Category Archives: musings

What to Wear on Christmas Eve

sue's sweater

…and there it was, hanging right in front of me.

Once again it is Christmas Eve. I have been invited this evening to a friend’s home for tamales before going to the Candlelight Service. I have known this friend for about six years. I think this is the fourth year of invitations. I have been trying all day to figure out what I want to wear. It makes little difference at our church. There will be many in jeans and several in new outfits with every style in between. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like going to this place. I have never felt any sense of pretension. It really isn’t a matter of what one wears.

I have not bought any new clothes for Christmas in more years than I can count. Actually after twenty years of being unchurched, it has only been eight years that I have attempted to attend. My memory of Christmas Eves does not extend much beyond that.

I have a black long sleeve tee that is decorated with an embroidered cardinal and sequined white poinsettia  flowers. The cardinal is the state bird of Illinois, my home state, so it is a little connection with home, even though I haven’t lived there in thirty five years. The cardinal is a beautiful symbol for Christmas and winter I think.

“The cardinal makes a fantastic animal totem. It reminds us to hold ourselves with pride – not ego pride. Rather, the cardinal asks us to stand a little taller, be a bit more regal, step into our natural confidence as if we were born to lead with grace and nobility”. I tend to hold back in crowds. I thought perhaps if I wear the cardinal I can be a little more joyous.

“As we observe the cardinal – particularly against the backdrop of the stark winter months, we are reminded that even when things appear bleak or isolated, there is always the presence of beauty, hope, and love”. The tee was a gift from my cousin’s family. She transitioned two years ago. The top still had its tags on. I had been with her when she bought it. The cardinal was her favorite totem. I wanted to feel close to her tonight.

I mentally went through other things in my closet. It’s not supposed to get really colder until tomorrow when it might snow. I don’t think it will, however. I think any snow will stop about forty five miles north of us around Denton.

I washed a couple of loads of clothes and hung them on my rack in the laundry room. And there was my answer hanging right in front of me. The very last time I saw my cousin she was wearing a new sweater. When we hugged, I was amazed by the softness of the weave. It felt so like her. Her husband asked me to take whatever I wanted when I left because by that time it was a matter of weeks. I couldn’t get myself to take anything without feeling very uncomfortable. I kind of felt I would be in the deathbed scene of Scrooge when the chambermaids were stealing the curtains before he was even dead.  I did ask him to mail me a couple of things when he was able to get around to it. That sweater was one of the few things I felt I truly wanted.

So tonight I am wearing that sweater. It will be warm enough to wear without a coat as opposed to the thinner tee. It will be soft and cuddly and I will be sharing  the service with Sue once again feeling her loving arms wrapped around me. The number of people I share this holiday with has almost entirely dwindled away but the spirit of my gentle, talented cousin will be with me to the end…at least until the sweater and the tee become too tattered to wear. Merry Christmas, y’all. Namaste. Attic Annie

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Jesus and the Season

Jesus Christmas

I wonder if the people who claim this thought are ones who never let their children talk to Santa Claus, put up lights, or decorate trees. The Puritans tried to abolish “Christmas” centuries ago. It didn’t work then and it looks like it won’t be any time soon that it will work now.

Even the Pope is saying Jesus was not born on December 25.

The observation of the Winter Solstice precedes the celebration of the Birth by centuries. Most people are aware of the Yuletide Pagan roots of the celebration which have been incorporated into the life of the church.

My memory of childhood in my church contains both celebration of the birth of Jesus and celebrations of the secular side of the month. Among my first recollections of early church life is being dressed in pajamas along with two or three other kids and racing onto the platform to get to Christmas Stockings. I remember hearing laughter…something that happened with such scarcity that it was worthy of a memory. It must have been before Kindergarten since I remember the joy of doing this and believing in Santa. It was in Kindergarten on the playground that the first graders mocked us for being babies because we still believed.

I have no problem with celebrating the birth of Jesus. I’ve gone to Christmas Eve services for years. While I have shied away from identifying myself as a card carrying Christian for the past many years, I do firmly believe in following the teachings of the Christ and celebrating the time He spent on Earth. When asked, I would frequently say, “I believe I am spiritual but I’m not religious.”

I do have problem with those who criticize others for incorporating centuries of tradition into their celebrations or refuse to accept that there are people other than Christians who have their own celebrations during this month.

I sometimes question myself about my growing intolerance of what I perceive that American Christians have become. I know it means there is something I must hold within my own thoughts that I can’t accept about myself. I’m working on it. I see people who are leading increasingly more compulsive lives based on what they are being “taught” by their leaders. I see lack of acceptance of the beliefs of others growing by the year. Everything I believe about what being a Christian means is being questioned and set aside by those who are using Christianity as a prop for their own agendas. Just looking at the mega churches with their mega contributions going into the mega salaries of their leaders should be enough of an eyeopener to see that there are perhaps more ulterior motives behind their behaviors. Telling people that Jesus is the ONLY reason for the season eliminates the joy felt by millions of others sharing this space and time.

More peace and understanding is achieved when we open ourselves to the celebrations of others than when we insist on the exclusivity of a few days in December. Joy and good tidings are spread when we share, not when we try to usurp a few days for only ourselves. Namaste. Attic Annie

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It IS a Wonderful Life…if you let yourself know it

One of my all time favorite Christmas movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life”  by Capra. I’ve seen it many times over the years. I was pleased to see that it is being shown in four theaters in the Fort Worth area today. Followers of this movie are increasing. Unfortunately I cannot attend any of them because my Christmas Eve celebration starts at 5:30 with a dinner with a friend and her family and then 7:00 candlelight service.

It is sad to me that NBC has sole rights to the showing of this film and only shows it once at 8:00 p.m. I will be able to make it home in time to see part of it but I’ll miss about the first half hour or so.

I often wonder why I enjoy this movie so much. It was pretty much panned when it was first out so many years ago. I’ve come up with several reasons.

It was released in 1946 the same year I was born. It gives me an insight into how people lived over sixty years ago. Life was so much simpler then but the problems of living day to day have really not changed all that much. Kids still get sick, young people start out married life with little money, parents still get mad at teachers, corrupt people still try to control their towns….etc etc etc ad nauseum. I guess that is because we are human. We can’t seem to get beyond the day to day problems of just living.

I love the idea that guardian angels can intervene in our lives. Based on situations I have found myself in, I have no explanation other than the protection from my guardian angel that I emerged without harm so many times.

Many times throughout the years I have wished I have never been born because I have seen myself as a very insignificant being on this earth. Then I would think about the baby I rescued in the pool, and the very angry young boy in summer school who learned he could understand math if we went back to the point where he did know what to do and proceed from there. He was going into sixth grade ( a year behind) and was in a third grade remedial math class. He had an attitude in the beginning that was downright scary. The last day of the program he came back into the room where I was alone. For a second I was fearful but then he put his arms around my neck and gave me a big hug and thanked me. Then he turned around and left again. I will never forget that hug.

I think about the patients when I volunteered at the hospital who were grateful that the only thing I did was listen to their heart wrenching stories. I think about the parents and former students I come in contact with occasionally who still thank me for the way and what I taught. They tell me now of their successes.

Most of all I think about my son. A son who has no logical reason for being able to be here. I was married to a traveling salesman who was gone from Monday through Thursday nights and often spent Friday and Saturday nights at the bar. I was told for many years that because of my anatomy It would be improbable that I would ever be  able to conceive or carry to full term. Yet there he was. I had no indication he was even with me the first trimester. When he arrived, I was only in hard labor for about four hours. He arrived at 7:00 A.M.on the day he was predicted to be born after four hours of labor. His estimated date of arrival was a sheer guess on the part of the doctors.

That’s kind of off the track but my point is I heard Jim Carry say of his mother that her life was significant, even though she was plagued much of her life with illness, because she had given birth to someone who was significant. That thought has resonated with me. My son is a significant person and the child that is expected in June will be a significant person as well.

I am learning the value of true friendship. I have never had many friends in my life who I “hung out with” to do things socially. I was never a part of a group in any years in my school life like so many girls. I was an outsider. But over the past few years I have developed friendships that I feel I can count on if I ever really needed help. I think they would come through in a time of emergency just like in the movie.

On this Christmas Eve, I am thankful for my life as it is and has been. Life’s lessons have been hard to learn, but I am grateful that in many ways I am learning them. It IS a wonderful life. I wish a wonderful life to you too. Merry Christmas. Namaste Attic Annie

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An Anglo/Chinese Wedding Part 3

The day of the wedding finally arrived. The four of us went down to breakfast again and my son joined us at to our hotel (it was a five minute walk) around 9:00 a.m. It was the same strange serving as the day before. The restaurant was all set up for another wedding but they were allowing people to eat breakfast. We waited for the photographer and videographer and then returned to the room. When they arrived,  they proceeded to get all the pre-wedding pictures that are usually taken. We noticed that the air in Becky and Bob’s room was not on either. We opened the window but there was little circulation.

My son was already dressed for the day, but he had to undress for the pictures. They couldn’t take the pictures at the apartment because that was where Julie and her bridesmaids were preparing for the day. So…make believe time.

Nathan took off his shirt and tie and pretended to be putting on his undershirt. Then Bob helped him tie his tie. I think he took off and put on his socks and shoes as well, but I’ll have to wait  until I see the pictures. All this time both of the camera guys were shooting pictures of everything else that was going on in the room. It was really a crowded place.

Nathan had brought a bouquet (the first one) to the room with him because that was part of the tradition that he present flowers to his loved one. With all the people passing it around, it started to wilt rather quickly. Nathan called and was told things were not ready yet so we just waited around. Finally, we were given permission to go over to the apartment.

When we arrived, the place was filled with relatives. We could hardly walk around. Julie was in her first dress of the day. There were pictures of honoring grandmother and then me (it was the first time she was supposed to call me Mom.) After Julie bowed to us, we handed her red envelopes with money inside.

A young male cousin jumped on the bed, her parents prepared a basket of personal items to be taken to the groom’s home, a male cousin nailed up a red curtain for which I paid him. Nathan was barred from Julie’s room by the bridesmaids and then had to “fight” his way in to his love. He had to find her shoe and put it on her foot. He knelt beside the bed and presented the bouquet (further wilting had taken place). One of the maids and Bob (one of the groomsmen) sat with Nathan and Julie and ate dumplings and then all tried to feed him a dumpling at the same time. Her mother and aunts had spent hours preparing 400 dumplings for the day to feed the family. We all stood around and watched the proceedings. I later asked Julie what some of these traditions meant and she said she had no idea. It was just something they did.

Although the hotel had moved my friend and me by that time to another room, it was obvious that the room next door did not have air conditioning either. Becky and Bob were upset that they didn’t have a king size bed. There were not quite double beds instead. It was decided that as soon as the picture taking session was over we were moving to a different hotel. The Howard Johnson Hotel was about a block away from where the wedding was taking place. It was much nicer. The first hotel would have been acceptable if the A/C had worked. Now we were in a hotel, it turned out, that the A/C worked too well. Later that night, we got up around 2 a.m. and turned the A/C off!

That afternoon the entire wedding party traveled to the park for outdoor pictures of the entire group…all the bridesmaids and groomsmen, bride and groom. I don’t know if her parents went with them or not but by that time I was really losing steam. I opted to take a nap instead. As a result, I realized when the wedding was over that there were no pictures of me posed with my son and his new wife by ourselves. Oh well!

Thankfully there was enough time to recharge our energy and get dressed for the wedding. It had been warm and humid all day. By the time of the wedding, the weather seemed perfect.

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Mizpah

A friend of mine posted the following item on his FB page this morning.

“Thank you God for the opportunity to spend time with family. As always, it is tough to leave but keep them in our hearts while we are away and be with us as we continue our journey through life. I love all of you and am eternally grateful to have the honor to be poppapete in your lives. AMEN”

I replied “Mizpah Genesis 31:49”.

It seemed an appropriate reminder to him of the prayer asking God to watch over us while we are absent from one another.

It originally referred to the story of Laban and Jacob. They made a covenant with each other that neither of them would cross the place where they had set up  a heap of stones and a pillar.

“This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me.”

Over the years it came to symbolize an emotional bond between two people who want God to watch over each other while they have to be apart.

I’ve been thinking about forty-three years ago when I bought a coin and necklace like the picture above to share with my friend who was leaving for Viet Nam. He was no longer my fiance. That engagement was broken before I went out to Washington, D.C. to spend time with him before he shipped out. He had broken the engagement with me saying he didn’t want to leave me a war widow in the event he never came back. He claimed he couldn’t say he didn’t still love me.

Before he left I gave him half the coin to wear with his dog tags. I wanted him to come back to me.

I didn’t see him again until he returned from serving his time in the Marines and finally came home from Nam . He came by himself to the wedding of friends of ours. I set up his best friend with my best friend. I had asked someone else to go to the wedding with me but he backed out at the last minute leaving me to go by myself as well.

After the service I asked him if he would give me a ride to the reception. Before we went inside I gave him some of the things he had given me, including the other half of the coin. It was obvious by that time that we were not going to get together.

I’ll skip the part about the reception and the ice cream social at the church we both were members of. Needless to say there were some very uncomfortable moments since my best friend had fixed him up with one of her bridesmaids who kept him company all the time he was home on leave. He sat at the bride’s table with her. My “friend”, the bride, paid no attention at all to me.

He left again and a month or so later I received a letter from him apologizing for the way he behaved.He asked me to forgive him.  I had been told he was gone or I wouldn’t have gone to the social only to watch him with the other girl. It was not a pretty sight.

I wrote back to him since I was still not ready to give up and told him all was forgiven. Then I talked with him, thinking I would fly to see him, and found out in the meantime he had met someone else. They had a very brief relationship before he married her.

Turns out his wife and I became friends. For one year we lived within easy driving distance from each other. She had a baby and seven months later I had my son. The friendship was not to last long since my ex was transferred again to my current home.

About three years later I was in Chicago with my son. I was still in contact with her. She invited us to visit. We spent the day at the museum and then spent the night at her house with her, her husband, and her two sons. Her husband was supposed to come home to take us all out to dinner. He was late. When he did come home, he was drunk. We both drank while we dated. He seemed to have stepped it up somewhat. He drove but I was very uncomfortable with the situation.

The next morning he went to work. His wife and I were sitting at the table and she suddenly asked me what Mizpah meant. I was taken aback. I asked her why. She said that her husband had the coin in his drawer. He had never gotten rid of it.

They drove me to our home town where my son and I continued our visit with other relatives. I was out at the car while her husband unloaded our suitcases. Before we left, he hugged me good bye.

That was the last time in thirty years that I saw him. His boys grew up and stayed in Illinois. He and his wife moved out to California. Once in a while I make a game out of trying to find old friends through the internet. I finally found him on Linked-In. He has done exceedingly well for himself. He is still listed with his wife. I have no intention of re-establishing any contact. I’d hate to be thought of as a stalker even though his wife and I became very close that year we spent in the same area.

I don’t know how their married life has been. They are still together so I guess things are good enough between the two of them. When I found out about the coin, he had been married for seven years or more. I often wonder if he ever tossed the coin or if it is still in his drawer. I never did toss out the college pin he gave me on Valentine’s Day or the earrings he gave me for my birthday. I just can’t let myself do it. I sometimes wonder if he ever feels the same way. I wonder if God is still watching over us while we are absent one from another. Namaste Attic Annie

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“Dear 16 Year Old Me”

A friend of mine posted this message on Facebook. I’m wondering if the message it carries is mentioned yet in health classes. The message should start by the time kids are ten.

I was of the era where I copied my older sister. During the summer before I was even a teen, I would slather my body in baby oil and lay out in the sun hoping for the prized golden tan. I did not make the connection between baking a turkey and baking myself. As a child, I always had several sunburns during that three month respite from school.

The last time I lay out in the sun was in 1970 when I took a spring break road trip to Florida with a couple of friends. That first day there the temperature was so perfect it was unbelievable. We had come from the ice lands of Illinois where Winter refused to relinquish her iron hold of the season to mild, kinder Spring. In Florida I had reached Nirvana.

The breeze was gentle and warm enough to envelop me in a soothing cocoon of exquisite pleasure. The sand on the beach was as soft as a feather bed. The whole explosion of color of water, palm trees, sand, and beach towels tricked my mind into thinking I was in a fantasy world created by Disney. I lay on that beach for what seemed several hours. My two friends were only slightly tan. A couple more hours and I could have been served for Thanksgiving dinner.

That was the first and last time I appeared on the beach for the rest of the vacation. I had met a young man that day who loaned me a shirt. Even with just the covering of that over sized shirt, I was in agony. The cloth which felt so soft in my hands felt like sandpaper on my shoulders. I could not sit, stand, or recline without tremendous discomfort from being touched. Of course, as the days went by, my skin became even stiffer to bend, adding to my misery.

I was destined to spend the rest of the week indoors in absolute pain on every inch of my body not covered by my two piece suit. I was alone while my travel mates enjoyed themselves. I didn’t even ask them what they did during the time I was left alone in the house. Left to my absolute misery.

Something happened that week to change my sun habits the rest of my life. The sun poisoning  I received that day set me up for limited sun exposure the rest of my life. It takes very little time for me being in the sun for me to develop a rash. That had never occurred prior to that trip. Sunscreen helps, but I still must limit my exposure.

There was a period of history where I laughed at the sun. Now I must observe closely for the inevitable red dots and get out of the sun as soon as they begin to appear if not sooner. There was a time when the more pale a woman was, the more beautiful she appeared to be. Now I just look “washed up”. My paleness would give Queen Elizabeth I stiff competition without any white lead and vinegar make up. I have to take large doses of Vit. D because I avoid the sun.

Although the video stresses that melanoma is a cancer of the young, it can affect people of all ages. My father had a cousin who farmed. He was out in the sun every day. He wore a cap but didn’t use any sunscreen. His wife one day noticed a problem behind his ear. It was allowed to grow because it was not noticed. By the time it was discovered, there was very little that could be done.

I love boating, swimming, and yes, even sitting in the waves at the beach. But my time in the sun is so short it usually is not worth the effort. So, dear 16 year old me, will it be worth it to enjoy yourself so long in the sun when you are twenty four? Think about it. And when you are my age, never forget to get your skin checked often.

Namaste Attic Annie

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A Little Late…but Happy Father’s Day, Dad

I am in the process of undergoing a lot of what I hope are vital transformations. Whether they last only a moment or the rest of my life, only time will tell.

In an effort to transform, or come alive, I am doing a lot of reading and a lot of soul searching. I’m also trying to forgive. I’m forgiving my “self” as well as those whom I feel I need to forgive for perceived wrongdoings to me in my eyes. That’s a very short list, by the way, but an important one.

In my twenties I was a pretty serious drinker under the guise of being a “party girl”. We would go out on weekends and for some reason I thought five drinks in a couple of hours was enough. Of course after five drinks I was no longer capable of remembering whether I had more or not. Anyway, once I married a drinker, I decided for the safety of the child we had together, that I had better make sure one of us was sober. That was not going to be my husband so that left me. In many ways over the past 35+ years since that decision I have been more of a dry drunk than a sober individual even though at the worst I average one or two drinks a year. In my own way I have more or less tried to stumble through the 12 steps of AA.

Being a dry drunk to me doesn’t mean that I walk around being angry all the time. I don’t really think I do, but when I start to do some serious soul searching I can still feel the anger deep inside. But it does mean that I need to get down to some very basic ideas about my “self” while there is still time. These ideas are ones created because of the relationship with my father. I have decided to make amends with him.

This is one of the steps in the AA program.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

I think perhaps in my older teens I could have become more compassionate towards him. I perceived around third grade that he withheld love from me so I withheld love from him. He did not manage to spend much time with me so, in retaliation, when we did spend time together it was usually with me being completely indifferent to him.

My purpose today is not to explain how in his life he ended up the broken man that he was. My purpose is to let him know that I understand why he had no more love to give me. I regret that situation but I have finally come to accept it.

He had several heart problems and more than one heart attack and was hospitalized. The first time he was hospitalized I was in school my sophomore year and couldn’t come home for a few weeks because of our schedule.  The next time, I came home one weekend from my summer session in college before my junior year to visit him in the hospital. When I walked into the room he was completely astonished that I was there. I don’t remember how long I stayed but I remember the feeling that I wasn’t expected. It kind of hurt. It was an awkward time. We really didn’t have much to say to each other.

Much of his health problems were kept from me because I guess the other members of my family felt I had enough problems of my own…or I wasn’t significant enough to be “in” on such matters.

He lasted another year before he was hospitalized again. By this time I was experiencing my second junior year in college because I had changed majors. It was spring time and I had papers to write and a serious boyfriend. I was now twenty one and probably could be described as taking care of only myself and my needs. By this time I knew little of what was happening in my father’s life. He spent most of his free time with my sister and I never really knew or cared where he was.

I was not even in direct contact with him. We were leading separate lives even though I was still living at home. My aunt reported that the doctor said he was doing well. I remember where I was on campus when the thought crossed my mind that I should go see him. But he was doing OK. I’d go tomorrow. I put off going to the hospital.

There was no tomorrow. He died that night. I called my boyfriend who met me at the hospital. He was the only one whom I could think of who would give me some support. I remember my sister and her husband being there but I honestly don’t know how I got to the hospital or who else was there.

Father’s Day was never anything special in our house. When I was old enough to ride the bus into town for a few years in high school I would buy him some small gift but often the day would come and go with little recognition. I can’t remember how many times I tried to give him gifts that I had personally bought or when I stopped. I really didn’t know what Father’s Day was all about. It was just one of many celebrations we never seemed to have in our household.

He died and went to the grave without me being able to ask him why he couldn’t show me he loved me or if he even did. I try to examine his life through his eyes. He promised my mother that he would not break up the family, even though several couples offered to adopt me. I was only three when she died. He liked a beer once in a while when he and my uncle got together but I don’t ever remember him getting drunk. He never took a vacation after mother died. He went to work every day until he started having health problems. I guess to him that was being a good father and in the 1950s and mid 60s, that was probably right.

He was a good father for those times. But a father I resented because he had nothing emotionally left to give me. So, on this Father’s Day, only forty three years too late, I am sending my father best wishes for a happy day, wherever he may be. I am trying to make amends for my part in our failed relationship. When a tire is flat because it is empty of air, it can’t support the car safely. It causes the whole car to wobble. My father’s emotional tank was flat and it has taken me forever to forgive him for trying to continue to steer the car all those years on four flat tires.

It’s a little late, but I’m sorry, Dad. Maybe if we run across each other again we can have a fresh start. What do you say? Happy Father’s Day. Your loving daughter, Annie.

Namaste. Attic Annie

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