Until We Meet Again…

As I sit here, it’s so hard for me to believe that my friend has passed. It simply doesn’t seem possible for someone who has always been so full of life, love and laughter to not be with us any longer – at least in this physical life. Right now, I feel as though I’m in complete shock that all of this has happened.

My dear friend – who I’ll keep nameless for the sake of privacy – is one of those people who has always been a joy to be around. He’s always had such a fantastic sense of humor. Listening to him tell what could be considered the most mundane of stories from someone else would have you doubled over in laughter hearing him recount a story as only he could tell it. Whether he was describing an encounter with a “Wal-Martian” in a particular shopping chain he absolutely hated to go to, or recounting the story of some drunk neighbor falling down the stairs of the apartment building where he once lived would always have you gasping for breath between fits of laughter.

Not only was he well known for his sense of humor, his cooking was legendary among all who knew him as well. The spread he and his partner would prepare for friends during Thanksgiving and Christmas were spectacles which would make Martha Stewart foam at the mouth with envy. Everything was always beautiful, and tasted even better! How some people had shows on the Food Network and he didn’t always boggled my mind.

He and his partner have always been extremely loyal to their friends, and they obviously counted them as family. I know during times of great sadness and despair, they have always been there for me to help in any way they possibly could. Very few people in this world today have the courage to show the love and compassion for those around them that he and his partner have done. It’s not everyday you discover these people, and my life has been made so much richer for knowing him.

One of the driving forces in his life was his Christian faith. I realize that has been said about many people, but he is one of the few who actually “walked the walk” instead of “talking the talk” as so many phrase it. Out of the many examples I could share, the most obvious example of his faith has been his desire to help others around him. If there was ever a person you could count on to fight for what’s right in this world, it would be him. One thing he absolutely hated was injustice and how others who were downtrodden were treated at times. I’ve witnessed him do everything in his power to help pick others up and lend a hand in times of need. If you ever needed anyone in your corner, you were extremely blessed to find him there.

I hope one day I can be half the person he was in this life. To find such a person to walk along beside, even if only for a short time in this journey, is a rare blessing. I’m extremely thankful to have shared this time with my friend, and I look forward to meeting him again on the other side of eternity. As he lay in his hospital bed, I whispered to him before he passed, “Tell my Grandma I love her, and make sure you hang out a lot with her. You guys are so much alike you’re gonna get along like gangbusters! And when I get there, I want to hear all about your antics!”

I love you, my friend. I’m so heartbroken you’re gone, but I know you’re better now and happier now than you have ever been. We may be parted right now, but I know in my heart this isn’t the end. I’ll see you again, and I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to in heaven. Until then, know that those of us who are left will keep watch over each other, and always hold you close in our hearts.

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The Superstitions of New Years Day

It’s that time of year again. Christmas has come and gone, people have returned to work after the holiday break, some are returning gifts that weren’t quite right and we’re all gearing up to celebrate the arrival of a new year. In all the upcoming celebrations where we eagerly await the arrival of 2015, many of us automatically revert to honoring old traditions as a way to celebrate the new year. Most of us, myself included, never really think about why we do some of the things we do; we just do it because we’re supposed to.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why we follow certain traditions on New Years Day? Is there any particular reason why we kiss at midnight, why we eat certain foods that day or a plethora of other things we do? Most of these traditions started many years ago as forms of superstition and attempts to ward off evil.

I’ve never considered myself a particularly superstitious person, but many of my older family members are extremely superstitious, whether they’d like to admit it or not. I can remember vividly when I was a teenager my Grandmother scolded me rather harshly for attempting to wash clothes on New Years Day.

You better put those clothes back in with the rest of the dirty clothes,” she said, “you know you can’t wash clothes on new years!”

I remember being bewildered as to why she’d be so adamant about me not doing laundry, and even more bewildered as to why she’d think I knew not to do such a thing. She explained, “If you wash clothes on new years, you’re gonna wash the life outta somebody!” Therefore, it was forbidden to do laundry that day. I suppose it was a good thing I had clean clothes to wear the next day. My mother, who isn’t the superstitious kind at all, told me not to worry about it, that it was “just an old wives tale, and you know how Grandma can be about those.”

On that day, we’d always go to Grandma’s house for lunch, and as I remember, she always had black-eyed peas and collard greens for lunch. I never thought much about it until the conversation took place over lunch one year that eating these two foods were supposed to bring a person good luck throughout the year.

There are other traditions we follow that have origins in superstitions, and I’m sure we all know of at least three or four we could spout off without thinking about them. For instance, did you know that it’s tradition to kiss your significant other at midnight because it ensures the ties and affection will last throughout the coming year? All this time I just thought it was because it was a sweet thing to do.

As mentioned earlier, you shouldn’t do any washing or cleaning on New Years Day or you’ll wash away the life from someone that year.

Never start the new year in debt, so make sure all your bills for the month are paid before January 1. If not, you’ll be paying out money all year long.

Shouting and making loud noises at the stroke of midnight was done as a way to scare away the devil. So the next time you wonder why the crazy neighbors are outside banging pots and pans (well, here in the South anyway) at midnight, you now have an explanation. Hopefully, they’re doing it for traditions sake and not just crazy. But as a friend of mine says, “Honey, we got us a whole lot of crazy ’round here!” So if they’re still banging pots and pans past a reasonable amount of time, feel free to call the cops. I gotta get some sleep!

Make sure that you’re wearing a new article of clothing on New Years Day to ensure that you’ll get more new clothes throughout the year. There is also this odd superstition that some hold about not changing your underwear on New Years Day, but I’m gonna have to take my chances on that one. I’m not going to be caught dead in day-old undies!

There are probably a million more superstitions and traditions we follow. I have to admit I follow some of them myself; not because I believe in bad omens, but simply because I think it’s fun to do. In some way I can’t explain, it helps serve as a connection to our past. Or maybe I’m just sentimental.

To those of you reading this, what other traditions/superstitions do you follow during New Years Day? Why do you do them? Does it leave you with a sense of connection to your past and those older family members you have? Feel free to let us all know in the comment section below. I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say.

Oh, and before I forget, happy new year!


The War on Christmas: Battle of the Holiday Greetings

I love Christmas. Out of all the holidays of the year, I’d say it’s my favorite of them all. There’s something about the feel of the season that I can’t quite find words for that make the season simply magical to me. I’m not sure whether it’s the childlike anticipation of Christmas morning, the beautiful decorations, smells and tastes of the season, but whatever it is – it’s a beautiful thing. The beauty of the season is evidenced by the displays of lights, trees and various decorations that are on display everywhere in anticipation of the big day. Even more importantly, for me anyway, is the fact that this is the time those of us who are Christians celebrate the birth of the Christ child in the manger.

Lately however, my facebook newsfeed has been all aflutter with news of a war on Christmas. Say what??? How could anyone want to declare war on the most wonderful time of the year? Well, dear friends, it seems there has been a movement of some kind claiming that wishing someone “happy holidays” or “merry Xmas” or other such blasphemy is an attempt by some evil force to vanquish the baby Jesus to some orphanage in Romania where they beat children everyday, never to be heard from again. Evidently, this war has been raging for some years now, but since I never watch the news unless I’m on it (which rarely, if ever, happens), I’m a little late in hearing about it.

To hear someone who believes Christmas is being attacked explain it, this movement is so evil that it makes the Grinch look like the Virgin Mary. When asked, they tell me that people are being forced to say “happy holidays” in order not to offend anyone with such vulgarities as the word Christmas, and writing “Xmas” so they wouldn’t offend anyone with the word Christmas, because, after all, they are “X-ing out Christ from the season.”

Well, after staring at the person who explained this to me with my mouth open in disbelief for at least ten minutes, I got to thinking about all this “war on Christmas” mumbo-jumbo. I asked them what, if anything, one was supposed to do when attacked by someone who was evil enough to wish you a happy holiday. Their response was, without taking a second to consider the irony in my question, “You tell them it’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays!”

I don’t know about you, dear friends, but it’s hard for me to see this as an attack on Christmas, or my beliefs. Maybe it’s just my upbringing, but to me, “happy holidays” doesn’t seem like an attack at all, but a simple wish of good cheer. After all, there’s more than just Christmas at this time of year. Don’t forget that there’s also New Years, Boxing Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Epiphany, as well as other holidays in there during this season. To me, saying “happy holidays” is just a form of wishing another person a joyous whatever-you’re-celebrating type of greeting in an attempt to be polite. In which case, I firmly believe you should respond with a simple “thank you, and a merry/happy [insert polite greeting here] to you as well” without getting your undies all in a twist about someone being friendly.

 

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The other big affront to those who believe in this war on Christmas is the issue of people writing “Xmas” instead of spelling out “Christmas.” I honestly had someone tell me “they do this ’cause they want to X out Christ from Christmas.” Seriously? I was so appalled at this level of ignorance that I rolled my eyes so hard my head hurt. I tried to explain to them that wasn’t the case, and that the “X” was originally the Greek letter “Chi,” which looks like the English letter “X,” and that it was the written symbol used for Christ waaaayyyy back in the day, so actually, it was technically still keeping “Christ” in Christmas. Unfortunately, they didn’t want to hear any of my explanation, and continued to believe in their erroneous ideology. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

The whole “keep Christ in Christmas,” and the “Jesus is the reason for the season” campaigns are nice enough ideas, but let’s not forget that, historically, most of the Christmas celebrations we know today were around before Christmas started being celebrated as the birth of Christ. The early Christians didn’t even celebrate Christs birth until around the year 388 when John Chrysostom decided it would be a lot of fun to throw Jesus a birthday bash and, since everyone was in a good mood to party anyway, why not have it around the Saturnalia/Winter Solstice celebrations around December 25th? It caught on, and everyone’s been celebrating since then.

So it seems a bit odd to me to hear people say there’s a war on Christmas simply because people celebrate the season a little differently than someone else. Sure, there might be controversies about nativity scenes being erected at courthouses and various other places, but let’s keep in mind that these aren’t religious institutions, so to cater to one religion over another in a public place is inviting controversy that’s simply unwarranted. Feel free, however, to put a nativity scene in your own yard. I’m sure it’ll be beautiful.

Next time you’re out and about and someone wishes you a “happy holidays,” be polite. In a warm, thankful tone, say “thank you, and to you as well.” At least they took the time to greet you and pass along their wishes for you to have a nice holiday season, regardless of what you’re celebrating.

Or, you can forget everything I’ve said and cause a scene, screaming at the top of your lungs, “It’s not happy holidays, you heathen, it’s Merry Christmas!” and beat them over the head with a giant candy cane. I’m sure Jesus would be soooooo proud.


Happy Gobble Gobble!

Hi all, I wanted to drop in to wish all of you who celebrate the day a very happy thanksgiving!keeping-therapists-busy


As the Dust Settles

The votes have been cast, the results are in, and Scotland has decided to stay within the United Kingdom.  As I watched the results come in last night, I don’t mind admitting I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was watching from my computer. As a die-hard proponent of the United Kingdom, I have to admit I was very pleased with the results.  It seems there was a larger percentage of No voters than what the polls had led us to believe were there in the last few days, but we all know polls can always be somewhat askew.

Even though I, personally, was happy with the outcome, I realize there are also those who are not and feel dejected, depressed, and isolated at the moment.  I know from experience how this feels, and believe me, it’s not a good place to be.  I do hope, however, that the two sides of this vote can come together and work toward a solid, unified, working United Kingdom that seeks the betterment of all its citizens, whether they be English, Scottish, Northern Irish or Welsh.

Both sides, I believe, worked very hard for their side, and I believe both sides believed in their message and that they both believed their viewpoint was what was ultimately best for Scotland, and the United Kingdom as a whole.

Now, however, I feel it’s time to put aside the differences on the issue of independence and work together with the reality of what we have:  a Scotland that is part of the United Kingdom.  Over the years, I recognize there have been differences and opposing opinions on how things should be done, and I recognize the hurt that has been caused – not just for one, but also for both sides of the issues.  Now that we are on the other side of the vote, let’s work together, but let us also acknowledge there is much work to do to heal the wounds that might have been caused by the vote.
How can we do this?  The answer to that question, I think, will be different for each individual and each situation.  In order to do this, however, changes may have to be made on both sides of the issue.

In saying this, I hope that it is clear to the powers that be in Westminster what this vote was, and what it was not.  I hope Mr. Cameron and the rest of the Tories realize that, even though the No side was victorious, this was NOT a vote for the Tory status quo.  I don’t feel that Scottish independence would have been voted on in the first place if Tory policies as they are now were acceptable.  Of course, that’s only my personal opinion, and I’ll be happy to admit I’m wrong if I am.  I do hope the devolution policies are quickly forthcoming, and that they help to heal the Union from the internal bruises it now has.  I also hope devolution also happens for England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well.  Fair is fair, regardless of what side of the fence you stand.  I know this won’t be the only thing needed in the future of the Union, but at least it can be a start.

As we move forward as a United Kingdom, I hope and pray time heals our wounds and we are reminded that we are family, even though we might squabble at times over various issues and problems.  As Her Majesty The Queen said today, “Now, as we move forward, we should remember that despite the range of views that have been expressed, we have in common an enduring love of Scotland, which is one of the things that helps to unite us all. Knowing the people of Scotland as I do, I have no doubt that Scots, like others throughout the United Kingdom, are able to express strongly-held opinions before coming together again in a spirit of mutual respect and support, to work constructively for the future of Scotland and indeed all parts of this country.”

God Save The Queen, and God bless ALL the people of the United Kingdom!

 

 


…And Now We Wait

The polls in Scotland have now closed for this historic vote whether to leave or remain with the United Kingdom.  I heard a record 96% of the Scottish electorate turned out to make their voices heard.  Now the painful waiting commences until tomorrow morning when we hear the results.

It may seem odd for many people to see me take such an intense interest in the results of this vote, seeing that I live in the states.  If you know me, however, you know I’ll be a bundle of nerves until I hear the official news, and then even moreso if the vote was yes.  For reasons why, please see my earlier blog post, which will save me from repeating myself.

So now we wait until the morning…

 

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A Kingdom United

Allow me to preface this post by saying that, even though I may live in the United States, Great Britain is my ancestral home and I love it with all my heart. Therefore, the current Scottish referendum hits me very close to home.

September 18th will be an extremely important day for the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and myself. On this day, the people of Scotland will be casting their votes in a referendum to decide whether Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom, or whether it will leave and go it alone. On that day, Scotland will have the power to either save the Union or tear it apart.

Some have called this upcoming referendum “a vote of Scottish independence.” I, however, can’t help but believe it will be much more than just that. When the people of Scotland go to cast their vote this Thursday, they will not be deciding the fate of Scotland alone; they will be deciding the fates of England, Wales as well as that of Northern Ireland. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly. This vote is not a temporary fix to anything that may be wrong or will only have consequences for a year or two. People living in the United Kingdom will have to deal with the consequences of this decision for the next century and beyond.

When this vote takes place this Thursday, people who do not live in Scotland, including those Scots who live outside Scotland, will be denied a vote. They will have no voice in trying to save a bond that has lasted for three hundred years. This bond that has held my ancestral homeland together for so long has survived war, crisis, upheaval, and has bound the countries of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland together through some of the most turbulent periods in history.

This is a union which has, despite the difficulties in the past, produced some of the greatest men and women who have bestowed their gifts to humanity in science, engineering, medicine, literature, art, religion and politics. Together, this Union has played a great part in forging the modern world.

 

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So while the rest of the Union has no vote, and while I certainly have no vote, I would like to think that we might have a voice.

What would I, personally, like to say with this voice?  Only one thing: vote on the side of unity; unity with each other, and unity with the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a mixed nation – four peoples mixed together, sharing lives, ties of history, language, and above all, ties of family. The United Kingdoms culture and humor, the way it works together, plays together, the families and friends – the people of these islands share all these things.

Like many of you who live there, I share your frustrations with the current state of politics. I can wholeheartedly understand your irritation with the state of the economy. I understand and I share in your frustrations and irritations as the Union moves ahead in the face of new challenges and problems of the past that have been left unresolved. I completely understand the depth of feeling that you want better for your country. No one can begrudge you the feeling of wishing to be free from leadership which seems uncaring, even on its best days. I can completely understand the wish to be free of economic mismanagement, free to live a life that would build a better future for you and those you love. I understand these feelings because I certainly have them myself. In my humble opinion, however, a vote for Scottish independence isn’t the answer to these problems. I have a gut feeling that a Yes vote for independence would actually bring about many more problems in its wake with no solutions to be found.

Please believe me when I say I have no desire to sweep the problems the Union faces now under a rug and vote no to independence simply to keep the status quo. I would whole-heartedly ask every Scot that will be voting to vote No to independence, and work together with the rest of the union to bring about needed changes; not only to Westminster, but also to governing bodies throughout the entire country. The shared economy is struggling back to health, so lets see the recovery through together, as a unified nation. A family of nations, just like any regular family, has disagreements on what the United Kingdom should be and where it should be going. Lets discuss these visions of the future together, iron out the differences together, and find the answers together.

Of course, I shall respect your final decision, just as the rest of the United Kingdom will. It is, after all, your decision and yours alone to make. On Thursday as you take your ballot paper in hand, however, I would ask and plead with you that you think about the rest of the United Kingdom and its desire to stay with you and check the box to stay with the United Kingdom. Please think beyond the present political problems and think into the future that you are forming for the entire Union as you cast your vote.

The people of these great British islands have faced challenges before, and face great challenges today. There will surely be challenges ahead for this generation and those to come. For the sake of all, lets face these challenges as we have for the last three hundred years: together, indivisible as a United Kingdom working together to overcome these problems, not apart.

 
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