Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Little Behind

To all of my dear fellow bloggers,

Just a note to let you know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth.

This has been a whirlwind of a week, and I have barely had time to catch a breath, let alone have some quiet time to sit and write the post that's been in my head for several weeks.

I usually go through a very mild "depression" after Christmas is over...I am one of those people who gets a real kick out of decorating, visiting, driving around looking at Christmas lights, listening to Christmas music 24/7...well, you get the idea. I do go a little overboard. I am fortunate enough to still have the ability to feel that "Christmas spirit" the way I did as a child. No, not all day, every day...but every once in a while, it sneaks up on me, and I feel such joy. It's almost addicting.

So here I am, on New Year's Eve, feeling the "blues" once again. It's as though one of my very dearest friends has come to visit for a month, and warmed my heart during their whole stay. This friend brought light into my life, gave me moments of peaceful pleasure, and brought melancholy tears to my face as well. But now my dear friend has to pack up and leave, not to be seen again until after Thanksgiving, 2007. And I will miss this friend dearly. Tomorrow I will help my friend start packing, and I will remind them how very much their visit has meant to me, this year and every year.

I will be back tomorrow with a post about another very dear person who touched my dad.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Best Memory

Ten Christmases ago, I spent my first holiday season as a single mom in my new home. It was small and charming, but just perfect for me and my two kids, who were 8 and 5 at the time.

I know that the lie of “Santa Claus” is something that can make certain people cringe, but I admit it…I had my kids reeled in hook, line and sinker that the old, chubby guy came down the fireplace chimney every year. He was a great bargaining tool once Labor Day was over: “You’re gonna get coal in your stocking from Santa if you continue to fight like that!!!” Or, “You’d better do your homework, or Santa’s gonna tell Rudolph not to slow down when he flies over our house!” Thankfully, I didn’t have to use these threats often, as the sheer joy of the season would usually promote a sense of compliance and an attitude of easy-going-ness within my kids that was unexplainable.

That year I went a little overboard with my credit card. I was feeling a little displaced, and I wanted to make sure that my kids had a wonderful holiday despite our family circumstances. Once I put my kids to bed on Christmas Eve and was sure that they were asleep, I began to take out the gifts I had bought them “from Santa”, and place them under the tree. There was barely one inch of our tiny living room that wasn’t covered with presents! What couldn’t fit under the tree ended up on the couch or leaning against the wall. Presents were everywhere, and I began to get depressed thinking about the bills that would show up in January.

Since we had gone to bed late the night before, my kids slept in on Christmas morning. By about 10am, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I called upstairs with enthusiasm to tell them that Santa had been there while they slept! I heard their little feet hit the floor as both of them jumped out of bed and came running down the staircase, which ran along the side of the living room. About halfway down the steps, where the living room first came into full view, they stopped dead in their tracks and gasped; their mouths hung wide open.

“DYLAN!! WE MUST’VE BEEN REALLY GOOD THIS YEAR!!!” my daughter excitedly exclaimed.

Yes, my sweet angels, you were.

May you all have the healthiest and happiest of holidays, and may God bless you and yours in the coming new year.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Of Honesty and Integrity

As we all try to traverse through this journey called life, we invariably come to crossroads in our path where we have to make decisions. Sometimes these decisions seem small and insignificant, such as “Should I go for the caffeine, or stick with the decaf?” As unimportant as that choice may seem, choosing the caffeine could have serious consequences such as heart palpitations or an inability to fall asleep. However, a decision such as this rarely affects anyone else other than the person making it. It is the larger, more significant choices in life that usually create a ripple effect, the choices that may impinge on other people…and as I age, I find that selfish decision-making, unfortunately, has become an acceptable part of society. It seems as if people are no longer concerned with how other people are going to react to their decisions, as long as they themselves are getting what they want—quite possibly at the expense of someone else’s feelings or even the quality of their life. It also seems that people have forgotten what the word “integrity” means: the quality of possessing and steadfastly adhering to high moral principles or professional standard. Sadly, integrity has become nothing more than a dinosaur facing extinction: an Ice Age of narcissism covering it and leaving nothing behind but the fossilized remains of a more innocent, honest generation gone by.

One public example of this was the recent fiasco involving OJ Simpson, and the release of his book called, “If I Did It”—and the subsequent TV special that was to coincide with this release. When I first heard of this implausible concept, my mouth fell open, and I was certain that this was the end of humanity as we knew it. I couldn’t conceive that any human being with a soul could make a decision to pay this man even one dollar to write a book so repulsive and offensive. Everyone involved with this debacle made unbelievably narcissistic, self-serving decisions—all for the sake of the almighty dollar. Where was the concern for the Brown family? Hadn’t they been through enough? And most importantly…where was this man’s concern for his own children? Irregardless of how he felt about Nicole Brown Simpson, she was their mother. It wasn’t enough that he made a horrific, irreversible decision that ruined his children’s lives years ago…now, because of his lust for money, he decided to rub salt on their wounds as well. I personally signed petitions and wrote to whomever I could to put a stop to this horrifying event—and the thousands of us who made the decision to take the time to voice our opinions about it thankfully won. It made me feel as if all of humanity was not “lost”; that there was still some power in making the “right” choices.

Over the last few years, I have had to deal with certain individuals who have put so much emphasis on power and money, that they have forgotten how to deal with living, breathing human beings. They have no respect for others’ feelings; they trample whomever “gets in their way” with nary a thought or a concern for the outcome of their actions. They honestly don’t care what other people think—as long as they are instantly gratified and feel that they have gotten what they believe that they wanted. They lie, they cheat, they steal…it doesn’t matter, because the only thing that’s important to them is what they think they need at that moment. The sad part about all of this is that these certain individuals are still not happy. They constantly strive for the ultimate prize: the gold ring of endless elation that they believe will only be attained by fulfilling their every desire and whim immediately, if not sooner. They’re on the "Train to Nowhere", thinking that each new station is where they want to get off until they actually get to that destination. At that point, they realize that they’re still not satisfied, so they stay on the train, thinking that the next station is going to be the one that fulfills all their dreams and they can finally attain what they’re searching for. Sadly, these people will probably spend their whole lives on this train. They’re still riding the tracks as I write this. They will always be looking for “something better”, and will never be grateful for what they are blessed with right now. I actually don’t feel anger at these people; I feel pity.

I don’t always make the right decisions, and I’m sure that we all, at one time or another, have greatly regretted some that we’ve made. However, I would like to believe that most of us genuinely care about how our decisions affect those around us—that we would honestly be hurt if a choice we made hurt someone we loved or cared about, or that guilt would overwhelm us if we tried to be dishonest at our place of business. It’s not always easy or convenient to make the decisions that we know are “right”. I truly believe, though, that holding onto our integrity reaps the ultimate reward of self-respect and the trust of others—two of the most important qualities one can possess.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I am a Yearly Decorator

(The following is an essay that I wrote November 16, 1978 for English class. I was 15 and in 10th grade. I have always stressed that everything that I’ve posted on my blog is the truth. Ironically, one of the first “A-plusses” that I received in high school—this essay—is completely made up and a total lie! I don’t think there is one shred of truth in there. I didn’t even use my real first name! I hope that you enjoy my very first fictitious post! )

Well, it’s that time of year again, the time of cheer and goodwill towards men, love, joy, peace, snow—and decorating. Yes, it’s that time when our living room becomes a cheerful victim of my annual decorating job. Scattered all around it are seasonal trinkets of tiny angels, trees, snowmen and Santa’s, with candles gleaming in the windows, wall-to-wall- wreaths, and of course, a giant, jovial tree in the corner that is fat and plump and seems to say, “Everyone is welcome in this home as long as they have love in their hearts” to every person who walks in the front door. ...Can we say "run-on" sentence?

I always try to make everything look as seasonal as possible, even the piano and television, who both get equal amounts of tinsel and false snow. Spelled out across the mirrored wall are the sparkling words, “Merry Christmas”, and songbook after songbook piled on carol books and what-not are on the piano bench, just sitting there patiently waiting to be played. Beneath the twinkling lights in the big front window are three well-carved candles: One red and one green each on the outside, and in the middle a sweet, white angel, all three flickering in the small breeze my father makes as he walks past. I don't think I ever saw my mom light a candle in my whole entire life, unless she was at church. And tinsel and false snow? Not in the "White Glove's" house. It was waaay too messy.

Last but not least, of course, is the beautiful Christmas tree resting in its corner that it will stay in for a few more spirited weeks. A bit modern, it has blinking lights all around, silver garland, and a beautiful lit-up star that sends little butterflies down in your stomach fluttering away. But mostly the tree is antique-looking with balls and bells and angels and stars dating back over forty years. Underneath the tree are presents from each member of the family and for each one. Okay, some of that's true...we did have some real old ornaments, but they were actually bunches of grapes. At least I didn't write about our previous aluminum tree.

I am sad the day I have to see all my treasures going back to the cellar, but I am glad I made so many people smile when they walked into the room.

Lee Scarnato ...I think I was right on schedule for the "I hate my name so let me use a cool nickname" phase.