When Holidays make us Remember

For me, it happens just about every year around this time. Thanksgiving is done, and leftovers are being enjoyed. Black Friday shopping is thankfully over. And now it’s on to the next task of the holiday season, if you haven’t done it yet.

Decorating for Christmas. Getting out the tree. Or trees, in our case. And that’s when it starts. As I unwrap certain ornaments I can’t help but remember where I got them, and the story behind them. I remember the ones that were my grandmother’s, and my mother’s. The ones my mother bought for us, and ones she’d given us for her granddaughter, especially the baby’s first Christmas series. And my eyes almost always get a little damp….

I really think I’m over the loss, the emptiness of my mom being gone; of our traditions being over, or, I guess I should say, carried on in new ways. But then I realize I will never be totally over it, because you never are. The loss, and the memories, are always there.

It’s not just her empty place at our table; her not being around for our traditional Black Friday shopping; her name no longer on our gift list. Not being able to go to her house during the holidays. Her not being with us Christmas morning to watch presents being opened. She’s certainly with us in spirit, and always will be.

It’s the knowing she won’t be here ever again to share the joys of the holidays with us in our new ways. Her precious granddaughter Ashley is now married, with a beautiful daughter of her own. She never got to meet our Chris, or their little girl Rachel. My mother would have been over the moon in love with our little girl, and I’m sure she would delight in everything our granddaughter (her great-granddaughter) did, every gift she opened, just like she did with our daughter every Christmas. She’d have sat and played with her all day, while the rest of us prepared dinner.

And she’d be absolutely ecstatic knowing that next Christmas little Rachel will have a new sister that my mother would also totally adore. I can even picture the three of them playing together in the stack of new toys Santa delivered for both girls, with so much laughter and so much joy. She’d act like a little kid, right along with them.

My mom never laughed or smiled a lot after my dad died, but at Christmas time, when she had her granddaughter Ashley with her, that’s all we saw. Smiles and happiness. Laughter. Even when our toddler daughter was having a temper tantrum while shopping, or doing something else that wouldn’t necessarily put her on Santa’s “good list”, my mother just smiled and said, “She’ll be fine. Just let her be.” And she was.

I so miss those days. And I think of them even more often now that we have a granddaughter who is so much like her mother. I just can’t help wishing “if only my mother could be here….”

But the past is the past, and as much as we wish, and dream, we can’t change it. We can’t bring our loved ones back, as much as we’d like to. We can only imagine how things would be, picture them in our minds, and treasure them in our hearts.

No matter how old I get, no matter how many years will have passed, I will still have these feelings. They’re part of me; part of who I am. No matter how many years have passed I will still picture my mother the way she looked during her last years. Except her face will have softened, the lines disappeared, and that beautiful smile she had whenever she was with our daughter will be lighting up her entire being.

I wonder if some day our daughter, and our granddaughters, will have these thoughts, these feelings. Especially, many years from now, as they pull out the Christmas ornaments that used to be mine, and place them on their Christmas trees. Will they remember? Will they long for those “old days” as I still do?

The holidays are not only a time of joy and excitement. It’s also a time for dreams; for family; and for memories that we’ll treasure forever.

What memories do you treasure most from Christmases past? What are the things you’d most like to be able to re-live? And what memories do you hope your children and grandchildren will most remember about you?

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving Day. And all over America turkeys are being stuffed and shoved into ovens. Pies are baking. Tables are being set for a delicious dinner with traditional favorites as well as new recipes from magazines that looked too good not to try. And we‘re hoping they’re as good as the pictures, and not a disaster!

Families and friends have traveled to their destinations and they’re now looking forward to a day of eating, forgetting whatever diet they may be on just for this one day. And then sitting down to watch football, or in some cases, start early Christmas shopping. (Which I refuse to do!)

The kitchen smells of roasting turkey, cinnamon, pumpkin, and nutmeg sprinkled on cups of eggnog.

But instead of concentrating on just the food, let’s take a minute or two to think a little more about this holiday, and what it stands for.

It’s not just a day to read all the newspaper and online shopping ads, selecting what you want to buy the next day, or even worse, later that evening. It’s not a day to complain that there wasn’t enough pumpkin pie, or that you’d have rather had chicken than turkey, or that you didn’t want to spend your whole day with your family, when you’d rather be out with your friends.

It’s a day to be thankful. Thankful for the things that matter.

Thankful for food on the table. Many families don’t have a traditional dinner because they can’t afford it, and have to rely on the generosity of others for their Thanksgiving meal, and then try to see how many days of leftovers they can stretch out,

Thankful for a home in which to have your Thanksgiving meal. It doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy; it could be owned by you, or your parents, or you could be renting it. House, apartment, or condo…you have a roof over your head. This year especially there are hundreds of families living in shelters or with friends because their homes were destroyed by hurricanes, floods, or fires.

Thankful for health, whether you’re exceptionally healthy, or if you’ve been through a number of medical procedures, surgeries, and illnesses from which you’ve recovered or are still recovering. Many people are currently fighting life-threatening or terminal illnesses, and just glad to be here for another Thanksgiving celebration, knowing next year may very well be totally different.

Thankful for your children. Even if they drive you crazy at times (and if you have children, who cannot say that!) or if they aren’t living close by any more. Many, many families have tried unsuccessfully to conceive, and would give almost anything to have a baby. Still others have lost children, and feel an unimaginable pain, especially this time of year.

Thankful for your job, even if it’s not what you really want to be doing. It’s an income, until you are able to fund something else. There are still a lot of people out there who are unemployed, either due to layoffs, business closings, or losing their place of employment due to the hurricanes or wildfires.

Thankful for friends. Old friends as well as new. Friends who are like family. Who accept you as you are, and are always ready to help you out when you need it, give advice when you ask for it, and many times even share your Thanksgiving meal with you.

Thankful for the country you live in. For the freedoms you enjoy every day; the freedoms not enjoyed by so many other countries. A country in which we have freedom to worship as we choose, and freedom to speak our minds whether our government agrees with us or not. Freedom to vote without fear of being arrested or even killed. Freedom to criticize our government.

There are so many other reasons to be thankful today. I am thankful for all of the above, as well as being thankful for my husband and his health, our son-in-law, our beautiful granddaughter, and our new granddaughter who will be celebrating her first Thanksgiving with the family next year.

That’s a lot for all of us to be thankful for. And we need to remember that before we sit down to eat. What are the things you’re thankful for this year?

And be sure to give thanks for your blessings. Not everyone has the blessings that you do! Whether you think of them that way or not.

The Invisible Table

A few days ago I read a Thanksgiving essay by Mitch Albom, one of the authors whose books I thoroughly enjoy reading.

“The Empty Table” is a tribute to his family members who are no longer here, and describes the empty table he is setting this year in their honor, a place set for each of them. And he goes on to name each of them, with a brief description of how they had enjoyed their annual family Thanksgiving meal while they were with him.

It was one of the most touching tributes for lost family members I have read in a long time.

Like Mr. Albom, I have also lost many family members, including my parents. And I so often think of them at this time of year, and if I close my eyes, I can still see them sitting at our family table, enjoying both food and fellowship, and above all, love for one another. Like Mr. Albom, I miss each of my family members terribly. I understand how he feels.

Over the years I’ve written about honoring and remembering lost loved ones at the holiday season, especially that first year without them. I’ve talked about setting a place for them at the table, even displaying a picture on the table by their untouched plate.

But setting an entire table and leaving it empty? I would not have thought of that. But yet, it makes sense.. if they’re there in spirit, why not make them welcome! Honor their memory in whatever way you choose.

Now I am in no way the writer Mr. Albom is. His way with words is incredible and his ideas and style are unique. However, his essay inspired me to write my own version of his Thanksgiving tribute, and I hope you will take a few minutes to do the same.

My tribute is called “the invisible table”. As I can imagine so many of my loved ones, once again together, enjoying a heavenly Thanksgiving dinner, probably similar to the ones they enjoyed here on earth. Now ageless, healthy, and, I would think, able to eat whatever they want, and as much as they want.

I can imagine their heavenly Thanksgiving starting early, because after all, time is eternal in heaven, and its citizens do not need to conform to the earthly time frames that once limited them. However for this day I would think a few bits of earthy traditions would appear in their heavenly homes. After all, the turkey needs to be put in the oven the first thing in order for everything else to be ready on time.

Wait! Cooking in heaven? Doesn’t the food just appear? Already prepared?

Most likely, however, since my grandmother, my mother, and most of my aunts loved to cook for Thanksgiving, I’m sure they still enjoy that in heaven, and still enjoy preparing their favorite dish to serve their loved ones and any special guests who drop by. (But I’m willing to bet they don’t have to clean up or put the leftovers away!)

I’m sure their heavenly Thanksgiving table is beautifully set, with flickering golden candles, glistening crystal goblets, and iridescent plates like we can only imagine. And once the meal is ready, most likely they are all seated at this table, and served their delicious meal by a hoard of angels.

I can see my grandfather, at the head of the table, his wavy hair now full and dark, bowing his head and saying the Thanksgiving blessing, and thanking the Lord that they are all together.

My grandmother, now wheelchair free, sits at the opposite end of that table, the family matriarch, surrounded by her children and their spouses, telling him, “Seymour, cut that turkey and start passing the food before it gets cold!”

My uncle Hilton is there, no longer shaking from Parkinson’s, his wife Ruth and their daughter Julia at his side, swapping jokes with his brothers in law, and planning a fishing trip for all of them.

My uncle Carlton and his wife Kitty, freed from the earthly prison of Alzheimer’s, offer a Thanksgiving toast with heavenly wine, the likes of which have never been tasted on earth.

My uncle Fowler is there, cancer free, wearing one of his favorite lighted Christmas ties, the lights blinking off and on while he’s racing my Uncle Jay to see who gets the turkey neck!

And uncle Jay, also free from Alzheimer’s, is eating so quickly, as always, that he drops food on his favorite Christmas tie, which actually blends in with the food spots from last year’s dinner. And of course, there are my mom’s dogs, all of them reunited with her, circling around Jay’s chair, because he always drops yummy morsels for them to enjoy.

My aunt Mary, Jay’s wife, sits happily beside him, her memory clear, and happily serves everyone a scoop of her delicious oyster dressing. And everyone is asking if she brought her special angel pie for dessert, that none of us have ever been able to properly duplicate!

And of course, there are my mom and dad. How happy they look! Finally together after so many years. Daddy’s hair is dark and full, his eyesight perfect, and his headaches are forever gone. Once again he is with the family he loved and didn’t have nearly enough earthly time with.

My mother is beside him, smiling like I’ve never seen before, because she is finally reunited with the love of her life. Her hair is once again dark and wavy, her eyes still as blue, and her face unlined, her complexion as smooth as it was in the photo I have of their wedding day. And beside them are my brothers and sisters I never met, the babies she’d lost to miscarriages, now finally reunited with their parents, and, like everyone else at the table, begging for her “famous” cinnamon buns that she always made for every holiday dinner. And there were at least four trays of them, lovingly made for the family my mom still treasures.

There are a few empty seats there, waiting for other family members to join them. But that doesn’t put a damper on their celebration, because they know we’ll all be there one day.

And this is my Invisible table, with my family. They are all happy and smiling. They’re together again. And yes, I’m sure they remember us. They miss us, but they know they’ll see us again.

What about you? Do you have an Invisible table? Please feel free to share your stories with us, as I did, and as Mitch Albom did in “The Empty Table”.

Happy Thanksgiving! Be blessed!

When Holidays Hurt

Once again we’re approaching that season. The big holiday season. Many of us are already preparing dishes ahead of time, or at least making our shopping lists so we’ll have everything we need to prepare a feast for our guests.

Thanksgiving and Christmas. Two huge holidays which are meant for celebrating with families. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Those happy holiday meals, sitting around a beautifully set table, enjoying everyone’s company…it just doesn’t always work like that.

Many families are divided. Divorce has claimed its ugly toll, splintering parents and children. When it was unwanted by one side or the other, the one who didn’t want the divorce is the one hurting the most. Every holiday ad showing happy families sitting down to a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast; every ad showing families Christmas shopping together, or sitting around a beautifully lit tree opening presents…everywhere they look, they’re reminded of what isn’t anymore. And it’s like a punch in the stomach.

Even when the divorce was mutual, and both parties were in agreement, it’s still tough, especially that first year when families are split, kids don’t know where to go, what to say, or how to act. There are so many memories, so many reminders of what was, and will not be again. What they had perceived as happy times, they wonder about now, wondering if those times were really that happy, or if it was all a show, a bit of make-believe.

Yes, it’s hard. It’s a time when many of those unhappy memories are put away, ignored, even remembered in different ways. Those last few holidays in which no one spoke to each other except when necessary, when gifts were quickly exchanged so everyone could go somewhere else, when the meal was eaten in separate rooms; when sarcastic or hurtful comments were made back and forth…all of that is conveniently forgotten because it’s too hard to remember.

You long for the old traditions, the way things used to be, but in reality, those traditions you think you remember weren’t always actually the way you remember. You just want to think they were.

The holidays are even harder when you’ve lost loved ones. Many of us have lost loved ones on Thanksgiving Day or that holiday weekend. That also contributes to an even harder touch of sadness on that day.

Those memories of the years when our loved ones were with us come back when we least expect it, sometimes with tears we’ve already cried months or even years ago. We know we’ll never have those days again. It hurts. And the only way we can survive it, is to push through it, remember the good times, and do our best to make new memories in this new normal. Is it easy? No, but we do what we have to do.

When I was very young holidays were always spent with my grandparents, parents, and assorted aunts and uncles and cousins. But as the years went by, slowly, one by one, those family members were no longer around. Some had passed away, and some moved on to spend their holidays with their new extended families due to marriages or living too far away to travel back home.

It was hard. Especially as the years quickly passed, and then my mother was no longer around (my father died many years before her), and those holiday traditions faded away until there was very little to be kept. We went from friends’ homes to friends’ homes those first years until we were finally able to establish our own special holiday tradition with our grown daughter and her family. But still, I long for those old holiday dinners that will never be again, to be with loved ones that I will only see again after I leave this world.

There is no perfect holiday, except in our minds. It’s what we make it. The old traditions are gone, but new traditions need to be established, even if it’s just one little thing each year. And as you rebuild your life, from whatever you’ve been through, you build those new traditions.

For our family, that means inviting friends to join us for our holiday meals, bringing one of their favorite dishes as part of a new tradition for our family. They’re welcomed as part of our extended family, and by the time the evening is over, we’ve added more branches to our family tree.

Holidays can hurt. There’s no way around it. And unfortunately for many of you, this may be the case this year.

But I can tell you, it does get better. It just doesn’t seem like it right now. It will always seem different, but it WILL get better.

And you’re not alone in feeling this way.

Reflections on a Tragedy

Yesterday morning I woke up, a bit earlier than usual, with a heavy heart. Something was on my mind and I just couldn’t stop thinking.

As I lay in bed listening to rain falling on our skylights, all I could think was, “Lord can’t you please send this rain to California? They need it so desperately….”

And I starting thinking about the tragedy that is ongoing in that state, all the way across the country from where we are. How so many, many people’s lives have literally been ripped apart. Entire towns wiped out, burned to the ground, with nothing left to salvage but ashes. One minute you’re in your comfortable cozy home, and the next you are fleeing for your very life, with nothing much more than the clothes on your back, your family and hopefully your pets thrown in the car, and praying you can get to safety before you’re engulfed in a massive conflagration.

I cannot even begin to imagine it.

My mind started imagining hoards of people…families scrambling to pick out just a very few items to take with them, knowing it was the very last time they’d see their home standing. Their possessions, their memories, being stolen from them by a force completely out of their control. Children crying and screaming, not understanding any more than their parents. And not knowing whether they’d make it out alive, or if their friends or family members would either.

The pictures we’ve seen are horrible, but I’m sure they are nothing compared to being there, in the middle of it, and experiencing a nightmare that is unimaginable, and one in which you know you will not wake up from. These people who made it out, and the ones who are still fleeing, have literally lost everything. Their homes, their possessions, their very way of life. They’re now faced with picking up what pieces can be salvaged, and trying to figure out how to start over.

Not only have they lost their homes, but the clothes they wore, and in many cases their vehicles, many of which had pieces of plastic literally starting to melt off as they frantically drove away to safety.

We’ve seen the pictures; watched the videos. We’ve seen the firefighters, exhausted beyond belief still trying to stop this inferno and prevent even more destruction.

People have died horrible deaths. From smoke inhalation to bring burned alive. Many are still missing and feared dead. Families and friends are waiting for news of loved ones, praying for the best, and fearing the worst.

It is literally hell on earth out there.

Over 11,000 structures have been destroyed, the majority being homes. Hundreds of people are in shelters, not knowing their future. The death toll is riding and hundreds more are unaccounted for, and may never be found.

And it’s not over yet.

Imagine yourself suddenly faced with this situation. Your home is gone. So are your clothes. Your family photos, any and all of your treasured family mementos.

You probably don’t have your insurance information, and even if you do, how long will it take to process your claim amidst the thousands of others that are out there. And how long will it take to find a place to live, even a tiny apartment or camper?

Most likely your place of employment is gone, and may never be there again. You have no source of income and no

idea when you’ll have a paycheck again.

Your doctors’ offices are gone and so is their medical equipment. Hospitals have been destroyed. Your medical records hopefully still exist on line, but cannot be accessed right now. If you’re out of medication, chances are you have no quick way of getting refills because the pharmacies are gone. Those who rely on oxygen to stay alive, or other electrical powered equipment…what will happen to them? The critically ill patients who were in those hospitals in harms’ way, whose terrified caregivers struggled to get them to safety…what about them?

Food will have to be brought in from other areas, and you’ll have to be satisfied with whatever you’re given, whether you like it or not. Shelters are full and overflowing. There’s no privacy, and already survivors are getting sick from the smoke, the living conditions, and lack of medication.

Pregnant women are facing giving birth under conditions they never imagined. New parents are trying to figure out how to feed their infants, provide diapers, and keep them safe in a world turned upside down.

Schools are gone, and parents are worrying about educating their kids, giving them some sense of normalcy in a situation that has taken away their childhood innocence.

Think of your day to day life. Now imagine it ripped away from you in a matter of minutes. And now looters are going around and stealing what little is left in the abandoned homes and businesses that have somehow survived this holocaust.

Nothing will ever be the same for these victims.

And next week is Thanksgiving. What do the survivors have to be thankful for? Besides being alive.

That’s a big thing to be thankful for.

And then there’s Christmas soon to follow. And I can guarantee each family is, instead of wanting gifts, merely wishing for things just to be the same before the fire. I wish that, too, and if I could make it happen I would.

What is being done to help these thousands of wildfire victims? Actually I have no idea. I’ve seen very little so far about what is being done to help. There is bound to be a housing crisis, food shortages, medical needs we can’t even imagine, and psychological counseling that will likely be needed for the survivors for years. The monetary effects will be astronomical, let alone the human toll on the families affected.

What I continue to hear in the news though, are people still complaining about election results, congressional leadership, anti-Trump vs. pro-Trump infighting, fake news, and how the caravan of immigrants is going to ruin our country. And let’s not forget those who are blaming each political side’s views on climate change and forestry mismanagement for causing the fires. Or even worse, those who are saying California is burning because of their sins; how God doesn’t really care about them. I have no words except “please shut up!”

Why don’t we spend more of our energy on planning what to do to help the people affected by this ongoing tragedy than this so-called election fraud? Or arguing about who should have White House press credentials? Or continuing to insult the other political side for everything they can possibly be accused of, just to stir up trouble and keep their names in the news?

Where are our priorities? Are we that self-centered that we don’t let such things concern us until it threatens to happen to us?

I don’t know what I can do to help, other than donate to various fund raising organizations, but how long will it take those funds to reach and help those who need help right now? And they do need that help. Now. And for months and months to come.

Let’s not forget. It could be us.

It Happened Again….

Another fitful, restless night, waking up almost every hour, tossing and turning, strange dreams rolling around in my head.

Even the dogs were restless. Were they sharing my restlessness and my weird dreams? Or do they have their own weird dreams in which cats or squirrels are chasing them instead of the other way around?

It happens to all of us at one time or another. Some of us more than others. And some of us at very unexpected times. And for no reason at all, at least not one I can come up with.

Like last night when I heard the doorbell in the middle of the night. Fortunately Ben got up to answer it. Then when I heard loud voices outside I got up and looked out the window, where I saw him arguing with two horses who wanted to come in and visit. Actually they were asking if they could rent a room from us for a few months until they could find an apartment! Really? I don’t know what he was telling them, because I woke up about that time.

They were really pretty horses, though, and probably would’ve been a lot of fun to have around. And I bet they’d have loved swimming in the pool in the summer.

The the next thing I knew I found myself attending a party. Not just any party, mind you. But a very special one, held in my mother’s unfinished attic, with a doll table I’d never seen before set with a quilt my grandmother had made, my old china (yes, china, not plastic) toy dishes I hadn’t seen in years, and my old dolls and teddy bears seated around that table waiting for the goodies that I was preparing. In an “oven” that was actually a small chest of drawers, and one of those drawers was actually an oven. I guess it was a magical oven, because it produced a beautiful little cake, fully decorated as I pulled it out and set it in front of the guests.

I hope they enjoyed it. I have no idea, because that’s when I woke up, wondering how that party happened, because I’d sold my mother’s house over ten years ago, and I daresay that attic doesn’t look anywhere near what it looked like when my mother owned it. And come to think of it, it didn’t quite look the same in my dream, either, as when she’d owned the house.

Then one last time I finally drifted back to sleep, and probably right before it was time to get up.

This time it was another of those dreams in which my mom was still alive. You know, the ones in which I can see her so clearly, hear her voice as if she was really here; the ones in which she looked exactly the same as before she passed away. This time we were talking about her dog (who passed away 3 years ago) and how she was going to maybe get little Angel a playmate because she didn’t want her to be lonesome when she left. I told her she wasn’t going anywhere, and reached over to hug her, keep her close, but just as I went to touch her, I woke up. Without getting that reassuring hug I so desperately wanted.

It seems whenever I have these vivid dreams of my mother, I never get to touch her, hug her, kiss her…I come close and the dream ends. But I still have them, and at the time they’re so real I sometimes still look for her when I wake up. And I’m still disappointed when she’s not there, even after 12 years.

Dreams are funny things. We all have them, even if we don’t remember them. They can be serious, funny, or frightening. They can be related to events in our life, or totally disconnected to anything we know. We dream about our past, sometimes changing the outcome of a particular event. We dream about events that are coming up, and it seems they always go wrong, messing with our brain and putting us in a perpetual state of worry. Sometimes they’re so outrageous we find ourselves waking up, shaking our heads and just thinking, “where did THAT come from?!” Or we wake up scared out of our wits because we were in a horribly bad situation that we’d barely escaped from.

For those of you who, like me, have those nights where you just can’t sleep well, keep waking up and laying there trying so hard to go back to sleep before you have to get up, you’re not alone. It may not make you feel better, but as the saying goes, misery loves company. And it seems the older we get, the more often it happens!

Hopefully tonight will be a better night.

But in the meantime, what kind of crazy dreams do you have? We can at least share if we can’t sleep!

Now that the Election is Over

What now?

Your candidates either won or lost. You’re either ecstatically happy, or angry and discouraged. You may have stayed up late listening to election results, hoping your candidate could pull off a win, or went to bed early because you didn’t want to hear the same things over and over.

So what now? After all the hoopla, the name calling, the predictions of gloom and doom if the “other side” wins…

I was so very pleased to see the number of people on social media bragging that they’d voted! I was pleased there were long lines at polling places. People actually went out and made their opinions count! Whether their candidates won or not.

But now…what next?

Even though the House will now be one majority party and the Senate another, don’t look for a lot of changes. That’s right. Because none of them got along before the election, and I certainly don’t expect them to now.

I’m afraid we’re going to have a lot more of the same old, same old. In fact, I’m afraid it may even be worse. I’m afraid each side will start blasting the other for the things they’re going to attempt to do, before the newly elected representatives even have a chance to take office. Before the first legislation is even proposed.

I’m afraid there will be more bottlenecks with legislation that’s needed, because neither side really wants to get along with the other. They’re both too busy being on one side or the other, rather than trying to figure out how to come together for the good of our country. They may claim they want bipartisanship, but I don’t see it happening.

We’re already hearing people talking about how “this one person” who just got elected is one of the most stupid people they’ve ever seen. Nice! That’s coming together. We’re hearing people say that “this person” will be impeached before they even have a chance to take their seat. Seriously? Before they’re sworn in? That’s not even legally possible.

And let’s not forget how one person being the new Speaker of the House will single-handedly destroy our country, so all is lost forever. Yeah…one person has that power.

And of course there are all the people already saying the votes were “fixed”. That certain people’s votes weren’t counted because they were cast for a certain candidate. That the voting machines registered their vote the opposite of what they selected. There were more votes in certain districts than registered voters. Illegal immigrants voted but registered voters couldn’t. Their voices weren’t heard.

I’m sure lawsuits are already being filed because this or that candidate didn’t win. So we’ll keep hearing this same old story for months to come. I’m thrilled. Not. I’ve heard this story too many times. I’m sure there are some problems out there, but enough to change the election results? I seriously doubt it.

And once the new representatives and senators take their seats in January, I’m expecting nothing to really change. Each side will paint the other as bad for the country. Each side will try to stop legislation the other side introduces and introduce their own which will then be stopped by the other side. And very little will get accomplished except more bickering and arguing. Because they’re more concerned about politics than what’s good for the country. Sure, some of the newcomers truly want to make a difference, but once they’re seated, once they see how it all works, they will probably become like everyone else in their particular party, their ideals put aside for the sake of re-election.

Cynical? Probably. But I’m tired of the same old, same old.

Who’s to blame? Both sides. Yes. Both. Sides.

I hope I’m wrong. I really do. But all I see happening is more division; wider gaps between sides, with each side claiming it’s the other side’s fault.

And can we please stop already with the “fake news” claims on an hourly basis? Sure, there are stories out there which are purposely slanted one way or another, and it’s been that way for years, but I do believe the majority of our news outlets and their reporters are honest, hardworking people who try to accurately report the truth. Continually calling certain new stories “fake news” tells me there’s a lot more to the story that hasn’t been uncovered yet.

At least the political ads are gone for awhile.

Or are they….? The next election is coming, and it’s never too early to start slinging accusations at the other side.

Can we all just try to come together for the sake of our country? Try to find common ground? Try to act respectful and professional? Set a good example for others? Maybe show our children and grandchildren that adults can respect each other like we tell them to do?

No, it’s not “I will if you will.” It’s “I’m going to make the decision to respect others, to stop name-calling, and to act civil and dignified. Whether I’m the only one or not. Whether I get re-elected or not.”

What a novel idea.

Can we please see how that works for a change?

I’m Not Asking You to Agree With Me…

This is certainly a blog that I’ve put off writing for several reasons. One, because it’s difficult to convey my thoughts properly in an essay. Two, because I know it’ll be taken totally out of context by lots of people.

And three, because many of our friends will be offended and instead of respecting my opinion and my thoughts, as I do theirs, they’ll simply choose to be mad, and offended, and say then we’re not friends anymore because you’re wrong (and they’re right).

It’s a scary step to take, but the longer this festers inside of me, the more I know I have to get it out.

I am entitled to my opinions as everyone else is to theirs. Whether we agree or not.

So to all of my friends…before you get mad and say we can’t be friends any more, just read and think about what I say. It’s not aimed at any one in particular. Just because we don’t agree on certain points doesn’t mean I don’t love you as my friend. And if you think I’m talking about someone specific, well, as I’ve heard said before, “if this gets your goat, then you had a goat to get!”

Deep breath…..here it comes…

Over the past months I’ve seen and heard so much on social media, and in conversations about how God told me to do this. God told me you have to do this (or stop doing this). God said He made sure this or that happened to teach people a lesson.

God caused the destruction in the Caribbean from the hurricane because the people were being punished for being nonbelievers.

God allowed the massacre at the Pulse nightclub because He hates gay people.

God hand-picked the president we have now and made sure he got elected because he was chosen to be there. I didn’t know God was that active in our politics. And if He’s that active in our country’s politics, why not the other countries? Why just ours?

God allowed this or that because we aren’t praying enough.

And the one that really gets me, God hates a collective of certain individuals because of certain beliefs or lifestyles. So that means I do, too!

Really? When did God start hating people? My God is a God of love. He may not always agree with things we do, but I can guarantee he doesn’t HATE anyone. He may be disappointed in choices we all make, but turn our backs on us? No.

Then there’s the exact opposite of others putting down people for their religious views, making fun of them, publicly calling for resignations or boycotts because that person professes a certain faith. That person has that right to believe, just as you do.

What’s happened to us?

Why is it so important to put others down, to dissolve friendships, even families, because you don’t agree with the other person’s faith? And please don’t tell me God told you to, because my God doesn’t do that. Yes, He wants us to love Him as well as each other, which is sometimes hard to do. But as a Christian that’s what we’re called to do.

I’m also getting tired of being continually barraged with the “look how wonderful I am” type of posts from others bragging about what they did for the Lord today. Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing stories of redemption and miracles, but there are ways to say it to glorify the Lord rather than themselves. It’s getting a lot more prevalent these days. Why do so many believers feel they have to impress others with their own self worth in order to make their point?

How about “God told me to move to California, or Texas, or Florida, but we don’t have the money, so give me a contribution so we can be obedient?” I’m sorry. If God tells you to go, He’s going to make a way. Missionaries do it all the time through support of churches and other donors. If you’re supposed to do that, look into church sponsorship and fundraising by donor letters. Not constant begging.

“I need a car. God said someone was going to give me one so I can use my money for other things and superbly bless whoever does it. Who’s going to be the one who gets blessed by giving me one?” My God doesn’t make those type of deals.

There are those who adamantly preach against something…how wrong something is. (I’m not talking about anything dangerous or illegal, by the way…just every day life.) And then suddenly they want to do the same thing, and decide to research scripture and…oh my…they were wrong and that thing is suddenly ok now. Then why were you so adamantly against it before? You only researched what YOU wanted to believe?

There are those who preach about the evils of reading books by certain authors who write about sorcery, vampires, so-called horror and fantasy writers. That seeing certain movies will condemn you and your family because you saw something you shouldn’t…says “them”.

Harry Potter is an idea from the author’s imagination and reading the books and/or seeing the movies won’t condemn you to hell. By the way, I’ve never read the series nor seen the movies but it’s not a genre that appeals to me. But one of my favorite authors is Stephen King. And you know the types of novels he writes. They’re excellent, well written, and some of them really make you think about personal interaction.

Let’s not forget about all those who have a fit over Halloween. That you can’t “celebrate” it. Well we don’t “celebrate” it but we enjoy giving our candy to the dressed up kids, and going trick or treating with our granddaughter. We carved jack o’lanterns with our daughter for many years. Once in awhile we even dressed up for Halloween, and now we dress our dogs in costumesas well. And the Lord still loves us.

And then there are those who make a point to tell people who’ve just lost loved ones that because they didn’t “know the Lord”, they’ll never see them in heaven. Now yes, I know the teachings of Jesus and how He told us we need to believe in Him to be in heaven. However…how do we know what happens in those last few seconds of life? The God I know loves everyone, He loves them so much I truly believe He’s there waiting as each of us are departing this life, with His hand outstretched saying “Come to Me.” Who wouldn’t go with Him? Are they saying the Jews who were slaughtered during the Holocaust, the Jews who were massacred in Pittsburgh, were turned away from heaven? I’m sure my God welcomed each and every one into His kingdom.

And yes, now I’m getting ready to go somewhere that will really upset some people. But I have to…

There are many evangelicals, pastors as well as believers, who are quick to condemn those who are gay. Those people may be their friends, close friends even, but when it’s discovered they’re gay, suddenly that person is condemned, ostracized, ignored, and told they’re going straight to hell! From being a close friend to persona non grata in a matter of minutes. Yes, I know what the book of Leviticus states. But I also know that Jesus told us when He came we were no longer under the Law, but under grace. And that we are told to love each other as God loves the Church. Why is this command not being followed? Why do I hear pastors in particular going around and saying how much they can’t stand gay people? Yes. I’ve heard it. Obviously “love thy neighbor” only applies in certain situations.

And along those same lines, what happens if one of their family members suddenly announces he or she is gay? Will scriptures be researched again only to discover, “Oh my, I was wrong!” ?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am a believer. I love the Lord. But I have just had enough of religious hypocrisy and intolerance. When people are chastised and sometimes asked to leave their church or employment for drinking wine. That WAS the first miracle, right? Turning water into wine? When women are reminded that marriage is forever and in many cases even leaving a husband for domestic abuse or infidelity is wrong and it should’ve instead been dealt with by praying for him. Had I followed that guideline, I may not have lived through my short and disastrous second marriage. Leaving him wasn’t wrong. And I’ve been blessed with a long and happy marriage after that one.

I could go on but I’ve said enough for now. I’m sure I’ve made many people mad, but it’s time for us all to stop putting each other down, and care about others, even if we have different beliefs. I may not agree with all of my friends’ beliefs, or even my husband’s, but it’s my right to disagree as it is their right. I’m doesn’t mean I don’t still love them.

And I love my Lord, and He loves me. Just as I am. Yes I’m flawed. I’m not perfect. But I am who I am. And these are my thoughts. You’re entitled to yours as well.

Turning Back the Clocks…Turning Back Time

It’s that weekend again. You know, the one where we turn the clocks back an hour to recapture that hour we lost back in the spring. We get to sleep an hour later on Sunday morning, and who among us won’t enjoy that!

Or maybe you’d rather look at it as an extra hour in which to do something you enjoy. Read a bit longer, watch a longer movie, indulge yourself in a relaxing bubble bath, or play with your dog an extra hour (and I’m sure he’d enjoy that!). Even though we’re only retrieving that hour we lost a few months ago when we set the clocks ahead, well, we just feel a bit different about this time change, like we’re enjoying one of those unearned rewards, a guilty indulgence just for us!

Now let’s take things a step further. Let your imagination go and think a little bit on this Saturday morning. What would you do if you could turn your clocks back more than an hour and actually travel back in time? How far back would you turn them? Would it be days? Weeks? More?

One of the characters in Mitch Albom’s novel “The Timekeeper” tells of a young boy praying “please make it yesterday” so that his father would still be alive. Is that what you would want to do? Perhaps turn back your clocks to right before you got that phone call? Right before the doctor’s appointment? Perhaps turn back your clocks to at least one day before a loved one died? Several days before? Would you want to use the time to change the outcome, or just tell them all the things you didn’t get the opportunity to say?

How many times do we say, if only I could go back and do things differently for just that one event, that one moment. If I could just take it all back, make it go away. I’d get it right this time…

But what would you be giving up if you did that?

A woman who recently went through a horrible divorce told me, “I wish I’d never met that man! That I hadn’t married him! I had a few doubts, and should’ve listened to them. But I thought we loved each other, and I never imagined he’d do this to me….”

Ahhh….but just remember if you went back in time and changed that moment, it would change everything in your life from that moment on, and in the lives of everyone around you. You wouldn’t have the children you love so much; they wouldn’t exist, because they are uniquely yours and your ex-husband’s. And those grandchildren that you adore…no, they wouldn’t be here either.

So that’s not a good idea.

But what about those tragedies that we could possibly stop if we went back in time. Surely that would be worth it? Like the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks. 9-11. All the school shootings. Those are great thoughts, and wouldn’t it mean all those people would have been able to live out their lives happily and peacefully? Most likely. But…what would the perpetrators of those tragedies have done if their original plans had been prevented? Would they have tried something else and succeeded? Something much worse?

For every action there is an opposite reaction.

Author Stephen King wrote a novel a few years ago called “11.22.63” about a man who tries to go back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination. It’s an excellent read, and really makes you think about the “what if?” Especially the ending. What if you could go back in time and alter history?

Even if you could do that, time continues on, and we cannot stop it. You would still experience much of whatever it was that happened a few hours, or a few days or even weeks, after the clocks were turned back. Your today would still be your today, but a bit different from the one you’re living though right now. The concept of changing the past to affect the future makes for an interesting book or movie plot, but in reality, we all know that is not possible.

Perfect endings only exist in our dreams, in our imagination. Changing just one part of history, of one person’s story, would impact far more lives than we can imagine; not just one person. Because every day our actions can affect hundreds of other lives, in many different ways.

So when you turn that clock back tonight, just change the time and enjoy that extra hour. It won’t change your life, or the past, or anyone else’s, but you’ll still get an extra hour of sleep in the morning!

And by the way, that extra hour of sleep is to prepare you for it suddenly getting dark by 5:00 at night. And that’s a whole other topic….

To Vote or Not to Vote…Here are the Options

Tuesday is Election Day across this nation. A day when millions of people will go to their polling places and cast their vote for the candidates of their choice, exercising a right we are assured of in a free country. To vote for the people we want to represent us in our houses of government.

I have not missed voting in a state or national election since I was old enough to vote, some 45+ years ago. I have voted for winning candidates as well as losing candidates. I have voted Republican, Democrat, and third party. I have been overjoyed at some election results, and deeply disappointed by others. I have voted the same way as friends and family, and I have voted the exact opposite, where my vote canceled theirs.

In my younger days I even volunteered on a few political campaigns. I made phone calls and passed out literature. Right now that feels like a lifetime ago.

But I was proud to be able to cast my vote, to exercise my constitutional right. Far too many citizens of other countries do not have that right. Our forefathers fought for that right, many of them dying for that right. Voting is my constitutional right; it’s a privilege. And to me, it’s my duty as a U.S. citizen.

Sadly, millions of people will NOT go and vote on Election Day, for a variety of reasons. They say their vote doesn’t count. That’s just not true. Every vote counts. Elections have been won by one or two votes as well as by hundreds or thousands. EVERY vote counts. Every vote is important.

Many of these non-voters say it’s not important. It doesn’t impact their lives at all. They obviously don’t realize that the individuals who win elections are the ones who make the laws that dictate so many things in our life. Taxes. Health insurance. Gun laws and gun control. Immigration. Housing. Discrimination. Human rights. Keeping our country and its citizens safe. And let me add that word TAXES one more time…

Other non-voters, as well as voters, are simply tired of and disgusted by the rhetoric of the majority of the current political ads in which both parties do nothing but spew forth angry and accusatory statements about their opponents, most of which cannot possibly be true, and never bother to say a word about what they stand for and what they would try to do if elected. I refuse to vote for any candidate that does that, because all it tells me is that they are running on nothing but their own dislike of the other candidate and have no desire to really take a stand on anything.

I may be wrong, but that is how I feel, and I daresay many others feel that way as well. And before you start accusing me of partisanship, both sides are equally guilty. Whatever happened to running on issues instead of a smear campaign against an opponent? No wonder potential voters are turned off and refuse to cast a ballot. I’m turned off as well, but I WILL vote, but not for candidates who use those tactics. Whether the candidate I vote for wins or not.

This election, as with all elections, is important. It affects not only national government, but state governments and local jurisdictions as well. I have heard many people say they only vote for national issues; how foolish a statement that is, because local governments can impact your daily existence much more than the national issues. It’s all important.

If you don’t vote, you have no right to criticize or complain about what our government is doing. You have no right to complain about who’s in which office if you didn’t voice your opinion by voting. Don’t complain about high taxes or other issues you don’t agree with if you don’t vote; those of us who do vote will do it for you, and if we don’t like it, we will vote in new people, and it would be nice if you helped us do that. Otherwise, you still will have no right to complain.

I very rarely tell anyone about my political views, which have certainly changed over the years. It’s my business. And I am not going to try to convince people to vote my way, or chastise them when I find out they didn’t. That’s their business as well. At least they voted! Whether I agree with their choice or not.
This is your country as well as mine. We each have an equal say in what happens, BUT only if we all vote.

I vote. I hope you will, too. Your country, as well as future generations, including your grandchildren and mine, are counting on you.