Year of ?

It is that time of year again. Now, saying that at the end of December means different things to different people. For some, it may mean: it’s time to return gifts,  it’s time to blow off another holiday party, it’s time to drag out the winter coat, it’s time to root for good ole – fill in the alma matter, it’s time to let out another belt buckle. However, what I mean when I say that – at least for the purpose of this blog entry – is it’s time to ruminate. Yes, the end of December is perfect for us over thinkers. We get to consider what changes we can strive for in the coming year. We get to look inside ourselves and focus on our inefficiencies. Ahh, the joy.  Hey – I have Rosh HaShana, so I get to do this twice a year. Joy to the world baby!

So, what should it be this year? What part of myself should I strive to improve?  I don’t smoke, I’m not overweight, and am perfectly comfortable with the amount I do drink, so that takes care of the three most common resolutions. In the past, I’ve focused on communication. It was two years ago actually, and I called it the Y.O.C.  I alerted my friends to this resolution. I had resolved to insist on better communication as by gosh I was fed up with poor communication and I was not going to take it anymore. It seemed that a number of my friends felt that returning phone calls and emails was optional and if they took 10 days to do so, well so be it.  I had had enough. If they were not going to get back to me, well, I was not going to reach out again.  Some friendships were disturbed and some were permanently changed, but I felt good about my line in the sand.  So, again, what should this year be? Well I know what it won’t be:

1. The year of caught up sleep – No late mornings seem to be in store in my household. Love those kids.

2. The year of extra money – I can’t complain – I can pay the bills and eat. Although it would be nice to not be perpetually budgeting.

3. The year of hair growth – Can you blame a guy for wishing?

4. The year of no soap – My wife enjoys soap operas, and I end up watching with her. It is not the way to bond.

5. The year of travel – Yeah, like I have time for that. Well, there’s always the memories of the duffle bag and Eurorail pass and my 20’s.

 So, now what? There’s only a few days left till the new year. I have plenty to work on so how should I strive to grow. I just don’t know. Maybe you can send me a suggestion. Yes, that would be helpful – I will save time and ruminate on something else.

No Santa Here

There is always a time when we feel a little left out. For some reason, we can not join in despite our desire. I remember in my elementary school we used to have assemblies once a month. Part of the assembly included those who had a birthday that particular month coming up on the stage. While on stage, the birthday boys and girls would do the hokey pokey. Well, I have a summer birthday, so I never got to go on stage and do the hokey pokey.  I felt left out.

For all its niceties, this time of the year can be one where some feel left out. As a Jew living in a predominantly Christian nation, I am a minority. I am proud of who I am and do not mind being a minority (I do wish I could fill that in when taking surveys – shouldn’t I be entitled to certain benefits or at least get to acknowledge my background you know like Native Americans, American Samoans, and African Americans, and other minorities). However at this time of the year with the perpetual bombardment of advertising, music, and television shows about Christmas and Santa Claus, it can be challenging for children. As a child, I remember my mother answering my queries about Santa Claus with, “We don’t need Santa Claus. I bring you presents.” When I broke the news that Santa wasn’t real to a neighbor down the block, he was incredulous.  Anyway, as I got older and the left out feeling became more a feeling of boredom on Christmas Eve, my mom made a little party with snacks for my brother and me.  

My younger son has a book which I recently read to him called The Only One Club by Jane Naliboff.  In the story, while making holiday decorations, a Jewish girl recognizes that she is the only Jew in her elementary school class. She creates the only one club and everyone wants to join, so they each find one thing in which they are the only one. One purpose of the book seems to be to help kids appreciate the differences they have and differences in other kids.  While my son enjoys the book, he still seems to feel left out in regards to Santa Claus and Christmas.  He asked my wife, “How long are we going to be Jewish?” We keep trying to tell him that he gets presents and all the fun things about Channukah but in reality verse television, television is winning.

Well to those celebrating the holiday, I hope you enjoy it. For those of us who are minorities, I hope you enjoy what you have. Now, if I could only convince my son that Channukah isn’t going anywhere, I may be in luck.

Like It?

Many look forward to this time of the year and enjoy the family celebrations and traditions. However, many people are especially depressed this time of year – maybe they are alone or have suffered a painful loss.

For the most part, I enjoy this time of year. People are more pleasant, the lights are nice, and there is time off from work. Trifecta! However, there is something about the holidays that troubles me. Let me backtrack, if I may. My wife takes present buying very seriously.  She will search and search until she finds the ‘right’ present at the right price. Gift buying is truly a skill that my wife has mastered. In fact, it could be the subject of a blog entry in and of itself, but I will restrain myself for now.  Anyway, my wife buys the gifts and strategically plans out which night is the right one for each gift.  

Gift receiving is also serious business in my house. You can’t count to three seconds after the candles are lit till the children are saying, ‘Go get the gifts mommy (they don’t even acknowledge that I may be part of the process).’  It is this moment where the tension is palpable. Will they like the gift – squeal in delight even, offer a thank you without being prompted because they are so excited or will the gift be wrong? Will it be a gift that they did not expect or want and induce disappointment and complaining or at worst loud sobbing, kicking, and screaming?

Well, Channukah 2011 or 5772 got off to an interesting start. My wife called it ‘O’ night – Lego for my older son and Play-doh for my younger son (I thought it was clever).  My older son said thank you repeatedly and was thrilled – couldn’t have been happier. He got started on the Lego Fire Boat right away and passed the evening working on it. My younger son, on the other hand, screamed as if he were being beaten mercilessly.  I am not sure just what the issue was as I could not make out his words through the tears.  He actually had to be put on a time out in order to calm down.

So, this time of year has its ups and downs. It can be a joyous and special family time. However, it can also be a tense time. Either way, I am not sure if I can take 7 more days of this.

Nothing is Certain

I neither believe in nor like sure things.   There is nothing good that can come from a sure thing. If the task is accomplished – well, big deal – it was supposed to have occurred anyway.  No glory there. However, if the task is not accomplished, it is a big embarrassing zero.

I have a mediocre sense of direction. I don’t like to go into gas stations to ask for directions.  You may now fill in your joke about men asking for directions. I seem to do better when people tell me how to get somewhere, and I write it down. It doesn’t even matter if I remember the paper with the directions on it. The important thing is for me to be able to envision where I am going. I think in pictures.  So, occasionally I surprise myself and find something without a problem. However, there are times when I have directions and if things are not exactly how they are written, I struggle.  I can follow directions with the expectation that they are exactly correct. Don’t tell me something is .2 miles when it is .3 miles. Changes, surprises – no thanks, not when I am driving. 

You might think that I am the perfect candidate for the GPS.  However, I have held out. My wife (you think I’m bad with directions – next to her, I’m a compass) and I have neither the time nor the money to go to marriage counseling. So, we test our communication skills (and sometimes our vocabulary) when we travel somewhere unfamiliar. If we can talk nicely and calmly while navigating – well, then, damn it – we can handle the daily rigors of family life.

When I recently got my 4G phone, I quickly noted that GPS was one of the apps. I figured I might as well use it (my wife and I would have to develop another way to work on our communication skills).  It has come in handy, I must say. But there is something I must confess. I don’t feel good about what I am about to say: I have still gotten lost – multiple times. Am I an idiot? Does this ever happen to anyone else? I print out Mapquest directions, have the GPS and still get it wrong sometimes. What the hell is wrong with me? This afternoon my son had a birthday party to attend.  The party was only about 15 minutes from our house. At least, I think it was – I never found it. I twice went past where the GPS instructions led me and did not find the place. I had to take my disappointed son home and explain to him the meaning of ‘frustration.’ Luckily, he took it well, “I understand, Daddy.”  Did he understand – really? Did he know what it meant to feel like a fool?  You can see why I hate when people say “you can’t miss it” because yes, I can miss it – damn it!