These Things are Certain

I waited for the last minute to do my taxes and as I headed into to the tax office I was reminded of the saying, "The only things certain in life are death and taxes." But what happen when those things collide together?

As luck would have it, my tax agent was a acquaintance. We discussed small talk and she relayed to me how she has been doing taxes for over twenty years. She loved her job and didn't mind the extra hours that came with tax season. In some ways if felt more like home at times then her real home. Around her office she had plenty of personal items that gave it a lived in and comfortable feel. Pictures surrounding the desk, plants aplenty with favorite coffee mugs and comfortable chairs.

The only setback, she relayed, was that over the years some of her clients had been slowly passing away. Sure, there were always new clients to take their place, but it always left a gap with the passing of a client you have had for decades. Many times members of the family would come in bearing the news. Wives or children of the deceased would appear, express their gratitude for her services and inform her of how the deceased enjoyed coming in. They would all sit, hug, cry for a bit and soon off they would go perhaps never to be seen again.

As I listened to her sharing, I felt strangely surprised. I was pretty sure no one was going to come and do the same for me when I passed into the great beyond. Who knew the tax office could be such a place for human compassion and connection. I had worked in a coffee shop for years and part of our job there was to connect with others. Over the years, thankfully, we only had to deal with the passing of one our customers. It was a pretty bummed out day for all of us and word got around quickly and we reached out to console the customers family.

They mentioned how much our customer Bernie loved coming in for his drink and how it was the highlight of the day for him. The connection we built with him over the years left a lasting impression on the family and they said they were gracious for our concern and support. We kept a note about Bernie on our board for a month and everyday it was impossible not to walk by and see it and remember that he would never be coming in for his drink again.

It reminded me of a couple of local bars I had been to in the last year. One of the bars had a plaque installed on the counter right above the first stool when you walk into to order a drink. On the plaque it mentioned the customer who was an elderly gentlemen who had been a regular customer for over thirty years. Apparently the regular lived directly next door and would stop by everyday for a beer and connect and make an impression on all of those he talked to.

All connections and all in unlikely places. But I suppose that is being slightly unfair. As we live our lives and go throughout our day we run into people. People we know, people we don't, people we want to know and people we try to avoid. But no matter how you slice it, whatever you do in a day, the majority of us are going to run into other people at some point. There is going to be a connection, it could be in the bank, the grocery store, the tax office, the DMV, the disco and even the people we virtually we run into during our daily lives online.

What we do with those interactions are up to us. I am sure there are plenty of tax offices that are impersonal and efficient and probably would never hear if one of their clients passed. And yet when I think of my friend story, it makes me want to connect more. I think sometimes we hide behind titles, jobs, buildings and our wall of busyness.

So I guess there are three things certain in life: Taxes, death, and our interactions with others. Only one of those can be altered by our conscious decision and attitude. Choose wisely.

Revenge of the Righteous?

"...before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

Lately I have been obsessed with the show Revenge. The premise is simple enough, one daughter, all grown up, must face her past by getting revenge on the uber rich people who destroyed and killed her innocent father. The show is over the top with lots of dramatic pauses and stern looks and people with too much money that they don't even know what to do with it. It's a guilty pleasure but I think it hits home for a lot of people, the idea of having the ability of getting the perfect revenge on those who have wronged us in our lives.

At the end of last year I truly have to say revenge was something that was close to my heart and something I spent a fair amount of time thinking about. Last year was a rough year for me personally and within a matter on months I lost two of the people closest to me throughout my life: my only brother and my grandmother (who was more of a best friend for me during the past two years and taught me so much).

They say death can bring out the best or the worst in people as they cope and deal with loss. Unfortunately for me I saw more of the latter. Even on a good day, my extended family (myself included) has always had a penchant for chaos, disorder, disagreement and overall carelessness for one another. Mix that with strong emotions and loss of loved ones, and you have yourself a mine full of powder kegs waiting to explode!

Needless to say it got ugly at times and within me built a seed of discord. I watered that seed and I watched how everyone handled themselves during our times of duress. My grandmother was a keeper of truth with no time for fools and I tried to carry that torch for her. When I heard a lie, I was quick to point it out. When I saw someone acting shady, I was sure to let everyone know. When people asked, I was quick to air my opinions. I tried my best to use truth (my truth at least) as a sword and if you came close enough I wouldn't hesitate once to cut deep and expose any and all weaknesses I could find.

Did I feel good about it? Yes. Did it make me popular and well liked? I am going to say no. Did I cause irreversible damage that can't be undone? Probably. Would I do it again. Absolutely. Revenge is a tricky subject and for those outside looking in, it can seem like a fun-house of mirrors only understood by those deeply immersed in it.

Just the other day, a friend was telling me about a caretaker job she took caring for the elderly. One of her patients was an 80 year old gentlemen in need of some changing. As she was changing out his bottoms she noticed something peculiar. The gentleman was smooth as a Ken doll downstairs. She was taken aback but insistent on remaining professional and did not want the gentleman to feel uncomfortable. As she was putting his pants back on he smiled and began in a raspy voice...

"It's gone," he said not showing a hint of embarrassment," It's all gone. I had a wife once, a very jealous women. She was convinced I was having an affair. Time and time again I swore my faithfulness to her but she never believed it. She would have these jealous fits and I tried to console her and convince her of my love but she never would have any of it. One night, during one of her jealous rages, she drugged me and put me in a deep sleep. During the night she took me across the border and paid two doctors, $5000 each, to take away my manhood and teach me a lesson about my supposed infidelity. When I woke up in the morning, it was gone. It was all gone. In the light of the morning she realized what she had done and how wrong she was. She determined that I was in fact not having an affair, but it was too late, the damage was done. I was beyond furious and as you can imagine and I could not let it be so. So I hired men of my own and they tracked down each of those doctors. They were tied to a tree and eaten alive by ants!"

At this point my friend smiled uneasily and backed slowly out of the room. Was it a true story? What happened to the wife? Did anybody ever get caught? Was he making it up? How did he get ants to eat people? Who really knows..although to be honest, I feel like this sort of things happens a lot more often than we know. Tales of passion, betrayal, and ultimately revenge.

Now that I look back at last year and my vengeful crusade with my sword of truth, I sort of feel better about myself. Did I really cause all that much damage with my sword of truth? Did I wreak upon others the vengeance of archangel Micahael? When I think about it, maybe it wasn't so much a sword really as just a little dagger. In the future, I will probably still have the tendency to expose the truth (my truth) when I feel like it needs to be heard. I probably won't develop a tolerance for listening to people trying to convince me of their alleged altruistic but actually shady ways. In the end I know I am going to end up pissing people off and making them uncomfortable when I probably should keep my mouth shut in good taste. But I can honestly sleep on the fact that I have never tied anyone to a tree. And that's worth noting



Socorro Q Renteria July 31, 1926 -Dec 5, 2012

You brought so much joy to so many by your smile and your spirit. You loved to sing, talk to animals, dance and make other people laugh. You always tried to give and never placed a value on material things. Nobody was immune to your charm. You were strong, stubborn, and yet always loving. You never let the heartaches, tragedies, and struggles of the world diminish your light. It was impossible to tell you what to do and even more impossible not to love you. Your life lives on in the hearts of those that love you. SERVICES Tues Dec 11th Funeraria del Angel (7 E University) Viewing (10am) Services (11am) Burial @ Holy Hope Cemetery (1230)


Eulogy for my Nana

Two months ago nana and I were riding home in the car and my heart was heavy with worry and sadness. The doctor had just told us that everything would not be alright for my nana and the end may be looming near. We drove home in silence and I struggled to come to grips about what a world without my nana would look like. Engrossed in sadness I looked over to nana in the passenger side. I immediately noticed her frantic hand motions as she raised her fingers to her mouth. Nana was urgently trying to lower the widow on the passenger side so that she could whistle at a nearby shirtless jogger!

"Nana!" I said shaking my head and laughing, " I think only one of us is taking this seriously!"

The truth was, my nana always tried to see the best out of every situation in life. The first time my nana fought cancer she said she was afraid, but by the second and third time my nana confessed that she trusted the Lords timing and was at peace with the plan he had for her life. No man can keep you from God and no man can send you to God before your time was ready.

My nana always had a lot of faith in God and reached out to churches wherever she was at. She always kept illustrated bibles at her house that she would read to us from. She encouraged us to allow God to be a part of our lives. My nana also kept scandalouso VC Andrews books in the house that including Flowers in the Attic but I guess that's besides the point.

And while my nana always nurtured a walk with God in all if us, my nana never confused religion with relationships with God. As the story goes my nana found God whoever she was at. If she was nearest a baptist church then under the water a 'babtising she would go, if she was attending a Catholic Church then she would repeat the rosary three times. If the charismatic church came a calling then nana would speak in tongues and roll around on the floor praising God and waving her hands. The church wasn't just a building but it was about the people.

The important part for my nana was reaching out to others and getting involved. She was a passionate person and sitting on the sidelines of life was never an option. I will never forget as we sat down nana once told me a story of a man who's wife left him alone with eight children to care for in Mexico. Nana was collecting items to take to the children to help relieve the man of his heavy burden. She looked at me and said very seriously and slowly, " In this life money goes...". I understood what she was trying to tell me. Money was such a temporary thing and if I wanted happiness in this life I shouldn't place it on the temporary joys of material things. True life was about investing in people not collecting paper sheets. Two weeks later I understood nana's words about money going away when i got in a car accident and my money sure went alright.

That story was key for me. As I looked around nana's house I realized she kept boxes and boxes of what appeared to be useless objects. It was a life long habit my nana had of collecting things. It always made me laugh looking at her mountain of boxes. As kids we used the clothes as dress up and played with all the objects inside as toys. It wasn't until that moment and that story that it finally clicked for me. They weren't always the same boxes. All the items in the boxes were constantly changing. Like clockwork my nana made trips to Mexico every 3-6 months where she would take her latest collection of clothes, toys, and household objects to give to those in need. My nana would hitchhike, take a bus, ask a neighbor for a lift...whatever nana had to do to ensure those boxes got delivered. Then she would return and start collecting all over again. It was a lifelong commitment for my nana -- to provide to those who did not have much.

In the later years of my Nana's life she began to get sick from traveling the long distance between here and Mexico. Every time she came back from Mexico she would spend a week in bed laid up. Fever, coughing, exhaustion. But still she persisted. Finally one day this year she realized her body was giving out and the trips were taking too much out of her. She looked at me and said "No more, I will begin to get rid of the boxes." True to her word she stopped going down to Mexico and her unofficial shipping business came to an end. Although let's be honest she kept collecting random stuff in boxes until the very end. She could never get out of the habit even though all of my Tios and Tia's have tried! It was like an episode of hoarders!

My nana was never an angel in this life. Which is one of the things I loved about her. She was passionate, headstrong, stubborn and could be brutally honest. When a neighborhood kid asked her what nana thought about her new Dora backpack my nana replied, "The backpack is beautiful but what are you going to do about your hair. It looks like you are running around like wild jungle animal. You shouldn't be running around with hair like that. Tell your mom I said to fix it. But I like your backpack." Needless to say the young girl walked away confused clutching her Dora backpack.

Once when I was very young, my brother and I were playing outside and my nana made us promise that we would be back before sundown. But we were having a good time with our friends so of course we didn't show up back home until extremely late way past sundown. Nana was very upset and openly chastised us that the devil was going to punish us for being bad kids. As we lay in bed that night my brother and I began to see shadows on the wall from eerie trees that looked like the hand of Satan reaching out right to get us. Screaming and yelling we ran to nana's room. "Nana! The devil is outside he is trying to get us!" we shouted. Nana lifted her head and pointed to get out of the room. "We'll that's what you bad kids get. If the devil doesn't take you then maybe I will see you in the morning!" And with that she shooed us out of the door. As my brother and I lay huddled in the center of the bed crying we vowed to never disobey nana again.

There is so much more I wish I had time to share about my nana because I loved her deeply. She was silly and fun and always looked for ways to make people laugh. She didn't mind acting like a clown as long as everyone had a good chuckle. Coming home from a party I once asked nana if she had a nice time. "I had a very good time," she said " I was able to make lots of people laugh and that makes me happy...and I didn't even have to use any cuss words!!!" She said.

I want to leave you with one final story. A story about the sustenance of God who always provided for my nana. She never had a million dollars but she always had what she needed. This story takes place during a hike in mexico. Nana had taken my brother and I for a hike with each of us only carrying our water canteens. As the sun rose it began to get hotter but onward we went up to the top of the moutain. Soon we reached it's peak and we were exhausted and hungry. "Nana!" we shouted " We are hungry and we have nothing to eat!" Our dusted covered faces were frowning in frustration. Nana looked around carefully surveying the area. "Do you guys want oranges? " Nana asked in a sweet voice. "Nana!" we both shouted, not wanting to play games, " You didn't bring any oranges!" We pouted and crossed our arms not happy with our situation. Then like magic... Nana reached on one side of her bra and and pulls out an orange. Then she reaches in at the other side of her bra and pulls out a other orange. Un milagro! A miracle! Some say my nana never had much in the life but she always had a house filed with love.


Oh Brother, technology!

"The internet made my husband cheat on me so I need to join a gym and make him close his Facebook account!" she said in a serious tone.

These are true words spoken to a friend of mine. It appeared that the evils of the internet had interfered with her marriage and sent her world crumbling down.The internet had struck again. It was all the fault of modern technology. Or was it? Personally I find it hard to believe that the internet alone can be blamed for every affair or evil. Is the internet a monster? Or does it reveal the monsters that already lurk?

I have had my fair share of internet incidents to swear it off for good but as luck would have it technology made miracles happen this week for me. From the depths of my keyboards through all of the servers and across different wireless routers and finally back to my screen I was able to accomplish something I haven't yet been to able to do.

I found my long lost brother who I haven't spoken to in twelve years.

While I had tried to use conventional routes to find him, none of them worked. It wasn't until I checked again on Facebook that I found him. All those years of asking around and Mark Zuckerberg had tracked him down for me. A recently opened account finally would bridge those twelve years together. Without delay I reached out with the long arm of technology.

"Hi brother!" I posted on his wall.

I paused waiting for a response knowing it had to travel 120 miles to get to him.

"Hey Brother." he stated, ending a decade long silence between us.

Just like that technology made a miracle happen. And I know I'm not the only one who technology reached this week with miracles of wonder. I read a story earlier this week about a man who had been kidnapped as a baby and was well into his 30's befpre he discovered his own likeness on a site for missing children. After several phone calls authorities were able to look into his background and discovered he was taken as 5-month old baby. His father, who had never stopped looking for him, was thunderstruck and amazed.

The power of technology bringing people together. Maybe we shouldn't be so afraid of it after all. Study after study and large blazing newspaper headlines continually try to convince us that the all of our gadgets only make us more isolated and distant from each other. Maybe the next technological horizon will bring us closer in contact than mankind has ever been before.

I was so excited and triumphant about finding my long lost brother that I began to tell a friend who walked into the room.

"I finally found my brother!" I said as I noticed my friend pull out something from his pocket.

"Oh really?" he said eyes down while I began to share the details.

"I haven't seen him in twelve years! It's just so crazy! I can't believe I was finally was able to track him down! Can you believe it! All because of the wonders of technology! What a crazy world right!" I said smiling eyes wide and looking for his equally excited response.

"Huh?" he said ,"That's nice"

I stayed silent and just stared for a sec.

"Oh what where you saying?" he asked noticing my silence ," I wasn't really listening I was trying to get my blasted phone to work."

#$%@^&% technology!

Cat Scratch Reader

I once read an entire article on parking lots. Five pages to be exact. I would have never thought one could write five pages about a parking lot but the New York Times managed to pull it off. One of my goals this year is to find out what's going on in the world -- even if it's about parking lots.

Some stories even originate in parking lots. At least that's what I found out this week at the coffee shop. We have a group of security guards who come in at various times of the day, I have never figured out quite how many of them there are. My guess is at least a dozen but the number is probably higher than that.

We often make small talk and over the years I would think we would have exhausted every topic possible. That is until today we talked about cats.

"Can I have some cold water with ice for the cats?" ask the security guard with a smile.

"Cats?" I ask confused, "What cats?"

"The cats who live here of course! I thought everbody knew about the cats!" he said cheerily grasping the cup of water.

As it turns out a a litter of cats was found years ago near the parking lot of the mall. Some of the cats died and the mom pulled one away never to be seen again. She slinked away in the shadows, kitten in mouth.

In a strange turn of events the Humane Society had recently moved into the mall after the economy crashed and left an abnormal amount of empty store fronts in the mall. They took in the remaining kittens and found them a home.

It seemed as if the case of the cats had been resolved as quickly and quietly as it had begun.

But of course, the cat came back just not the very next day. It was several months later. The last time they saw this kitten it was being carried away...but now it had returned with no mother to be seen. It hung around a couple of days and they gave it some water. Despite the vastness of the shopping center it never strayed very far and started hunting for food around the lot. It wasn't long before they dubbed the cat 'Trouble' and the name stuck.

Trouble became useful in catching vermin and so he quickly gained the admiration of the officers. The security guards made a home for him, provided food and water, and each took turns watching out for the cat. He quickly became an honorary member of the security squad and the Humane Society agreed to neuter him for free.

Soon another cat showed up scrawny and in need of a home. He became companions with Trouble. No one could settle on a name for this new found cat so everyone just gave him a different nickname. It could be Roy one day or Charlie the next. Every one still knew who they were talking about and it wasn't long before Roy/Charlie/Tom got the old snip snip action himself.

Now there were two cats living in a mall when for all intents and purposes there should be none.

"Once they go," stated the security officer in a solemnly voice , "That will be the end of it. No more cats for us."

He seemed to mean it although I couldn't be so sure. The pair of felines seemed to be a big morale boost for the security team and I guess they were also a hit with some of the ladies at the nearby department stores. They would come in on lunch breaks to visit and have those cats brighten their day.

"Did you know about the cats?" I ask turning to the barista next to me.

"Of course," she said, "Everyone knows about the cats!"

And so they did. It felt kind of strange to realize that all this time there were cats living in corridors so close that I knew nothing about. Two little kittens found a big home. I was spending all of my time looking for unique stories about parking lots in foreign places that I forgot. Sometimes the only parking lot you need to look at is your own.


Cinco de Psycho

Passion is the spice of life. Or you should be passionate about life and you should enjoy spices: at least that’s my take on it and a quite literally one at that. Lately I have found myself in love with my blender. Mostly because it’s a gateway to lots of great dishes that usually involve spices. In the past couple of months I find myself making a new type of salsa every week, different flavored hummus’, and soups made from pureed vegetables. As this year’s summer project, I have decided to make a different aqua fresca every week. Unfortunately, my blender couldn’t keep up with all the excitement of my creations and has slowly been giving up the ghost . It officially died Thursday April 29 2011, ruining my summer prospect of newfound creations.

I shake my fist at my fallen blender and formulate a game plan. I need a new blender. I go online (Thanks Be to the Internet) and start comparing prices and reviews. I find a KitchenAid blender with amazing reviews. It dices, it chops, it purees, it does the dishes, it holds and consoles you at night. I check the price and while not completely outrageous, it still seems more than I usually would be willing to pay for a blending machine. In this economy a man needs to make choices. Against my better judgment I convince myself that this is a smart purchase and hit the buy now button.

I wince at the screen while it processes and it prints up a neat invoice. My blender should arrive in a week: which clearly falls on Cinco de Mayo. Suddenly it’s a fiesta in my own mind. Who cares about the Ides of March when you have a blender coming in on Cinco de Mayo. I start to brainstorm immediately on what I can make when it comes in. I spend the next five days planning on what I am going to make with the new amazing device. On the third of the Mayo, I find some great deals and decide to purchase some ingredients (on sale!) for a soup I have been wanting to try. On the fourth of Mayo (aka Cinco de Mayo eve), I decide I should purchase some salsa ingredients to keep in the spirit of the holiday.

When I get home, I prep the kitchen for the soon-to-be arrived blender. I neatly organize the ingredients for quick use: first, fire roasted tomatoes, followed by red onion which goes with garlic, trailed by jalapeƱos and green onions, and spices aplenty set up neatly on the counter. In my mind I figure I have my ingredients set up so that I could make up a batch of salsa in less than seven minutes. (If of course the blender reviews are as accurate I am counting on them to be.)

Cinch de Mayo arrives and I as luck would have I am working before the sun comes up. All day long I have visions of jalapeƱos dancing in my head. I get home around one and am disappointed to find nothing at the door. I send Paul a text. Occasionally our packages get delivered to Paul’s work because it’s only half a block from our place. Paul texts back and assures that it hasn’t arrived and perhaps I should contact our office.

Good advice, I completely forgot that the office at our condo center frequently signs for packages and holds them for residents. I call and immediately get the ‘we are busy’ message machine. I hang up and dial again ,twice, until I reach a person.

“Excuse me,” I say trying to sound nonchalant, “ I am expecting a package today, by any chance did you receive anything for my place?”

I hear the manager moving to the background and unlocking the giant cabinet where they keep packages. She rummages through and asks for my name twice. No packages and there actually hasn’t been a delivery yet for the day. I thank her kindly and hang up the phone. I am exhausted . I decide to shut my eyes for a moment and wake with a start an hour later.

No knock at the door. No blender.

I accept that this Cinco might not be a fiesta after all. Angrily… poutingly, I arise and start to chop vegetables by hand. I don’t want any ingredients to spoil, and I figure if I can’t make salsa, then I will just make pico de gallo instead. Which just means here’s my chopped up vegetables because I sure as hell couldn’t have blended them without a blender. Paul gets home and we are quick out the door. It’s haircut time. On the way there, I realize that I left the pico de Gallo out on the counter. I drop Paul off and go home to refrigerate the Pico and return before my haircut.

On my way back home, I speculate the postman probably left me a notice in the mail box if he arrived while we were out. I pull in next to the mailbox and check. No post card. I get home, put the Pico in the fridge and cross the busy intersection. While I making a turn I realize the UPS guy is at an apartment complex across the street. Without realizing it, I find myself pulling into a parking spot directly behind the UPS truck. I hesitate and watch the UPS guy gather packages before walking into complex which is surround by high bushes. I figure it is better to let him work before I interrupt him so I watch while he disappears behind the iron gates.

When he comes out, he finds me leaning against the bumper, arms crossed, anticipating his arrival but still trying to maintain a certain level of cool. He looks at me quizzical and ask if I need I anything.

“Do you have my blender?” I ask.

He looks confused and I follow up with a mumbling rant “ Oh, I ordered a blender, it should come in today, I am going to make salsa.”

I don’t know if he follows me a hundred percent, so I ask him if he has delivered across the street yet. He says that he hasn’t but ask for my name so he can check his delivery invoice. I walk with him to the side of his truck and he says he is going to check. I stand in the open door of his truck. One side of the truck is empty and the other is piled high with packages. I spend the next ten minutes watching him slide the boxes from the full side to the empty side until finally the contents of the truck are completely reversed.

“Are you sure it arrives today?” he calls from the inside of the truck moving back towards the open door.

“I think so,” I shout trying to recall the email I received, “It said it would arrive 5-9 business days and today’s the 5th business day.” I hear his feet stamping as he gets closer to the driver side.

“It’s not coming today kid.” he says giving me a look and puts his keys back in the ignition.

“Oh, well if comes tomorrow, I’m working most of the day, so if it arrives I probably won’t be home, but then you could probably drop it off at….” I trail off because I can tell he is not really listening anymore. I step away from the truck while he fires up the engine. As he pulls away I start to realize that perhaps there is a fine (or fairly thick ) line between being passionate and being psychotic.

And once again I have found the way cross it.

UPDATE: The blender did arrive on Seis de Mayo!




Sometimes I think I am luckier than I can have imagined being. Today is reminder of all things I have gone through this last year. It felt like one long hospital visit after another for the most mundane of injuries. I thought it was the cloak of old age pulling over me, but instead I found it was a fresh garment of compassion for others.

I think I only half listened to others before, when they described their ailments, worries or concerns. I nodded and listened and examined their stance. Since they were standing upright I assumed they were fine. I knew what I needed to know about their condition. Upright meant alright.

This past year though, my ears opened a little wider. I learned to ask more questions. I learned to ask about numbers and tests and braces and casts. I learned about people learning to walk again. I learned about mothers guiding their blind children straight into trees.

I heard about hearts that stopped beating to start up again. I heard about hair falling out and being replaced with kindness in it’s stead. I learned about struggles that people carry with them wherever they go. I learned that pain and fear is inherent in every path of life.

I also saw kindness that was previously unseen. I saw flowers plucked from gardens given as gifts. Cards with jokes inside them with an intent to lift. I saw young people and rough people, with their arms around the old. I didn’t realize that there are already so many people in tune, knowing full well the end comes for all of us soon.

The hardest of things to see was those gifts that were left behind. The material things we give to others thinking they will have it for all time. The gifts stand but the person is long gone and we have to really think about what exactly we were giving.

The gifts stand alone as reminders of times spent and laughter shared. The gifts stand empty when a person is gone and you wish you had fillled a house full of gifts for them when they were alive to let them know where they stood.

If I could translate those gifts into more time spent with those loved ones I would, like so many of us would.

Instead I will translate them into lessons. Here is where the new year begins. It doesn’t need to bring health as long as it brings in kindness. And lessons lived from loved ones lost.


The Nightmare

As hard as it is to keep real life at bay, it still manages to creep up during those midnight hours.

Lately I have been obsessed with finding a new pair of shoes. It usually isn't such a production, I just pick something that I like and get it. Although after a month of searching, I still haven't found that one pair. Internally, I know what the real problem is. I am still in love with my old shoes. I know they need to be replaced...but where am I going to find new sleek black hi tops with velcro?

It comes as no surprise to me then that I find myself in the middle of a mall searching for new shoes. The great thing about a dream store is that the selection is a lot larger than most real places. I browse through the shoes trying to find the pair that I can't find in my waking hours. I find myself resting at a white table with four pairs of shoes.

I can see in my peripheral an attendant awaiting my decision. I pick up a pair of slim hi tops. They are brightly colored with handwritten designs that mimic graffiti. They are a bold golden color with black designs. I see the attendant watching me while I inspect the shoes. I check the price. (Pretty responsible for me, even in a dream!)

They are reasonably priced but I have a nagging feeling that something is wrong. The attendant frowns and casually walks over to me.

"Those shoes are bit young for you." she says with conviction. I shrug my shoulders and put the shoes down knowing she is absolutely correct.

I awake with a start. Why can't I just dream about zombies and aliens like normal people. At least those you can shoot with guns or drop with a high kick!


Christmas Carol Crusade

There is something about working in the retail, restaurant, or service industry that really sucks that Christmas spirit right out of you. While everyone is out shopping and sipping on lattes, you are stuck hustling making the Christmas joy happen for others. Usually by the time I have slowed down enough to remember it’s holiday time, it is already January 15th. No Christmas lights, no pine tree, no stockings hanging with care.

This year I decided to be proactive. I wanted to take the Christmas spirit, crush it in one hand and sprinkle its remains all over my face. No sitting on the sidelines this holiday. So I unpacked every Christmas CD I could find and downloaded them to my computer and made some mega Christmas plays lists. Being in the generous Christmas spirit, I wanted to share some of the highlights. Feel free to add and share some of your favorites that I might have missed. Don’t forget to check out the Noteworthy Christmas Song List at the end. Some unique and special songs are to be had. Enjoy!

Special thanks to Paul who finds a vast majority of the music that I just add to my Ipod in seconds (although it takes him hours to find).


Matt Belsante (White Christmas) - a 2007 release but it’s new to me. A must have. Christmas never sounded so suave, hip or sexy. With jazz backgrounds and a smooth voice, I just can’t help but picture baby Jesus in the manger with sunglasses. Quit reading and download now.

Sting (If on a Winter’s Night) - Technically this isn’t a traditional ‘Christmas CD’, it is a ‘Winter CD’. It is suppose to evoke all of the winter emotions and moments of the season. Maybe I am just not British enough but this CD just confused me and I felt like elves or dwarves might appear at any moment. More like cold porridge than holiday spirit. Skip this one.

Sarah McLachlan (Wintersong) - The is something beautiful and haunting about this CD. It makes a great background CD and you can almost hear snow falling while Sarah is singing. There is a stream of melancholy in the CD and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who is suicidal, knows someone who is suicidal, or has a neighbor who knows someone who is suicidal. Definitely add to your collection. (Unless , see above)

David Archuleta (Christmas from the Heart) - Don’t judge! I have always enjoyed David’s voice and I was excited to hear it alongside Christmas favorites. The CD is great…but it plays it very safe. Not a lot of surprises here, which I was disappointed in, but there are few noteworthy songs including one in Spanish. Check out Pat-a-pan or Riu Riu Chiu.

Michael Buble (Let it Snow!) - My biggest complaint about this CD? It just isn’t long enough! There are six tracks on the CD (technically only five, because one is a live version). Every song is fantastic but it really leaves you wanting more. It is a great buy if you can find it under seven dollars but I wouldn’t recommend it after ten.

Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilara Christmas - If you like your Christmas with a side of Diva…both of these staples are great. I am particularly impressed with Christina having so many original Christmas songs that actually sound great. I have never heard so many rifts about the birth of Christ before.

Josh Groban (Noel) - I have not taken the time to listen to this CD although I have had so many people recommend it and insist it is Christmas incarnate. Personally Josh Groban and his lovely locks have always frightened me. When the riders of the Apocalypse come to reclaim the earth, I am convinced that Josh Groban will be leading the pack with a hairbrush in one hand and a spear in another.



1. 2,000 miles by Coldplay (love this version)
2. Christmas Tree by Lady Gaga (what can’t she do right now?)
3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Matt Belsante (I have never heard it like this!)
4. All I want for Christmas Is Us by Jason Mraz and Tristan Prettyman (Wow! Good luck finding it)
5. Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto by James Brown (If you are feeling braver…try Snoop Dogs version)
6. Maybe Next Year by Meiko ( I can relate)
7. Last Christmas by Cascada (For those who love dance)
8. Black Christmas by Harlem Children’s Chorus (releases end of this month)
9. What Christmas Means to Me by Stevie Wonder (instant cheer!)
10. I won’t be home for Christmas by Blink 182 (anti-Christmas sentiment)
11. O come, O come Emmanuel by Enya (feels out of this world)
12. Angels We Have Heard on High by Reliant K (quickest version I have heard! Great!)

Feel Free to let me know if I missed anything or you want to add a song to the list!