Christmas Present

It’s Christmas Day where I am. I didn’t get what I wanted. Eh, I know I bad-mouthed it a bunch and said I wasn’t interested, but I was kind of expecting an Apple Watch, silver with an additional watch band (I didn’t want the default white band). Oh well. And for financial reasons I couldn’t get anybody the things I wanted to get them. My son had plenty of presents from Santa and grandparents, so no problems there at least.

And the new year is coming up. I dunno, I’m thinking I should just quit writing altogether. There’s just no external interest, no momentum to take it to a professional level. But I’m not sure what else I’d do with my time — maybe the boredom would inspire me into something new. And who the heck knows what’s going to happen at the end of this upcoming year, I’m not even sure where I’ll be living — I don’t even want to think about it.

Supper was good, we had leftovers from last night. We eat the big meal on Christmas Eve for some reason. I’m not sure why there wasn’t any cranberry sauce tonight, there was plenty last night (although to be honest it needed to be served warmer). I skipped out on the homemade “buche de noel” tonight since it was only okay. I mean, my wife is without a doubt a culinary artist, but sometimes her baking doesn’t quite reach the perfection I expect.

OR

It’s Christmas Day where I am. Christmas really is for the kids — to see that smile on his little face when he opens presents is the physical representation of pure delight. Although, his most excited outburst was when he thought his mom received a bike (it was actually HIS new bike). He’s too sweet, always thinking of others. He actually gave me a couple of the presents Santa gave to him.

We spent most of the day playing with his new games and toys (Battleship and Uno for example). We even went out on a bike-ride. I was so proud of him! He performed flawlessly on the bigger bike. Then we played some video-games on his new SNES Classic Console — the way he defeated Blanka on Street Fighter II was really impressive (he played as M. Bison), he’s really good at games. Speaking of which, he’s been playing Monopoly against his mom over the course of a few days and he’s doing amazingly well. I think he’s got all the business savvy that his mom and I lack. He just bought his first Monopoly hotel tonight (proud dad here!).

Oh, and supper tonight! As good as it was last night on Christmas Eve. Prime-rib, amazing homemade dinner rolls, herb roasted red-potatoes, and some freshly baked cookies for dessert! Man am I full. My wife’s heroes are Martha Stewart and Ina Garten — and it shows. She was in the kitchen for at least six hours yesterday, she really loves to cook and she says her secret ingredient is “love”.

CONCLUSION

Same Christmas, different perspectives. One is from the perspective of an ungrateful, pessimistic, self-centered jerk — and the other perspective is also mine, but it’s me with an improved outlook — one I’ve been working on, one that leads to smiles, happiness, and feelings of fulfillment and joy. The old perspective just makes me feel sad, empty, and alone. So why maintain it? Why NOT trade it for the better one? I’d be an idiot not to!

In this season, we often watch the stories of Ebenezer Scrooge and The Grinch — miserable scoundrels that thought only of themselves and their own discomfort. The narrative of my own life follows a similar storyline. What seemed so foolish, such as giving to others, makes a lot more sense to me now. Giving, in order to grow smiles in the faces of gift-receivers, sounds like a task worth doing. And as my hero Santa would say: “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

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Slippery Slope

Once when I was a little boy, I saved up a bunch of money and proudly went to the store to buy something with my hard-earned cash. I picked out one of those sleds with the metal runners and a wooden platform for lying on — a flexible-flyer type. I happily brought it home and placed it in the snow, ready to go.

There was about six inches of snow on the ground and the sled just sank into it. It wouldn’t budge. I didn’t get it. We had a plastic sled that worked fine, it slid down on top of the snow. But this one simply sank — I never understood that it would only work on a nicely packed trail. That sled sat in my shed winter after winter — mocking me. I never got it to work as expected.

From that experience, I learned that nothing was worth working for. Nothing was worth saving for. The end result of effort was disappointment. If it didn’t come easy, then I didn’t want it. A sure thing — or no thing. Take a guess how well that philosophy-of-life worked out? Spoiler Alert! Not too well.

So I ask you, did life set me up for failure, cruelly taunting me with an expectation of fun and excitement only to snatch it away? Or was I simply a little brat, too quick to criticize and too stubborn to see beyond my first impression? Life simply said: “Hey Rich, wanna try something new?” And I replied, “Sure, but I’m pretty confident I won’t enjoy it, I’ll put in a half-hearted attempt, but I’ll be quick to give up and blame you for it not working out. Sound good?” Life: “Sigh…..”

Can of War

There I was, just a kid, but I was in the middle of a war. Coke? Pepsi? I took part in the taste-tests. Look, you weren’t there! We had to pick a side! There I was, unmarked cups in front of me. I didn’t want to look greedy so I took just a small sip of each, I could barely taste the warm sweet liquid as the proctor stared impatiently. My pick was essentially random. I think I picked Coke? In some ways it didn’t matter. In some ways I suppose I lost some of myself that day. It was the Cola Wars.

Coke, the classic conservative, choice of the old generation versus Pepsi the progressive, the choice of a new generation. The new kid on the block challenging the champ. Being the age I was, I wanted Pepsi. I was that new generation. But we were lied to, man! Over some sugar water!? The things I did. The things I saw. There were even times when I had cola for breakfast, right alongside my Cap’n Crunch cereal. It was a different time back then, life was cheap, soda was cheaper.

I’ve got the battle scars to prove it. Brittle bones, yellowed teeth, war is hell. And the indoctrination, oh the mind-control we were under. Our eyes were glued to the tele-screens as they beamed in ad after ad telling us what to drink in every insidious way they could. You think he was called the King of Pop solely because of his domination over pop-music? Pop is also another name for cola. I saw the footage of that tragic Pepsi commercial, and the King of Pop was changed after that. The war affected us all.

No, I don’t touch the stuff anymore. Well maybe a sip for old-times sake every few years, but I don’t enjoy it. The taste no longer suits me. I guess without the stream of ads flowing into my brain, the flavor can’t stand on its own. Or maybe I’m just bitter. We were so young, man. Caught in the middle of a fight we didn’t want. We had no choice. What were we gonna drink? Ginger Ale? Dr Pepper? Tab? Water? That sh*t wouldn’t fly.

We did what we had to, and when it came down to it, we drank whatever cola the restaurant had on tap. None of it mattered. The war wasn’t one cola versus another, it was cola versus us — and we lost.

Mentor Series: Michelle

The world looks a lot different to a four-year old, and that’s where our story begins, through her tiny eyes. Fairies, angels, mermaids, roving spirits, and demonic creatures running amok — these are not mere mental musings, but absolute reality. “Michelle! Be careful you don’t disturb the fairies! They’re very vindictive if you cross them.” The ways of the world were explained to her by elderly grandparents, people of the earth, folks that tended the land on an island in the Pacific Rim.

It was at this age when she traveled in a giant metal bird to America — New York City no less. Horns honking, people shouting, her ears were overwhelmed. The air itself, now chilled, hurt her little hands. And her neck couldn’t bend back enough to see the tops of the towers that created the concrete valley she now found herself within. Everything about this dense city, couldn’t be further from where she started: a tiny seaside village halfway around the globe.

So the world to her, IS magic — there’s just no other explanation for it. The gritty city didn’t strip her of magic, it only reinforced it. Though oftentimes, it’s a mischievous magic. This little girl was torn from her home to live with a mom and dad she barely knew. The coldness of her surroundings seeped from her tiny hands into her tiny heart. Dark-magic is very real — and flip-flops, when struck across a small body, are very painful. Thus was life in the age of Ragnarok.

But such a pure spirit cannot by squashed. Light triumphs over darkness. And by the light of the full-moon, she came into my life. A fella that knew no magic, knew no sense of soul or spirit, a guy steeped in the bounds of a fixed well-defined reality. “Michelle, when are you going to put that nonsense behind you and step into the real world!”. But all she saw was a confused young man that denied what was right in front of his face. And so we lived as if in a Venn diagram, overlapping only occasionally in our beliefs.

Perhaps it was the stark contrast of belief that pulled us together, the Yin and Yang, magic and the material. Well long-story short: she won. After decades of trying to make my logical science-based philosophy-of-life work, I gave up. It was unsustainable, I was an anxious wreck. Yet there she was, happily strolling through life without struggling for survival. When she asked, life simply gave her what she wanted. Oh. Therefore, I adopted her outlook and life has been better ever since.

That’s the story of my mentor Michelle. A subtle teacher that never attempted to teach. But through her cheerful way and magical manner, I came to see a better world whose light was meant to warm, not burn.

Cellar Party

It was basically a party thrown by some organization my mom belonged to. We walked downstairs to where it was happening. A room with that classic checkered linoleum flooring — essentially the basement, but at least it had some small casement windows near the ceiling.

The food was laid out on long folding tables covered with tablecloths. I was spying the dessert table, no doubt. That’s my home away from home. Of course I didn’t start there, I was a good boy. I had a plate of ham and whatever else they served that night. Nothing spectacular, I mean what do you expect food for fifty to be like? It simply got the job done.

But now it was time. Dessert Time. I’m not a forward fella, but when it comes to dessert, I’ll certainly lead the charge. I sauntered over and took a look. Primarily cookies on plates sitting around one of those stainless steel coffee dispensers. Do I dare? Shall I partake of such delectable treats? Why what do we have here? Some chocolate chip cookies? Haha, you little delights, you look so good tonight.

I picked one up, ready to savor that ooey gooey chocolatey sweetness. I bit down, gently chewing the fine texture… wait. What. Why were these chocolate chips so chewy? And where’s the chocolatey taste? As a matter of fact, these cookies seem awfully granular, not smooth at all. WHAT THE F*CK ARE THESE!!! Blahhhgrgrrr! I spit it out.

I brought the remnants of the cookie over to my mother and told her there was something wrong with it. She informed me it was an oatmeal raisin cookie. Not only that, but there were no chocolate chip cookies on the table AT ALL. I would be going cookie-less and I was not pleased. It was on that day I swore a vendetta against oatmeal raisin cookies — how dare they masquerade as chocolate chip. They were a lie and should not exist!

Ne’er would an oatmeal raisin cookie touch these lips. And not only the cookie, but the raisin itself was mine enemy. Whenever I saw that bonnet wearing Sun-Maid on the red box, I was struck with a tinge of rage as she sat there mocking me. I held that grudge for almost two decades.

It turns out that oatmeal raisin cookies are pretty tasty. I like the cinnamon undertone mixed with the gentle fruity taste of the raisin. Or “dried grape” as I like to think of it. Heck I can even eat a whole box of raisins, although I usually prefer the golden ones. But you see the point right? Why waste so much time and energy being mad at something so silly? Ridiculous right?

Well, unless you’re talking about cheesecake of course. For one, it’s not cake, it’s pie — the cake is a lie. Second, crushed graham-cracker pressed into a pie shape? Filled with cream-cheese? What IS that? Gross! No offense, but cheese does not belong in dessert. Gah, so gross.

Brownie the Christmas Elf

Poor Richard, always turning every color into gray.

But Richard, surely this cake will make you gay?
Nay, I must think of tooth decay!
But Richard, the sun shines bright today!
Ah, it shall burn my skin, until it flay!
But Richard, exciting news I have to say!
Oh no, what could it be, surely I will pay!

And so she came one night, when the moon shone bright,
just a little sprite, an elf known as Brownie.

Hello to you good sir! I’m but a tiny fairy, not so scary,
I’ve a core of cheer and my shell is sweet — it is nice to meet!
Richard bit the hook, that’s all it took.

Caught, but not willing to surrender.
He fought and fought, until his heart grew tender.
Brownie loved the challenge, sparkling in all her splendor.

She knew he’d falter, she never worried.
The decades past, she never hurried.
And upon his birthday she gave a gift,
A little boy whose spirits could lift.

Brownie, said Richard, I think you’ve won.
I surrender to you, I’m ready for fun.