• Visiting the Hat

    It’s the holiday season and everyone has their own traditions. Some people send cards. Some people bake. Some people give to donations to charity in lieu of gifts. I visit a hat.

    Helen Louise Carter “Grandma Lou” 1924-2003

    My grandmother, Grandma Lou, was a beautiful woman – on the inside and out. She had the most generous and loving spirit that lit up a room. She had a closet filled with beautiful clothes and she never left the house without “putting on her face.” As she aged, her hair started to thin. Not letting that stop her, she invested in various wigs, head wraps, and hats to wear on the days she didn’t have time or desire to meticulously curl and fluff her hair. She became so well known for her hats that at her funeral, her 17 grandchildren walked up the aisle, each wearing or carrying one of her hats, and placed them on her casket.

    Grandma Lou was a prolific sender of cards. Her calendar was filled with reminders about birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and special events. She never forgot to send a card. She was a frequent flyer at her stationary and gift store called Write Ons. She was there so much she became family to them, and was even invited to the staff’s holiday party. She adored them and they adored her.

    When I moved to Phoenix, Write Ons became my card store too. In the first year after Grandma Lou died, I would walk into Write Ons when I missed her and just burst into tears. The women there understood.

    Grandma Lou’s Hat – 2012

    In her hat collection, Grandma Lou had a Santa hat. Her rule was she couldn’t wear it under “double-digit December” meaning December 10th. When Grandma Lou died, we gave Write Ons her Santa hat. If you turn out the white trim, you can see traces of her make-up on the white faux fur. They placed the hat on an angel and added it to their Christmas display.  They start decorating the store for Christmas in November, but the angel and Grandma’s hat doesn’t come out until December 10th.

    I make a year trip to the store in December just to see Grandma’s hat. This year I happened to be there as they brought it out. The hat doesn’t smell like her anymore but the inside of the white trim is still stained with her foundation and powder.  I hugged the angel and carefully carried it through the store to its spot on top of the highest shelf. It’s comforting to know that the joy she added to the holidays is still with us.

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  • Rejecting Commercial Christmas

    They’re playing non-stop Christmas music on the radio which is the universal indicator that the crazy portion of the holiday season has begun. I generally love the holidays, but I can’t stand the commercialistic beast that it’s become.

    Dogs Fucking Hate Christmas by TheGiantVermin from Flickr

    I don’t get it when I see news stories about people getting into fist fights over the last must-have toy for their kids, or people who line up on Thanksgiving afternoon to be first through the doors for the Black Friday sales. I try to have all my holiday shopping done before Thanksgiving so I can relax through December. If I shop on Black Friday, it’s for myself and for things I need, not moronic gadgets and gizmos that are only in stores 2 months a year. I try to avoid the crazies and the stupids as much as possible.

    Speaking of gifts, I’m a huge fan of the gift list. I don’t shop for many people, but for those that I do, I like to get them things that they need or things they want and won’t buy for themselves. I prefer practical gifts, not stuff that’s going to end up on a shelf and collect dust. A lot of Christmas specials show that getting socks and underwear are the worst gifts a kid can get, but I’ve asked for underwear for Christmas before and I’ve given socks when they were requested.

    Thanksgiving is coming up this week. I love my family’s Thanksgiving in Phoenix. First thing in the morning, a group of us go on a pre-Thanksgiving hike up one of the less popular mountains in our area. It’s a great park, with a big parking lot, and it’s not overly crowded with people or infested with bees.

    In the afternoon, we gather at my aunt’s house. We prepare everything potluck style to keep one person from being overwhelmed. It’s very casual and relaxed. Nothing is forced and nothing is expected to be perfect – just good food and good company. We have a great mix of people with our extended family and a handful of Thanksgiving orphans. We try to keep things simple – and it works.

    I’m looking forward to a mellow holiday season this year filled with friends, family, and amazing music. (I heart Christmas music – the good stuff like Trans-Siberian Orchestra.) I foresee a lot of laughter and joy in the next weeks.

    If you happen to be one of the Christmas crazies, get away from me. I’m not buying into your program.

  • Oppose the Salvation Army’s Discrimination

    I generally enjoy Christmas. I like the decorations, seeing family and friends, and I absolutely love the music.

    One thing I don’t like about Christmas is the incessant sound of Salvation Army bells.

    The Salvation Army is a Christian organization that provides a variety of services for the poor and homeless. They are also against same-sex marriage and have a history of refusing services to same-sex couples. You can check out Dan Savage’s blog to read about the gay couple who was told they had to break up before the Salvation Army would help them. In one town, the Salvation Army provided the only shelter for families. They told a homeless family headed by a lesbian couple that the children and one partner could stay at the shelter but that the other partner had to stay out in the cold.

    I generally allow people to have their beliefs, but I can’t wrap my brain around homophobia. Why should anyone care who someone else loves? Why do they find it so threatening?

    I cringe every time I hear a Salvation Army’s bell.  To me they proclaim, “Gays are wrong.  Give us money to perpetuate discrimination. This business promotes homophobia by welcoming us onto their property.” I feel angry deep into the core of my being every time I hear it.

    This year, I decide to do something about this problem. Whenever I see a Salvation Army bell ringer, I take their picture and post it on Twitter with a message about where homophobia is being promoted that day.  I also will not spend any money at any business that has a bell ringer in front of it.

    I started asking the bell ringers if they were aware that the Salvation Army opposed same-sex marriage. None of them knew. One of the ringers told me that she personally supported same-sex marriage, and I informed her that by being a bell ringer, she was perpetuating homophobia. I hope it made her think.

    I do not oppose charity or charitable giving; however, people have an obligation to know where their money is going and to align their pocketbooks with their beliefs. Please find charities that do not discriminate against same-sex marriage or the LGBT community and give your money to them.