Food for thought…

“To be content with little is hard; to be content with much, impossible.”

— Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

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Merry Christmas 2014

“Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”

~Calvin Coolidge

The scale of annual holiday celebrations varies greatly in my household from year to year. Neither my husband nor I are particularly religious, and, before children, we let our families handle the celebrations. Around the time when our eldest was three, we caved on the idea of a tree – especially since our families had grown more scattered over the years, and the annual shopping event that Christmas has become pretty much required that we do something.

We started out with living trees. Ones that we could plant out back when the ground unfroze. They did not fare particularly well, so after three years, we gave up, and tried an assortment of cut and artificial trees. This one, with the lighting wired in, is about 10 years old, and is probably on its way to wherever artificial trees go when they die. At this stage of our lives, with a retirement move looming a few short years ahead, this tree is probably our last.

The numbers in our household vary from year to year also. High school age foreign exchange students for several years – all adding their own traditions (which included the Asian New Year twice). Extended family members, and friends, living with us or just visiting. One child became two, then one was away, now back again, only to be gone again next year. Neither child is really young anymore, so the nature of the celebrating, and they types of gifts change. The year that we went to Williamsburg for a colonial Christmas experience we put up no tree except the small fiber optic one we brought to the hotel.

For many years my husband worked all holidays, so we juggled our day to fit the family dinner and something festive in – especially when we had visitors. It’s been easier for the past couple of years now that our schedule is more ‘normal’ – whatever that is.

This year we have no high school exchange students, but we do have one that attends my daughter’s university staying with us over the winter break. We have another friend of our daughter’s living with us, and a friend of ours is staying with us for the couple of weeks between the closing on his old house, and the scheduled date of his relocation to another state. So we have a full house. Which is actually kind of nice for the holidays. If exhausting.

Our daughters, and several of their friends, took care of all of the tree setting up and decorating this time around. The results are pictured here. I think it looks great, and I know they had a good time. And better still, we grown-ups didn’t have to do anything – not even directing.

With all of the people in the house this year for the holidays, my only question is: Who will take down the tree and put away the decorations?

Merry Christmas to everyone that celebrates.

Tuesday’s Quotes #4

“Each minute we spend worrying about the future and regretting the past is a minute we miss in our appointment with life.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, who has been living in France for the many years following his exile from Vietnam in 1973. Over the course of his 88 years, he has written over 100 books, and has worked continuously for peace across the globe. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968 by Martin Luther King, Jr. He has, sadly, been in a coma since mid-November following a brain hemorrhage.

I have to confess that I used this quote earlier this week on Facebook  – so to my family & friends, I apologize for the lack of originality, but I love this sentiment. This is advice that we all need on a nearly daily basis, but it seems to be a bit worse during this time of year, when confront the end of one year and the beginning of the next. While we inventory what went right/wrong, and what we want/need for the future, we sometimes forget where we are. This inventory taking and internal planning has much value in our continued growth, but when we get caught in the trap of obsessing over mistakes we’ve made, or difficulties we’ve had, and wishing our crystal balls were intact so that we could know what tomorrow will bring, we lose track of where we are.  And of those around us that need us to be involved in this moment.

So, as we rush towards the end of yet another year, filled with planning and excitement, remember to slow down sometimes to enjoy the now. There is beauty and wonder all around, if we would only allow ourselves the time to look around.

False choices in the news & Happy Solstice

This was a busy week for news, and there were several stories that I’d planned to touch upon this week, but after yesterday, I’ve decided to cut back a bit to just a couple of the bigger stories.

First, one story has forced me back to a recurrent theme – we are losing our sense of balance. Our citizenry is moving from one media-driven frenzy of outrage to another without waiting for the facts to come in. The known facts of what happened yesterday in Brooklyn are painfully simple. Ismaaiyl Brinsley walked up to a marked squad car yesterday afternoon & shot the two police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, seated inside. Since Mr Brinsley shot himself shortly afterwards, the real motivation may never be known, but that never seems to stop the shouting. NYC Police Commission Bratton indicated last night that the motive was unknown, and yet, there seems to be an awful lot of pundits out there blaming NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio – because of Eric Gardner, obviously. Sane, rational, people rarely commit murder, let alone multiple shootings across two states, and yet we all spend a great deal of time looking for logical reasons because murder is so horrible to contemplate. But there are no rational reasons. Yes, he apparently used his ex-girlfriend’s social network to post threatening anti-police statements – after he shot her yesterday morning. So, it would seem that something in his brain chemistry has gone very far amiss yesterday, in a violence filled day punctuated by suicide. And yet, since the news first broke yesterday, it seems that all I keep hearing is how this was all about retaliation for Gardner and Michael Brown. And I’ve heard way too much stating that you are either with the dead black criminals, or with the police. This is not only a false choice, it fosters hate and a furthering of the divisions separating us. A promotion of the ‘us against them’ thinking that is so incredibly unhealthy to what’s left of our democracy. To repeat what I’ve said before – we are being led to believe that we are far more divided than we really are, because as long as we fight amongst ourselves, we will not focus on the things that should matter to us as a nation. As far as I’ve seen, most of the prominent groups that have been protesting the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, and others, have also condemned this murder, but this does not seem to stop those that are promoting the idea that criticizing bad police behavior is tantamount to applauding criminal behavior.

That’s a very hard story for me leave for another, but this week was a very busy, very unhealthy week for news. And one very tragic event should not completely overshadow everything else.

So, onto the Sony hacking, and subsequent decision to pull “The Interview”‘s theatrical release. Now let me start by saying that “the Interview” looked to be a stupid, not particularly entertaining, movie, that I have no interest in seeing. My assumption is that it would have died of its own accord once it went into general release. Instead, it will live on forever in mythic proportions, and once Sony figures out how it will get the movie shown – and it surely will since wasting $44 million is unlikely – then it will probably have a bigger audience that it deserves. Crap is crap – and hopefully potential viewers will remember that when the film finally makes its way to the public. But extortion is extortion, and threats of violence to stop a film should not be tolerated. Did the hack originate in North Korea? The FBI has concluded that it did. Was the threat to the theaters credible? We may never know. And therein lies the heart of the matter. Sony caved, incorrectly, I think, but many others disagree. If the threats were credible – is any movie worth bloodshed? Certainly not. But if North Korea was behind the hack, that actually makes the threat less credible in my personal opinion – since any physical attack could have been interpreted, easily, as an act of war. And posturing aside, I doubt North Korea really wants a war. I’ve seen much criticism of our government’s response – or lack thereof – but I’m not entirely sure what an appropriate governmental response to a threat made to a private corporation should have been. More posturing? Calling a threat against Sony Pictures an act of war? Perhaps Japan could take on that mantle, instead. Ah, but yes, I forget, corporate profits are more important than the regular people since the contribute more (money) to our political process – so we should focus on that instead of on any of the other things are going wrong in Washington.

And on a related side-note – all politics aside, Sony has proven itself to be far too vulnerable to hackers in the last couple of years. Are they not capable of learning from their own mistakes? Perhaps we should all consider that before by a newer Playstation for Christmas.

On the good new side this week:

New York state did not grant a casino license to Orange County, who really did not need one and should not have been included for consideration in the first place. Sullivan County, who badly needs the economic boost did get one of the licenses. The glory days of the Catskills may be long over, but hopefully, this will bring some much needed income to a an economically depressed region.

The Ohio House has approved a plan to make the drawing of the voting districts less partisan. Does it go far enough, probably not, but any move away from the party controlled process that dominates districting in most states is a good move. The extent of damage done by gerrymandered districts is now evident in a US Congress that seems perpetually out of tune with its constituencies. A less partisan approach would be a welcome change.

I’m having some captioning issues, so here is the image caption for those of us that can’t see it with the post:

The Winter Solstice – one of my favorite days because it marks the end of decreasing daylight – has finally arrived. And with a small amount of optimism for more daylight (even as the dreaded Winter officially begins).  Meme courtesy of  the Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner’s Facebook page

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”

— Charles Dickens

My Liebster Award Post

I was pleasantly surprised after work on Tuesday when I started catching up on my blog reading and found that unsimplelife had nominated me for a Liebster Award – I am honored that my fledgling blog has begun to find an audience, and I’m very glad that someone whose blog I enjoy also enjoys mine. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

The rules seem to be pretty simple:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
  2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
  3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5-11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
  6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
  7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
  8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!).

I managed to work out the hyperlink for #1 at the start of the post.  With luck, by the time you read this, I will have worked out #2. #7 is above (so that I could read the rules while I was writing). All of the rest follow below, but I’m finding #5 challenging – it seems that most of the blogs I follow, that meet the criteria, already have the award. But I don’t see any rule that says they can’t be nominated more than once. And a couple do not want any awards – oh well.

The 11 questions I was given, and their responses:

1. Why did you start blogging?

I needed an outlet for the words jumping around in my head. I love to write and I love to pontificate – not sure why blogging didn’t occur to me sooner. 🙂

2. If you could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

  • Thomas Jefferson because he was a true ‘Renaissance Man’ who worked tirelessly and seemed capable of doing everything he tried – yet he was decidedly human.
  • Stephen Hawking because he is just amazing and I am awestruck.
  • Richard Feynman because not only was he brilliant, but his sense of humor and sheer joy shines through in all of his writings and I wish I could have attended his physics lectures.

3. If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

I love to travel, and there are so many places I want to visit or return to, but weirdly, what came into my head first was
New Mexico – fell in love with it, want to relocate there when I retire – beautiful state, with probably the friendliest people I’ve encountered in the US.

4. How do you measure success?

Doing something you enjoy well

5. Do you have any regrets in life?

No – on balance, there is nothing I’d do differently. Every choice has led me to where I am, and that’s a good thing

6. If you had one super power, what would it be?

I’d love to be two places at once, but the ability to disappear from one place & reappear in another when I need to would be close to perfect.

7. What cartoon character do you identify with most?

This is unbelievably hard for me because I never really got into cartoons or comics. I can’t say I identify with them, but when my kids were younger, I enjoyed Kim Possible, and the little girl in Spirited Away (if I’m allowed to call anime a ‘cartoon’)

8. What was your favorite pastime as a kid?

Reading

9. What does it mean to be happy?

Being content with myself and where I am in life.

10. What do you wish they taught in school?

Thorny question – I would like basic Civics to be taught at both the high school & college level, because it seems to me that many adults get confused about how government works. And I think that may be because it isn’t reinforced after elementary school.

I’d also like to see Ethics taught at both the high school & college level – as a mandatory course, regardless of academic concentration.

11. What is your ideal day?

One where I have nowhere I need to be, and nothing to do that has a deadline. That allows me the freedom to write, spend time with family and friends, and possibly, just sit and do nothing for a while if it seems right.

11 random thing’s about me? Hmm…

    1. I don’t really ‘think outside the box’ so much as have problems finding the damn thing in the first place
    2. My first love was constitutional law – when I was still in grade school my career path included becoming a Supreme Court justice
    3. I fell into computer programming 35 years ago, and somehow never really got away from the field
    4. I’ve been working on a novel, in my head and on paper, for six years – while writing other things around it. It probably should never be finished. However, when I finish this year’s NaNo story, I will have a potential bestseller on my hands.
    5. I think that the Shenandoah Valley is one of the prettiest places in the US
    6. I hate being called “ma’am” – it has always felt old to me. I am old/not old and do not need reminders
    7. The only sport I pay attention to is auto racing – particularly F1, and someday I’d love to go to France for Le Mans
    8. corollary to #7 – I love cars, and internal combustion engines. My first real Christmas memory was when I was about 5 and my father bought me a small track (with wires to the cars & everything!). Ok – it was a long time ago & pretty primitive – but it was fun when the cars would actually stay on the track & move.
    9. As the byproduct of a very good memory, I frequently surprise myself in conversations by saying something that I didn’t know I knew – learning by osmosis, I guess
    10. I lack the ‘shopping gene’ that women are allegedly afflicted with – my mother loved to go the the store and ‘browse’. Don’t get it.
    11. I’m an introvert, and, in my recent journeys through the blogosphere, I’ve discovered that online social interaction is almost as exhausting as the more traditional kind.

And the honorees are:

Nutsrok

Great storytelling.

when my brain farts

musings on life

A Momma’s View

insightful, well-written, good storytelling

wtf Am I On About Now

very relatable assortment ramblings, photos, and poetry, etc

Phoenix Grey

a fellow NaNoWriMo survivor who blogs fiction

The 11 questions for my honorees to answer, if they choose to participate:

  1. If you could go back to any single point in history, when would you choose and why?
  2. Who is your favorite author?
  3. Why did you start blogging?
  4. What is your top goal for 2015?
  5. How do you define happiness?
  6. Do you have any regrets?
  7. If you could have dinner with any 3 people, living or dead, who would you choose, and why?
  8. What is the number one thing that you would like to see/do before you die?
  9. What was the last movie that you saw in a theater?
  10. What was the most unusual, or amazing, thing that you’ve ever seen?
  11. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not?