It takes a great deal of courage to see the world in all its tainted glory, and still love it.” – Oscar Wilde
Let’s be courageous together. For Paris.
This morning a news article popped up on my Facebook timeline about how people are upset about Starbuck’s 2015 Red Cup design. Like a total Internet dummy, I clicked on that link.
There I was confronted with my first “War on Christmas” faux outrage article of the year. And it’s only November 6th.
In a nutshell, some people are upset about Starbuck’s cup design because it is plain red, and does not feature any seasonal decor. Look, I hear you, to a point. The cup is kind of boring. I imagine this is how the graphic design meeting went down.
Red Cup Designer 1: Hey, I’ve got an idea! Let’s make the Red Cup red this year. Just red.
Red Cup Designer 2: We can’t do that! We can’t just have a plain red cup! You’re an idiot.
Red Cup Designer 1: Hmmm. You make a good point. Two shades of red?
Red Cup Designer 2: Brilliant. You’re a genius.
But to turn this into some kind of battle in the so-called War on Christmas because the cup is missing its usual (secular) holiday graphic snowman is just lunacy.
Every year when this debate rears its head, memories of my childhood float to the surface. I remember the greeting cards from relatives that said “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” and I also remember no one being offended by them in the least. But memory is a capricious historian, so I did a little digging.
Last month, the Wentzville Community Club held an event celebrating the town’s anniversary and it featured a plethora of memorabilia from clothing to washboards, from old toys to newspapers. The newspapers were my favorite part. I flipped through articles written in the 1950s and marveled over the commonalities to themes our town still faces today, like funding for the school district in a growing community. But things got really interesting when I stumbled upon the papers released near Christmas. Page after page of the paper featured paid advertising from companies all over town, many wishing newspaper patrons “Merry Christmas” and many others wishing “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” or “Holiday Cheer.”
Just look at those ads. Talk about a war on Christmas! It’s no wonder Kelley’s Beauty Shop is nowhere to be found in Wentzville these days. I’m sure that Kelley was run straight out of business after she featured that heathen child holding a stocking.
This one is the most confusing of all. First it says “Happy Holidays” but later it mentions Christmas, then it references the Pagan holiday Yule but there are angels decorating the tree which makes it unclear if that tree is a Christmas tree or a Yule tree and the babies are naked. How do we know if we are supposed to be offended or delighted?
The ads went on for pages. It was immediately clear to me why the streets were filled with angry mobs demanding an abolishment of the words “Happy Holidays” in the 1950s.
Oh, wait. No, no they weren’t.
It turns out that outside of one pamphlet released by a communist conspiracy group, most people in the 1950s were able to view these egregious advertisements and instead of feeling offense feel … joy?
They saw words of merriment where today we see words of political agenda. They gladly accepted their neighbor’s wishes of joy instead of ascribing malicious intent. In short, they behaved like rational grown-ups.
Every year, writer Rachel Held Evans posts this very useful graphic to help you determine whether or not you are being persecuted during the holiday season:
Because the truth is, there are very real examples of religious persecution happening in this world every single day.
Being handed a plain red cup at Starbucks is not one of them.
Here’s the bottom line. We can either accept one another’s holiday wishes in any form with gratitude, or we can dismiss them because they don’t meet our expectations of what should be said.
When we choose the former, we are reminded that for the most part, people mean well with their words and actions.
When we choose the latter, we must accept the fact that we are the only ones taking the Merry out of our own Christmas.
And if you still can’t move on, draw your own snowman on your Starbuck’s cup.
We’d been on the road for an hour. I’m not even sure it qualified as a road actually, it was more of a bumpy, dirt-trodden path, and with every twist and turn I felt the familiar lurch of motion sickness and silently wondered when we would stop. I held back my request to move to the front seat. I was here to learn, to volunteer. I was among the privileged and was embarrassed by my own trivial concerns. Surely I could stomach a little nausea. I looked back out the window like they always say to do.
“no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.” – Warsan Shire, continued here…
You only leave home when home won’t let you stay.
I thought of that little baby boy yesterday when I read the stories about Aylan. When I shared in the collective weeping over his image, and read his dad’s heartbreaking words. I wondered where he is now. I wonder if they too fled. I wonder if he and his mama made it. I wonder where it even is.
I watched the news pour in yesterday and I did what I always do when I am overcome by sadness. I looked for the helpers (and there are so many helpers) and then I took the small steps I could to become one. I made donations, I shared on my tiny platform, I followed up with the local refugee agency I’ll be volunteering with this year.
It never feels like enough.
It’s not enough.
The response to this crisis has to come from us all. We have to find the courage to turn our collective tears into collective action.
And sometimes, standing on this privileged soil, this soil I was simply lucky to be born on, that can feel impossible. While citizens of Iceland and Germany push back at their governments, offering up their homes to refugees if their leaders will allow more people to come, we listen to presidential candidates yell about who can build a bigger wall around our country and what type of weaponry will flank that wall. While others around the world attempt to use their collective force for good, we are on social media talking about Force Friday, using our collective wealth to purchase more toys we don’t need. We, a nation of immigrants and refugees, make the argument with each new generation that America is done growing now, that it’s time to close up shop. That it’s essentially time to remove the famous plaque from inside the Statue of Liberty. That this generation constitutes the real America. No more room at the inn.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I’ve said before that I don’t have a single political or militaristic solution to the crisis in Syria or the threat of ISIS. I still don’t.
But I’m going to keep talking about refugees and immigrants. I’m going to keep asking that you join me in this conversation. I’m going to keep asking that you take one small step today to help. Make a donation to one of the many organizations with people on the ground trying to bring food, resources, medical supplies and support to refugee camps. Call your representatives and ask them to raise the quota on Syrian refugees from 8,000 to something higher, something that makes a dent in the three million Syrian refugees that exist today. Contact your local agencies for immigrants and refugees and find out how you can help those already here.
I’ll include links at the bottom of this post.
Please join me.
Five Practical Ways to Help
The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR)
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International, or Doctors Without Borders
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)
About a month ago, I sat down in a university auditorium with several hundred thirty-something year old women including my own teenage bestie to listen to my favorite childhood author, Judy Blume, speak about her new novel and writing process.
I might as well have been a eleven-year-old girl at a One Direction concert.
I took surreptitious pictures from the audience, choked back tears as she spoke, refrained myself from jumping out of my seat when she answered the question I had submitted, and could barely contain the shaking in my hands as I waited in line to meet her afterward.
“Mama,” he repeats, over and over, as he presses his body closer to mine. He speaks my name like an inquiry, like he’s trying it out to see if it still fits.
I wonder if the days of “mama” are numbered, if soon I’ll become “mom” to my youngest just as I did to my oldest. I wonder if he senses this too.
I continue reading aloud, running my hand through his wavy hair, remembering the ringlets of his toddlerhood. He has an undercut now, and likes to style the top in a mohawk with blue hair gel. He says he wants a man bun.
This piece is published in its entirety at Mamalode. Please continue reading here …
Every year around this time a huge red and white tent is erected on the corner of the county highways that intersect near my house. Every year I think the same thing, “It’s awfully early for fireworks, isn’t it?” And every year, it dawns on me that it is already the middle of June, that it is in fact not too early for fireworks to be on sale, and that time is a capricious tease.
The icy cold shock of the deep end in June.
The way you get lost in the pages of a book.
“Ten times a day something happens to me like this – some strengthening throb of amazement – some good sweet empathic ping and swell. This is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.” – Mary Oliver
“It seems like we need more Safe Places than just a couple of gas stations.”
“Kids Have Surprising Results If Mom Works Outside the Home”
For the last few months, I’ve written a lot about the stuff that is leaving my home, why, and where it is going.
Over that same time period, I’ve noticed a trend occurring. Anytime one of my friends invites me over (okay, anytime I invite myself over to a friend’s house), they preface the invitation with an explanation of how messy their home is. I think some of you might be envisioning my recently de-cluttered space as a lot more pristine than it actually is, so today I want to clear the air about a couple of things.
1. My house gets messy too.
Seriously messy. Every single day. This house is lived in. We learn, play, eat, sleep and dream in this house, and that means that on any given day, we use a lot of stuff. It’s also not a big house, which means that we do all of those things in the same, multi-purpose area. In addition, we have a dog whose favorite pastime is taking our dirty clothes or smelly shoes and decorating our furniture and backyard with them. One of our children still insists that he likes his room better messy, and I’m not fighting that battle (except on Fridays…I fight it a little on Fridays). We also have a small obsession with our public library that leads to random piles of books on all surfaces of the house. Just last night, Jason was clearing our table after dinner when he looked over at me and declared, “We’re weird.”
“What do you mean, we’re weird?” I asked, taking the bait.
He proceeded to show me the assortment of items he was cleaning off of our table: several library books, a sign up sheet for a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament one of our boys created (complete with “official” member ID numbers), a jar of fake money, the latest iteration of a chore chart, three rocks absconded from a local creek bed, a postcard from a family in New Mexico that we don’t actually know, and a tiny banjo in a tiny banjo case. And we had eaten dinner at that table without paying a bit of attention to any of those items.
So friends, please don’t feel like you have to prepare me for the level of mess in your home. Even if my home were truly minimalist and perfectly swiffered (which it’s not), you still would not owe me any explanation or apology for your home. I love my friends for who they are, not how they keep house, or what they keep in their house.
Which brings me to the second thing I need to tell you.
2. We still have stuff. And a lot of it is… um… interesting.
Meet Grover Cleveland. Grover is our indoor garden gnome who recently became unemployed when he failed to manage his only task of keeping the succulents in our master bedroom alive. Grover has been lonely and a bit despondent since he lost his job, so we decided to find him a new hobby. Enter the tiny aforementioned tiny banjo. We realize we could have just purchased him a new indoor plant to care for, but frankly, we’re not sure Grover is up to the task.
Sure, we may use poor Grover as an excuse for our own inability to keep our houseplants alive, but the truth is, Grover’s unlikely presence in our master bedroom brings us joy. It’s illogical joy, but joy all the same, so he stays. I’ve said before that joy is subjective, and Grover Cleveland certainly illustrates that point. I’m sure there are plenty of you thinking that a garden gnome in a master bedroom is the first thing that you’d get rid of, and that’s okay. I’m not about to tell you what should bring you joy.
Grover is not the only thing that made the cut.
This, my friends, is a mantle fish. You put this fish on your mantle and it keeps evil spirits away. You probably want to know how you can get your hands on one of these. Lucky for me, my husband makes them, but in very limited editions. I know. Back off ladies, he’s taken.
There’s more. We kept all of our musical instruments, piles of art supplies, a whole lot of Legos, two shelves worth of board games, an assortment of costumes for dress-up play, more hats than one family needs and a broken lawn mower. We’ve still got some work to do, but for me, de-cluttering is not intended to be the end, but a means to an end. For me, that end looks like creating a space that amplifies the values and interests and purposes of the members of my family. At the end of the day, I’m not hoping to arrive at a truly minimal house without any possessions, but rather a house that is a place to grow and learn, to live and love, a house in which our possessions don’t possess us, a house that isn’t always clean, but when we do pick up the stuff, that stuff brings a smile to our face. A house where friends and family are welcome to just drop in, even if I didn’t sweep that day or put away the rock collection. A house in which a quiet little gnome like Grover Cleveland can be both a gardener and a renowned banjo player. In other words, a home.
So there you have it. My home still gets messy, and it still holds some truly random stuff. But moreover, I want you to know that I’m not comparing my home to yours. This de-cluttering journey is really just an outward expression of my own set of issues, which I pour out on the internet mostly for your entertainment. So friends, here’s my proposition: no more apologizing for our homes. I won’t apologize for Grover Cleveland or the bra you just sat on (thanks Hobbes) and you don’t apologize for the dishes or the dog hair. Instead, we’ll just pour a cup of coffee (or open a beer, your choice) and enjoy each other’s company, which is really what matters most.