Monday, December 31, 2007

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." ~ Benjamin Franklin

Friday, December 28, 2007

Amazon price guarantee

I did not know this until today so I'm sharing it with you.

Amazon has a 30-day post-order pricing guarantee:

"Post-Order Price Guarantee

Amazon.com's prices for released items will change from time to time based on a variety of factors. If Amazon.com's price for an already-released item decreases within 30 days after we ship the item to you, we'll be glad to refund the difference in price if you contact us. Please click one of the buttons on the right, and be sure to have your order number handy so we can assist you.

This Post-Order Price Guarantee is subject to the following restrictions:
  • Applies only to products that have already been released. Products that have not yet been released but that are available for pre-order from Amazon.com are not covered by this guarantee, but do benefit from our Pre-Order Price Protection program (see section above).

  • Applies only to items sold by Amazon.com, and not to items (or prices) offered by other sellers on our site.

  • Item prices that are affected by a promotion such as "Buy one, get one free" are not eligible.

  • The price of an item after rebate is not considered to be the Amazon.com price. "


http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=468502#postorder

EDIT: Follow-up!

I checked my last order and found something that went down in price! I emailed customer service, and within a half hour I had received an email telling me my account was being credited:

"Hello from Amazon.com.

The discounts we offer for items sold by Amazon.com can vary from time to time. I've checked your order and found that we now offer a greater discount on this item than at the time you placed your order.

Since your purchase shipped within the past 30 days, I've requested a refund of $3.64 to your credit card. This amount reflects the difference between the price you were charged for the item and the current price offered by Amazon.com. This refund should be processed in the next few days and will appear as a credit on your next billing statement."

Awesome!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

This is one of two non-religious holidays celebrated today.

Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated in the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia on December 26 (or the next week day after Christmas). Boxing Day is the practice of giving of gifts to employees, the poor, or to people in a lower social class and dates back to the Middle Ages.

The Oxford English Dictionary attributes the name of the holiday it to the Christmas box; the verb box meaning: "To give a Christmas-box (colloq.); hence boxing-day." However, there are a bunch of theories as to the name's origin, including:

  • It was the day when people would give a present or boxing box to those who had worked for them throughout the year.


  • In feudal times, serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord for the seasonal celebration. This made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends. The day after Christmas, the lord of the estate would give a box of practical goods (cloth, grains, tools, etc.) to each family who lived on his land. This was not voluntary gift, but an obligation of the lord to provide these supplies.


  • Many years ago in England it was common practice for servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for work the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts.


  • In churches, it was traditional to open the donation box on Christmas Day and distribute the money to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day.


  • Boxing Day was the day when the wren, the king of birds, was captured and put in a box and introduced to each household in the village, when he would be asked for a successful year and a good harvest.


  • Because staff had to work on Christmas to serve the master of the house and their family, they were given the following day off. Since they were not able to be with their own families and not able to celebrate Christmas Dinner, it was customary to "box" up the leftover food from Christmas Day and send it away with the servants and their families. And since the servants had the day off, the owners of the manor may have had to serve themselves pre-prepared, boxed food for that one day.


  • Similar to above, leftovers and food were boxed up and shipped overseas in times of war to the soldiers of the Commonwealth Nations.


SOURCE:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boxing_Day

MORE INFO:

http://holidays.kaboose.com/xmas-around-boxingday.html

http://www.factmonster.com/spot/boxingday1.html

http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/customs/Xmas/boxingday.html

http://www.calendar-updates.com/info/holidays/canada/boxing.aspx

Kwanzaa

This is one of the two non-religious holidays that are celebrated today.

Kwanzaa (or Kwaanza) is a week-long festival observed from 12/26 to 1/1 each year, primarily in the U.S. It honors African American heritage. It was created by Dr. Ron Karenga, a scholor and social activist, in 1966.

Dr. Karenga calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of "first fruits" celebrations of classical African cultures. The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza", meaning "first fruits". Kwanzaa was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of "African traditions" and "common humanist principles."

Kwanzaa celebrates Seven Principles (Nguzo Saba) which comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the principles:

  1. Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

  5. Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

  6. Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

  7. Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.


Families celebrating Kwanzaa decorate their households with objects of art, colorful African cloth and fresh fruits that represent African idealism. It is customary to include children in ceremonies and give respect and gratitude to ancestors. A ceremony may include drumming, music, libations (generally shared with a common chalice), readings, candle lighting, performance, discussion of the principle of the day or a chapter in African history, and a feast (Karamu).

SOURCE:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kwanzaa

MORE INFO:

http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/index.shtml

http://www.tike.com/celeb-kw.htm

http://www.history.com/minisites/kwanzaa/

http://holidays.kaboose.com/kwanzaa-index.html

"In regard to all these problems, in regard to every problem that arises, there are counselors these days who say: 'Do nothing'; other counselors who say: 'Do everything.' Common sense dictates an avoidance of both extremes. I say to you: 'Do something'; and when you have done that something, if it works, do it some more; and if it does not work, then do something else."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Address to the Young Democratic Club, Baltimore, Md., April 13th, 1936

Monday, December 24, 2007

(since I won't have time to do this tomorrow)

Christmas is the annual Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. In most places, Christmas Day is celebrated on December 25. This is not considered to be the actual date of Jesus' birth, since that is not known. The Armenian Apostolic Church observes Christmas on January 6, and Eastern Orthodox Churches that still use the Julian Calendar celebrate it on January 7.

The word "Christmas" is as a contraction of "Christ's mass", derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038. In early Greek versions of the New Testament, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter of Christ, and since the mid-16th century Χ was used as an abbreviation for Christ, so "Xmas" is often used as an abbreviation for Christmas.

The prominence of Christmas Day increased gradually after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800. Around the 12th century, the remnants of the former Saturnalian traditions of the Romans were transferred to the Twelve Days of Christmas (26 December – 6 January). Christmas during the Middle Ages was a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving. Modern traditions have come to include the display of Nativity scenes, Holly and Christmas trees, the exchange of gifts and cards, and the arrival of Father Christmas or Santa Claus on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Popular Christmas themes include the promotion of goodwill and peace.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."


The Nativity of Jesus refers to the Christian belief that the Messiah was born to the Virgin Mary. According to Biblical accounts, Jesus was born to Mary, assisted by her husband Joseph, in the city of Bethlehem. Although popular tradition states the birth took place in a stable surrounded by animals, these are not mentioned in the Bible. However, Luke mentions that he as placed in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. Shepherds in the fields were told of the birth by an angel, and were the first to see the child. Nativity scenes traditionally include the Three Wise Men, Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar, although their names and number are not referred to in the Biblical narrative, who are said to have followed a star, known as the Star of Bethlehem, found Jesus, and presented gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

In part, the Christmas celebration was created by the early Church in order to entice pagans to convert to Christianity without losing their own winter celebrations. Certain prominent gods and goddesses of other religions had their birthdays celebrated on December 25, including Ishtar, Sol Invictus and Mithras. Various traditions were adopted from other winter festivals including Saturnalia (a time of feasting and merrymaking which included the making and giving of small presents, as well as drinking, gambling, and public nudity); Natalis Solis Invicti (a Roman festival worshiping several solar dieties); the winter solstice; Yule; and Mid-Winter Night.

Christmas during the Middle Ages remained a public festival, incorporating ivy, holly, and other evergreens, as well as gift-giving. There were feasts, and caroling also became popular. In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day, and there was special Christmas ale.

In 1647, following the English Civil War, England's Puritan rulers banned Christmas. The Restoration of 1660 ended the ban, but many clergy still disapproved of Christmas celebrations. In Colonial America, the Puritans of New England disapproved of Christmas. In Boston, the celebration was outlawed from 1659 to 1681, although it was still observed in Virginia and New York. Christmas fell out of favor in the U.S. after the American Revolution, when it was considered an English custom.

By the 1820s, Christmas was thought to be dying out and efforts were made to revive it. In 1820, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol was published and played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion over communal celebration and hedonistic excess. Interest in Christmas was revived in America by several short stories by Washington Irving and by Clement Clarke Moore's 1822 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas". This poem popularized the tradition of exchanging gifts. Christmas was declared a U.S. Federal holiday in 1870, signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant.

The popular image of Santa Claus was created by the German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast, who drew a new image each year beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Santa had evolved into the form we now recognize. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.

The origin of Santa Claus begins in the 4th century with Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (in present day Turkey). St. Nicholas was a generous man and particularly devoted to children. His kindness and reputation for generosity gave rise to claims he that he could perform miracles. St. Nicholas became the patron saint of Russia, where he was known by his red cape, flowing white beard, and bishop's mitre. In Greece, he is the patron saint of sailors, in France he was the patron of lawyers, and in Belgium the patron of children and travelers. Around the 12th century, an official church holiday, The Feast of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6), was created in his honor. This day was marked by gift-giving and charity.

Father Christmas was first recorded in the 15th century, but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness. In Victorian Britain, his image was remade to match that of Santa. The French have Père Noël. In Italy, Babbo Natale acts as Santa Claus, while La Befana arrives on the eve of the Epiphany bringing gifts (La Befana set out to bring the baby Jesus gifts, but got lost along the way and now, brings gifts to all children). In several Latin American countries, Santa makes the toys and gives them to Baby Jesus, who delivers them to the children's homes. In Southern Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Alto Adige/Südtirol (Italy) and Liechtenstein, the Christkind brings the presents. The German version of Santa Claus is Weihnachtsman. In Holland, Dutch children would leave their wooden shoes by the fireplace, and Sinterklaas would reward good children by placing treats in their shoes.

The modern Christmas tree tradition is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century, though many argue that Martin Luther began the tradition in the 16th century. In 16th-century Germany fir trees were decorated, both indoors and out, with apples, roses, gilded candies, and colored paper. In the Middle Ages, a popular religious play depicted the story of Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden and used a fir tree hung with apples to symbolize the tree. It is held that Protestant reformer Martin Luther first adorned trees with light. The Christmas Tree was brought to England by Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert (a German). The trees then became popularize throughout Victorian England. German immigrants introduced the custom into the United States.

Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter. The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace. Scandanavians associated the plant with their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

SOURCES/MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

http://www.allthingschristmas.com/traditions.html

http://www.history.com/minisites/christmas

http://www.holidays.net/christmas/story.htm

http://www3.kumc.edu/diversity/ethnic_relig/christms.html

Merry Christmas!

 

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Around the Office

Cell phone pics

My new work space, right outside Boss's office. I need to hang something on that wall. Maybe I'll paint something, or get another Wyanne print. I have one small one I haven't framed yet.



Ready to get to work



Oops eyes closed



Christmas tree in the reception area

Winter Solstice; Yule

SOLSTICE

The winter solstice occurs when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane as the observer. It is the shortest day/longest night of the year. Interpretation of the event varies from culture to culture, but most cultures have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time The word solstice derives from Latin sol (Sun) and sistere (stand still), Winter Solstice meaning Sun stand still in winter.

The solstice was a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since neolithic times. This is attested by the layouts of sites like Stonehenge in Britain and Brú na Bóinne (New Grange) in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line framing the winter solstice sunrise (New Grange)and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not assured to live through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common in winter between January to April, also known as the famine months. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was nearly the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time.

YULE

Yule is an ancient winter festival associated with the winter solstice.

Christian missionaries sent to proselytize among the Germanic peoples of northern Europe were instructed to superimpose Christian themes upon existing pagan holidays to make conversion easier by allowing the people to retain their traditional celebrations. Christmas was created by associating tales of the birth of Jesus with existing pagan Yule celebrations. Yule traditions include decorating a fir tree, burning a Yule log, hanging mistletoe and holly, giving gifts, and general celebration and merriment.

Neopaganism has many forms and they don't all celebrate the same way. Some celebrate Yule as they believe the Ancient Germanic pagans observed the tradition. In Germanic Neopagan sects, Yule is celebrated with gatherings that often involve a meal and gift giving.

For Wiccan's, wreaths, Yule logs, decoration of trees, decorating with mistletoe, holly, and ivy, exchanges of presents, and even wassailing are incorporated and regarded as sacred. The return of the Sun as Frey is commemorated in some groups. In most Wiccan traditions, this holiday is also celebrated as the rebirth of the Great God, who is viewed as the newborn solstice sun.


SOURCES/MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

http://www.candlegrove.com/solstice.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule

http://www.wicca.com/celtic/akasha/yule.htm

http://www.candlegrove.com/yule.html

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Vaccum up those fleas

Got fleas? Get the vacuum
Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:39am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vacuum cleaners kill fleas just as well as any poison, surprised U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

They said a standard vacuum cleaner abuses the fleas so much it kills 96 percent of adult fleas and 100 percent of younger fleas.

So no need to worry that a vacuum cleaner bag may turn into a fleabag breeding ground for the pesky, biting creatures, said Glen Needham, associate professor of entomology at Ohio State University.

Needham studied the cat flea, or Ctenocephalides felis, the most common type of flea found in households.

"No matter what vacuum a flea gets sucked into, it's probably a one-way trip," Needham said in a statement.

Writing in the journal Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, Needham suggested that the vacuum brushes wear away a waxy outer layer on insects called the cuticle. Without it, the fleas, larvae and pupae probably dry up and die, he said.

The findings were so surprising that the researchers ran their experiment several times.

"We didn't do a post-mortem, so we don't know for sure. But it appears that the physical abuse they took caused them to perish," Needham said.

Fleas spread diseases such as plague and can transmit worms.

"There are all kinds of ways to manage the problem, but how people feel about insecticides and how much money they want to spend factors into what they're going to do for flea control. Vacuuming is a great strategy because it involves no chemicals and physically removes the problem," Needham said.

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyid=2007-12-19T151141Z_01_N19528639_RTRUKOC_0_US-VACUUM.xml

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Hajj; Waqfatul-Arafat; and Eidul-Adha

We have two Islamic holidays on my calendar this week - the 19th is Waqfatul-Arafat and the 20th is Eidul-Adha. I'm going to combine them in this post.

Waqfatul-Arafat is the Day of Standing at Arafat, and Eidul-Adha is the Feast of Sacrifice. While researching these, I found that they are both part of the Hajj, which is the annual pilgrimage that Muslims make to Mecca.

The Hajj has already begun. Every year, about 2 million Muslims converge on Mecca ((Makkah) in Saudi Arabia. The Hajj is obligatory at least once in every able-bodied Muslim's lifetime, if they can afford to do so. It is one of the 5 "pillars" or essential acts of worship in Islam. The purpose is to worship God at the Sacred House in Mecca, the Kabah (Ka`aba). According to the Qur'an, the Kabah was built by the Prophet Abraham and his son, Ishmael, in ancient times. Abraham instituted the pilgrimage and its rites, and later these rites were re-established by Muhammad. The Hajj lasts about 4-5 days.

Waqfatul-Arafat (which is today) is the most important day of the pilgrimage. On this day, the huge throng of pilgrims spends the afternoon at the Plain of Arafat, believed to be a prototype of the gathering place of the Last Judgment, praying for God's forgiveness and mercy. They then move on to the next station of the pilgrimage.

In regard to the rituals of the Hajj, each person walks counter-clockwise 7 times about the Kaaba (which is the building towards which all Muslims pray), kiss the sacred Black Stone on its corner, run back and forth between the hills of Al-Safa and Al-Marwah, drink from the Zamzam Well, go to the plains of Mount Arafat to stand in vigil [which is today], then proceed to Muzdalifah to gather pebbles, which they would throw at a rock in Mina to perform the ritual of the Stoning of the Devil. The pilgrims then shave their heads, perform an animal sacrifice and celebrate the four day global festival of Eid ul-Adha. (Many of these rituals have changed because of the number of people - for example, it is not necessary to kiss the black stone but you can just point at it each time around. And you can buy a "sacrifice voucher" in advance to have an animal slaughtered in your name on the correct day, which is then given to charity.)

During the Hajj, male pilgrims are required to dress only in a simple white garment secured by a white sash (Ihram) and sandals. This clothing is intended to show the equality of all pilgrims in the eyes of Allah, symbolizing the idea that there is no difference when everyone is dressed equally. It also symbolizes purity and absolution of sins. Women are required only to wear their normal dress. While the pilgrim is wearing the Ihram, they cannot shave, cut their nails, wear deodorant or perfume. They may not swear or quarrel, kill any living thing (even an insect) or engage in sexual intercourse.

The Hajj is a profound spiritual experience for Muslims and a time of experiencing the brotherhood and equality of humanity. Malcolm X spent years preaching hatred against the white man, but after experiencing the Hajj, he cast his racist views aside and embraced the oneness of Man.

Pilgrims can also go to Mecca to perform the rituals at other times of the year. This is sometimes called the "lesser pilgrimage", or Umrah. However, even if they perform the Umrah, they are still obligated to perform the Hajj at some other point in their lifetime.

Eid ul-Adha (the feast of sacrifice) is a 4-day global festival.

At Eid al adha, Muslims remember the story of the prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) that is told In the Qur'an. Abraham dreamed that Allah wanted him to kill his beloved son, Ishmael (Ismail). To show his willingness to obey Allah, Ibrahim got ready to kill his son, but then heard Allah tell him to stop. Allah told him that he had proved his love by willing to give up his son. He gave Ibrahim a lamb from the heavens to sacrifice instead. This was the beginning of Eid al adha.

Everyone is expected to dress in their finest clothing to perform Eid prayer (Salatu'l-`id) in any mosque. Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice their best domestic animals (usually sheep, but also camels, cows, and goats) as a symbol of Abraham's sacrifice. At the time of sacrifice, Allah's name is recited along with the offering statement and a supplication as Muhammad said. According to the Quran a large portion of the meat has to be given towards the poor and hungry people so they can all join in the feast which is held on Eid-ul-Adha. The remainder is cooked for the family celebration meal in which relatives and friends are invited to share.

SOURCES/MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eid_ul-Adha

http://www.islam101.com/dawah/hajj.html

http://www.colostate.edu/Orgs/MSA/events/Hajj.html

http://www.albalagh.net/general/zulhijjah.shtml

http://www.roslihanip.com/inspiration/eidul-adha-the-feast-of-sacrifice

http://www.religioustolerance.org/isl_feast.htm

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely." ~ Charles Dickens

Friday, December 14, 2007

Stubby helps Daddy with the Christmas Cards

 
 

Then turns his laser eyes on Mommy

 

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O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum

 

This is the first time in several years we have an actual decorated tree. Okay it's fake. And there's no tinsel or garland due to the cats. But it has ornaments that are meaningful to us, and pretty multicolored lights, and it makes it feel more like Christmas around here.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Love Everybody, including yourself

"We have the need to be accepted and to be loved by others, but we cannot accept and love ourselves. The more self-love we have, the less we will experience self-abuse. Self-abuse comes from self-rejection, and self-rejection comes from having an image of what it means to be perfect and never measuring up to that ideal. Our image of perfection is the reason we reject ourselves the way we are, and why we don't accept others the way they are."

-- Don Miguel Ruiz

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today's holiday is a Catholic one observed in Mexico. December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe (a/k/a/ the Virgin of Guadalupe) is a 16th century Roman Catholic Mexican icon depicting an apparition of the Virgin Mary. It is Mexico's most beloved religious and cultural image. December 12 commemorates the traditional account of her appearances to Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin from December 9, 1531 through December 12, 1531.

Juan Diego was a poor Native American named Cuauhtlatohuac who had been baptized and given the name Juan Diego. He was a 57-year-old widower and lived in a small village near Mexico City. On December 9, 1531, he was on his way to a nearby barrio to attend Mass.

As he was walking by a hill called Tepeyac, he heard beautiful music, and a radiant cloud appeared. Within the cloud was a young maiden dressed like an Aztec princess. She spoke to him in his own language and told him to go to the bishop and tell him to build a chapel in the place where she appeared.

The bishop wanted a sign. The lady told Juan Diego to gather flowers from a hill (at a time of the year when no flowers usually grow), and he went there and found Spanish roses. He gathered them in his tilma [cape] and took them to the bishop. When he his tilma, the roses fell to the ground and the bishop sank to his knees. On the tilma there was an image of Mary as she had appeared at the hill of Tepeyac. It was December 12, 1531.

This image was on cloth that should have deteriorated in 20 years but shows no sign of decay 476 years later. There has been much controversy about its origins, but many believe it still defies all scientific explanations. It is compared to the Shroud of Turin.

The Virgin of Guadalupe is a cultural symbol of significant importance to the Mexican identity. In Mexico she is known as "La Virgen Morena", which means "The brown-skinned Virgin". In 1910 she was declared Patroness of Latin America, and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared Her to be the Empress of all the Americas.

Some historians speculate the icon was meant to represent both the Virgin Mary and the indigenous Mexican goddess Tonantzin, giving the Spanish a way to gain converts among the indigenous people, or it may have provided a method for those Mexicans to covertly practice their native religion. Whatever it was, it led to the biggest conversion in church history, with over 9 million natives converting to Christianity from 1531 to 1541.

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most important dates in the Mexican calendar. On this day, thousands from around the country make the pilgrimage to the Basílica of Guadalupe, in Mexico City, where the miraculous image of the Virgin is kept. Although the most important rituals and celebrations take place at the Basílica de Guadalupe, there are fiestas all over the country in Honor of Mexico's Patron Saint.

SOURCES/LOTS MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_of_Guadalupe

http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintOfDay/default.asp?id=1227

http://www.inside-mexico.com/guadalupe.htm

http://www.sancta.org/intro.html

http://www.catholicculture.org/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2006-12-12

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tibetan dream flag

Saw this flag mentioned and wanted to know more...

In Tibet, as people in the Gelugpa tradition of Buddhism are devoted to the Dalai Lama. Tibetans in the Kagyu tradition are devoted to the Karmapa as their spiritual leader. The 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924 - 1981), saw this flag in a dream. He called it Namkhyen Gyaldar -- "Victorious Flag of the Buddha's Wisdom" -- and announced "Wherever this banner is flown, the Dharma will flourish."



The blue represents is the sky (heaven), symbolizing spiritual insight and vision. The yellow represents the earth, the actual world of our everyday experience. The symmetry of the wave pattern shows how we come to understand their interdependence when we practice the dharma.

As a reminder of absolute truth, the blue symbolizes the wisdom, or emptiness aspect of awakened being, while the yellow stands for the compassion aspect. The wavy intermingling of the two colors represents their inseparability.

http://www.dharma-haven.org/dream-flag.htm

iLive iPod speaker dock

I asked my Husband to give me iLive iPod speakers for my birthday in August. I loved it at first. Then the remote stopped working (only the volume controls work, so you can't pause it or skip songs with the remote). I complained and they sent me a new one but it did the same thing! Only sooner than the other. And yesterday my iPod died near the end of the day. I couldn't imagine why but when I got home I realized the battery had run down. So apparently it has also stopped charging the battery, because it was in the dock all day. It appears to be charging now (the charging thingie is blinking) but I wonder if it really is. Very annoying.

A coworker had one before I did, which is why I got mine, and she threw hers away the other day because it stopped working and it was only about a year old.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

But it sure doesn't feel like it - it's around 50 degrees out there now and will get up to 70! It looks like it's going to cool off in the next few days though.

We got our Christmas tree put up last night! And partially decorated. We haven't had a decorated tree in several years, maybe since the year we got the boys. Snoop and Roscoe are 5 this year so it's been that long. We put a few non-breakable ornaments on it last night to test and it appears the cats left it alone. Or at least they didn't tear it down and I didn't see any ornaments on the floor.

I'm excited to get our old ornaments out. It's been so long since we've seen them LOL. We used to buy a special ornament every year that was meaningful for that year. For example, the year we got engaged, we bought a small golden filigree box that represented the box my ring was in. And at some point I decided I wanted the theme of the tree to be birds so we have a lot of bird ornaments.

"Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." -Calvin Coolidge

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tales of a Female Nomad

This week I finished the book Tales of a Female Nomad, by Rita Golden Gelman.

It's a wonderful book, about a women in her late 40's who gets divorced and starts traveling. But she doesn't go to swanky resorts or touristy bed and breakfasts and shop and lay on the beach. She prefers to live with the natives of the country she is in and become part of their communities. She doesn't even speak the languages usually. She learns and participates in their customs and traditions and religious rituals. She gets to know the people.

She lives simply and has wonderful experiences. She lives in a Zapotec village in Mexico, studies orangutans in Borneo, lives in a royal compound in Bali. She goes to New Zealand, Israel, Thailand, Guatemala. It sounds like such a wonderful and freeing way to live.

An enjoyable and inspirational book that I definitely recommend.

Work and stuff

My week went by very quickly as I was pretty busy at work.

In September I changed jobs. As background, I have worked in law firms for 24 years. I have been a secretary, legal assistant/paralegal, office manager, computer manager, billing manager, bookkeeper, administrative assistant (sometimes more than one of those titles at the same job). When I started working at this firm in April 2006, I took a job as a legal secretary after spending a year as a legal assistant as another firm. But then in August my boss asked me if I would be her paralegal. Initially I said no but then I changed my mind and in September started working as her paralegal. My boss's husband (who actually runs the firm, although my boss is also a named partner) told me if I didn't like it to let them know because they wanted me to be happy and wanted me to keep working there. After a month or so I wasn't happy, for a number of reasons, and when I found out they were looking for a secretary I told them I was interested, and long story short on Monday I went back to my old job.

I am SO GLAD to be back in my old position. It's better for me in many ways. I am happier. I move more, instead of sitting in an office alone all day. I have more interaction with my coworkers and don't feel as out of the loop as I was. Even though I did like having my cave, because I have hermit tendencies, it's not good for me to do that every single day. I've still been eating my lunch in my old office so I still have a cave to go to for now. The only downside is my back has been bothering me but that will improve. My knee is actually improving because of moving more often and not getting stiff. I need to start getting some walking in.

Last night we has our Christmas party at Fazio's. It was nice, I enjoyed it more than last year's party. And I hadn't been to Fazio's in forever. My only complaint was that we weren't offered lasagna as a choice, and I really love their lasagna. We had filet mignon instead which was actually very good.

Speaking of restaurants, I finally made it to Cilantro's this week. It was okay, not as good as I thought it would be. But maybe I need to try it again and have something different. Everyone else seems to like it a lot.

We had the first real snow of the season this week. It finally feels like winter. I have most of my Christmas shopping done. I want to make a few things on Cafe Press, buy a few gift cards and finishing painting some things. Oh I still need to come up with a Christmas card too. Several years ago we started making our own cards featuring our cats on the front and now people expect it and we can never go back to buying them again!

Bodhi Day


For people new to my blog, I like to learn about different religious holidays as they come up on my calendar, so I share what I learn here. I wasn't originally doing Christian holidays because I already knew about most of them, but I have started including those as well.

Bodhi Day is the Buddhist holiday commemorating the day that Siddhartha Gautama experienced enlightenment (bodhi).

In the 6th century BC, Siddhartha (age 29) left his home and family and all his possessions to discover the meaning of life. After 6 years of rigorous discipline and study under the guidance of a number of spiritual teachers, he still hadn't found what he was looking for. He finally decided to just sit under a pipul tree and meditate until he understood. On the eighth morning, he came to the realization which became the founding principles of what the modern world calls Buddhism. He became Enlightened and experienced Nirvana. Having done so, Siddhartha now became a Buddha or "Awakened One".

During his enlightenment experience, Siddhattha attained 3 types of knowledge:

  1. He saw that he had died and been reborn many times

  2. He saw that all beings are reborn according to their deeds, the law of kamma (karma); and

  3. He saw the nature of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the way leading to the cessation of suffering (the Four Noble Truths)

From that point on, he was referred to as the Buddha, the Enlightened One. He is also referred to as Shakyamuni (the sage of the Shakya clan) Buddha, Gautama Buddha, Shakanyorai (in Japanese), and many other names to distinguish him from Amida Buddha, who is not seen as a historical figure but the idealized Buddha of unlimited wisdom and compassion and is equated with all of life itself, and thus signifies all of us.

Customs for the holiday vary according to culture, but Bodhi Day is widely seen as a reminder to Buddhists that with the right effort and understanding any person can become Enlightened.


SOURCES/MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhi_Day

http://www.budtempchi.org/bodhiwriteup.html

http://www.funsocialstudies.learninghaven.com/edu/bodhi_day.html

http://buddhism.about.com/library/blbudlifeenlightenment4.htm

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Happy Hanukkah

(Sorry I haven't had time to research so again I'm just using Wikipedia and listing additional resources at the end).

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah or Hanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, began at sundown yesterday.

Hanukkah is from the Hebrew word for "dedication" or "consecration". It marks the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the forces of Antiochus IV and commemorates the "miracle of the container of oil."

Around 200 BC Jews lived in the Land of Israel (Judea), which was then controlled by Syria. They paid taxes to Syria, accepted its legal authority and were free to follow their own faith, maintain jobs, and engage in trade. By 175 BC, a new king ascended to the throne and under his reign, the Temple in Jerusalem was looted, Jews were massacred, and Judaism was effectively outlawed. In 167 BCE Antiochus ordered an altar to Zeus erected in the Temple.

This provoked a large-scale revolt against Antiochus which was successful by 165 BC. The Temple was liberated and rededicated. Judah (the new Jewish leader) ordered the Temple to be cleansed, a new altar to be built in place of the polluted one and new holy vessels to be made. According to the Talmud, olive oil was needed for the menorah in the Temple, which was required to burn throughout the night every night. But there was only enough consecrated oil (that had not been profaned by the occupiers) to burn for one day. However, miraculously, it burned for eight days, the time needed to prepare a fresh supply of oil for the menorah. An eight day festival was declared by the Jewish sages to commemorate this miracle.

Hanukkah is celebrated by a series of rituals that are performed every day throughout the 8-day holiday. Some are family-based and others are communal. There are special additions to the daily prayer service, and a section is added to the blessing after meals. Hanukkah is not a "Sabbath-like" holiday, and there is no obligation to refrain from activities that are forbidden on the Sabbath.

The primary ritual, according to Jewish law and custom, is to light a single light each night for eight nights. The number of lights lit is increased by one each night. The reason for the Hanukkah lights is not for the "lighting of the house within", but rather for the "illumination of the house without," so that passers-by should see it and be reminded of the holiday's miracle. Accordingly lamps are set up at a prominent window or near the door leading to the street.

In North America it is common to exchange presents or give children presents at this time.

SOURCE/LOTS MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah


ADDITIONAL INFO:

http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday7.htm

http://www.history.com/minisites/hanukkah

http://www.history.com/minisites/hanukkah/viewPage?pageId=730

http://www.holidays.net/chanukah/

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude."

-- Denis Waitley

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So much for the national championship

I can't believe WVU lost that game. Maybe if Pat White hadn't hurt himself they could have pulled it out but I don't know. They just did not play well. I don't pay much attention to sports in general. I'm not even a big WVU fan (I'm a Marshall grad). But I do like to see WVU do well and I got caught up in the excitement. I looked forward to last night's game and even watched the entire thing on TV. And they lost. It wouldn't have been so bad if they'd played well and lost because Pitt just played better. But they played horribly. They just plain sucked. Oh well. Maybe next year. At least now I can go back to ignoring sports.

Advent

(Behind, so this is a backdated entry to Advent Sunday December 2. I don't have time to do a lot of research today so using Wikipedia)

Advent is a Christian holiday, the beginning of the holy season of Christmas, wherein the Church waits and prepares for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ. The word "advent" is from the Latin words advenio, meaning "to come" o r adventus meaning "coming". The Greek equivalent is "parousia", commonly used in reference to the Second Coming. Christians believe that the season of Advent reminds us both of the original waiting by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of the Christians now for the second coming of Christ.

The progression of Advent is often marked with an Advent calendar reckoning Advent to start on 1 December, a practice introduced by German Lutherans. We used these when I was an older child/teenager in the Methodist Church, but not in the Church of God in which I grew up. I think in the Methodist church we also had special readings each Sunday and the lighting of advent candles. A different family would do it every week. This period was at one time a period of fasting as strict as lent. This was later relaxed. Purple vestaments are worn at church services.

With regard to older customs, in England, there was a custom (now extinct) for poor women to carry around the "Advent images", two dolls dressed to represent Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you were shown the dolls, you were expected to give them a halfpenny. If your household wasn't visited by the doll-bearers before Christmas Eve, you could expect bad luck. In Normandy, farmers hired children under 12 to run through their fields with torches setting fire to bundles of straw to drive out vermin.

In Italy, among other Advent celebrations, the Calabrian pifferari, or bagpipe players, enter Rome in the last days of Advent and play before the shrines of Mary, the mother of Jesus, the Italian tradition being that the shepherds played these pipes when they came to the manger at Bethlehem to pay homage to the infant Jesus.

Source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent

More info:

http://www.cresourcei.org/cyadvent.html

http://www.holidayinsights.com/christian/advent.htm

Friday, November 30, 2007

Anniversary of Sophie's death

In memory of Sophia Maria Thompson-Harman
January 1990-November 30, 2003


Thanksgiving weekend of 2003 was the worst Thanksgiving ever for me. That weekend I had to say goodbye to my first "child", Sophie. Putting her down was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I still miss her.





Thursday, November 29, 2007

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Nothing Needs to be Fixed

""Tolerance does not . . . do anything, embrace anyone, champion any issue. It wipes the notes off the score of life and replaces them with one long bar of rest. It does not attack error, it does not champion truth, it does not hate evil, it does not love good." -- Walter Farrell

As we understand it, the spiritual journey is not about becoming perfect. It’s about acceptance, releasing judgment, and embracing everything in wholeness.

This is a great challenge for our personality. We’ve grown up comparing ourselves to others, always judging how we’re better and worse than those around us. And many of us are very good at finding fault with ourselves.

If we release judgment, then nothing needs to be fixed -- including you. Explore inviting your soul to help you accept all that is and experience a whole new way of living.

"Wherever you are is always the right place. There is never a need to fix anything, to hitch up the bootstraps of the soul and start at some higher place. Start right where you are." -- Julia Cameron "

via http://www.higherawareness.com

Cartman, iPod and the Wild Wild West


Several weeks ago (over a month ago - maybe 2!) I decided to listen to my iPod by song starting with the first one and to go through the whole thing alphabetically. I just finished today!

Of course, I don't listen to it all day every day, and many of those are podcasts up to an hour long. I didn't listen to all of the podcasts, but some I did partially and some the whole thing. Whenever I synched the iPod or listened to something else in particular on it, I lost my place and had to remember where I left off. Usually I would go back to far. Those are the reasons it took me so long to get through it. Right now it shows me having 2,554 songs on it, but that includes a whole bunch of podcasts.

So anyway, when I got to the W's a few days ago I heard the old 80's song Wild Wild West and that made me think of Will Smith's Wild Wild West so I went and got it off iTunes.

I finished up the alphabetical and went to my "newest" playlist which pulls the stuff I've gotten most recently and heard the Will Smith Wild Wild West and realized I cannot listen to it now without hearing Eric Cartman sing it! That cracks me up.

Holiday Parking in Charleston

The City of Charleston is offering free parking on Saturdays for the holiday season, at meters and at city-run garages (except, of course, the ones that make money, i.e. the mall parking garage and the movie theater garage).

Don't you think this is something the city should do all year round? Downtown first lost its customers to the mall. Now the mall has lost a lot of its customers to Southridge. I would think the City would want to encourage people to shop downtown every weekend by offering free parking.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The mall is ready for Christmas

 
 

Posted by Picasa


(Town Center Mall, Charleston, West Virginia)

Art Emporium / Showcase West Virginia

Every Tuesday night is Girls Night Out with my three closest friends. Last night we were hanging out at Starbucks at the mall (sorry, that is as wild as it gets) and the owner of the Art Emporium came by (he knows one of my friends). He apparently has taken over Showcase West Virginia (the one by Blossom on Quarrier Street in Charleston) and I believe is selling some of the same things on consignment. I don't know if it's going to be just part of Art Emporium or will have another name. I don't really have any details. But I wanted to note it. It's hard to keep a business going downtown anymore. I have only been in the Art Emporium once but I love to look at the art displayed in the windows. I'm going to make a point to stop by both places for some Christmas shopping.

Monday, November 26, 2007

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving Weekend

The rest of our weekend was pretty uneventful. Dave had to work Friday and I stayed home all day. No way I would go NEAR a mall or any short of shopping area on Black Friday!!

I watched the Harry Potter movie (the first one) finally on Friday. I don't always enjoy a movie after reading the book but I really liked this one. It really brought the characters alive for me, and I think it will enhance my reading of the rest of the series. I will start book 3 after I finish the two library books I have out. I am about 3/4 of the way through Tales of a Female Nomad, which is so good.

Saturday we went to Morgantown to have dinner with the in-laws. It was a football Saturday, and I have never driven to Morgantown on a football Saturday. It was quite festive! The closer we got, the more cars we saw with WVU flags and decked out in gold and blue. My favorite was a "short bus" painted gold and blue. The people on it were obviously drinking and having a great time and they were yelling and waving to everyone who passed. There was so much traffic. When we stopped at the rest area outside of Clarksburg it was filled with people wearing gold and blue and I had to wait in line for the restroom! All of that almost made me want to go to a game and join in the fun. ALMOST.

You see, I have never been to a WVU game. I went to Marshall, and my family never followed college sports. My husband is from Morgantown and works in radio, and he produced the Mountaineer games for years. While we were dating and then married and still living up there, he had to work every game so I never went to them.

Today we're chilling at home. I may paint a little. Half the day is already gone.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What's draining your energy?

"Energy is equal to desire and purpose." -- Sheryl Adams

What people, events or things drain your energy? What part of you is not going with the flow? What are you resisting?

Plug your energy leaks and experience what it feels like to work on all cylinders.

For a list of energy drains and energy boosters, visit

http://www.higherawareness.com/lists/endrnrs.shtml

http://www.higherawareness.com/lists/enbldrs.shtml

"Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are for empowers you." -- Wayne Dyer

www.higherawareness.com

8 Things Meme

I was tagged by Mountain Laurel to do post 8 relatively interesting things about myself.

  1. When I was in the 4th or 5th grade my Mom jokingly told me we were part gypsy. I thought that was VERY cool and told all my friends and believed it for several years.

  2. I don't eat salad dressing or condiments.

  3. I have been terrified of UFO's since I saw a news story on TV when I was about 8 years old.

  4. I don't like being told jokes or reading jokes, but I do like stand-up comedy.

  5. I met my husband on the internet.

  6. We got married on top of Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia.

  7. I love learning to do new things, but I have a limited attention span. I will learn a new skill or hobby, do it for a year or so, then move onto something else. I used to feel bad because I felt like I couldn't finish anything, but now I embrace it. I think it has made me a more well rounded human. I know how to do a lot of things, but I'm not an expert at any of them.

  8. I hate being told what to do and generally don't like advice that I haven't asked for.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving

I celebrated Thanksgiving with my family by spending the day at my sister's house along with my husband, my sister Tina, her husband Mike, my niece Maddie, nephew Nick, brother Shawn, Mom, Dad and Step-Mom. We had a great time with good food, great company and lots of fun.

We alternate years with my husband's family and mine. I with they all lived in the same area but unfortunately my in-laws are in Morgantown. This is the second time we've spent the day at my sister's with both of our parents there, and last night I was thinking that 2 years ago was the first holiday we've gotten to spend at the same place with both parents since I was 11 or 12 years old. For me, that has always been the worst thing about having divorced parents. It is really special to me now to be able to do that. I am so thankful that my parents (including my step-mother) get along well enough now to be able to celebrate together that way. I just can't express how meaningful such a simple thing is to me now. My family is very important to me.



Mike deep-fried two turkeys and everyone pitched in to bring a huge amount of food that there was no possible way we could eat in one day. At least we all got to take home some delicious leftovers. Shawn was in from Greenville and it was so good to see him. He has decided to move back home. I am sorry it didn't work out for him there, but will be glad to have him home again.


We saw the coolest rainbow in the afternoon! It was the brightest, clearest rainbow I have ever seen.



We ended the day with a rousing game of Pictionary, girls vs. boys, with Tina, Maddie and I on one team and Mike, Shawn and Nick on the other. The girls were kicking ass the first half of the game but unfortunately the boys came from behind and beat us in the end.



All in all, it was a great day!





Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough, and more.
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home,
a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
and creates a vision for tomorrow."

Melody Beattie

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The most amazing part of this story to me is that Ohio does not require a permit for exotic animals

"African Lion on the Loose in Ohio
Reporter: WSAZ NewsChannel 3

Folks driving in the area of US 23 in Pike County Ohio must have thought they were in another country.

That’s because an African lion was chasing their vehicles. It happened Monday morning near Wakefield.

Police started getting all kinds of calls about a lion on the loose. Deputies were able to find the lion and its owner who was trying to catch the animal.

Lambert is the lion’s name. He weighs 550 pounds and is Terry Brumfield and his wife’s pet. They actually have two lions—Lambert and Laci. Terry says he keeps the lions to help him with depression. He said the lions are just like big house cats, but he does not recommend them as pets.

Somehow Lambert managed to escape his cage and went for a walk on the interstate.

“He just runs after them, like a dog chasing a car. He'd run about ten of 15 foot and come back," owner Terry Brumfield said.

Terry was able to coax Lambert to get back into his cage.

Ohio does not currently require a permit for exotic animals. The lion was contained and unharmed, but the whole ordeal is still under investigation."

http://www.wsaz.com/home/headlines/11725511.html

For One More Day

A friend sent me a note about this: "Oprah Winfrey Presents: Mitch Albom's For One More Day" will be on ABC on Sunday December 9
A suicidal former baseball player (Michael Imperioli) is granted one more day with his deceased mother (Ellen Burstyn).

"This film tells the story of Charley, a child of divorce who is always forced to choose between his mother and his father. he grows into a man and starts a family of his own. But one fateful weekend, he leaves his mother to secretly be with his father and she dies while he is gone. This haunts him for years. It leads him to depression and drunkenness. One night, he decides to take his life. But somewhere between this world and the next, he encounters his mother again, in their hometown, and gets to spend one last day with her--the day he missed and always wished he'd had. By the end of this magical day, Charley discovers how little he really knew about his mother, the secret of how her love saved their family, and how deeply he wants the second chance to save his own."


It's Ellen Burstyn week this week! I just got a DVD of The Fountain in the mail a few days ago from another friend and I hope to watch it this weekend. I admire her so much after reading her autobiography and yet I haven't seen very many of her movies!

City Council is the one to blame

I don't know why I have been blaming Danny Jones for the user fee increase. The City Council is who voted almost unamimously to pass it! Only 2 people voted against it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The User Tax Doubles

Sheesh. They voted to double the user tax. Call it a user fee if you want, but to me it's a tax, plain and simple. I wasn't crazy about paying $1 a week for the "privilege" of working in town but I was happy to see they used it to improve the roads. The last I heard, Danny Jones wants to put cameras all over town to "protect" me. I think this is a slippery slope. In a few years they'll be wanting $4. Cabell and Monongalia Counties also have user fees/taxes so I guess we aren't alone. But still - I would think the City would want to encourage people to work downtown. I spend my money here and contribute to the economy. The law firm I work for pays B&O taxes to contribute to the economy.

It just doesn't make sense to me.

"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come as a result of getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have." - Frederick Keonig

Monday, November 19, 2007

Art of Wyanne

My friend Sharon commissioned a painting to represent our little group of friends formerly called the YaYas, now sometimes referred to as the Girlies. It's so beautiful!!! I can't wait to see it in person.

You can see it here:

http://wyartjewels.blogspot.com/2007/11/creative-every-day-challenge-day-19.html

She is such a talented artist. I have purchased some of her prints myself and adore them.

Weekend Update

Well it's deer hunting season here in West Virginia, which is a VERY BIG DEAL here. This week, lots of men will take off work the whole week, retreat to their cabins in the woods, drink a lot of beer and maybe even shoot a deer or two. It's not just a man thing either. A female attorney I used to work for used to go with her dad every year. I don't know if she still does now that she has three small children, but I wouldn't be surprised if she left them home with her husband to venture out to the woods. I've known a few other women who liked to go as well.

I could not personally kill a deer, or any animal other than bugs and snakes, unless I had to in self defense. But I don't think it's wrong. I eat meat, and the cows and chicken and pigs I eat probably didn't have as good a life as the deer who at least get to be wild and free until they are killed. I don't believe that animals should be killed for sport, but food is a valid reason, whether you eat it yourself or donate it to feed the hungry.

My father never hunted deer. He used to go squirrel hunting when I was little but that's about it as far as I know. He would frequently bring home deer meat given to him by guys at the plant though. Then we would have Bambi Stew.

Unfortunately, hunting season also stirs the deer up even more than they already are and that means more road kill as well. We had one deer running through our yard this morning and saw two dead ones on the road on the way to work.

Our weekend was pretty routine. Saturday we went to the annual Arts & Crafts Fair held at the Charleston Civic Center. I was looking to do some Christmas shopping but didn't buy anything except some cookies. I am having a hard time this year deciding on gifts. I also stopped at Michael's and picked up some stuff to experiment with painting - some clear glass ornament bulbs and some wooden plaques.

After we got home I went through a box of CD's and sold 7 of them on www.cashforcds.com.

Sunday we had breakfast out then spent the rest of the day at home. I made soup, did laundry and did some painting.

I'm glad I only have to work 3 days this week. Today we're having a pot luck luncheon at work and I got up early and made broccoli casserole in the crockpot.

I'm glad this is a 3 day week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Embracing Womanhood

"There are many ways and myriad reasons for women to honor and embrace all that they are. And when any individual woman chooses to do so, all women collectively move closer to becoming what they are truly capable of being. By honoring her experience and being willing to share it with others—both male and female—she teaches as she learns. When she can trust herself and her inner voice, she teaches those around her to trust her as well. Clasping hands with family members and friends, coworkers and strangers in a shared walk through the journey of life, she allows all to see the self-respect she possesses and accepts their respect, too, that is offered through look, word, and deed.

When a woman can look back into her past, doing so without regret and instead seeing only lessons that brought her to her current strength and wisdom, she embraces the fullness of her experience. She helps those around her to build upon the past as she does. And when she chooses to create her desires, she places her power in the present and moves forward with life into the future.

Seeing her own divinity, a woman learns to recognize the divinity in all women. She then can see her body as a temple, appreciating its feminine form and function, regardless of what age or stage of life she finds herself. She can enjoy all that it brings to her experience and appreciate other women and their experiences as well. Rather than seeing other women as competition, she can look around her to see the cycle of life reflected in the beauty of her sisters, reminding her of her own radiance should she ever forget. She can then celebrate all the many aspects that make her a being worthy of praise, dancing to express the physical, speaking proudly to express her intellect, sharing her emotions, and leading the way with her spiritual guidance. Embracing her womanhood, she reveals the facets that allow her to shine with the beauty and strength of a diamond to illuminate her world."

www.dailyom.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Got the New Car

We got the new car yesterday! A silver 2007 CRV EX. I like it very much. Haven't been able to get a good picture of it yet because it's dark when we get home.

We picked it up right after work yesterday. Inspired by me, two of my close friends are also buying new CRV's! They already had old CRV's like me. Sharon picked hers up last night and Sara gets hers tomorrow! The salesman couldn't get over it. The day after we made the deal on ours they were there test driving.

If you want a new CRV, go to Lester Raines and ask for Lee Martina. And don't forget to tell him Jamie sent you. :D

So anyway, I like it a lot so far. It drives better than the old one and has more fun stuff, like the temperature gauge and mpg indicator and the audio controls in the steering wheel and the volume going up and down depending on how fast you're going. It seems a little roomier. The stereo sounds good. I like the color. I actually liked the way the old one looked on the outside better, but what are you going to do? They changed the design. C'est la vie.

My latest painting



I call it "Cozy"

Kind of a learning experience. I am not good at planning. I knew I wanted a cat in front of a fireplace. First it was going to be a brown cat but it looked ugly. And it was going to be facing toward me instead of the fire (that's why the tail is on this side) but it's hard to put eyes and stuff on a black cat. The rug is a little too dark. I didn't plan the colors - if I had, they would have all gone together a little better. After I got the fireplace and cat done, I just added other stuff to fill up the picture. I originally was going to have carpet but I couldn't decide what color to make it to go with the other colors so I made it wood. I wish I'd done the fireplace in a different color.

This is the first painting I've spent a lot of time on and didn't finish it in 1 or 2 sittings.

Couple who lost three children expecting triplets

"In an instant last May, Chris and Lori Coble lost their three young children in a horrific traffic accident not far from the family’s California home.

The couple was devastated by the sudden and profound loss of their two daughters and a son, but knew even through their grief they were meant to be parents and would be again.

If all goes well, the Cobles told TODAY anchor Meredith Vieira on Tuesday, they’ll have two new baby girls and a baby boy next spring. The couple can’t help but think that it’s all connected.
...
Chris Coble said he can’t help but think, from a spiritual perspective, that the children he lost somehow had a hand in his wife’s pregnancy. He believes firmly they are in a better place, and watching over their mom and dad.

“Your mind can’t even think otherwise. If you feel they’re somewhere watching over you, protecting you, and something like this happens, it’s hard to think that somehow they weren’t involved in crafting this,” he said.

The triplets Lori Coble is carrying — two girls and a boy — were conceived through in vitro fertilization. In the procedure, 10 of Lori Coble’s eggs had been fertilized and three became viable embryos. ... The doctors wanted to implant just two of the embryos, but the couple had lost two girls and a boy and asked for all three embryos to be transferred to Lori Coble’s womb."

More here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21767764/

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meditation stuff

I put this list together for a friend and thought as long as I made it, might as well share it. These are my favorite CD's and podcasts for meditating. Some I got at the library, some I purchased on iTunes or actually bought the CD's on eBay.

GUIDED MEDITATIONS:

  • Denise Linn's Complete Relaxation - (LOVE this one)

  • Denise Linn's Journeys Into Past Lives

  • Denise Linn's Weight Loss and Cellulite Reduction (which is more about developing a healthy self image)

  • John Holland's Developing Your Psychic Awareness

  • Iyanla Vanzandt's Living from your Center

PODCASTS - on iTunes, search the Podcasts for "meditation" and "healing". These are all free:

  • Guided Meditations Video Podcast from the Meditation Society of Australia

  • Meditation Oasis

  • The Meditation Pocast (I subscribe to this but I'm not sure I've done any of them actually)

  • Natural Echo healing music podcast

MUSIC TO MEDITATE TO:
  • Andrew Weil and Kimba Arem - Self Healing with Sound and Music (I have probably listened to this more than anything - absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE IT - got it from the audiobooks section of the library)

  • Dr. Jeffrey Thompson's Theta Meditation System - this is brainwave music, supposedly makes your brainwaves go to theta level. There are others for sleep (delta) and an alpha one for something else

  • Shamanic Dream by Anugama (got this on iTunes and really love it)

Birth of Bahá'u'lláh

You may remember recently I posted about a Bahá'í holiday regarding the Birth of the Báb. The Báb came to prepare the way for Bahá'u'lláh and foretold his coming.

The Birth of Bahá'u'lláh is one of 9 holy days in the Bahá'í calendar. It celebrates the birth of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith.

Bahá'u'lláh was born Mirza Husayn-Ali on November 12, 1817 in Tehran, Iran. His father was a prominent minister of state and he grew up as a member of a wealthy family with a carefree life. However, he was extraordinarily knowledgable and became famous at the Court for this before he was 13. Ministers would come to Him to discuss their problems. He spoke at great assemblies of theologians on complicated matters. He was also extremely kind and helpful and spent time caring for the sick and the poor.

When he was 27, he was given a scroll written by Báb and upon reading it realized he was the Messenger of God. He devoted himself to spreading the teachings of the Báb. He was persecuted, tortured, imprisoned many times, banished, and even his half brother tried to have him assassinated and later tried to poison him and his family.

He taught and wrote a number of important books. At one point he revealed to his followers that he was the Universal Educator promised by the Báb and all the Prophets of former ages. He was the Return of Christ, the Lord of Hosts, the Great Announcement, the Glory of God (Baha'u'llah). Eventually he became accepted by most of the Babis as the Promised Manifestation of God and they started calling themselves followers of Baha'u'llah, or Baha'is.

More than once he wrote to world leaders calling on them to accept his message and work for world peace. His followers eventually could be found in Persia, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Russia. They were frequently persecuted and imprisoned as well.

He died in 1892 at age 75.

The Birth of Bahá'u'lláh is usually observed with community gatherings where prayers are shared and his birth celebrated.


SOURCES/MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_of_Bah%C3%A1'u'll%C3%A1h

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/5749/bahaullah.html

http://bahai.us/node/158

http://www.planetbahai.org/cgi-bin/articles.pl?article=11

http://birth-of-baha-u-llah.123holiday.net/

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Symington: I saw a UFO in the Arizona sky

"Former Arizona Governor Fife Symington will be moderating a November 12 event at the National Press Club where he will discuss the Phoenix Lights incident. He says he will be joined by 14 former high-ranking military and government officials from seven countries who will share evidence from what they call their own UFO experiences and investigations.

(CNN) -- In 1997, during my second term as governor of Arizona, I saw something that defied logic and challenged my reality.

I witnessed a massive delta-shaped, craft silently navigate over Squaw Peak, a mountain range in Phoenix, Arizona. It was truly breathtaking. I was absolutely stunned because I was turning to the west looking for the distant Phoenix Lights.

To my astonishment this apparition appeared; this dramatically large, very distinctive leading edge with some enormous lights was traveling through the Arizona sky.

As a pilot and a former Air Force Officer, I can definitively say that this craft did not resemble any man-made object I'd ever seen. And it was certainly not high-altitude flares because flares don't fly in formation.

The incident was witnessed by hundreds -- if not thousands -- of people in Arizona, and my office was besieged with phone calls from very concerned Arizonians.

The growing hysteria intensified when the story broke nationally. I decided to lighten the mood of the state by calling a press conference where my chief of staff arrived in an alien costume. We managed to lessen the sense of panic but, at the same time, upset many of my constituents.

I would now like to set the record straight. I never meant to ridicule anyone. My office did make inquiries as to the origin of the craft, but to this day they remain unanswered.

Eventually the Air Force claimed responsibility stating that they dropped flares.

This is indicative of the attitude from official channels. We get explanations that fly in the face of the facts. Explanations like weather balloons, swamp gas and military flares.

I was never happy with the Air Force's silly explanation. There might very well have been military flares in the sky that evening, but what I and hundreds of others saw had nothing to do with that.

I now know that I am not alone. There are many high-ranking military, aviation and government officials who share my concerns. While on active duty, they have either witnessed a UFO incident or have conducted an official investigation into UFO cases relevant to aviation safety and national security.

By speaking out with me, these people are putting their reputations on the line. They have fought in wars, guarded top secret weapons arsenals and protected our nation's skies.

We want the government to stop putting out stories that perpetuate the myth that all UFOs can be explained away in down-to-earth conventional terms. Investigations need to be re-opened, documents need to be unsealed and the idea of an open dialogue can no longer be shunned.


Incidents like these are not going away. About a year ago, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport experienced a UFO event that made national and international headlines.

What I saw in the Arizona sky goes beyond conventional explanations. When it comes to events of this nature that are still completely unsolved, we deserve more openness in government, especially our own."

Symington: I saw a UFO in the Arizona sky

Car Shopping

Before shopping we had narrowed our choices down to the Honda CRV, Nissan Rogue and Toyota Rav4.

The first vehicle we drove was the Nissan Rogue at Love Nissan. This is a brand new model Nissan brought out recently. We loved the way it drives - it actually drives better than the CRV. The continuously variable transmission adjusts to the way you're driving and there's never a lag or jump. It had very comfortable seats. The one we wanted had the premium package which included Bose stereo, bluetooth phone capability with controls on the steering wheel, audio controls on the steering wheel, and keyless entry system. On the negative side, it wasn't as roomy as the CRV and I felt a little too crowded, the back seat didn't have a center console, and the window in the back was SO TINY I would have had a hard time backing up. It also didn't have a moonroof or arm rests. But we really liked it and were seriously considering it. They only had a few on the lot but we liked the silver one we drove.

We wanted to drive the CRV (the top contender) with the Rogue fresh in our mind so we passed the Toyota dealership and went on to Lester Raines Honda. The last time we bought a CRV there, they only had THREE on the lot, all of them EX models which were "loaded". So we expected the same thing today. But today they had a BUNCH of CRV's - and not just EX's. Several LX's too, some with just front wheel drive even. We drove a light blue LX and it was about $2,000 less than the Rogue. No moonroof, no bells and whistles, just a basic CRV with all wheel drive. It was actually disappointing driving it after the Rogue, with a rougher and noiser ride (just like the old CRV). And it didn't have all the cool luxury extras on it. But we decided while driving it that economically it was the best thing to do. It was cheaper and we know it will have a good resale value. The other negative thing about the Rogue is it's brand new, hasn't even been crash test rated yet and there's no long term data on it.

So after we got back to the lot, Dave went inside with the salesman and I stayed out in the lot trying to figure out what color I wanted. When I went inside the salesman was showing him a silver CRV in the showroom, which was a 2007 model EX. The EX has a few more bells and whistles than the LX - a 6 cd changer, moonroof, audio controls in the steering wheel, cargo shelf and tinted back windows. He offered it to us for less than the 2008 LX. And since there were no changes to the 2008 models it was exactly the same as a 2008 EX, except it had a few hundred miles on it (I thought he said 800, Dave thought he said 300).

So we did our credit app and committed to buying it. We're having fog lights installed on it and should be able to pick it up on Tuesday. We got our insurance check and deposited it today but they hold it for 5 business days [Which seems ludicrous to me in this day and age - it's State Farm for goodness sake. Okay hold it for 1-2 days just to verify it isn't fraudulent or something, but 5 days?!?]. The Honda dealer is going to let us post-date the check for the down payment and go ahead and take it home so yay for him.

The night before we shopped I was thinking about the cars and wondering which one we were going to get, I tried to visualize it and the first thing that popped into my mind was a silver one. I wasn't that interested in silver but I was open to it. When we drove the silver Rogue I thought that was going to be it. But turned out to be a silver CRV! I had told Dave that earlier, that I saw us driving a silver one. After we left the dealership he said "How did you know we were going to get a silver one??" Just psycho I guess ;).

Friday, November 09, 2007

Deepavali (Diwali, Divali)


According to my calendar, today is the beginning of the Hindu holiday Deepavali (sometimes shortened as Diwali or Divali). The word deepa or dipa means "light of the dharma", and avali means "a continuous line". The more literal translation is "rows of clay lamps".

(If you watch The Office, this is the holiday that was featured on one of the episodes, where Kelly invited everyone to come to the Divali celebration.)

[This holiday is also celebrated by other Indian religions, including Jainism and Sikhism, two other religions of which I know nothing. I am focusing on the Hindu aspects. If I had the time I would post about them too but I don't, so you can read about them in Wikipedia by clicking on the links. Honestly, I guess I didn't know just how many religions there were in the world! But anyway, back to our holiday.]

Deepavali is a major Indian festival celebrated as the "Festival of Lights", generally celebrated for 5 consecutive days. It is one of the most important and most popular festivals in India. The festival celebrates the uplighting of darkness and victory of good over the evil within. The most significant esoteric meaning is "the awareness of the inner light".

Central to Hindu philosophy is the assertion that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal, called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of our physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of this Inner Light, in particular the knowing of which outshines all darkness (removes all obstacles and dispels all ignorance), awakening the individual to one's true nature, not as the body, but as the unchanging, infinite, imminent and transcendent reality. With the realization of the Atman, comes universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things (higher knowledge). This brings Ananda (Inner Joy or Peace).

On Deepavali, many wear new clothes, share sweets and snacks. There are festive fireworks, lights, flowers, and worship. One important practice Hindus follow is to light oil lamps in their homes on Deepavali morning. By lighting the oil lamps, the Hindus are thanking the gods for the happiness, knowledge, peace and wealth that they have received.

There are several mythological events related to or associated with Deepavali, including the the victory of Lord Rama over the demon king Ravana (when Rama and his family returned to Ayodhya after a long exile and the people lit oil lamps to light their path in the darkness); the day Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura; the day Bali went to rule the nether-world, obeying the order of Vishnu; the day Lord Krishna defeated Indra, the deity of thunder and rain (also the story where the basis of the karma philosphy was set forth); and more!

SOURCES/MORE INFO:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diwali

http://meme.essortment.com/whatisdeepaval_rgwe.htm

http://www3.kumc.edu/diversity/ethnic_relig/diwali.html

http://www.hinduism.co.za/deepaval.htm

http://bawarchi.com/festivals/diwali2.html