Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back in Preschool

Today, I got to go to Preschool with my three year old as a volunteer for her Christmas Party. It was a blast! There are 15 children in the class and two teachers on a normal day, and am not quite sure how they do it on a daily basis. God Bless them for it.

For the party, we had four parent volunteers of which I was one. A couple of weeks before the part my wife had signed me up to do a game. At first, I was like, "Oh, Gee Thanks." I did not realize at the time that on top of volunteering for the party, I had to volunteer for a specific function. It really wasn't a big deal, just a bit surprising.

Plus, I cannot complain because she offered to help figure out what to do. But, I was being stubborn and felt that I could come up with a game on my own. Well, that was not meant to be. I procrastinated and by Monday night, had nothing. Fortunately, I had one more day to "come" up with something. So, I asked my wife for help. She could have easily said NO!, but she is not like that. She agree completely.

We came up with "Pin the Ornament on the Tree" (it was mostly her idea.) It was a pretty simple game and no way for a kid to lose. My wife made the tree out of green poster board.  She drew used various shades of green marker to give the tree depth and silver glitter glue for the garland. The star is made out of yellow construction paper.  The ornanments are "stiff" sparkled red felt cut into circles. Shannon wrote each child's name on the ornament in the silver gliter glue, and then glued a silver snowflake on them. For the ornanment "hook," my wife glued sparkly red pipe cleaners on the top. Finally, she stuck magnets to the back of the oranments so that the children could take the home to display them.

To get the ornanments to stick to the paper tree, we attached blue painters tape to the back. This gave us the proper adhesive to stick to the tree without destroying it when we removed it. When it came time to Pin the ornaments we blindfolded the children, spun them around, and guided them to the tree.  Below is a picture of the tree after they were all done. (They may have had a little help to affixing the ornaments so none overlapped.)
I have to say that Ms. Patty and Ms. Bonnie (the teachers) were good sports as they played too. It was excellent and we really enjoyed ourselves. In an earlier post, I talked about how I volunteered in my older daughter's class. Again, I will say that if you have an opportunity to do it, volunteer in your child or grandchild's class. It is time well spent.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This is what Christmas is About

In November, I posted some notes about Advent that I used to teach my Faith Formation (CCD) class. I want to do the same for Christmas. Much of the content from this lesson came from "Catholic Customs & Traditions: A Popular Guide” written by Greg Dues. Even though this lesson was geared towards Catholic children and their parents I think that it has value for everyone.

As Christmas Day approaches, we can all get wrapped up in the final preparations – baking cookies, getting those last minute gifts, wrapping gifts, and decorating. It is important that we remember the reason we as Catholics celebrate Christmas. As I did for Advent, I have compiled some notes covering what we have talked about - what Christmas means to Catholics.
  • Christmas not only celebrates the birth of Jesus, but also his second coming.
  • The name “Christmas” comes from the Old English Cristes Maesse or “Mass of Christ.”
  • Christmas also celebrates the mystery of giving and receiving
  • The actual date of Jesus' birth is unknown, but we use December 25th as a day to commemorate his birth.
  • Why December 25th? One possible explanation is that on the Julian Calendar (early Christians followed the Julian Calendar we now follow the Gregorian Calendar) the Winter Solstice fell on December 25th. Prior to the solstice, the days grew shorter (the darkness was creeping in), and after the solstice, the days grew longer (light was pushing out the darkness).
Some ways we celebrate Christmas:
  • Christmas Tree – The Christmas tree originated in Germany. Today's Christmas trees, for some, “ Christian symbolism: the green of hope at a time of dying, the burning light of Christ at a time of spiritual darkness, and the fruits of paradise” in the form of tree ornaments. (Greg Dues, Catholic Custom's & Traditions: A Popular Guide.)
  • Lights in the Window – Comes to the United States from 19th Century Irish Immigrants and represents either:
    • A beacon for lighting the way for Mary and Joseph, or
    • During the times of Catholic suppression, to let fugitive priests in Ireland know where safe houses were located.
  • Nativity Scene – Shows the scene at Bethlehem when Christ was born. The scene includes Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Shepherds, Angels, and Animals. St. Francis of Assisi popularized the living nativity in Greccio, Italy in 1223
Christmastime runs from Christmas to the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th. This is the Twelve Days of Christmas. There is the idea* that says that the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” originated as a Catechism for teaching Catholics in 16th England the basics of our belief. (Practicing Catholicism was against that law in England at that time.)  Below is a list of the days and their Catholic meaning (source):
  • 1st Day – Partridge in a Pear Tree – Jesus is the Partridge and the Cross the Pear Tree
  • 2nd Day – Two Turtle Doves – The Old and New Testament
  • 3rd Day – Three French Hens – Three Theological Virtues (Faith, Hope, and Love)
  • 4th Day – Four Calling Birds – The Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)
  • 5th Day – Five Gold Rings – First Five Books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
  • 6th Day – Six Geese A-laying – Six Days of Creation
  • 7th Day – Seven Swans A-swimming – The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Prophecy, Ministry, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leading, and Compassion)
  • 8th Day – Eight Maids A-milking – The eight Beatitudes (Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake)
  • 9th Day – Nine Ladies Dancing – The Nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control)
  • 10th Day – Ten Lords A-leaping – The Ten Commandments (You shall have no other gods before me, Do not make an idol, Do not take God’s name in vain, Remember the Sabbath Day, Honor your father and mother, Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not covet
  • 11th Day – Eleven Pipers Piping – The Eleven Faithful Apostles (Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon, Judas son of James)
  • 12th Day – Twelve Drummers Drumming – The Points of Doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed ( 1.I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. 2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. 3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. 4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave]. 5. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. 6. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. 7. I believe in the Holy Spirit, 8. the holy Catholic Church, 9. the communion of saints, 10. the forgiveness of sins, 11. the resurrection of the body, 12. and life everlasting.)
I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas!

*There is some debate about the authenticity of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" being used to teach Catholics children about our faith. To me it doesn't matter whether it is true or not. The fact is we can use the song as a mnemonic device to teach our children about our faith.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grateful to Be a Father - The Best Job in the World

I have a confession to make. Being a Technical Writer is not my favorite job. Shocking, I know. Instead, I would rather be spending time with my wife and children. I am grateful for that time. Over the next two weeks I will have the opportunity to spend more time with them. I am on vacation until January 4th.

All three of my children did something today that made me realize, yet again, how lucky I am to have them in my life. To avoid any accusations of favoritism, I will list the events based on the time in which they happened today.

First up, the boy, Coilin. My son has more energy than any other child I know, with the exception of his older sister Jillian, and somehow, he is able to channel that energy into speed. That kid is fast. On top of that, Coilin has the best sense of humor out of any 20 month old that I have ever met. He is a funny kid, and he knows it. I was getting ready to put Coilin in his high chair for lunch. I opened up the baby gate that was keeping him corralled in the living room. Somehow the little buggar got right past me and took off running into the kitchen. He was giggling all the way; Coilin knew that I was going to chase him down. His giggle made me grateful to be a father.

My dear sweet Molly is up next. The fact that I am on vacation excites Molly very much. She loves the idea of me taking her to school and then picking her up at the end of the day. The dismissal at her school works like this - all the kids that are picked up by their parents, wait in a gaggle, with Teachers, on the sidewalk. As the parent drives up, the child gets into the vehicle. Apparently, Molly had forgotten that I told her I would pick her up from school today. As soon as she saw me sittting in the driver's seat of our sweet mini-van, I heard her squeal "DADDY!" with delight as I pulled up to the curb. (Mind you that must have been some squeal because my windows were up tight - it was in the 20s today.) Her squeal made me grateful to be a father.

Finally, we have my Jillian. I have mentioned a couple of times on my blog that Jillian likes me or Shannon to lay with her while she falls asleep. Usually, I do not mind; but tonight, I had some things that I wanted to get done. The urge to do my chores ended quickly when Jillian laid her head on my chest and draped her arm across me and proceeded to fall asleep. Her snuggling made me grateful to be a father. 

Most parents will say that they have the best children in the world, and I am no different. However, I firmly believe that God blessed my wife and me with the three best children for us. I cherish the time that I have with them now, because I know before too long, they will be grown and may have children of their own. The irony is that I never wanted children; but, now that I have them, I do not know what I would do without them. Thank you God for giving me these little blessings. I am grateful to be a father. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

4th Sunday of Advent: "Everything's Going to Be Okay"

Today is the fourth and final Sunday in Advent. Next up is Christmas - the time when we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In order to get to this celebration though, we first have to get to that time and place of his birth. Today's readings take us on quick scriptural journey of the prophecy of Jesus' birth, just before his birth, and after his resurrection. In all three readings, Father Bob told us in these week's homily, that one message is clear -  "Everything is Going to Be Okay."

Isaiah in chapter 7: 10-14 tells the people when the demand a sign that God will fullfill God's promise to David of the ideal king in 2 Samuel 7: 12-16. He tells them that a woman from the House of David shall give birth to son whom she will call Immanuel (Emmanuel) which means, God is with Us. Isaiah tells them that "Everything is Going to be Okay."

Joseph, who was engaged to Mary, finds out the she is pregnant. According to Jewish law at the time, he could have had Mary stoned to death for having relations with another man while betrothed to Joseph. But, Joseph was simply going to divorce her. I think Father Bob said it best when he said to put yourself in Joseph's shoes. Here he was very close to marrying Mary and think of how he must have felt when he found out she was pregnant, presumably by another man. Then, an angel appears to him in a dream and tells Joseph that "Everything is Going to be Okay." Think about the faith that Joseph displayed.

Finally, in Paul's letter to the Roman's, he tells the people that "Everything is Going to be Okay" because they "have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of [Jesus] name" among all peoples (Romans 1:5). Those first apostles laid the foundation for a Faith that has lasted close to two thousand years.

Christmas can be a very hard time of year for some people either because they are alone, have suffered tremendous loss, or are hurting for whatever reason. It makes me really sad for those folks because this is one of the two Seasons in the Church year that really reminds us that with faith "Everything is Going to be Okay."

I think it is up to us to remind those people who are suffering that they are not alone, we will do what we can to ease their pain. God never said it was going to be easy, but with a little bit of faith "Everything is Going to be Okay."

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Nice Dinner

My family and I just had a wonderful dinner with my in-laws tonight at Bravo!. I have mentioned before how lucky I am to have in-laws that treat me as one of their own children and not someone who has married one of their children. Tonight was no different.

There we were, the seven of us sitting at round table near the back of the restaurant. At one point, while we were waiting for our dinners, I sat back and watched as the kids and their grandparents and my wife played with their dough (Bravo! gives kids pizza dough to play with). For me, it was the best part of the night. I love watching my kids play with their grandparents (mine folks or Shan's).

I say thank you to my in-laws for being so kind to me and my children, and I really appreciate all that you do for us. My family and I thoroughly enjoy the time that we spend with you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

That's Why I Love My Town

I love my town for many reasons. Santa Claus made one of those reasons evident tonight. Each year, the fire department tows Santa on a flatbed sleigh around the streets of our town. One of the fireman elves hands out candy canes to the children. To let everyone know he is coming, one of the Fire Engines drives ahead and sounds the siren. It is truly wonderful.
This year, one of the neighbors was told that Santa would be coming around at 6 p.m. Somebody gave her bad information. Santa did not arrive to our street until about 8. Maybe he started on the other side of town and worked his way over. I am not sure. What I do know is that it kind of made it more exciting. All of us were anticipating his arrival, and nobody was disappointed when he came.

My almost 20 month old son may be too young yet to understand that Santa Claus is going to bring him gifts next week; but, he is certainly old enough to recognize him. As soon as he saw the master elf, he shouted "Santa!" The girls were equally mesmerized. They just stared at him on his sleigh for a while. Finally, they started waving at him. He waved back and gave a hearty, "Ho, Ho, Ho!" And he was off to make some other child's night.

I say thank you to our local fire department for doing this each year. And God Bless you for being firemen in the first place. You are real heroes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's Not McDonald's Fault

I say a news story today about a woman who is suing McDonald's because they put toys in Happy Meals. Monet Parham says that her kids ask to eat at McDonald's so that they can get the toys. She feels that McDonald's is getting into her children's heads and influencing what they want to eat. To that I say, No Kidding.

It is no different than what supermarkets do by putting foods targeted towards kids on the lower shelves where they are more visible to them. How is this different from Cereal makers putting toys inside cereal boxes? It is called marketing, and whether you agree with it or not, McDonald's and the Cereal makers are not the ones feeding our children these food. The last time I checked, my wife and I decided what we feed our children.

Ms. Parham complains that she has to say no to her children for so many other things that it is too hard to say no to them when they ask for Happy Meals. Too bad. Part of beginning a parent is doing things that we do not want to do. One of those is saying no to our children if they ask to do something harmful to themselves. Frequently eating McDonald's food can be detrimental to the health of a child.

When we do go to McDonald's, which really is not often, we only get the girls a Happy Meal if it is a toy worth having. Most of them are junk and join the other garbage in the trash within a short time.   But, this Ms. Parham needs to stop blaming McDonald's and look in the Mirror. It is her job to help her children make nutritious choices - not McDonald's or any other fast food restaurants. She needs to set the ground rules at home; not her children. Sometimes being a parent means being the "bad guy." So, take accountability for raising your children and stop blaming everyone else.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wrapped Around Her Little Finger

I have a confession to make about a special person in my life - and it is not my wife. In fact, I probably should not be writing this post lest Shannon finds out about us. Then again, I am pretty sure she already knows about her. I just wonder if Shannon really knows how much Jillian (my three year old) has me wrapped around her finger.

Last night, after Jillian had been in bed for a good two and a half hours, I heard her crying at the top of the steps. I walked up to see who it was and what the problem was. There was my little Jillian crying and telling me that she could not fall asleep without me. Now, I know that she had been asleep for a while. There is no way that she would have laid up in her bed for three hours without leaving her room at least once or twice.  If I would have tried, I could have probably laid her back down and left the room. Yeah, that did not happen. Instead, I ended up laying down with and falling asleep myself.

Tonight after dinner, the girls asked for dessert. Jillian asked for a piece of the candy that I had brought home from work (someone had given me a box of chocolates). I told her that she and Molly could split a piece. Molly only wanted fruit for dessert; so, I told Jillian that I would split a piece of chocolate with her so that she could still have a piece. Apparently, that was not a very good idea. She looked me in only a way that Jillian can and said:
"I hab and idea. You pick out a piece of chocolate for me, and I will pick out a piece of chocolate for you. How's that?"
Really, what could I say? She was so stinking cute that I caved. In my defense, I did get her to eat about seven raspberries too.

I probably should not give into her as much as I do, but I cannot help it. She knows how to work me over. But, I am not the only one she does that to. Just ask her grandfathers and uncles. Am I right?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Top Five Christmas TV Specials

So far, I have told you about my five favorite Christmas Albums and Movies. Tonight, I am sharing my top five favorite Christmas TV Specials. To qualify for this list, like a movie, the TV Special has to make me feel good about life after I am done watching. Also, the special had to have been broadcast first on TV and not on the big screen. 

5. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer -If there ever was a story that show-cased the importance of celebrating people's differences, this is that story. Poor Rudolph gets rejected by his peers because his nose glows. We all know who has the last laugh.

4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Part of the reason I like this show so much lies in the fact that it reminds me of "A Christmas Carol." Both stories end with main character learning the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is about people and the chance for redemption. Is that not the reason we celebrate a very special birth on December 25th?

3. Prep and Landing - This Disney gem first appeared in 2009 on ABC, and tells the story of two Elves, Wayne and Lanny, who are part of the Prep and Landing team. The Prep and Landing team ensures that the house is ready for Santa's arrival. Wayne and Lanny run into some trouble when Wayne loses the Christmas spirit. It is a show that makes me laugh and helps me to remember why the secular side of Christmas is so much fun to celebrate. 

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas - This is one of the few secular Christmas specials that touches on the real reason that we celebrate this most glorious of days - Jesus' birth. I am going to let young Linus Van Pelt finish this out:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." 

1. Emmit Otter's Jug Band Christmas - This is a Christmas classic. It originally aired on HBO in 1977. I am not sure when I first saw it and whether it was on TV or on VHS Tape (yes, VHS Tape). We get to see into the lives of two otters - Ma and her son Emmit. They are but poor otters who barely have enough money to survive let alone buy each other a Christmas gifts. Without realizing it, they both join the same talent competition to try to win $50 to get Christmas presents. This is one of those movies that shows you the true meaning of Christmas.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

3rd Sunday of Advent: Gaudete - Rejoice!, Patience, and Preparation

The third Sunday of Advent is a time for us to rejoice as Christmas is getting ever closer. We must show some patience for we have still have preparations to make. Today's readings cover all three of these aspects for this glorious day.

"Let the desert and the dry lands be glad, let the wasteland rejoice and bloom; like the asphodel, let it burst into flower, let it rejoice and sing for joy." (Isaiah 35:1-2a) We should rejoice; we know that Christ has come for us once, and we can prepare for the day when he comes again. It will be a glorious day.

In order to be ready for his second coming, we need to prepare our hearts. The first time around John the Baptist was sent before Jesus to tell of his coming. This time around, I do not know who will foretell of that great day when Jesus returns. We had better be ready. This is the perfect time of year for us to change. The Christmas season is full of chances for us to change and redeem ourselves.

We also need to be patient, because we do not know when Jesus will be back. 2 James 5:7 says: "Now be patient, brothers, until the Lord's coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains!"  Like a farmer, we are going to have to wait through barren seasons before the spring comes, in the form of Jesus.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friends' Opinions

It would terrible if we lived in a world where all of our friends hid their true feelings from us. We all have friends who would not say something negative to us even if they were being dangled over a shark-filled pool. On the other hand, we have friends who will give us their opinions whether we want them to or not. Both friends are equally important to our personally growth, and I am glad that I have both kinds.

I have had a Facebook account for two years. Some of the statuses that I have posted during this time have been greeted with less than positive feedback from my friends.  I appreciate that they have called-me out on what I have said. Hearing differing opinions is the only way I am ever going to learn anything, and I do not care how old you are, you are never too old to learn something. My Dad, the man I admire most in this world, is in his 60s, and I know, without a doubt, that he would be one of the first to admit that he is still learning.

That is why I get bummed out when people, for whom I have a great deal of respect, get bent out of shape when their friends disagree with them on sites like Facebook. It is as if they feel they should be able to voice their opinions on a public forum and expect only to get responses from those friends that agree with them. That is not the way it works, and nor should it be.

No matter how carefully you select your friends on something like Facebook, chances are that you will connect with someone who disagrees with you from time to time. That is a great thing. That means you have a diverse friend-base AND people who are willing to share their opinions with you much like you are sharing your opinions with them. Take those differing opinions and learn something. I am not saying that you have to agree with them, but at least give your friends the same opportunity that they have given to you. I think that we owe this to our friends.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fiction Friday Brain Freeze

I have not posted any fiction since November 19th - Stuck in the Driveway IX. About 95% of the reason lies in the fact that I am not sure where the story is going. The whole story is a bit of an experiment. I had asked my wife to give me a situation that I could use to get a character out of. She gave me: "A car is stuck in the driveway with four cars behind it."

This is how "Stuck in the Driveway" started. From the first line, I have been trying to figure out how Stan Brogran is going get out of his driveway, and what is going to happen to him now that he is out. Here is what he know so far.

Stan Brogan owns a Landscaping business. He has gotten himself  involved with some foreign investors who, unbeknownst to Stan, are poisoning the United States water supply through the chemicals Stan uses in his Landscaping business. The investors are now after Stan because he found out what was going on. Stan, his wife Mary Ann, and daugther Elizabeth are under the protection of Witness Protection. Stan's son Johnny has been captured by Sergeant Owens (aka Mr. Darksuit), a mercanary working for the investors trying to get to Stan. Bev, Stan's cousin who was almost captured by Sergeant Owens but escaped with the help of Eddie has teamed up with Eddie and three his old Marine buddies. They are getting ready to try and find Stan to warn him that a mercenary is after him, a mercenary Eddie and his team know from the Gulf War.

That is about all I have so far. I have some ideas on how to continue, but I do not like any of them. For the most part, I like what I published for you to read so far, and so, I do not what to force anything. That is the other part of the experiment. I do not have an outline, and I have not predetermined how anything is going to end up. As soon as I figure out what is supposed to happen next, I will write about it. Until then it looks like I am the one stuck in the drive way.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Lights

This is going to be a short post tonight. I think I am finally succumbing to the cold that has been going around plus I have some other things I need to get done before I head to bed.

The family went to Jillian's Winter Open House tonight. It is always fun to see how your child interacts with other children her age. Not to mention, it is very fun to see all of the projects on which they have been working. Jillian grabbed my hand and lead me around the room showing me everything that she had done. I get a little tear in my eye just thinking about it.

After Open House, we drove around the neighborhood looking at all of the houses decorated for Christmas. You should have heard the girls directing our attention. Jillian was the funniest tonight though. She said, "Look out my side or your are going to miss it." It was cute.

My mom and I used to drive around to look at lights before I was married with children, and I am thrilled to share that tradition with my wife and children. If you have never done this yourself, turn on some Christmas music and go drive around your neighborhood to look at the hard work that people have put into their homes to make them look festive.  You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Christmas Carol

I just finished my annual reading of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." No matter how times I have read this story or seen it on film, it still moves me. It is one of the greatest conversion stories ever written. We are forever indebted to Charles Dickens for giving us this masterpiece.

Although most people are familiar with the story, let me give you a quick summary. A miserly old man, Ebeneezer Scrooge, thinks that Christmas is a humbug. He is visited by the ghost of his dead partner Jacob Marley. Marley's ghost tells him that he will be visited by three Spirits, Spirits who are the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They teach Scrooge the true meaning of Christmas. In the end, Scrooge changes his ways and learns " to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."

I mentioned in Why I Watch Christmas Movies/Specials that I feel good after watching Christmas movies.  The same is true after reading "A Christmas Carol." My spirit was immediately lifted. It inspires me to treat my fellow man better. Equally important, it reminds me that I can change things in my own life whenever I want. At the same time, it cautions me that many times when we change things in our lives we are often ridiculed by those around us. Dickens' wrote it best: about the people around Scrooge:

"Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him."

It seems that we always run into people who would rather laugh at everyone else than make changes in their own lives. They laugh at our every move when we set out to do something new or different. I say let them laugh. In the end, we will have the last laugh when our hearts, and the hearts of those we touch, are filled with the joy that change can bring. It does not matter if that is something as simple as being friendly to others or getting ourselves out of a bad situation - our hearts will swell like dear Ebeneezer Scrooge's.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Relief and Sadness

Today was a very sad day for some 40 of people where I work. They were laid-off today. Fortunately, I was not one of them. Despite my relief for being "safe." I cannot help but feel a great deal of sadness for all of those people.

I was in their shoes about seventeen months ago. It was a terrible feeling. For me, I felt like a complete failure; that I had somehow caused the layoff. That simply was not true. I was laid off because business was bad - non-existent really. The owner was getting away from Technical Writing and into Information Management. She had a tough decision to make, and I was on the wrong end of that decision.

Today's layoff was a similar situation. People were laid off because business is not what the share holders would like it to be. Good people lost their jobs because of that. I feel terrible for my unemployed colleagues and their families. It is a crappy time to be unemployed - not that it is ever really a good time.

Good Luck to all of those affected by today's layoff.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

2nd Sunday of Advent: Remorse vs. Repentance

Today we celebrate the second Sunday of Advent. Today's readings were about preparing for Jesus' coming and for whom Jesus came. Father's homily focused on one aspect of preparing for Jesus' coming - repentance.

He said that repentance was when you ask for forgiveness and then take steps to change your ways.  Remorse is merely asking forgiveness because you know what you have done is wrong. For example, if you have a man who cheats on his wife and feels badly about doing so, he may ask her forgiveness. Then, two months later he does the same thing. He has not repented. He will repent when asks forgiveness and stops cheating.

I had never really thought about repentance in that way. It was a pretty profound statement. I had always believed that if you asked God's forgiveness then you had repented. It never really occurred to me that I would need to change my ways to fully repent my sins. Then, as I sit here and write about it, I wonder why I did not see that earlier.

I would feel badly if I did not talk about the second topic covered in today's readings - for whom Jesus came. The simple answer is that he came for the Jews and the Gentiles. That covers everyone on the planet. It is comforting to me to know that no one is excluded. We just have to choose to follow in his Ways.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Top Five Favorite Christmas Movies

Last week I listed my five favorite Christmas Albums. Tonight, I want to share my top five favorite Christmas movies. To make the list, a movie has to make me feel good about life after I am done watching it. Admittedly, that leaves things wide open, but, hey it is Christmas the time for giving.

5. It's a Wonderful Life - "Elf" almost beat out "It's a Wonderful Life." Really, it is hard to top a 6' 3" inch elf who teaches New York City about the Spirit of Christmas. But, Jimmy Stewart does just that. I will admit that I wonder some times how my life is affecting other - am I really making a difference? This movie shows us how much George Bailey meant to the people of Bedford Falls, and how much of a difference one man can in people's lives.

4. A Christmas StoryRalphie's desire for an "an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle" reminds of the Christmas that I wanted an Optimus Prime (for those of you who do not know, he is a Transformer - leader of the Autobots (good guys)). We both would have done anything to get that ultimate gift. Ralphie's stunts are way more entertaining that mine were. Fortunately for Ralphie, he received his dream gift.  

3. White Christmas - Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera Ellen. I really do not think I need to say more.

2. The Muppet Christmas Carol - I really love the George C. Scott version. That was my first introduction to this story. But, when you add the Muppets to a superb story, well, that just makes the movie better. Brian Henson retains the message of Dickens' classic Christmas Ghost Story. We still learn about poverty in 19th Century England, and a miserly old man learns the meaning of Christmas.

1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - I totally related to Clark W. Griswold. All that this man wants to do is have a successful family Christmas. No matter how hard he tries - things just go wrong. In the end, Clark does the best he can. I could watch this movie every day of the Christmas season.

Update: As Carpedavid so astutely noticed, I should have listed Rosemary Clooney and NOT Donna Reed as one of the cast for "White Christmas." My apologizes, and thank you Dave for pointing that out.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Oh, There will be Days

"Oh, there will be days." That's some very sage advice my wife's late friend shared with Shannon. When the friend said this, she was referring to my wife's job as a Stay-at-Home Mom (yes Virginia, it is a job). However, that phrase transcends all jobs and all parts of life. My friends, Today was one of those days.

I will not sit here and complain about everything that went wrong, because that really serves no purpose other than agitating me more. I have so much to be grateful for that I need to get out of my funk. So, I say goodbye to the computer problems I was having at work. Farewell to the aggravation of children who do not want to listen. So long to the frustration of a little girl who will not go to sleep.

Instead, let me say thank you Lord for three beautiful and healthy children. Dear Mr. Full-time Job, let us see if we cannot get along better tomorrow.  To my Jillian, Daddy loves you so much; but it is time for you to go bed honey. You need your rest. Finally, to you kind reader, I say good night as well. I am going to finish the dishes, grab some ice cream (Spumoni), and read Charles Dickens' "The Christmas Carol."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Teachers Make a Difference

Tonight, my oldest daughter re-enforced a fact that I have known to be true since high school. Teachers make a difference in students' lives. Friday will be the last day for Molly's student teacher. Molly is very sad about this, and I can understand where she is coming from.

Throughout my life, I have had teachers that have had a significant impact on more than just my scholarly education. The best ones have also prepared me for life. Only time will tell how much Molly's student teacher truly affected Molly's life. But, I can say this with a great deal of certainty - Miss Sizer has affected her in the short term, and I can see why.

About two weeks ago, I wrote about a Surprise that I gave to my daughter. That was me volunteering for a couple of hours at her school. During that time, I was able to witness how Miss Sizer interacted with students, the faculty (including the principal), and the parents (me). She is going to be a very good teacher, and she is going to have a tremendous affect on a great many children's lives. Like I said, she made an impression on my princess and that means she is okay in my book.

I wish Miss Sizer the best of luck, and I hope she never forgets how important her job is to the future of America. Apart from parents, teachers spend the most time with our children (in some sad cases the child may see the teacher more than their own parents). Thank you Miss Sizer for what you have to for Molly and what you will do for future generations.