Parental Skills – Santa Claus & Thinking On Your Feet

Sometimes you set yourself up.  Sometimes, in the interest of expedience, you get that sudden moment of “Uh-oh!”

My father’s birthday is January 4th, a mere ten days after Christmas.  Now, the topic of having a birthday so close to Christmas is enough to fill five blog posts, I’m sure.  Fortunately, that’s only tangential to this one.

I was about to start wrapping my father’s birthday present.  It was a pretty large box, and I didn’t have enough wrapping paper.  So, I sent my nine-year-old daughter into the garage.  “Gabriella, get Daddy some wrapping paper.  It has to be a big roll with enough paper on it, and look good for a birthday, OK?”  “OK, Daddy,” she replied.

She came back in with a short roll of paper.  “Daddy, this is all we have.”  “That won’t do at all.  Look for something else,” I said as I sent her back.

She came back in with a large roll of Christmas paper.  She had a curious look on her face.  “Daddy, do you know what’s weird?  I noticed that we have the same wrapping paper as Santa Claus!  It’s all there: the paper he used for my gifts, Alessandra’s gifts and Nicoletta’s gifts!”

My mind raced.  She still believes, and I had to say something.  To myself I thought, “What do I say?  What do I say?  What do I say?  What do I say?”

“Oh, that’s because, um, Mommy and I were running low on paper for other people’s gifts.  Santa noticed, and, being the nice guy that he is, left that for us to use.  Wasn’t that cool of him?”  I waited for her response.  A second later, she said, “Oh.  He’s good at giving, isn’t he?”

“…He sure is.”

Phew!

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My Favorite Useful Christmas Present

I have to hand it to my wife.  Besides being an intelligent, beautiful, wonderful, funny woman who happens to put up with an idiot like me, she’s also a great gift purchaser.  I was ecstatic to unwrap this beauty.

From the Weber website

Yes, folks, this is one instance where I demonstrate why I chose my blog name.

This rotisserie fits on the rim of my 22.5″ Weber kettle charcoal grill.  I plan on using this as soon as I have the time and buy the chicken.  Actually, I might try my hand at a turkey with this baby.

Bottom line: I eagerly await tasting the chicken this produces.

Also, my wife is awesome.

I Celebrate Christmas – A Response

Earlier today, I read Matt Conlon‘s blog post Merry CHRISTMAS Whether You Celebrate it or Not.  Go ahead and read his post; it’s well worth your time.  I’ll wait here until you’re done…

Great!  When you’re done here, I recommend you peruse his site for his other well-written posts and his webcomic Stick I.T.!

To lay all of my cards on the table, I am a practicing Catholic.  I take my faith and its tenets very seriously.  Although I am far from perfect, I do my best to live my faith daily.  There was a time, during high school and college, when I had fallen away from the practice.  During that time, I had investigated other faiths, in an academic way, as opposed to conversion or practice.  So, I do have knowledge and appreciation for other faiths from an intellectual standpoint.  However, I felt Jesus’s call very strongly to return to the faith into which I was born.

Now, Matt’s post touches on a lot of topics.  So, without further adieu…

Matt writes:

I usually try to stay clear of religion as a subject, because those who are devout have made up their minds, and will never listen to a thing a secular person has to say. Not only have they made up their minds, but they sometimes want to make up your mind as well. Religion aside, my believes / opinions are my own, and I’ll share them if you like, but I’ll never force them on another person, thus I expect the same. I get very irritated when someone tells me their beliefs are fact, and that I’m wrong, so I don’t do it to others. I make sure to say things like “In my opinion” when saying things, or I just don’t say anything.

You know, I am exactly the same way when it comes to discussing religion – I don’t like to talk about it with anyone other than my closest of friends and family.  It’s such a touchy subject, and very personal, which I believe is why people react so strongly when disagreements arise.  However, I have to say that, in my experience, I get more harshly negative, even hostile, responses from those who call themselves non-religious, atheist or agnostic.  They tend to belittle me, my faith, my beliefs, and anything else that has to do with God.  On the other hand, religious folks tend to react with genuine curiosity about my faith and willingness to explain their own.  While disagreements do arise at times, we tend to either steer clear of those subjects, or deal with them respectfully.

However, I think Matt and I are cut from the same cloth here.  I don’t try to force my beliefs onto anyone because I hate when others do that to me.  Now, I have to point out that beliefs in this sense are fact to those who adhere to them, and that includes non-religious as well.  But, if we act respectfully with regards to another’s belief, we can avoid so much conflict.

Matt continues:

Christmas: The birthday celebration of Jesus, as least as far as the Christians are concerned. Originally, it had nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity, but it made for a hell of a marketing gimmick, so they changed it.

Now, before you start rolling your eyes at yet another “Christians stole pagan holidays” post (which I HAVE done in the past), I’m not going to bother here… There’s enough controversy around the fact (note, I didn’t call it an idea though… 😉 ) so believe what you will. The fact remains, there was a year end celebration long before Jesus. Jesus came (allegedly) and now there’s no year end celebration for the pagans… Coincidence??

Matt is correct: Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, which was then absorbed, if you will, into the Christian religious practice.  This only makes sense; when converting a people to your religion, you need not only to change their beliefs, but their customs and practices.  If a culture is used to certain observances of, say, the winter solstice, then they will most likely want to keep that tradition.  So, what would an evangelist do?  If you can’t change the tradition, change its meaning.  This is a common tool not only in Christianity, but other religions as well, both ancient and modern.

By the way, many biblical scholars think that Jesus’s birth actually took place in the spring, closer to Easter than Christmas.  I have no problem with this, either.  Many times I can’t celebrate my daughters’ birthdays on their actual birthdate because they fall during the week.  Just because I celebrate the birthday on a different date doesn’t mean they were born on that date; nor does it mean that I love them any less.  It is simply an observation of their birthday.

I assume Christians’ hostile reaction to the “Christmas was originally a pagan holiday” statement is that nonbelievers try to use it to discredit the faith.  As I said, I don’t find it a threat at all.

ANYWAY. My beef here is that MOST of the world recognizes Christmas at LEAST as a holiday where kids get gifts from a fat guy who spies on us when we’re sleeping. Everyone knows what Christmas is, and every one’s heard of the Christmas spirit, even if they’ve never shared in it. It’s the spirit if giving, good will, blahblahblah.

That’s actually a funny way to phrase it: a fat guy who spies on us, etc..  I love it!

ANYWAY… actually, I agree with Matt here.  The Christmas Season (or, if you insist, Holiday Season) is definitely a secular observation.  Were it not, then only Christians would take off from work, school, and life in general on or around December 25th.  The fact that MOST of the world (actually, I’m not sure of the world, but certainly Western civilization) takes a week or two break at this time is a recognition of its religious origin.

The remainder of Matt’s post is disturbing to me.  To be forbidden from using the word “Christmas” on all cards due to one child’s faith is ridiculous.  Requesting that the students not use the word “Christmas” on cards to that one child is not only well within reason, but also simply courteous.  I vehemently disagree with removing all references to a religion due to one person’s objection.  I support an individual’s right to celebrate (or not) whatever their religion may (or may not) be.

Finally, as a religious person, I am very sensitive to others’ differing viewpoints.  Most often, I will wish someone a “Happy Holiday,” especially if I am unsure if they are Christian.  If I know for certain that they are Christian, I will wish them a “Merry Christmas.”  Likewise, if I am certain they are Jewish, I will wish them a “Happy Hanukkah.”  The point is, I wish everyone good tidings at this time of year.

In Memoriam – Memom Perotti

My family is very close.  I guess it’s a product of our Italian heritage, but I know that’s not the sole reason.  There are so many things I love about my family.  But Christmas is very bittersweet for me.

You see, two years ago today, I got a call from my father, “Mark, I have *cough* terrible news.”  He didn’t have to continue, because I could hear it in his voice, and I knew.  “Grandmom’s passed away.”

I was decorating the tree with my daughters, but I had moved to the office to take the call.  As I listened to my father talk, and hearing the cracks in this usually-so-strong man’s voice, I felt my heart break.  The call ended, and I went out to the living room.  I told my girls what their Poppy had just told me, and I broke down.  The sweet, sweet treasures that they are, my daughters hurried to me and hugged me as I cried and cried.

My wife was at work at that time, so I called her cell and gave her the news.  She came home a little later.  I didn’t have the desire to finish the tree.  I went to my uncle’s house that night, like we do every year, and cried and talked and reminisced with my father, uncle and grandfather.

The next few days were a bleary blur as we celebrated Christmas and prepared for the funeral.  I was asked to deliver a eulogy for Memom.  Somehow, I did.

For you, Memom.  I know you’re in heaven, in a wonderful place, praying for us, but I still miss you every day.

Food is love.

I heard those words on a TV show about two or three weeks ago. When the host said it, I immediately was struck with not only its profoundness, but also its profound truthfulness. Providing food means to provide life; providing the best food means providing a joyful life; what better way to express your love to someone. It wasn’t until Christmas Eve when I realized that, although she never said those words, it was Memom Perotti who had taught me that.

From my earliest childhood, the connection between Memom and food was inseparable. Every day, she would cook or bake. Her unending supply of food symbolizes the abundant love in her heart. “You’re too skinny – here, eat this,” meant that you looked unloved, and that was her way of hugging you. “I made some cookies – here, take a plate with you,” was her way of reminding you later on that she loves you.

Every Friday evening, her call went out to all her family and friends, “Pizza’s almost ready, come over and eat.” She wanted her family and friends to be there, so she could share with them the love in her heart. And how could we possibly forget her Christmas Eve dinners, when she worked for days to make so much food that we could barely walk out the door. The joy that I saw in her eyes and her smile as the family ate was obvious; she loved watching her family enjoy her meal, because she put her love into every morsel.

I have seen her sons learn from her, and carry on that passion for cooking. And from them, I believe, each of us, her grandchildren, do the same in our own way. Memom will never, ever be gone from our lives. Yes, we have our memories, and what wonderful memories they are. But, for as long as we put our best into making our food, Memom’s love will live within our hearts.

I love you, Memom, and will miss you always, and I’ll do my best to make sure my family is well-fed.

——

I’d like to read a poem that I found recently. It is called Christmas In Heaven, by Wanda Bencke

I see the countless CHRISTMAS TREES around the world below
with tiny lights like HEAVEN’S STARS reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so SPECTACULAR please wipe away that tear
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.
I hear the many CHRISTMAS SONGS that people hold so dear
but the SOUND OF MUSIC can’t compare with the CHRISTMAS CHOIR up here.
I have no words to tell you of the JOY their voices bring
for it is beyond description to HEAR THE ANGELS SING.
I know HOW MUCH YOU MISS ME, I see the pain inside your heart
for I am spending CHRISTMAS WITH JESUS CHRIST this year.
I can’t tell you of the SPLENDOR or the PEACE here in this place
Can you just imagine CHRISTMAS WITH OUR SAVIOR face to face
I’ll ask him to LIFT YOUR SPIRIT as I tell him of your love
so then PRAY FOR ONE ANOTHER as you lift your eyes above.
Please let your HEARTS BE JOYFUL and let your SPIRIT SING
for I am spending CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN and I’m walking WITH THE KING.

 Merry Christmas.