Thursday, December 22, 2011

RE: (Holiday Humor) Oh, Christmas Tree of Controversy

Oh, Christmas Tree of Controversy
Trees. Oh, converter of carbon dioxide, emitter of oxygen; rife with all manner of positive symbolism such as growth, life, and knowledge. They are genuinely nature's good guy.
Until Christmastime, that is, when regular ol' evergreens transform into seasonal symbols eliciting spirited debates. That's when the Douglas fir really starts to fly and away we go in a manger.
Like so many insidious instruments of divisiveness it goes by many ambiguous names. However, no matter which way you cut it down — whether you call it a Yule tree, a Christmas tree, or a Holiday tree — it is, most assuredly, a Tree of Controversy.
I don't know if my personal “Wonder Years” represented a simpler time, or if it's merely that I was simpler, but when I was growing up a Christmas tree was just a Christmas tree. The majority of the people I knew who had a pine of some sort seemed to have the identical version — slightly spindly and decorated with tinsel — but some of the “rich folks” had flocked trees.
The truly daring (usually estrogen-heavy households) opted for a pink, flocked tree. Certainly where there was not a tree, there might have been a Menorah or some other cultural talisman for the season. In fact, there wasn't much ado being made about the having of a Christmas tree or the not having.
Nevertheless, the times, they are a changing. This means the wind they're blowing in may not be pine-scented in the future since one man's decorative highlight is another man's perceived nose thumbing.
To summarize the political hullabaloo: It seems several people are ticked off that other citizens are making them gaze upon a Christmas tree when it's so not their thing.
While separation of church and state may be at the crux of the public controversy, I would venture to say there's a fair amount of separation of husband and wife in the private sector as well, due to this non-deciduous symbol of incitement.
The disagreements may not be exactly alike, but there is a shared premise: Two parties do not view the same thing the same way and no one is coming out of this thing unscathed. This argument pits them against one another and they need to hash it out and come to a mutually acceptable decision.
To summarize the domestic hullabaloo: It seems several family members get ticked off when they are forced to stare at a type of Christmas tree that is so not their thing.
Let me elaborate based upon my own experience. The real lightning rod of controversy centers on scoring the perfect evergreen. During this process our family uses technical terms like “bushy” and “branchy” when communicating our desires and expectations which apply to our prospective tree.
(We are quite devoted to the little known art of adding “y” to most any word in order to tone down the overwhelming connotative load of the aforementioned word in its original form-y.)
Which type of tree we adopt — the aforementioned bushy or branchy one — is dependent upon who won the rock-paper-scissors contest for that year. The branchy one is more like the tree
of our youth and it makes my husband very happy when we stare gape-mouthed at that vision of wonder.
Historically, I have been a fan of the branchy. In any case one thing is for certain. We will acquire a tree that is much too tall for our non-cathedral ceilings.In point of fact, it will barely fit through the door and will not be able to assume the vertical position until Edward
Scissorhands gets to it. Now, my husband is a musician and, as such, you would think a man who relies upon his hands to create dulcet, sweet, thrashing rock ‘n' roll chords would be careful. Nope, nope, nope.
You would be wrong because he is darned confident in his slashing abilities, perhaps due to his admirable musical chops.It's like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy has taken on a part-time job as a tree trimmer, there are so many plant parts flying.
I am always petrified I will have to fashion a tourniquet out of evergreen boughs as
I wait and watch to see if Rudolph will be emerging in topiary form.
When we're all done, there's more tree on the floor than in the stand, but it is now
lofty, poised, and looks as though it was meant for that corner.
It's a lot like childbirth in that way; you remember only the joy, not the pain … until the next

Sunday, December 11, 2011

An Essay of Hope...Winter Wonderland...reflections on an inauguration

Winter Wonderland

As we hear the pounding hooves that constitute the 2012 election year, I offer up my non-winning essay I wrote when the soon-to-be-newly minted Obama Administration launched a contest that would net the winner a sweet front row seat at the inauguration.

Recently I came across my unpublished piece and I was struck by the fact that I still believe every word, albeit one must substitute telling references from the past such as "January 22, 2009" and "inauguration" with other timely, perhaps more general mentions, such as "in the future" and "the presidency."I realize "hope" has become part of a hackneyed phrase. Truly that fact does not negate the importance of preserving hope, regardless of whether you’re an active player in the board game called Politics or simply actively affected by it.

It is my belief that we may land on any square -- Libertarian, Democratic, Republican, or Undeclared – let us NOT land on the apathy square.

As a teacher I’m fond of the review process, so maybe by revisiting the optimistic frame of mind we may have held from 2009, we will reignite our will and surge forward together toward common goals that we all share. We can pick new game pieces, if you will.
A girl can dream.

What does the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama mean to me? It means that winter is a season of hope, rather than a metaphor representing our country’s disillusionment. It means we are experiencing a shared awakening, after a long and dispirited hibernation. It means that we possess the combined ability to change and this ceremony signifies a celebration of that fact.

Ticking off the ten inaugurations that have taken place during my lifetime, I note this is the first year in my adult life that I am sitting front row center, in a socio-political revolution that envelopes me in tropes of inspiration. While I am certainly signed on for change as a mantra, accepting it as a way of life long ago, the induction celebrating Barack Obama’s presidency intensifies our country’s cultivation and commitment to this thing we call “change,” this thing that is the real constant in our lives. Attaching a richly traditional rite like the inauguration to our nation’s progression is a transformative moment not to be missed. With this historic inauguration, we exemplify the duality of our individual histories and that of our country’s history as we show change to be as constant as care and we connect to one another for the first time in almost a decade.

Barack Obama’s inauguration is a metaphor for our collective ability to change. I would be remiss if I did not mention the momentous element that resides in the inauguration of a racially mixed president, not just because it is inspiring to show the world that, though a stubborn nation, we are able to evolve and grow, but because Barack Obama represents the global citizen that we all need to be. We know this administration is not a panacea for all of our ills, but how refreshing that it offers a solution, a healing, a balm for what ails us and, make no mistake, we have been ailing.

The fabulous news is that what we need for change is already in us, confirming our innate ability, not just to court change, not just to embrace change, but to acknowledge its absolute necessity in any governing body and its populace. We have, of course, inaugurated many worthy presidents, some worthier than others when applying a variety of governing litmus tests, but this inauguration, this one resonates loudly, deeply, cleanly, genuinely and differently in our soul because the timing is so right and we are spiritually famished. Swearing in our forty-fourth president, we embrace all of the leadership legacies of the past, simultaneously honoring all of the promise and trust sitting on our hopeful horizon and we are made new again, daring to care.

Truth be told, as a nation, we never quit caring. I see it in angry youth, I see it in those who inspire critical thinking and I even see it in the disenfranchised. “Give us a reason to care” is what resonates with us all and while we have always had the ability to care, of late it has not seemed quite safe to invest overly much in that emotion. And that is the trick: to never give up caring; to avoid apathy; to preserve our right to feel significant.

Human nature is a funny thing; when it seems time will prove us unworthy of even our own survival, our better nature prevails and we show that we care plenty. If we would just look up and in, regularly, seeking to bring out the best in one another, we would gain so much more from our enlightened thinking. Room would be made to ponder our future, reflect upon our past and savor our hopes, dreams and aspirations, making the lightness of conciliation a part of our everyday world, much as will be symbolized at that lectern on January 22nd. In this way we can engender the co-existence of even technology and humanity, not making them mutually exclusive. Nature has already done this. I see it in action every time I witness airplane tracers beautifully paint a sky picture, enhancing nature’s sunrise in hopeful shades of beginning, resulting in artful expression. Care is a somewhat intangible term, though positively connotative, but perched on the precipice of honoring a new leader to whom we have entrusted the care of all we hold to be true, there is so much value to the process.

This particular investiture represents our country taking constructive action, avoiding a birdwalk into indifference. The fact that so many cared enough to weigh in, to vote; youthful activists, overachieving babyboomers, pontificating pundits, marginalized citizens, all spanning a rainbow of ethnicities, backgrounds and beliefs. Our overwhelmingly common belief is that we should care enough to keep trying to “do the right thing,”whatever that means, specifically, to any of us. As the citizenry, it is our responsibility to parry the untrue, to not get lost in the rhetoric, reject negativity, refute untruths, disavow posturing and think for ourselves with great heart and intention. Freedom has a place in all of this; free thinking, free will, free choice. The exertion of all of these rights leads to the preservation of them and that is the real litmus test of how we are doing.

Gazing out over my personal landscape of just under half a century, I can assess how I am doing in my personal evolution by looking at how the general populace is doing at the intersection of this year’s inauguration because we are all connected. My greatest individual accomplishment is that I have never stopped caring and I know I am not alone in this exigent endeavor. Americans believe in doing the right thing and while we can acknowledge the oppositional aspects of our history that has us doing both the right and wrong things over and over again, it is with humble acknowledgment of our past follies that we may proceed in a more forward-thinking manner. We cannot boast perfection, but we can boast aspirations of leaving things better than we found them – always.

On January 22, 2009 I envision myself attending the inauguration, standing humble and proud in my spiffy, newish black and white houndstooth-patterned coat, wearing the purple mittens my daughters gifted me with this Christmas and dabbing my eyes with a sodden tissue, as I pay tribute to the man who will lead us because we never gave up. We cared enough to pay attention and invest in our seamed futures and while I certainly respect Barack Obama and all he will facilitate, bringing out the best in us, it is the sagacious Dr. Suess who spoke the message best in the story, The Lorax: “UNLESS someone like you; cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Things will be better.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

RE: (Humor) Hurry Up and Join the Party! Zoom-zoom-zumba!

Hurry up and Join the Party!

I’m a devotee of fast; fast walking, fast talking, and fast doing. I come by all of this honestly as I hail from a long line of extremely active folks for whom, “Hurry up!” was a type of mantra that prefaced, well, everything.

“Hurry up or you’re going to be late for school.”
“Hurry up or I’m going to be late for work.”
“Hurry up so we can enjoy all of those precious childhood moments and then firmly launch you into adulthood where you belong.”

My fast life style includes fast dancing, exemplifying my “let the good times roll” philosophy where I passionately pursue one hot tamale of a calorie-burning package: Zumba!

This Latin dance-inspired program even has a motto, “Ditch the Workout, Join the Party.” Any pursuit subscribing to such an energizing and positive agenda is my kind of activity and truth be told, any time I’m dancing it’s more fun-in, than work-out.

Plus, I love, love, love parties. Now I know folks like to spin that into: “I love, love, love alcohol-swilling, “where did my clothes go?” partyin’, but that’s not my interpretation though I admit it might make for a more interesting column.

There’s another reason that I am devoted to finding and attending every Zumba class and specially scheduled Zumba party taking place in my tri-county area of coverage.

I love all things Latin; as in Latin American Latin, not Roman Latin. When I’m influenced by the “scholarly” Latins I’m likely to overthink myself into a fluffy, intellectual state of caloric overindulgence. With the spicy Latin American Latins I’m in motion, thus avoiding the ice cream headache too much reflection can cause along with adding “more of me to love.”

Though I’ve glided along on the arm of my fair share of ballroom buddies and two-step twirlers, it is the “shake it until the sweat flies” Latin American moves of Salsa, Merengue, Mambo, and Cha Cha that have always converted me from onlooker toe tapping status to full-out dance floor performance mode.

After formally studying Spanish from tiny twinkie-dom through the full-grown college years, I am left with the dubious distinction of being able to roll a mean “r.”

Granted, remaining fluent in the language is a much more employable attribute; however, this talent comes in mighty handy when cha-cha-chaing with my fellow zumberizers.

Now we’ve got the fast dancing, the rolling of the r’s and, as if all of that doesn’t constitute a good enough Zumba fit, I am able to bust out a bevy of sounds I’m not usually able to work into my normal day-to-day activities.

(This is primarily due to various auditory county ordinances, code restrictions and with greater frequency, requests from others to stop emitting blood-curdling, banshee-like sounds. I also boast one memorable blast in my repertoire that is eerily reminiscent of Mel Gibson’s battle cry in Braveheart.)

Let me add that the vocalization Zumba inspires in me is more satisfying than that double shot of whipped cream on my pumpkin pie which, coincidentally, is one of the things that motated me on over to class on Thanksgiving Day.

There I was with 32 fabulous, inspirational, and gorgeous women burning more calories than I had consumed thus far. To be fair it was still only 10:00 a.m. in the morning, so I hadn’t been able to really apply myself fully to the task at hand.

During this class – and in all of my Zumba classes – I execute moves normally reserved for dark, smoky barrooms and open bar-fueled wedding receptions. I shimmy shamelessly as I channel Che Guevara in my rallying cry to fellow dancers yelling, “Ye, ye, ye! Viva la revolución” or something like that.

As a sidebar, there are other shouts, chants, war cries, and general auditory outbursts that work well in fitness classes:

Good for Zumba:
-- ¡Vamános!

Good for martial artsy classes:
--Hi ya!
--Kiai! (pronounced key-eye)

Good for line dancing:
--Yee haw!

[Warning: Do not confuse any of the above calls with similar refrains, such as Soo-wee, Mayday, or God Save the Queen. These have no application whatsoever to the world of fitness; nevertheless, as you begin to achieve a state known as “muy caliente” you may find yourself nonsensically blurting them out.]

For all of these reasons I say, “Hurry up and Join the Party!” Just follow the auditory trail of those continuously trilling r’s over to zoom-zoom-zumba –– before the holiday scale zooms out of your comfort zone.