America, authors, beauty, Holiday Traditions, holidays, humor., Life in General, religion

The Myth of Measuring Time.

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While flying past it.

 

Happy New Year! So whoo hoo, it’s a click of the clock, a difference of dates on an arbitrary calendar, a ‘new’ beginning. Such anticipation, so much celebration, so many champagne corks popped, advertising sold, intentions stated, and pressure applied to have fun. When? Well, not yet, not yet, okay, go, go, go! Right now! Oh bummer, you fell asleep and missed it!! We work ourselves up into a frothy lather, and deservedly so, after all the most amazing thing is going to happen. That’s right—It was one assigned number and now…wait for it…it’s another! Miracle of miracles! Light the fireworks and wake up with a hangover!

Ah, that one specific switch of digital numbers clicking over is unprecedented, amazing, and miraculous, it’s a unique opportunity to alter everything about ourselves, to plan for the future, to take it all back, to erase our errors or promise perfection, to set ourselves up for spectacular failure, it’s the one time of year, (or the change over between them anyway) that we can truly affect real changes in our lives, make a fresh start, really start living—or, no, uh…wait…

Is it?

Maybe, just maybe—stay with me now—it’s just another random moment in the unrelenting passage of time in our dimension? Maybe celebrating ‘new year’ is another case of humans buying into a fake concept to amuse themselves, to invent some cause for community, to stick a marker in our chaotic and brief existence?

Not that that’s bad.

I mean, it occurs to me that just because somebody assigned random numbers to define our days and moments, which, fair enough, many of us agreed to, doesn’t make one ‘official time’ any more powerful or transformative than every other second, minute, day, year, decade or millennium. I mean, unless you aren’t Christian-European descended (What? There is more than one calendar in use on the planet? Yes, over forty in fact. Doesn’t that just rock our Christian-centric world!) you’ve collectively agreed to mark the change on a midnight in mid-winter, (ironically a pagan holiday which actually made sense for a celebration of the earth’s position in the solar system) but we could just as easily have chosen a late afternoon in mid-summer, or twilight in early fall, or dawn on any given Tuesday.

And by the way, where and when is the official, actual, really, really, honestly true new year? Shouldn’t we all agree on a single moment? It is the whole world we are talking about. Is the ‘true’ new year in Bangkok, or Paris, or Bimidji, Minnesota? How can there be an actual ‘change over’ when the moment comes at different ‘times’ in different places? We can’t even narrow it down to one in our own country, much less the whole world. Technically, there should be 24 different time zones, and therefore two dozen non-simultaneous new years, but thanks to the International date line, and the fact that some time zones change in 30 or 40 minutes rather than an hour, there are actually 38 time zones. (And that’s for our calendar, there are over forty different calendars worldwide, see above.)

38 time zones. 38 chances to celebrate a completely made up marker.

There is some method to the madness, some reason and explanation, some phenomenon to mark, of course, and that is the earth’s rotation around the sun, the fact that another solar year has been completed, another circumnavigation round the big ol’ ball of fire we call ‘the’ sun on our tiny, insignificant planet.

Insignificant, that is, in the scope of the universe. So if you are looking at the big picture, planet earth in a infinite, ever-changing universe is temporary at best. From down here, seeing how it’s the only planet we’ve got, it’s a pretty big deal—and the reason we measure time. Unfortunately, we stopped acknowledging nature and science as the supreme wonder when all us pesky humans invented religions. Marking mid-winter, an important date to be sure, was hijacked and renamed Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Mawlid, and many others, None-the-less, the world keeps turning, the sun keeps getting lapped, and time goes ever on even as civilizations, continents, religions, humans and  yes, even planets, come and go.

Yet it’s a big moment, this passing of another year. A truly remarkable thing. This ‘holiday’ celebrates the almost unfathomably complex journey of a big hunk of rock, (or tiny speck of debris, depending on your perspective, see above) hurling through open space subjected to both centrifugal force (being pulled outward by spin and motion) and gravity (being pulled toward a far more dense mass, the sun) finding a balance on a scale that dwarfs any comparison to like-phenomenon taking place on the planet itself.

Which is pretty awesome.

But you have to admit that you could say that about every single second of every day. I mean, maybe we finished a lap back to this starting point, but what about the one just before, or after, that one? If you lined up 365, okay, 365 and ¼ days, (okay, 365.2422, but who’s counting?) and made any given second in any day a starting point, you would reach every single one of those ‘starting points’ again once a year.

It’s a circle dummies.

So here’s my point, as insignificant and cynical as you may find it. You get to decide when to start over. You say when to celebrate. You can change your life, make a resolution, forgive, love, start over, go back, end it all, or just plain quit worrying about it all any time you choose. In any second, of any day, in any season, you can start a diet, join a gym, raise your fist and swear at the moon, give up alcohol, find joy, thrill at life, drink champagne, kiss a loved one, or go walk about without permission or prompting from anybody.

Everyday is new year’s day, darling.

Pop that cork and kiss that baby,

Life begins again, right now.

And right now too.

There are no second chances,

Only infinite ones.

 

Shari, January 1st, 2019 (so they say, wink)

Life in General, parenting

How to be the Favorite Aunt. (or other relative.)

I love Christmas, mostly the getting ready for it and making it special for others. Don’t know why, but I’ve always been more comfortable giving than receiving. So, a few years ago, I got the idea of making an advent calendar for my girls, nieces and nephews that would actually allow them to open a small gift every day.

I had no idea what I was getting myself in for. There are eight kids in my immediate family, they each get 24, tiny, individually wrapped gifts, one for each day of December through Christmas eve, making a grand total of 192 presents.

Here are the basic rules, and then how I’ve learned to make it easier on myself.

First, do not spend more than a dollar on any item. You can do a couple of two or three dollar ones, as long as you keep most of them in the 25 cent range. Second, start looking for next years stuff in January. I keep an eye open for fun little knick-nacks all year, mostly toys. The trick here, is keeping them small. Here’s a sample of what would go into one gift.

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Technically, there are two gifts in each, but I do love to spoil my babies!

Now, the first couple of years, I tried to find tiny gift boxes and wrap them all with gift wrap paper. Then cut ribbon and try to tie tiny bows without the ribbons falling off. It was crazy making. Forget it. Do you have any idea how many pieces of tape it takes to traditionally wrap 192 miniature presents? Insanity will set in before you get the tree up!

So, there are two easy ways that I’ve found. One, get a whole bunch of tiny gift bags, the downside to this is, you have to label each one with a number on some kind of tag that won’t fall off when it’s kid-handled. Added work. The kids go to their advent calendar every morning and find the gift with the correct number to match the date. Great way to help little ones with learning numbers and dates, by the way! The second way, which I’ve employed this year, is to get some tissue paper, cut it into four parts in stacks, and buy a bunch of decorative pipe cleaners. They take two seconds to put on, they stay on, and you can twist the ends into fun shapes!! Then use a red, green or gold marker to write the number on the tissue. It won’t get lost or separated from the gift.

Now, line up all your gifts. I have households with two kids each, some both boys, some boy and girl, and my two girls. So the gifts may need to change a bit, and it will get confusing as you wrap and number them. For my brother’s two boys, who are close in age, I make sure they each get the same thing every day. This will eliminate stress for their parents.

For the girl-boy or large separation of ages in the households, I line up two lines of gifts, one row for each kid, across from each other to make sure it’s ‘even’ and wrap as I go. First, day one for both kids. They get put into bags, marked with each child’s name, so that I know which is which later. You will not remember, trust me, even if you are far less frenzied than I.

Make a nice cup of tea. Find a place to put your tape, pen, and other supplies where you can find them repeatedly. Start wrapping. My next advice is this. Deli wrap. It saves time and you only need a single piece of tape for each gift. Start with the paper diagonal, fold up one corner, fold in the corner to the right, flip once, fold in the corner to the left, tucking in excess, and then roll up and tape. Add twisty, use the pen to put on a number with the date, presto!!

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Here you’ve got one present. The next picture is about halfway through with the nephews’ batch. I only do one household at a time or I lose patience, and that’s no fun. You can see all the ones I haven’t wrapped beyond the pile. Notice that they are lined up to be the same for each boy, each day. If you have kids, you will understand why. If not, you will learn.

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And finally, you will have the finished result. I gave each of my beloved children a small tree and a tiny tree skirt. They set them up in their rooms, (with lights) and place the presents around the bottom. It’s a miniature Christmas, that helps build the excitement for the big day!!

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Another mistake to avoid. If you have a small one, say two or so. Don’t give candy on day one. I did this one year and my sister called me. “Great,” she said. “Now everyday when he doesn’t get chocolate, he has a hissy fit and I have to give him a time out.”

Whoops.

Babies are only worth doing if they have a sibling, who will very much enjoy opening the little packages of socks or tiny books and sharing with their little brother or sister.

It’s a lot of work, and no small expense, but in the end I know it’s worth it. the kids love to get this, it’s become part of their holiday tradition. And when my sister in Charleston called me to say they got the package and told me, “You would have thought the holy grail was in that box,” well, my heart beamed so brightly that the Christmas star came early that year.

Start early, this is something that needs to be done before December first.

Whatever you celebrate, may it be a joyous holiday for you, and may you feel the excitement of childhood in every day of your life.

Shari, November 28, 2012