Winter Fest!

I have been so fortunate in my life to have lived in many places around the world! Moving so often was challenging, but on the other hand, it afforded me the opportunity to experience different cultures and traditions. No matter where I lived, Christmas was always a big deal. Like any child, I was fascinated by the twinkling candles, strings of sparkling lights, colorful wrapping paper. I loved singing the traditional carols, getting all dressed up for midnight mass, and coming home to await the arrival of Santa. I always tried to stay awake, but never was successful.

As a child, I spent several years living in Europe. This allowed me to experience the different holiday traditions in Holland, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, England, and France. What I discovered was that it was a joyful, exciting time of year no matter where I found myself waking up on Christmas morning.

I have lived in two predominantly Jewish communities during my lifetime; one in New York and one in St. Louis. Living among my Jewish friends allowed me to experience the wonderful holiday of Hanukkah. I remember wondering whether it would be more fun to get gifts for eight days rather than getting all the gifts at once on Christmas morning.

Today I live in South Georgia and have also enjoyed experiencing Kwanzaa with my local friends. I love the intention behind the seven principles of Kwanzaa. They encourage us to be the best we can be and in turn to give our best to our community. These are principles we should all live by.

Having these wonderful experiences prompted me to share them with my students over the years. I called it “Winter Fest” and it was an opportunity for students to read, think, write, and expand their world a bit. It has always been one of my favorite units to teach. It allows me to focus on the true meaning of these holidays: kindness, giving, and self-improvement. But the best thing is that the actual learning is tucked away behind the fun. It is a great way to tap into the students’ holiday excitement.

So, here is the resource that celebrates my travels and my holiday joy!

Happy Teaching! Happy Memories! Happy Holidays!

HURRICANE IRMA & ME: It’s all about the STUFF!

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I am among the millions of folks who have been evacuated in preparation for the landfall of  Hurricane Irma.  I have posted before about the fact that I try to find the silver lining in every cloud.  So, of course, I am searching for things to be happy about as I hunker down here in a small hotel in a small town on the Mississippi border.

First of all, I am declaring this Irma-cation 2017.  That certainly puts a positive spin on it, right?  It isn’t really a “-cation” of any sort, but Irma-cation certainly sounds better than “mandatory, forced evacuation”, at least in my thinking!

I am a very reflective person most of the time, and this has certainly given me time to slow down and think about what’s going on in my life.  The first thing I needed as I prepared to evacuate was the reassurance that those I love would be with me ~ my fiancé, my son, my daughter-in-law, and our pets.  The rest of the family live in New Mexico, Connecticut, Ohio… far from Irma’s reach.  Yes, a big sigh of relief that everyone is out of harm’s way.  But now, on to the topic of this post: STUFF!

My “stuff” gave me a great big headache, for sure.  I remember years ago George Carlin did a hysterically funny bit on “stuff”.  I still laugh every time I think about it.  The gist of his routine was that we surround ourselves with stuff.  We keep all of our stuff in a “box” called an apartment, a condo, a home.  Then, as we accumulate wealth, we buy more “stuff” and then have to buy a bigger “box” (house) to hold all of our stuff.  We sit happily in our “box” surrounded by our stuff until something out of the ordinary happens and we have to travel!  YIKES!! That is when the trouble starts! Now we are faced with the horrible decision about which pieces of  “stuff” are important and must accompany us and which pieces must, sadly, be left behind.

And that is exactly what happened to me!  I sat in my house last week surrounded by my  “treasures”; I am certain that my collection is much too valuable to be referred to as simple “stuff”. I know, go ahead, it’s okay to giggle; I’m giggling now too, but at the time there were some tears involved. Anyway,  I kept wondering how in the world I was going to walk away from my lifetime’s collection of treasures.

We are traveling in a small sedan.  I can’t take my grandmother’s china hutch or the antique tea cart. I have to leave my mother’s grandfather clock behind chiming for no one to hear. My father’s desk, the pictures from my trip to Russia (taken before photos became digital)…the list goes on. So I stood with an open suitcase filling it with the non-negotiable “stuff”. Clothes, underwear, nightgown and slippers, make-up, shoes, laptop (a MUST for me!), snacks, and a bottle of wine all made the cut and came with me. All the rest was left behind.

Now I have a choice to make. I can either sit and worry about the fate of my “treasures” left behind while I listen to endless hours of Irma coverage in the hotel coffee shop, or I can focus on celebrating the fact that I am in a town I have never visited before, meeting new people here sharing my evacuation experience, and enjoying time with my family. I choose the latter.  So, here’s to Irma-cation 2017.  Indeed, I am richly blessed!

What were they thinking?

There’s something about the airport that just gets me thinking. I have always been a “people watcher”, and what more ideal people watching spot than the middle of the Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta? This is one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world. It is just crawling with people all milling about. They’re rushing from one flight to the next, hustling to make connections, talking on the phone, eating lukewarm fast food on the run, and doing all this while dragging half their earthly possessions behind them in luggage on wheels.

But, I digress. Back to my original thought – there’s just something about an airport. Somehow with all the bustling about folks get lulled into thinking they are invisible. Where were their families and friends when they got dressed this morning? I guess these fashion failures figure if they don’t know anyone it doesn’t matter how they look.

Today the airport promenade was like a parade of bad fashions I’ve lived long enough to regret! Let’s see… first, who stitches madras triangles into old, torn up blue jeans to create bell bottoms? No one I’ve known since 1966 when I was listening to the Mamas and Papas. 

Beehive hairdos? Haven’t seen one in years! Saw one today…still looks like a ratty mess!

Furry lavender sweater clips? Who knew! “It can’t be so!” you’re thinking, but sadly, it is. I remember my mom wearing sweater clips back in the 1950s and I even had a pair of mink ones when I was about ten (1958). I thought I was the neatest thing since sliced bread! However, that was 59 years ago. I think this person was trying to channel June Lockhart! (You’re too young to know who she is. You can look her up or make a mental picture of the cast of Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, or Lassie). I just can’t imagine where she would have gotten them…antique store? eBay? Aunt Millie’s junk drawer? That will remain a mystery. 

Oh, and when was the last time you saw someone go out with curlers in their hair? Not just curlers, but the ones the size of soup cans! Let’s see, what else did I see? 

Well, there was the “Bedazzler Gone Bad!” pair of blue jeans. I can’t imagine how she sat down. Her behind was covered with the sparklers; it must feel like a pin cushion! 

And then, just to round out the day, there was the florescent blue eye shadow. Now that’s a real fashion statement…from the 1970s when I was listening to Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues while wearing my way cool madras insert bell bottoms!

BWAHAHAHA!!! Don’t you just LOVE the airport?

Social Animals

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the middle of the “holding pen” at the airport? When I was there a few weeks ago, I was struck by the level of noise…human noise. I tend to keep to myself. I’m one of those folks that follow the rules…you know, those unwritten rules like, “You don’t talk in elevators.”

However, that rule definitely does not apply at airports. Complete strangers all around me were striking up conversations, “Where are you headed?” “Where are you from?” “Who are you visiting?” “Have you been there before?” “Let me show you pictures of my ______(fill in the blank: grandbaby, dog, Halloween costume…).

Apparently the airport is a place where it is acceptable to talk nonstop to people you don’t know about stuff that nobody really cares about. What drives that behavior? Why do we have such a strong need to connect with those around us? Does the shared human experience reassure us that we’re “okay”? What is it about the temporary circumstance of waiting at an airport, sitting at the stadium, or standing in line at the theme park that makes us open up?
I believe that each of us value the comfort we feel when a common experience is shared and a connection is made. We were created to be social animals and as such, we rely on our five senses to let us know where we stand. When we feel another’s touch, hear a comforting voice, smell our mother’s favorite perfume, share a meal, or see people standing in line beside us, we are reassured that we fit in, we are safe, we are accepted.  I am constantly reminded that, in spite of the sad and scary daily news reports, ~people are good…~people are caring…~people are kind.  And therefore, I am blessed.