Monday, November 18, 2013

Truly Full of Thanks

Turkey Day is fast approaching.  Once the bird's been stuffed, lathered with oils and herbs, and either deep-fried or roasted, the waiting begins.  To take their minds off the impending feast, the kids run around outside tossing football while the "big kids," their dads, and uncles slouch on the couch glued to whatever game is being televised. 

The women are in the kitchen busily preparing traditional sides.  Of course somebody is peeling potatoes that will be boiled, buttered, salted, and mashed. Grammy is toasting bread for the stuffing while daughter #1 saut├ęs the onions and peppers.   Two of the in-laws argue over what sweet potato recipe should be used this year.  The one last year didn't go over so well.  And the green bean casserole is being assembled by daughter #2 without controversy.

Non-traditional dishes are on the menu as well.  Those being prepared include squash with creamed cabbage,  succotash with sun-dried tomatoes and cranberry-date and walnut muffins.  Although none of these have been a Thanksgiving staple, at least the adults are willing to give them a shot.  If liked, they'll be granted a repeat performance.  If not, they'll be tossed in the can never to be heard or spoken of again.  I'm totally sure the first two will be in the latter category.  As far as the muffins go, even without a taste, they definitely have my vote to be invited back next year and every year thereafter.

The other Nana and Papa arrive carrying freshly baked pies and dessert.  Nana heads for the kitchen; Papa, to the couch.  Nana complains that her pecan pie isn't up to par.  Her daughter-in-law just rolls her eyes.  Grammy pokes her and assures Nana that it looks and smells delicious.  Nana puts on her apron and offers to do whatever needs doing.  She is directed to the sink where pots and pans, mixing bowls and spoons need rinsed and loaded into the dishwasher.  One might think such a job beneath her; Nana just enjoys being included in the hustle and bustle of the holiday meal's preparation.

Little Billy shoots through the back door screaming his head off.  The older kids keep tackling him and rubbing his face in the grass.  His dad tells him to be quiet; the men can't hear the play-by-play announcer.  Little Billy goes crying into the kitchen.  His mother wipes his nose and tells him to stop with all the noise.  Grammy pats him on the head, gives him a buttered roll and tells him to go in the living room and sit on Grampa's lap.  Relative peace among the brethren is temporarily restored.

Taking a well-deserved breather, the women fill their cups with dark-roasted coffee and lots of fat-free caramel macchiato creamer and head for the patio.  They talk and laugh about their men, their children, their neighbors, their jobs, their lives. 

Now the kids are playing freeze tag.  The older kids are picking on Cindy Lou since Billy is in the house.  Cindy Lou doesn't go screaming her head off; she simply scrapes off anything her agitators throw at her.  She definitely has earned their respect.  They not only leave her alone, but make her an honorary member of their elite group. 

The women go inside and set the holiday table with festive paper plates and matching napkins.  Using the wedding gift china isn't a possibility. First of all, there are way too many people and not nearly enough fine plates and secondly, nobody in their right mind would use such elegant tableware for this rowdy bunch of hooligans.

 A plethora of delicious aromas float throughout the house.  Growling stomachs signal that it's time for the Thanksgiving meal kick-off.  Grammy insists that everybody use the bathroom to wash up and do whatever else is necessary.

As the family is seated, they join hands and offer a prayer of thanks.  Not one bit of food with the exception of Billy's buttered roll has been tasted,  yet for everybody here and for everything that has occurred before actually partaking of the traditional feast, we are very blessed and truly full of thanks!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day Is Personal

Today is Veterans Day.  Perhaps one of the most infamous battles ever fought in World War II was on June 6, 1944 on the beaches of Normandy.  These men crossed the English Channel to lend support to our European allies.  As the soldiers disembarked from their ships, the Germans opened fire killing and maiming thousands before they ever had a chance to set foot on land. 

Those that survived the horrors of D-Day probably never thought of themselves as anything more than ordinary people doing their jobs.  They've lived with terrible memories they'd witnessed; most often they've lived in silence unwilling or unable to recount their terrors to anyone.  Many have since passed taking their post-war pain and suffering with them to their graves.

On June 6, 1944, I was living in my mother's body unaware that my freedom was so gallantly being contested.  I was enveloped in the warmth and security of my mother's womb.  I wasn't listed on any population census count as yet. Most would agree, for all practical purposes, I was a non-entity at that point.

Yet there were countless men and women fighting and dying for my right to live free, to exist in peace, and have a chance to realize my full potential.  They didn't know I would be born on September 9, 1944.  They had no idea that because of their sacrifices, I would enjoy the benefits of their actions for the next 69 years and beyond.  They were unaware that I would have opportunity to receive an education, become a teacher, an administrator, and a life-long child advocate.  They couldn't have imagined that I would marry, have three beautiful children of my own, and in time, be a grammy to seven healthy, happy grandchildren born into the embracing arms of freedom and peace.

I didn't personally know any of these heroes.  Why they fought so hard for someone like me who wasn't even born at that time, I can only speculate.  I believe there are many, many people in our world who step out of their own comfort zones because they care deeply for the rights of others.  And because of their concern, they are compelled to take action, to go the distance, to give of themselves beyond the call of duty.  To even die for what they so ardently hold to be true.

Today and every day of our lives we need to be grateful for the sacrifices that were made during World War II as well as the many other conflicts our United States have engaged in over the years. 

Because of the men and women who gave and still give everything they have so that coming generations would be free, we need to support our veterans in every way possible. Getting my hair cut to call attention to our continuing obligation to the soldiers returning home from conflict wouldn't have much of an effect.  I'm not famous and don't have nearly as much hair on my head that I once had.  But, celebrities like Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers who is famous for his lustrous locks, is offering his hair, albeit only three inches, as a way of showing his personal support of all military veterans

Veterans Day is personal for Troy and his family.  Veterans Day is personal for me.  Veterans Day is personal for everybody who enjoys the freedom we received from the heroic men and women who have fought and died, and will continue to fight and die so that we might live in the warmth and security of our nation's womb.  Take it personally; support our veterans!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Holiday's Toys, RIDICULOUS!

In this Sunday's no less than twelve separate ad fliers, there were pictured no less than a gazillion "toys" every child from birth to manhood MUST HAVE this holiday.  I promised myself I wouldn't name specific items for rebuke; to do so, in my humble opinion, would exclude all the others that certainly needed to be bad-mouthed as well.

So, although I'll be speaking in generalities, I think you'll get my drift.  Prices, oh, yes, let's definitely start there.  In the birth to pre-school sections, I couldn't find a toy for less than $9.99.  Of course the very few at that low price were nothing a young child could possibly be hoping for under their family's beautifully lit fir tree this year. 

The $20. to $50 range offered toys that were somewhat more substantial in make and size, but again they were things that wouldn't keep a child's attention for very long.  It was only when the prices climbed to $100.00 and way beyond did the toys have some educational and/or developmentally-appropriate and creative value.  Perhaps the one toy youngsters would love to see on Christmas morning would be a motorized riding vehicle.  I've seen children in my neighborhood dashing around their driveways in these, using their imaginations to role-play, invent different life scenarios, and truly invest a lot of time actually utilizing them.  But, at the cost of anywhere from $199.99 to a whopping $499 for these presents, I doubt most "Santas" could deliver.  Please don't think I'm advocating for parents to purchase such an item because I'm certainly not.  I'm simply citing the experience I've had observing children at play where motorized vehicles were used.

For children six to sixty-six the "toys," although strangely similar for those of the younger set, skyrocketed in price.  If you have more than one child, a hefty loan would be in order to obtain only the bare essentials to satisfy a brood of two or three.

My biggest gripe for the offering in this age category was the kind of toys for sale.  Monstrous creatures whose only intent is to ravage the "good guys," weapons such as guns, swords, laser beams, and the like are more than plentiful, and the gaming systems selling for an all-time outrageous price, present kids with thousands of ways to annihilate and mane while having a blast!  Never mind, the fact that while sitting for countless hours engaging in these horrid activities, our young people are getting zero exercise and growing fatter by the minute.

Don't get me wrong.  I love the holidays and am guilty of giving probably more to my grandchildren than they truly need.  But, when I remember myself as a child and the gifts that made me happy, I don't want to short change the ones I hold dearest to my heart.  The presents I received then almost always involved encouraging creativity, skills development, and physicality.  They were few in number but I held each in great esteem and spent many hours using them.  They didn't cost an arm and a leg but I valued them as if they did.

For my own grandchildren, under my beautifully lit fir tree this year, will be gifts similar to the ones I received at least in number, intent, and cost.  They deserve nothing less.  How about your children?
Think before you fall victim to popular acclaim, before you believe the hype found in those ad fliers, before you buy gifts your children will discard in no time at all even though they just "had" to have them!

Happy holidays!