Looking at Christmas from the outside


English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Even before Thanksgiving is upon us, advertising for Christmas begins. It is impossible to live in the United States and ignore the impact that this celebration has on everyone.

 

My parents had an unusual take on Christmas. Being Jewish, they didn’t want me to identify with  the religious part of Christmas, but they didn’t want me to feel left out of believing in Santa Claus.  I don’t know how many Jewish kids believed in Santa Claus, but I did. He brought my Chanukah presents on  Christmas. (The truth was Santa Claus worked for his cousin on Christmas Eve, and got some merchandise in return.)  We never had a Christmas tree. We did light the candles and say the blessings each night of Chanukah.

 

I really bought the whole Santa Claus thing line, hook, and sinker. I counted the days until Christmas, and I really believed Santa Claus was watching me, so I made sure I was extra good.

 

When I found out that Santa Claus really wasn’t coming to my house, I was really upset.  It’s the first time I realized that everything wasn’t cracked up to what it was supposed to be. I guess that’s a sad reality we all have to face sooner or later.

 

I really felt like an outsider then because I realized Christmas really wasn’t my holiday. I asked my mother if Thanksgiving was really my holiday. How about New Years Eve? I was happy to find out Thanksgiving was okay.

 

Since I’ve grown up, I’ve come to my own conclusions about religion. I think it is nice to celebrate the traditions that you’ve grown up with, but I’m not exactly sure where the stories come from. (I buy the idea that they were written by people.)

I think there are lessons and basic truths in every religion. It’s too bad people misconstrue the whole thing, and live their own versions of their religions.  As my dear mother used to say,” anything in extreme is bad.”Meghan Kelly and her rantings about Santa Claus are a perfect example of what I find ridiculous.( But that’s another post.)

 

It is impossible to live in this country and not get a little caught up in the Christmas spirit. It is a good thing.  I wish people acted charitable and kind all year-long. I really enjoy the music, and the lights. I like saying “Merry Christmas” to people.

 

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza,  and Happy New Year!

 

 

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Weigh in on “The Biggest Loser”: Gimmicky or Real?


I hate to admit it, but I am a regular watcher of “The Biggest Loser.” I use it to motivate myself to keep on a good eating and exercise program, but I have some problems with the show.

Biggest Loser Pinoy Edition winner

Biggest Loser Pinoy Edition winner (Photo credit: audiovisualjunkie)

Problems I have with this show

First of all, trainer Jillian is a real witch. She’s really mean to people, then she does  pop psychology on them. She seems like she has a split-personality. On one hand, she is nasty, then she puts on her happy face and sweet voice. (She calls everyone sweetie when she’s being nice.)   I really hate when she gets contestants to drag her around as a weight. Plus, her smile is crooked which gives her a devious look.

On the first episode this season she threw most of her team out the door and told them to consider leaving.  (The poor people were all throwing up because the tasks she made them start out with were too hard.) Did she have to start them out with such difficulty?   Several contestants considered their options and went home. Can you blame them?

Last week she made some poor woman go in a coffin for a few minutes. It was to help her realize that she needed a new lease on life. She was fooling around with serious stuff. It’s a good thing the woman, who is claustrophobic, didn’t end up going crazy.

The other trainers are easier to take. Why Bob has tattoos going all over his arms and everywhere is beyond me.  Why get your body in shape, than disfigure yourself.  I like Dolvett, who is the boxer. He seems to have his head on straight. He, like Bob, have a more positive approach then Jillian.

The challenges

I have to hand it to the writers for thinking up those bizarre challenges. Traveling through bubble gum, slogging through mud. throwing them off heights. Contestants on that show are either desperate for money or attention. Some of the stuff they make them do seems downright life threatening. Last week they had to hold up weight, and when they couldn’t anymore they were dumped into water.

It does manage to hold my attention, so I guess the writers know what they’re doing.

The weigh- in

What kind of person would get up with all their flab hanging out to millions of people? All the contestants on “The Biggest Loser.” The weigh-ins are really odd. Who loses 12 pounds in one week? Either they’re starving them to death or working them too hard. They make it seem that this is a healthy weight loss. If someone loses 4 or 5 pounds in one week, you’d think the world had come to an end. I think this give people the idea that losing 10 to 12 pounds a week is normal. I wonder how many of the contestants end up with eating disorders after the show is over?

You know, some of those people are going to regain most of their weight after the show is over. They never talk about that.

Although I find some real serious  problems with this show, it does manage to motivate me. I think about what I look like, my health and what I’m eating.

I do like the promotion of exercise, but at my age, I’d never attempt half the stuff they do on the show. I do a lot of water aerobics, elliptical machines, and walking. I would never be willing to leap off of high places. Not even for money.

They added kids this season

Thank goodness they’re not making the kids put on embarrassing clothes, and put them on the scale. It’s mostly a promotion of exercise and healthy eating. Naturally, some of the parents of these kids are also overweight. Last week, they showed a teenager pleading with her mother to also try to lose weight, so she won’t die. Wasn’t it real exploitation  to show this on national TV?

Do you think this show is exploitation or it’s an earnest attempt to motivate the viewers? Or just get ratings? Is it ethical to humiliate people on TV to get good ratings, and people like me watch?

 

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Where do you think ghosts and spirits hang out? I want your ghost stories!


Life is strange. The older you get, the more you are reminded that our time on earth is temporary. It doesn’t matter how important or unimportant you are.  Someday, you’re going to have to say goodbye.

The last uncle I have passed away. He went in the middle of a meal surrounded by friends and family. He was 97. The man was as healthy as a horse; unfortunately, his mind wasn’t exactly working right. He wasn’t aware of it and still enjoyed life. At least he happily died, surrounded by friends and family. I think that would be the perfect way to go.

I attended his funeral. It wasn’t too sad because 97 is stretching it. The trouble is I’m in my 60’s, so going to funerals makes me realize my time on earth is limited.  Most of my friends are still above ground with me, but I have lost a few.

After the funeral,  the family went all over the cemetery visiting dead relatives. I am not sure about this. I guess if you want to remember them, it’s a good thing to do.  I don’t know if there are spirits there or not. I’m pretty skeptical, but it wouldn’t surprise me all that much. I’m thinking if you’re a spirit you’d probably want to hang out at more interesting places. A cemetery is a little too quiet for me.

I like the idea of surviving in one way or the other after you physically die.  I mean who wants it all to come to an end? Unfortunately, none of my deceased relatives have visited me. I think the coolest thing would be get a light or sign. I’ve known people who said that really happened to them. People who are logical, intelligent and not the type to make things up.

My Great Aunt

When I was little, a Great-Aunt would visit from California,  and my dad would take her to a cemetery to visit her “friends.” I used  to tag along. My father would say, “she has more friends in the cemetery than she does in other places.” I liked looking at the headstones. There was a picture of a little boy on one of the headstones and he was holding a drum. I could count on paying a visit to the “Little Drummer Boy” when Auntie made her annual visit to Ohio.

So, when I go to the cemetery it doesn’t really bother me. What does bother me it that almost all the older relatives I used to visit in their homes are under the ground; it’s pretty surreal. It makes me realize I’m fast approaching the age my “old Auntie” was when we accompanied her on her yearly pilmigrage,

I just can’t get much satisfaction over looking at the headstone of a favorite relative. They just aren’t going to answer back when I talk to them.  I do it anyway because you never know. They just might be listening.

English: Old Jewish Headstone, Hull, East Ridi...

English: Old Jewish Headstone, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, England. These old Jewish headstones with Hebrew inscriptions are in the disused Hessle Road cemetery TA0828 : Hessle Road Jewish Cemetery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you think? Any good ghost stories?

A Valentine’s letter to my mother


Dearest Mom,

Happy Valentine's Day...

Happy Valentine’s Day… (Photo credit: Јerry)

I wish you were here. It’s almost Valentine’s day, and I still think about you. I thought you would live forever and you almost did. At ninety-one you finally gave in. I feel slightly guilty that I made you sign the paper giving the doctor permission to do that hip operation. I didn’t know you’d be signing your death certificate. I know you would never want me to blame myself. I do believe it was your “time to go.”

I figured you’d come through that like you did everything. You’d had a couple of  really bad breaks. You were a strong woman. You weren’t the type to feel sorry for yourself. Going blind at the end was very hard on you, but you “did the best you could.”

Things were starting to slip. Sometimes, you’d get things confused. One time, when we were listening to the radio, you asked me who was singing. It was Perry Como, your life-long crush.

[Portrait of Perry Como, New York, N.Y., ca. O...

[Portrait of Perry Como, New York, N.Y., ca. Oct. 1946] (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

You didn’t remember much about my childhood. That you’d nursed me through a staff infection for two years, that when I broke my shoulder, you’d made slings out of Cleveland Indian scarves. You couldn’t remember our family trip to Washington D.C. when I was 12.  It was like that part of our lives together never happened.

You rarely talked about my father. Not unless I brought it up. Remembering him was just too painful. I know you were hoping to see him after you died. But being the practical person you were, you didn’t believe that was going to really happen. Even though I’m just as practical, I like to imagine that you are together.

When I came to visit, we stuck with the tasks at hand. Walking down to the dining hall, taking a walk outside, and listening to that old radio station where they played all your favorites: Eddie Fisher, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and all those singers from the 1940’s.

You still loved to go out to eat. It was almost like you were escaping from that independent living facility every time I came to visit. It was almost like we were partners in crime.

You loved to go to the beauty shop, and listen to the hair-stylists talk to their customers. It was the last place where you could feel like one of the girls.

In your old age you still cared more about me than you did yourself. You asked me if I wanted that extra dinner you’d ordered from the kitchen of the independent living facility where you lived. You asked me if I was comfortable sleeping on the couch overnight. You offered me sheets and a pillow. You tried your very best to be a good hostess.

You dearly loved all your grandchildren ( and great-grandchildren) and gave what you could to all of them. They were your hope for the future. Maybe your exterior seemed a little tough, but inside you were all mushy. You just didn’t let anyone know it.

When we went through your apartment, we found evidence of this secretive side: saved birthday cards, our old school report cards, photographs, engagement and wedding announcements and  programs from college graduations.

So, on Valentines Day I think of the one woman who loved me the most. When you died, you took my nickname with you. It isn’t the same if someone else calls me “Barbie.”  So, a part of me went with you. But, I’ll never forget you.

Happy Valentine’s Day mom.

Imitation of Life: We’ve come a long way: A movie about racial differences and independent women


Imitation of Life (1934 film)

Imitation of Life (1934 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you want to see how far our society has advanced since 1934, watch “Imitation of Life.” The prejudice of the time is reflected in this movie.  It also tells a story about  women trying to make it on their own.

The story revolves around two women, Beatrice Pullman (Ms. B), a white woman,  portrayed by Claudette Colbert, and Delilah, a black woman,  portrayed by Louise Beavers.  They both have two daughters, the same age, but Delilah’s daughter is light-skinned and desperately wants to pass for white. She’s figured out that in 1934, life’s a lot easier in the white world. Fredi Washington, a black actress, gave the character believability.

Ms B is a widow with a young child Jessie, and Miss B. is trying to make a living selling maple syrup on the Boardwalk. She offers Delilah and her young child, Peola, a room in her house in exchange for Delilah’s  housekeeping. Although they have an almost equal friendship, Delilah’s total devotion to Ms. B might bother you. In one scene she is rubbing Miss B’s feet and telling her how important it is for her to find love. (Why doesn’t Miss B tell Delilah she should find love too?)

Miss B is delighted when she tastes Delilah’s secret family recipe for pancakes. She knows Delilah’s pancakes will sell better than maple syrup.   She decides to open a restaurant featuring Delilah’s pancakes,  then markets her mix and they both make a lot of money. Ms. B. offers Delilah 20% of the company. (This seems hardly an equal partnership.)

After they get rich off of Delilah’s recipe, Ms. B meets a potential husband, Steve Archer (Warren William) at a posh party she throws in her fancy New York apartment. Delilah and Peola have to sit outside the party dressed in their finery. You can feel Peola’s heartbreak.

The plot surrounds the girls upsetting their devoted mothers. Peola doesn’t want anyone to know she’s black, so she doesn’t want her mother hanging around. Jesse Pullman (Rochelle Hudson) plays your average sweet rich ingenue. Let’s just say that she takes a shine to her mother’s boyfriend. That’s all I’m going to reveal.

Although this movie will embarrass you at times,  it’s worth watching.

This movie was recommended for Best Picture in 1934. It didn’t win.  Why would it? It was about independent women and friendship between a black and white woman. Miss B eventually shows Delilah more concern and caring, but we know who is the most valuable person.

Although these actors are all long gone, their performances still hold up. It’s really amazing when you think about it.

I caught in on AMC, but it is sold on Amazon. I understand there is a version with narration, that explains what life was like in the good old bad days.

The Movie “Quartet” is a Winner: Dustin Hoffman’s Directorial Debut at 75 Grade: A


If you’re a baby boomer or above, you’re facing some realities. You aren’t going to look like your 25 no matter how much you try. You start noticing other changes too. You get tired faster.  Some people notice a little forgetfulness creeping in. Imagine how it’s going to be in your  70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

Acceptance of very old age is beautifully portrayed in the movie, “Quartet.” It is Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut (at 75) and he does a sensitive job. He was wise enough to do his first production with the best actors. Try Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and  Pauline Collins,   Even though they’re elderly, they’re effective.  Just like the characters they portray in the movie.

The movie is about people living in a retirement home for musicians,  Beecham, residents are notable instrumentalists and opera singers. They don’t sit around and play Bingo; they play and sing music. Most of it classical and operatic There is plenty of music interspersed throughout the movie. There’s some authentic singing done by some of these masterful actors, singers and instrumentalists.

One of the conflicts comes into play when a former diva Jean Horton, portrayed by Maggie Smith, has to make contact with her ex husband Reginald portrayed by Tom  Courtenay. You know it was a serious breakup by their reaction to each other.

The retirement home needs to put on a show to raise money so they can stay in business. Smith’s character doesn’t want to tarnish her reputation since she can’t hit the high notes she used to. Part of the movie deals with Jeans reluctance to perform again.

Although the movie drags a little in the beginning, it picks up speed and by middle, you’ll be completely captivated.

*If you live in Columbus, Ohio, it’s playing at The Drexel Theater in Bexley.

Stay for the credits. They have some before and after pictures of the actors.

( I attended this movie with people I’ve been singing in a choir with for over 20 years. By the end of the movie, we were joking about scoping out a retirement home now.  I couldn’t think of people I’d rather live with when  I’m really old! )

English: Dustin Hoffman at the Cannes Film Fes...

English: Dustin Hoffman at the Cannes Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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