Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Gift of Silly

A close friend is going through a particularly bad patch of depression right now. She told me she feels empty and I missed the point when I offered some suggestions to ease the depression and get back on the holiday track. I do that sometimes, offer help instead of just shutting up and listening. It's my nature. I'm the fix-it girl.

As I read her post on Live Journal about not wanting pity or sympathy or quick-fixes (guilty as charged), I thought about what she said about not being able to get out and get those little inexpensive gifts for friends that makes her holiday season more like a holiday and less like just another season, and I decided to make things a little better (I hope) by getting her a few fun little gifts to help her find a way to smile again, if only for a fleeting moment.

As I looked through page after page of little gifts, I began to smile. Slinkies and pocket Etch-a-Sketches and all manner of plush toys you can fling from a sling. Those plastic-enclosed pictures filled with iron filings you can move about to make different faces with an attached magnet, Magic 8 Balls, and any number of other little pocket- and stocking-sized gifties from my past, and possibly from yours. The items are all silly in one way or another, but remembering the hours I spent playing those games, making faces, seeing if Silly Putty really could pick up comics from the funny papers (it does), and generally just having fun were the best.

In addition to the usual gifts I give my grandchildren, I'm giving them something silly and fun to create memories for times like these when they need to be cheered up or want to cheer up a friend. I'm still giving them the books and other gifts I've chosen, but now they'll get a little something fun and silly. It's what grandmothers are for -- and what grandchildren are for.

The holidays are hard enough for some people as they scramble around making do with what little money they can afford to spend or making and baking gifts because it's more personal and from the heart -- and hand -- and often because they are lonely far from home in a foreign land or in their own country and isolated by circumstance, health, or whatever reason and not able to spend it with family and friends. One little something, a plastic egg of Silly Putty or a tiny Etch-A-Sketch or Magic Doodle Pad that disappears when you raise the plastic film or a Slinky, can make the difference between another silent night full of sadness and regret or a night of laughter and nonsense. I'm choosing the laughter and nonsense, so thank you, my friend, for reminding me I can't fix everyone's problems, but I can fix my own. It's a wonderful gift.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

One Voice

I don't usually write about politics here, or anywhere, although I have at times become so angry with what is going on that I let myself go and put it out there . . . in writing. That's what writers do -- write.

As I watch the Democrats and Republicans scrapping over the country's votes and Obama gearing up for yet another campaign, as if he ever got off the campaign trail since he started umpteen years ago, I am appalled by what I see and what the elected representatives of the people call working in our best interests, that is the interests of the common man, the people who elected him, and those who did not but must look to him or her as their voice. The only voices those politicians hear are their own and those of the people who lobby for their attention with money, favors, and power. It's called bribes or baksheesh anywhere else in the world.

Had these politicians been paying attention the people would not be rising now, first with the Tea Party movement, which was co-opted by the Republicans and twisted to their own ends, and now with Occupy Wall Street, and the politicians are getting nervous, as well they should. It is just such anger and resentment coupled with the need to know what is being done about fixing this broken ship of state that led to the creation of the United States of America and the colonists' break from England. I'm sure King George was just as appalled by what he considered disrespectful behavior no in accordance with the terms of agreement between colonist and king. The colonists should have been thankful to be British citizens and to provide the mother country with goods and money that it needed to continue looking after them -- and they were definitely not thankful. Why should they be when they were asked to carry a burden of taxes for people who didn't work the land or undergo the privations and conditions of this new world, or allow them representation in Parliament?

To some modern day scholars, it was the rich that flung the fortunes of all at the King of England and his Redcoats just so they could pay fewer taxes, and yet it was the common man killed in the streets of Boston during the massacre and the average colonist who bravely withstood the Redcoats until this country was free of foreign rule.

Once again, we have the rich on the spit for our problems and the rich are the wo/men elected to do our bidding, to be the voice of the common man, but the common man doesn't have the sense to know how to wheel and deal in the halls of power, intrigue, and bartering for favors that passes for legislation. They no longer have any connection to the majority of Americans who are marching, assembling, and angry about what is being done to them and to their country. How could they when they no longer live and work among us, intent only on the acquisition of power and wealth?

America's government is not a democracy but a republic, which is defined as:

a (1) : a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government

b (1) : a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law (2) : a political unit (as a nation) having such a form of government.

When asked what kind of government the first constitutional convention Ben Franklin said, "A republic, if you can keep it."

There is no form of government or power that cannot be twisted and turned into something other than what it was designed for. There have been benevolent and thoughtful rulers among the despots and good presidents who have had what is best for the whole country at heart. By and large the rulers, and a president does rule in a sense, as one friend puts it, as the face of the franchise, have been drunk on power and their own importance and the common man suffers. The excrement always rolls down hill due to gravity and its own weight and now the excrement has hit the oscillating blades and the power brokers are shaking in their shoes.

It is about time, too.

Okay, so why should anyone pay any attention to me -- or to anyone with an opinion (and there are a lot of people with a lot of opinions out here)? To get a different perspective, to hear and pay attention to the growing roar of the angry and disenfranchised Americans who have been cheated, lied to, and treated like dirt. (I think there's a song in there somewhere.)

I am the canary in the coal mine telling you the air could be dangerous. You should worry when I no longer sing because then you're dead and it's too late to get out, to clear the air, to breathe.

The Democrats are determined to put the world right by any means necessary and save us from ourselves, rescue our world and the people in it from extinction -- or worse. They are the ones who slowly made cigarette smoking nearly a crime and want us all to drive hybrid or electric cars or gas up at the alternative fuel station and to pay for the privilege on both ends.

The Republicans meanwhile are busily engaged in the usual sleight-of-hand while they substitute politics for sticking their noses into everyone else's private business and bedrooms and calling it Right.

Both parties are out of step and out of line. They are supposed to be the voice of the people not to dictate morality and who can or cannot marry, serve in the military, or dine out in public while they hide their barely post pubescent mistresses, receipts for prostitutes and toy boys, and various schemes for keeping power and money in their hands while wrecking the world around them. They are the Neros who continue to fiddle while Rome burns and looking for someone to take the blame while they're still sending out troops to set the fires.

America no longer produces much of anything except contempt and a growing unemployed mass of people who can no longer keep up with the Joneses -- or the Muhammads and Krishnamurtys -- any more. It isn't just the rich getting richer, but a small fraction of rich who got their wealth by taking it from the very people necessary to create the wealth they covet and beg, borrow, and steal to maintain. Who actually needs or can spend in ten lifetimes $200 billion dollars, or even $50 million dollars? Okay, anyone who wants a gold toilet seat encrusted with precious gems and wired for WiFi and iPhones, but there aren't that many people out there who ever feel comfortable sitting on a toilet seat that would feed, clothe, and house a family of five for ten years. Those that do are called masochists -- and looters with very poor taste.

The bottom line is that America is slowly slipping into a top-heavy pyramid of excess that is poised on its head and ready to crash and destroy everything around it. There's a reason the pyramids were built with their broad bases resting solidly on the ground and not on their pointed tops. It's time to clean house and get rid of every Democrat and Republican and president and politician who is out for themselves and replace them with Daniel Boones and Rosie the Riveters who know what the people and this country need.

I've said it before and I will say it again and again. It's time to throw the looters out and get back to what America did better than any other country -- produce. It's time to stop worrying about whether or not same sex couples want to marry and have children and whether or not gays want to serve in the armed forces. Anyone in this country willing to wear the uniform and do the job should be able to do so -- and the pay should be commensurate with the risk and the danger. If someone wants to make serving the people a career, let him work for the fire department, police and sheriff's departments, and in other service jobs, but not in the legislature.

It's time to focus on fixing this broken republic and put it back on course. The current slate of candidates will not do the job, as we have amply seen in the past three years under the leadership of Obama and his ilk, who have subverted the Constitution and the will of the people under the guise of hope and change. Well, we hoped Obama would change the policies, and he did, but only to make further inroads into the destruction of this country and for personal gain. He has no clear objective, other than destruction, and no clear policies. It's time for a real change and so far I'm not liking what's out there.

It's time to take back our country and put it on a paying -- not borrowing -- basis. People will make their own choices and that is as it should be. It isn't the rich we have to fear, but the greedy. If we want change, it has to come from the people and from the wo/men with vision willing and able to produce a product or service that will bring change, not from legislation and back door deals.

It's time for the sheep to become proactive and extend the reach and power of movements like Occupy Wall Street. The time for asking questions is over. It's time to roll up our sleeves and clean house.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hand Over the Fruitcake, Please

Shopping for fruitcake has been an interesting experience and I've come across quite a few variations on the fruitcake theme, including a monastery in Oregon that sells 6 slices of fruitcake covered in chocolate for almost as much as a whole tinned fruitcake. Maybe not. Don't think the fruitcake is like Boston brown bread steamed in a tin but one of those lovely tins that Gram used to save buttons in with holiday pictures and traditional holiday and Jacobean pattern paintings. There was one tin, which I still have, that was covered in a classic Wedgwood pattern in blue and white, that lovely Wedgwood blue that is so indicative of real Wedgwood china. The paper's torn in a couple of places, but the tin is still good and full of buttons Gram collected and I inherited, some of which are gone because I used them on outfits I made here and there.

What I don't get are the jokes about fruitcake. Yes, it's heavy (weight-wise) because of all the fruit and nuts (my favorite always had pecans) packed inside, and the cake itself is dense, but a good fruitcake that's aged in whiskey or brandy is a rich and delectable treat that spells Christmas for me as surely as flaming plum pudding does for some Englishmen (and women, too). Our holidays when Gram was alive was not complete unless there was fruitcake, great thick slabs of it glistening with glaceed fruit and redolent of brandy. I don't know that Mom was so persnickety in those days because she even had a piece, despite her no alcohol in the food stance. Eating the whole fruitcake wouldn't have been even close to enough to get anyone drunk, not even a newborn, if the child had the teeth and taste buds to be able to enjoy the treat, but that's a story for another time. This time it's about fruitcake.

I guess because of all the nuts and fruit, that's why fruitcake became another word for a score sheet full of gutter balls or a few bricks shy a load. Just another way to call someone insane -- or nearly there.

And then there are the jokes about fruitcakes so heavy they were used as bricks to build a grill outside after years of fruitcakes had piled up in the basement, still inedible and fireproof to boot. Or that someone threw a piece of fruitcake and knocked out their spouse, as if that is even possible. Talk about hyperbole. It's all about taste, and a good fruitcake is packed with taste, and those that love fruitcake will agree, it's not Christmas without it.

It wouldn't be human without contention and disagreement, choosing up sides to fire off against opponents. What is it about people that they just can't enjoy themselves and allow others to do the same, even if what they enjoy isn't what you enjoy? There are so many things in life to choose that it is a waste of time to sneer at others who choose something else. People able to afford cashmere give the cold shoulder to someone wearing a polyester blend sweater or a cardigan someone knitted or crocheted as a gift. Drivers of BMWs thumb their noses at drivers of Mercedes and Volvos who in turn look down their noses at anyone who drives a Ford Taurus or Chevy Cavalier, and all of them look enviously at the couple with the top down driving the vintage Ford Mustang or classic Jaguar or Spider. It's plain to see they like what they bought, so there's no reason to denigrate someone who either couldn't afford or preferred another type of car.

We're all about contention and disagreement. My mother is famous for it, calling me up just to argue because no one in Ohio will argue with her and she knows I will -- or rather I did until I figured out that was her game. She picks and pushes buttons until I -- or anyone else -- respond and push back, verbally of course. Luckily, I live far enough away so that it doesn't matter if I decide to make or buy a fruitcake. It's too late to make one, although I have the cheese cloth and the liquor store isn't far away, because I don't have a month or two until Christmas to age the fruitcake properly in the closet soaking in rum or brandy or whisky. It takes time to make a fruitcake the right way, the traditional way.

In the meantime, I'll keep looking and avoid the place where I bought one last year. I got a tiny fruitcake, hardly more than 2 good slabs, for $30 and I want fruitcake to spare for the holiday, or until the new year, whichever comes first. Mock me if you will, call me names, and snicker when you read this, but I will enjoy every morsel and crumb of my holiday tradition and you can enjoy yours, even if it does involve a liquor-soaked flaming plum pudding.

Come to think of it, I need a good old-fashioned mincemeat pie, too, just like the one Mrs. Jonathan Frake won the blue ribbon for at the Iowa State Fair.

Happy holidays.