Saturday, December 28, 2013

Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Love. Hate. Joy. Sorrow. Pleasure. Fear. These are powerful emotions, dangerous even. We all experience emotions--it's how we were made. Some people are simply better at hiding their emotions or ignoring them all together. Then there are those people that cannot ignore their emotions. They feel  love and hate and joy and sorrow one hundred times stronger than everyone else. They cry at silly movies. They breakdown at the heartbreaking ASPCA commercials. And to add to their own emotions, their hearts go out to the people they care for, taking on a double load of love and hate. Wearing your heart on your sleeve can be a wonderful blessing. These are the humanitarian people that build Habitat houses, work with the disabled, volunteer at homeless and animal shelters. They make the world a better place by sacrificing themselves for the betterment of the community. But when those on the receiving end, those that see the heart on the sleeves, do you understand what these people are risking? A Sleeve-heart is like a rose left out uncovered in the frost. Without the proper care, it will eventually freeze. If you slice a dagger across the palm of your hand, the wound is exposed, bleeding, and painful. It will eventually heal, but you will always have a scar to remind you of that dagger. Hearts are just like skin. They will heal, but not in the same way. The scars will slowly begin to collect until the person is no longer who he or she used to be. That's why these hearts have to be protected. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I don't have a choice in the matter-I was born that way. I know my emotions can become overwhelmingly unbearable for those dear to me, and that's something that I have to learn to control. However, the people around people like us must realize the effect that their words and actions have on our exposed hearts. We're easily wounded and not easily healed. I speak from experience in the most literal way...a wound is temporary, but a scar lasts forever.

I typically do not write about myself or my personal beliefs on this blog, but I felt this was a subject I needed to comment on. Many writers can empathize because they too wear their hearts on their sleeves. I am now coming to terms with who I am in this respect and I am proud to wear my heart on my sleeve. I know I have to control myself, but I should not, and everyone else who can relate to this, should not be ashamed of their hearts. They are beautiful, like the rose. So keep the frost away.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Installment 4 of Christmas Around the World: S-Z (minus W, X, & Y)

Sweden: December 13 - St. Lucia's Day is celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head. Small children use electric candles but from about 12 years old, real candles are used! A popular food eaten at St. Lucia's day are 'Lussekatts', St Lucia's day buns flavoured with saffron and dotted with raisins which are eaten for breakfast. Presents are normally exchanged on Christmas Eve. 
Families sometimes have goats made of straw in the house to guard the Christmas Tree! Straw is used as a decoration in homes, to remind them that Jesus was born in a manger. Presents might be brought by Santa called 'Jultomten' or by gnomes/elves called 'Nissar' or 'Tomte'. They're called Nisse' in Norway. In Swedish Happy/Merry Christmas is 'God Jul'.

Trinidad and Tobago: A special Trinidadian music, Parang, is played. Parang is an upbeat Venezuela-Trinidad hybrid. This is the time that most people buy new electrical appliances and furniture. Trinibagonian Christmas meal include apples and grapes, sorrel, ponche-de-creme (a version of egg nog), ham, turkey, homemade bread, ginger beer, pastelles (a version of tamales) and local wine.

UK: Christmas Trees were first popularized in the UK by German Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria. Children believe that Father Christmas or Santa Claus leaves presents in stockings or pillow-cases. These are normally hung up by the fire or by the children's beds on Christmas Eve. Children sometimes leave out mince pies and brandy for Father Christmas to eat and drink when he visits them. In Scots Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Blithe Yule'

Venezuela: Some traditional Christmas music in Venezuela is 'Gaita' music. This is a type of folk music played on several instruments including the 'Cuatro' (a guitar with four strings) a 'Tambora' (a Venezuelan drum), the 'Furro' (a type of drum but it has a stick coming up through the middle of the skin of the drum) and the 'Charrasca' (a ribbed tube that you rub a stick up and down). In Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, there's a tradition of people rollerskating to the early morning church services from 16th to 24th December. The roads are often closed to traffic by 8.00am to make it safe for people to skate! In Venezuela presents are brought by 'San Nicolás' (St. Nicholas) & 'Niño Jesús' (Baby Jesus).It was also a tradition for people to paint their houses two to four weeks before Christmas, so it was ready to be decorated for Christmas.

Zimbabwe: A lot of people put their stereos out
side the front of the house and play their favourite music very loudly! It is not only Christmas music that is played, but also the latest pop tunes and old African favourites! The special food eaten at Christmas in Zimbabwe is Chicken with rice. Chicken is a very expensive food in Zimbabwe and is a special treat for Christmas. This is often eaten at the Christmas Day parties.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

German Blown Glass Christmas Ornaments.

If you have been following my Christmas Around the World Installments, I have a fun connection to Installment 2. I'd mentioned how handblown glass ornaments are very popular in Germany. I received a present tonight from three lovely little girls, and in my box, I found a GORGEOUS handblown glass ornament. My mother's family is German, and receiving MY first ornament prompted me to do a little research on these unique decorations. 

A History: The handblown glass ornaments were first created 60 miles north of Nuerenberg in the German village named Lauscha. Then, it was a cottage industry craft--the ornaments were blown and finished in a workshop attached to someone's home. All members of the family helped paint and finish them. A normal work day was 15-16 hours, six days a week. Depending on size and complexity, 300-600 balls a week can be produced. In the 1820s, Lauscha came upon economic ruin. Some glass blowers began to refine the craft and make it into Christmas balls, called Kugeln. The first written record of the Christmas tree balls was in 1848. This became Lauscha's economic salvation. 

This is a tradition that my own family follows. Every year, a glass pickle is hidden in the Christmas tree, and the first child to find the pickle receives a special present. As the children get older, the pickles get smaller. 

Installment 3 of Christmas Around the World: L-R (minus K & O)

Latvia: Children sometimes earn their presents by reciting a poem or song. Claims to be the home of the first Christmas tree, first used in 1510. Merry Christmas = Priecigus Ziemassvotkus. The special Latvian Christmas Day meal is cooked brown/grey peas with bacon (pork) sauce, small pies, cabbage & sausage, bacon rolls and gingerbread.

Madagascar: Even though it is warm, Madagascar is still decorated with holly, robins, and snow. Merry Christmas =Mirary Krismasy sambatra sy Taona vaovao tonga lafatra ho anao. Santa Claus is called 'Dadabe Noely'. The meal is normally Chicken or Pork with rice followed by a special cake. Poinsettias also grow as large outdoor shrubs in Madagascar and don't just flower at Christmas! They are also the national emblem of Madagascar.

A Nisse is another name for Elf

a sheaf of wheat is often left out for the birds to eat over Christmas. Also a type of rice porridge is sometimes left for the 'Nisse' who is believed to guard the farm animals. Another tradition in parts of Norway is that families light a candle every night from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day. The tree is given as a present to say 'thank you' for the help that the people of the UK gave to Norway during World War II. The tree stands in Trafalgar Square in the middle of London and often hundreds of people come to watch when the lights are turned on. Happy/Merry Christmas is 'God Jul' or 'Glædelig Jul'. Here's a recipe for Norwegian Hole Cake

Phillipines: Christmas carols start in September. Misa de Gallo are the early masses held the nine days before Christmas. The parol is a bamboo pole with a lighted star lantern on it that represents the start that guided the Wise Men. Noche Buena includes:  lechon (roasted pig), ham, fruit salad, rice cakes (bibingka and puto bumbong are traditional Christmas foods) and other sweets, steamed rice, and many different types of drinks. Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Maligayang Pasko'

Russia: The Russian Orthodox church uses the Julian Calendar, so Christmas falls on January 7th. Advent for them starts November 28th and goes to January 6th--talk about the 40 days of Christmas! Christmas greeting is 'S Rozhdestvom!'. Sauerkraut is main dish in the Christmas Eve meal. It can be served with cranberries, cumin, shredded carrot and onion rings. Babushka means Grand Mother in Russian. It tells the story of an old women who met the Wise men on their way to see Jesus created by an American poet and writer called Edith Matilda Thomas in 1907.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Installment 2 of Christmas Around the World: F - J

France: Use Nativity cribs to decorate the house with clay figures. Merry Christmas = Joyeux Noel. Yule logs made out of Cherry Wood are burned in their homes. Santa Claus is called Pere Noel (Father Christmas). The main Christmas meal is called Reveillon: roast turkey with chestnuts or roast goose, oysters, foie gras, lobster, venison and cheeses. For dessert, a chocolate sponge cake log called a bûche de Noël is normally eaten.

Germany: Advent is very important to the German Christmas. Christmas trees have been used here since the Middle Ages. They are traditionally brought in on Christmas Eve and surrounded by songs of O Tannenbaum, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet, and Silent Night. Merry Christmas = Frohe Weihnachten. The most famous decoration is the hand blown glass ornament. Children’s letters to the “Christkind’ are decorated with sugar glued to the envelope, which are left on their windowsills at the beginning of Advent. On the eve of December 6th, Saint Nick stops in and leaves little treats in the children’s shoes. Stollen is a popular fruited yeast bread that is served at Christmas.  Here is a recipe for Stollen

Hungary: Christmas Eve is called ‘Szent-este’ which means Holy Evening. The evening is spent with family decorating the tree. The main meal consists of fish and cabbage and a special poppy bread/cake called ‘Beigli.’ Midnight Mass Service is very popular. They also recognize St. Nicholas day on December 6th. Santa is known as “Mikulas.” 

Wren Boys Procession
Ireland: Christmas lasts from Christmas Eve to Epiphany on January 6th. Santa is known as San Nioclas. Merry Christmas = Nollaig Shona Dhuit. The Wren Boys Procession takes place on St. Stephen’s Day--people dress up and go around to neighbor houses singing rhymes about a wren bird. “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, on St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze.” On the Feast of the Epiphany, women have the day off and men do the house work and cooking. 

Jamaica: Lots of people paint their houses and hang new curtains and decorations. The meal for Christmas day is prepared on Christmas Eve: fresh fruits, sorrel and rum punch and meat. The Christmas Day breakfast includes ackee and saltfish, breadfruit, fried plantains, boiled bananas, freshly squeezed fruit juice and tea. Dinner is usually served in the late afternoon and this may include chicken, curry goat, stewed oxtail, rice and peas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Installment 1 of Christmas Around the World: A-E

Australia: Celebrated during the Australian summer. Australians decorate with Christmas trees and lights, but a unique decoration is the Christmas Bush, a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream colored flowers that turn red by the week of Christmas. State capitols and local towns hold Carols by Candlelight services with famous and/or small town bands. Australians also recognize Boxing Day where they visit friends and have Barbeques on the beach. Christmas dinners usually include seafood and “traditional english” food. 

Brazil: Santa’s name is Papai Noel. Many customs are similar to US and UK. A traditional Christmas meal includes: chicken, turkey, ham, rice, salad, pork, and fresh and dried fruits. The Celebrations start on Christmas even with fireworks and a barbeque (churrasco). Children sometimes leave their socks on windows, hoping that if Papai Noel finds it, he will exchange it for a present. 

Czech Republic: They celebrate Saint Nicholas day, where children are expected to recite a poem or song and in exchange receive a small, stocking sized present from St. Nick. Merry Christmas = Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce. 

Seeing a Golden Pig before dinner is seen as a good luck sign. Christmas dinner takes place on Christmas eve and consists of fish soup and fried carp with potato salad. Jezisek or “Little Jesus” leaves presents during Christmas dinner and rings a bell before he leaves. 

Denmark: Christmas Eve: Church service, dinner, dancing around the Christmas tree, then opening presents. Ris a la mande is rice pudding that chops up almonds except for  one, which is kept whole. The person who finds the whole almond gets a present. 
Julemanden “Christmas man” travels with a sleigh & reindeer, lives in Greenland, likes rice pudding, and is helped by Nisser (like elves). 
Merry Christmas = Glaedelig Jul.

Ethiopia: This country is still on the Julian Calendar, so they celebrate Christmas on January 7th. They fast the night before and dress in white for the Ganna service early the next morning. Traditional Christmas foods in Ethiopia include wat which is a thick and spicy stew that contains meat, vegetables and sometimes eggs (sounds yummy!). Wat is eaten on a 'plate of injera' - a flat bread. Pieces of the injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop up the wat.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Take Care of Your Computer

So a few months back, I was working on my book, and all of a sudden, my screen flashed white. I took it to my dad when the screen didn't come back on after a few minutes, and he regretted to tell me that my hard drive was "dead as a doornail." At the time, I was under a lot of stress. A fundraiser I was organizing was happening the next day; I had an exam coming up; and my cousins were in town. My mind did not process how much I lost. For those of you that are as dependent on your laptop as I am, I am giving you fair warning before this happens to you and you lose everything, BACK UP YOUR HARD DRIVE! Get an external drive; store your work on all these new online storage devices. Do whatever you have to do to save the life you share with your computer.
Let me just give you an idea of what I lost:
ALL 2,000 songs in my music library
My first book, my second book, and the beginning of my third book
All of my short stories
All the pictures that I had before Facebook and that were not shared on my parents' computer
All of my personal work and online quotes that I had found
All of my usernames and passwords.
When I eventually slowed my mind down enough to realize what I had lost, I was blown away and horrified all at the same time. I had just spent an entire fall break making great strides in editing my book. All gone. That was the knife to the gut. I had edited at the minimum-five chapters, and now I had to go back to chapter two. But it wasn't that easy. When Apple recovered my computer and put in a new hard drive, I had to update my software, and the pages that I downloaded was not compatible with plain old word. So after I would go to my "editor elf," and she would send the new copy to me, I couldn't open it on my computer to work on it until I would see her again. My computer crashed October 18. I did not find a compatible pages software until today, December 21--that's over two months not being able to work on my book on my own time. I feel like I have had a dragon-sized weight lifted off my shoulders. So...moral of the horror story...ALWAYS back up your computer. Don't be like me--don't learn the hard way. The hard was is no fun. (But to be fair, the hard drive was six years old...if that says anything of how strong Macs are...)