Too soon for Christmas?

peanuts

So Sirius/XM has activated the “Holly Channel”, a music channel dedicated to playing Christmas music 24/7 during the holidays. The music is mostly secular, but also a few classic songs which may mention *gasp* my Lord Jesus Christ’s name in the lyrics. I don’t know what day they activated it but when I heard it was active I immediately programmed it into my presets.

Too soon? It’s too soon to hear positive and uplifting music with cute, often quirky and funny lyrics that express joy and sharing and nostalgia and happiness and all that sappy stuff? It’s too soon to hear about fat elves giving toys to children and reindeer with bright shiny noses and sleigh bells and snow? (Actually you can keep the snow). Too soon to hear about being home with family and loved ones and eggnog and hot chocolate and chestnuts and turkey? Too soon to hear about Dominic the Christmas donkey and grandma getting run over by a reindeer and wanting front teeth or a hippopotamus for Christmas and mama kissing Santa Claus? Too soon you say? Well I say it’s about time! Bring it ON!

If you don’t know how I feel about this season you can read a Christmas rant I wrote a few years ago. Still relevant today. I love this season and for more than the chance to celebrate the birth of Jesus which has little to nothing to do with December 25th. I’ve loved this season since childhood and my childhood was mostly spent in poverty so the materialism of the season was not a relevant factor for me. Of course then I had no idea how poor we were but that didn’t even matter.

My Christmas seasons have been far from what you may call “traditional” and the contrasts have often been pretty sharp. I’ve spent the Christmas season in the Caribbean tropics and in New York City. They are very different feels. I’ve spent Christmases alone and surrounded by family and loved ones. I’ve spent it on ships in the middle of the ocean and in a barracks room in the Middle Eastern desert. I spent my first Christmas in the Navy in Boot Camp. I’ve gotten slews of gifts and I’ve also gotten just one. For Christmas dinner I’ve eaten turkey with stuffing and duck stuffed with veal (trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve had that). I’ve had pig roasted on a spit with rice and pigeon peas and lamb with Nan and Hummus. I’ve built snowmen on Christmas and I’ve spent Christmas on a beach. I’ve been to Christmas mass, to Baptist services and rousing Pentecostal services. I’ve sung on Puerto Rican Parrandas and I’ve gone Christmas Caroling. Heck one year I even sang Christmas carols with a group of Philippinos to a bunch of Muslims linguists (my rendition of Feliz Navidad was a huge hit!).

My point being that I don’t need the external stimuli of “traditional” rote to feel the Christmas spirit. I’m annoyingly upbeat anyways so it doesn’t take much. I’m a sucker for it. You can throw as much cynicism and myth busting you want at me and it will slide off of me like water off a duck’s back (mmmm duck with veal stuffing). I don’t know why anyone would try.

Christmas is too commercial? I say bring it on! Bring on the money spending which create jobs and success and entrepreneurialism and improve people’s lives not just in this country but all around the world. This is an undeniable fact dismissed by too many who think only a select few benefit. Trust me, everyone benefits. Even the act of shopping makes people better. Thinking of family and friends as you try to find the best gift for them; whether you’re spending little or too much. Whether you buy the gift or buy the supplies to make the gift. It’s all a good thing.

People ignore the reason for the season? Sure it would be nice if at least once a year Jesus Christ were honored by all of humanity for which He sacrificed so much. Once a year is clearly not enough, but who knows? Someone, somewhere will take a knee and because His name is being bandied about (albeit unintentionally by some) that someone will give their lives to Him this season. And their lives will become better for all eternity. That is a guaranteed fact.

What is clear is that most everyone will be better human beings, if only for a little while. Some pettiness will fade, some acrimoniousness will lessen, someone will be forgiven and fences will be mended. People will express joy and love and it won’t seem sappy or contrived. They will genuinely mean it. I admit, some may be completely unmoved by the entire season. I feel so sorry for those people.

I am not immune to the pain and suffering throughout the world. Some will experience tragedy for sure because life its ownself doesn’t take a break, but this season offers more solace and comfort than any other time of year for those who reach for it. Those who won’t would reject a cup of water in the middle of a searing desert because it has no ice.

I get the atheists and the secularists points. I really do. If I had their belief system the mere act of Jesus Christ’s or our Father God’s name being mentioned more frequently would make me want to dig in my heels too. After all, even atheists believe in God and Jesus Christ. Otherwise why would they fight them so hard? There is definitely a battle going on that happens about this time every year in this country. But none of that is relevant. I’m not gonna even engage in it. Because you just can’t beat something as powerful as Christmas no matter how hard you try.

Too soon? I think not. I think it’s definitely about time. So cinch up Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants! If you want to remain jaded and cranky you’re in for a bumpy ride. Or, just give in. Embrace the joy of the season as it is truly a choice for you because it is. A choice I mean. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate His birth and His sacrifice for the redemption of your sin or not. But I certainly invite you to forgive more, give more, love more and generally enjoy life more. And listen to Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey if you never have. It’ll get you every time.

My Open Letter to President George W Bush dated 1/20/20909

In honor of the President’s birthday I am re-printing an open letter I posted when he passed on the watch in 2009. Not much more to say other than how much more I admire him since that day.

Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for your service to our great country! You have served under one of the most difficult times in our nation’s history. It is easy to judge and critique your administration from the comfort of our armchairs, but the decisions of leadership are always shouldered by the ones sitting in the leadership chair. You have never shirked that duty and I know that your decisions were always governed by what you felt was best for this country. I know this to be true. Whether I agreed with them or not, your decisions were selfless, noble and honorably driven. I never had to question your motives. It is obvious to me that you were not concerned with popular opinion or your historic legacy. You did the job I hired you to do.
I want to specifically thank you for keeping this nation safe from attack since September 11, 2001.You said two things in the days following that I have kept with me. In speaking to the Terrorists you looked directly into the camera and said “You are now the focus of my administration.”And “I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security of the American people”. In those two things you have never wavered.. For that I will be eternally grateful.
You have been the target of some of the most despicable and cowardly attacks I have witnessed ever heaped on a sitting president. The personal invective of these attacks was unprecedented. The culmination of which was a physical attack in a country you, ironically, made freedom possible enough to be able to conduct that type of protest. You handled all those with enviable grace and class, never going on the attack yourself, regardless how despicable the act or how foul the verbiage. I will forever aspire to emulate that behavior, probably never coming close.
I am positive that history will be kind to you Mr. President. I’m also fairly certain that this will not weigh heavily upon your conscience. I hope not. You have burdens aplenty. I am certainly not going to be your judge. We both know who that ultimate entity will be and it is that knowledge that probably gives you peace. He will also be kind. In any case sir, I speak for many I’m sure when I say simply, thank you
May you always have fair winds and following seas
Respectfully,
Anthony D. Hubble, RMC(SW), USN(Ret)

10 Things I wish I would have done, done better, or not done raising my children

I don’t have many regrets as a parent. Not because I haven’t made mistakes as we clearly all do. I parented with the tools I had at the time and I had absolutely no good example to follow from my own parents. I’m clear any mistakes I made I did so out of trying to ensure my children made it to adulthood alive and as productive adults. As they have checked both those boxes I consider my parenting a reasonable success. There are some things I’d rather have done, not done or done better. I’m just going to list ten of them. Why ten? It’s an easy rounded number. Besides I’m not my wife so I can’t think of more than ten mistakes I may have made. They are presented here in no significant order of importance.

  1. Give them more of my time. I was not a neglectful father. Of this I’m sure, but we can always give them more time cant we? More tea parties with the girls, more rough housing with the boys (okay the girls too), more talks about nothing at all, more sports, more hiking, more movies to see, more everything. Whether it would make a big difference to them (it would) or not it would surely make for more and richer memories for me as it is the ones I have of them that are the most precious ones I have of my life. I’m sure they say the same. Right? Right?
  2. Never ever raise my voice. There is a large gap in ages between my three older children and my two younger ones. I became a father very young and I was a very different parent between the younger and older ones. More patient as I got older. But throughout I felt compelled at times to yell at them for something they may have done or neglected to do. I’m not talking raging or belittling, but simply raising my voice. Whether justified or not, I was usually filled with regret afterwards and pride stopped me from apologizing most of the time. I marvel at the patience level my sons and daughter have with their own children. It’s truly a sight to watch and learn from, albeit this late for me. Of course I have not found any reason whatsoever for which to yell at my grandsons. They are clearly less annoying than their parents.
  3. Let them know how proud I am of them. I did and continue to do this, but I could do it much more often. My mother ensures I know how proud she is of me every time I talk to her. She’s absolutely effusive about it to the point of annoyance. Yeah, that’s why I don’t do it. I don’t want to annoy them. You’re welcome kids!
  4. Explain to my daughters the truly disgusting nature of teenage boys. I mean seriously, they are disgusting. I know. I was one. Yet despite this, they both managed to navigate those years successfully. One is happily married to a doting and loving husband, thus far (he’s still under the spotlight and probably will be for life). The other has managed to dodge getting her heart broken and doesn’t allow herself to be taken advantage of. I take no credit for either of their choices. Must be their mother’s upbringing. Then again she chose me so what does she know?
  5. Buy my son the piece of crap overpriced car he seemed to have fallen in love with when he was a teenager. I saw exactly that. A piece of crap, overpriced money pit that would probably break down on a weekly basis. What I failed to see was the car through his eyes and he probably saw only potential. Believe me, the car had none. But most importantly, he would have had a better story to tell than his Dad refusing to buy the first car he fell in love with. Sometimes the smarter decision is not necessarily the better one. He should still thank me for the heartbreak I helped him avoid by not buying it the ungrateful cuss.
  6. Force them to learn Spanish. I say Spanish because it’s the other language I speak/read/write fluently, but any second language would do. My father, although also fluent in Spanish (for a gringo) refused to speak to us in any language other than English. He was militant about it. Why? We were living on a Spanish speaking island and he did not want us to forget English. Result? We didn’t. I should have been more militant about it. They resisted and I caved. Soooo my solution was to take them to that Spanish speaking island so they’d be forced to learn by immersion. I should have taken them to Mexico instead. Everyone in Puerto Rico speaks English, poorly or not, they do speak it.  Fail!
  7. Teach them to dance. My mother taught me to dance very young as she is a dancer at heart. At the time I hated those lessons but I was very appreciative of them when I was in my teens. I was a dancing fool in my teens and where I was raised that’s how you got the girls. My youngest is a natural dancer who’s pretty much self taught. To be honest I’m not sure if my other four can dance a lick. I made up for this by teaching them all martial arts. Only one of them has not made it to black belt. I’m not giving up on her.  Perhaps when I start training her children she’ll start again.
  8. Take them out to sea. I spent ten years of my Naval career on ships and I’ve seen some of the most majestic sights out at sea, night and day. Only one of my children has gone out to sea with me. He actually got to shoot the 5”54 caliber gun mount on my last ship (thanks Captain Frank Demasi!). They were memorable trips and I treasure the memories. My oldest served in the Navy so he’s been out there. My three younger ones have been aboard my ships but only while tied to the pier on my duty nights. Perhaps I’ll purchase a family cruise one of these days. My wife having been out to sea with me once will probably skip that cruise.
  9. Build a treehouse fort. I didn’t have one growing up so I’m not sure how much they missed out on this one but I always wanted to do this. Probably a good thing I didn’t as I’m not much of a builder and I probably spared them some broken bones. In fact they should all thank me for this one too!
  10. Create a college fund. This one is not necessarily so they could all go to college but so they would have the option. My wife and I sacrificed much financially so she could stay home, raise and educate our children. Not much was left over. They never lacked for anything but we did not put anything away for them. I would have liked to have given them the option of going to college or taking the money and bumming around the world for a few years. Wait! Bum around the world for a few years? Why should they get to do that??? Never mind. I’m glad I bought that Corvette and that motorcycle. Okay, I didn’t get those either but I sure did think about it.

I’m not done parenting my adult children so I have some time to make up for these lapses in my parenting record. I just want them to understand how precious and special they are and that because they are, I have managed to do something precious and special in my life. At least five times. Happy Fathers day to me!

Fifty Three Things

Three years ago on the august occasion of turning 50 I wrote a note called “Fifty Things” (https://www.facebook.com/tony.hubble?cropsuccess#!/notes/tony-hubble/fifty-rants/468644568128) . The following year I recycled the blog and added one more item. Being a writer I’ve since decided that was just cheesy and so I tried to see if I could come up with a brand new list of “Fifty Three Things” without duplicating the others (even though they all remain germane to this day and still a testament to my genius/lunacy). Again, they are in no particular order of importance (except for the 1st one) or relevance but the result of spit balling on my part. Some are observations, some advice, some are things about me you may or may not know.  Again, they are my opinions so if you take offense to any of them you are taking yourself way too seriously (that was one of my “Fifty things” btw).

So, fifty-three things.

  1. God is great. All the time. This is indisputable. I consider this realization the greatest indicator of the growth and maturity of my soul. 
  2. I once had an atheist tell me that worshipping a God, any God is “barbaric, “stupid” and “medieval”. When I told him (as I tell all atheists eventually) that we’ll see how that works out for him in 50-60 years (should he live that long), he actually told me that if God himself stood in front of  him and told him to kneel that he would point blank say no. Now, whether you believe in God or not that’s a fairly stupid statement. I’m pretty sure that’s not how a conversation with an omnipotent being will go down. So we’ll see how that works out for him in the end.
  3. In business, when you cut someone a break it burns you about 85% of the time. It is my opinion that the 15% it does not burn me makes up for that 85%. Knowing this has not made me jaded or changed the way I do business. I’m just more aware is all.
  4. It may be trite and overstated but skydiving out of an airplane is, in two words, exhilarating and life changing. I did a tandem jump recently so I suspect my first solo jump will be even more so. That’s right, I’m doin it again. Few things compare to that moment when you’re looking down at the earth 13,000 ft below and are conscious of the fact that you’re are about to leap out of an airplane. I got almost the same kind of feeling when I cliff dived as a teen but this one lasts longer. My biggest fear when jumping? I worried about losing control of any body functions. What’s that say about me that I worried more about embarrassment than my parachute not opening?
  5. “You’re entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts” is a quote that has become more and more relevant to me in the last few years.
  6. In the same vein, people who “don’t like labels” just don’t like what they’re being labeled as. Labels exist for a reason. You can look at a turd and call it a flower but that wont change the fact that it’s a turd and it stinks.
  7. I was a movie extra by accident once. It was an Animal Planet movie titled “Rain” and it was about Army dogs in the Vietnam war. It was filmed in PR. My son was hired as an extra and the Assistant Director asked me if I wouldn’t mind sticking around. It kind of mystified me because the casting call was for young men 18-24 and I was clearly past that bar. But I agreed, found a uniform that fit and spent 12 out there in the island sun. I was filmed in several scenes, but apparently someone may have seen them and decided there were no middle aged Ricans in Vietnam so my scenes wound up on the cutting room floor. You can still see my son in the movie though. So I got $50 for my trouble and a memorable experience with my son.
  8. My favorite colors are red and black. I was ecstatic when the ATA went to those colors.
  9. Travelling with someone you cherish is a thousand times more fun than travelling alone. This may seem obvious to many but I’ve done most of my travelling alone and only recently has that changed and I’ve had a basis for comparison.
  10. Never stop attempting to surprise yourself or others. This obviously requires you to take risks. Therefore, never stop taking risks. It is the spice of life!
  11. For the most part I’ve stopped worrying about which idiot or congress of idiots is running the country. The cream always floats to the top and I’m convinced I will succeed regardless of how difficult the environment may be. Bill Gates started his business in a recession and so did I. Someone’s gonna make money in any environment. It may as well be me.
  12. A good friend told me this the other day, “If your dreams don’t sound crazy you aint dreaming big enough.” She was just riffing but truer words were never spoken.
  13. I clearly have no musical talent although I love music. I’ve recently begun piano lessons and am playing the bongos. I’m not any good at either but I sure do enjoy hittin those bongos and ticklin them keys! I also enjoy singing although I’m not good at it either. I’m not fishing for a compliment. I know how poorly I sing, but I do it anyways. It’s not like I’m gonna try and make a living out of it or anything. I’m like Big Bird. I don’t worry that it’s not good enough. I just sing.
  14. Denial is not just a river people swim in. Often it’s a vast freaking ocean.
  15. I’m an Alanis Morissette, Jewel and Taylor Swift fan. I’m not even very sure why since I’m way too old to relate to teen angst and neither of them are my “type” of women when it’s all said and done. Okay maybe Jewel is. They aren’t my favorite female singer/songwriters but I do consider myself a fan. Like other mysteries of my likes and dislikes I don’t spend too much time analyzing this. I will say this, I’ve seen Alanis in concert and that lil girl is one tireless bundle of energy!
  16. I’ve written three songs, countless really bad poems, multiple short stories, volumes of opinions, notes, blogs, three magazine articles and one novel. I don’t make my living as one but I’m comfortable calling myself a writer.
  17. Dance once a day. You don’t have to dance for very long and you don’t even have to be good but it must be done! It changes your perspective immediately. If you’re bold enough to do it publicly and don’t care what others think you should do it publicly, both for your sake and for the sake of the people watching. It changes both of you, if only for that moment. It’s best to dance with a partner but if you have no partner you should still dance.
  18. Smile frequently. For the same reasons as you should dance.
  19. Do pushups every day. If you only do one exercise a day pushups should be it.
  20. When you look women in the eye, the vast majority of them will look down and away. It’s one of the un-safest things they can do and it’s one of the first things I try to change in my female students. The one exception to this is women who wear a full Abaya with veil in the Middle East. Well in Qatar at least. The vast majority of them will hold your gaze even though it’s contrary to the tenet in their religion. I wonder if being completely covered makes them bolder.
  21. Every guy should have a “cool guy job” at least once in their lives. I’ve been lucky enough to have had three. The problem with cool guy jobs is they rarely pay much, but when you’re old and feeble you can smile and remember the cool times at the cool guy job. Plus you can shock your children and grandchildren when they find out you were once a bartender, ski instructor, bouncer, bodyguard, lifeguard, cowboy, bullrider, mountain guide, pit crew member, etc.
  22. Being a bodyguard was one of the funnest jobs I’ve had (see cool guy job item above), but my most satisfying moment did not come from escorting some big star or act. It came one time when I was working access security at a concert watching the entrance to stage right. My least favorite of all security gigs. At the end of the gig when I was about to leave the venue, a backup dancer came to me and asked me if I wouldn’t mind walking her to her car in an underground parking lot. She said she would feel safer. How do you beat that?
  23. Having said that, my jobs pale in comparison to what others do for a routine living. My sister once told me excitedly how she had her hand in a patient’s chest pumping his heart with her hand. My wife and daughter have both cared for people unable to care for themselves one day and then taken care of them after they died the next. If that ain’t operating on another dimension I don’t know what is.
  24. Always engage in an activity or activities in which you have to compete against others. The activity and the outcome are both irrelevant. Whether it be a physical activity or a mental activity is not as important as the act of competition. Competition changes you and always for the better. Competing against yourself, although also good is not good enough. You have to pit yourself against others.
  25. Conquering your fears is the best way to feel alive! “Living with fear is a life half lived” is one of the most poignant quotes I’ve heard. I don’t know who said it first. I heard it in a movie about ballroom dancing. Fear will stop you from attempting things you want to do and lead to regret later in your life. For example, it is my opinion that people who avoid competition do so for one simple reason. Fear. That in itself is reason enough to throw yourself into the ring. When you break through that fear barrier, in most cases you’ll realize that your fears were unfounded. The best definition of paralyzing psychological fear I’ve seen was penned by Gavid de Becker in his book The Gift of Fear. It is False Expectation Appearing Real. Genius!
  26. Never underestimate the mental stimulation of eccentricity. However, being weird and being eccentric is often not the same thing.
  27. Genetics is a mad scientist! I have five children and they have all the hair color and eye colors available. Brown, black, blonde and red hair. Brown, blue and green eyes. That’s right baby, I’m taking a bow.
  28. I have been a practicing martial artist for 41 years. I cannot imagine not being one and don’t understand how other people can give it up. There was a statistic I read years ago that stated that the attrition rate of the martial arts is 99%. I’m very proud to call myself a 1 percenter. I may be slower, less flexible, have some broken parts, some replacement parts, but one thing I know beyond any doubt. I’m clearly too dumb to stop. Oh, and I’m a bad ass! That is all.
  29. I’ve recently discovered something that’s funner than hitting someone with a padded stick. Hitting them with two padded sticks. It’s double the fun.
  30. I regret few choices I’ve made or opportunities met but I am human and I have a couple of regrets. For example, I kinda regret not training more in archery, fencing and Aikido. A little anyways. I’ve found suitable replacements for all three of them.
  31. My favorite animal is the tiger. There are few more majestic. I wrote previously that I would love to have one as a pet. I received some criticism for this statement. I realize how unrealistic this is and how a domestic tiger may be less majestic than one in the wild but I don’t think the tiger would care. Thinking that a tiger would prefer to hunt and live in the wild than to be fed and cared for is anthropomorphic. Actually, most humans would rather be fed and cared for than go out there and “hunt”. It’s why socialism is so attractive to some people. See how I got political there?
  32. My second favorite animal is the otter. They are the perfect combination of cuteness and ferocity. Plus, and this may be anthropomorphic as well, but they always look like they’re having the most fun.
  33. The praying mantis is the epitome of the axiom that size does not dictate ferocity or hunting prowess. I once watched one for about 20 minutes successfully hunting and feeding on flies. They usually rely on camouflage to stalk their prey but this one was on a brown pallet in the middle of a shipyard. It was an equally fascinating and gruesome sight. I walked up on one on the walkway of my house and almost stepped on it. I noticed it had reared up on its hind legs and had its front legs pointing at me kung fu style. Gotta love an insect with attitude.
  34. I once tried to breed praying mantises. I went so far as ordering 3 ootheca (egg capsule) and “planting” two in the wild and one in an aquarium. The one in the aquarium turned out to be a dud and I initially thought birds ate the two sacks I planted in the trees in my yard. Then, a year later I found a bunch of them on the outside wall of my house hunting by the light bulb by my front door. I wonder if they were the hatchlings from the egg sacks I planted.
  35. Few forces of the universe are more tenacious than a woman who wants to have children. Once a woman decides she wants a child nothing will stop her. She will have a child, whether with you or with someone else. This has to be a gift from God as men do not have a fragment of this drive. It’s even more amazing considering what a woman has to go through to bear a child.
  36. I would love to own a coffee plantation. I don’t want to work it but I’d love to own one. I worked on a farm that had various coffee bushes growing wild and I remember how wonderful the aroma was walking amongst them. Besides I could wear a cool plantation hat and ride a horse around my farm supervising the picking. I think I’d wear khakis and a nickel plated Colt .45 revolver with an ivory handle in my leather holster. I’d change my name to Fernando so people would have to call me “Don Fernando”. Ha ha! Admit it, you just got a mental image.
  37. Some people are chronic complainers who would just rather wallow in their misery. They will complain no matter how good they got it. These are the same people who like to blame others for their misery. No amount of counsel will help them because they can dispel any possible solution to their misery. I like to be annoyingly upbeat around them. Not because it’s going to change their outlook but because it’s fun and I’m a juvenile at heart. Besides, I’m an annoyingly upbeat person no matter what. It is not an act. In fact when I was younger I tried to be fashionably moody and glum because I thought it was “cool” but discovered that it only appears cool on film. Moody and glum people are just that. Plus they’re fun to mess with as I’ve stated.
  38. Two things will cause an immediate visceral reaction in me. The first is for someone to shush me and the second is witnessing someone being bullied.
  39. Women who pride themselves on being bitches deserve the treatment they get. The good news for them is they’re rarely disappointed and they justify that this treatment is why they’re bitches. It’s a self fulfilling vicious cycle.
  40. I spent 10 years of my Naval career on ships and I thoroughly enjoyed going out to sea. I’ve been wanting to go on a cruise ship ever since I retired from the Navy. The only reason I haven’t is because I’d have to go by myself and how sad would that be? I’m coming closer and closer to the decision to do it anyways.
  41. If I were granted a mutant power I’d want amphibian power. My favorite “monster” growing up was the Creature of the Black Lagoon and I was probably the only person to enjoy the movie Waterworld, mostly because of Costner’s character.
  42. I’m always surprised by some people’s misconceptions about me. Not because I haven’t earned them but because how off some of them can be. For example I’ve been described as arrogant. How can that be? Arrogance is a character flaw.
  43. By the same token I’ve been confused with various ethnic groups, most of which are not any part of my actual ethnic makeup. Arabic mostly, Greek, Italian, French (okay I am part French), and even Philippino once. Rarely Hispanic and never Puerto Rican. For the record, the ethnicities I’m aware that I am are Scott/Irish on my Gringo side and French/Spanish on my Rican side. There are unverified rumors of Native American and African but I haven’t been able to substantiate any of those. I will say this, when I lived in the Middle East I finally got the Arabic comparisons. It was like a family reunion over there! I’m pretty sure the Arabic comes through my Spanish heritage.
  44. When I was a child most people regarded me as a painfully serious, no nonsense child. This was mostly because at a very young age I had to start taking care of my siblings. I remember making a conscious decision at the age of 10 to stop playing with toys since they were for “children” and I was no longer a “child”.
  45. My two least favorite household chores are ironing and cooking. You would think I’d have developed a love for cooking since I had to learn to do it at a very early age and you would be wrong. I still don’t like it and do it only when essential to feed myself.  Besides I’m not very good at it. I didn’t have to iron until I was older and I still hate it. My decision to buy clothes is mostly governed by how much ironing I’ll have to do. It’s why I only have two linen shirts.
  46. I kinda always knew I would enjoy grandparenting, but I clearly had no idea how much I would truly love it!
  47. I always thought I was a good father until I watched my sons with their sons. They are much better than I ever was at their age. I’d almost ask for a do over except that I wouldn’t want them to turn out any different.
  48. I still need to learn to dance the Tango. Being able to Tango elevates your coolness factor significantly! Some of the coolest dances I’ve seen on film have been the tango (and no the scene in Scent of a Woman is NOT the tango). I took like 2 lessons about 20 years ago but couldn’t afford any more. I understand that in Finland the Tango is like the most popular dance. They also have like the highest suicide rate. I hope the two aren’t related.
  49. I’ve trained with some of the very elite in the martial arts, some not so famous but exceptional from whom I’ve learned a ton. But there are several people I’d really love to train with, all for several different reasons. Right now the top five list consists of Bruce Lee, BJ Penn, Chuck Norris, Steven Seagall and Dana Abbott.  Obviously Bruce Lee’s gonna be impossible, but I did train with his student Dan Inosanto so that will have to do. The others I’m not sure how I’ll manage but on the list of possibilities Dana Abbott and BJ Penn present the best possibilities. 
  50. Some of the things that I have discovered “As I’ve gotten older…” are often things I wish I had not discovered. Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t want to get older.
  51. Learn to recognize and act on incongruous behavior around you. This is one of the best pieces of self defense advice I can give you. People who commit crimes will act incongruously right before they commit their crime and your radar will pick up on it always. Everyone has this ability. They simply train themselves to ignore it or take no action. You may not have to do anything but pay attention. Once you focus on the person exhibiting this behavior your readiness levels automatically increase and should something occur you won’t be paralyzed by inaction.
  52. Writing this list has been brutal! Much harder than my original 50. This item is a freebie for me.
  53. I was born on my father’s birthday, but I had almost no relationship with him. I have four things to be grateful for to my father, even though they were given unintentionally. One was a piece of advice which he gave me based on his misconception of what I was feeling at the time. However it stuck with me. He told me to not take myself too seriously because no one else would. The second thing is I understand the importance and power of a father’s role in a child’s life. Particularly a daughter’s life. I did not realize this because of his presence in mine but because of his absence. The third thing is the genetic gifts I inherited from him which I consider to be significant. My father was an incredibly intelligent and kind man. This makes the final one the saddest. It has to do with unfulfilled potential. Potential is not all that significant a factor in determining ultimate success but it is sad when it goes unfulfilled. I attended my father’s funeral when he passed. Not because he earned it but because there is a major rule about parents.  There were five people at his gravesite. The two soldiers who presented me with his flag (he was buried with military honors), a friend he met late in life who gave him work periodically, the funeral director and me. It’s a sad testament to the sum total of his life’s accomplishments but it was the result of his personal choices. The saddest thing is he missed out on what I consider to be his greatest legacy. A relationship with his children and being able to meet his grandchildren and great grandchildren. I’ve taken these four lessons to heart. It is a great comfort to me to know that not only did I have something to do with bringing ten souls into the world, I am proudest of my relationship with all of them.

 If you’ve made it this far you clearly have nothing better to do, but I thank you anyways! Take this list with a grain of salt, but if something I’ve said or written impacts you positively it will have been worth the small effort.  I would like to thank those in advance who will be wishing me a happy birthday. Just as I mean it when I wish it to people I believe you do as well. After all, every day you wake up is a gift from God full of possibilities and with every birthday comes the opportunity to fulfill His plan for you.

My Belated Mothers Day Message

I realize this is a few days late. I started writing it on the week preceding Mothers Day, but as with all my writing, my dual careers prevented me from finishing it. I’ve resorted recently to posting three lines to accompany other people’s writing. I should really stop doing that. I used to be a pretty prolific blogger, but that was just a hobby. My moneymaking careers take precedence, supporting three college students n’ all. I really would like to give one of them up, but I digress.

Mothers Day. My mother’s name is Heyda Lucia Torres. At one time she was Heyda Lucia Hubble and then (I think) Heyda Lucia Torres de Vazquez. She was born in 1940. She would be horrified that I put that out there as if anyone looking at her wouldn’t get that she’s going to be 71 years old this year. How she got there mystifies me, and her doctors. She likes to say that it’s because she follows her doctor’s orders. That if he told her to eat a daily turd wrapped in seaweed that’s precisely what she’d do. I know, the imagery is pretty bad, but I’m trying to paint an accurate picture here.

Heyda is a dancer. She doesn’t dance much since she suffered a massive stroke in 1978 at the young age of 37. The stroke left her with a pronounced limp and limited use of her left hand, which she refers to as her “claw”. But she remains a dancer in her heart and soul. In her youth she danced briefly on television as part of a troupe of dancers on a variety show. My stern grandmother only allowed her to do this if she attended Beautician College after the season was over. She did, but she never worked as a beautician. Here is one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mother although she did not teach it to me directly. Never give up on your dreams, regardless of how ridiculous they may seem to others. Your dreams are God’s gifts. This is a biblical principle by the way. How much more insane can a dream get than Abraham and Sarah’s dream of having children in their 90’s?

I believe my mother always regretted not becoming a dancer. It is probably her only major regret, but may have been the catalyst for how she has lived since. Instead, at the tender age of 18, she married a young Army specialist who was stationed in Puerto Rico at the time. His name was Garry Lee Hubble. They proceeded to have four children in their almost 12 years together. I’m the second one.

Through the course of her life my mother lived what most women dream of and also dread. She travelled extensively in her youth as an Army wife and lived with an alcoholic during that time. She raised her children with a permissiveness she wished she had as a child and didn’t have (apparently her sister and her were referred to as the “nuns of Condado”). She is a rebel at heart. She decided after two marriages that she would no longer take any crap from any man, which loosely translates into she would not be accountable to any relationship convention.

Ironically, she complains of being alone. I don’t think she’s putting the pieces together. I remember once after arguing with my wife, my mother, who was visiting, proceeded to give me “relationship advice”. It occurred to me that my relationship with my wife at the time was longer than any my mother had ever had. In fact, I had at that time lived with my wife longer than I had lived with my mother. When I pointed out the irony of her offering me that advice she replied that just because she didn’t know how to make a relationship last didn’t mean she didn’t know how to advise one on how to do so. Then she pointed out how stubborn I was being. It still cracks me up.

As a mother she is as fallible and imperfectly human as can be. My siblings are less forgiving, but I have come to terms with her. Just as my father she is almost completely self-absorbed. What she defined as “giving her children freedom” I translate as her not wanting to put in the hard work that a supervising parent must do to guide their young children through the travails of youth. We pretty much raised ourselves; left to our own devices as it were. It still surprises me that we survived our own creativity. How we all wound up productive members of society probably has as much to do with nature as with nurturing.

The greatest thing I can say about her parenting skills was this. In all my developing years I never once heard her say a negative thing about me. Not one. Even when I screwed up it was all about the behavior and not me personally. In her mind’s eye we were the princes and princess of Puerto Rico. We were the funniest, handsomest, prettiest, smartest of all. My sister took some criticism in her teens, but even then it was the result of my mother knowing that being a woman on the island was tough and you had to be tough to survive it. You just cannot underestimate the powerful impact of this kind of positive reinforcement. If you’re not careful you could wind up a little narcissistic (of course marriage will beat that out of you in due time). In the end, this self image is critical.

This self image is also the way she carries herself. She sees herself through a different prism than the rest of us. As you can see from the photo, my mother was breathtakingly beautiful in her youth. She had classic latina features and a very buxom build when that was still fashionable. Based on her wardrobe, I believe she still thinks she has that same body. Based on her behavior I believe she still thinks she is that age. Near as I can tell she has been reliving her youth for the past 32 years. This could very well be the secret to her longevity. Most women can do with a little dose of her self image.

I love my mother unconditionally as well, even though she annoys me to no end. To her friends and most people who meet her she is the Pied Piper. She has an incredible knack for making others feel pretty darned good about themselves and she leaves an indelible mark on them. I’ve never met a person who after meeting her has anything but glowing remarks about her. She has completely captivated the Sunday School class she attends every time she visits me. In fact, I believe the only people she annoys other than me are my siblings, and the men in her brief relationships.

A few years back I invited her to move in with me as she is on a very tight budget with her fixed SSI income and a monthly stipend from me. Also, and this is my opinion, she’s probably well past the point where she can take care of herself properly. Her response to this invitation was “I’m not dead yet”. I try not to overanalyze the fact that my mother equates moving in with me with death. I am clear that she believes I’m somewhat of a party pooper.

She has informed us that if it gets to the point where she can no longer take care of herself that we are to put her in one of those “Homes”. Of course in her mind that time is ten to twenty years off. I suspect that a decision will have to be made sooner than later. I will say this, whatever home she lands in will be forever changed by Hurricane Heyda. Whether for the good or bad would be a matter of opinion, but I’m clear the menfolk of that facility will be walking taller, dressing better and combing their sparse hairs more often. She still seems to have that effect on men. I myself am not looking forward to that day. It’s very possible that I wish I could see her through her own eyes.

Happy Mothers Day Mami. Que Dios te bendiga siempre.

RIP Blake Edwards

Blake Edward, dead at 88. May he rest in peace. I don’t know what his politics were, but I’m pretty sure I can state fairly accurately that he was probably another Hollywood leftist. Not that it matters to me since his movies never beat you over the head with his politics. At least not the ones I was a fan of, and there were many. Obviously the Pink Panther movies top that list. Not just for the physical comedy and brilliant delivery of Peter Sellers, but for dialogue like this:

Clouseau: Does your dog bite?

Hotel Clerk: No.

Clouseau: [bowing down to pet the dog] Nice doggie.

[Dog barks and bites Clouseau in the hand]

Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!

Hotel Clerk: That is not my dog.

and this one:

[after Clouseau accidentally reduces a piano to a pile of splinters]

Mrs. Leverlilly: You’ve ruined that piano!

Clouseau: What is the price of one piano compared to the terrible crime that’s been committed here?

Mrs. Leverlilly: But that’s a priceless Steinway!

Clouseau: Not anymore

Those were from the best of the Pink Panther series (IMHO), The Pink Panther Strikes Again.

The slapstick scenes and the ones between Clouseau and Kato crack me up no matter how many times I watch them. I only wish Bert Kwok had been in more movies. He made an appearance in Jet Li’s Kiss of the Dragon, but in a serious role. I haven’t seen him in any others.

Anyways, I’ve enjoyed almost every Blake Edwards movie I’ve seen. My favorite, hands down outside of the Pink Panther series is an obscure film almost no one has seen but is in my opinion quintessential Blake Edwards. The movie is called Skin Deep and it features John Ritter in what I consider to be his best comedic role; a womanizing, alcoholic writer who is ultimately redeemed. The scene where John Ritter’s character (Jack) is trying to get to his car after being electrically tortured by an ex-girlfriend is a hilarious example of physical comedy at its best and John Ritter was a master at this.

What made Edwards’ movies stand out was the witty, almost always hilarious dialogue, his knack for creating complex, funny characters and making completely wacky situations seem almost possible. The storylines were always interesting even if the premise was as simple as surviving the Blind Date from hell! Even some of the minor characters in his movies were memorable. The waiter in the restaurant scene in Victor/Victoria (Graham Stark) was hilarious. The actor portraying that waiter made appearances in several Edwards’ movies.

I haven’t seen all of his movies. I’ve never seen the iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s and I’m pretty sure I won’t see it unless I’m dragged to it. One of these days I’ll watch Days of Wine and Roses, but I’m pretty sure I won’t like it either.

Again, I’m not sure where his politics leaned, but I know he and his wife were both philanthropists and were big on children’s causes, so that makes him okay in my book besides the fact that his movies have provided me with hours of laughter and entertainment. He’s one of the few directors in Hollywood who made movies that my wife and I both enjoyed, and that is indeed an anomaly. That he was married for 41 years also makes him an anomaly in Hollywood, although how hard can it be to be married to Julie Andrews? I’m gonna have to dig out my collection of Pink Panther movies and sit down and enjoy a belly laugh or two. RIP Mr. Edwards and thank you.

And so this is Christmas…

And so this is Christmas.

I know, I shamelessly stole that line from that misguided, secular, but optimistic John Lennon song. Not because it’s my favorite or because I even particularly like it all that much. If you must know, my favorites are The Little Drummer Boy, Mary Did You Know, Do You Hear What I Hear, and for just foot tapping, finger snapping simplicity, Feliz Navidad gets me going. But much like the former Beatle, I’m trying to make a point.

Many things to say about Christmas. For Christians this season is yet another occasion to celebrate the life of our Lord and Savior. Additionally, we use the season to attempt to bring more people to Christ. We don’t need a specific season to do either of those things as we do them all year long, but since this time of year where many do focus just a little on Christ (whether you believe in Him or not) we Christians like to strike while the iron is hot and redouble our efforts to attempt to save those who still need saving (I use the term “we” loosely as I’m a lousy disciple. I’m more concerned with my personal salvation and those close to me than anyone elses). In the process we give more money to support missions, collect food for the poor, perform work for those unable to do it, and comfort for those who need it. Again, we do this all year long as well. We’re a nice bunch, despite the movies, TV shows and books depicting the lot of us as intolerant, narrow minded, racist (only if you’re white), backward knuckle dragging superstitious, troglodytes and lunatics. There are those most certainly out there, but like all cross sections of society, it takes all kinds and those guys get all the press.

I’m not going to rant against the commercialization of the season as I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. For one thing, being a shameless capitalist I don’t see a single thing wrong with people going out there and spreading their money around more than usual, stimulating the economy and creating more jobs. For whatever reason. Heck, some businesses NEED the Christmas season to balance out their entire year. Nothing wrong with that and shopping has little to do with Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

I’m also not going to rant against the policy of wishing people a “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas, because the simple fact of the matter is that the season also includes the Holy celebration of Hanukah, the made up season of Kwanzaa and the ridiculous season of Festivus (Seinfeld fans will get that). I will wish everyone a Merry Christmas, but if I don’t get it in return, I’m just not going to get my knickers in a wad about it. I won’t boycott businesses who won’t say Merry Christmas and I won’t let it diminish my joy with the season.

I won’t even rant against the militant attempts by atheists and agnostics who want to remove all Christian symbols such as nativity scenes from public view and forcing everyone to refer to secular symbols like Christmas trees as “Holiday Trees”. Kind of ironic since the word “Holiday” is derived from the words Holy Day. I think it’s a little ridiculous and hysterical that they assign so much power to something they profess to not believe. I’m sure they wouldn’t attack a big statue of Obi Wan Kenobe with as much vehemence. We all know he doesn’t exist, but he clearly doesn’t evoke the same vitriol as any image that may represent Christ in any way shape or form. Funny thing. I lived in Qatar for almost two years. It is a country governed for the most part by Sharia law, although they are regarded as a moderate Muslim country. During Christmas, images of Christ are prevalent throughout the season. There are displays of Nativity scenes and the words “Merry Christmas” are displayed prominently. I actually caroled in Qatar to a group of Christians, Jews and Muslims and the Muslims enjoyed it just as much (my solo performance of Feliz Navidad was talked about throughout the year, mostly because of volume rather than musical talent). Here’s something from Abu Dhabi this season:

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.937a29e74a6fa43f33a85ed42e22fb84.11&show_article=1

I know the tree began as a secular symbol, but they’re still calling it a CHRISTmas tree. I personally know atheists who are celebrating Christmas with those same symbols. And what does Christ have to do with a Christmas tree? The Menorah is a more specific symbol of a Holy day than the Christmas tree. Shouldn’t we be decorating a cross or a giant fish? The Christmas tree has little to do with Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Some like to make the point that Christmas has little to do with Christ at all. The gift giving at Christmas was intended to commemorate the gifts brought to Him by the Three Wise Men as an infant, but the gift giving during Hanukah has nothing to do with that, so gift giving is not it. There are other Winter customs of gift giving that are not based on the Three Kings story as well. Gift giving has little to do with Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

December 25th as the historic date of Christ’s birth does not really exist. In Spanish countries January 6th is the celebrated date. Not of His birth but of the visit by the Three Kings. Puerto Rican children make out because they get gifts on both days. It’s one of those mysteries that of all the specifics that we know about Jesus’ life, we don’t really know the exact date of His birth. We know his family genealogy all the way to Adam and Eve. We can pinpoint the hundreds of thousand year old prophesies he fulfilled in His life and can verify His historic existence via other documentation besides the Bible. We just don’t know exactly what date He was born. We began our modern day calendar based on His life even though the term “Before Christ” or BC is no longer being used. Before Common Era or BCE is now the popular term. December 25th or January 6th have little to do with Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The point is, none of that stuff is going to bother me this Christmas and here’s why. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is bigger than all of it. He is bigger than any plastic display of His birth or any pagan symbol added to celebrate His birth. He will not cease to exist because some people stamp their feet and have a meltdown at the mere mention of His name. Much like love, gravity, subatomic particles and other intangibles, He exists despite the inability to see or touch Him. The fact that some don’t believe in Him doesn’t change this one bit.

That people behave a little nicer during the season is a good thing. That they give gifts and get in touch with people they don’t speak with all year is a good thing. That we get to eat all kinds of goodies we may avoid all year is a good thing. That we’re just a little friendlier, kinder, happier, sappier, these are all good things. That intentionally or not, it is because of the birth of the Savior of the world is definitely a good thing.

So I’m gonna listen to Christmas music on the radio (in Spanish and English) whether the music is about His birth, or about a snowman, reindeer or a fat elf in a red and white suit. I’m gonna decorate my Christmas tree which I cut down myself. I’m gonna finally find some time to decorate the outside of my house before my neighbors come at me with torches and pitchforks (ya gotta see my street, it’s like the Griswold Family Christmas out there), I’m gonna make and drink some Coquito, eat Pasteles, Pernil and pie. I’m gonna figure out a way to cook that turkey-zilla a friend of mine slaughtered and gave me (the carcass takes up my entire freezer and it won’t fit in any conventional roasting pan).

Most of all, I’m gonna celebrate the gift of love and eternal life granted to me by the sacrifice of blood by Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Lamb of God and the Light of the World. I’m gonna celebrate that it is only through His Grace that I am saved as I cannot earn it by acts or good intentions. I’m going to wish His blessings upon my friends, acquaintances and loved ones. I’m going to do this via the very simple words, Merry Christmas.

Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!