Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's all about light

Throughout the season since Thanksgiving, there have been angry and loud claims of those who are intent on keeping the Christ in Christmas. They object to "Season's greetings" and "Happy holidays" because for them, it's all about the birth of Christ. In their single-minded drive to force their views on everyone else, I'd like to calmly and quietly remind them that this is a season of many holidays, most of which do not include Christ. This has nothing to do with being PC or bending over backward for someone else's faith or beliefs, but a simple statement of facts.

From Thanksgiving to New Year's, people of all faiths and persuasions celebrate the following: Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule and Mid Winter Solstice. Surprisingly enough, there is no Christ in these holidays and yet they are traditional at this time of year. So, while all the Christians celebrate their particular holiday, I hope they will not be so adamant about the Christ in Christmas that they forget the generosity and joy of the season and give a nod to the people of the rest of the world who do not share their faith and beliefs. I will spend my holidays celebrating Yule and the Solstice and will put up my tree, a tree decorated with presents, light and ornaments that came long before the change to Christmas. I celebrate much older traditions and, though I do not celebrate Kwanzaa or Chanukkah or Christmas, I offer my seasons greetings and happy holidays to those who do.

In the end, it's not about who or why you celebrate, but that you take the time to celebrate the end of the reign of darkness and the swing back toward the sun and the coming of the light. Whatever you choose to celebrate, in the end that's what it's all about.

Happy Holidays. Seasons Greetings. May all your days be merry and bright.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Is honesty the best policy?

Honesty is important in all relationships, but there is a difference between honesty and emotional dumping.

It's self serving and dishonest to suddenly dump on your partner that you've been unfaithful. If your conscience is bothering you, don't ruin the other person's day or life by confessing. You're only unburdening yourself to make you feel better not make your relationship better. If you got away with it and you feel guilty, do the right thing and make amends, not in such a way that the other person will suspect and corner you about it because that's the same as emotional dumping; you've just put the other person in the position of "forcing" you to confess. It's still emotional dumping.

In other words, pay attention to your partner. Stop being a jerk and let them know you realize how awful you've been and find a way to work and talk things out. Don't confess. Make it better gradually and slowly until you're back where you were in the beginning. Change takes time, so take the time to change. Be honest with yourself and if you need to confess your perfidy, go to a priest or a therapist or shrink and unburden yourself. No one but you will be served by confessing to your partner.

Be honest. Find out what you are and be that. That's honest.

That is all. Disperse.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A season of wonder

This is my favorite time of year, next to Halloween, Beltane, Valentine's and all the other holidays. There's something so special about the feeling in the air of hope and excitement and good will toward men -- and women and children and old people and everyone.

For me, it's not about the gifts I get but the gifts I get to give. I get all squirmy with excitement and mischief when planning birthday and anniversary surprises, but this one is the big one. It's not a day for one special person but a lot of special people. My gifts are all sent off and I can hardly wait for the recipients to get them and be surprised. I don't have to know what they thought of the gift, which is why I send some gifts anonymously. The high is in the giving and not in the thanks or appreciation coming back.

This weekend I get my tree and I'm going to pull out all the decorations and lights and do it up right with hot chocolate, mulled wine and cookies still warm from the oven filling the air with spice and mingling with the scent of fresh pine needles and warmth. This is the season of wonder and happiness.

Yesterday Beanie said she was sad that I'd be alone during the holidays. I reminded her that I've been alone for a lot of years, to which she replied that it didn't seem that way when I lived in Ohio because she could come to see me whenever she wanted and now she can't. I spent most of my birthdays alone or with friends, but seldom with my own family. Mom always said she didn't remember when my birthday was. Thanksgivings were spent with friends and once in a while with family, but the visit was usually a couple of hours because I had to work. Hospitals never close and I worked almost every holiday. I spent a couple hours with family at Xmas Eve, always in someone else's home because I didn't have a family and everyone else did. Xmas day was always alone; I didn't want to intrude on others' family time. None of that mattered then and it doesn't matter now. I still have my season of fun and wonder and it doesn't always need to be populated by others.

There are times when I think about a quiet Xmas Eve spent with a like-minded someone. Decorating the tree, baking and enjoying a candlelight dinner for two, both of us dressed to the nines, an intimate evening for two. We'll open one gift each and spend the rest of the evening listening to Xmas music and watching a crackling fire while we talk, dance, reminisce and snuggle. Xmas morning, we'll have breakfast and hot chocolate, turn on the tree and unwrap the rest of our gifts to the sound of carols and bells, then spend the rest of the day enjoying each other. There don't have to be a lot of gifts or a sumptuous feast of food and drink, just the company of two people willing to open their hearts to each other and to the midwinter season of hope and happiness.

Yes, it sounds sappy, but this season of all seasons makes me feel sappy. Every time I watch Charlie Brown or Ralphie and listen to Xmas carols and holiday music I am once again struck by wonder and awe that in the midst of the darkest time of the year there are always candles and Xmas tree colors to light the way. I always feel like a kid again, unable to sleep on Xmas Eve because of the spectacle and the feast of the senses that awaits me in the morning. I still can't sleep on Xmas Eve and I expect I never will. I'm too busy listening for Santa's sleigh and the jingle of the harness on the reindeer even when he doesn't stop at my house. Besides, I don't have a chimney.

Happy holidays to everyone. May the spirits of the season infuse you with the excitement and happiness of Scrooge on Xmas morning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Come to a full and complete stop

There are times when the writing goes so good that it's hard to stop, but then life intervenes, or more precisely--work. I can either keep writing and hope I find a stopping place when it's time to sign on for my shift or quit while the words and the thoughts are still hot and hope they're still there when I'm finished working. This is the part of the double life I lead that I dislike the most--having to do the writing-work balancing act. It's a simple equation. Work = money = affording the materials and resources necessary to write. Writing = money, but only after a long hard climb to the top. In the meantime, the only steady source of income is work, thus the difficulty of the situation.

I got up about 3:30 a.m. and decided I didn't want to try to go back to sleep, so I started editing and making some changes, clarifying some dangling threads and loose issues so I wouldn't lose time when the writing was good. That took about 30 minutes, which meant I still had lots of time before I had to get ready for work, so I started reading, deleted about four pages that weren't going well and started writing. And it flew. I was in the zone. I was hot. I was sizzling. I was 5000 words to the good. I wanted to keep writing, but it's nearly time to start getting ready for work.

One thing I've learned about writing is that it's never a good idea to put on the brakes and slam to a stop. Much like driving a car in bumper to bumper traffic or running a marathon and then stopping dead without a cool down period, disaster is quick to follow: accident in the first scenario and possible heart failure in the second, neither of which is conducive to a continued career in writing since death may be the result. Can't write when you're dead and I have to finish this book.

So it's time for the cool down: checking email, reading blogs, futzing around on Facebook for a couple of minutes and checking out a hot Russian pilot who promises food, caviar, wine, vodka and a ride in a MIG 29 for an email. You know I can't resist the chance to fly in a MIG with a hot Russian pilot -- or any pilot as long as I get to fly in a MIG. I don't care if he's married; I'm not going to date or sleep with him. I just want to fly in the MIG. I wonder if I have to go to Russia for that or if he will fly by here and pick me up. Hmmm.

Needless to say, I'm on a roll and might even finish this book by the end of the week. That's good. When I'm done, I'll do a read-through and begin the next project, the one that has been following me into dreams and gumming up the works when I'm supposed to be typing up technical and difficult heart surgeries and breast reconstructions. Aah, the life of the workaday world. You can have it as long as I get to write.

Okay, I'm cooled down now and can safely move to the next phase of my morning: shower, shampoo and shifting through clothes for something to wear. I have a date with a grocery cart this afternoon and I have to look my best. Produce can be so crude and rude sometimes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

DC the PC

No, I don't mean the personal computer, but the political correctness.

I've said this before and will continue to say it until I no longer have breath or hands or life. Political correctness is gutting our language and our lives. We are so afraid of offending someone that we have created an atmosphere when the most inoffensive language is suspect and becomes offensive. Mention a monkey in a conversation and someone will think you mean them. Use any innocuous phrase and someone will use it as an excuse to claim you are denouncing their religion, race or personal preferences. This has to stop.

Did you know that if a person doesn't get touched enough that the skin becomes highly sensitized to the point that the lightest touch becomes painful? It's the same with fear of offending someone. The more you fear to offend someone the more you are guaranteed to offend them.

My uncle is a bigot and a lot of the things he says are offensive to blacks (and, no, I will not call them African Americans because they did not come from Africa, they were born right here). I don't agree with what he says and I often tell him so, but I appreciate his candor. I'd rather know someone is a bigot or racist or sexist right up front instead of having to learn about it later. Stab me in the heart and not in the back.

As our president continues his international apology tour, we should not be surprised. After all, the root of all evil is right here in America and we are the ninth circle of hell, that place reserved for traitors, like Judas Iscariot, at least in Dante's vision of hell. I don't believe in hell, but if I did I would place lawyers, politicians and purveyors of political correctness there.

With that in mind, I would like to share the following.

What he said. We will perish of this orgy of political correctness and it's time to stop the madness. Call a spade a spade. You'll feel better for it. No wonder depression and schizophrenia are on the rise in this country. How could it be any different when we stuff our feelings and thoughts into a box instead of letting them out. Like flatulence, better out than in.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday morning coming round

As much as I like the keyboard on this new laptop, I have to say I'm not having a good time with the touch pad. It's hinky and doesn't want to work the way it should, or at least the way my old one did. The configuration and placement is off and it's not as sensitive as the old embedded touch pad on the fragged computer. I imagine I'll get used to it eventually, but right now I am not a happy geek.

At least one thing went right this morning. Popovers. If you don't cook and don't bake, you can still make popovers and you don't really have to have a popover pan. I used to do them in a muffin tin and it still works good that way. It's the easiest recipe in the world and the only thing that is the least bit fussy is the prep. Interested? Oh, you probably don't know what a popover is.

Ever hear of Yorkshire pudding as in Beef Wellington and Yorkshire pudding? It's not the same thing, and yet there is a similarity. Popovers are airy puffs of egg, flour and milk that rise up like a soufflé, but have a crunchy outside and air-filled, slightly eggy inside. They are kissing cousin to the cream puff without the cream and are much simpler to make. Are you game?

1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 tsp salt
2 eggs (room temperature is best)

Mix all ingredients until just combined (no lumps and don't over mix). Pour into greased muffin tin (or popover pan or individual soufflé dishes) and bake at 400 for 40 minutes. It's that simple. But the trick is in the prep. Remember? Turn oven to 400 and place greased muffin tin inside until same temp as oven. Take out and pour batter into 8 receptacles, about halfway full, and pop into oven. Bake for 40 minutes and then take them out.

These airy, eggy, outside crunchy puffs are ready for butter, jam, peanut butter or whatever you want to put in them. I like them with jam and butter, but I found out that salmon cream cheese is quite tasty, too. It depends on your craving and your tastes. If you prefer a savory popover, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning and fill with savory seasoning, like salmon cream cheese. Popovers are very forgiving, take about two minutes to put together (minus the prep) and are just lovely and just enough filling that you can still go out jogging afterward, unless you weigh them down with lots and lots of fillings. I'm addicted and a little surprised that it took me that long to take the plunge once again. Since I didn't have any milk, I used powdered milk (1/3 cup to 1 cup water), but condensed milk (not the sweetened kind) would work just as well. Like I said, very forgiving.

That's the food tip for today. When you try them, and you know you will, let me know whether or not you're addicted. They're better than pancakes and maple syrup and butter are just lovely with popovers.

I guess I should say at least one good thing about the laptop. The screen is wide and the colors beautiful and watching a movie on it is wonderful. I'll get over the minor glitches eventually, just like I did with the old laptop, but it's like any new relationship -- takes time to get comfortable with each other, even though I love the smooth action of the keyboard, which probably won't last long because I tend to be a power user and keyboards don't stand up well to my incessant pounding and fast speed. I am a writer after all.

There was one other surprise this morning, and it wasn't the cream cheese or the funky touch pad. Someone left a gift on my doorstep and I suspect only one person will understand this. The person, named Julian if the inscription inside the book is to be believed, left me a book. At first I thought it was an author who was determined to have me review their book, but it wasn't an author. The book is about American slave labor with privatized prisons as the sweat shop where several corporations have their goods made. It was a gift from someone I'm working with on an expose'. I'm quite surprised and excited. This is for a new project I'm working on with some interesting ripples already heading out on the stream of consciousness. So, on that note, I shall quit typing, send this up and do the laundry and dishes.

That is all. Disperse.