Category Archives: culture

Traditions

Image
winter-3006823_1920

Snowfall by cocoparisienne via Pixabay

December is the month that reminds me most of traditions. Traditions are the maps we create as individuals and as families to guide us through the days, months and years of a life together. They are signposts for those who are coming behind us to teach them the legacy and the stories of a family’s history. Traditions come in all forms. They can be food or the preparation of food or rituals or trips to special places. They can be secular or they can be religious. In fact between mid November to early January practically every world religion celebrates one ritual or another, making it a true holiday season. Traditions also remind us of our humanity and keeps memories alive.

When celebrating weddings, Christmas, birthdays or milestones, certain rules should apply! They are traditions after all. That word has always had a weight and a gravity, a suggestion that something momentous is about to come around and we don’t just pass it by. Traditions give life structure and we look forward to them eagerly each year.

One of the traditions of my large extended Italian family is making homemade ravioli to eat on Christmas Day. The eating itself brings us all together but for me the actual tradition happens weeks earlier when the women of the family get together to make the ravioli. There are mothers teaching daughters, sisters exchanging tips across the miles, cousins using the old recipes as we all strive to make the tradition our own. The preparation of the dough and the filling and the meticulous sealing of each little meat filled dumpling has a certain reverence to it and is often accompanied by several glasses of wine as the hours long process takes patience and energy. Yet on the day of feasting, the work and the love put into the effort is all worth it. And yes, wine must accompany that too.20171217_115048

So many families have special traditions. They recreate old family recipes for special cookies or treats, they decorate their homes or trees like they remember when they were young while adding something new for their own children. It’s the way of traditions. They strive to stay the same but they must grow and evolve with the people who are recreating them.  When I had my own children, it was time to create our own traditions. We made it tradition to open one gift on Christmas Eve and after we would get the plate of goodies ready for Santa and the reindeer. A favorite Christmas story was read with the warmth of two small bodies tucked up against me. Then as they slept, I kept the fantasy alive by leaving nibbled cookies and chewed carrots on Santa’s plate (with a thank you note from the jolly old elf himself), special writing on Santa’s gifts and full stockings by the chimney. It was as much a tradition for me as for them and Christmas morning was always magical and joyful.

Last spring an old southern tradition was recreated the morning of my son’s wedding. In the south, where the wedding took place, the women of the bride and groom’s families gather that morning to celebrate the bride’s wedding day. It was an amazingly beautiful and spiritual event. It was a time for us to welcome a new woman into our fold. I have been blessed with the women in my life: sisters, daughters, nieces, cousins, friends. My sisters and our daughters were there with me and we symbolically and truly brought my daughter in law to be into our family with lovely food and champagne and the blessings of the women who were already married and those who would be future brides. The women of my family had all come to stand for my son and to bear witness to this joyous union.

But Karma is a harsh mistress. This Christmas our son will be starting his own traditions with his new wife. Their first Christmas together, our first Christmas apart. I left my home when I was 22 and have only ever been back for Christmas one time since then. I think of my own mother now that I too will have an empty seat at the dinner table. It’s never easy letting go of your chicks but it is the right thing to do no matter how conflicted emotions might be.

And yet I feel at peace. I have to trust that things are as they are meant to be. This weekend my husband helped me make the ravioli we will eat for our Christmas dinner. Some traditions never change. We will have another mother’s child who is far from home, our daughter’s friend, stay with us and celebrate. We will honor traditions new and old and look forward to a new year of possibilities and challenges and indescribable joys. We will give thanks as we celebrate yet another tradition. And yes just maybe we will start a new tradition that is waiting for us in the wings. I will welcome that one too.

May your own traditions bring you and yours comfort and joy this season. Merry Christmas.  Aid Moubarak. Happy Hanukkah. Blessed Solstice. Happy Kwanzaa. Peace on Earth. Namaste.

fourth-advent-3001674_1920

Candlelight by Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay

Speechless

Image
silence-1460610-1280x960

Silence by Ket Quang via Freeimages

It is the bane of every writer to lose their words. Writer’s block is really a thing and it can be a very scary thing indeed. Being a fledgling writer myself, I am slowly trying to trust the process. But every time I publish a blog post, something that feels akin to giving birth, I feel purged and I panic that I won’t ever have another thing to write about. Writer’s resources suggest a myriad of ways to nudge the writing process. Use a prompt. Write something every day at the same time. Put ideas on paper without judging what is happening. All good advice to be sure but none of them fully assuage the fear that a coherent set sentences may never come to me again. In other words, I will be speechless.

It’s not as though words have flowed freely in every situation in my life. I was speechless both times I gave birth, first to my son and a few years later to my daughter and held them each for the first time. Words failed me when I witnessed my son marrying his long time sweetheart. My throat closed up when I was told of my cancer diagnosis. I was tongue tied when I shook Bruce Springsteen’s hand although I did manage a grin when we took a photo together. But when I had to be Momma Bear or step up to something I felt was unjust I have had no problem voicing my concerns.

As a parent, I felt that one of the greatest gifts I could give my children was permission to speak up and advocate for themselves. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when a common adult adage was that children should be seen and not heard. Early on I was given the impression that what I had to say was not as important as what I should be listening to and what I was listening to was that my voice had less power than others did. I don’t blame my parents because at my current age I can fully appreciate that they were doing the best with what they knew and with the information they were raised with. It was ultimately up to me to find my own voice and I confess I am still finding it. During their younger years I constantly advocated for my children because they had yet to find their voices. Even when they did I still felt it was my duty to speak for them until one day they both assured me they could speak for themselves. That day was bittersweet to be sure. I was happy they felt strong and confident to say and do what they had to do. But a large piece of my parenting duties had to be put to rest.

talk-1246941_1920

Speech Bubble by Prawny via Pixabay

When I consider the courage and power it takes to raise one’s voice, I must admit it is an interesting time in history right now. People are finding their voices about so many things that have been silenced for such a long time. Sexual assault. Racial profiling. Religious persecution. People of every age, gender and race are speaking out about things that happened to them yesterday or last year or last decade. The power of speaking out is overriding the fear of being shamed for the secret itself. Ironically, the thing that can render you speechless can also free you once you tell it. None of us could have ever imagined what has been kept quiet for so long. Each day the news brings more and more to light. A troubled young man with a criminal past obtains an assault weapon and enters a church with murderous intent. Speechless. A famous movie producer abuses countless women using his power to make or break their professional careers to get what he wants. Speechless. Politicians and religious leaders and movie stars prey on young girls and boys. There are no words.

I heard a woman speak at a recent empowerment event I attended. She said “a closed mouth does not get fed”. That statement was so profound I have not been able to forget it. Not only does it mean the obvious, that we cannot feed our bodies if we keep our mouths closed but that our spirits too suffer if we do not speak out on the things that hurt or demean us. I truly believe the best gift you can give a person is permission to speak their truth. Do words get corrupted? Yes. Are voices used for evil as well as good? No doubt about it. And yet the worst thing is the silence, the belief that one’s voice doesn’t matter or their story is worthless. They are rendered speechless.

Each day new stories are coming to light as men and women come forward to speak. It’s overwhelming, the scope and depth of the revelations. But it is also an enlightening and empowering time. Time to change the narrative. Time to change the balance of power where the demeaned and disenfranchised are allowed to speak and be heard.  Time to listen.

pissed-off-1859913_1920

Shout by macmao via Pixabay

 

Halloween

Image
Guardian of Paris_12x12edited-1

Guardian of Paris by Debbie Klosowski

I have a confession to make. I love Halloween. I have always loved Halloween and becoming an adult has not changed that love one iota. As soon as the season changes to autumn, the pumpkins come out. The orange lights grace my bushes, the funny and not so funny witch faces appear on walls and shelves, vampires and ghosts start to populate my front porch and my piano. I think up costumes for the year because yes I have to be in costume every Halloween. It just is.

When I was young, Halloween was about all of those things but also about the candy. We lived in a very small town in northern Canada in the 60’s and my younger brother and I would roam the town the entire evening stopping at every house holding out our pillowcases until they were so full we had to go home or we would never get the haul back to the house. The next hours (or days) were spent sorting out all of the candy we had gathered and rejoicing. We were good until Christmas! In later years I was delegated to taking my younger sisters out to trick or treat but that did not diminish the love I had for knocking on a door and having treats handed out to us. Or to admire all of the creative costumes people had come up with. There didn’t seem to be real monsters at that time. There was no fear of razor blades in apples or tainted candy. There just wasn’t.

As a young adult, Halloween was always party time. Costumes got more elaborate and fun to imagine. I spent one Halloween in a long red velvet dress, both it and my face covered in soot, convincing everyone I was Scarlett O’Hara after the burning of Atlanta. My southern accent seemed authentic enough but the joy of hiding behind a character was the real thrill. So it is with Halloween. It is the chance to become something other then we are and have fun with it. It’s also a time to scare ourselves with delicious thrills. People can dress or become the most fearful aspects of human nature and still be accepted. Creepy masks and ugly depictions of horror seem to thrill and excite everyone. Perhaps because on every other day of the year these things are taboo. In recent years my Halloween alter ego has been variations of a witch. Maybe I am embracing the crone stage of life but it is more likely that the wish to have some sort of control over events even for a day encourages this magical thinking.

IMG_4523_4X6Eedited-1

Waiting for Halloween by Debbie Klosowski

Although Halloween is the time to embrace such things, the truth is we all wear masks. We all have a secret self that we hide from the world. Most of the time that is how we negotiate ourselves through this human experience. It reminds me of the message of that iconic song by The Police “Spirits in the Material World”. We are all trying to navigate this messy, lovely existence the best way we can. But there is no doubt that monsters dwell among us wearing masks that sometimes slip to show their real nature. Mass murderers. Rapists. Predators. Arsonists. Racists. It’s as though something has been pulled back and ugly things are crawling out of the mud to come to light once again. The drawn curtain is revealing our scariest selves. The public masks have been peeled back to reveal the true face of darkness and it is not pretty.

As scary as this all is, perhaps we should recognize an opportunity when we see one.  Maybe it’s time to face the ugly side of human nature and try to heal these fissures. Perhaps we have been a bit complacent in the past years thinking that things like racism, sexism and discrimination of all sorts in the workplace, in our community and in our social group were eradicated or it was easier to look the other way or brush off bad behavior as normal when really they were just waiting for the right time to rear up again. Now is that time. Now is the time to really dig deep to decide what each of us believes to be good and true. But it will not be easy. It takes faith and conviction and a whole lot of courage. If we celebrate Halloween just to scare ourselves well we have much more work to fight the demons then just that one day. This year I don’t see the masks and the costumes disappearing on November 1st. It’s not just make believe anymore.

Fast forward 50 years from that small town in the 60’s and I am still trying to figure out what my Halloween costume will be this year. There seems to be such an array to chose from but in reality I know it will reflect some secret part of myself. Warrior Princess Leia from Star Wars? Anne Boleyn still trying to hold onto her head? Esmeralda dancing on the steps of Notre Dame? I have been all of those and more. It’s going to take some time to think about the face I want to show the world this October 31st. I can’t wait to see what comes out.

DSCN0195