Monthly Archives: November 2011

Save Thanksgiving: Part 2

Last week, I shared with you a little bit about why I love the Thanksgiving holiday, and why and how it’s become an American “endangered” holiday, sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas.  This week, let me give you a few practical tips to make sure Thanksgiving stays a treasured family tradition in upcoming generations!

Thanksgiving is the kickoff of Christmas…

Yep.  In the past I’ve been known for my resistance to marriage of Thanksgiving to Christmas, and many of my friends have rolled their eyes at me.  I know they are going to read this and dog me about it till New Years.  I hate my friends.

You see, in the foolhardy days of my youth, I imagined picketing large retailers that open their doors on Thanksgiving Day.  I hoped to help empower public outcry that would echo in large media outlets and spark a movement to save Thanksgiving.  I imagined something akin to a green movement, where happy Thanksgiving turkeys would become as trendy and prevalent as reusable shopping bags.

Nowadays, I’m getting too old and too tired to go around sparking movements.  I’ll leave that to the cool kids.  Also, I now have my own children and extended family and church involvement and traveling and all those things that a real adult is supposed to put on their to-do list if they want to pull off a successful Christmas season.  Even though we keep things VERY simple at our house, it really takes more than one month out of the year to participate in this beloved holiday without overspending and stress!

Perhaps it wasn’t the case when I was growing up, and certainly not when my parents were growing up, but today, Thanksgiving is THE BIG KICKOFF to the Christmas season.  All you have to do is watch the Macy’s Parade, to know it!  If we don’t embrace the Christmas aspect of Thanksgiving, that all important kickoff will creep up to the day after Halloween!  (Talk about a “Nightmare Before Christmas”!)  Through my zealous, turkey-hugging ways, I’ve learned that a legalistic attitude about where our holidays should cross or not cross just takes the fun out of both of them!

The “Christmas creep” can be a great tool to elevate our Thanksgiving Day to a new level of significance.  Truly, the best way to prepare our hearts for the welcome of a Savior and the fresh start of another calendar year, is with gratitutde.

Lets talk a little bit about decorations:

  • Why not decorate transitionally.  I used to sell decorative housewares at home parties.  One tip I would always share was transitional decor between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Things like pinecones, nuts, cranberries, pomegranates, and acorns fit beautifully in a centerpiece for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If you want things a bit more festive in December, just add a bit of evergreen, something sparkly, and a big red ribbon into the existing mix!  Not only can this reduce stress (those extra bits of decorating can then start in early November), but it also echoes that idea that your Thanksgiving helps prepare the heart for Christmas.
  • I once made a rule that the Christmas tree could not go up until after Thanksgiving.  I’ve been rethinking this lately.  Christmas enthusiasts, like Stephanie, have been known to put their trees up well into SEPTEMBER!!!  If you truly love Christmas that much, I encourage you to follow this rule of thumb:  For every two days your tree is up before Thanksgiving, leave it up one day after New Years.  If the motivation is genuine love for the Christmas holiday, then it shouldn’t bother you to leave your tree up through part of January.  However, if you’re sick of Christmas by the time the ball drops on Time Square, I have to think that putting up the tree so early was not motivated out of holiday spirit, but rather plain old impatience.  Impatience is an ugly quality!  Don’t be like that!  For everybody else, I won’t yell at you if you want to trim the tree on Thanksgiving Day.  It could become a sweet tradition for little ones to look forward to each year, and when friends and family are gathered, ready to help, it can definitely keep holiday decorating from seeming like a chore!   It also might burn off a couple more of those turkey calories after the meal!
Okay, now lets think about activities.  The meal is obviously the main event, but depending on your family dynamic, existing traditions, and guests, other activities may add a bit of extra flair to your day!
  • Go see a movie after dinner!  This is especially a treat for the kiddos as movie prices these days don’t allow for family outings to the big screen all that often!  Plus, there’s always a few blockbusters with mass appeal planned to open over Thanksgiving weekend.
  • Make a gratitude chain!  Provide strips of paper and colorful ink pens for guests to note a few things they’re thankful for this year.  String them together for a meaningful paper chain to adorn your mantle or drape around the Christmas tree!
  • Play a board game.  Just one thing:  Don’t be that girl or guy that insists EVERYONE has to play!  Nothing’s worse than mandatory diversions when you’d really just prefer to loosen your belt buckle and veg out over football highlights.
  • Kill the negativity!  My mother-in-law did this brilliantly one year.  Every time someone at the table was caught complaining or talking bad about another person, they were required to take a slip of paper from a jar and read a famous quote about gratitude!  How embarrassing!  After she enforced it once or twice, and we’d all had our laughs at the initial victims, nobody wanted to be the next Debby Downer!  The rest of dinner was full of uplifting conversation!
And of course, the food!
  • Serve up some snacks before the main event!  The adults will know to save room, and the kids will have something that excites them a little more than turkey and waldorf salad.  Most importantly, you won’t feel pressured to meet a specific deadline when preparing the most anticipated meal of the year.  No one will be going hungry if you decide that turkey needs another half hour!
  • Make a special dessert for the little ones.  A few kiddos like pumpkin pie, but for a lot of them, that’s very much a “grown up” food.  It only takes one super special food item to get the kiddos excited about getting it again next year.  Maybe it’s ice cream sundaes, or maybe it’s cake pops decorated like little turkeys.  They’ll have something to look forward to, and their parents will have leverage for getting them to taste the sweet potatoes they’re so sheepish about!
Whether you’re a Martha Stewart in the kitchen, or you end up going to Denny’s, whether tradition is front and center, or you try to do it different each year, whether you host a large gathering, or just enjoy it with a couple dear friends, as long as your love for this great holiday shows through, your family is sure to feel it, too!
Have a beautiful Thanksgiving!
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Save Thanksgiving! Part 1

20111114-174021.jpg

For the past few years, I, Mac, have made it my endeavor to rescue one of the best holidays ever from the clutches of commercial consumerism. Nope, not Christmas! Commercialism, frankly, is what has elevated Christmas to such high importance in our society, even among those that hold no allegiance to its true meaning! Ask any child: Christmas, they’ll say, is the most important holiday of the year. From a Christian religious standpoint, Easter is equally, if not more important, but because of the financial gains Christmas offers to so many businesses, it is, by far, hyped beyond any other holiday of the year.

In all the commercial hype of Christmas and, before that, Halloween (the original “Hallmark holiday”), humble little Thanksgiving sits nearly forgotten, if not downright resented, as an unmarketable interruption before the glitz and glitter of Christmastime. In fact, when the annual observance of Thanksgiving was established, it was scheduled to be the LAST Thursday of November. Retailers later lobbied for it to be moved to the FOURTH Thursday, to extend the Christmas shopping season. As evidenced by Target’s displays on the day after Halloween, and the doorbuster sales scheduled ON Thanksgiving Day, the retail sector has continued to treat Thanksgiving as an obstacle ever since.

But Thanksgiving is SO important! As much as I love celebrating Christ’s birth and the giving nature of the Christmas season, I still think the beauty of a grateful heart certainly deserves a big time celebration!

I have not always felt passionate about this holiday. As a child, our Thanksgiving was pretty much exactly like Christmas, but with no decorations, no music, and no presents! What could be more boring to a kid than a big sit down meal of foods that generally aren’t that kid friendly, then a whole day sitting at the grandparents house (when it’s generally too chilly to play outside) while all the adults sit in a food induced hypnosis, watching football or napping! How much worse when, as can easily happen, the adults set a negative attitude by approaching the holiday as a dreadful family OBLIGATION!

Next week, I will share some ideas to save the next generation from viewing Thanksgiving with a negative spirit, but before I do, allow me to share Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. Up to this point, the United States had not celebrated an annual Thanksgiving holiday. Keep in mind, as you read, that these words were spoken in the context of the Civil War — the bloodiest conflict in American history up to that point. It’s hard to be unmoved by such humble gratitude in the face of adversity.

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.”

Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, 3 October 1863.

Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually in the United States.

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A Special Thanks to Our Veterans

Thank you to all of the men and women who have served and to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you and may God bless you

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Keep Your Spiderman. I’ll Celebrate Sendler.

As the sugar high from trick-or-treat candy begins to wear off, I trust all of our readers made
it through Halloween unscathed. Each year I relish looking at the different
costumes but have to say that this year, I have to tip my hat to our very own
Stephanie who, along with Mac and Jaymee, made some amazing Angry Birds
costumes that can’t be beat. My hat’s off to you, dear smartypants for your
amazing ingenuity and crafting saavy!

We had a number of
wonderful costumes in the neighborhood this Halloween. There were princesses, a
dragon, your usual assortment of animals and a countless number of super heroes
participating in the magic of trick-or-treating fun. Seeing the number of caped
crusaders got me thinking about the draw possessed by the concept of having “super
powers”. Clearly humans are not going to posses the ability to fly without aid or
burn things with our eyes any time soon, but what if human beings were able to fight
for what is right with use of our common everyday abilities? As with many
questions about humankind one need only look at our history to discover the
answer.

Meet Irena Sendler.
Also known as Irena Sendlerowa, she was born in “Otwock, a town some 15 miles
southeast of Warsaw”, Poland
on February 15th 1910. (http://www.auschwitz.dk/sendler.htm).
At first glance, Irena who worked as a Polish
Catholic social worker, would look very common. It is not until we take into
account her place in this world both geographically and historically that we
see the opportunity for her to show her heroism.

Irena lived during
a time of great sorrow for all of humanity. She was witness to the horrors of
World War II and the Holocaust. “By 1945, two out of every three European
Jews had been killed by the Nazis. 1.5 million children were murdered. This figure includes more than 1.2
million Jewish children, tens of thousands of Gypsy children and thousands of
handicapped children.” (www.auschwitz.dk).

After seeing the
conditions for the Jewish people worsen Irena joined Zegota or “the Council
for Aid to Jews, organized by the Polish underground resistance movement”.
(www.auschwitz.dk). “Assisted by some two dozen other Zegota members,
[she] saved 2,5000 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto,
providing them with false documents, and sheltering them in individual and
group children’s homes outside the Ghetto”. (www.wikipedia.org).
The Warsaw Ghetto had been created in 1940 as a means of segregating the Jewish
population. Working for the Warsaw Health Department, Irena’s professional
credentials allowed her access to this ghetto. She originally worked to get
medicines and food to those living in the ghetto. Despite her efforts, “5,000 people
were dying a month from starvation and disease in the Ghetto, and she decided
to help the Jewish children to get out”. (www.auschwitz.dk).As a social worker she was able to with her contemporaries
in providing false documents and new identities for the children. She used her permission
to enter the ghetto as a tool in working with the Polish Underground to smuggle
children to safety from “from 1942-1943”. (www.auschwitz.dk).

The Holocaust Education and Archive Research team
recounts that Irena and other members of the Polish Underground smuggled children
from the Ghetto to safety with use of “various means, such as hiding them in ambulances, or guiding them

through the sewer pipes, wheeling them out on a trolley in suitcases or boxes,
or taking them out through the back door entrance in the Court House on Leszno
Street.” (www.holocaustresearchproject.org).

Another
source recounts that “some children were taken out in gunnysacks or body bags.
Some were buried inside loads of goods. A mechanic took a baby out in his
toolbox. Some kids were carried out in potato sacks, others were placed in
coffins, some entered a church in the Ghetto which had two entrances. One
entrance opened into the Ghetto, the other opened into the Aryan side of
Warsaw. They entered the church as Jews and exited as Christians. “`Can
you guarantee they will live?'”
Irena later recalled the distraught
parents asking. But she could only guarantee they would die if they stayed. “In
my dreams,”
she said, “I still hear the cries when they left
their parents.”
(www.auschwitz.dk).).

Irena’s efforts were aided by the Church. “I sent most of the children
to religious establishments,”
she recalled. “I knew I could count on the Sisters.”
Irena also had a remarkable record of cooperation when placing the youngsters: “No
one ever refused to take a child from me,”
she said. (www.auschwitz.dk). Once the
children were safe, Irena used her social work skills once again in documenting
crucial identifying information for each rescued child. “She noted the names of
the children on cigarette papers, twice for security, and sealed them in two
glass jars, which she buried in a colleague’s garden.

The Warsaw Ghetto

After the war the jars were dug up and the lists handed to Jewish
representatives. Attempts were then made to reunite the children with their
families, but most of them had perished in the death camps, particularly
Treblinka, which was used to exterminate the Jews of Warsaw.” (www.auschwitz.dk).

Irena’s acts of selfless heroism in the face of evil did not go
unpunished. She was arrested in October of 1943 and was sentenced to be
executed after having been tortured and imprisoned at Pawiak Prison. Her feet
and legs were broken by the Nazis, injuries that would cripple her for the rest
of her life. Despite their attempts, Irena would not give any information
regarding who assisted her in her efforts or any names or true identities of
any children she had rescued. Because of her bravery, these children remained
safe. After being held and sentenced at Alejo Sucha the Zegota bribed Gestapo officials
for her release. She was “knocked unconscious and left by the roadside”. (www.holocaustproject.org). She would
be pursued by the Nazi party until the end of the war.

After the war, Irena dug up the jars that held the precious information
regarding the true identities of the 2500 children she had helped to rescue.
Unfortunately, the majority of the families of these had been murdered as a
result of the Holocaust. This information highlights the sobering truth of the
impact that Irena’s actions during World War II had on humanity. Despite her
acts of heroism, Irena never thought of herself as a hero. When others would
attempt to afford her that title, she would interject by saying “I could have done more”.
(www.auschwitz.dk).

While she would always remain modest about her acts of heroism, Irena
was afforded some high honours for her courageous acts compassion and love. The
following is an account of her awards as documented by website titled “Irena
Sendler; Unsung Heroine”…

 

 

She has been honored by
international Jewish organizations – in 1965 she accorded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the
Yad Vashem organization in Jerusalem and in 1991 she was made an honorary
citizen of Israel. Irena Sendler was awarded Poland’s highest distinction, the
Order of White Eagle, in Warsaw Monday Nov. 10, 2003, and she was announced as
the 2003 winner of the Jan Karski award for Valor and Courage. She has
officially been designated a national hero in Poland and schools are named in
her honor. Annual Irena Sendler days are celebrated throughout Europe and the
United States.

In 2007, she was nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. At a special
session in Poland’s upper house of Parliament, President Lech Kaczynski
announced the unanimous resolution to honor Irena Sendler for rescuing
“the most defenseless victims of the Nazi ideology: the Jewish children.”
He referred to her as a “great heroine who can be justly named for the
Nobel Peace Prize. She deserves great respect from our whole nation.”

During the ceremony Elzbieta Ficowska, who was just six months old when she was
saved by Irena Sendler, read out a letter on her behalf: “Every child saved
with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a
title to glory,” Irena Sendler said in the letter, “Over a half-century has
passed since the hell of the Holocaust, but its spectre still hangs over the
world and doesn’t allow us to forget.” (www.auschwitz.dk).

Irena Sendler lived out her days
in Warsaw, Poland and died gracefully as an elderly woman in 2008. While she
never thought her heroism enough, the kindness and courage she showed in the
face of evil will forever been appreciated by each child she saved during World
War II.

“Elzbieta Ficowska who was smuggled out of the
ghetto by Mrs Sendlerowa in a toolbox on a lorry, when she was just five months
old, said:

“In the face of
today’s indifference, the example of Irena Sendlerowa is very important. Irena Sendlerowa
is like a third mother to me and many rescued children” referring also to her
real mother and her Polish foster mother.” (www.holocaustresearchproject.org).

Now, decades after the end of World War II, we can choose to go about
our lives, celebrating only the fun part of our society, hoping to never
revisit acts of evil upon humanity or we can actively commit the scars of
history to our memory so that we can learn from our mistakes and never let evil
resurface. By celebrating those true heroes who used courage and compassion in
the face of the Holocaust, we can celebrate the legacy of their compassion by honouring
those who died and by reminding ourselves of a history which I pray will never
be repeated.

Works
Cited

www.auschwitz.dk Path: sendler

www.holocaustresearchproject.org
Path: survivor/irenasendler

www.wikipedia.org

Categories: children, Social Work | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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