Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve


Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Lord Tennyson

Another year is coming to an end, and like all previous years, there were the good moments and the not so good ones. To me, this day is an in-between time is a time for quiet reflection.  After months of planning, the Christmas holiday is over, and now it is time to sit quietly for awhile and reflect on what has happened to me throughout the year.  It does not mean that I sit and ruminate on what I did not accomplish in the last year. Rather, this reflection allows me to assess where I have been and where I want to go. Each year offers us an opportunity to build on what we have already accomplished.  

I do not do resolutions.  I decided a few years ago that I did not want to do that anymore.  I believe they open one up for failure.  For example, it was just the other day when I was looking for something in the closet that I came across my Resolution book which I began in 1982.  Each year I religiously sat on New Year's Eve and made my entries.  Amazingly, it was the same promises to myself  every year...

I will stop smoking.
I will lose weight.
I will eat healthier.

Yet here I am, 28 years later, still not eating healthier and 60 pounds heavier.  I did manage to quit smoking, but not because of any resolution.  I quit smoking because I couldn't make it up the subway stairs.

Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves
they believe are negative.  A majority of people revert back to how
they were before and feel like failures.  This year I challenge you
to a new resolution.  I challenge you to just be yourself.
--Aisha Elderwyn--

And, as always, I tend to get nostalgic or melancholy at this time of year.  I not only reflect on my  memories of my loved ones, but dream about the year ahead.  For me, the New Year is a time of remembrance and a time of hope...a time of forgiveness and a time of chance. The New Year offers me a  chance to revive and grow.

New Year's Eve is like every
other night; there is no pause
in the march of the universe,
no breathless moment of
silence among created things
that the passage of another
twelve months may be noted;
and yet no person has quite
the same thoughts this evening
as those that come with the
coming of darkness on other nights.
--Hamilton Wright Mabie--

(Before I close, I wanted to update you all on what's been going on here. Lots of finger pointing, that's for sure. This morning I heard on the news that because of impending layoffs and demotions of sanitation workers, supervisors advised workers to slow down or ignore certain neighborhoods. These neighborhoods, including Boro Park where I live, are supposedly upper class neighborhoods with a lot of political clout. Although I would not call my neighborhood upper class, I do have to admit that the residents here have the most political clout in the entire city. Problem is, it backfired. Instead of standing on the side of the workers, residents are now demanding investigation and possible criminal charges. People have died because help couldn't reach them.
 
Of course, we have the denials. Oh no, we would never put the people in jeopardy. I say that is a bunch of bull. Fact is, I have lived here twelve years in January and have been through many snowstorms. I remember in previous years not being able to sleep because the plows were continuously coming through...even when there was no snow left on the ground. This year, they came through once at night and once in the morning. Side streets were not done at all. The side street across from my home was only plowed sometime yesterday...days after the storm.
 
And garbage pickup. I've had no pickup since December 21st. Bags are littering the streets. It's now becoming a health hazard. I'm going to try not to let all this spoil my night, but it's not easy. We are truly a disaster zone here.)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

As Another Year Approaches


I don't know about everyone else, but I am finding it so hard to believe that the new year is right around the corner....2011.  Why, it seems like it was only yesterday that we were all bracing ourselves for the mega - disaster of the millennium.  That didn't really scare me, but I do have to admit, as the clock moved  closer to the midnight hour, I did take a few deep breaths.  And now, here we are,  almost 11 years later, getting ready to move on into 2011, and already there are those who are spouting fear about it the Winter Solstice of 2012.  Well, not only do I say let's get ourselves through 2011 first, but why make it into such a fearful time?  Does anyone really know what is going to happen...if anything happens at all?

The Winter Solstice on December 21, 2012 marks the completion of the 5125 year great cycle of the Mayan calendar, and while many believe that it will also bring with it the end of the world as we know it,  in my opinion, that doesn't necessarily have to mean the destruction of mankind, of the earth.   It is true that some people look at everything as a pending disaster, but why is it so hard to believe that 2012 may instead bring something good to the world?  Why do we always focus on the endings and never on the new beginnings that endings always seem to bring?  Why is it so hard to look at this time as a wonderful new phase in the evolution of the earth?  

Prophecies are made to be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and at times, they can even become self-fulfilling. The Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire is a prime example of this problem. According to the old Toltec legends, a white-skinned, bearded king named Quetzalcoatl, was prophesied to return from the East and establish an enlightened kingdom among the Indians, and as the appointed day of his second coming approached, the heavenly omens also indicated that the Aztec culture was about to come to an abrupt and violent end. And, yes, they did come to a violent end, but isn't it because they believed so fully in the prophesy that they actually invited the destruction in?

Astronomically this date signifies a time of the  Earth's alignment with the sun and the center of the Milky Way...the stars, the planets in our solar system, and the earth will be at a Crossroads, and the most important configuration found in the chart is what is called a Yod, also known as  Tthe Finger of God or the Finger of Fate) The Yod is an aspect pattern that does not need to involve all of the planets, but must involve at least 3 planets, or two planets and an angle such as the Midheaven or Ascendant. It looks like an arrow in the chart indicating change and transformation. In this chart we find Pluto, the planet of transformation, death, and rebirth; Saturn, the planet of earth's realms and learning experiences; and Jupiter, the planet of expansion and the focus of the Yod as it is the planet that stands alone, absorbing the energies of Pluto and Saturn.   

Although I do believe there will be some strange and powerful energies to be felt at this time, I  personally  don't think December 21, 2012  is going to be the end of mankind or the end of time.  The Yod indicates a transformational process which may be painful for many because it indicates changes in our beliefs, religion, and philosophical systems...all falling under Jupiter. According to the prophecies of the Hopi nation, this is called  the  purification.  


We are polluting our homes, ravaging each  other and the planet with incessant and violent wars. We lack tolerance of each other, take advantage of one another like wayward children.  We have spent far too much time destroying our world, and the time is winding short for us to rethink our ways of life and how we relate to one another and to the earth around us...a time when we begin to see that loving our neighbors is far more important than how well we are set financially, or when truth changes our deep rooted fears and secrets....a spiritual awakening that allows us to understand that we all contribute to the universe.  

Yes, 2012 may definitely be a time of new beginnings, a time when we will recognize, finally, that we  are not separated from anything else but all on this Earth are inter-connected with each other even when doesn't seem to be so. Our false sense of self will fade away as we begin to realize that we are all made up from the same thing, only variations of the same substance of life. And the greatest part of this is that each of us have the opportunity to contribute  for we all have a part in the next act of this very important play.   If it is peace that we want, we first need to find peace within ourselves. If it is harmony that you seek, then it is up to you to become harmonious.  Keep the emphasis on the POSITIVE not the negative. You will attract either depending on your focus.  

So, as we approach this time, I am choosing not to let fear govern my heart and thought over what will happen in the future.  There will always be fear mongers out there, those who chose to run for the hills, but I have a choice in this life, and I choose, instead,  to live my life full of love and kindness.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Last Rant of 2010


New York City is a mess.  Everyone is pointing fingers at the next person, but no one seems to be doing much about fixing all this.  We've had storms far worse than this that got cleared up in much less time.  I remember the storm of 1996, and the next day, everything was pretty much in order...at least, more order than this storm.  The mayor comes on television and blames the storm; the sanitation department blames the people for driving their cars despite their meager warnings, and then abandoning them;  and the people blame the sanitation department....

....Okay, it is true what sanitation says.  Too many people were out there in their cars in the midst of a storm.  As adults, they should know better.  Children, you warn about dangers; adults should at least have developed some common sense.  After all, with the snow coming down and 50 mile an hour winds blowing it all about, besides an medical emergency, there is nothing that important to make you drive your car in the city during a blizzard...what with mass transportation all around you.  (At that time, mass transit was still working).  Today is my first day out, and as I was climbing the stairs to the subway, I was shocked at the sight below me.  I wished I had my camera along just to show you.  It was like a scene out of a movie...abandoned cars all over the place.  No wonder the roads were unplowed....

....Now, usually sanitation is more on top of things.  I remember other snowstorms when the salt spreaders used to be out at the beginning of the storm... Didn't happen this time.  And it's usually pretty rough to fall asleep on the night of a snowstorm because of the plows going back and forth throughout the night....Didn't happen this time.  As a matter of fact, there's been reports of slowdowns and workers driving down the streets...with their plows up.  Some kind of union contract thing....a protest of sorts.  Well, I hope that that is not true because two people have died because of the city's inefficiency....an elderly woman and a newborn baby.  Emergency service could just not get through. Someone is responsible for this and someone--union, sanitation, and those who abandoned cars in the middle of the streets--should be held accountable.

Now, on to the transit service.  The entire city was at a standstill...including the subways.  It wasn't only one line that was down....it was 13 lines...and some people were stuck in tunnels for hours until a rescue train could get through.  What's up?  Here's another bureaucracy that makes me wonder where the money goes.  It seems the more we pay, the worse things seem to get.  I know, as I said yesterday, things happen sometimes that are beyond our control, but my goodness, the whole system down?  Tomorrow there is yet another fare hike, yet, not counting this storm, the service is getting dreadful.  What was once a 20 minute ride for me now takes me a few minutes short of an hour....and I am only 12 stops from my job.  

This morning I bore witness to the most unbelievable rudeness.  The finger cannot be pointed at one person, but the three people involved.  I had to put another $20 on my metrocard, so I am at the window of the clerk.  He's on the phone chatting away (making about $50,000 a year, by the way), so I have to tell him three times what I want.  After all, I am only a customer...not that important to him.  While I am waiting for his highness, a young lady comes up on my right and she's yelling to him...Is the train stopping on Avenue N?  Then, to my left, an older women comes up and starts yelling Can you buzz me in?  And while the two women kept repeating their requests, the token booth clerk continued chatting and laughing on the phone...oblivious to the circus going on around him....

...and, by the way, tomorrow the transit fares rise again....and there is nothing we can do about it.  If we want to work, we have to pay for it...and pay dearly.  I get a lousy 3 percent raise each year...the subway fare goes up, cable goes up, comparing electric bills from last year to this--same usage $48 more, health insurance goes up from $120 to $175 a month.  The more I make, the less I have to spend....sadly, a sign of the times...

...and finally, another subway gripe.  The train was extraordinarily crowded this morning.  Guess all those people who normally drive to work have opted for public transportation....or perhaps they have no choice.  (You never know.  Theirs might be one of those abandoned vehicles.)  Well,  most folks nowadays have those little gadgets to listen to their music; they have headphones, but play the darned music so loud that you can practically make out all the words.  It sounds so bad, and I find it so darned annoying....screechy and scratchy.    Back in the old days, there used to be someone blasting their boom box at one end of the train  and another at the other end...and you'd be sitting somewhere in the middle  trying to listen to your little transistor radio...remember them?  Annoying as those boom boxes were, at least you understood what they were singing.  


And now, my friends, there you have it...my last rant for this year.  Hoping you all are safe and warm...surrounded by love and light.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Blizzard of 2010...Back Online

 (Taken outside my back door at 5:35 pm.  Notice how enormous these flakes were)

Whew!!!!  Didn't see this one coming.  On Thursday they said the blizzard was going to pretty much miss us; then, the next thing I hear, it is heading straight towards us.  Well, I have heard this one before...and usually, the storm from hell turns out to be only half of what they projected it to be.  Boy, was I taken by surprise.  

When I fell asleep on the sofa on Sunday eve, the storm was already going strong, but I was feeling quite cozy as I snuggled under my blanket and watched the last of the Christmas movies for the year.  Somewhere along the line, I dozed off and didn't awaken until 6 am in the morning....to a blank television.  Oh, someone must have come by and turned it off.  I thought to myself.  Reached for the remote...screen still stayed black.  Uh oh!!!  The house phone had already gone the night before; I expected that. Hence the need for a cell phone.  But the cable, too?  Oh my goodness.  Well, at least I still have the internet...or so I thought.  But, it  I was wrong on all counts.  Internet was down as well.  Needless to say, I find the whole thing pretty darned frustrating.  Where is all my money going to?  Heck, I understand that things happen that are beyond our control, but, I am sorry, Cablevision gets enough money from its customers that it should be able to do a better job of weather-proofing.  Last month, November, my bill for Cable and Internet was $168.  This month it has risen to $173.  A five dollar increase in one month?  And, just think about how many other customers pay the same thing and more...

...but I am not here to rant.  I'm just so happy to be back...and show off my new skills...which, I agree, need some work.  And despite it all, I feel blessed that we still had our power and plenty of food in the fridge.  And with no trains running, I had two extra days to mend my cold.  Alas, though, as I sit here typing, I here the trains beginning to run, so it's back to work tomorrow.  For now, though, I'm just happy to be here. I've missed you all so.


 (Backyard and front of the house at the beginning of the storm.  2:50 and 2:51 pm)


 (Backyard at 4:35 pm.)


(Front of house at 6:30 pm)



 (Front of house at 7:35 am.  Where did the cars across the street go?)

  
(Backyard at 7:40 am.  No more picnic table.)


 (10:30 am.  Finally the sky turning blue.  The blurriness is not my focus.  It's the heavy winds blowing the snow)

I thank you all for your concern. 


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sick for Christmas

Celebration is a kind of food we all need in our lives, and each
individual brings a special recipe or offering, so that together
we will make a great feast.  Celebration is a human need that
we must not, and can not, deny.  It is richer and fuller when
many work and then celebrate together.
Corita Kent and Jan Steward


I just had that feeling it was going to happen.  My office mate had been sick all last weekend and came to work on Monday sneezing, sniffing, and coughing all over the place.  I told her she should have stayed home.  After all, we have to share and office, and it's not fair to me.  Her response was, "I wanted to stay home, but I am so behind in my work so they told me I had to have some charts put together before I go on vacation.  Well, whose fault was that?  Perhaps if you hadn't spent all your time playing video games and incessantly text messaging and talking on the phone, you wouldn't be behind.  And now, because of her fooling around rather than doing her work, I spent a miserable Christmas Eve and Day with a sore throat and coughing.  I tried to get into the spirit; I really did, but I felt so darned awful that I just couldn't throw my whole self into the festivities....

...Needless to say, everyone had plenty to eat and laughs were had by all. I had a tray of cold cuts and cheeses which had been beautifully put together...and saved me a lot of work.  All kinds of cakes and cookies were had by all, and of course, the Yule Log at midnight.    My youngest bought me a camera.  Yes, I finally have a camera...and just in time because they are forecasting a blizzard for the area today into Monday.  The way I am feeling, that is definitely going to be an extra day off.  My older son gave me a Kindle.  I truly am a  "real' book lover, but, I have to be honest, the books have taken over the house.  This enables me to download 3,500 books.  Yes, can you imagine?  3,500 books in one little piece of technology...and they say you can highlight and mark just as if it were a 'real' book; that is, if you can get it working because we've yet to accomplish that....

...and, as I speak, Mother Nature is gifting us with a blanket of white as we find ourselves heading into the first major snowstorm of the season.  They say we may be getting up to 18 inches of snow...not enough to shut the city down, but certainly enough to shut ME down...

...And, with that, it is hard to believe it is over, isn't it?  Christmas came and went in a flash.  Each year it seems to pass by even quicker.

Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift
for those who fear, too long for those who grieve,
too short for those who rejoice; but for
those who love, time is eternity.
Henry Van Dyke

The eternity of time we felt in our youth has fallen by the wayside, and the desire to slow things up has taken its place.  Time continues to flow...faster and faster...and we must snatch and enjoy every moment of it...for each second that passes is a gift. 

Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed
slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again.
Bill Morgan Jr.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Season's Greetings

n
The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung.
--Phillip Brooks--

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas.  May the joy and magic of the season remain with you throughout the coming year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Magic of the Season

Was watching the Polar Express the other night, and the last lines of the film especially hit me...when the narrator was saying how all of his friends lost the ability to hear the bell as they grew older.  In other words, they have lost the magic of the season.  It struck how said that is...that we adults cannot seem to find the magic.  It wasn't always that way. 

Yule and New Year are both seasons of divination.  Indeed, this is truly a time of magic, that magic moment when portent and signs of the future were read...this the season turning of the Solstice.  Pre-Christian cultures celebrated the birth of the Sun King who brought light into the world during the darkest time of the  year.  Putting up the evergreen symbolizes the the triumph of life over death for these plants remain green even in the cold, dark months of winter.      


Divinations and omens were drawn from cakes and loaves.  The Yule Bread, at Christmas, was chiefly remarkable for the care with which it was baked. It was generally done during the night, and a supply sufficient to last throughout the festival must be ready before daybreak. The cakes of bread must not be counted. A bannock was named for each of the family, and if it broke in the baking the one who owned it would die before next Christmas.

The Germanic and Scandinavian custom of the decorated Christmas tree may have originated to hold sacrificed gifts to the gods or local spirits.
In Russia, as in many other parts of Europe around Christmas, the time was particularly suitable for magic and divination.  There is one  Christmas divination that involves candles. A girl would sit in a darkened room, with two lighted candles and two mirrors, pointed so that one reflects the candlelight into the other. The viewer would seek the seventh reflection, then look until her future would be seen

In England, unwed girls made dumb cakes on Yule Eve as a divinity tool to discover their future mate.  The cakes had to be baked after the rest of the family had retired for the evening as it was necessary for the girls to be alone and silent.  Just before midnight the cake was placed in the oven, and at midnight, her future mate was supposed to come and turn the cake or carve his initials on the top for her to see.

The early Germans built a stone altar to Hertha, or Bertha, goddess of domesticity and the home, during winter solstice. With a fire of fir boughs stoked on the altar, Hertha was able to descend through the smoke and guide those who were wise in Saga lore to foretell the fortunes of those at the feast.  On Yule mornings, offerings of oatmeal and other grains were made to Mother Hulda to induce her to send abundant crops, and he people feasted together. 


In Denmark and Sweden  they bake loaves of bread in the shape of a boar.  This Yule Boar was usually made from the corn of the last sheaf; this loaf stood on the table throughout the festivities and was kept until it was time to till the fields...when it was given to the plowman and his horses.  Part of the bread was mixed with the seed corn, while another part was mixed with the straw and used for various purposes.  It was said to bring fertility to the land if strewn across the fields.  At Christmas, the peasant folk divined by throwing cornstalks up to the ceiling.  The number of stalks that became entwined in the rafters was believed to foretell how many sheaves they thrash.  

In Spain, there's an old custom that is a holdover from Roman days. The urn of fate is a large bowl containing slips of paper on which are written all the names of those at a family get-together. The slips of paper are drawn out two at a time. Those whose names are so joined are to be devoted friends for the year. Apparently, there's often a little finagling to help matchmaking along, as well.

In Scandinavia, some families place all their shoes together, as this will cause them to live in harmony throughout the year.


In Wales, a sprig of mistletoe placed under the pillow at Christmastime, encouraged young women to have dreams of their future husbands.  In Ireland, ten berries were picked on Christmas Eve; nine were kept and the tenth was thrown away.  The nine were put to steep in a liquid composed of equal portions of wine, beer, vinegar, and honey.  (Yukky)  Then, the berries had to be swallowed like pills upon going to bed.  This was said to induce dreams about the future.  

And in many, many cultures, it's considered bad luck for a fire or a candle to go out on Christmas Day. So be sure to keep those candles burning!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Stockings



"You'd better watch out.  If you're not a good girl, you'll find nothing but a lump of coal in your stocking." I'm sure most of us heard that one while we were going up, and it still amazes me, the lengths that our parents went to to ensure that we behaved.  I remember every year as a child that I would be so anxious to see if Santa really did believe I was naughty or nice, always fearful that maybe I had done something wrong...and it didn't help matters any that my grandparents were still heating their home by coal; hence, I was told that Santa  would stop there first and pick up a few lumps.  And, although I always considered myself a good girl, I still worried that one Christmas morning I would  wake up and instead of the usual candy, chocolate, and small toys,  I would  find coal in my stocking. 

I both loved and feared Santa, and as I look back on it, I think it took a lot of joy out of the holiday for me.  I was just a little girl with really no clear understanding yet of what adults considered good or bad.  If I spilled my milk, was that considered bad?  Or when I came in from playing outdoors and tracked some mud on the floor.  My parents had their faults, but I do realize that they were not trying to be mean about this.  They were only following a tradition that was so old no one really knows where it came from.  But, it was not one that I chose to pass along to my sons.  I didn't want them to live in fear around Christmas.  I wanted them to enjoy every aspect of the holiday....so the lump of coal was left in the past... where I believe  it well belongs.

As with all Christmas traditions, there are many legends which account for the hanging of the Christmas stocking.  Some say it goes back to an old, old  legend about St. Nicholas.  According to the tale,   St. Nicholas was traveling through a small village one day when he heard of a poor widower with three daughters who had no money for a dowry. St. Nicholas decided to help the family out so, one night, he dropped a bag of cold down the chimney, and it just so happened that this is where the daughters always hung their stockings to dry.  So, when the daughters awoke the next morn, they found their stockings filled with gold and were pleased to find that they would be able to marry after all.  When the villagers heard their tale, they began hanging their stockings as well...hoping the same would happen to them.

While most in most traditions, a lump of coal in one's stocking is the result of bad behavior, for some, coal was a welcome gift.  At one time, most of England and Europe were  powered by coal, and most household furnaces were coal burning. The people would take hot coals and place them in pans under the bed in order to keep themselves warm at night.  Hence, coals was a valuable commodity. Hence, when you were a child from a poor family, you considered yourself lucky to get that coal that you could use to keep yourself warm on cold winter nights. 

From Italy comes another  legend.  According to tradition, good old St. Nicholas of Padua was known to throw long knitted purses, tied at both ends, into the open windows of those who were very poor.  These purses were made of yarn and not unlike a footless stocking. Eventually,  it became the people began hanging  these long empty receptacles out of their windows on the night before Christmas so that St. Nicholas could put a gift into them as he passed by. By and by, when coin became scarce, toys were put in for the children  and useful presents for grown people.   And, in the northern part of the country where it was actually quite cold at Christmas time, the purses were hung on the mantelpiece; it was believed that St. Nicholas would come down the chimney and fill them. When these purses went out of use, stockings were substituted and have been used ever since.

So, come Christmas,  I will once again fill our stockings.  Each of us has one, including my cat whose stocking usually is filled with treats, balls, and little furry mice.  Even my birds had one when they were still with us.  It's just one tradition that I will never let go of , and the stockings are usually filled with  something that will encourage the use each of the five senses--touch, smell, taste, see, and hearing...just as I had been taught. And hopefully one day, many generations from now, my descendants will arise on Christmas morn and, as they look into their stockings, remember the tradition that was passed on by their great great grandma, Mary.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Little Bit of Real Life Thrown In


Christmas reminds us we are not alone.  We are not unrelated atoms, jouncing and ricocheting amid aliens, but are a part of something, which holds and sustains us.  As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same.  Christmas shows us the ties that bind us together, threads of love and caring, woven in the simplest and strongest way within the family.--Donald E. Westlake

Wow,  I've been so busy with Solstice, Yule, and Christmas postings that I've not even once touched on the happenings here in Brooklyn, New York.  As you can well imagine, it has been a busy time for me.  Granted, it has not been as hectic as it once was, but there has been enough to do  that I have to question how I ever found the time to do all the things I once did at the holidays.  All that baking; how did I ever fit it in?   Well, perhaps time is not the correct way to look at it.  Perhaps it might be better if I used the word energy.  It's not that I love the holidays any less; it's just that I just don't have that get-up and go that I had when I was younger.  

Why, I even debated setting my village up this year....and that's a biggie to me.  I've been adding a little something to this village for years now...and now it just seems like so much work to set it up.  The books must be removed from the shelves, all of the pieces of the village unwrapped and set up, and the books then packed in the box that the village was in.  I'm talking major energy expenditure.  But, for all my talk, my  family knew all along that my village would be a part of Christmas...that there was no way I could forsake it.  And I discovered an easier way of doing things.  Usually, the tree and decorations are all put up on Thanksgiving day and the day after.  This is because I always have to work on the following Monday, and I need that  Saturday and Sunday as recuperation time.  When you have chronic back problems as I do, even the most enjoyable things can set you back a few days.  Well, this year I had some vacation time that I HAD to take before the end of the year...use it or lose it.  I have to say, I played this one real smart.  I took the week after Thanksgiving off which gave me 11 days off rather than 9.  Allowed me to take it slow and easy with the decorations.  It all worked out so well that I plan to do the same thing next. year.

Presents are wrapped and under the tree.  Did it all between Friday and Saturday.  I know, I could have done it on those 11 days off, but there is something different about last minute shopping.  Can't explain it.  Now, mind you, I am one who used to have the gifts bought and wrapped before the end of October, but somewhere along the line I joined the ranks of those stressed out, last minute shoppers racing to find the perfect presents right in the nick of time.  Adrenaline kicks in, and you find yourself in a somewhat altered state of consciousness.  Addicts call it a Rush.  Actually, I had originally planned to do my shopping on my lunch hour (which I NEVER take) on Monday, but the elevator at work broke down, and I just couldn't carry those bags up the stairs.  So, I left two hours early on Friday and got it all out of the way.  And the darned elevator was out all week and continues to be out.  I haven't had this much steady exercise in years...and I sure do hope they fix this problem soon.  My old body just can't take much more of it. 

Ah, some good news to share.  My son, the eldest, has been working all week on Men in Black 3.   I'm so proud of him.  He is playing a corrections officer, and as I write this, I believe they are sending him  up in space...movie-wise, that is.  On the down side, I could have lost him the other day, and it made me realize just how tenuous our lives really are.  He was walking down the block on 14th Street in  Manhattan when suddenly, out of nowhere, he was struck in the head with a small pineapple juice can.  Now, even though small, the can had been thrown out of one of the upper floors of a high-rise building, and the impact so strong that it sliced his forehead.  He needed a butterfly to close it.  I was able to breathe a sigh of relief, but I shudder when I think of how much worse it could have been.  Had the object been something heavier, he could have been killed.  And, the worst of it is is that it was not something done without forethought.  No, this one done on purpose.  The police officers who were called to the scene stated  that someone is always throwing things down at people, but they just can't pinpoint which apartment.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why, but perhaps I watch too much Law & Order.  Maybe these crimes are NOT so easily solved.   But, let's face it, my son was one of the lucky ones.  One day these gutless wonders might kill someone.  Just another example of the evil that lurks in this world...those mindless creatures who get their kicks out of harming innocent people.  But, I am not going to dwell on them.  There is far too much good in the world, as well.   We hear so much of the violence and evildoers that we neglect that which is good and pure.

I feel  very blessed this year...blessed to be spending the holiday with those that I love and blessed to have so many new friends in my life.  It is truly the love that warms the heart.

Until one feels the spirit of Christmas, there is no Christmas.
All else is outward display--so much tinsel and decorations.
For it isn't the holly, it isn't the snow.
It isn't the tree not the firelight's glow.
It's the warmth that comes to the hearts of men
when the Christmas spirit returns again.
--Unknown--
  

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Full Moon Eclipse and the Winter Solstice on 21st

What a shame that I missed it.  I tried, I really tried, but I just didn't get up in time.  First, I awoke a little after 1 am, thought about getting up to wait, but then turned over again.  If I didn't have to work, I might have gotten up, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep again if I stayed awake for too long.  Then, I fell back asleep and didn't wake up to the alarm. 

The Full Moon of December  is known as the Long Night's Moon or Full Cold Moon.  It is during this month that the cold of winter fastens Her grip; the nights are at their longest and darkest. It is the last Moon phase of the year.  In the Northern Hemisphere, this is the day that the Winter Solstice is celebrated.  It is a time of deep inner reflection and stillness.    The Druids called this day the Festival of Liberation or the Day Out of Time. It’s a time to celebrate and invoke the return of the Light, our Light, to set things right in the world. This will be a powerful time, indeed.   The Winter Solstice marks a season of  faith, hope, and testing.  It is symbolically viewed as the transforming rebirth of the life-giving Sun...going from dark to light. 

The Winter Solstice heralds in a very powerful Full Moon Eclipse in the sign of Gemini which governs communication, and  thought.  The Sun will be in the last degrees of  Sagittarius which governs religion, philosophy, spirituality, and personal growth.  The Solstice occurs when the Sun enters the time of tropical Capricorn. Any eclipse falling on a Solstice is automatically three times more powerful.  The last time this occurred was nearly 400 years ago. was on June 21, 2001.  And, this will be a total eclipse, not partial, thus adding to its strength.  This indicates things coming to an end or culmination in a fairly big way, thus providing a pivotal turning point for us as we seek to more fully align our life’s journey with our inner guidance inspired by our higher wisdom. We are made aware that change is necessary for growth to continue to unfold. 

In Celtic mythology, the Winter Solstice marks the death of the old king, the old year, and the birth of the new king, or new year.  hence, it will be a time of endings, but in these events are the seeds of new growth. This will be a time to remove those things that are not serving us well in our lives, knowing that new positive pathways await us.  Eclipses  trigger necessary changes in our life. It may not be easy, but letting go or releasing possessions, habits, beliefs, and even people, is necessary make room for something better to  come into our lives as we move forward in our life's journey. There is often feelings of sadness and anxiety that arise with these choices, and emotional waves are possible...so be gentle with yourself and others if this triggers a lot of emotions.

The Full Moon occurs just hours before the Sun enters hardworking and ambitious Capricorn, we might get more emotional, more dreamy, more unconscious.   It also occurs at the last degree of Gemini/Sagittarius, signs which rule how we think and what we believe about life, pushing us to resolve the full energies of the two signs with wisdom and compassion. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Mother Night, Yule Eve

Christmas is coming very soon now. There are many things that remind us of this. For many of us, the ground is already white with snow, and the ponds are beginning to be frozen hard ; the shops are putting out their brightest show, and all of us have talked of what we shall do in the Christmas holidays. 

The observance of winter solstice was very important in ancient times and its significance was obvious to early human civilizations. As the nights grew darker and longer, the days colder and shorter, and the rural folk faced lean times, it was imperative the sun be "lured" back to the earth.

Of the many pagan customs that eventually became the foundation of the Christian Christmas season, many were adapted from the Norse and their mythology.  The celebration of the Yule month, or Thor's month, began on the night before the Solstice which they called the Mother Night...for it was in the darkness that the goddess Freya labored to bring Baldur, the young son (light) to birth once more.  It was also a night for spirit contact and celebration with one's ancestors in much the same way that the Celts did at Samhain.

The festival itself was called Yule, derived from the Norse word Jul, means wheel,  a symbol of the Sun  revolving across the sky.  It was traditionally held for 12 days or more, beginning on Mother Night and ending on January 6th.  The most important symbols of Yule continue to  live on in our modern Christmas celebrations. For example, the evergreen tree and holly which remain green throughout the long months of cold and darkness,  were widely used in in the Pagan celebration of Yule because they hold promise that spring will once again return to the land.   

Because  ancient Norwegians believed the sun was returning, as part of their Winter Solstice celebration, the Vikings would cut a huge log, drag it back to the village and set it on fire.  This Yule Log was supposed to drive away the evil spirits and bring good luck to the people as well as welcome back the sun.   From Scandinavia, the Yule log custom spread through the European content and England.  Some decked out their Yule log with greenery, ribbons, and paper flowers and sang Yuletide songs as they dragged it home. 

Thousands of years ago, the Scandinavian god, Odin, rode through the world at Midwinter bringing reward or punishment, and Thor, his son, came from the far North.  His color was red, and at Midwinter, he fought the gods of ice and snow ...conquering the cold.  The elves connected with our current Santa Claus are remnants of the supernatural nature folk of the Old Religion, and our modern  custom of leaving cookies and milk for Santa is most likely a modern continuation of leaving offerings for the Alvar and other nature folk.   Although usually associated with Santa, many believe that the reindeer, northern animals,  actually represent the stags that drew the chariot of Freya, the Sun Goddess of the North.





For the Norse, it was a time of rejoicing for the labors of the old year were done, and the laborers were ready to rest before beginning the round afresh for the new year.  The earth, too, takes Her rest at this season and lies asleep under her covering of snow...so that all the seeds may be matured in her bosom and burst into life when the spring is come. 

For many of us, this is also a time of cold and darkness.  It is a time for balancing our spirit, our nature, our physical bodies as we, too, await the season of rebirth.  Our meditations should focus on the hidden energies lying dormant within the earth and within ourselves.  It is a time of returning hope. Yule reminds us to take care of the earth and all of her creatures in this magical season of hope and good will. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturnalia

Harvest time in ancient Italy belonged to the god of reaping, whom the Romans called Saturn. A symbol curved like his sickle represents the planet.  Right after the Solstice, the Sun will move into Capricorn, the sign ruled by Saturn, who is also known as old man time.

The 25th of December hasn't always been Christmas Day. The origin of the celebration of this day seems to be very ancient, but its most direct affiliation comes from, among others, the Romans, who celebrated, for a long time, the god Saturn, the god of agriculture and plenty.   In pagan Rome, the celebration of the Saturnalia (Winter Solstice) began on December 17th and continued until the 24th. It was one of Rome's oldest holidays which recalled the golden days.  And, for one day of Saturnalia, the Romans celebrated the birth of the Sun. Saturnalia centered on giving thanks for the fruits of the earth, for plentiful crops, and praying for the same in the coming year.

Saturnalia also marked the beginning of winter and the start of the new year. It was a joyful time with much merrymaking and the exchanging of gifts in honor of Father Sun and Mother Earth. Crowds of people flocked to Rome in various forms of masquerade, and practical jokes were played on each other. People decorated their homes with lights and evergreen branches and berries. Wars stopped, and people wished each other good
During the holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order was inverted. Gambling was allowed in public, and slaves did not have to work. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes were permitted. Within the family, a Lord of Misrule was chosen. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing as well as be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. 
 

Ornaments in the outdoor trees included sun symbols and stars.  Food was
also a primary decoration.  Gilded cakes in a variety of shapes were quite popular, and children and birds vied for the privilege of gathering the treats from the trees.  The commonest shapes were fertility symbols, suns and moons and stars, baby shapes, and herd animal shapes.  People, too, were  likely to be ornamented as the trees.  The wearing greenery and jewelry of a sacred nature was  common, and although the emphasis was on Saturn, Sol Invictus, the Sun, got his fair share of the revelry as well. 

The Christians did not believe in the Roman gods, but they wanted to keep some part of the Saturnalia celebration, so they gave it a new name--Christmas and celebrated it the day after Saturnalia on December 25th. But although the name of the honored deity may have changed, most of the ancient rituals such as gift giving and the decoration of trees survives to this day.
For modern Saturnalia, those golden glass ball ornaments are ideal, as are gold sun faces, gold stars, and gilded anythings. Gilding nuts and pine cones and nestling them among the swags and wreaths of greenery would be a lovely way of acknowledging the ancient roots of this ceremony.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Poinsettias


 On Friday, our office manager brought in two of the most beautiful Poinsettia plants...which now adorn the front desk.  These joyously rich flowers are the first thing you see when you step off the elevator...when it works, that is.  They are such a treasured part of Christmas, which, alas, I cannot enjoy in my house for my cat loves to eat such things.  Why, she has even been known to attack artificial flowers!!!

The Poinsettia has become the official Christmas flower of the United States, and it seems that Christmas decorations are not complete without this beautiful red plant.   Their tendency to bloom during the early winter months, along with their gorgeous red, star-shaped leaves, make them the ideal Christmas plant. Yet, surprisingly, until just a couple of centuries ago the Poinsettia did not even exist in the United States.  Poinsettias are recognized in different place with different names. They are referred to as as 'Crown of the Andes' in Peru and Chile where they  are also called Flame Leaf Flowers.  In the Mayan folklore of South America, it is said that the Poinsettias are actually Divine Beings.

The ancient Aztecs were probably the first to note the beauty of the poinsettia plant.  In fact, the plant had been familiar to them for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish.  In the Nahauatl language, they called it  cuetlaxochitle, and to them, the plant was a symbol of purity.  They used its red flowers (which actually are the upper leaves) to make red or purple dye, and drew its sap as a medicine against fever.  Montezuma, the last of the Aztec rulers, was very fond of them and had poinsettia plants brought up to what is present day Mexico City by caravans because the plant would not grow in high altitudes. 

An ancient legend connects the poinsettia with Jesus' birth: 

Long ago in Mexico, a little girl stood outside a church on Christmas Eve. She watched others taking gifts inside to place before a statue of Baby Jesus. The longer she watched, the worse she felt because she had nothing to give.

An angel saw the girl and spoke to her. "Gather the weeds beside the road and take them to the Holy Child" said the angel.

Drying her tears, the girl obeyed. She gathered a large armful of the green leafy weeds and carried them inside. But as she walked up the aisle, the people laughed at her gift.

The embarrassed little girl placed her branches beside the manger, and suddenly a miracle occurred. The green leaves turned to brilliant red!

Now every year at Christmastime, the green leaves of the Poinsettia turn to bright red to honor the Son of God born so long ago. 

This was declared a Christmas miracle, and from that day
  on, poinsettias were known as the Flowers of the Holy Night.   But how did this plant indigenous to southern Mexico and Central America become a worldwide symbol associated with the holidays?

The history of poinsettia starts in the United States in 1825, when Joel Roberts Poinsett, a botanist and the first United States Minister to Mexico, sent some of the plants home to South Carolina and began propagating them, and although the first commercial poinsettias were developed in 1829, but the plants didn't become common holiday decorations right away.  The popular name "poinsettia" was given to the plant by William Prescott, (one of my great great uncles) and a historian who named the plant in honor of Joel Poinsett. 

Flame Heart
So much have I forgotten in ten years,
So much in ten brief years! I have forgot
What time the purple apples come to juice,
And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.
I have forgot the special, startling season
Of the pimento's flowering and fruiting;
What time of year the ground doves brown the fields
And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.
I have forgotten much, but still remember
The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December.

I still recall the honey-fever grass,
But cannot recollect the high days when
We rooted them out of the ping-wing path
To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.
I often try to think in what sweet month
The languid painted ladies used to dapple
The yellow by-road mazing from the main,
Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.
I have forgotten--strange--but quite remember
The poinsettia's red, blood-red in warm December.

What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year
We cheated school to have our fling at tops?
What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy
Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?
Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days,
Even the sacred moments when we played,
All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,
At noon and evening in the flame-heart's shade.
We were so happy, happy, I remember,
Beneath the poinsettia's red in warm December. 
--Claude McKay--

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gift Giving

You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. --Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
 


Gift giving at Christmas is a very old tradition which  dates back to the Roman Saturnalia festival (also called Kalends).  Gift giving was traditional with the ancient Romans, and the first gifts were simple things such as small candles, evergreens, incense, lamps,  frankincense, and garlands of holly or laurel.  Children were given little images made of clay or paste. They gave presents to family, friends, and neighbors as part of the celebration. This festival, named in honor of the god, Saturn, took place from December 17th to December 25th, and because Saturnalia took place at the Solstice, it was also known as the Festival of Lights; hence, many of the presents given were candles, used to summon the sun back to life. 

Early Christians feared that the Pagan Romans would persecute them during this time, so they began putting up Saturnalia holly, and as more and more people became Christians, it soon became a tradition....and as the early Christians got together to decorate, they began participating in customs similar to the Romans.  Early Christians did not practice gift giving, however, for it was viewed as a pagan and frowned upon.  It was later that tradition ended up prevailing and Christians began giving gifts during their Christmas celebration.  

Most people today trace the practice of giving gifts to the three gifts that the Magi or Three Kings took to Bethlehem for the Christ child.   Each gift foretold something that Christ would become--gold represents Christ's role as king; frankincense represents his divine nature and role as most high priest; and myrrh represents his role as healer.

As we all know, nowadays the more social aspect of Christmas gift giving has taken over, as a means of showing affection to family and friends for instance, but the roots of the gift giving should always be remembered as a Christian religious tradition. The commercial aspect of Christmas is now a gigantic economic operation, as Christmas gift giving is a major tradition...and sadly, this aspect of it has taken away much of what Christmas is really about.   This is why many of us do not feel in the mood.

You don't always have to spend money during Christmas;  there are so many things to give such as your talent, skill, presence, and even your time. You can all give these things wholeheartedly and without any inhibitions as well. You can visit a sick friend, just to show them that you care, or you can spend time with your kids, who, perhaps due to your busy schedule, have felt neglected.  You can make something that you can give for those in need such as blankets or pillows to aid them during the cold season. You can even give some of your old items.  One thing I always do at the change of seasons is to sort out whatever clothing  hubby, my son, or I will definitely not be wearing and put them to the side.  Then, as we near the holidays, I begin bringing them in to work, a little at a time for clients who are in need.   It gives me a warm feeling when I see a needy client wearing something that at one time would have just gone to waste. 

 May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!  --Author Unknown

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 18 → Your Views on Gay Marriage.


We live in an age where rights are supposed to be equal for all, so it would only be logical that gay marriage should be legal, but logic doesn't enter into it when our lawmakers are involved.  I believe that  marriage, be it gay or straight,  is not something which anyone should need to make a case for, yet reality tells us differently. Making a case in favor of gay marriage should actually a very simple thing to do, that is, assuming that everyone keeps their minds open to the fact that while all people are different, we all have the same basic human need...the need to love and loved. 

When you sit back and think of it, historically, the freedom of marriage wasn't always granted between races, and wasn't too long ago that hubby and I would be frowned upon...I, the pale, blue-eyed Caucasian and he, the handsome dark  Dominican.  Mixed couples were just not the social norm.   Oh, how we would have been scorned!...and, I shudder to think of the treatment any children we may have had would have endured.  I know from first-hand experience that children can be so cruel, and children of interracial marriages were  once easy prey. 

In fact, I know how it feels to be ostracized.  I was often victimized by my ex-husband's family during our tumultuous marriage.  No matter what I did, I was never excepted into that family...and the reason?  Simply that I was Irish, and they were Italian...and they resented that their son married someone not of their nationality.  As a result, they treated me badly throughout our marriage.  No matter how much he may have abused me, I must have deserved it.  I especially loved the old saying 'All Irish are drunks'.... 

....and this saying didn't come from nowhere.  As you know,  I love working with archetypes and mythology... especially Jung or or Joseph Campbell.  So, as an addiction counselor, the title Celtic Queen Maeve and Addiction really caught my eye.  Very interesting book to say the least.   Descriptions of the early Northern Celtic and Germanic peoples show that heavy drinking to intoxication was common, and as warriors, mead was usually a prelude to battle for effects of alcohol ameliorated the fear of injury or death in armed conflict. It has been said that their strength  lay in the ferocity of the first onslaught. They were powerful warriors with a power generated by a belief in the afterlife, a desire to gain glory, and a battle hysteria created by the building crescendo of noise and chanting, which, by the way, was often enhanced by alcohol.   Furthermore, it was found among these groups that heavy drinking was important for religious and socio-political ceremonies.  Could this be a part of the collective unconscious that we of Irish descent inherit?

Okay, so now I have done it.  Once again I have completely diverged from the original content of this post.  Yes, it is true; sometimes my mind tends to wander and other times, all it takes it one word to spin me off in another direction altogether.  Sorry.  So, what are my views on gay marriage?  I believe in love....plain and simple.  If two people have feelings about each other, I say, let them be happy.  Who are we to say who can and who cannot get married?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Musings


A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition. --William Arthur Ward

Good morning, all.  It's brutally cold here in the city, and we had our first little snowfall of the year...if you consider half an inch a snowfall.  It's the bitter chill that is getting to me.  It seems like only yesterday that I was complaining that it was too hot.  But hey, this is January weather.  We're not used to being this cold before Christmas. I guess the cold is affecting my thoughts in more ways than one because today I seem to have a touch of brain freeze...can't think of much to say...

...so I guess I'll talk about yesterday.  Well, as you have probably guessed by now, I survived.  Yes, my CPR training is over, and actually, it wasn't as bad as I though it would be. I didn't even have to plead my case.  None of us had to get on the floor.  Sometimes we get ourselves all worked up over things that haven't happened yet.  Heck, I even had my little speech made up for when the instructor began to pressure me, but actually, he was a very nice man and understood that cold, hard floors were not the best place for these old knees. I guess the experiences of my last CPR training, which WAS a negative experience, clouded my thoughts on this one.

We all have negative thoughts at one time or another.  None of us are immune. Negative thoughts are about
  judging a situation that has already occurred or worrying about something that hasn't happened yet. In other words, negative thinking is past and future based.  They are fueled by perpetuation of negative images and past experiences which are very much a part of our lives.  We all have them at one time or another.  Let's face it, they are a part of life, and they can be exhausting and  rob us of the joy in our lives. 

Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.  --Chinese Proverb

Most negative thoughts evolve around what might happen, not something that definitely will happen. So, instead of spending precious time and energy worrying about something that might happen, wouldn't it be better to wait until you see some evidence first? At least then, you will know you are worrying for a good reason, and not just out of habit. Why, I was already dreading this training yesterday, and all for naught. Had I taken the above advice to heart, I wouldn't have had such a miserable morning.

Our best friend and our worst enemies are our thoughts.
A thought can do us more good than a doctor or a banker
or a faithful friend.  It can also
do us more harm than a brick.
Frank Crane