Thursday, July 03, 2014

What Larry Told Me.

I'm going to turn 50 next week.  I've been watching this event come over the horizon, slathering and drooling, and decided recently that the only way to protect myself is to decide that it can't help me.  To prove that point, I've started doing unsupportably crazy things.

One of them was to decide to start violin lessons.

"Have you ever played the violin before," you ask?

Oh hell no.  I had not lifted a violin in my hands, literally, until my first lesson.  I walked in, paid cash to the instructor, and said "Okay, here's the deal.  You'll give me a single first lesson, and at the end, we'll decide if this is something we should never speak of again, or if it looks like it might be worth another lesson, okay?"  Larry, my instructor, nodded seriously.  He told me to pick the violin up.  "Now?  Really?  Pick it up? With my hands?"  We worked our way through issues like "Seriously?  You put your elbow like THAT?" and "God, Larry, this is weirder than golf!"  But at the end of the lesson I'd played a few notes, and he nodded seriously again and said "you should do some more lessons."  So I signed up.

Another crazy thing that I've decided that I should do to stave off the terror that is my 50th birthday is to amp up my martial arts training.  This is, admittedly a loose translation of the term "amp."  But since my son was about 4, which was ever so long ago, I've been one of those Moms who coasted along, coming to classes sometimes (when I wasn't injured or exhausted) to keep faith with my little boy, to support him and show enthusiasm for his martial arts training.  Something changed in that in the last year, and I found myself doing it for me, not for him.  When he and his father went away to Cub Scout camp, I had my first week alone since our boy was conceived -- and I spent half of the evenings I had to myself at the dojo.  I find myself thinking things like "I think maybe I *would* like to be a black belt some day."  Don't tell.

I find myself thinking more and more crazy things, too, like "I should go running."  People who have known me for most of my life know that I won't run if you chase me with a car with a machine gun turret on top.  I have gone running, actually put on running shoes and gone out into the road and run, approximately once per decade.  But I know where my running shoes are now, and occasionally I find myself doing push-ups in my bedroom, when no one is looking.

Now, the intersection of martial arts and violin is a very strange place.  Violin involves holding your arms up in very awkward angles for an extended period of time.  Thank God the thing isn't heavy, but it certainly is awkward, and uses muscles you maybe didn't know you had.  Ironically, martial arts seem to use those same muscles for other purposes.  So when you're alternating between violin and karate nights, things can get a little dicey and hard to explain.

Me:  "Yeah, I'm sorry I had to stop there -- my shoulders are really sore."

Larry (concerned):  "Have you hurt yourself?"

Me:  "No, but I did 50 pushups last night, and and we're doing muay thai elbow strikes and..."

Larry:  (Stares)

It was then that I realized that what I was saying was probably truly completely crazy to him.  He's been a professional musician his entire career.  In that one look, I could see what I was doing through his eyes.  Something insane that could result in broken fingers and arms.  Could derail a career.  Wow.

Later, we were discussing how to hold the bow, and I said "Oh, wait, it's like balancing a foil."

Larry (raising eyebrows):  "A foil?"

Me:  "Ummmm...  Well, I used to be a fencer."

Larry (staring):  "A fencer?"

Me:  "Yeah.  Mostly saber.  It's fun.  Really, handling a weapon is a lot like handling a bow.  You'd really enjoy it.  I bet you'd be good at it.  There's a good school nearby..."

Larry (continues to stare)

It's only been about 2 months since I started my lessons, and I love Larry.  He's so patient, and so direct.  My lesson last week was SO bad, so terribly horribly AWFULLY bad, and at the end, he sighed just a little bit, and said "well, you're still making..." and at this point his voice broke just a little bit ... "progress."  All I could do was laugh.  Eventually, I think I remember that he did too.

The interesting thing is that at the intersection of martial arts and violin, the same themes seem to be coming up, and they both speak to something about me, something deep inside.  Tonight, I walked away with two nuggets that I realized need some deeper reflection.

Tonight's insight:  I'm stingy.

Well, at least that's what Larry said about my bowing.  Nicely, of course.  It came out more like this: "There's a lot of bow there.  You *could* bow with just the little bit in the middle, I suppose, but there's a lot more of it."  We've had this conversation before, and week by week, I work hard, and the next week I'm bowing with, say, 3/4 of an inch instead of 1/2.  I feel self-conscious, like I'm going to look up and everyone on my street will be outside the window, pointing and laughing at my excess.  Larry sighs patiently.  "You know that crunching noise?  That's you stopping the bow.  There's more bow there.  You should use it." This week I worked hard to let it loose, to bow like a naked drunk cheerleader on Spring Break in Florida.  I told Larry I'd been trying hard to really cut loose with my bowing.  Halfway through my lesson, we had this exchange:

Larry:  "You're going to start your bow there?"

Me:  "Yeah, I was thinking I would.  Is it not a good place to start?"

Larry:  "Well, there's a lot of bow between there and the frog.  But that's fine."

Me (moving bow):  "Is this better?"

Larry (looking patient):  "Try it from there."

Something tells me that I still hadn't gone to the right place, but it was better, and he'll take it.

Now, the interesting thing is that I'd had basically the same message delivered in two separate classes at the dojo, just last night.  In the first one, our karate master let 'er rip with a lecture about people who live in little boxes and are constrained in what they'll let themselves do and don't contribute to the world what they could because they're STUCK IN A LITTLE TINY BOX.  And I know that I'm in a class that is 99.8% kids who haven't actually crossed the line into puberty, plus their token middle aged woman -- and somehow I'm pretty sure that it was no accident that some key points were delivered directly at me, with the full force that only a worked-up black belt can deliver.  And later in the evening, he came into the class to show me that I was not completing a move -- I was holding myself back from putting the full force into it.  And as he showed me the difference, in the back of my head I heard a violin bow "crunch."

Somewhere, I must have gotten the lesson that if I can show that I understand it, it's sufficient -- actual execution with verve and gusto and enthusiasm, though -- that's grounds for mocking.  Heaven forbid you do anything beyond "clinically correct."  Enthusiasm, passion?  We can't have that here.

Apparently this will be the year of bringing my inner naked drunk cheerleader to EVERYTHING.  And later, maybe I'll tell you about my realization that if this many people are telling me that I should remember to breathe, maybe there's some merit to it.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Trading out worries....

Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of my father's death.  I'll just let that sit there for a moment.

One of the things that has been most unexpected for me during the last year has been how often I discover that in some dark recess of my mind, I'm still gnawing on a concern that is completely obsolete, with his death.  For years, for example, I've done the math on his age and wondered if he would live to see my son's bar mitzvah, and prayed that he would.  One evening as we were practicing Hebrew, I realized that I had very subconsciously just calculated Dad's age at Noah's bar mitzvah again, and it only became a conscious thought when I realized that this was no longer needed.  Dad won't be there.  That's pretty clear.  I can stop doing that now.  I felt slightly lighter, as if some piece of existential dread had been quietly let down to the floor from my shoulders.

A few minutes ago, I read an article about a family escorting the body of a veteran home for funeral, and the escort included the deceased's wife and parents.  A fleeting image of "what if it were my husband" went through my mind, and the realization that my own parents wouldn't be there for me hit me like a ton of bricks.  Of course they won't.  My mother has been gone for over 40 years, and Dad for a year.  And yet it came as a complete surprise when a little bit of weight went back to my shoulders with this new vague worry.

I wonder if it's necessary for these assumptions to be brought into the light of conscious attention, to have them dispelled.  I had hoped that it would all be letting go; now, I'm beginning to conjecture that there's some kind of law of conservation of worry.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas, one year later.

A year ago, shortly after Thanksgiving, my father sat down hard on the curb after losing his balance as he got out of the car. The force of sitting down cracked bones in his back; his subsequent treatment got him into a hospital system that seemed to want to focus on everything but his back and his pain, and just shy of spring, Dad died.

 Christmas last year was a desperate attempt to seem normal, in my parents' home which was anything but. Christmas this year was perfectly normal, except that everything has changed. I had not realized that for me, Christmas was all about my Dad. It reminds me, in retrospect, of the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin is lying in bed shouting "There'd better not be any monsters under my bed!" with the response from under the bed of "Nope, no monsters down here!" When queried by Hobbes, Calvin explains matter-of-factly: "They lie, I lie."

 And so it has been with Christmas in our family. Dad's innocent looking around the ceiling as we noted that Santa wrote with distinctly Dad-like handwriting, which over the years turned into gifts from one or the other of Santa's reindeer, or when he couldn't think of a better idea, the aggregate of "various elves." The handwriting never changed, but somehow impersonating Blitzen was less sacrilegious. The under-his-breath cussing while he wrapped presents or attempted to assemble them. Dad's varied attempts to make it look like a reindeer had taken a bite out of the apple we left by the hearth. The hiding places Dad used to stash presents, and his innocent attempts to cover for owning some of the stuff we occasionally found. "Oh, no, I'm reading that book! It's fascinating!" *blink blink.*

 And the highlight of the season, at least for me, was looking for a gift that would get *that* response from Dad, either of immediate fascination (physics books tended to get this kind of response) or amusement (the tissue box with the porcelain nose, where you pulled the tissues out of a nostril was a shining moment for me). And his joy at seeing a gift hit home, as well. It was about having That Moment with Dad. The moment of recognition, appreciation, and love.

 And in recent years, as his mobility waned and he couldn't do it himself, it also became about service; about being Dad's eyes and hands, looking for a gift for my stepmom, which was a special treat for me as well. Colluding together on what he had in mind, and then sneaking it in to show him before wrapping it on his behalf, again our little secret.

 We tried so hard last year, carrying Christmas up to his room, bringing the intimate exchange of gifts to him, "his" gift to her within arms' reach for him, and taking turns sitting with him as he ate dinner, so that he'd be surrounded by family even when he couldn't make it down the stairs to join us at the table, waiting until he'd gone to sleep before I could let go of the thought that he was up there, listening to our dinner, feeling alone. 

This year, by contrast, was a marvel of perfect logistics. We came together, and like a dance we all knew perfectly, we all knew exactly when to move to the gift exchange, our respective parts in the preparation of dinner, what to expect at dinner, the give and take of family stories and jokes and teasing. The littlest ones began to learn the family ways of "putting your fork and knife at 10 minutes to 4," and under what circumstances one can be excused from the table, and no, playing a game on the iPad doesn't count. Staying to make sure that the house is put right at the end, with the careful washing of dishes and putting away of pots and pans. Yesterday was perfect, except that the joke at the heart of it -- the secret -- was gone.

Friday, May 24, 2013

How is it that the Boy Scouts of American can make me so proud and break my heart at the same time?

Three things. I picked three things to involve my son in, whether he asked for them or not. While my parent friends are running ragged getting their kids to soccer or lacrosse or swim practice or skating, and then also religious instruction, and then play dates, and then tutoring, and then some other educational supplementation, and then.... It makes me tired to think.

I decided that these items would be included in the curriculum, and he could chose (and enter and leave) the others on his own decision. But these, I thought, were activities that would form his character, shape his relationship with others and to the world, and were not optional.

Religious Instruction. He's Jewish; he needs to know what that means, and be able to weather the storms and relish the joys that come with the territory.

Martial Arts. I want him to grow up to be self-disciplined, to make wise choices, to know what it means to trust an instructor and take coaching, both physical and mental, in how to engage with the world. I want him to be strong and able to defend himself and to stand up for others. I want him to be centered and confident and know who he is. And it wouldn't be bad to have a wicked flying side kick in the process.

And Cub Scouts. I remember watching my older brother as a boy scout, and as he achieved his Eagle Scout status. Our parents were so proud, and my brother has always been a dedicated, loyal, committed person, a good friend, a lover of the outdoors, able to tie knots and sail boats and administer first aid; someone I see as being unshakably able to handle circumstances in the natural world, and a leader in the communities he is a part of. I want that same character for my son.

There are so many things to fear in the world, as a parent. Last night as strong thunderstorms rolled through our area, I worried about whether it was safe to have his bed so close to the window. When he was younger, I worried that he would leave the house without telling me. At the mall, I am the parent who makes sure to point out "safe" adults to go to, if we're separated, and at museums, I'm the parent who puts my business card in his pocket and instructs him to find a guard and ask to call me if he gets lost. I worry about his school bus. I won't leave him with a babysitter I don't know. My job, as I tell him, is to get him to adulthood in one piece, ready to function in society as an adult, and requiring a minimal amount of therapy to get over the process of getting there. With all that has gone on in the last few months, the list of things I could worry about is endless:

Will he get blown up by a terrorist? Will he be kidnapped and held hostage for a decade by a psychotic pervert? Will he be injured or killed in a violent storm? Will he be killed or injured in military service? Will he be attacked by a "suicide by police" whackaloon in his school, at the park, in a movie theater? I could spend my life protecting my child from harm, and do nothing else, and never be done.

And so as I think on the recent decision by the Boy Scouts of America about gays in scouting, I can't decide how to respond. Instinctively, I think about what I have to be afraid of. What is the potential impact of this on my child?

First, let's be clear. I believe that being gay is simply the way a person is. I don't believe anyone chooses to be gay any more than they decide to be left-handed or blue-eyed. Let's also be clear that, as a mother, I'd prefer that my son be heterosexual. That's hard for me to say, really -- it goes against my diversity-conscious all-inclusive persona, and I feel somewhat ashamed to admit it in the face of friends and family members who might suddenly be concerned that I'm less accepting that they thought I was. The two factors that force me to say it, though, are selfish. Someday, I'd like grandchildren. And I don't want my son to endure any more hardship than is necessary in his life. And I know that neither of these are caused or precluded by his sexual identity. Still, life seems like it would simply be easier if it were not necessary to take on the additional social difficulties. And I'm bothered that I've even dwelled on this thought this long.

So what is it about Boy Scout policy that actually is relevant here? Well, let's say it: Parents are worried that if you get a group of kids together with strange parents, some icky weirdo parent is going to do something inappropriate with their child, and that violates the "minimum amount of therapy" clause of my parenting contract. It's one of those "improbable worst case scenario that's so vivid we live like it's growling from under every piece of furniture and out of ever closet in the house" things. No matter how statistically unlikely, we're afraid that every plane we get in will go down, and that every strange adult we leave our child with will turn out to be The One Who Is Icky. But Boy Scouting has put in place a huge arsenal of rules to handle this. As a Cub Scout leader myself, I took training about the expectations of how adult leaders behave with scouts that goes to the extent of ensuring that no adult leader will ever be alone with a scout, just to ensure that there's never an opportunity for impropriety. It would take real negligence on the part of the rest of the leadership of any scouting group for there to be an incident during a scouting event. Yet our policy is to not permit openly gay leaders in scouting. Hmm. On the other hand, we've admitted openly gay members, who are under no such restrictions on behavior other than those enforced by their packs and dens.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I had the chance to revisit a thought that has been on my mind all through the 2012 election cycle, as I engaged in that unexpected parenting moment: introducing my 8-y-o son to the concept of democracy. Now, at 4 years old, my son watched me watch the elections, and put stickers on my car and signs in my yard. As we watched Obama take the oath of office, I held him in my lap and told him to watch carefully because he was seeing history, and remembered my parents making me watch Nixon's resignation speech with the same advice. And so as we did invitations for his 5th birthday party, it shouldn't have surprised me but it did when he handed me an invitation and said "Now send one to Barack Obama, okay?" And so we did -- I think it was elephant shaped and included the address to Chuck E Cheese and the date and time, and he signed his name to it, and it went into the stack. I warned him that Mr. Obama is a very busy man since he's President, and might not have time for a party, and sure enough, he didn't turn up at Chuck E Cheese that day, but a little while later, we got a letter from the President thanking him for the invitation and containing an autographed photo. Not bad for a 5 year old's entree into political life in the DC area. But an 8 year old has a very different brain than a 5 year old, and during this election cycle, Noah's mind was binary -- our side was good; the other guys, not so much. And clearly it was time to begin to explain a higher understanding of the process than simply "we want our guy to win at all costs." So in our time in the car, we began to have long conversations about how there are topics that I believe are good and right, and other people look at the same thing and think that the other point of view is good and right, and that's just how the world works. And we talked about how we pick a candidate to support who we believe will do what is good and right, and other people, who believe different things than we do, will pick the candidate that THEY believe will do what's good and right. And then we have a vote, and the one who gets the most vote in a state wins the electors for our candidate from that state (electoral college is a stretch for an 8-y-o, but we tried), and the one who gets the most electors wins. This got me very conscious of some things that simply didn't work in the last election, which made explaining democracy based on it much more challenging: 1) Democracy really works best, I believe, if the candidates stand proudly for what they believe in, for the values they will support if elected. "I am on this side and I stand for this." "I am on this other side and I stand for that." Good, now we can all say "I want this guy" and "I want that guy" and bam, we've got an election that expresses the majority of the people. But Democracy doesn't work particularly well, I believe, if the candidates don't declare and stand proud. "I am on this side and I stand for this." "I think what you stand for is crap." Erm, no. That doesn't work. Be brave, stand for what you stand for, and let a reasonable election decide the will of the represented. 2)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

If it were frictionless, everyone would do it.

I find myself more and more thinking that "if it were easy, everyone would be doing this." I note with some dismay that it's been 3 years since my last post, and I'm a little alarmed by what that means about my free time....

Since I posted last, my child has gone from kindergarten to being a rising 3rd grader. My stepson has gone from being a chaotic high school junior to a fairly mature rising college freshman. My husband and I have spent a fair amount of effort in self-development efforts that have made our lives more workable and our support of one another stronger, and in many ways, our lives are less stressful and far more joyful than they were when last I posted.

We've also had some crises and losses. I can't bring myself to begin to try to list them, but they include loss of close friendships (at least, loss of proximity) as dearly loved friends move to the next phase of their lives or careers, the withering of some friendships that couldn't sustain over time, and the loss of some dreams and hopes as they were confronted by reality. And the loss of one childhood friend to cancer that has left me raw and incomplete.

Some dreams rise up and let us know what we want our lives to be about, though. As I find myself approaching 50, I begin to think about what's important in the time that I (presumably) have left, while there's time to reorganize my life around what's important.

And a brush with illness reminds me that my capacity is not endless. A chance encounter with a tick left me in the third worst illness of my life, and I'm thankful that my recovery is strong, but for a few weeks, I had to get present to what my life would be like if I were truly incapacitated. This, too, helped me to focus on what's important to me, what actually requires ME, and what could really be handed off to someone else.

For now, I'm focused on these things:

  1. Supporting and enjoying my son. I know that he won't be Mom's best buddy and companion forever, though I hope that as he grows up the closeness we have won't fade. But I do want to enjoy his companionship and help him grow, and keep our relationship strong.
  2. Sharing what I've learned professionally. In the last 10 years, I've developed a strange and marvelous set of combined knowledge that I want to put into a form that can be shared, in part because it fascinates me, and in part because I want to be able to step away and do something else when it no longer fascinates me. I don't want to be tied to it, or required to stay put in this phase of my life. I want to encapsulate it somehow, make it available to others WITHOUT ME, and be able to move along.
  3. Making my home workable. Not just clean or tidy, but organized, well functional, automated, appropriately using outside sources, and supporting the lives we want to have in it, instead of being a source of demands on us.
  4. Learning more about what makes us tick. In the last two years, I've discovered that if I knew then what I know now, I'd have focused on brain science. Now, I'm looking for interesting ways to connect what we're learning about how our brains function, how people interact, what motivates us, and how groups operate to see how we can create better, more effective businesses and organization. My new passion.
  5. Creating beauty. Of all things, I've come to deeply enjoy taking photographs of bugs. My son's interest in photography and his budding talent are drawing me back into photography as an artistic outlet, and I'm delighted.
  6. Making music. There's nothing like the enthusiasm of an elementary school student to make you want to try EVERYTHING. African drums? Sure! Guitar? Ukelele? Sure! How about fiddle? Recorder? And then ... my husband took up the bagpipe. Is there no instrument we won't abuse? Apparently not.

I think so often that I want to write about these things, and the day to day realizations and challenges and glories and excitements.... Let's see if I can get something started again here.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oh for heaven's sake....

I just made the mistake of reading an article about the "War on Christmas" shortly after being part of a discussion about how some members of my company are not attending the holiday party because it wasn't called a "Christmas party." I should know better.

I'm not a Christian. I have family members who are, and others who are culturally affiliated with Christmas, though they don't buy the religious significance. In my home, we celebrate Hanukkah, which is one of the least interesting holidays of the Jewish year, IMO. Love the menorah, am amused by the dreidels, love the latkes, and otherwise, meh, it feels like a stale attempt to have something to compete for the hears of Jewish children who are watching their Christmas-observing friends go through their winter wonderland. I wait until January 1st, and then I deck the house in snowmen. Winter, at least, we can all share.

Here are things that I ponder this time of year:

Do you greet another person with the holiday you celebrate, or with the one that you believe they celebrate?

If a person celebrates Christmas, and they encounter another person who they know does not, should they wish them a Merry Christmas? How would that be interpreted by the person being greeted? I might think to myself "oh, how nice that they're so enthusiastic about their holiday." I might also think "oh, how self-absorbed, that they're pushing their holiday on me." I might also think "they must not realize that I don't celebrate Christmas." I'm fair skinned, something on the Clairol blonde scale, and light eyed. You might expect me to be generically Christmas-observing....

Do you greet another person with the holiday you celebrate, or with the one that you KNOW they celebrate?

I'm pretty open about observing Jewish holidays. Heck, I'm pretty open about my whole conversion process, decision to become Jewish, and the importance of raising my son as a Jew. I wear a piece of jewelry nearly every day that could identify me as Jewish. NOW what do I think? A complete stranger -- see item 1 above. But if you know me, and you wish me a Merry Christmas, I go either of two ways: You're enthusiastic and not thinking, or you're a little too hung up on wanting everyone to be just like you.

What would you do, if I did the same in return?

I mean honestly, if I went up to people whose religions I don't know and said "Happy Hanukkah," what kind of response would I expect?

How would you expect me to feel, if you began belaboring the attack on Christmas in front of me?

Nearly all of my decisions in December have to do with maintaining the integrity of my religious views without being seen as a curmudgeon who wants to kill Christmas. I put my son in a private school that doesn't have overt religious celebration of any kind, to avoid the trauma of dealing with schools that have Santa visit to acknowledge Christmas (well Santa's not in the BIBLE, right?) or do easter eggs (they aren't either) as an art project, but would never accidentally have the kids make a dreidel or a matzah kugel. I avoid all malls with my child, who currently has much longer hair than usual because I've got two weeks to go before we can safely go to his regular hairstylist. The stress of reducing the stress on my 5-y-o son by avoiding the expectation that Santa is going to come to town for him is overwhelming. You can't MOVE this time of year without being confronted with it unless you turn off the television and radio and don't ever leave your home. And someone's going to stand there in front of me and say that they feel oppressed because spoilsports are at war with Christmas because OCCASIONALLY, JUST OCCASIONALLY, a store decides that not 100% of their clientele is celebrating Christmas, and they put up a sign that reads "Happy Holidays"? Or, as I experienced last week, someone decides to BOYCOT a corporate event because it's inclusive of more than people just like him? Like, it includes ME?

THIS is a war on HIM?

A colleague once explained to me the concept that insurance companies use when reviewing coverage of reading for inclusion or reading for exclusion. I've concluded that this concept is relevant everywhere. Particularly now. Particularly when people get so worked up about how you greet them during the month of December.

When I'm not so pissed off about it, I generally think that this time of year is lovely, with people all going around being enthusiastic about what they're enthusiastic about -- Christmas, Hanukkah, winter, having a break from school, snow, fuzzy boots -- whatever it is that makes this time of year magical. Cards, and cookies, and parties. How lovely. And I rejoice in everyone's rejoicing. I love that my Christian friends are decorating their homes with lights and trees and presents. I love that my Jewish friends are lighting menorahs and singing prayers and gambling with their kids over foil-covered chocolate. I love that we're waiting for a huge snowfall, and have the sleds out and ready to go. I love the joy in each person's eyes, and I love that we're all so much more willing to reach out and greet one another and wish one another well, even if sometimes we get the wrong holiday.

And I think that's indicative of reading for inclusion here. We're all celebrating, and each of our individual celebrations makes our community more lovely, more warm, more loving. If we can all remember that we're all a part of it, and there's enough December Joy to go around for everyone, we're all a little better off for it.

But if you want to read for exclusion this time of year, you certainly can. You could write a book about the stores that put up "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," and how that takes a little bit away from the memories of how joyful it was when EVERYONE celebrated Christmas when we were little, and our fears that in the future, Christmas will be smaller than its glorious bigness in our childhood memories. You could write a book about the scrimpy little endcap of picked over Judaica this time of year, too, though, where everything not overtly blazoned with a Christmas image that is blue and silver goes to act like it's got something to do with Hanukkah. It's a blue and white dishcloth -- really? REALLY?

Does acknowledging that there are people who are not exactly like us really diminish Christmas? Does being considerate of that fact this time of year really minimize your ability to feel joy in your holiday? Does a little token gesture, like putting "Happy Holidays" on your corporate holiday card because you don't know the religions of the people you're going to send them too and you're considerate enough to realize that Christmas is one of those holidays BUT ONLY ONE, really spoil it for you? If it does, I think that's representative of reading for exclusion at this time of year. If any indication that someone out there is not celebrating exactly the same thing that you are celebrating disrupts your celebration, then you are not only celebrating, but you are trying to force everyone else to comply with your celebration.

Wouldn't the world be a better place if we could all rejoice in one another's marvelousness, and not be threatened by it?