Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Chronology

I am very resistent to having my holidays stuck in the fast forward mode. Who hijacked the holiday time lines? Was it retailers in general or Hallmark or the USPS for making everyone shop early to ship early?

Maybe it's the three pounds of advertising that comes with the Thanksgiving paper inciting people to abandon logic and any reference to the religious reason for Christmas while marketing shopping mania of the worst sort?

This year seems to be the scariest ever. I certainly was horrified to learn of the poor man opening the doors to a WalMart only to be tramplled to death by the throngs of beserk shoppers. The bigger horror..... maniacal shoppers who refused to leave the scene upon police orders to do so because....they had been standing in line for hours to shop and someone dying before their eyes should not interfere with their pursuit of posessions! Dear God, what has happened to humanity?

When Mermaid was still here in the pond with us we struggled to keep her clear headed on things we felt were important and what we thought was not. We, like most families, were on occasion confronted with a teen who was confusing "want" with "need". From early on we expressed to her our beliefs on discretionary funds being spent on experiences rather than posessions. Mermaid does a perfect imitation of me saying, " experiences last forever, posessions are temporary"!
So you can magine some of the labels that were banners of acceptance and belonging to many of her classmates, were never under a tree at our pond. Certainly we never stood in line at any store to acquire her wish list.
Given our teachings and practices around here, I wonder if we have prepared Mermaid for a world no longer in existence except in the memories of the elders.
I pray not!

It is not just the shopping mania and the time push for shopping which disturbs me. There is also that "Black Friday" label which disturbs. I get that it is about getting a store or manufacturer out of the red ink and into the black ink...but really "Black Friday" for me means the blackest of human behaviors. Certainly that WalMart story is pretty damn black. Somehow "Black Friday" has come to mean everything Christmas is NOT!

In our region there seems to be a consolidation of holidays smushed together from Halloween to Christmas. I guess I am old fashioned as I like my holidays to be individual events. I have neighbors who think differently. Their Thanksgiving activity is to put up their Christmas tree and deck their halls, bushes, windows and rooftop. They spend Christmas afternoon taking it all down.

Maybe I'm just disorganized. I cannot imagine attempting to produce a Thanksgiving feast and deck my halls on the same schedule!

These same neighbors once asked me why I put my tree up so late and leave it up so long? I tried to tell them about my preference for separation ie: Thanksgiving is an American holiday, celebrating the beginings of this great country. Christmas is a worldwide birthday celebration for Jesus, and the beginnings of Christianity. They laughed me off saying " how silly, it's the holidays, plural". Well okay. However I expect I will continue to decorate my tree in mid-December and leave it shining a light till the 12th day of Christmas as is my custom. My neighbors are able to tolerate this difference with grace...they don't object to my timeline they just think it is strange.

Makes a fishy want to hang out in the depths of the pond.!
On the day after Thanksgiving I try my best to extend the family ties. We eat leftovers, we companionably read in the same room, we may play a game or two, watch a little football, eat too much, sometimes we go for a bike ride or a mountain hike, but we do not start our Christmas shopping in the midst of our Thanksgiving weekend!.

For me, this weekend is the start of the Advent season, which I still cling to as a time for preparation. Not as a time to shop. I think of the need for mankind to well, think about mankind, to count blessings not packages, to be grateful for our real gifts of love, family, friendship. These days if you speak of things like traits, or talents as "gifts" you are looked at with wonderment that you should be so out of touch with the here and now. Ouch! Does this mean I've reached the stage of being an anachronism in my own time?

Perhaps. But this morning, at my little church, I was comforted by the announcements. The men's club is collecting coats, hats, scarves, gloves for the homeless. Another group is urging extra voices to join in for the Christmas Choir. The grannies group is seeking donations of fabric scraps and yarns so they can continue to make lap quilts for residents of the veterans hospital. Our teens are in charge (this year) of the food for families drive. They are shocked to learn there are families within our own congregation who will be recipients of this traditional gift. These things, for me, represent the preparation aspect of the season. Preparing to meet the needs of others doesn't always come in beautiful paper with a bow adornment but it surely is a present.

This is also the weekend of the Christmas angel tree. This is one timeline moved forward with which I do not argue. They must do the angel tree early to have time to make ....adjustments in case an angels Christmas is missing. Sometimes an angel will be plucked from the tree but for some reason is never returned with gifts attached. I cannot believe anyone would purposely do this but sometimes little ones reach out and grab an angel while other family members are making their selections. I am sure you know of these Angel trees. Cut out construction paper angels on which is written, in careful block lettering, a child's name, age , needs and Christmas wishes. Those who can, pluck an angel from the tree with the understanding they will meet the expectations of this child's Christmas needs. It is a child we never meet, never see a picture of, never know if we filled a heart with joy, will never know if we have helped to renew a child's belief in God on Christmas morning.

This year, I have "Maria". Her angel is purple and pink, her lettering is lacking good control but then she is just 7 .
The rest of the information is:
size 2 shoe,
size 10 clothing
really wants a bike.

This is all I know about Maria.

In an effort to get things right, I will ask the 7 year old daughter of a friend to be my consultant on this mission. Which bike does she really like, which shoes are "cool" this year, which colors and styles are favored in this age group? I will find the things on Maria's list and I will supplement from there. I will buy her a book about the meaning of Christmas and the history of Saint Nicholas. I will likely buy her a coat, gloves, hat so she will be able to ride that new bike before spring! I will buy and fill a stocking for her and I will provide a big box of chocolates for her to share with her family.

I will do my best to be a good secret Santa to Maria. I will hope for Maria to understand goodness in the world is a really big gift! And I will pray Maria's beautiful new bike will not be in a pawn shop on December 26th.

Quill Pens

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Carolina Dogs

South Carolinians are partial to dogs as well as their lands.
A while back an enterprising Carolina hunter got interested in the fact he'd been seeing the same looking kind of wild dog all over the Carolina hunt country for as far back as he could remember. One thing led to another and now there is a "Carolina Dog" breed.

No lie, this new-old breed is also known as the American Dingo or the Dixie Dingo. In fact, that "dingo" label isn't just chat but scientific. Seems like the dna studies say this product of natural selection is a close relative to ancient dogs of Egypt and the Australian dingo species too. Down at the University of South Carolina they are researching to establish if this Carolina Dog is or isn't a true "biological breed".

This handsome dog is recognized by the UKC and the ARBA, but not, as yet, by the AKC. One of the more interesting things the breeders say about these dogs is they are well socialized to humans but maintain undomesticated behaviors of things like pack hierarchy, communal pup rearing, (including pre-digested foods for the weanlings), and they are neat for wild creatures cause they bury their output.

Some folks call these fine looking animals the "natural" dog cause it hasn't been messed around with. As a result of this "natural" state these dogs don't have skeletal malfunctions or problems with skin and coat. They are......I love this...."unnaturally healthy" !!!!

A while back I was visiting in Aiken, SC and met a lady from the Mane Chance horse farm who also is a registered breeder of these Carolina Dogs. She was one proud lady! Loves her dogs and is fiercely discrimatory about who gets to buy em. You can't just plop down your thousand bucks and walk off with one of her pups. No siree.... you got to get vetted to your character and purpose first.

At the moment, we've got all the dogs we need at our Pond, but if ever I go about needing another dog, I just might get me one of these ancient -natural-dingo-carolina-dogs!