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Whatever rings Mel's bells

Archive for December, 2011

Why yes, I do say “Happy Holidays”

Sure, I celebrate Christmas.  But I’m aware that quite a few people around me don’t.  In fact, It’s happened more than once that I’ve inquired about people’s Christmas plans, or how their Christmas went, then felt a bit chagrined when they reminded me that they were Jewish or pagan, and celebrated something else.

Understand, I have never once had someone think I was rude for doing that.  I mean, when you look at the demographics, it is a pretty safe assumption that most of the people you’re gonna run into in Kitsap County do celebrate Christmas.  So some people think I’m silly for catering to everyone and saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

What they don’t get is that it’s more for me than for anyone else.  I won’t have to feel embarrassment for forgetting which religion that particular friend or acquaintance lives.

What I don’t get about the whole mess is why they think it’s okay to be rude to people who are just being friendly.  I mean, really?  When did it become okay, when a person greeted you with good tidings of cheer, to throw it back in their face because they didn’t shine a proverbial spotlight on your personal beliefs?  What the hell, people?  That person was being nice!  Show a little bit of freaking grace and smile!  Wish them a Merry Christmas back, but don’t go around like the greeting police trying to make them all say what you want them to!

I knew we were losing our sights of common manners and decency when it became socially acceptable to ignore the people right in front of you (cashier in the middle of a transaction, friend trying to converse with you, significant other when you’re on a date) in favor of cell phone conversations, Facebook, and Words With Friends.  And this is reinforcing that marked lack of expectation.

As we get closer together through artificial means like Twitter and Skype, we simultaneously are becoming more and more distant from each other in real life.  I know it’s nothing new; this was a concern with TV, with wireless phones, probably with radio, maybe even with newspapers.  I don’t know how many connectivity inventions have prompted this concern, but I know it’s been around for a long time.  In fact, that’s why the Amish don’t have phones in their homes.  Not because phones are evil, but because having them in the home would prove a disruption to a good family life.  So they have a central phone for the whole village, and you go to the phone if you want to use it.  That’s right, you stop what you’re doing, and go do one thing at a time.

I guess my point is that we’re becoming a rude society.  Not just a society where people are rude, but one where rudeness is accepted, even expected.  A society where there’s no reason to be polite.

And that, more than any other social ill I can think of, frightens me.  If we don’t have even the most basic of concern for each other that we can even look each other in the eye, how can we ever form communities?  How can we ever have good relationships?  How can we ever trust each other to uphold the social fabric?

Maybe I can’t trust my neighbor to give two shits about watching my property for potential burglars while I’m out of town.  Maybe I can’t trust my kids’ teachers not to molest them.  Maybe I can’t trust my clergy member to teach me truth.  Maybe I can’t trust my elected representatives to make decisions with the public’s interest in mind.

Oh wait…  We can’t.

Does anybody else see the big picture connection of rudeness and disrespect?  Religious right-wingers would have you believe that the only way we can save society from complete breakdown is to get on our knees and beg “God” to take over.  (Not that the massive financial gain affects their reasoning…)  Because their knowledge of good and evil comes out of a book (and because they think they have a monopoly on moral knowledge), they refuse to see that morality – knowledge of right and wrong and behavior according to an accepted code – can exist without their special book.

I’ve really gone down a rabbit track here, I know.  This whole post took a much deeper twist than I intended it to.  But can you still see my basic point?  When somebody says something nice to you (defined by them meaning it in a nice way and also by it following an acceptable social format), it is inexcusably rude for you to tell them to be exclusionary and selective.

So get off my back.  I say “Happy Holidays,” and I’m not stopping any time soon.

What?  No, she did NOT just write that!  Christmas is about family!  It’s about giving.  It’s about love.  It’s about others.  It’s about the little baby Jesus asleep on the hay, for Christ’s sake!!  (I don’t think that came out quite right…)

Christmas in my life has been a day where my family gets together, eats great food, exchanges presents, and spends time together.  It’s wonderful!  I love Christmas, and when I was away from my family it was really hard to not be able to share this time.

The fact that we all live very close together now, and we spend a lot of time together, doesn’t make the family time aspect of Christmas less wonderful.  The fact that we get together every week and cook for each other doesn’t make the eating-great-food aspect of Christmas any less special.  But the fact is, the only thing that we do at Christmas that is specifically and uniquely a Christmas tradition is – what?  We give each other presents.

Now, I don’t feel the presents are important because I’m materialistic.  Giving (and getting) presents is NOT about stuff.  It’s about knowing the person you’re giving the stuff to.  It’s about saying, “I know you, leeettle seeester.  I know you’re wonderfully goofy, and you have an incredible carefree way of approaching the world.  So when I saw this little trinket, I thought of you.  And I bought it for you. I know who you are and I love who you are.  So Merry Christmas.”  You can say those words all day (and I think you should say them, too) but there’s an additional impact that comes when you reinforce the words by giving the person an item that illustrates what you’re saying.  It’s a symbolic gesture, I know, but it really does carry meaning.

So that’s my reasoning.  That’s why present on Christmas are so important to me.  Because it’s not just about stuff, it’s about special stuff, and the process you go through to get it for them.  It’s that contemplation of who the person is, and what sort of thing they would like.  Then you look around and see how you can translate that person’s life into an object.  It’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s intensely personal.

Do I ever get duds?  Oh, sure.  There are times I can’t figure the person out, times I can’t find something in my price range that they’d like.  I feel a tiny bit of failure when I have to give a gift card, but fortunately it’s tempered by the fact that I know they’ll enjoy picking out something for themself.  Hey, extra spending money is always a bonus in this family!  😀

So yeah, the presents are important.  But only because they’re a visible, tangible, giveable form of love.

Oh, and as for the baby Jesus thing?  That would certainly be a vital part of it: a central, integral part of it, in fact.  If I were Christian.

Scratching in the kitchen

No, I don’t think that came out right.  COOKING from scratch!  Yeah, that’s better.

It all started with that silly cornbread.  Yeah, I bought some corn meal and followed the recipe on the side for sweet cornbread muffins.  They were a hit with the family (and I loved them) so after a while I started thinking of other things I want to make from scratch.

Then it was chicken soup.  That was partly because I was feeding the cats cooked chicken, and I didn’t want to waste the bones and scraps.

Now, I have homemade marinara in the fridge, I’m improving the spices of my chili recipe, and today will be breaking out the masa and making corn tortillas.  Just for the fish.

I guess I’m getting some cabin fever, but I don’t really want to get dressed and go anywhere I don’t have to.  So instead, I go into the kitchen.

Since when did I become this domestic?!?  Knitting, baking, cooking, what’s next?  I don’t want to become Martha Stewart!!!

Nah, it’ll never happen.  First of all, the cats eat anything decorative that they can reach.  Hell, I can’t leave any open space in the up-above, lest I walk into the kitchen and find a cat up there!  Second, I don’t have the patience to do decorative stuff on a large scale.  I get bored too easily!

But maybe I’m channeling just a little bit of my grandmas.  I’d like that.

But not the pot-smoking, sun-worshiping, drunk-riding-on-horseback-home-from-the-bar bit of Grandma.

I’ll skip that part.

NaNo – DONE!!

Getting ready for the Thank God It’s Over party tonight at the Methodist church.  Yay!  I know, I know, I do love doing NaNoWriMo.  But it was just so much on top of everything else this year!  So I made my choice and I put my novel aside in favor of other priorities.  Like putting out a decent newsletter, getting good photos so I could list more items online, and getting funding for the store opening.

I guess those were pretty important, too.

So life will go back to its standard form of insanity, down from the enhanced period of literary insanity.  The good news is that I’ve made some good contacts, so there’ll be better advance planning for NaNoWriMo 2012!