Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The WAR ON CHRISTMAS [insert air raid noises here]

So, last year I wrote a piece on how public schools handle...or don't handle... the holidays in schools. I just reread it here and I sound quite smart (I watched Love Actually last night, and I think my inner monologue is coming off a little British today as a result. My apologies.) Anyway, I'm wondering how much of that intelligence was helped out by my editor and how much was me, I honestly can't remember, but look how many good points I made in that story nonetheless!

I was SO fair and TOTALLY not judgmental and I showed different viewpoints, because I definitely didn't agree with everything people told me.

One of my favorite things to do when I worked for my old media company was to have all the TV stations we owned send out, what we called, a Facebook callout. That's where they all ask the same question on their Facebook page. I wasn't interested in just any callouts though, I really liked the ones that were probably going to piss off a few people or get them fired up. In my defense, and in defense of my former employer, the questions themselves were harmless, people just get really flustered and impassioned about certain topics, one involves religion and since we are in the holiday season currently, let's talk about that one. These callouts helped me locate some sources for my stories including the holiday one, so there's the tie in.

Back to the WAR ON CHRISTMAS. I capitalized that because doesn't it sound like there should be intense music playing and possibly explosion noises happening in the background? Like in Young Frankenstein whenever they say Frau Blucher and a horse neighs:
Like this but with more bomb and gun sounds.

In that article I wrote a year ago, I mention Rick Perry. Remember him? Texas guy, ran for Republican presidential candidate but was like the first one out of the running even before Michele "Crazy Eyes" Bachmann. That's how dated my story is now ONE year later, but the whole purpose of writing it remains the same. 

I heard on the radio this morning the DJ saying in a few years we won't even be celebrating any type of holiday, we'll just be celebrating Winter in general, the solstice and such. He was very upset about this. Granted, I listen to a country station so the WAR ON CHRISTMAS is alive and well for that gentleman. 

I don't think it's a WAR ON CHRISTMAS. It's a war on "whatever I don't believe in." And sometimes it's a war on people just thinking others are trying to stifle their beliefs when really, they aren't. 

Listen y'all, I love Christmas and I'm Catholic, currently I'm having a hard time getting in the festive mood because it's like 80 degrees out here in sunny southern Florida, but damn it I have my tree out and my tacky reindeer lights under my bar. I even have a mistletoe hanging out (see what I did there?) over the entrance to my lanai (a lanai is a screened in porch or balcony thing in case you don't live in the octogenarian state or haven't watched as much Golden Girls as I have.)  

I also made latkes (potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Hanukkah festivities) the other day. This is my new tradition during December/Hanukkah. Last year, I made brie-filled latkes from complete scratch. I'm saying I peeled the potatoes and grated them and it was a major pain in the ass. This year, I bought a box of mix, and guess what, they were still delicious and somehow this time I didn't set anything on fire frying them. Confession: I've always wanted an excuse to own a really nice pretty Menorah. 

Watch out Internet, I'm about to step up on a Christmas package (the yule version of a soapbox.) I am more interested in other religions than the average person (probs) and I completely respect them. I'm sure this stems from a time in elementary school where I was obsessed with Roman and Greek mythology. OBSESSED, I tell you. I did an EXTRA CREDIT (sorry for the caps, but what self-respecting elementary schooler does an extra credit project for no reason? I didn't need the points or anything) project about a few gods and goddesses with a friend. I prescribe to the way of thinking that many religions have similar origins, stories that share qualities and teachings. They all have their place and whichever one you call your own is rad* as long as you don't try to push your beliefs on other people. Groovy*? Groovy. 

I also prescribe to the way of thinking that encourages everyone to learn about other cultures, this includes religion. Did I mention I was an anthropology minor? This should all start making sense now. Let me tell you a little story (No, no get on with your point of view you're saying, probably.) A friend of mine wanted to go to Ghana to help people and work for a nonprofit. I bet everyone just said "awwww" collectively. I love this girl, she is very sweet and only had the best intentions in her raging Liberal mind. I respect that she went overseas to physically lend a hand and see the country first-hand. She came back, after an unideal (that's a word) experience, with a different view of helping people. It isn't that we shouldn't want to reach out, if we have the means we definitely should try to help others. It's HOW we choose to go about helping that's the trick. We have to know the other culture, some don't want the kinds of help we may want to offer, we can't just go in and fix something we know nothing about. 

Enter religion. The more knowledge of why others do what they do, feel the way they do, celebrate what and why they do, the better. It doesn't mean anyone else has to have the same beliefs but just having the ability to understand where someone else is coming from isn't harmful. I'm saying teaching from an educational standpoint not brainwashing. Here's the rub, I'm a journalist (Wise shall be the bearers of light and all that) and I want everyone to have as much info as possible to make their own decisions. I'm not a teacher, so I don't know what would be best for children and I'm not going to say I do. It gets really tricky when some religions won't even have their kids learning about other religions because that goes against theirs. See? It's so hard and then you have to respect that and blah blah blah no one is ever going to agree. 

I just came off crunchy and granola-y and now let's all sing Kumbaya together or This Little Light of Mine or something. I am just advocating for the information to be distributed if possible. I think Christmas trees are awesome and I don't want to see them taken down everywhere or anything (funny story, Christmas trees aren't even really a Christian thing, it was a pagan tradition originally.) And if a huge Menorah went up somewhere in a public place I totally wouldn't care, it'd probably be really pretty. Actually, the hospital down the street from my house in Kansas does have a gigantic Menorah in front of it and it's called Menorah Medical Center and I have never given that a second thought. 

It's just sad and not in the spirit of anyone's religious celebrations to be angry and to attack other people. Sorry we don't always agree, opinions are like assholes as my dad likes to tell me. It's "all the ways that we show love that feel like Christmas" or Hanukkah or Kwanza, or whatever you may be celebrating this December. That line is from A Muppet Christmas Carol....yes really. 
Watch and be happy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Let's talk about me

Let’s talk about me for a second. I bet you’re thinking, isn’t that what you do on this blog you narcissistic boob. In my head a black and white cartoon character was saying that then promptly took off his white glove to slap me across the face with it. To that I would say, “Of course you know, this means war.” But to the non-animated folks I would counter with, “No, no it is not what I write about all the time.”

But as Toby Keith put it, “I want to talk about me, I want to talk about I, want to talk about No. 1,” just for right now.

 So, the other night I tweeted this:

Being a closet emo high school kid is a hard habit to break even into adulthood apparently. Oh, and I used to do theater, I’m pretty positive drama just courses through your veins after that for the rest of your life.

And I know people are probably thinking, why is she complaining? She has a lot going for her; she has a good job, lives in a beautiful place, so on and so forth. Or you’re going, that’s not funny, there are people that really struggle with hating themselves. And to all of you I say, yes I totally understand all of that and am well aware. You have no idea how aware I am of all of those things. I’m aware times infinity.

This does not, however, dismiss the fact that the other night I was really angry with myself. Don’t tell me you are happy and content all the time with the choices and decisions you make. Actually, if you are a person that has somehow managed to not feel remorse or regret things, you should probably tell me how you accomplished that feat. Unless you are like a cold-blooded killer (There’s Dexter again. My bad.)

But I am still riding the struggle bus when it comes to making good or not so good decisions. I’m pretty sure this comes from the fact that I have no idea what I want out of life. Not that I think everything needs to be planned, but having some sort of direction isn’t a bad thing I would assume.  

This whole thing came to a head partly because I feel as though many of my other friends have their lives together with long-term relationships; engaged, married, one even had a child on purpose. ON PURPOSE I tell you. I want a cat right now, but I’m a little nervous about how that would go, and one of my friends has another human being depending on her.

See, this is why people think Disney movies are bad influences on children. Pocahontas didn’t know where her path led but she had a magic talking willow tree to help her out. Where’s my enchanted vegetation? I’d settle for a smarmy palm tree (being in Florida I feel like that’s more likely than Grandmother Willow.)

Part of my frustration lies, not only in the fact that I am pretty jealous of my friends with their shit together, but because I do feel like, little by little, I’m actually gaining some control over my life. It just isn't quite there yet. While I’m making so much progress it’s difficult to realize I continuously make the same mistakes over and over again while improving other aspects of my life. And even though I think I know what I need to do, it’s like impossible to do it. Not impossible just very, very hard.

I suppose I sound pretty weak then, huh? I wrote that I hate myself because it’s just so difficult to know what you probably should do and to mindfully make a questionable choice. Then you judgers may say, “Why didn’t you just do what you know is right?”

Because, my apparently moral friends, it’s effing hard. OK? There are all of those what-ifs and the thought that things could be different for me and not suck if I make the slightly more reckless decision.  But I am most likely the rule and not the exception to the rule. Alas. 

Here's to struggling with, you know, life. Cheers to everyone out there being equally as stupid as me. Next time we're out we can take a shot to celebrate our frustration, or to take out our frustration, whatever works. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

So about that novel you want to write...

My mother wants me to write a novel. Doesn't everyone kind of want to be able to say that they wrote a book or a novel or a collection of poems or something that was published? I feel like even people that hate writing with a fiery passion still wish they could magically have written a book with their mind. November just ended, but it was National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.) I bet you didn't know that unless you happened to be in my writing club in high school. Seriously, one of my extracurriculars involved hanging out in a classroom for a few hours after school every couple weeks writing prose or poetry about whatever we decided would be the theme for that meeting. It was awesome.

Anyway, I am someone who does want to be able to say I wrote a novel one day. I keep thinking if I blog long enough and enough people read this I could get a book a la Carrie from Sex and the City without the whole writing a column thing... and with less writing about sex. That is silly, but I don't judge your half-baked ideas. 

But, my mom has this idea that I should write a book about my family, more specifically my aunts and grandma. I think the working title of this nonexistent novel is Mi Tias, or some such thing about aunts. It would seriously be a great story if I could get said aunts to open up about their lives. I'm not optimistic about that part because who really feels comfortable being that candid about their lives? That's like telling the whole world, "Hey there, come look at all the messed up stuff about my family. Look at how dysfunctional we can be." I assume people would find this embarrassing. I happen to say really awkward and embarrassing things on this blog so I wouldn't be nearly as clammy about it. That's clammy in the sense of "clam-like." I should have just used the tight lipped or something that makes sense as opposed to a word that means moist and rubbery. Whoops. 

Also, moist and rubbery are two descriptors that should never be used in the same sentence. I vow to never write those two adjectives in the same sentence on this blog ever again, you're welcome. 

These tangents are why I probably will never succeed in writing a cohesive novel. BUT, if I were to write one about my family members I believe the theme would be men suck, life is hard, people make mistakes and forgiveness is the answer. Let me get one thing straight. I LOVE all of my family and none of them have ever spoken to me about the stories I would possibly be telling, but because we are a large family and I'm an adult now, I know lots of things about all of their stories. None of the stories are that different from other family's. I'm sure. There's some disfunction, cheating, unhappiness, good times, rough times - it was the best of times it was the worst of times - whatever, you get it.

I know there are a lot of reasons why people read: to escape, to learn, etc. But one of the reasons I do it is to learn about other people and to see if I can relate to someone. When we have problems sometimes it feels like we are the only ones that are crazy when, in reality, everyone is crazy. The things we struggle with are things that a lot of people have issues with. Even serial killers can relate to other serial killers. At least that's what I've gathered from watching Dexter.  I freaked you out for a second though, didn't I?

In defense of dragging skeletons out of closets for other people, I think it's necessary in some cases. The names can be changed to protect their identities, we don't have to have pictures, it could be like the print version of putting a source in a dark room with no light and then distorting their voice. This book could  teach other people how to handle situations and that they can move on with their lives and get through bad stuff. It could show them they aren't the only ones with terrible, terrible luck.

I am writing this as a forewarning that I may start writing my family's stories in this blog (with different names.) In case anyone from my family reads this, I wanted to warn them, it's in no way to rib anything anyone has gone through. It's merely telling their story, our story and the stories of many that aren't able to tell their own. Maybe it'll help someone out there.

Then, who knows, a publisher might read it and want to publish my blog posts into a book. That'll never happen but somehow Carly Rae Jepsen is famous so crazier things are possible.

This is Nick from the New Girl explaining his novel idea to Jess's dad. I mean, if Twilight can be a huge hit, it could happen.