HALLOWEEN IS SPOOKY — October 26, 2014

If you ask me everything about this year has been a little bit spooky, including the world news, politics and the economy. However, the spookiest of all is Halloween because it is the one time of year we have the opportunity to indulge and become gluttons. It’s all about the candy; those bags of candy corn, gummy worms, chocolates, etc. that contain enough sugar to send the kids into orbit. I’m sure Hershey’s and Nestle are the big winners on Halloween.
In a recent survey it was found that enough money is spent on decorations, costumes and treats for Halloween to make it the second most popular holiday in the world. Unbelievable! It seems that Halloween decorations can be awesome without being as sentimental as Christmas decorations. Plus, they aren’t too expensive or in need of special wiring, etc. although I suppose there are exceptions. Lighten up! Halloween is upon us. Yep, the ghosts and goblins will be knocking on your door this Friday, October 31.
Halloween was originally known as All Hallow Day or All Saints Day. Every year around the first of November festivals were held by the Celtics to mark the ending and beginning of an eternal cycle. When they harvested their crops and moved their livestock to closer pastures for the winter, they held festivals to sacrifice animals, fruits and vegetables.
They believed that on the night before the new year ghosts came back to damage crops and create havoc. The Druids built sacred bonfires and the Celts wore costumes to honor the dead and aid them on their journey and to keep them away from the living. Throughout the years, All Saints Day continues the ancient Celtic traditions. Today, most of our traditions associated with Halloween can be traced to the Celtic Day of the Dead.
Wearing costumes and roaming from door to door asking for treats can be traced to the first few centuries of the Christian era. It was believed that the souls of the dead were roaming about with witches, demons and fairies. Beggars went about on All Souls Eve and offered to say prayers for a family’s departed loved ones.
Thankfully, the ancient mood of Halloween has been somewhat lightened today, although the costume aspect remains a vital part of the festivities. Our society has proven that Halloween isn’t just for kids anymore. Adults are known to find any excuse for a party, costume or otherwise. Halloween provides them the opportunity to take trick-or-treating to a whole new level.
Even though there are no traditional foods such as those associated with the Super Bowl or New Year’s Eve parties, Americans have become very creative in making their own ‘ghoul’ food. Now, I enjoy trying new food and tastes, but I have to admit I’m a bit squeamish at the thoughts of tasting any ghoulish foods. Dragon blood, slime soup, witch’s hair, eyeballs or blood clots just don’t appeal to my appetite. I would rather pass on such Halloween delicacies than pass out trying to swallow them.
There are those who think Halloween decorating and costuming has gone too far. I say what the heck; if I can put on a different face at least one night of the year and scare the living daylights out of a roaming ghost or witch, then I’m going for it—as long as they don’t spook me!
It’s the one day we can look the Grim Reaper in the eye, sneer and say we’ve got some partying to do. Spooky, huh?? Pass the candy bag, please.

REMEMBERING OUR VETERANS — November 9, 2014

Wow! I really did survive Halloween and the 2014 mid-term elections. Thank goodness they are finally over, although The Mr. had a near fatal encounter on Halloween night. Seems one of the trick-or-treaters thought he was dressed as an old man. The kid called out to his dad when approaching our front door, “Look, Dad here’s an old man!” And, I replied, “Yes and he isn’t even wearing a mask!” I’m not letting him live this one down!
I never thought I would be one to welcome ordinary, stupid commercials on TV, but I am so glad the mud-slinging season is gone for now and some sense of normalcy has returned to the idiot box.
During the whole political foray I couldn’t help but think about all the men and women of the military who willingly fight so we can continue to have free elections in our country. I’m ashamed of the dark pit of character assignation our political parties have dug in order to win ‘free’ elections. Political campaigns throw ideas and language about on all venues of social media, not caring whether there is any truth to it or not, just hoping something will ‘stick’ and catch a vote or two. Our veterans deserve better than this. They don’t protect our freedoms so they can be trashed.
My ears are tired, my mind is boggled and my psyche is suffering. I’m a victim of PPCS, Post Political Campaign Syndrome. I still hear the vicious echoes in my head. I’m glad it’s over, but afraid it’s just begun. Political speeches all sound alike as do the politicians who deliver them. Hollow voices speak mindless thoughts. They say whatever they believe the voter wants to hear and when elected do whatever benefits their agenda. It is during these campaign seasons that I am insulted that voters are perceived to be naïve and stupid. We are not mindless citizens who can’t discern political-speak from truth-speak.
We’ve all seen the bumper stickers that proclaim “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Indeed! Freedom is purchased with blood, sweat and tears. It is bought on the battlefields as well as in the voting booth. Freedom is one of the greatest privileges we have in this country. It is a privilege to be free, yet we pay for it each time we vote, pay our taxes, or express an opinion regarding political or social issues.
In spite of the political squabbling I’m proud to be an American. But, my pride isn’t to be wasted on politics and politicians today. I am one proud American because of our veterans. It is because of their tenacity, valor and bravery that I was allowed to vote in this year’s mid-term elections. These men and women have shown outstanding courage in the face of danger at home and abroad. They don’t ask for much in return; just a little respect and honor. On Veterans Day, this Tuesday, November 11, we honor the brave men and women who have selflessly served our country and risked their lives to protect our freedoms. There are many ways to give back to the more than 23 million veterans who have sacrificed so much.
To honor a special veteran today log on to https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org and make a one-time donation. Your donation will help injured warriors who are returning from war-zones and provide assistance to their families. Donate today and they will send you a free 2015 Wounded Warrior Project Landscape Calendar. Each month is marked with how your gift makes a difference in the lives of injured warriors through the WWP programs. Another option is to join the Advance Guard monthly giving program for $19 per month and receive a WWP blanket for your support.
Maya Angelou penned: “How important it is that we recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” Thank a veteran today….Hug a veteran today….Celebrate our veterans.

DRONING AND GROANING — December 14, 2014

They’re here whether we like it or not. We’re being invaded by drones. They are
flying through the sky in record numbers. Amazon has them for sale from $35.00 to $1,200 and is even considering using them for delivering orders to customers. Seriously? I really prefer to have my packages delivered to my door not misplaced somewhere in my yard,(or my neighbor’s yard or even up a tree by a drone. So, what happens if you have a tree filled yard? There would be a need for smart drones to go with our smart phones.
Making fun of drones reminds me of my dad making fun of Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio. He would be amazed at all the electronic stuff we use today. I’m sure all types of drones will be the norm someday, just as the electronic age has become the norm of today.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around having drones zipping through the air along with our airliners. Isn’t there some rule or regulation regarding planes flying in specific air lanes? Is there a need to establish drone lanes? Some have expressed concern that we might begin seeing catastrophic happenings when planes and drones collide in the air.
On the other hand, drones have the possibility of changing our whole way of life. We would be listening to songs with titles such as, Drone River, Drone Over Miami, Dronelight Bay, Drone Shadow, Bad Drone Rising, Blue Drone of Kentucky, etc. The whole idea of replacing the moon with drones doesn’t have the same romantic allure to it.
One venue that might benefit from drones is football. Instead of having quarterbacks use drones. One team might have a couple of drones to go against a team with one superdrone.
Can’t you just visualize a drone throwing the ball down field for a touchdown?
Can you imagine Santa Claus using drones to pull his sleigh instead of reindeer? Of course, he would have to re-name them. Names like ‘Zippy’ and ‘Bonkers’ might fill the bill. Even though it would surely save him a boatload of time and energy he would have to give the reindeer their pink slips. And I’m wondering where else eight tiny reindeer could find work.
Instead of groaning and moaning about the drones, perhaps we could find more productive ways to use them. Delivering packages is ‘iffy’ as I see it. Maybe drones could be used to ‘drop’ you off at work. No more early morning traffic hassles trying to get to work. Just crank up your drone. The big topic at the water cooler could be ‘My drone is better than your drone.’ However, just because it might be larger doesn’t mean it’s smarter.
There are some folks who most likely wouldn’t cotton to the idea of having drones flying over their house. That would call for another rule or regulation. No shooting at drones. Keep your drone at home when it’s not roaming. The attorneys are just licking their chops over the possibility of lawsuits involving drones. Of course, that means more insurance.
I’m thinking if you are planning to go to college you might choose one that specializes in drones and their activities such as maintenance, insurance, safety issues, etc. You could make a fortune maintaining drones. If you’re interested in being a building contractor I see a drone in your future. Everyone will need a drone garage, maybe even a two drone garage. The possibilities are limitless. So, if you see a drone in your future, don’t moan and groan. Just grab it and roam.

NEW YEAR OPPORTUNITIES — December 28, 2014

The New Year is just around the corner. In a few days we’ll just be kicking 2014 down the road. It’s time to make those New Year’s Resolutions—you know, those things we really believe we should do so 2015 can be better than last year. I really don’t know what to do with the ones I made last year that didn’t make it to my ‘to do list.” Shame on me for not even remembering those I made with good intentions but never gave them a second thought.
In spite of myself, I’m going to stick my neck out again this year and resolve once again to be a better friend. Sometimes we tend to get comfortable in a friendship and begin to take that friendship for granted. Do you have special friends you want to hold close to your heart this New Year? I have been fortunate to have many friends come and go throughout my life. Some come and stay for a short time; others appear and just keep hanging in there with me.
What amazes me most about my friends, both past and present, is that they seem to pop into my life just when I think they’re either lost forever or when I feel friendless. Old friends are a valuable asset these days.
I recently received a letter from a couple who have been my friends since 1963. They have been with me through thick and thin. Their friendship has never wavered. About three years ago misfortune knocked on their door when he was diagnosed with dementia. He is now in stage four of Alzheimer’s disease. He would look at her and says, “Aren’t you my wife?” But, he can’t remember her name. He now looks at her and thinks she’s his mother. Alzheimer’s disease is robbing me of my wonderful friendship with him.
We need to pay more attention to our friends. Savor the “Ahhh” moments with them and let them know how important they are to us. By sharing a special place in our hearts with them, we can gain a better understanding of ourselves.
The same holds true as we look back at 2014. We all know it is important to seek opportunities to grow and become the person we want and should be. Often these opportunities come to us in unexpected times and places. We need to have our minds and hearts open and receptive so we can recognize these opportunities for what they are and can be for us.
Another New Year’s resolution for me this year is to close the doors of regret behind me. This new year of 2015 will surely provide greater opportunities than did 2014. I don’t need to spend my time looking back on any regrets I might have experienced. I just need to be aware of the new doors of opportunity and be ready to knock on them. Sometimes we look so long and regretfully at the closed door that we don’t see the new ones we have the opportunity to open.
A long time ago I came to the conclusion that hope, family and friends are the glue that holds our lives together. I am a very fortunate woman. I married my best friend and I resolve to strengthen that bond of friendship and love throughout this New Year. Ours is a Christmas Love. We celebrated our 27th anniversary on December 27. A Christmas Love is a love worth keeping. It offers us the gift of peace, a resounding joy, the miracle of hope and the gathering of family and belief. Happy Anniversary, Mr. I love you more today than yesterday, but not as much as tomorrow.

Playing the Blame Game – December 7, 2014

Carbon Valley residents are mourning the tragic loss of three beautiful lives; one is a sixteen year old young man; the other two are just fourteen years of age. Combined with the other two we lost during the past two years we no longer have the presences of five young men in our community.
If you walk through the halls of Frederick High School today you would sense the mood is very somber. The holidays have taken a back seat to this tragic turn of events. It has reached in and taken away the joy of the season, at least for now. There are those who have stated it’s the principal’s fault for creating a culture of suicide within the high school. These people are weak and have no sense of how heartbroken Mr. Pete Vargas is suffering right now.
Many are asking why. Why are these vibrant young people choosing to end their life’s journey? There are no reasons why that would ever satisfy our curious minds. I think perhaps those people are asking the wrong question. We may never know the why of suicide. Often the person who chooses suicide never shows any of the common signs.
Perhaps instead of beating ourselves over the head with the question of why, we should be asking the question of how. How can we cope with this serious issue; how can we help one another prevent it from happening again? These are questions that beg for answers. No one has all the answers, but collectively we can all participate in finding solutions to the problem of suicide.
There are many aids listed on-line, but one in particular has a resource and healing guide. It is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (afsp). You can log on to their Website http://www.afsp.com and download a wealth of information on ways to help prevent suicides. If you are thinking about taking your life read about the help that is out there for you. If you think one of your friends is considering taking his/her life, don’t be afraid to ask them if they need help. Sometimes all they need is for someone to show concern and care.
Suicide shouldn’t carry a stigma with it. No one should be embarrassed by it. If someone you love has taken their own life remember how they lived, not how they died. Accept their decision and move forward with your life. Perhaps your experience will enable you to stop someone from choosing to take their life.
For those who are vocal in their criticism of the faculty and staff of Frederick High School I say I’m sorry you can’t see the whole picture. These caring professionals have made the choice to spend seven to eight hours a day with your child, trying to prepare them for their adult life. There are approximately 1,100 students who attend Frederick High School. To be responsible for that many students for that length of time on a daily bases carries with it a tremendous responsibility. It is one the principal gladly shoulders every day.
I challenge parents to stop playing the blame game and become part of the solution and not part of the problem. Have you bothered to ask if you can help? One way of helping is to volunteer. Volunteering doesn’t have to be on a daily basis. It can be once a month for an hour or two. You can make a difference by sharing responsibility. Yes, the personnel are paid a salary, but much of what they do as they interact with the students is done out of love for those students.
It has been said that to lose a parent is to lose part of your past, but to lose a child is to lose your future. Let’s not lose any more of our future. Together we can work to stop suicides in our community.

The Magic and Wonderment of Christmas — December 21, 2014

All the old Christmas Carols are steaming across the electronic airways these days indicating this is definitely one of the most wonderful times of the year. It holds special meaning for The Mr. and me as we don the trappings of our alter-egos: Santa and Mrs. Claus. It’s the one time of the year when we can spread joy and happiness to the many children we meet throughout the season. The holidays are filled with music, joy, love, and secrets along with mystery, miracles and wonderment.
The wonderment is seen when a child climbs up on Santa’s lap believing in their heart that he is the one who will fill their stocking and place that one most wanted gift under the tree for them. I remember trying to keep the secrets of Christmas from my children. They just couldn’t figure out the mystery of Christmas.
In our role and Santa and Mrs. Claus this year we had one young lady who wanted a typewriter. A what?? Santa immediately asked her if she had a computer. “Oh, yes,” she replied. Mrs. Claus asked if she wanted an electric one to which she responded, “No, I want an old-fashioned one. Another girl, aged 9 wanted Santa to bring her money. Santa asked her what she would do with money. The girl said, “I want to help feed the homeless.”
One of our little friends told her mom all she wanted for Christmas this year was a bell off of Santa’s sleigh and to know Mrs. Claus’ first name. I think she’s on to me! The opportunity to share that information came when we were sharing lunch together. I casually mentioned that Mrs. Claus and I had talked on the phone that morning. Her bright eyes lit up and she wanted to know what we talked about. I told her she was inquiring about several children I know and was to report their behavior to Santa. I just happened to throw in the name of ‘Carole’ as being Mrs. Claus. She gasped and in wide-eyed wonderment she said, “You know Mrs. Claus? “Oh, yes,” I replied. We talk to each other several times a week.” Now, if she only knew exactly how many times Carole and I talk she would really be surprised! The excitement buzzed around our lunch time as she talked about nothing else but the fact that she now knew Mrs. Claus first name. This week I shared with her that Carole has two sisters; one named Bell and one named Joy.
She showed up at the Carbon Valley Holiday Festival to tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas. When she hopped up on my lap I asked her if she was ready to tell Santa what she wanted. She nodded her head, yes. Then, I asked her if she knew who I was. She looked in my eyes and gave me a big smile and said, “Why, yes…you’re Carole.”
It really doesn’t matter how you celebrate the holidays, it only matters that you celebrate. Each of us needs to celebrate life, and the holidays provide the opportunity for us to gather with family and friends and do just that.
Do I believe? How could I not believe in this most magical season of the year? I truly believe in the spirit of Christmas. I also believe it can and should live in each of us throughout the entire year. We each have the ability to make every day Christmas Day in our hearts.
I am reminded of the first real Christmas gift presented to the world so long ago. That first Christmas gift came to us one Holy Night; Lying in a manger, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes so very tight. Attended by angels our gift of incarnate love brought to us everlasting life and light. His name is Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God. May your life’s journey be filled with all the wonderment and miracles of this joyous season.

BOXES ANYONE?

After storing the Christmas decorations away for another year I decided to clean out the cedar closet. The Christmas closet has some degree of organization to it; the cedar closet not so much. It is mainly used to store our hanging seasonal clothes and the shelves hold a variety of different kinds stuff (junk) I don’t use or need anymore.
Along one of the walls was a stash of empty boxes; Boxes of all sizes and shapes. Some even still had packing material in them. The Mr. suggested I downsize my box collection which I did. After checking each one to make sure nothing of value was tucked inside I began the task of hauling them upstairs. It took four trips up and down the stairs to get those boxes out of the house. That’s a lot of boxes.
Sometime in December I received a notice from Amazon that I had accumulated enough points to make a sizeable purchase. Just a few weeks earlier my paper shredder had shredded its last shred and puked. You have to understand that there are two things that every writer must have to be successful. One is a paper shredder and the other is a delete button on their keypad. My delete button is so worn the lettering can’t be read, but I know exactly where it is without looking.
The paper shredder was expected to be delivered on December 26. What was I thinking, ordering a paper shredder right before Christmas? Because of the hustle and bustle of Christmas I completely forgot I had even ordered it. That is, until January 4 when I once again needed a paper shredder. I looked the order up on line, printed it out and asked The Mr. to go by the post office while he was running some errands. He returned with this really big box in his arms. It was at least twice the size I was expecting it to be. My first thought was shame on me for not checking the size and dimensions of the paper shredder; this looked like it was huge.
When we opened it we discovered it was a box in a box. The smaller box was encased in the big box with all kinds of packing materials. After digging it out and setting it upright it was just exactly what I ordered—a regular size paper shredder. I took it out of the box then set the box back inside the big box and took it to the garage where it sat for a week. Trash pick-up was that following Friday, so I asked The Mr. to put it in the recycle bin. He did so piece by piece which turned out to be a good thing. After emptying the packing he found a small box postmarked Bejing, China. On the outside of the box was the word necklace and It was addressed to a woman who lives in Castle Rock, Colorado. Apparently in the Christmas rush to get all their orders shipped at Amazon it somehow made its way into the box with the paper shredder. The Mr. took it to the post office where it was immediately scanned and sent on its way to the woman in Castle Rock. I can only imagine how surprised she will be when she receives it and wonders what the heck it was doing in Firestone, Colorado.
The lesson learned is that saving lots of boxes is a waste of good materials. It’s always good to recycle. And, regardless of their size, just be sure your boxes are empty before you put them in the recycle bin. I hope the woman in Castle Rock has a Merry Christmas in January.