Sun Lakes Writers Group – January 2024

The Christmas Spirit

Ernest D’Godor

I think the Grinch was right. For that matter, so was Scrooge. I mean, what is all this Christmas Spirit about? Spending a lot of money on gifts that no one appreciates?

I did break down one year and bought my son the Super-Duper-Special-Ray-Gun that was advertised for months before Christmas and was begged for after every commercial. It was rather expensive, so I only bought that one toy and then a bunch of interesting things I found in the Dollar Store. It was so much fun to see his eyes light up when he opened the big box. He enjoyed the little gifts, too, but to open the big box last and to find his heart’s desire, oh my. That was just too precious. He danced around with his Super-Duper-Special-Ray-Gun for about five minutes, and then it was time to change his clothes. The gun went into its original box and that was the last he played with it. We ended up selling it a few years later for double its original value. I was happy. And my son, well, he was happy playing with the Dollar Store gifts right up until Valentine’s Day the next year.

And then there’s the food. You spend hours and hours planning and shopping and preparing the food for special occasions and you would be lucky to get a word of appreciation before or after they fill up their plates to take to the living room to watch the game on TV. It’s true I used to try to get everyone to sit down at the table, turn off the TV and talk to each other, but that just made everyone eat faster.

Greeting cards are a challenge. You want to get the right inscription or better yet, add a personal note in each one. One year I did one better: I made my own cards and wrote a newsy letter inside each. No one got my Christmas Greetings until St. Patrick’s Day the next year, but I was proud I had made the effort.

Christmas trees are another problem. I hate the pine needles that get all over everything from the sofa to the dog’s water bowl (even though the bowl is in the entrance by the door and the tree is in the opposite corner of the house, go figure). Did I mention my tree is artificial? Wasn’t that the whole point of buying an artificial tree? So that you didn’t have to clean up the pine needles? Here I am, 20 years later, with the same tree and every Christmas it still sheds.

In the wee hours of the morning, when everyone else is asleep, I tiptoe downstairs quietly and turn it on to drink my coffee in the warm glow of those tiny blinking lights, dreaming of Peace on Earth, the whole Earth, and Good Will to everyone, not just the people we like.

From Start to Finish

George Stahl

This year for New Year’s I am going to stop smoking. I am going to …

Stop drinking

Stop eating way too much of everything

Stop cursing

Stop getting angry at the drop of a hat

Stop talking bad about others

Stop getting upset with other drivers

Stop binge watching my favorite streaming shows and movies as much as I do

Stop obsessing over all of the many different and sometimes confusing Yellowstone shows

Stop worrying about money

Stop looking at my phone, iPad or computer constantly when I am not driving or cooking or cutting the grass or any other manual activity. Almost everything we resolve to do in the new year involves stopping something. Why not instead, plan to start something.

Something that you have never done before. There has to be something you can start, and you can’t just change the word “stop” to “start” in those examples given in the first part of this article. Besides, inserting “start” in some of them would not be too good. Like, instead of “Stop drinking,” “Start drinking.” Not good, really.

To stop doing something is way easier than resolving to start something in your life. Maybe you start learning something new. A language, or a skill. You could learn to speak some obscure dialect of a language that has been dead for centuries. I am sure you can find online courses in Basque-Algonquian Pidgin, a language that died out in 1711, or even a way to learn to read Egyptian hieroglyphics or Elamite which hasn’t been used since 2250 BCE. You could learn to weave baskets, or instruments, or even create huge tapestries to hang on your walls.

You can start to get more active in your health by going to the gym, or hiking through forests, atop high mountains where the altitude change might make you feel a little lightheaded, but that’s okay as long as you begin your commune with nature. You could become an activist to save the rainforest by going to the Amazon and living among the tribes of headhunters and cannibals for a “short” period, just to get a firsthand look at what you will be advocating for. I am sure though, the meaning of headhunter and cannibal are merely metaphors in the 21st century, no worries.

Okay, then maybe there are plenty of things you can start in 2024 right in your own area. Those are for you to decide. Sit down with a list of them and then simply go through the list omitting the ones that do nothing for you, by circling the ones that really get your blood flowing. Before too long your list will be as long as your forearm, especially if you are not using a piece of recycled paper.

So, get on with it, make that resolution to start something. I am going to start to be a better friend. A better parent or grandparent. I am going to start talking to my neighbors more and getting to know them. Remember, stopping is sometimes easier than starting, but you can do this! You got this as they say. Sure, you might screw things up, but if you don’t ever get started, you will never know.

Happy New Year 2024!