FIRMLY RESOLVED

So, are they history yet? If you made it this far, congratulations. If not, there’s always next year.  Click “View original post” at the bottom and keep reading…

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Your New Year’s Resolution, by Rich Paschall

Have you given up on it yet?

You know what I mean, that New Year’s Resolution you felt you had to make.  It may have seemed like a good idea in December.  You knew you were going to eat too much and drink too much from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. You knew there would be cookies and cakes at work, at home, at Aunt Hilda’s house. You did not want to go to Aunt Hilda’s house, of course, but you were willing to eat her cookies and whatever that greenish Jello stuff was that she puts out every year.

72-Pound-cake_08

There were candy dishes everywhere too!  You swear that some of your friends and relatives only bring out the candy dishes when the holiday season comes.  And the Holiday season can be long, very long.  That means there is plenty of opportunity to…

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Making Resolutions

Most of us made New Year’s resolutions.  Some of us have already broken them.  Perhaps they were meant to be broken sooner than later anyway.  Here are my thoughts on the topic that do not seem to change from year to year:

Breaking Resolutions


By Unknown early 1900s [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Everyone is expected to make resolutions. As people go around asking one another about them, they create a societal group pressure for each one of us to resolve to do something.  It is a sort of “I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours” game. Newspaper and magazine articles will discuss this at the end of one year and into the beginning of the next. Radio and television stations may dispatch crews to the shopping malls and “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style.” Sorry, that was a momentary flashback. Anyway, the question persists each year at this time. “What are your New Year’s resolutions?”

When nosey Aunt Bertha tells you her resolution is to go on a diet, and then asks you what your resolution is, you will probably be compelled to say something other than she actually needs the diet. So you trot out some of the better clichés and offer up some ideas. You may wish to say that you are going to go on a diet too, even though you are not the one needing to drop 50 pounds. You can say that you are going to give up smoking. That will work whether you smoke or not. It is particularly effective on people who only know you casually. How do they know you are not out in the garage in 10 degree weather smoking like a Christmas night fireplace? You could resolve not to drink until St Patrick’s Day, but there are the birthday parties, anniversaries, dreadful family events and of course more Bowl games to watch. When the NFL play-off games are finally over, there is the biggest night of sports fueled drinking to contend with, the Super Bowl! It looks like you should leave the drinking resolution alone until Lent, unless you have resolved to enter a 12-step program.

New Year’s resolutions are not like those Catholics make at Lent, of course. We actually mean to keep our Lenten resolutions. Lent is a mini-sacrifice we accept and will actually work at. New Year’s resolutions are different since they are mostly just the things we tell people. Of course we should exercise more and stop super-sizing everything we get at fast food restaurants. If you passed 50 years of age it would be interesting to see if you could fit in some of your high school clothes again…OK, skip that, bad visual. You could resolve to take the stairs instead of the elevator. You could even resolve to ride your bike to work or jog or walk briskly. In our part of the country you would have to walk very briskly in order not to freeze your McMuffins off at this time of year.

There are a lot of things we could do, but we really are just saying them and have no deep desire to carry them through. In that way they are sort of like campaign promises. Trust me, whatever your duly elected representatives promised to do in the campaign, they have already forgotten and hope you have forgotten them too. Therefore, in the great tradition of American politics, whatever you promise Aunt Bertha you are going to do this year, you may feel free to discard as soon as you leave her dusty, doily filled apartment. In fact, the sooner you run from Aunt Bertha and her resolutions the better off you will be. The less lying you have to do, the better you will feel.

If ever there should be some resolutions, however, I think these should be included: Politicians should resolve to stop leaving things to the last-minute. Perhaps they can resolve to stop scaring us with fiscal cliffs and bad tax bills laden with pork. Colleges and Universities could resolve to care more about education than about winning football and basketball games. Bloggers and You Tubers should resolve to stop leaving hoaxes and lies on the internet like the world-wide web was just some giant video game for their amusement. The Chicago Cubs should resolve to win another World Series. Sorry, we need a home town resolution. It is more of a pipe dream, I guess. Reality shows should resolve to actually be real rather than filled with staged confrontations. The city should resolve to pave my back alley. OK, that’s another pipe dream. Friends should resolve to tell friends how important they are to their lives. I am off to a good start on that one, actually.

To show that I am going to take this often abused tradition seriously this year, here are a few of my resolutions. I resolve to be more the real me than the me I think I need to be at times (confused?), but sometimes discretion is the better option. I resolve to worry more about getting things right today and not to worry about the past at all. I should resolve to work harder at learning French and playing the guitar I bought a few years ago, but those are constant resolutions in the back of my mind anyway. Maybe I should just resolve to push them forward a little. I resolve to use this weekly column for more than “reblogs.”. Actually, there are so many things I have resolved to do in life that I already have to live to 103 to get them done. OK, that’s the best one. I will resolve to live to 103 and if my brain still functions, I will then make up a bucket list.

 

The Crush of Christmas Shopping

For those still shopping on Christmas eve…

A Christmas Gift

Christmas shopping

I was caught
In the crush of Christmas shopping,
Fighting the crowds
And always stopping,
To find the right gift
That I can give to you
But nothing seems right.
What shall I do?

The weather is snowing.
The street lights are glowing.
Everyone is knowing,
That Christmas is near.

The crowd is in a hurry.
The people all scurry,
As they battle the flurry and
Shouts of good cheer.

But I have a task
That is not like the rest.
I must choose a gift.
It must be the best.
I’ll search everywhere.
Do what I can do.
The cost doesn’t matter,
Because it’s for you.

The Christmas Bells are ringing.
The snow begins clinging.
Choirs will be singing
Of heaven above.

As soft music plays,
On this Christmas Day,
I know I will say,
That my gift is Love.

Copyright Michael F. Teolis music and Richard Paschall lyrics.

CHRISTMAS YET TO COME

It is time for one more holiday playlist from last year. No dead guys this time, just young artists. Some you may know already, some may be new to you. Click the link below (View original post) to follow over to SERENDIPITY and sing along.

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My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Young Artists Edition, By Rich Paschall

From the time your Halloween pumpkin turned to mush on your front porch until now, you have been hearing Christmas music in the stores, on the radio and television and perhaps on your computer and mobile devices as well.  As we have noted on past Top Ten lists, the airwaves have been filled with familiar voices singing the same holiday hits to us that they have been singing for decades.  Of course, it is not Christmastime if we do not hear Bing, Perry, Andy and Nat crooning to us, but perhaps there are some newer artists who will earn a spot on the radio station playlist some day soon.

It is in this spirit that I come to you with another holiday playlist in hand.  I can see by the tired look on your faces, that you are ready for something fresh. …

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CHRISTMAS PRESENT

While many of the classic Christmas tunes are performed by artists who have gone to the great holiday party in another universe, here are my top ten from artists who are still around.  Click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to SERENDIPITY and sing along.

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My Top Ten Christmas Songs, Living Artists Edition by Rich Paschall


While many of your favorite Christmas songs are done by artists who have passed over the space and time continuum into another existence (that is to say, they are dead), there are still perennial favorites done by performers who are still on the planet.  This week’s hotly awaited Top Ten list will feature those living artists with songs we love.  Well, I love them, anyway.

There are songs that really did not seem to fit on the last Top Ten list of dead artists or this week’s list of Living artists because they are by groups where some of the members have passed and some are still performing.  For example, “Little Saint Nick” by the Beach Boys is a favorite but Dennis and Carl Wilson have passed.  “Please Come Home For Christmas,” by the Eagles is one of my…

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CHRISTMAS PAST

Glass ornaments from Germany

It is time again for Ye Merry Olde Christmas tunes sung by minstrels from days of yore.  Click on “View Original Post” at the bottom and follow on over to SERENDIPITY and sing along.

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My Top Ten Christmas Songs

Dead Artists Edition, by Rich Paschall


As I listened to holiday songs on the local Christmas songs radio station, one fact became apparent over time.  Almost all of the songs I hear are performed by artists who have gone on to that great holiday party in the sky.  This is, of course, a nice way of saying they are dead.  Nevertheless, we continue to listen to their songs year in and year out.  In fact, some of these have been flying across the airwaves for many decades and there is no sign they will ever stop being played.

It is safe to say that all of these songs have been covered many times over.  Any singer with staying power in the industry has a Christmas album.  It is true that a few of these songs received great success by other artists when released, but there are certain…

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Looks More Like a Rut Than Tradition

The happy holiday season is now upon us.  Actually, it never left.  We are in perpetual holiday mode, which should say something about modern society. What that says escapes me, but it would have to be profound to deal with the depths of the ruts we now find ourselves in.  When you see Christmas decorations in the stores before you see Halloween candy, then you know it is just one giant marketing season.  Christmas supplies now start making their way to the shelves alongside the back-to-school sales.  We heard Christmas music in one store while we shopped for Halloween items.

Chief among the offenders of what used to be a nice November holiday is the Black Friday sales that follow.  It is hard to keep calling it Black Friday when the event starts early in the week on websites and continues into the following week.  No retailer wants anyone else to get a jump on him so they all start opening the stores earlier and earlier for the “Friday” sales.  Thanksgiving used to be a day to spend with relatives and friends.  Everything was closed and we actually had a day to retreat to our homes to give thanks and eat a lot.  Now it is “hurry up and eat, the stores are open!”

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last year Black Friday started at sometime on Turkey Thursday for the brick and mortar stores.  I fear that in just a few years the old tradition of spending time with family and friends, even if it was only because all the stores are closed, will give rise to another day to race to the shopping mall.  We want to stand in line to get the next “cabbage patch doll” (look it up) or whatever the hot item will be this year.  Is there a general lack of time between the fourth Thursday in November and Christmas Day that crass commercialism must encroach on one of the two days where just about every business was closed?  (The other, of course, is Christmas Day.)

I realize that for some it is the thrill of the hunt, but for others it is like lemmings to the sea.  Do you think that if you are not out in the post-Thanksgiving dinner madness that you will have to admit to friends that you did not participate in the widespread seasonal opportunity to spend more money than you would like.  If you get the items you want, you will probably spend more in the store on other things, which is exactly what merchants want.  If we are willing to shop in the wee hours of the morning, why not let us shop all night long?  This may cost you dearly, and it certainly shortens the holiday of mall workers everywhere.

Another newly absurd practice is Christmas music on the radio.  The commercial station that plays all Christmas music in season has a warped idea of what the season is.  Having found that playing all Christmas music all day long in season was very popular, they decided to start earlier, and earlier and earlier.  You can listen to Christmas music from Halloween until the end of the year.  Like AM radios stations of yore, however, they seem to have a limited playlist.  How many times over two months can you listen to Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas,” Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song,” Gene Autry’s “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and of course Bing Crosby forever crooning “White Christmas?”  Every artist who has had more than two hit albums has recorded Christmas music, if not indeed a Christmas Album.  What about everyone else?  Can we get something new before we watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” or “It’s a Wonderful Life” one more time?

O Christmas tree

The thoughts of these limitations did not fall on deaf ears, XM radio has trotted out multiple Christmas channels.  One of the good traits is they are commercial free, unless you count the constant plugging of their other channels.  You can hear songs from the 1940’s through the present.  Glenn Miller band played “Jingle Bells” and Frank Sinatra sang “Silent Night” for me while I made my happy way down crowded streets and “city sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in…,” but I digress.  “Siriusly,” I am not advocating you Christmas rush your way to your computer to get a subscription to satellite radio.  Newer cars have USB ports anyway, so I guess you can bring along any music on your digital playlist.

I have saved the worst of the holiday ruts for last.  It seems that going over the river and through the mall to grandma’s house is not always a good idea.  While your attendance at a family gathering may seem more like a command performance than an invitation, it does not mean you actually have to go.  Yes, I know grandma will be disappointed if you do not bring your fake smile and weary mate to the gathering, but she will get over it if you stop in at other times during the season.  Work on a good lie…I mean story, and stick with it.  Many family gatherings turn into ugly affairs. People who might not normally get together during the year are appeasing grandmas and showing up to an event.  They would rather be at a sports bar or in their own homes.  Pent up feelings are likely to leak out.  After a flaming rum punch, or whatever alcohol your prefer, you might just tell Uncle Orville what you really think of him.  The injury that does will probably fester until the next holiday gathering.

There will be plenty of survival guides on Word Press and all the other blog sites.  You Tubers will be busy making videos to help you through the madness.  I will take a pass on that.  I did start watching a video of someone explaining Black Friday traditions.  At first I thought it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but then I decided the young vlogger was just dead wrong.  Beware advice from teenagers and twenty-somethings who play video games all season and anger their parents by not showing up at these dreadfully uncomfortable holiday soirées.  Oh wait, maybe they have something there!

OR go for some “Cold Weather songs”
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” at teepee12.com

A Change of View

A short family story

The extra bedroom had been turned into a den or office of some sort.  It was supposed to be a place to work or study, but actually it was just a place for Rob to hide out from the family.  In there he could read or daydream or actually make use of the computer he was determined to learn more about.  This determination did not go much farther than turning it on, looking at the home page and checking his email.  Rob did not get much email.  His friends knew he rarely read them anyway.  Rob did not have to use the computer much at work, and used it less at home.

Books, creative commons license

Over time the den had become cluttered with books and magazines.  That was Rob’s doing.  “These are the things to be read,” he thought.  The internet contained sound bites and headlines and celebrity pictures and Rob was convinced it held little value for him.  You might say Rob was a bit of a throwback to a previous generation.  The passing years had confused him and upset the neat world order in the family of Rob.  So, he needed his refuge to occasionally escape his modern family.

He had a conservative wife with conservative looks and conservative taste.  Despite her ever youthful appearance, she was likely better suited to  the era of black and white television than the present day.  She did not seem the daring young girl Rob married over three decades earlier.  There were also two teenage children, a boy and a girl.  Rob recalled how he used to call them his “little prince and princess.”  Rob’s neatly appointed wife thought he carried on with the “prince and princess” thing too long.  Becky continued to be “daddy’s little girl” and certainly acted like a princess, but Josh had transformed into someone else.  Until now, Rob had no idea how the world of Josh had changed.

This particular Thursday evening Rob sat alone in the den waiting.  He had come home to do something he had never done before and now he was waiting.  He looked up at the clock and it revealed the hour was closing in on 7 pm.  His teenagers had not arrived home and his ever patient wife was just starting to make dinner.  They were all going to keep him waiting.  On most days he would not sit in a room with just a low watt energy-saving bulb burning and do nothing but wait, but that was his mission now.  He was unsure what he would say when the waiting ended, his mind was actually rather blank and his face was free from expression of any kind.  He looked rather like an old soldier who just had a mortar shell go off nearby.  He waited in stunned silence.

Earlier in the day Rob was talking to one of the other dads at work.  The other dad was much younger and that may have been the reason he was more in tune with the teenagers and the internet.  “Do you ever watch You Tube videos? ” the younger dad had asked.  “No,” Rob replied, “I am not sure if I have ever seen one.”  “Here is one you will want to see.  Search this title.”  He handed Rob a piece of paper.  “It is important.  Do it today.  Here too is the ‘username’ of the one who posted it just in case you have any trouble finding it.”  The younger dad would answer no questions and would not say anymore on the subject.  Rob had put the folded up piece of paper in his pocket and did not take it out until he reached the den.  Once there, he went immediately to his desk, turned on the computer and sat silently.

As he waited for the computer to start up he read the few words on the paper over and over.  Could this possibly be some sort of joke?  Would they all laugh about it tomorrow in the company break room?  Would this just be a few minutes of needed entertainment?  When the computer was on, Rob searched for the title.  At first he was confused and a bit nervous.  There were so many videos with similar titles he was unsure what to pick.  Then he noticed the user name and started scrolling through the titles looking for the right one.

When he located the name that matched the one written out for him, he clicked on it quickly, before he could change his mind.  He watched the whole thing and when it was over, a single tear rolled down his cheek.  There was just one before his tears and his mouth dried up and his palms began to sweat.  In his 50+ years he had never felt like this before, ever.  When the clock stuck seven, the computer was still on and Rob was still silent.

Soon after the seven o’clock bells tolled for Josh, he opened the front door and came strolling in.  When he passed the door of the den Rob yelled, “Josh, get in here.”  Josh had never in his life heard such a sound come from his father.  As a matter of fact, Rob had never heard such a sound before either.  Whatever was the cause of this greeting, Josh knew it could not be good.  He stuck his head through the doorway and said, “Yes, sir” in a timid little voice left over from his “little prince” days.  In his 17 years, 3 months and 2 days, Josh was never this nervous, even when he broke Mrs. Applebaum’s car mirror playing baseball in the street.

Broadcast Yourself

Broadcast Yourself

“Come over here,” Rob commanded.  Josh walked over and stopped across the desk from dear old dad, who just lookd old at the moment.  “No, over here,” Rob said, pointing to the floor next to where he sat.  Josh came around the desk as Rob made ready with his new knowledge of You Tube.  When the little prince was in place, Rob clicked on the video and Josh knew immediately what was on the bill.  His heart and stomach tensed up as if someone was strangling them from inside.

“Dad,” the little prince squeaked.  “Quiet,” Rob growled in returned.  And so for the first time, father and son watched a You Tube Video together, all 8 minutes and 22 seconds of it.  When it was over and an uncomfortable few seconds had passed, Rob said, “Go,” in a soft voice that gave away hurt and betrayal.  Josh rushed from the den, ran to his room and slammed the door.  Rob emerged from the den to find his pretty wife rushing to the scene.

“What’s up with you two?” she said.  “Did the prince do something wrong?”  Rob gave his response a moment of thought and said, “Why didn’t we have kids sooner in life?”  “YOU did not want to,” she laughed.  “You said we should be financially sound before we started a family.”  She was right, of course.  That is exactly what he said.  He said it many times throughout the first dozen years of their marriage.

“I think teenagers were not as difficult years ago.  There just seems to be so much more to deal with now.”  The pretty little wife with the perfect hair and the perfect smile looked puzzled, but Rob said no more about it that night or for many nights to come.  He had no idea how to tell her that the little prince had come out as gay to the entire world by way of a You Tube video, but was unable to find a way to tell his parents.

Why am I here?

Certainly you have asked yourself this question. Perhaps you asked it many times. You could have been sitting in a boring class that seemed to have no relation to real life. If you went on to college there may have been several of these classes because they were listed as “requirements.” “Reflections on Man,” for example, may sound like something meaningful, but I am pretty sure my only reflection was on the meaning of the course itself. “Philosophy and Religion” as well as “Behavioral and Social Sciences” requirements provided me with plenty of opportunities to ask, “Why am I doing this?” On its lowest level, I guess you could say I was doing if for the grade.

Technology possessing World by Pj93

Family gatherings can also drive you to ask our topic question. Good old Aunt Pearl may compel your attendance at her twice annual family gatherings. That would be the ones without music or television where the adults would try painfully to keep some sort of conversation going. Her cookies and hard candies just were not enough to keep you from wondering why you continue to attend these family gatherings that seemed forerunners to family wakes. By the time Aunt Pearl passes, you will feel like you have already attended her wake on many occasions. After the kids get hyped up on candy, they may provide some comic relief to go with Aunt Pearl’s annoyance (or passing). The conclusion may still be, “Why Lord? Why?”

Of course, you may find yourself at one holiday party when you know a better one is going on elsewhere. The reason for this may be that it is some sort of social obligation. Still you wonder why you are at Orville’s party when Wilbur is so much more fun. Even though the holidays usually seem to race right by with January and February lurking around the corner, time seems to stand still at Orville’s party, leaving you to wonder “Why am I here?”

For the last dozen or so years, I have thought of this question on the grand philosophical scale. That is, I have literally wondered why I am here, on earth, in this place, at this time. I figure there must be a higher calling, if I could just find out what that is. In Catholic grade school, we were taught to seek our vocation in life. Lately when they call to pray for vocations, they generally mean they need more religious to join up.

Still we all may think “Why am I here?” You might have the pleasant thought that it is because your mommy and daddy wanted you, but in my case, I am pretty sure that is not it. If you think it is because the stork brought you, you are either from Alsace or too young to be reading this blog.

In church we read out the intentions or invocations. These are prayers where we call on the Lord to help us. One at the end usually goes like this, “For the intentions we hold in the silence of our hearts (pause), we pray to the Lord.” In recent years this pause was where I filled in a request for acceptance, which has to do with chronic foot pain, and a desire to have the answer to the question on why I am here. There must be some reason beyond tossing off clever quips on social media sites.

There was a priest whose sermons never left me with the “why am I here” feeling. It almost seemed like he is just talking to me. So I confessed to him one day that I felt there must be a grand plan. I felt frustrated that I did not know it even though I prayed for the answer. Of course, he urged me to keep an open mind and be receptive. What else could he say? He was not going to pass along God’s response. No voice was coming to us from a cloud. No one will give us a 140 character response on twitter (or 280 if you are blessed with extra letters). He did the only thing he could, he listened.

In the meantime, I thought I would just take whatever reasonable opportunity I could to help people out and keep my ears open. It reminded me of the frustration felt by the Bishop at the beginning of the holiday classic The Bishop’s Wife. At his wit’s end at not finding what he needed to build the cathedral, he prays, but if you see this holiday movie, listen to what he prays for. Is it really a cathedral?

Just like our movie hero, it finally came to me. I was a bit surprised that it took so long. It was there all along. Unlike Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, I did not have to travel the world for the answer, nor did I have to go to Oz. While I was lending a helping hand, and enjoying new adventures with some of my friends, new and old, I discovered something. It was never one great thing that I was supposed to do. It was a lot of little things, and they would add up to the reason why, and they have. In case I have not been clear let me just state it this way, “Do the next right thing.” That’s it. Really! As you move from adventure to adventure, helping when asked and finding help when needed, you will see the answer that was never to be had at Aunt Pearl’s house. Check below the video.