Saturday, December 22, 2012

There'll Be No Toys in MayanLand This Year - or How the Apocalypse Almost Ruined Christmas

It’s December 22, 2012 and we’re all still here.  I guess it wasn’t time for the end of the world, as the Mayan’s, and some guy standing on the corner of Peninsula and the South Causeway with a sign “REPENT, it’s finally here,” predicted.  I have to admit, this time I was a little nervous.  I didn’t worry about the Hale-Bopp Comet in 2003, or the false prophet Harold Camping’s dire prediction in 1994, why this one I wonder. 

The Apocalyptic belief isn’t shared by everyone, however.  Lowe’s, for example, won’t lower the price on their artificial Christmas Trees until the 24th, whether we (and/or the trees) are here or not!  Believe me, we tried.  Home Depot, too!  Even WalMart is holding off.  Oh they say they’re “Rolling Back” the prices, but I haven’t seen any pre-Apocalypse sales!

Every year it’s something.  Huge snowstorms in parts of the country, affecting the merchants’ “bottom line.”  Extreme heat in the south hinders the shoppers “Christmas Spirit.” Now the Mayan calendar just abruptly ended!  I don’t know about their calendar, but I saw lots of calendars for sale, in every store.  They all went on for another 12 months, at least.  I bought one – my world will continue!

Did we really need this now? It’s bad enough every store window has a sign warning us how little time we have left to get that very special gift for that very finicky person!  Every year I, and about 14 million others, say “Never again!”  I’ll start early, maybe on summer vacation; I’ll make my cookies in November and freeze them; I’ll have everything wrapped and shipped by December 1st.  Yeah! Yeah!  Never happens!  So somewhere in mid-December, a feeling of martyrdom settles into our souls and it doesn’t leave until December 26th.  The gift expectations hang around our necks like a heavy Christmas wreath, which we lug around all during the holidays.  There’s so much to do, so many people to buy for.  Why did I insist on making personalized ornaments and king sized afghans for everyone?  What was I thinking??? Was it really necessary to hand wrap everything myself – Bealls has a great FREE gift-wrapping service.

Then, on Christmas Day, we wonder if everyone liked what I bought.  Did that cute pair of jeans fit my tall and willowy granddaughter?  Did my grandsons get everything they really wanted? Did my husband really like all that sandpaper I bought him (even though he asked for it)?  Did the cookies I mailed to NY arrive mauled and crumbled?  Did the token batch I made in November taste freezer burned?  It’s no wonder everyone loves Thanksgiving so much.  All you have to do is show up and eat!

Every year I think I’ll do better, and, if truth were told, I think I’ve improved a little.  I do start earlier; I try not to take on too many handmade, personalized projects; I do get my packages mailed earlier; I’ve limited my cookies to 2 or 3 varieties.  I’ve tried to stop worrying as much – I do the best I can.  After all, that’s really all we can do!  I know I definitely appreciate the gifts I receive 100 times more than I did as a kid.  I know firsthand the effort and love that went into them.  Whether they were bought out of love, or affection, or friendship, or respect, or a combination of any of those things, the fact that someone thought enough of me to go through all the hoops required to plan, shop, buy, wrap, mail anything to me truly warms my heart. 

My husband and I still buy lots of things for each other – but the rule is nothing expensive!  We just love opening “stuff.”  This is where the afore-mentioned Bealls comes in – for him.  I love their merchandise, both personal and for the house, and he loves the free gift wrapping.  So, to keep in our true traditions, I may get a set of potholders, each wrapped separately in lovely paper and ribbon.  Slippers are usually kept together in one box, but dish towels, placemats, PJs, are often separated and wrapped accordingly.  The big joke is that when you add up the boxes, gift wrap, bows, and tags they probably cost more than the gifts enclosed.  I do the same thing for him, but I do the wrapping.  Bealls doesn’t carry sandpaper, drill bits, or fishing lures. 

Trite as it may sound, it really is the thought that counts.  So on this Christmas Day, if you’re worrying about the gifts you gave – STOP!  Quit cleaning up after the kids and go lie down on the couch.  Eat chocolates and watch the lights twinkle on the Christmas tree.  Enjoy the day.  You did the best you could, we’re still here and the world keeps turning.  Please God we’ll have another year ahead of us to plan next Christmas!!!  

SURVIVAL TIP FOR TODAY:  If Aunt Prissy doesn't like her fur lined Snuggie, remind her of all those people who would love to have a warm place to sleep and a full stomach for Christmas.  If little Johnny thinks he didn't get enough toys from Santa, tell him about the pioneer kids who were happy to get an apple or a knitted pair of socks (Yeah, that will work!)  But, most important of all, take some time to remember the real reason for the season. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I am blessed with many wonderful friends – among them, the Publisher and Editor of the Tampa Bay Magazine, Aaron R. Fodiman.   He is a big, warm, fuzzy, incredibly insightful and very funny bear of a man.  I absolutely love his outlook on life and I adore him and his beautiful wife, Margaret.  Recently, he wrote the following column under “The Publisher Postulates” section in his magazine.  I felt so strongly about his message that I asked permission to reprint it here on my blog!  I received a big, booming “YES! ABSOLUTELY!”  I’m hoping you will enjoy it as much as I did. 

“We are all born into this world without a recipe book to tell us precisely how to live.  If we had been given one, things might have been much easier.  So, although it is late in the game for some of us, I thought I would review some of the recipes I have found helpful in my journey.  My basic concept about life is the age-old instruction of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The best part about this recipe is that you don’t have to interpret what it means, as we easily understand how we would like to be treated.  We seldom are in a quandary about what we would do if the shoe were, so to say, on the other foot. 

          One of my other favorite recipes is the simple and straightforward, “Do the right thing.”  Unfortunately, that can sometimes be a difficult decision to make.  I generally find myself referring back to my first recipe of what would I think the right thing to do would be if it was being done to me.  It is interesting how often your thoughts may vary, depending on whose bull is being gored.

          Along with these two basic recipes, there are thousands more, but of those, my favorite is the Serenity Prayer that advises to let me accept that which I cannot change and change that which can and should be changed, provided that I have the wisdom to recognize the difference.  Now, there is a challenge for you.  If you can determine which is which, life certainly will become happier for you and those around you.

Aaron R. Fodiman
          If you are wondering why, at my age, I’m still looking for recipes to help guide me through life, it is because life is all we have; and, therefore, I believe anything we can pursue to make it better, more fun, easier or more rewarding is definitely worth the effort.  Simple statements, such as “Never eat yellow snow,” or “Measure twice, cut once,” are helpful, but refer only to certain types of limited situations, whereas I’m constantly in search of those thoughts that can be applied almost universally, despite the circumstances.  Such is the case with the concept of treating others as you would want them to treat you.  Strangely, another recipe that has held up for me throughout my life is, “There is no such thing as a free lunch,” and the idea that if it is worth having, it is worth working for.

          The nice thing about these recipes is that, much the same as in cooking, you can modify them to your personal taste; but you must not deviate too far from the principle behind the list of ingredients and preparation instructions.  Life is something we learn about as we go through it.  Our lives, like our meals, are what we make of them; and since we are limited to one life, it’s up to each of us to make it the best that we can.  Just follow the recipe.  I try to. "  

 Thanks, Aaron!

SURVIVAL TIP FOR THE DAY:  I love to try new recipes, but maybe we need to review and reevaluate the old ones.  I intend to – starting with the oldies but goodies – the ones written on my heart!