Posts Tagged ‘holidays’

Cheer Up!

‘Tis the week of the holidays; we’re feeling blue

The weather is lousy; there’s too much to do

If you follow the news, there’s a lot of despair

What with famine and fighting and ongoing terror

Not so great close to home, with recession on end

And the bailout will cost what we don’t have to spend

Yeah, we’re biting our nails ’cause the Dow’s gone insane

And forget about traveling by car or by plane

But wait, we were hopeful not that long ago

Remember? November? Let’s get back that glow

Hey, Britney is back; cancer cases abate

The movies look good and the Giants look great

Corrupt politicians, inept CEOs?

Well, they’ve always existed; instead think of those

Who are guarding our cities or fighting our wars

Who are teaching our children or feeding the poor

And give thanks for such selflessness; it’s not so rare

It just claims less attention but we know it’s there

So pull it together and grab a libation

Light candles, wrap presents or make a donation

Go hug a kid, kiss your spouse, call your mother

The world may be dark but we do have each other


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Tipping Point

Enough with the politics. ‘Tis the season and all that. I’ve been intermittently watching morning shows while engaged in the difficult task of book rewrites and have all sorts of ideas about what to bring to a holiday party, what to wear, what to make, what to gift, where to find bargains and how to survive without gaining weight, losing your mind or forsaking family and friends. This year seems especially stressful, what with the economy so low, our hopes so high and our expectations veering from high to low and back again. Then again, unless you were once the recipient of lavish year-end bonuses punctuated by over-the-top holiday parties, this year is pretty much like last year only tighter.

People who in any way depend upon the services of others expect to tip and are expected to tip. That’s not supposed to change in challenging years.  Being hard up is relative. The “Social Q’s” etiquette columnist in the Times Sunday Styles section responded to a letter from an apartment dweller asking whether she could cut her tips by asking if her being “pretty broke” meant “only buying two chinchilla coats this season or…contemplating a tin of Meow Mix for dinner tonight?” In other words, we all have it rough, lady; tip the doorman.

Out here in the ‘burbs, we also have holiday tipping to attend to. To acknowledge the teacher who helped Sadie with her math or put up with little Johnny, that scamp, money is a no-no, of course. Instead, I’d try gifting baked goods or better yet, a small contribution in the teacher’s name to a favorite children’s charity. Or, given education budget cuts, buy classroom supplies which would otherwise come out of Teacher’s pocket.  Your cleaning lady, if you’re lucky enough to have one, will look for extra cash, which I suppose is thanks for simply doing her job. Since it’s a job you don’t want to, don’t have time to, or can’t do, she deserves it.  The postman also awaits your tip although I’m not clear why; isn’t he supposed to deliver the mail? My guy has yet to change the name inside my mailbox so I don’t get mail from the residents who lived here eighteen years ago. On the other hand, Willy and I went through the anthrax scare together and still joke about handling the mail while wearing gloves, so I feel a certain kinship. Ah, the things that bind us.

The woman who throws the paper more or less in the vicinity of my doorstep seems to expect money as well; I suppose I’d better if I want to avoid walking across the street in the pouring rain. While that’s another job I don’t want, the expectation of money simply for the execution of the job begins to feel a little oppressive. I have a new paper delivery person since last Christmas who actually might be the mother of the young man who began the year delivering the paper.  Come to think of it, her life can’t be too easy. Anyway, her resourcefulness impressed me; she included a stamped, self-addressed envelope along with her holiday card stuck in my paper.  

This year I received a new surprise: a blank envelope left at my front door with a holiday card that read: “Seasons Greetings from Tony, your recycler.” Our development hires a service to pick up the recyclables we put out every other week. Some truck comes along and dumps the containers, which we then go out and retrieve from the stoop. I don’t know who these guys are; I can’t even remember who they work for. For sure I don’t know what the tipping  etiquette is in this situation  – do I tape money to a plastic water bottle and leave it in the recycle bin? All I know is, if “Tony” is expecting something, I don’t want to disappoint him. But I wonder: what’s next? “Happy Holidays from Uncle Junior, your scrap metal specialist?” This is New Jersey, after all.

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Come ye now and let us dwell not upon angry disagreements about the meaning of Christmas; nor spend undue amounts of time thinking of the pain of traveling cross-country to see family we scarcely know (though we may spend undue amounts of time in the airports or on the roads). Let us turn our minds and hearts away from the desperate lengths to which we will go to find a perfect gift for a loved one nor the many for whom we forgot to shop and break free of the endless cycle of Christmas specials that clutter our televisions. Instead, let us acknowledge the spirit of kindness, charity and general benevolence as exemplified by a few lovely stories I happened to spot.

  • A rumpled Chistopher Lloyd-type professor has captured the attention of Internet denizens with his endearing and zany lectures on physics.
  • In drought-stricken Africa, a creative entrepreneur has introduced a merry-go-round attached to a water pump, storage unit and tap; when the kids jump on and spin, the water flows.
  • An American soldier deployed to Iraq adopted a young boy with cerebral palsy and, against all odds, brought him to the United States to live.
  • HRM, the Queen is on YouTube!

Best of all, we have a few days (probably only two, although one can always hope) in which we won’t hear from or see the candidates tramping through the ice or snow in Iowa and New Hampshire, trailed by hordes of pollsters, pundits and whatnot.  January promises to be all-primary all the time but for now we can be grateful for the respite. Pace.

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