Monday, December 6, 2010

Saint T

Christmas time is here, we'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see, such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see, such spirit through the year...
-“Christmas Time” from the Peanuts “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (envision Snoopy skating solo on a frozen pond)

I love Christmas. I couldn’t always say that and now that I can, boy oh boy it’s so true! I have lights in my house and stockings and I’m hoping to find a lovely tree this weekend. I have learned to love Christmas after giving up the notion of the perfect Christmas. Just the lights alone make me happy. The holidays are also the time of year when you open your mailbox and everyday there is a new plea for money. The local food bank and the homeless shelter need money. The United Way needs brand new toys donated. Brand new toys, by the way, are not free. With each and every one my heart breaks as I know I will have to pick and choose who gets a donation. I don’t have enough to donate to all of them, oh but if I did . . . and my plan is that someday I will. The most inviting thing about the dream of financial comfort is how much can be done with it. Someday I will put money in every one of those return envelopes; until that day though, I have to let them all pile up and decide.

When I was a little girl I told my father that when I grew up I was going to have a store where everything would be free, that way all the poor people can come in and have all the things they need. My father gave me a quick lesson on civics and capitalism by letting me know my store would not work; it would go out of business and therefore help no one. I would be broke and those who are already broke would not have learned how to help themselves, better to have a store for profit and employ those who need a way to survive. Hmmmmmmm, I muttered while stroking my chin and adding this all up. When I was in high school and we took those tests to see what career would suit us each best. I was always supposed to be a social worker or a counselor or a special education teacher. Seems I’m hard wired to be a bleeding heart. That’s ok with me, I like it. The Black Dogs Dad has pointed out to me more than twice that I am a crier, indeed it’s true.

As you may have heard, our country is in financial shambles. Have you heard that? It’s not just a rumor. Money is not circulating because it is in short supply and everyone is scared. One of the basic rules of a sustainable society is that money must circulate. If I give my money to Safeway and they just hoard it that doesn’t do anyone any good. Safeway has to “pay it forward” so to speak. I give my money to Safeway, Safeway gives their money to the electric company, the electric company pays their taxes, taxes pay for our roads to be cleared so that when we have a snow storm we can all go out to Safeway and keep Safeway, as well as some farmers, in business. It’s a chain and every link is important. SPEND YOUR MONEY, but spend it wisely please.

Here’s the kicker though, right now there are people who are spending their money wisely and are still falling more and more behind. So tonight, as my dearest friend, my closest soul mate, my rock in so many watery times in my life, as this person I love so very much cries on the phone and says to me “We will lose our house by this spring if something doesn’t change”, my heart dropped . . . broke open . . . and bled out. My own life is instantly prioritized, nothing I am dealing with matches the pain my friend has . . . and that’s good because I am able to put anything in my life aside to sit on the phone and cry with her. My friend’s life is not frivolous. In fact she is one of the most frugal and financially savvy people I know. Yet, a pox on our country has seethed and oozed its way into my friends home and is threatening to squeeze the life out, threatening to oust the laughter of a small boy and two loyal furry companions. Her wedding reception was held in the back yard. Her baby shower was in the front room. A surprise party for my 40th birthday was held in this very house. Brunch after the baby’s christening. This house is full of Christmases, Hanukkahs, Thanksgivings, Easters, birthdays, skinned knees, burned toast, fights, and love. Yet in all of this, as we cry on the phone together, she says to me “I know that whatever happens God has a plan for me and it will be ok. I know that whatever happens will be the best thing for my family”. My friend is scared. My friend is sad. My friend does not understand why this is being visited upon her and still, my friend is unwavering in her belief of good over evil. Yes Wells Fargo, I mean you. We bailed you out and now you can’t help people? Shame on you. You know how much the CEO of Wells Fargo made last year? Well I’ll tell ya about Mr. John Stumpf. I looked him up online and here’s what Forbes had to say, in 2009 his total earnings were $21,340,547.00. Please note I said TOTAL earnings. His salary is a mere five and a half million. That’s a damn big number, lots and lots of zero’s that are worth much more than nothing. I don’t begrudge him his money. I really don’t and I’m sure he probably donates a lot of his money to charity and he may be the gosh darn nicest person ever, but right now Wells Fargo will not do anything to help my friend and many others just like her. She pays her bills on time and in full every month but their income has changed, as it has for so many just like them. They are living with the same amount of accounts payables but significantly less receivables . . . but no refinance help. No money circulating, just money staying, just hoarding. Am I biased? HELL YES I’M BIASED! JOHN STUMPF, HELP MY FRIEND YOU GODDAMNED ASSHOLE! This is what’s great about a blog. It’s mine, I can say whatever I want. And don’t worry about the severe cursing, I have asked God to damn many things and he always says "No". We have an agreement, I get to say “God damn it” and He gets to say “No, I will not. Now please try to act a little more ladylike, even if it’s only acting”.

I recently finished reading a book by Marianne Williamson entitled “A Return To Love”. It’s self help-y, it’s spiritual bordering on preachy, but it was also enlightening – which I believe is the point. I love self help books, seriously, I love ‘em, but you have to know which parts you can keep in your life and which parts to throw out with both the baby and the bath water. One of the many things I took away from this book is the whole screwed up notion of miracles. We ask our chosen deity for a miracle and we think the heavens will part, seraphim will weep, children will sing and suddenly all will be right with the world and we will graciously go on about our merry way. How many times have you ever not gotten something you wanted and then, in hindsight, said “Thank God that didn’t happen”? Losing a friend, a job, a relationship, a missed plane, a missed boat, and maybe even losing a house, can all be miracles. When you ask for a miracle YOU WILL GET IT, but it may not be quite what you were expecting. And often times they really are messy, because if you’re in a place of needing a miracle chances are pretty good you need an overhaul. Lots of things may need to get cleared up, buckle up and trust that good things are on their way, they are just sometimes preceded by bad things. It’s like exfoliating, it’s a life loofah. (I’m crackin’ myself up with that one, life loofah).

So, let’s roll on back to the spirit of the holidays. Remember that? That’s where we started this story. You’re getting all those envelopes in the mail too. I know there’s a lot going on this time of year. You have plane tickets to buy and gifts to gift and you may want some new party shoes (who doesn’t?) but listen, stop a minute and think back on all the good things that came your way this past year. Stop to enjoy all the good in your life. This story isn’t meant to convince you to give, but please do if you can. This story isn’t meant to make you feel badly about new party shoes, this story is meant to make you (and me) see just how much good there is in your life . . . and in my life. If you went on a trip, even a small one, you have a lot. If you went to see your favorite band, if you got yourself a nice new pair of $20 Smartwool socks, you’re livin’ pretty large. Today I drove my nearly eleven year old car to work as I always do, and it got me there and back safely, as it always does. I have friends that hear me out during my sad times and share my good times with me. When I walked in the door tonight my two furry, lovey kitties greeted me at the door, as they always do. I am blessed in my life, as are you. Please remember to be grateful and if you can give a little something, well then, even better.

Happy holidays everyone!