Maybe Christmas Means More


images.jpegThank God I wasn’t visited on Christmas Eve by a soul shackled for all eternity by the sins of his past. There weren’t any ominous warnings by past, present and future ghosts.  A Grinch didn’t steal everything under the tree to remind me that presents, decorations and stockings are not what Christmas is all about. The immortal words of Charles Dickens and Dr. Seuss pack an important message. It’s never too late for Scrooge and Grinch epiphanies, and everyone deserves a second chance in life.

It’s rather shameful how much emphasis I used to place on the gifts I got, and worse, how often they went unappreciated.  Remarkable I wasn’t always thankful that I’ve actually never needed anything.  I’ve wanted things, but there’s a big difference.  I’ve always had a roof over my head, food in my stomach and clean water to drink. I never needed a sweater, a hat, a warm coat or a pair of gloves, but there are thousands of people who do.  These are not gifts of fashion for them, they are gifts of warmth.

I don’t recall my personal epiphany, but the Christmases I have had since have been more meaningful.  Whenever and for whatever miraculous reason, I finally understand the true meaning of Christmas.

I don’t want Christmas presents anymore. If  anyone so inclined to give me a present, I ask them to give a gift to charity instead. These gifts have been the most precious of my life.

There were women in addiction recovery that had no money to buy their children Christmas presents.  My daughter took them shopping for toys, and they wrote me letters of thanks I found impossible to read through the waterfall of my tears. There was a sizable donation to help women in third world countries to help them start businesses so they can feed their families.  A gift to the Belize Humane Society went to help the starving dogs that tugged at my daughter’s heart. My nieces donated to a Cambodian school built on a dump and they have given to other important environmental and humanitarian causes. Habitat for Humanity has received donations to rebuild homes. Checks have been written to foundations that help struggling people. Cancer research has been fueled with funds and homeless have been helped.

These gifts of love, compassion, and charity have filled my heart.

This year I received a bonus, so I used some of it to help people in a low-income trailer park. They have little and they are in desperate need.  I was feeling rather magnanimous, until I was humbled by an incredible story.

A friend’s housekeeper is a mother of five from Guatemala.  A few weeks ago, she asked my friend if she could run an errand and go to the bank. My friend took the opportunity to surprise her with a Christmas bonus.  When her housekeeper returned, she thanked my friend for her generous gift. The housekeeper’s eyes were misty when she explained that she had already pledged to send money to her church back home but when she received the unexpected Christmas bonus, she was able to do more. She sent all of the money to the needy people of her Guatemalan congregation.

Mom and I went to church this morning and, no surprise, the sermon was about giving.  The priest said the lesson of Christmas is about giving to others and he reminded us that love can only be kept by giving it away.

Merry Christmas.  I hope you never truly need anything for Christmas, but that you’ll always want to give to those who do.





The Lights Went Out in Georgia

It was dark at the busiest airport in the world for a really long time.  Thousands of passengers leaving from, coming to, or connecting through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta were stranded, stressed and, those stuck in planes for more than seven hours, were almost suicidal. It wasn’t pretty.

There’s been no good explanation for what shut down the airport, but conspiracy and terrorist theories were rampant. A fire they think.  Georgia Power was stumped and airlines were unprepared for the major crisis.

My daughter was flying out of Augusta connecting through Atlanta on Airport Armageddon Sunday.  I booked her flight, so both our phones were blowing up with flight delays and eventually notice of a cancellation.  A Delta agent in Augusta advises her to drive to Atlanta, straight into the eye of a hurricane.  We hadn’t gotten word of the outage yet.   Delta thought is was a good idea for her to drive to Atlanta? Really?  Did no one from Delta communicate to their employees that Atlanta was the problem?  Was the whole airline in the dark?

I’m a big damn deal on Delta.  It’s the only status I have, so I take matters into my own hands, dialing the extra special telephone number for frequent travelers like me.  I’ll have the problem resolved in no time, I assure my crying daughter.  I tend to be overly optimistic. I don’t reach an agent.  I get a recording informing me of a power outage and that my call was very important.  Someone would get back to me when it was my turn, in about eight or nine hours.

Now I turn on the TV and it’s special alerting all over the place about the power outage that is plaguing passengers from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu.  People aren’t happy and no one knows what the heck is going on.  People are using cell phones as flashlights until they start having their own power crisis, and they can’t get or make calls telling their loved ones and employers that they’ll be home sometime between now and Christmas.

My daughter is freaking.   She just started a new job and she can’t miss work. Remember those days, when you’re afraid that your boss isn’t human and being stranded beyond your control is grounds for suspicion if not termination?  I’m clueless how to help, because Delta has gone radio silent with updates and it’s not my turn for a call back for another 8 or more hours.

She drives.  Yep, all the way back to Virginia, some 650 miles,  leaving at 7:30 pm on a dark, rainy night.  She’s in my new car. As she backs out of the driveway, I’m just praying she makes it home safely and that when I wake up in the morning, it will all have been a bad dream.  That didn’t happen. Instead I wake up to a text message that my daughter’s flight was departing Augusta from Gate B.  She’s in North Carolina now.

I wait a couple of days to let Delta know that, while I know the power outage wasn’t their fault, their lack of information was.  And then there was the misinformation of having Meagan drive to Atlanta.  Did I mention the gridlock and that it was not possible to get to the airport even if they wanted to sit in the dark with the other thousands of confused and frustrated passengers?

So Mr. Delta Customer Service gets a bit defensive about the whole thing.  He tells me that they couldn’t provide me with any information or updates because, and I quote, “We were in the dark.”  I swear he said just that.  I laugh a little …”no pun intended,” I say, and now the guy is warming up offering some sort of remuneration.  It’s not enough to cover the expenses, can’t come close to paying for the aggravation, and then there is the matter of my car sitting in Meagan’s garage in Virginia.  I am in Atlanta.

There’s a silver lining.  The outage doesn’t appear to be a terrorist attack on the grid. Meagan wasn’t on the Amtrak that derailed. No one died when the lights went out in Georgia, and people eventually got home safely and in time for Christmas.

It’s easy to get our knickers in a knot, but getting upset never changes the circumstances.  What’s the moral of this story?  Being in a dark mood is far worse than being in a dark airport?  I’ll let you know how this Susie Sunshine feels about the mess on my 650 mile drive home on New Year’s Day!

Ho Ho Ho!


I’ve Been a Bad Blogger

If you are one of my 68 followers. I let you down and I’m sorry.  I haven’t been showing up with words of hope, humor or humanity. Shame on me. Life got in the way and then there was the business of putting a roof over my head, (it’s leaking), and I had to get back to work that actually paid.  Honestly, I was also  running a little low on hope and humor.  If I had started a blog called Match.Bomb I’d have far more material to blog about.

Now I find myself submitting a book proposal for a book I wrote called, I’m Just Looking.   I’m told  the “platform” I don’t have is all a publisher wants to see, especially if you’re unknown author like me.  I’ve got no game. Yet.  I don’t have a website, fans or any followers except you. I hope you know I appreciate every word you read, and I promise to be a better blogger.

“I’m Just Looking” is a riches to rags memoir of redemption about a woman who loses everything that once mattered to her and finds new perspective and the real treasures in life.   After job loss and selling my home, I went to Paris to write, learn a language and take care of my sister’s dog. I went from a successful corporate career to being a dog walker and Paris pooper scooper.

The title of the book was born from necessity because, without the means to do anything but look, “I’m Just Looking” became the essential first words I learned to speak in French. Eventually, the title began to take on greater meaning.

Each chapter evolved into vignettes of  life lessons until “I’m Just Looking” became an analogy of the everyman search for happiness, purpose and meaning. The epiphany of my life occurred in Paris when I realized, after a lifetime of insatiable wanting, everything I ever needed, I already had. So do you.  Every one of us has what it takes to live a happy, fulfilling life. Even when the chips are down.  I might have been picking up dog doo, but I was doing so in Paris.

The book is written for anyone looking for meaning, inspiration, hope and a bit of humor.  It’s written for people who have lost their way or abandoned their dreams like I had. It’s a book written for people who may only know Paris and the other glamorous and glorious places in France through my words. It’s a book written from my heart to theirs.

This book, as I am certain is the case of many authors, has been a labor of love, sacrifice and struggle. I lived in a Costa Rican jungle to find the inspiration to start a blog.  People applauded my courage and questioned my sanity.  I survived bugs, thugs, 98 degree heat, 100 percent humidity.  The point is, do whatever it takes to follow your dreams, even if it means sweating in the jungle for a month, staring at the beady little eyes of geckos all around you.

We all have stories to share and lessons to learn. Ironically, my most painful ordeals have become my greatest blessings. I don’t recommend losing everything to find out what’s important.  I did that already to save you the trouble.  And I am going to share the humor and heartache.

I’m going to keep writing because it’s what I love to do, and I hope it inspires you to follow whatever passions you may have.

My book proposal is due on Christmas Eve.  I don’t believe in coincidences, but I do believe in miracles. Fingers crossed, prayers lifted, and hope and humor always.