas.
Maybe instead of going on a date where you stare at each other chewing food across a restaurant table, have a Christmas marathon. Watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” Maybe you need to see Hermey the elf dentist take out Bumble the abominable snowman’s tooth to really get into the Christmas spirit.
Have this fun little marathon or do something that brings back the magic of the Christmas season. As adults, we deserve to feel that way again.
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It’s the holiday season, that time of the year when everyone’s thinking about gifts. Me, too — but in a slightly different way this year. I’ve been thinking about this gift I’ve been given: my ability to write. And an even greater gift: the fact that my words actually got published. And, greater still, the fact that the words I’ve put on paper touch people to the point that they are inspired to send letters and e-mails telling me so. The fact that my words just might make a difference in the lives of those who read them is beyond anything I’ve ever imagined — and the greatest gift I’ve ever been given.
But there’s another aspect of giving which, I’m ashamed to say, I never really paid a whole lot of attention to before, and that is ‘what I give to God.’ Or, at least, what I should be giving.
Silly thing, but what brought all this to mind was two lines in one of my favorite Christmas songs: “Little Drummer Boy”, composed in 1958 by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone. “I have no gift to bring … That’s fit to give the King …”
I’d like to think that, in a perfect world, we all go around with open, generous hearts and, on a regular basis, share the very best of who and what we are without giving a second thought to what it might cost us. That’s what I’d like to think. I’m not sure that’s what happens, though. If it was, then I imagine there’d be no need for sermons and songs and cute little sayings in Hallmark greeting cards, all wishing that was true and lamenting it’s absence from our lives during the other eleven months of the year.
I just had something light years beyond wonderful happen to me: a short story I wrote has been picked up by a producer and is being made into a 90-minute feature film. Who ever would have thought this possible?? I just hope no-one comes along and wakes me, ’cause if that happens and I find out it’s all a dream, I’m going to be really disappointed!
The reason I mention it, though, is that in the congratulatory e-mails I’ve been getting, people have been saying things like “you deserve it because of all your hard work.” Except that’s not what it feels like at all. And I think that’s the point I want to get across here: that when someone feels as passionately about what they do as I feel about my writing, it’s not about “work” at all. I don’t ever have to “make” myself write; rather, I have to pull myself away or nothing else would ever get done — like the laundry or the dishes or the grocery shopping!
After having spoken to some fellow artists, including Brian Miller (an accomplished magician), Shireal Renee (poet, actress and fellow author), and Deborah Robinson (screenwriter), I find I am in excellent company. What they all have in common is that their work, like mine, is not work. It’s a passion. It’s not something we do, it’s what we are. Shireal defined it beautifully when she differentiated between the “reals” and the “unreals”: those who experience their art all the way to the core of their beings and have no choice but to express it or they’ll just burst, versus those who either dabble in it or talk about it but never quite get around to doing it.
The onset and their ways of experiencing their need and choice to live their art may all have been slightly different, but — for the true artist — the end results all seem to be the same: it’s not about getting or taking, it’s all about giving.
As Shireal and I sat in Jojo’s Coffee & Tea, she told me, “People who hate you don’t really hate you; they really love what you are but can’t seem to figure out how to get there. Those “unreals” want to be around you because, consciously or unconsciously, they want to ‘absorb’ some of what the “reals” have. “Reals” exude a confidence that the “unreals” don’t have, but want.” It’s not about envy, Shireal insists, it’s about emptiness and a desire to fill a void. Those statements were not meant arrogantly; in fact, they were said with humility. I am mightily impressed with this woman who not only will not hate, but looks for — and finds — legitimate reasons to “love thy enemy.” And she does not limit it to Christmastime.
Shireal just did a lovely one-woman show at the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford and it was (and is) clear: she shares herself, the deepest, most intimate part of her being, with her audience from the moment she steps onto the stage.
For Deborah, the screenwriter, nine-to-fiving it in an office, though she was good at it, was stifling. In her own words, “without it (writing), my life had less meaning. I was like a droid. My writing is who I am, it makes me feel good, and yes, life in ‘the cage’ would eventually have made me lose my mind, no question.”
Personally, I’m glad she’s out of the cage — she is the one responsible for the screenplay for the film I mentioned above. Talk about giving. Not only do I have an amazing script, I also have an amazing friend. Two gifts for the price of one!
As for Brian, as a young child, he was so agonizingly shy that he isolated himself and actually made himself physically ill at the thought of presenting a verbal book report to his class. But then he found magic, and because of its very nature, he was obliged to be in front of people. Brian says that the first time he performed a magic trick in front of a group of friends, he was so wrapped up what he was doing, he didn’t even realize he was speaking, and his life transformed — instantly. His conscious choice to do magic outweighed his fear. That’s a blessing, without question. But what I find especially moving is his philosophy: he says his magic is not about “fooling” his audience, it’s about “what can I give them?’”
So, coming round full circle, what is it that I can give? My very best, I suppose, with all my heart, without holding back, which isn’t difficult because it’s what I already do — in fact, it’s the only way I can write. Which makes me wonder if I’m really giving anything at all. And so the circle keeps going round and round.
Pamela S. K. Glasner is an author, historian, public speaker and social advocate. Her website is www.lodestarre.com . She can also be found on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/2cn8bpo . Ms. Glasner is scheduled to be a featured speaker at Dr. Peter Breggin’s national conference for The Center for The Study of Empathic Therapy in Syracuse, New York, to be held April 8-10, 2011.
Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner 2010, All Rights Reserved
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Finding Emmaus: The Lodestarre (Series)
by Pamela S. K. Glasner
With the holidays approaching, many of us travel to be among our families, distant in physical proximity so often today. As we do, it may be worthwhile to ponder the foundation of family.
A family is much like a building. A building of strength has a foundation strong enough to bear the challenges of life — defeat, disappointment, failure — yet a roof protective enough to contain us when success or individual gain fuels a sense of pride. The walls need be transparent enough that our inward experiences are attuned to outward circumstances but solid enough to offer a sanctuary from the exterior world.
Our buildings differ greatly in size, shape and materials, but their strength is determined by unconditional or authentic love. Even if tragedy were to strike — as an earthquake, flood or fire might damage a building — a family rooted in love transcends it. Family love lives well beyond the boundaries of space and time.
I look at the strength of my own family love for one another in the simple act of shopping for Christmas gifts. It’s an ongoing process of making lists, sharing ideas, and selecting just the right things. It is not about the money spent, the item chosen or the gift shared, but rather in the conscious act of attention gift-giving entails.
Each selection requires a careful consideration of the needs and desires of another, the creative act of thinking what the other person might like, and the shared experience of giving and receiving.
This year our family has expanded as boyfriends and girlfriends enter the building and new walls, doors and rooms are constructed to accommodate them. Perhaps the most interesting part of it all is that the choices our now adult children are making to enrich this building are so strong in foundation.
Love — a word that at times is not given its due because of its so many variants (i.e. I love coffee, I loved that movie vs. I love you), but Love is the essence of a strong family. Without it the structure can withstand little.
I grew up in a faade of a house — one with love painted boldly on its exterior but with little held within. I discovered authentic love later in life and understood its strength as my husband and I build our own home.
A family — whatever its configuration — arises from authentic or unconditional Love — and the building created is home. The well-known idiom bears repeating as 2010 comes to a close.
Home Is Where the Heart Is.
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Spending the holidays with family can dredge up old resentments and emotional challenges. I firmly believe that you can turn these obstacles into opportunities for positive change. Making changes within family dynamics can be tough, and true change doesn’t allow for shortcuts. It calls for willingness, commitment and “-ing!” Your “-ing” is your inner guide, your inspiration, your intuition. It’s the loving voice in the back of your mind that keeps you connected to an infinite source of positivity and a deep desire to grow.
Your “-ing” lives inside you and never expires. You’ve just been unable to receive it. You’ve been blocked from “-ing’s” presence by fear, negative thoughts, resentment and self-destructive behavior. To clear these blocks, follow my fun, three-step process designed to bulldoze negative thought patterns and create positive change so you can enjoy your time with family and bring happy back into your holiday!
Step 1: Gratitude Is the Attitude
When spending time with family, focus on what you’re grateful for. Being grateful activates appreciation and an overall sense of inner peace. Write a gratitude list and read it each morning. Post this gratitude list where you can see it: on your fridge, on your desk or in your car. I have mine posted on the dashboard of my car so I can read it right before I walk into my parents’ home for the holidays. For extra “-ing” points, share your gratitude list with your family!
Step 2: Use the Universal Mirror
This tool will help you break old patterns. Recognize the feelings that come up when you’re with your family. Rather than point the finger at others, turn inward and ask yourself, “What old feelings do I need to deal with?” This exercise will help you see how your outer experience is a reflection of your inner state. Using the mirror helps you stop blaming and start dealing with unhealed areas of your life.
Step 3: Use the F Word
“F” is for forgiveness. Holding on to resentment keeps you stuck in the past, and anger weakens your thoughts, energy and physical well-being. When you forgive, you release negativity and clear space for happiness to come back into your life. Whenever you get hung up on resentment, repeat this affirmation: “I forgive you and I release you.” This positive affirmation is like an automatic reset button. It will bring you back to your “-ing!”
Relatives can be your best teachers. Take these three steps seriously and you’re bound to experience powerful change. If you’d like to further your “-ing” journey in all areas of your life, check out my book, “Add More ~ing To Your Life — A Hip Guide to Happiness.”
For further guidance, watch my Happy Holidays Webinar:
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Have you just come back from shopping last minute sales? Have you been surfing for deals on items for holiday gifts? Are you looking at a house that needs clearing out from all the stuff you bought or received? Are you waking up at night wondering how you’re going to pay for it all?
At no other time of year do the material waves running through our confused and wayward popular culture cause quite so much flooding and structural damage as they do doing the holidays. On one level, our spending spree (or the keen wishing we could afford to go on one) speak to mistaking consumerism for materialism, a point I’ve addressed in other posts. Simply put, materialism is the appreciation of the material world, particularly things made by people, as an expression of utility, beauty or spirituality. A consumer, on the other hand, is a person acting to address an emotional need, a black hole of angst or loneliness or frustration or pain. Materialism does not require ownership; consumerism does. A materialist appreciates; a consumer, by definition, consumes. A materialist walks by a store window and admires a beautifully designed briefcase or pair of shoes; a consumer absolutely must have those items because life without them seems somehow empty or unsatisfying.
Our culture is a reflection of our individual impulses magnified and combined. There have been great materialist cultures in history. Ours is not one of them. As any environmental conservationist will tell you, and any even slightly “green” teenager confirm, we are rapidly consuming the Earth, quite literally extracting resources from it and transforming them into consumables that we then use up and put back into the ground in landfills and dumps. Here in the First World, we are eating our way through the planet.
Of course that which we can break we can also (hopefully) fix. The ache that turns us to consumption stems from a wrong turn we took millennia ago, early in our evolution. It took place as we slowly forgot our place in nature and became more and more concerned with ourselves, each other, and our self-centered daily doings. thereby losing the perspective that lends our relationships meaning and imbues our existence with sanctity. Our religions were inspired by shamans and mystics able to see far more than the rest of us can, “cork poppers,” as I like to call them, who by dint of practice, natural gifts or both, understood the universe as it really is, a magnificent ocean of energy manifesting and shifting and endlessly interconnected.
There are many books to help you tap into the deeper world of the spirit, as well as many religious rituals, but Peter Kingsley, in his new book, “A Story Waiting to Pierce You,” explores this “wrong turn” in a particularly poetic, succinct, and marvelous way. Tracing the connection between shamans of the Mongolian steppe and philosophers of the Western World (Greece, in particular), he makes clear just how much our loss of awareness of our place in the natural world has cost us, and offers an inspiring exhortation to get it back. As in his previous works, most notably Reality, Kingsley relies on scholarship to give us a flavor of what enlightened awareness feels like, and in the process reveals himself to be precisely the kind of philosopher/medium he so obviously admires.
Waltzing along the delicate border between intellection and intuition, Kingsley has created a volume that is more than a long string of words and more than a great story rife with fascinating ideas. “A Story Waiting to Pierce You” is an experience in just the way a piece of music is more than notes on a page. This is a powerful subject with a powerful, potentially life-changing melody.
If you find the holidays depressing, expanding your awareness will help. If you find it joyful, expanding your awareness will increase that joy. I can think of no better way to spend the holidays than reading Kingsley’s work and then savoring the way your view of holiness, compassion, caring and community have deepened through increased awareness. Retreat into it often, then come out, forget the frenzy of shopping and eating and drinking and commune instead with whatever nature you can find during these cold, dark days. Watch winter land creatures at industry and owls in the moonlight. Enjoy the patterns of downtown traffic. Listen to children laughing and icicles melting and the faint strains of carols. Use all these cues to chase the threads that hold our world together and marvel at how it all coheres.
If latitude and weather permit, spend time outside in a forest or park. Travel back in time to the aboriginal days when our link with the world around us was not merely the subject of a poem or song, but a strong, immanent, obvious feature of existence, something tangible and real that gave meaning to every detail of being alive. Cultivate the idea of a deeper and more expansive awareness of who and what you are. Make that your holiday focus, and your New Year’s resolution, and you’ll have done something powerfully worthwhile with this special time of year.
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It’s the holidays and you are wondering what to give those people in your life who are special. What’s the latest gadget, the latest trend, the one thing you just can’t live without? Or, you wonder what you might get. Is it the jewelry that you wanted? The iPad that seems a bit too expensive? Is it a gift certificate? Giving and getting. What wonderful Christmas joy this seems to be. “So, what did you get?”
I have a suggestion for a gift — a gift that you can receive and give at the same time. It’s called “gratitude.” What you can do is think about the people that you love, the special people, and contemplate why they matter to you. What would life be like without your best friend, your partner, your mother or father, your kids? Imagine that they no longer existed and now you had a chance to get them back — but only if you could prove that you really were grateful. What would you miss about your best friend? Think about the conversations, the memories, the laughter, and the tears — you both shared. Now think about how grateful you are for having him or her in your life. Now, tell them.
I think back about my mother who died 24 years ago. I am forever grateful to her. She cared for me when I was a child, made me laugh, gave me confidence, kissed me and gave me the ability to love. I am grateful today. And always will be. I am grateful for people and things that are gone — but stay with me forever because I keep them in my gratitude. No one can ever take away my appreciation.
I am grateful to friends, family members, to my colleagues, my patients who continue to teach me. I am grateful that I can open my eyes and see the snow from a window where I am sitting. I am grateful to all the authors whose work has inspired me, made me think and feel in new and deeper ways, authors like Shakespeare and John Donne and James Joyce and all the others — all gone, perhaps, but all here forever in my heart.
A patient of mine told me about how he had been cheated out of money. He was bitter, dwelling on it and complaining. He had every right to feel this way. But I suggested that he set this aside for a few minutes and to imagine the following: “Everything has been taken away. All your senses, your family, money, job, memories — you are nothing. And now you can get one thing back at a time — but only if you can convince me that you truly appreciate it, truly have gratitude. What do you want back first — and why do you appreciate it?” He was suddenly quiet, tears began forming in his eyes. He said, “I want my daughter back”. And I asked him what he appreciated about her and he began describing the good and the bad — the love, affection, fun and the obstacles they shared together. And he continued with wanting his wife and what she meant and why life would seem to be empty — impossible — without her.
And then I said, “Imagine you are blind. But you can open your eyes for ten minutes and see what is really important. What would that be?” And, of course, it was his family. “I noticed that in your list of things you didn’t put the money or your job or your possessions. And it seems to me that you already have everything that is the most important. Except you haven’t been noticing it, haven’t paid attention. So over the next two weeks you can either focus on the money that you lost or you can make your family feel loved and appreciated. You choose.”
He chose gratitude.
When I was a kid I read the short story by O’Henry — “The Gift of the Magi.” It’s about a young couple, Della and Jim, who are poor but who love each other. Tomorrow is Christmas and neither one has enough money to buy the other the present they really want to buy. Jim wants to get her a beautiful comb for her flowing hair, she wants to get him a chain for his heirloom watch. She sells her hair to buy the chain, he sells the watch to buy the comb. A comb — but there will be no hair — a watch-chain, but there is no longer a watch.
O’Henry ends the story with the following:
This Blogger’s Books from
The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You
by Robert L. Leahy
Beat the Blues Before They Beat You: How to Overcome Depression
by Robert L. Leahy
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To go to work on December 25, to have school on New Year’s Eve or to be called to “voluntary labor” as the year drew to a close. All this was possible in an ideologically fervent Cuba, with its false atheism and disdain for festivities, that left us with grey Christmases, celebrated in whispers. The last weeks of 1980, 1983, 1987, so identically boring, lacking in color, run together in my mind. I spent many of those days sitting at a desk, while in other parts of the world people shared them with their families, opened gifts, celebrated in the intimacy of their homes.
It seemed that the Christmas vacations were never honored in Cuban schools, the students only had breaks for patriotic or ideological celebrations. But, little by little, unannounced, and never approved by our peculiar parliament, students themselves began to reclaim these holidays. In the beginning, each classroom would be missing about a third of its students, but slowly the absence virus began to infect everyone. Until finally the number of students missing in the last two weeks of the year left the Ministry of Education no choice but to declare a two-week break in classes. It is these small citizens’ victories, reported by no newspaper, that we all understand as terrain wrested from the false sobriety they try to impose on us from the podium.
Today, my son Teo got up late and he won’t return to school until next year. His classmates haven’t been to high school since Wednesday. Watching him sleep until ten, make plans for the coming days off, helps to make up for my boring childhood Christmases. I can forget all those Christmas Eves I spent without even realizing there was a reason to celebrate.
Yoani’s blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
Translating Cuba is a new compilation blog with Yoani and other Cuban bloggers in English.
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When we think of family caregiving, the burdens and potential burnout associated with caring for someone on an often daily basis come to mind. Caregivers do face many difficulties in their role: fatigue, isolation, depression and higher risk for many health conditions. Those of us who work closely with caregivers strive to help them understand how to maintain their own health because so many caregivers remain committed to providing care for their family members for as long as possible. But caregiving has its rewards too, and in the spirit of the season, this heartwarming story seems an inspiration for us all.
When Josephine, a caregiver for her Aunt Vivian in Queens, N.Y., talks about caregiving, she is the personification of caring and commitment. Josephine has been her Aunt Viv’s caregiver for nearly four years. Ninety-one-year-old Vivian is mentally sharp and active, but about two years ago, her arthritis got so bad she really started to struggle, and was finding it harder and harder to live on her own. Vivian gave up her apartment and moved in with Josephine and her husband. “Aunt Viv requires help every day getting dressed, moving around and eating meals,” Josephine says. “I get a little help from my husband on the weekends, but a large majority of the caregiving falls on me.”
Josephine is not complaining. Rather, she is quite upbeat when discussing all the assistance she gives Aunt Vivian. This feels to Josephine like a chance to really make a difference in someone’s life, and she values the chance to get to know Vivian on a deeper level. “I was very close to my mother, Vivian’s sister, but she passed away 10 years ago,” says Josephine. “Spending all this time with Aunt Vivian has helped me forge a strong bond with her, one that reminds me of the relationship I used to have with my mother. I love being there for my aunt, and wouldn’t have it any other way, but some days I really crash hard.”
It helps that Vivian is warm-hearted and expresses gratitude for the help she gets. However, no amount of gratitude can make up for the exhaustion Josephine sometimes feels being on call every day. “I can’t just leave and have lunch with friends anymore,” states Josephine. “I’d worry about my aunt the whole time I was gone.” Naturally, this kind of responsibility can take its toll, but Josephine tries to keep it in perspective.
Even on the days when Vivian isn’t feeling well and Josephine has to provide hourly assistance, Josephine tries to remember that it must be very hard for Vivian herself to live with a chronic disease like arthritis, “and just think how hard it must be to be so dependent on someone else — even if they are family. Vivian was always very strong and independent, and sometimes it breaks my heart to think how she must feel being unable to care for herself now.”
When we talk about how difficult caregiving can be, we sometimes forget that many people find it extremely rewarding. Josephine, among others, gets satisfaction from caregiving, and without minimizing the risks for burnout, she says that “most of what is worth doing in life — any long-term relationship, raising children, even managing a busy career — is hard. This is just one more of the things worth doing.”
So, what do family caregivers find are the benefits of caregiving? We asked family caregivers in the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Caregiver Support program this question, and here’s what we heard:
It gives me a chance to spend a lot of time with my family member, which I haven’t done since I moved out.
We’ve had some very intimate conversations, and I feel now that I understand more of the choices he made in life, as well as our family’s history.
I’m much closer to my sister now; we have to talk all the time about how to take care of Mom, and we’re working together.
I feel this has helped me grow spiritually. Taking care of someone else is hard, but it has forced me to face some questions about my own mortality and it has taught me how to talk with someone who is near the end of their life.
Sometimes this is so exhausting I think I’m going to break. But at the end of each day, when I realize I succeeded again at giving my husband the care he needs, I feel strong, worthy and proud of myself.
I feel good about the role model I am being for my children. I want them to see that it can be very satisfying to take care of another person.
Caregiving has made me slow down and be more mindful of the stage of life I’m in and the good work I’m doing. For more on increasing mindfulness in your life, go to http://blogs.vnsny.org/2010/09/26/mindfulness-presence-tips-for-caregivers/.
While the rewards of caregiving may be an unanticipated silver lining, most caregivers can only appreciate these benefits if they are receiving the support they need to stay healthy and prevent burnout. Here are some tips for avoiding caregiver burnout: http://www.vnsny.org/home-health-care-and-you/quick-tips/avoiding-caregiver-burnout/.
In Josephine’s case, she gets assistance from her husband, her cousin comes over most Monday afternoons to give her a break, and she talks on the phone with a good friend who is serving as caregiver to her father, all of which gives Josephine some much-needed respite as well as support from others in her situation. As a result, Josephine has been able to enjoy some of the positive aspects of her aunt’s personality, and from her role as her caregiver.
What has being a caregiver taught you about living a better life? We encourage you to share your own stories about how caring for someone else has brought you joy. After all, ‘Tis the Season!
My dad told me he had colon cancer the same day I told him I was getting married. Weeks later when I proposed, I called him but his spirits had taken a hit earlier that day after he learned there was more cancer than once thought.
My parents divorced roughly 10 years ago and my dad has lived eight hours away in Minnesota for much of that time. We didn’t always get along, though it feels silly typing that (Who always gets along with their parents?). Still, no matter the mood or tone of our phone discussions or holiday visits, no night ended without him telling me he loved me.
He never taught me how to change a tire. A longtime hunter and fisherman, he took my brother hunting each year but I was always tied up with work or school. A few years ago, he would help me remember how to tie a fishing hook while on the phone.
Only seeing him a few times a year created a deficit that regular phone conversations had to attempt to fill. The logistics of the relationship between my dad, my younger brother and I was unlike what we grew up expecting. I withhold complaint, however, because we have never had to live without a father, as millions do each day.
I am compelled to write about the challenge my father and our family has met this holiday season because, on the eve of the first Christmas we won’t be able to go see him, he has given us our greatest gift.
When we first knew of his cancer, my dad understandably sounded a bit shaken by the news. When I talked to him after doctor visits that produced further difficult developments, his tone was heavy with the physical and emotional burden placed on him.
But gradually after each visit, X-ray and CAT Scan, discussion about chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, my dad spoke to me in a way I have never heard him speak. I have never heard such confidence coupled with a positive outlook. I have never witnessed such quick and measured acceptance of the challenges that lie ahead.
I couldn’t have until this point. My dad’s cancer upset the routine in which he lived his life. It introduced new fears to our family. It also illuminated, in a way few events ever could, the character of Frank Montemayor, III.
Our family cannot live in fear because he won’t allow it. Nor will he permit negativity to enter our homes over the holidays. My dad has sent us a message that he is alright and that we are all together wherever we are.
His level head, mighty heart and unquestioned resolve have made an impression on his two sons — myself, 22, and my brother, almost 20 — that cannot yet be fully appreciated.
Still we will hold this gift tightly each day as we gain experience and perspective. It will be with us through each milestone we achieve and challenge we face. It will later become a family heirloom.
Thank you, Pop.
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It’s good to end 2010 with some progressive victories to cheer about. As a card-carrying “professional liberal” who worked to elect Barack Obama and cheered his victory, I’ve written increasingly critically of President Obama’s generally corporatist economic policies, his cave-in on a Reaganite tax cut bill, his weak financial reforms, his back-room deals to trade away a public option. The repeal of DADT, and the passage of the START treaty and the 9/11 healthcare bill haven’t changed those views. But progressives have had far too few things to celebrate over the past several decades. And it’s good for Democrats to come off like winners and let the Republicans be the whiners. So I’m happy to join the victory parade over these genuine accomplishments in the last week of the lame duck Congress.
But, while I don’t want to be the Grinch who stole Christmas, I also have to admit that there’s a certain ambivalence in my joy at these wins which were purchased at a high price–a victory for “starve the beast” Republicans and a cave-in by the Obama administration on tax cuts that will increase the deficit by nearly $900 billion and will likely increase the suffering of tens of millions of Americans who, as a result, will soon see their benefits cut and even Social Security and Medicare reduced.
As Robert Reich so eloquently wrote in these pages:
As important as the repeal of DADT and passage of the 9/11 healthcare bill are, these are still second tier issues that will directly impact only a relatively small number of Americans. In the end the biggest issues– the one that will impact the future of all Americans–is still the economy, stupid. And when it comes to the economy, President Obama’s policies remain largely corporatist.
Looking back on Obama’s “cave in” on tax cuts for the rich, it may not have been a cave-in at all, but the result Obama may have wanted. With the economy stuck in neutral and unemployment at over 9.5%, it may well have been a conscious attempt to use Reaganite tax cuts for their minor stimulative effect, in the hope of improving his reelection prospects.
President Obama has learned what a generation of Republican politicians from Reagan to Bush already knew–If you give tax cuts to (almost) all Americans and ask nothing in return, most of them approve, at least for the moment. It’s like a teacher giving a roomful of school kids free candy and ice cream. Never mind, of course, in the long run it will make them fat and rot their teeth and they’ll come to expect it every day or start to misbehave.
The Democratic legacy of FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society was government regulation of the economy to mitigate economic crises caused by unregulated markets (eg Glass Steagall) and a social safety net (e.g. Social Security and Medicare) and progressive taxation to guarantee a minimal level of economic security. “New Democratic” Presidents like Clinton and Obama have given political cover for undermining this legacy. Clinton helped undo the regulatory regime by repealing Glass Steagall and banning the government from regulating derivatives, which helped lead directly to the Great Recession.
Obama has now adopted a policy of Reaganite tax cuts that will only lead to increasingly strident calls to weaken the social safety net. It’s increasingly likely that Obama will make a “grand bargain” with conservatives to undermine Social Security and Medicare in the name of dealing with the deficit caused largely by the Great Recession, unaffordable tax cuts, and two wars.
So yes, let’s celebrate some wins this holiday season. But let’s not let it blind us to the transcendent issues of our time–How to stop the stagnation of middle class incomes, stimulate demand to grow the economy, and prevent Too Big To Fail banks (which have only grown larger since Obama’s weak financial reforms) from blowing up the economy again. On DADT, 9/11 healthcare, and the START treaty, I’m glad that Barack Obama and not John McCain is President. But when it comes to broader economic issues, Barack Obama’s policies may not be what we need to guarantee a secure future for the broad middle class.
WASILLA (The Borowitz Report) – The Tea Party’s plans for a first annual Tea Party Christmas Pageant have been cancelled at the last minute, an organizer of the pageant confirmed today.
“We couldn’t find three wise men,” Tea Party holiday coordinator Carol Foyler told reporters. “It’s too bad, because we had plenty of sheep.”
Ms. Foyler said that the Tea Party was hoping to replace its Christmas pageant, however, with an ambitious staging of the Book of Revelation.
“We already have Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Christine O’Donnell lined up,” she said. “One more Horseman and we’re good to go.” More here.
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This Blogger’s Books from
The Borowitz Report: The Big Book of Shockers
by Andy Borowitz
The Republican Playbook
by Andy Borowitz
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Americans tend to over-consume, which is especially true over the holidays — from gorging ourselves on Christmas cookies to spending ourselves into debt on presents. Not to sound too Grinch-like, but the real challenge this time of year isn’t dealing with in-laws or finding the perfect gift for your niece — it’s restraining yourself from going on a buying bender that you’ll still be working to pay off when next December rolls around. Though the loving, altruistic motivation behind gift-giving is wonderful, the effect of gift-buying is less so. The startling fact is, Americans now have less saved in the bank than at any other point since the Great Depression; we also carry more credit card debt than ever before, with the average person owing nearly $8,000. Combined, those are putting us in a pretty deep hole, but one we could certainly dig out of (we’re Americans, for God’s sake!), with a little belt-tightening. But rather than slowly work our way out of debt, this Black Friday we set all-time spending records.
For a chapter of my book, “Living Large: From SUVs to Double Ds, Why Going Bigger Isn’t Going Better,” I spent 24 hours inside the Mall of America. I wasn’t the only tourist there: the Mall receives more visitors every year than the Grand Canyon, Disney World, and Graceland combined, and is especially crowded during the Christmas season. In one guest guide, its supporters even boast, “If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, America doesn’t have it.” While I checked out its 520 stores, I spoke to casual mall-walkers, admitted compulsive shoppers and various experts who study mall design, spending and happiness, and grilled them about the best ways to shop for holiday gifts that won’t leave you over-spent.
First, shop at a boutique, not a mega-mall. Not only are you supporting local business rather than chains, but you’ll likely end up spending less. Big malls might seem convenient, but shoppers have been shown to drop more money when there are more stores. Spending also increases the longer you’re in the mall, ticking up at about one dollar for every minute you’re there.
Second, don’t shop when you’re feeling blue, which many people do over the holidays. Harvard researchers found that sad shoppers are willing to pay four times as much for the same item as when they’re not sad (authors of the study say that by purchasing something of high value, the buyers are trying to assert their own value). So get happy before you head out to holiday shop. Though the experts didn’t specifically say this, I recommend blasting the “Glee” Christmas album while drinking warm cider.
Or best yet, skip the stuff completely (don’t most of us have enough junk already?) and spend the money on a trip. It doesn’t have to be a week at a luxe Caribbean hotel to count; a weekend away somewhere nearby can have a similar effect. Spending money on experiences rather than on objects is a proven happiness booster for both yourself and the recipient because researchers say that positive memories of experiences tend to hold up better than furniture or clothes. Ten years from now, your niece is far more likely to remember the time you took her for a day of ice skating and high tea than some long-outgrown argyle sweater you bought her.
For those who have it all, I present you with the splurge guide.
The Fendi Abici Amante Donna Bicycle
Fa la la la la around town on Fendi’s luxury Abici Amante Donna bicycle; the luxury cycle is fully loaded with leather accessories, a leather GPS navigation holder, key and bike chain cover, and a detachable fabulous Fendi case ($5900). The more deluxe version comes stocked with all the above, plus removable saddle bags ($9500). Get moving in style. Exclusively available at Fendi flagship stores
If she prefers a perfectly planned, luxurious, last minute birthday party in Paris, or dreams of shopping at Dior at dawn, why not give the gift of a further curated life with LalaLuxe. This luxury Purveyor offers personal shopping, wardrobe styling, fine jewelry and private on call concierge services year-round ($300 per hour). This season, slip away for an exclusive shopping getaway via private jet to Vegas, or San Francisco; and if shopping isn’t your thing, LaLaLuxe will stock your wine cellar with Napa wines, coordinate a blindfolded cheese tasting with a “fumagier” or cooking lessons at Michael Mina. A perfectly seasoned menu of luxury (From $10,000).
iPhone 3G Kings Button
If your only wish for 2011 is never to hear “Honey, where’s my cell phone?” The iPhone 3G Kings Button could potentially be your solution. This uber luxury phone is the brainchild of Austrian designer-jeweler Peter Aloisson, king of blurring the lines between gadget, art and jewelery. The phone is covered in 18 carat yellow gold, rose gold, white gold and approximately 138 small diamonds. The home button is where the real bling is — it’s encrusted with a huge 6.6-carat diamond; with a price tag of $2.41 million, your sweetie will certainly know exactly where that phone is. Clear service, not included.
Hermes Coloring Book
Disney and Dora The Explorer are so last year. Give your kids creativity a splash of style with
the Hermes Les 4 Mondes coloring book ($130). This deluxe gift could be responsible for kick starting an early career in design. The coloring book for adults and kids includes 12 pages with 24 designs. Go ahead, color outside the lines. Available at USA.Hermes.com
Customized Prada Sunglasses
So you say you need something with a little more coverage this season? Pick up a pair of “PradaPrivate” customized sunglasses ($365). These designer shades allow you to express yourself in style; choose a frame color, and modify with cheeky letters, numbers and symbols like hearts, skulls, and snowflakes depending on your mood. Symbols can be easily inserted into the sunglasses’ removable arms. A combo pack of the pieces are included with every pair. The perfect spectacle. PradaPrivate is available worldwide at Prada Boutiques.
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I’m not a greedy man, or an unreasonable one. (Nor, for that matter, am I insane. I’m NOT.) So when I sat down to place a monetary value on the content that’s gone missing from my Twitter stream over the last week, an issue that Twitter has so far failed to acknowledge, I consistently rounded down. That’s how I arrived at $62,000. I mean, I didn’t just pull the figure out of a hat, although I did write some figures down and place them in a hat as a backup, along with some festively-wrapped holiday candy and some buttons. It’s all here, in a post I wrote for Forbes.com: The roughly 4000 tweets that have vanished from my Twitter account have a value, and that value is sixty-two big ones, and that figure is more than fair to Twitter, despite the fact that I’ve given them every opportunity to make this thing right, which they have so far failed utterly to do.
So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m crowdsourcing my outrage for Christmas. Do you have a Twitter account? If so, can you help me out? All you need to do is tweet the following:
@twitter @support You owe @billbarol $62,000. Pay up. http://t.co/e1jcou5
That’s all there is to it. It’s so simple. And the beautiful part is, it’s not even remotely insane, it’s NOT. Together we can make Twitter do what’s right. And to show that my heart is in the right place. this is my pledge: Upon receipt of a certified check from Twitter in the amount of $62,000, I will in a relatively prompt manner donate $250 to a major charity that is legally registered in the US or her offshore waters. Because it’s not about the money. And I am not insane. Merry Christmas! Viva la raza!
Cross-posted at Boing Boing.
This Blogger’s Books from
Mr. Irresponsible’s Bad Advice: How to Rip the Lid Off Your Id and Live Happily Ever After
by Mr. Irresponsible, Bill Barol
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