December 9, 2013

Why I Believe in Santa Claus

Do I believe in Santa? ...
Why yes I do!

I have some friends and some family who seem to be, in my opinion, a bit confused about what Christmas really means, and they somehow seem to think that we have lost the 'true' meaning of Christmas. I need to clear things up, at least as far as MY beliefs and feelings go, about this most wonderful of holidays.

Recently, I was sent a link to  a site that warned about the origins of the 'pagan mythology' that makes up a lot of our Christmas traditions.  While much of this 'origins' stuff is true, I say that these beginnings in history no longer matter ... they are not, nor have they ever been what Christmas means to me, or to anyone that I have ever shared this holiday with.  Some of my friends follow a different religion than I do and they don't celebrate this holiday, but for me, although Jesus name is used in the word Christmas, and it embodies his love and the giving of his blessings (including the greatest gift of all), it's not just a Christian holiday either.

Why do we celebrate on December 25th?

Christmas isn't just about the day that Jesus was born, which it turns out wasn't even in December... It's about love, and sharing, and giving, and most of all, it's about magic. I don't mean the scary 'magic' of horror stories, nor the supernatural 'magic' of fantasy tales, but the true magic born of loving others more than you do yourself (the most important lesson that Jesus had for us all)... and Christmas Magic is for the children, including the ones who still live somewhere inside each of us.

We all know that children grow up very fast, and they learn way to soon just how hard and cold the great big world can be. The world can rapidly become one of disappointments and sorrow... of missed opportunities, and angry words... of the daily struggle to fit in, and the tests we must study for.  Christmas is the one time of year that little ones can still believe in a world of magic and wonder... a belief that will far too quickly fade as the 'real' world takes over their lives.

Why Santa?

Yeah, in my family we still do the whole Santa Claus thing. The kids still look forward to that magical visit, and surprise presents under the tree, and cookies and milk are always left out for Santa (with the occasional carrot for Rudolph, too). They hang their stockings up, hoping they've been good enough to get fruit and candy, instead of a lump of coal, but they know in their hearts that they have been ... most of the time.

Around the age of 10 or 11, each of my kids was inducted, by a very sacred and solemn ceremony into the Secret Society of Santa Helpers, <two winks and shake your invisible bell>  and that year, they got to stay up later than everyone else, and help make sure that Santa's 'visit' came off without a hitch.

Sadly, some people see this as being dishonest. Here I must beg to differ. It is not about keeping any kind of truth from the kids, but instead it's about keeping alive that little spark inside them, that will grow into faith ... and to stop the joy and wonder about the endless possibilities that life might hold from turning into cynicism and skepticism and drudgery ... for the world is far too full of all the things that try to make that happen as they grow up.

My brother and sister and I always celebrated Christmas. We hung our stockings, and we left cookies out for the fat guy ... and we were always amazed and delighted Christmas morning after he came. It didn't turn any of us against Jesus, or make us pagans or atheists, nor did the disappointment when we "grew up" make us bitter or resentful about being sold a fake story.  It was simply fun and magic and special, and it helped us to become the people we are, with faith and love and joy inside, even if we sometimes get buried under all the 'reality' that is out there.

I Believe!

I refuse to stop believing in Santa, because I believe in love and hope... and I believe that God has given us opportunities to instill a sense of joy and wonder, and yes, magic, into future generations. For me, Christmas, with all of it's commercialism aside, is still an excellent chance to give these gifts to my kids, and their kids, and hopefully their kids, on down the line.

I for one, will not make my grandkids or ANY kids have to face the burden that our cold reality can be, any sooner than they have to. Childhood is fleeting, and Christmas Magic doesn't last in it's purest form .. that of childhood ... very long, so I try to keep it alive as long as possible. And as a charter member of the S.S.O.S.H., I will believe in Santa forever.

To me, although I do celebrate the birth of my personal Savior on this day ... it doesn't matter what religion you are, nor who or what you perceive God to be ... Christmas is still the time for giving freely to each other, for sharing love and laughter with your family and friends, and if your little, to have a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve, listening for those sleigh bells.

May you all be blessed with love and joy and happiness -  and a very Merry Christmas,

... From Grandpa's Heart

November 4, 2013

Happy Birthday ... To Me!

The Big Five-Oh ... WHAT?

Last week I had a birthday. It wasn't a big deal, and was actually kind of quiet, since Grandma was sick with a stomach bug. But as I went to bed that night, it dawned on me ... I just turned 50!

Never again will I be 40-something ... and even though I don't feel any older, I'm not very far from being eligible for the senior discount at the mall, and I'm twice the age that some pro football players retire at!

Sigh ...

So how did I cope with this dawning realization that OLD actually happens, and contrary to popular wisdom is NOT just a state of mind? ... Well, I did what I tend to do when my brain starts working overtime .. I wrote a poem ... lol.

 The Young Me Inside

A very young grandfather, (that's me),
Said one day, "This just can't be!
    I stood and I gazed
    In my mirror, amazed,
As a 50 year-old stared back at me!"

"An entire half-century old ...
I don't look it, or so I've been told.
    Although, I have found
    When the snow flies around,
There's a spot on my head that gets cold!"

Now my heart once did hiccup, that's true,
And the gray in my beard is a clue -
    I'm no longer a youth ...
    And I must tell the truth ...
There are some things I can no longer do.

I could run when I was a boy,
And trees, I could climb them like toys ...
    These now I can't do,
    See, it's sad, but it's true,
These days, a healthy bowel-movement's a joy!

Now, my grandkids all make me so proud,
But they play their darn music too loud!
    I must officially complain,
    With all these new aches and pains,
Getting old should just not be allowed!

I mean aging is great ... for a wine,
But for me, it should be a crime!
    I mean, maybe it's pride,
    But stuck deep inside
I'm just a boy turning 10 the 5th time!

(c) 2013 Dusty Grein

The Best Benefit

The very best part of getting older is being able to become more empathetic to the troubles and turmoils that others face in their lives, and having gained a small amount of wisdom, to be able to pass it on to those who are following in your footsteps.With every sunrise, each of us get one day older, but that just means we get one day longer to love each other.

I hope that I remember to cherish each day, and year, as the gifts from God that they are ... And with His blessings, I'll check back in again soon, and share more thoughts, love and wisdom, straight ..

From Grandpa's Heart ...

June 21, 2013

A Very Special Woman

Her Story

I'd like to tell you all a true-life story about one of the most incredible women I've ever known.

She was born on a summer day during World War II, in a little town in western Washington state. She would grow up the second child, and oldest daughter, of four kids, and learned to care for her younger brother and sister as a teenager. Her working-class parents weren't wealthy, but not having the world given to her on a silver platter taught her to work hard and to appreciate the things you work for. She graduated from Federal Way High School in 1961, and in 1962 she got a job at the Seattle World's Fair.

She also worked at a drive-in theater that summer, and it was there that she met and fell in love with a young dreamer, and the two of them were married that fall.

Between 1963 and 1969 they had three children, two boys and a girl. During those years, she faithfully followed her husband up and down the west coast of the US, as he searched for a way to provide for their family. They had some good times and some bad times, as all married couples do. Sadly, they divorced after almost 11 years of marriage, and in 1973 she found herself a single mother of three young children, hundreds of miles from her closest relatives. She had no career, and although she had taken odd jobs during her marriage, most of her time and energy had been spent being a full-time mother and wife, and she needed to find a way to hold her family together.

Inner Strength

This amazing woman struggled with doubt, fear, pain and loneliness, but she made sure that her children never felt that they were anything but a blessing in her life. She brought her small family back to Washington state to be closer to her parents, and while somehow making their meager allotment of food stamps stretch each week, she went back to school. By taking classes at a local community college, she acquired skills that would enable her to provide her family with a good life. They were never rich, and Hamburger-Helper was on the menu a lot more than steak, but they never went hungry - and they had something that a lot of people never know:  a warm home, full of love and laughter. There was always room for at least one pet, punishments were done more by looks of disappointment than anything else, and their family enjoyed far more happy times than sad ones.

From the moment she became a mother, even during all of the challenges that life threw at her, she gave her children some priceless gifts. A passion for books and reading was basic to her nature, and story time was always important. This fascination and desire for words and ideas became a deep-rooted part of her children's very souls and laid the groundwork for giving them a love of learning... and she was their first and very best teacher.  Her pride in their accomplishments, coupled with high expectations for their progress, gave them a strong sense of self-worth, and her examples of hard work, commitment and perseverance forged deep within them an inner strength that would allow them to become the best people they could be. Her love for her family was always so strong and constant, that they never for a minute doubted her, or their places in her heart ... and this gave them the security and faith to be able to give love to others.

Over the years as her children grew she opened her heart, and often her home, to many of their friends as well. These extra kids all ended up calling her Mom, and she helped to shape their lives and personalities as well. She was always ready to come to the rescue if any of them needed her, and all of them still respect and love her.

Who Is She?

Her name is Audine Grein, but I have always known her as Mom.

I am so blessed to be her son. Compared to many of my friends, I have always had a very unique relationship with my Mom. We never really fought or argued, and I cannot remember a time in my life that I had anything but respect and love for her. I'm sure that I tried her patience over the years, especially when I was a brilliant teenager who knew everything, but she was always my rock, my hero, my inspiration and my friend. She gave me just enough space to be myself, and just enough guidance to keep me from disaster. Though I may not have told her often enough, I have always been so proud of her, and everything that she achieved.

In 1985, my wife and I had our first child, and since Mom was just 42, she informed us she was way too young to be a Grandma. Since her mother was still using that title anyway, (I love you, Gramma),  Mom became Nanny ... and for almost thirty years now, she has been Nanny to grandkids and great-grandkids alike.

As of this writing, she has three children (plus spouses), 11 grandchildren (plus spouses), and 8 great-grandchildren. I created this image as a gift to her for Christmas, 2010 ... and there have been 6 additions to this family tree since then... as well as a few sort-of-adopted members.

Nanny's branches of the family tree,
as it existed in December of 2010.

The Lessons

I owe this amazing woman so much more than I can ever hope to repay ... and she has never expected anything more than love in return.

She taught me to read before I was 5 ... and yes, it's her fault that my bathroom doubles as a library. When you potty train a young child by putting a book in their hands, you may just create a lifelong habit. She is also responsible for my vocabulary. She has a knowledge of the English language that I have yet to find an equal to, and I guarantee, there is no prouder memory in my mind than the first time I actually won a game of Scrabble against my mother, the word-master..

She taught me to drive, to budget, to cook and that mothers really do have ESP when it comes to knowing the truth, so you might as well just be honest with them. She taught me to love myself and others, and more importantly, she taught me that as long as you believe in yourself, it doesn't matter what the world says or thinks about you - that the only limits you have, are the ones you set for yourself.

As we prepare to celebrate her 70th birthday this year, I am reminded just how blessed our family is, to have her in our lives, our hearts and our souls, not to mention most of our DNA.

Regardless of whether she is Mom, Nanny or Great-Grandma, she has always been a pillar of strength, a light in the darkness, a warm hug when the world is cold, the absolute best place to turn when you need to know the answer to just about any question ... and hers is still the face and voice that deep inside I long for when I get an Owwie on my knee, or in my heart..

I love you Mom ... that's always and forever ...

From Grandpa's Heart ....