tagline

Stories & Essays

A Study in SANTA – pt. I …is Santa Naughty?

‘Tis the season to read articles on why Santa is evil.
I know…’tis the season to be jolly…but not too jolly, because that would be acting like Santa…who’s evil.

Ok, ok, maybe not evil – but DEFINITELY not something a good God-fearin’ mama would inflict on her innocent children.

Every year I read these, and every year I react the same way – I agree with so much of what these parents are saying.  I respect their point of view and admire the fact that they’ve given so much thought to the subject.  But I still disagree.

Sometimes the claims are things like – since Santa isn’t real …if we play along that he is, then our children will think that EVERYthing we tell them is a lie.

….um…what?
If that line of reasoning is true, then I’d better not take them to a Harry Potter movie, or play pretending games, or read fiction.  C’mon…  As parents, I’d like to think we’re savvy enough to help our children distinguish fun fantasies from truth.

But many of these articles have gotten much more sophisticated in their anti-Santa reasoning.lighten bag

This year I read a very well-written blog post from a mom describing the biggest reasons why her family doesn’t participate in the Santa fantasy – and the number one reason was this:

Santa promotes works righteousness.”

The idea is that the whole Santa story encourages a conditional system whereby good behavior EARNS you a prize/reward, and bad behavior keeps you from getting something.

Well…
Yup.

She’s right.

Santa DOES encourage a works righteousness system.  And you know what?
I’m glad!

I’m glad for two reasons:

  1.  That’s how much of this world works.

It may not be the way we want it to work, but that’s inconsequential…because it does.  In this life, characteristics like hard work, kindness, patience, thoughtfulness, considering others, etc. all garner you good consequences.

Now, there are certainly exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, if you are considerate and thoughtful, people will like you.  If you’re diligent and steadfast in your studies/work, you’ll be able to accomplish your goals…maybe even enjoy some prosperity.  If you are patient and kind, your relationships will work more smoothly.  From the corporate world to the marriage union, being good earns you good things in return.

This is one reason we teach our children to care for others, to love people, to share their toys and respect their elders.  We don’t just do that so they’ll be ‘good people,’ but because we want them to be liked and accepted.  We want them to get into good schools, get good jobs, make good friends, and find loving romantic partners.  We want them to be good – to get good things.

I’m not saying that my theology ends here.  Of course not.  There is something far deeper at play in raising up my children.  I want them to honor God in their lives, to make sacrifices, and to know the love of Christ whether they are experiencing joy or sorrow.  But, that doesn’t negate my desire for them to have a good life.

Santa isn’t evil for being conditional.  Many good things in this world are conditional.  Very few things are unconditional…which brings me to my second point.

2.  It sets up the perfect dichotomy between Santa and God.

I WANT Santa to be conditional, so that my children will see and experience the freedom and delight of a God who is not.  God is unlike any other mini ‘god.’  Anything we can make into an idol – including Santa, but also things like money, power, sex, attention, etc. – will disappoint us when we can’t live up to the place we’ve assigned it in our lives.  But God loves us DESPITE our failings.

Santa brings gifts to reward good behavior…because we are good.
God sent his son while we were in full rebellion against him…because he is good.

I WANT my children to realize the vast and beautiful difference between the two.  I want them to enjoy the fantasy of Santa, but bask in the freeing reality of God’s love.
I want them to realize that Santa’s gifts are conditional, but God’s good gifts are unconditional.

If Santa didn’t promote a works based system, I’d be much more leery…because he’d be dangerously close to mimicking God.  As it is, he’s a fun piece of fiction.

In the end, the gifts from Santa…and the gifts from this world – are fleeting.  The only gift that endures, is the gift of life.  And thank goodness that doesn’t depend on our good works.

So, yeah… Santa does promote a works righteousness…just like the world.  But that’s ok, because Santa isn’t the final arbiter of righteousness at all.  God is…and his system is much kinder.  No matter how nice we are, we all have the capacity and the tendency towards the naughty.  And God loves us despite that.  For goodness’ sake.  🙂

 


Resolution: Don’t be a Jerkface

‘Tis the season to make empty promises to yourself.  Lose weight, spend less, be more patient…blah blah blah.

I don’t hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions.  In fact, I think it’s an admirable way to start the new year – wanting this one to be better than the last.  And self-improvement is commendable.  But, I’m a firm believer in making those resolutions specific and quantifiable.

– “Be nicer” doesn’t count.  Committing to hand out 1 honest compliment a day – does.
– “Exercise more” isn’t nearly as attainable as “do 100 push-ups a week.”

Specific.  Quantifiable.  Accomplishable.
Mine is to give up ice cream.  Sigh… it’s going to be a long, sad year… 😉

 

Forget all those ambiguous resolutions you’ve made …or even the list of unattainable goals you’ve typed into your phone ‘notes.’
I’d like to offer my services and take it one step further… Consider this a public service – my suggestions for how to not be a jerkface this year.   Here’s what you really need to do:

shhh

STOP SAYING THESE FIVE PHRASES

If you can cut these out of your life, you will be a measurably better person in 2014.
You have my highly-opinionated word on it.

 

1.  “No offense, but…”

Stop.  You’ve already offended me.  Anything that follows this phrase is something you probably shouldn’t say.
Ever.
And couching it in that super crafty qualifier isn’t fooling anyone.  It’s just a preamble to unsolicited criticism or jerkfaceness.

You might as well just say, “I’m about to be cruel, uncaring and arrogant.
But I don’t want you to think less of me.  Even though you should…

People say this and then expect that, because they prefaced their mean words with an untruthful statement, that somehow you can’t get mad at them …or hurt.  Problem is… no qualifier can keep that from happening.

If what you’re about to say IS offensive – you probably shouldn’t say it.
If what you’re about to say ISN’T offensive – you don’t need a qualifier.
So, just stop saying it.
Don’t be a jerk.

 

2.  “It is what it is”

Oh, IS it?

Duh.

Why don’t we just go around saying other obvious things like, “I breathe air.”

It IS ….what it IS?
This is the verbal version of shrugging your shoulders and lamenting that a certain situation is unfortunate, but not likely to change.

You know what a more apt phrase would be?  “I’m sorry.  That sucks.”  Or maybe just a hug.
A hug is almost ALWAYS in order.

When people say “it is what it is” to me… internally I say to myself, dripping with sarcasm, “wow…thanks for that… I feel worlds better.”

 

3.  “Don’t take it personally”

Isn’t that exactly what everyone does…about everything?
We are people… persons.  Most things that matter are ‘personal.’
We receive information and process it through the lens of our collection of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, mood, etc… we are designed to ‘take things’ personally.

Thing is – no one ever uses this phrase about something impersonal.

You’d never hear a math professor explaining the Pythagorean theorem, saying, “So…the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides…but don’t take it personally.”    Eh???

No – people always use this when something PERSONAL has happened.  But they don’t want to have to witness your disappointment.  That would make them uncomfortable, so they tell you not to let it affect you.

This phrase gets used when people experience breakups, getting laid off, receiving disappointing or scary news, being on the wrong end of constructive criticism… often something that exposes them or makes them vulnerable… the very time that they will have an emotion…that feels…well…personal.
The very meaning of the word “personal” is ‘belonging or relating to a person.’  Isn’t that pretty much everything?

Related side-note… for added frustration, stupid people sprinkle this phrase with poor grammar by not even having the decency to use the full adverb, and instead giving it that uneducated flair:  “Don’t take it personal.”
No offense, but – we are not animals, people.

 

4.  “Love on”

It sounds like a cat rubbing up against your leg.  Pass.

This one’s big in religious communities, but really everyone’s susceptible.  The phrase is often used about someone who could use some extra love… and it’s said in an overly mothering tone, suggesting that person go somewhere that they can get “loved on.”

Hold on while I go dry heave for a minute…

love ON?”  How about just LOVING?
No on.  Take that ‘on’ right out.

While we’re ON the subject, it’s also “by accident.”  Not, “on accident.”  I die a little every time I hear someone say that.
Hmmm…I’m noticing a trend.  Perhaps I have a problem with phrases ending in “on.”
Then again, I don’t mind the word so much when it’s preceded by “turned.”
I digress.

Anytime you show someone genuine affection, you are loving them.
Why must we bastardize the word by adding a cutesy preposition?

I think people use this phrase because they’re afraid if they just say “love,” that it implies they’re IN love.  [Insert junior high whiney playground kid’s voice…”ewwwww…you LOVE her…”]
Oh NO!!  Not LOVE!  Not the thing we all crave and move mountains to get a drop of…not the stuff that really matters… not the most important thing in the world.  We wouldn’t wanna get tangled up in all of THAT.  Grody.

How about we just start being bold about loving.
Showing love (hugging, snuggling, caring for someone, doing nice things, making sacrifices, etc.) isn’t something we need to tiptoe around.
Loving is doing.  Loving ‘on’ is talking about it…awkwardly.

I’d rather be a doer.

 

5.  “Of COURSE this would happen to ME 

How self-involved can you get?  Unfortunate things happen to everyone.  It’s not worse when they happen to YOU.  That makes you sound like you think you’re at a higher level of importance than anyone else.

The close second to this phrase is when people say, “I canNOT get sick right now,” or, “the LAST thing I need right now is a ______.”  Guess what…NO one ‘needs’ those things.  It’s bad timing for everyone.  There’s never a good time to have your dog pee on the kitchen floor, get stood up, be assigned extra work, contract an illness, etc.
It’s not worse for YOU.
And saying it makes you sound pretty self-absorbed.

 

So, to sum up:

 

5 Phrases


Do You Believe?

santa 6Ah, Santa.

What do we do with Santa Claus?   Jolly ‘ol Saint Nick.

Some people don’t believe we should propagate the fantasy with kids, some people are neutral, some people go full-tilt fantasy as long as their kids keep believing and then some (*raises hand*).

I’d like to make a case for Santa.  After all, he’s WAY too busy today to speak on his own behalf.

This year, my little girl is right on the cusp of belief and disbelief.  It’s definitely the last Christmas I can pull off the fantasy.  So, I enlisted the help of my dad (an excellent storyteller) to tell the kids about the origins and evolution of Santa Claus…to drive home all those smooshy feelings that keep you choosing to believe in something, even when the evidence is beginning to outweigh the power of imagination.

santa 4Turns out the REAL story of St. Nick is the story of love, kindness, and helping those in need.  Isn’t that a story we can ALL get behind?

santa 1The original Saint Nicholas, who was later made Bishop and mimicked by countless other secret night-time gift-givers, was so convicted about giving to the needy and providing money, food, and toys to children who had nothing, that it caught on.  Talk about a trend worth following!

Whether you’re spiritual/religious or not, the idea of showing basic human kindness to others is something everyone can agree on.

So, the question isn’t really whether you ‘agree’ with Santa, it’s – are you on board with our modern-day take on him?

santa 8And, yes, I admit, the idea has morphed into a more materialistic chase that frustrates even the unbreakable Christmas spirit in me, at times.  But, we don’t have to let it BE that.  Instead of surrendering to the greediness that can be bred by the Santa story, we can use the idea of Father Christmas to do two things:

1.  Enjoy the gift of creativity and imagination.  There is such beautiful artistry in a great story.  Think of the delicious elements of a timeless fairy tale…   The way we weave the best aspects of the known world we can think of – pleasure, love, good winning over evil, bravery, sacrifice, etc., along with the supernatural or impossibly wonderful – (i.e. magic) – into a narrative that fills us with wonder… is there anything better?santa 5

 

You do this on a small scale – all the time.  Even bah-humbug grown-ups make up miniature fantasies anytime we WISH traffic would just part and make way for us to scurry home, or we close our eyes for a milisecond in hopes that that guy will call us back after a date, or we hope, beyond all reason that it’ll be sunny even when the weather channel says there’s a 100% chance of rain on a special day.  We WANT there to be MAGIC.  It’s in our nature to yearn for fantasy.  It’s why stories and movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are so popular!

Passing this on to our children is a gift.  The gift of creativity and the gift of WONDER.  Teaching them that there is a possibility ….that there exists the tiniest crack in reality that …COULD be magical.
That COULD be other-worldly…
it not only stirs their imagination, but it breeds hope.

2.  Appreciate the thrill of anonymous giving.  The anonymity that exists in the legend – that is, the fact that you don’t get CREDIT for the gift – gives it a another layer of honest goodness and sweet satisfaction.  Any selfish desire to get that kickback feeling that comes when someone recognizes you… is gone.  So, it removes any self-centerdness to reveal a pure underlying love of giving and generosity.

Have you ever given a gift where the person never knew it was from you?  Wasn’t it divine?  This is another certain privilege of participating in the Santa story.

santa 9

This is a season where that crack of possibility, that there might be such as thing as magic, opens just a little wider;
Our capacity to dream becomes a little larger;
Our willingness to open ourselves up to whimsy and wonder and even the foolishness that a fairy tale brings, becomes greater.
And our reluctance to suspend disbelief starts to chip away.

 

And maybe for just a moment – BELIEF in something magical becomes a reality.  Even if it happens for a fleeting moment…just a flash of “what if?” …isn’t it wonderful?

santa 7So – I don’t know about you, but as long as there are Christmases, I’m going to choose to engage in the mysterious wonder of Santa Claus.

Merry Christmas to ALL of you, and to all – a good night!


In defense of Fall

I don’t know if it’s just a Houston thing, or if all Westernized culture is becoming lazier, but I feel the need to advocate for a dying construct… Autumn.

fall 1

Why’s everyone hatin’ on the Fall?

It seems like the moment the temperature drops, we get all excited about donning scarves and making squash soup and seeing the pumpkins pile up at Methodist churches everywhere… for… …about a minute.  And then we toss it all aside to start singing “Rockin’ Around the Christmas tree” and putting lights up for Christmas.

fall 3

What?  Am I the only one left who wants to hear the record scratch and put all the holly jolly on hold?… NOT because I’m a cranky Grinch, but because I love Christmas so much, I want to protect it.

There are two reasons why I think we need to slow down and enjoy the Fall.

fall 5

 

The first is the simple fact that engaging in the rhythm of the seasons is a GOOD thing.

The change in seasons is a sacred shift…
it’s nature’s way of helping us observe and celebrate the passage of time.

Fall 1

 

And we need it.

I know that time always feels like an enemy…
bodies getting older and more frail,
our lives passing by – perhaps not looking like we wanted them to –
kids growing up…
…but it’s still an essential part of the human existence.  And it’s one that, if we ignore, will catch us unaware later on – panicked by how much we’ve missed.  It’s a good thing to acknowledge time passing… and the seasons are the perfect accompaniment.

 

The second, and (for me), more important reason we need to linger in the Autumnal delightfulness, is because it is the season of anticipation.  And I LOVE anticipation.  I dare say we need it.

Have you ever had the experience of being madly in love with someone and knowing you’re going to see that person at the end of the day/week/etc. – and having that delicious feeling inside as you get closer and closer to being able to hug and kiss them in person?  The waiting is it’s own brand of pleasure.  Enjoying the build-up is part of the delight!

And waiting for all of the wintery gifts – especially Christmas – is an essential part of the enjoyment.

I adore Christmas.  It is, by far, the best part of the year.  Hands down.  I love everything about it – trees, twinkly lights, Santa, gifts, the music…oh…the music… the food, …and most of all – it is a time when my heart is most soft spiritually and I sit in awe of the fact that the God of the universe loved us enough to condescend and become one of us.  Even if you don’t believe in all of that, surely you can recognize how that idea is attractive… beautiful even.

I love Christmas so much that I don’t even mind the cheesy music they play in stores… I actually enjoy it.  I love the mood that hovers over people from November 29th through dinner on Christmas day.  And it’s because I love it all so much that I want to keep it where it belongs.

fall 8

The day after Thanksgiving, I’ll go through the lovely ritual of getting out all my old Christmas albums (and there are some doozies in there that no sane person should listen to without an appropriate amount of eye-rolling and gagging… but I love them because they remind me of Christmases past …and of people I love… and of a season that celebrates life and beauty and Love with a capital “L.”)  I’ll listen to everything from old school Michael W. Smith (yes…cheesy…whatever) to beautifully archaic choral and orchestral arrangements, to modern pop artists’ versions of traditional holiday fare, to schmaltzy Bing Crosby and his cronies, to high church majestically trumpeted renderings of Christmas hymns …and everything in-between.  I’m the girl tuning into the local radio station that plays all Christmas music 24-hrs a day for the whole season.  I’m the girl collecting the excess Christmas tree branches from tree lots to bring the smell of the holiday into her home.  I’m the girl coming up with excuses to plan and attend as many Christmas parties as a body can handle.  I even BAKE at this time of year (and I abhor baking…).

It’s a magical time.

fall 9And to keep it magical – I protect its rightful place in the seasonal rhythm of this life.

Christmas is, for me, the culmination of every good thing, in one scrumptious season.  The word advent actually means ‘the coming,’ or ‘arrival.’
If the Christmas season is the time of arrival, then Fall is the time of waiting for that arrival…
…dwelling in the joyous prospect of what’s to come –
…sitting in the sweet anticipation of all the good things that are just on the horizon.
And enjoying the scarves and squash soup and pumpkin-filled lawns along the way.

So – will you join me?  We only have a week and a half to go before the buzz of Christmas rains down its loud and wonderful chorus over all that we do.
A week and a half to feel – really FEEL – that anticipation …
…to enjoy the fall leaves (or,…if you live in Houston… finding the one or two trees that have actually changed and stare at them for a bit…),
…to wear your brown suede boots,
…to eat and drink up as much Pumpkin spiced everything as you can handle,
…to arrange or paint or just admire the multi-colored and bumpy gourds adorning our supermarkets,
…to give someone you love (maybe your favorite blogger?) a bouquet of Autumn-inspired flowers/berries,
…to relish the crisp air

fall 7

…and to know that in a matter of days…

not only will the music that’s been playing since Halloween say so,

but it truly will BE the
“most wonderful time of the year.”


AnthroFantasy

I’ve decided to throw a few posts in here and there, that have little or nothing to do with the world of dating… but are simply the musings and stories of this single mama as she roams this crazy world.  They’ll be full of the snarky commentary you’ve grown used to…never fear.


anthro 6

I’ve recently had to admit something to myself …a hard truth to swallow, but true nonetheless.

I am a Target girl in an Anthropologie world.

(For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, Anthropologie is a hipster-bohemian retail store that sells exorbitantly priced clothing and home goods.  It’s Neiman’s prices meet Uzbekistan Tribal-chic styles.
There ya go.  Wikipedia ought to use that definition.)

anthro 3

You too can ruin your brand new overpriced sandals in the pool… if you shop here.

 

I WANT to love Anthropologie…
I really do.

I want to be cool.
When people say – “neat twig necklace – where’d you get it?”  I want to say, with the appropriate amount of  apathy in my voice, “Anthro.”
But the answer is usually actually something like, “Walgreens.”

The truth is – I love the fantasy of Anthropologie.  And they’re so darn GOOD at creating that.
Masterful photography for their catalogue sets the most gloriously bohemian scapes… who wouldn’t want to sleep on a pillowy bed in the woods, carry a camel-hair-covered satchel and sample the vegan stews at some fantastic Morrocan outdoor market?
anthro 7Anthropologie has cultivated such a delicious delusion, that you can’t help but WANT to be the kind of woman who pays $2,800 for a chair that looks like a melted chocolate blob.  (You can’t make this junk up, friends.  Call it “resin,” and then, surely no one will think of poo…)

anthro 1But what they’ve done is exactly that. They’ve created a fantasy world…one where, after walking into a showroom that smells of exotic essential oils expertly mixed with cozy lavender, with an archway made entirely of a Suessian stack of books, and showcasing their wares on paper maiche sheep…, you can’t help but drink the kool-aid.

anthro 5They lure you in with vibrant gypsie colors and the promise of hipster heaven, and next thing you know, you’re buying a cat dress or earrings that have creepy smiling mouths on them.

I understand that this is the JOB of marketing – to sell a fantasy.  But Anthropologie has taken this to a whole new level.  They’ve done such a bang-up job of making this bizzare world sing with the illusion of normalcy, that you actually believe once you don a $300 dress that looks an awfully lot like one you could get for $14 at JCPenny, that you’ll be transported into a vacation world where all your cares are swept away with the waves lapping at your adorably sandaled feet while you drink some fantastic concoction that the locals swear will take years off your life.  Or, at the very least, your co-workers will think you’re trendy.
And that’s something.

This mislabeled rabbit sells for a mere $1,200.00

This mislabeled rabbit sells for a mere $1,200.00

And, don’t get me wrong… my 15%-off Birthday coupon just arrived in the mail and I fully plan to use it on some oh-so-subtlely pretentious piece of jewelry that will razzle and dazzle all who interact with me.  So, I don’t claim to have any moral high ground here.  I’m a sheep.  I like breezy bed canopies and batik-style scarves as much as the next fauxhemian.  But, I’m poor enough to recognize the brainwashing – that’s all.

 

anthro 2Perhaps because it’s the same thing that happens in the world of dating – people put on the mask of what they think you expect and desire…while underneath, they’re just as ridiculous a match for you as is a vase where the flowers come out of deer ears.

And in the end, what matters most isn’t necessarily whether you decide to buy-in to the fantasy… it’s just whether you can admit there’s a strong ribbon of ridiculosity running through the middle of it all.

anthro 8

 

SO, yes… Much of what they have to offer is pretty and adorable and all manner of Hobo-Fabulous…


But then…there’s this:

anthro 15

 

Even having grown up near the beach in Florida and seeing the copious kitch that can be made with seashells (both real and fake), … even I am shaking my head at this barnacled mess….

How does one even pick this UP?

I think they’re selling botched pre-k art projects…which calls to mind all sorts of child labor legalities…


anthro 11

 

If you needed a multi-colored witch’s claw…
you’ve come to the right place.

I can’t decide if it’s a decorated chicken foot to be used for bourgeois VooDoo dealings, or a decorated antler for the wives of hunters who can’t stomach the idea of dead things in the home unless they’re at LEAST gilded and dressed up in Gator colors.


anthro 14

Who doesn’t love drinking out of a decapitated elephant?

Just knowing my chai latte is pouring forth from this finely crafted carcass, is all the macabre I need.


anthro 10

 

Don’t worry – the accompanying Amish bonnet in eye-piercing green is coming out in the winter line.


anthro 9If you’ve ever had a time in your life when you wanted to shell out $700 for a creepy-as-all-getout lamp – you’re in luck.  Come home to this in the wee hours and be welcomed by medusa’s head swinging from your dining room ceiling.

Complete with authentic Guiness-Book-of-World-Records fingernail craftmanship.


anthro 18

 

There really are no words.


anthro 12This poor bunny.  She looks like the very essence of Parisian style and grace.  Tragically, she was tricked into putting on a blindfold, likely under the auspices of throwing a suprise party, …but the suprise was a rabbit lynching.


anthro 16As if the bunny hanging wasn’t enough, someone thought poorly painted evil rabbits would be a nice addition to your tabletop.

Seriously – my children can make prettier art.  A LOT prettier.

And – to add insult to injury, we’ve paired this with a hungry wolf to protect your butter in style.  Maybe that’s why the one bunny looks crazed… she fears for her life.


anthro 13Speaking of things my children could make better…

Here’s a hard candy with fringe, sewn together with a twistie tie – and we call it $218 worth of style.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out.


Anthro 19At the end of the day – lots of their stuff is pretty.  And from time to time, as my budget allows, I will definitely enjoy strolling through their shops, hoping some adorable Bohemian tunic will be on sale and in my size.
But a lot of it – and I mean…a lot – is either bizarre, ugly, silly, or so overpriced that it’s laughable – wrapped up with the bow of a different life it promises.

It’s a fantasy.

Listen – I can glue a Werther’s Original to a bracelet cuff and charge you $218, but what for?  You wouldn’t buy that!  Meanwhile, Athropologie has created a small universe of escape so alluring that you’re hypnotized into thinking that’s beautiful.  They can offer you the hope of what your life COULD be like…  I can only offer you the cynical scraps of reality.  (And a piece of jewelry that’ll help you make it all the way through your investment meeting).

So, I applaud Anthropologie and the world they’ve created.  They deserve every penny they bring in.  But, let’s not fool ourselves – at the end of the day, there are a lot of witch claws out there.  Just like life… just like the world of online dating… but that’s a story for another day.


(All images in this post are directly from Anthropologie online or their catalog.
Also – my birthday is coming up and I could really use a headless elephant mug to soothe the painful passage of time… I’m just sayin’…)