When trying to keep your New Year’s resolutions, please remember the importance of sticking to them throughout the year all the way through December 2014. With Christmas 2013 behind us, it’s easy to forget that Santa is watching.

http://stayfreemagazine.org/public/irwin-chusid-santa-claus.mp3

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Every Christmas, the people who are spiritual but not religious have to figure out what this all means. Like me, for example.

Each kid responds differently to religious upbringing. As adults, neither my latex (late-ex-husband) nor I ended up as fans of organized religion. While the Catholic little girl had desperately tried to fit as many Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s in before falling asleep to help the poor souls in purgatory, the Lutheran boy had been bored with services but happy with the church strawberry festival.

Who knows what combination of Catholicism, environmental pressure to do everything correctly, and genetic predisposition toward perfectionism shaped me.

Our church was old and beautiful in an inorganic way. Its spiritual feeling felt other-worldly, like a lonely trip into space. I would go there for confession, when I would list the human things I did that were called sins. I would dwell in the sacred atmosphere, feeling elevated as I left in the state of grace.

You can cognitively reject doctrines, but it’s amazing how you can continue for years reacting to the normal imperfections that make up the fabric of Life and of you and of others as if they were sins.

Last night, my daughter and I hung the ornaments on our Christmas tree. Some represent times in North Carolina. Some are from when my latex and I were dating. Rural North Carolina was not a good fit for me. My husband divorced me. A lot of imperfection. But those same ornaments represent a lot of good things, too. And those bittersweet ornaments will proudly be on the tree with the sweet ones, because Life is like the tag on the pocketbook that knows that the imperfections in the leather are natural and in no way should be seen as flaws.

In my opinion, religions have a lot to offer if they aren’t taken literally, and the symbol of God in human form is no exception.

Maybe God is in our trying, not in our trying to not make mistakes.

Today I turn 60.

Forty years ago I had all the answers.

But it’s better now. I have all the questions.

I don’t know how I made it to age 59 without having a job primarily working with the public, but here I am. I’ve been working as a seasonal cashier at a chain department store.

All those complaints I’ve heard over the years about working with the public? I don’t get it.

I love working with the public!

All my problems have been working with the private. If you have a problem with someone at work, there they are again—after lunch, after the weekend, after your vacation….

But have a problem with the public, and poof! They’re gone—all their stuff has left the conveyor, gone into bags, and out the door they go.

I’ve been working there for three weeks, including today, Black Friday, and have had virtually no problems with the public. They’ve been patient and helpful as I learned my job. They’ve been entertaining. If someone is kind of boring (less likely here in Jersey), the next person may be fascinating.

I love the public! I’m thinking of joining my damn self!

Grover is having some comfortable days. We’re enjoying them together.

The Holidays

On Wednesday night, we had his birthday party early. We hope to have another celebration on July 24. I don’t think he’d mind having two parties and twice the presents.

We always sing Happy Birthday and Lang Sal Salava (our American butchered pronunciation) at family birthday gatherings. The second song is the Dutch “Long Shall He/She Live”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO3PuvLNKCI

After Grover associated getting treats and a toy right after hearing these tunes on his first birthday, we’d have to give him a treat after singing them during anyone’s birthday, because if Grover had an iPod, those would definitely be his favorite songs on the playlist.

Fun with Drugs

Hiding all those meds and supplements in bits of food doesn’t work with Grover. I have to put the tablets and capsules, a couple at a time, in his mouth, hold his jaws closed, rub under his neck and kiss him. Sometimes I think they’re down, and I see a brightly colored capsule jettison from his mouth. “No Monica Lewinsky!” I admonish. He knows after they’re all swallowed he gets his biscuit. If I say “medicine” now he gets psyched and goes to the place where he’ll eventually get his Milk-Bone.

Summer Breezes

The cooler weather has given Grover and me a chance to sit outside. He’s enjoying the sights and smells, as well as the excitement of watching neighbors’ dogs and chasing the birdseed-eating squirrels. And there’s always the frequently visiting deer to look forward to. As for me, I’m hoping to be saved the embarrassment of renewing my library book again.

A lady and her dog. Enjoying one day at a time.

*M. Jagger/K. Richards

I would just like to acknowledge today as what would have been my 28th wedding anniversary.

The traditional gift for the 28th is the orchid. No matter what I would do, an orchid would die.

Please join me in celebrating this festive occasion.

When I was in elementary school, my parents would let me get two or three paperbacks from the Arrow Book Club every couple of months. One of the books was Follow My Leader by James Garfield. It probably didn’t sell as many copies as Bill Clinton’s book, but one of my sisters and I were really affected by it. We both decided that we would never be stupid enough to play with firecrackers, because the main character loses his sight doing just that.

Sparklers—fine. Firecrackers for some reason never appeared within our realm of Fourth of July experience. Fireworks were for the professionals. Our parents would take us to the community show every year. When we were in our 20’s, we siblings saw the Grucci display at Shea Stadium. All subsequent shows become too embarrassing until you forget about the best of the best and reset your expectations to a regular Americana experience.

Our family would enjoy our small town’s display when we lived in North Carolina. The first time I experienced regular people putting on fireworks was when the family of my daughter’s classmate had a birthday party every year for her brother, who was born on July 4. We went to a couple of their parties. I was really impressed with the quality of the show. And they always made sure we spectators were far away from where the fireworks were being launched. I would say, good, because I read Follow My Leader. They didn’t know what I was talking about, which fit right in with them never knowing what I was talking about. But I brought a nice birthday gift.

Last night, my neighbor to the left knocked on the door and said that the people who live to her left were shooting off fireworks, and why don’t we bring chairs and watch. Yay! My daughter and I traipsed onto their property, introduced ourselves to these neighbors, and watched an hour of fireworks. We weren’t that far back, and sometimes things dropped on us. I told my friend that I read Follow My Leader. She is my age and said she did, too. But things were just too festive to worry.

There was the visual, the sound, the smell. But it was that occasional hot piece of debris that just seemed to give everything that extra bit of Americana.