Monthly Archives: December 2012

How to NOT Burn Out During the Holiday Season


It’s really hard not to get caught up with the holiday season. Thanksgiving is fairly simple; the menu is the same each year, you’re a pro at getting things done. The hardest part is getting everyone to sit down at the same time and eat and eat and eat.

Christmas is different. It starts at the end of the Thanksgiving parade, with ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’ as the last balloon float. The very next day, Black Friday, hordes of shoppers are at the stores or cyber shopping on the net and Christmas has begun and it’s not even December first. Stress is showing it’s distorted face already.

It’s easy to wig out during this season. There’s decorations to hang and greeting cards to write out. We say every year – no cards this year – but change our tune upon the arrival of the first one in the mail. ‘Ohh, we have to send them one.’ Holiday get togethers begin as early as December 3rd or 4th since some folks go out of town or travel for the holiday, so your calendar is quickly filled up – until January 1st.

Gift lists are made up and that takes some time in selecting ‘wish gifts’ within your budget. There are office parties, club parties, church gatherings and concerts, school activities, until you are feeling really bogged down. To keep up with all the activity, you’re not sleeping long enough, you’re snacking on early-sent Christmas cookies and you’re feeling sluggish. The house needs an overhaul, the church is asking you to bake for their bake sale on Sunday – could you make those wonderful takes-two-days-to-make cookies? The school is having a Christmas play ;the kids are all excited about it and it’s on the same day as the grab bag Club luncheon.

It’s easy to get overloaded and stressed out. And that’s the last thing you want to do. After all, it’s the holidays and you’re supposed to be enjoying them.

Some suggestions:

Lower your expectations of what you want done and what you will do. Try not to fill up every day with an ‘event’ or ‘date’. You need time to regroup and you want to enjoy what you do. It’s easy to feel obligated to return an invitation or ‘it’s your turn to have it at your house’, but sometimes you need to:

Learn to say “NO” to urgent requests to do things outside of the home. You have enough going on in there. The person may be overloaded and wants to delegate to you to help them. And speaking of that word….

Delegate within your family the chores needed to be done at home. Pull names out of a hat if you have to, but someone could help decorate, another could put up the tree, one can shop for groceries, others can help clean the house, bake, write out cards – it is a family holiday and everyone can help out, but remember to…..

Stay positive; getting a negative attitude or being crabby will make everyone disappear and if you want them to help, and you can….

Plan itineraries with the family and figure out who will be where and when. Put a calendar on the fridge with ‘mandatory’ dates to be home if family or company is expected and…..

If company is coming overnight, plan for them way before they get there. Get their room ready and if they cancel at the last minute….

If the unexpected happens, try not to worry things you have no control over. Life happens. With any extra time made by cancellations,

Prepare some meals beforehand and freeze them for unexpected events or company.

Some personal tips:

Exercise. Even 10 minutes of walking or dancing a day can benefit your mood and health.

Try to eat nutritional food. Don’t snack on fat and sugar foods.

Rest during the day if you can – or better yet, take a 15 minute siesta. Or just close your eyes and be still. And try to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night.

While working around the house, put on your favorite music – or holiday music. That will keep you upbeat.

Consider buying everyone gift cards – people love them – and it’s a whole lot easier on your stamina of running around warm, stifled stores and then out into the cold. The flu is out there and around us.

If you HAVE to buy something personal, the internet is great – and it is delivered right to your door.

Remember, Less is More. The less you have to do, the more you will enjoy yourself. Don’t knock yourself out. The holidays weren’t meant to see how much money we all spend on each other, or to outdo everyone on the block with our lights and decorations. They weren’t meant to stuff everyone with 20 varieties of cookies or have 30 people over for dinner (unless that’s your thing). Simplify your life – have small gatherings and really enjoy the people you are entertaining. It’s hard to have conversations with 30 guests while your juggling all that food to serve them. Share yourself with your company and make memories.

Christmas is a feeling, a sharing, a loving and giving time. Wrap that thought around you and celebrate the Reason for the Season.

©  Marie Coppola  Revised November 2014

Santa Claus to the Rescue


 

It was an exceptionally busy year that Christmas. Most young families experience a hectic month of December, especially if they have a toddler, a baby and holiday visitors.  We were no exception, and having a last-minute list to fill, we decided to take a quick trek one early Christmas Eve to the grocery store, for much needed staples.

Normally, doing so would be just that – a quick trip – but we lived high on a mountain overlooking a large lake. Because of hazardous driving conditions in snow and ice this time of the year, winter trips were monitored carefully. We listened to the evening news regarding snow activity, and snow was not predicted that evening – but possibly on Christmas morning.

At the store, we ooh-ed and aah-ed at Christmas displays, and were more than startled upon leaving the store to see heavy snowflakes coming down. The parking lot was already covered. We quickly brushed off our small car and loaded it with our groceries & packages, We then  slowly slipped and slid the 4 miles to our large hill of a street.

There were no other cars on the roads and as we approached the bottom of our hill, we could not see the top of it for the powdering of snow coming down like confectioner’s sugar coating everything. I cuddled my baby daughter close to me and my son, the toddler, was excited at seeing the snow. After all, he knew Santa was coming later that evening.

After three attempts to put the car in gear and make it up the hill, we could only go up about a quarter of the way, and then we would slip backwards, sliding side to side. I was starting to get somewhat alarmed and taking my cue, the baby started to cry; it was time for her feeding. Although grateful that I was still nursing her, my thoughts were on the weeks’ worth of groceries in the car and how in the world would we get them home and more worrisome – how could we even try to walk up this long, slippery hill with two small children?

After about 20 minutes, when I was starting to worry if we would run out of gas trying to keep the car warm, we heard a chugging sound and an old large, black sedan with chains on the tires was coming up the hill. The car stopped (which amazed me that it could do that on this hill) and a tall, large man with white hair and white beard (I kid you not)  got out of the car. He had on a wool knitted hat, a plaid flannel shirt and suspendered pants and I couldn’t believe that I could even think the thoughts I was thinking in our worrisome predicament.  He offered  that he, the ‘stranger’, would take my daughter and me up the hill to our house and then go back for the rest and the car. It was strange, too, that we knew almost everyone in this lake community, but had never seen a white haired, white bearded man. I put aside any thoughts of anyone abducting us in this weather and went with him. I didn’t feel I had a choice.

We easily made it up the hill to our house. Our house was 40 steps up from the street and the stairs were completely covered with snow. The stranger carried my daughter with one hand and helped me up with the other up all those stairs – I had no boots on. Once we got inside the warm house, I watched the stranger from our front bay window go down the steps, disappearing in swirls of snow and drifts. It seemed and looked surreal to me.

Some time later, I heard the two cars chugging; the stranger had put chains on our car, too. They parked the cars, and the rest of them carried up all the groceries and one little boy.

The men talked for a few minutes outside and shook hands – the stranger refused any nourishment or a drink. I was standing at the bay window now with my almost three year old son in my arms watching the bearded stranger walk down the steps with the lights on amidst large pellets of snow tumbling down around him. As if the man was aware we were watching him, he turned around and waved, and then I laughed and said, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.’ And to my son, I asked, “Do you know who that man is?” And without missing a beat, my toddler said, “That’s Santa Claus”. And I nodded, and said, “Yup, that’s who he is.”

© Marie Coppola Revised December 2016

How to Comfort Someone in Grief


Some of us have the gift or talent to express sympathy easily to others.  Gestures and words are expertly expressed and people are comforted.

Many others dread seeing the survivor(s) at a viewing or even for the first time after a death occurs.  They feel awkward, not knowing quite what to say in offering condolences. It is difficult and sometimes emotional  to see someone who is in grief and it can makes us feel uncomfortable especially when we are not sure of what to do or say.

I used to feel that way until I experienced grief myself and some time afterwards, joined a bereavement group at our church.  At these meetings, we would have a speaker’s presentation on how to adjust to grief or sometimes have individuals express their personal experiences.  Comfort, presence and listening are key.

You may find yourself in a bereavement situationif you ever have to comfort someone who has a death in their family; and/or if you desire or are asked to help others work their way through grief. Here are ten ways to offer condolences or to help someone heal:

•    You might say, “I’m sorry”; or “I’m sorry for your loss”, or say a kind word about the    deceased . . . .

When you don’t know what to say, say ‘nothing’. This was the number 1 rule in bereavement training.  There’s not much you can say anyway to relieve their loss.   Let them talk and get their feelings and emotions expressed.  Your presence, your caring and your listening is balm to a griever.  If you are a hugger, this is a good time to give a hug or hold their hand or put your arm around their shoulder.   Touching is healing.   If they aren’t touchers, you’ll know;  back off and let them set the pace.

•    never say  ‘it’s for the best’ or ‘they’re in a better place’ or ‘they’ve lived a long life’ . . . .

We learned that the bereaved are grieving for a lost loved one and they do not think it was for the best – even if the beloved was ill.  They want them back on earth and don’t want to know they are in a better place.   If it is an elderly person who died, they don’t want to hear ‘he lived a long life’ — they want to keep a loved one as long as they can and it’s never long enough.

•    never say it was God’s will for them . . . .

We don’t know what God’s will was for them. God doesn’t plan accidents or cause cancer. Death is a life event that will happen to everyone.  To say that God willed it, isn’t going to comfort anyone.  It may even cause anger at God and faith is needed more than ever when someone you love dies. Don’t say it was God’s will to a couple who has lost a child either in stillbirth or a miscarriage.  A couple who may have finally gotten pregnant after trying a long time, and have it end in miscarriage or a stillbirth after nine months will feel the loss tremendously and it is not comforting to say it is God’s will or it is for the best. It certainly is not for them.  It’s a devastating loss.

•    encourage them to join a support group or or seek someone who has experienced a similar event . . . .

Perhaps you can suggest they join a support group.  There are many kinds of support groups available through churches or the newspapers.  Losing Someone, Living Alone, Widow/Widower’s seminars offer multiple support groups. People gain strength when they know someone else went through what they did and survived.  Although ‘misery loves company’ is a cliche – it has truth to it.  You may even mail or drop off announcements of such groups.

•    encourage him or her to speak about their loss and emotions with someone . . . .

Sometimes a family or close friend may not be the best choice for grievers to talk to;  they may be experiencing grief themselves.  It is not uncommon for people to have purged their grief with a stranger they hardly knew.   If they have trouble verbally expressing themselves, you may suggest writing a letter to the deceased telling them things they might have said or didn’t say; or any regrets they have.

•    visit or stop by occasionally even for a few minutes . . . .

It is uplifting for them if you visit bereaved persons, especially widows or widowers, who now spend time alone.  Bring a small gift, even a book of additional support  or a magazine on bereavement.   They will know they are not alone; others are going through similar losses.   And they will enjoy the break.

•    get them out of the house and go for a walk . . . .

The bereaved sometimes get motionless in their grief and stay at home.   Offer to go for a walk with her – walking is good for depression and releases endorphins, a group of chemicals produced in the brain that reduce pain and improve mood.  It might allow her to open up to release some pent up feelings while walking and feeling companionship.  Remember – caring, presence and espcially listening.

•    calendar and note the birthday and anniversary dates of the deceased . . . .

Their survivors feel the loss especially on these dates and may experience setbacks in their healing.    Remember to call them with an uplifting call those days.  You don’t have to mention the date, but, if they do, give them reassurance or if in person, give them a hug. Holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukah, etc., are very hard for the survivors, especially if it was a person who lived with them.   Try to include them or their family  in some way, either by phone, mail or in person to let them know they are being thought of.  Love is always welcome.

•    suggest a physical with a physician and/or a visit to a therapist if the survivor is having difficulty adjusting and seems to be backsliding more than moving forward . . . .

Unresolved grief can cause depression or even suicidal tendencies.   If you notice during visiting that the survivor seems distracted, unkempt, depressed or not themselves, be a friend and tell a family member or gently suggest if you could take them to see a doctor.

•    offer to take them to church . . . .

Since death usually raises spiritual issues, and people are either strengthened in their faith or are turned off and angry at God, offer to join them in prayer services at your church or their place of worship.  You may offer to read Scripture or passages in the Bible together.   If you share faith with them, they may share their sorrow with God, the Great Comforter.   Let it be their choice.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.   Matthew 5:4

© Marie Coppola  Revised December 2012

 

What Holiday Does a Holiday Tree Celebrate?


Reprinted by generous permission of  Rev. James L. Snyder

Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship, PO Box 831313, Ocala, FL 34483. He lives with his wife, Martha, in Silver Springs Shores. Call him at 1-866-552-2543 or e-mail jamessnyder2@att.net. His web site is www.jamessnyderministries.com.

 I will confess right up front to a certain degree of confusion. The Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage will corroborate this confession. So many things confuse me; I am not sure where to begin, and once I begin, where in the world will it stop?

I have been married for over 41 years but I must confess, not to the same woman. Oh yes, it is the same woman with the same name but it is not the same woman I married 41 years ago. Where is that young woman I married?

When first married, I thought I knew everything there was to know about women and wives in particular. I do not know if it is the ensuing years but I am rather confused about this whole matter of being married. I suppose that is the mystery of romance. If you ever figure it out it loses its charm. Romance without charm is just an old man and an old woman who have lived together for 41 years.

That is just one area of confusion. I harbor no aspiration of unconfusing my level of confusion in that area. There are other areas I could work on that might be a little more productive in this regard.

An area particularly that has me greatly confused is the Christmas season with all the Christmas decorations including the ominous Christmas tree. Oh, how I love that old Christmas tree and decorating it and celebrating the whole Christmas spirit.

What has been confusing me for the last several years is this uncertainty about the season. Some people do not want to call it the Christmas season; rather they refer to it as the holiday season. What I want to know is, what holiday are we celebrating in December?

I know the holiday we celebrate in November, and the other holidays sprinkled throughout the year.

In July, for example, nobody calls it a “holiday parade.” It is the Fourth of July parade, for Pete’s sake! In February, nobody calls it a “holiday banquet.” It is a Valentine’s banquet.

Just so everybody knows, nobody will catch me singing a “holiday carol.”

I suppose with all the holidays in this country throughout the year it would be simpler just to call everything a “holiday.” That would simplify things and help those who cannot keep up with the calendar. I am all for that.

It seems the only squabbling that goes on is during the month of December. Actually, the squabbling begins before our turkey dinner has finished digesting. Maybe some people get too much turkey in their system and it clouds their thinking. All they have to do is squabble about something and so the only thing in front of them is the Christmas season. I get that.

What I do not get is the level of anger directed in this direction. It would seem that the Christmas season offers a huge threat to our society. We cannot call our Christmas tree a Christmas tree; it has to be called a holiday tree. Everybody knows, the word “Christmas tree” is some kind of code inviting disaster on our society. I have never heard anybody define or describe what that disaster would look like.

What amazes me is simply that this is a huge issue in some people’s minds. Nothing is more dangerous to society than this.

The word “Christmas” carries with it more danger to our society than the ominous financial cliff we are facing, the threat of terrorism in our own country and Lindsay Lohan at 4 AM.

What is more confusing to me is that these people who are trying to protect our society from anything religious wants to substitute the word “Christmas” for the word “holiday.” It just shows the level of education in our country has not kept up with the times.

I know it has been a long time since I have been in school, but I do know that certain words have certain definitions. Do the people who object to anything religious understand that the word holiday comes from the phrase “holy day?”

I am not a PhD but I do know that the phrase “holy day” has religious roots.

So, I am really confused along this line. On the one hand, we are not to use the word “Christmas” because of its religious connotations. At the same time, we are supposed to use the word “holiday” which in every dictionary in the land means “holy day.”

I could be corrected along this line, but in my thinking the phrase, “holy day” has some very distinct religious roots. When I hear somebody complaining along this line, and they do it so vehemently, I have a question as to their sanity. It does not make sense to me.

Christmas is a holy day but we are not allowed to think of it as a holy day just use the term “holiday.” Now I am really confused. Is it a holiday or a holy day? Is it sacred or is it secular? What holiday does a holiday tree really celebrate?

I like what the apostle Paul wrote, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days” (Colossians 2:16 KJV).

I will not allow any man’s objections affect my celebration of the Christmas season. To quote from a great secular classic, “God bless us, everyone.”

 

El Milagro de la primera flor de Nochebuena?

 

 

 

The Miracle of the First Poinsettia

December 12 is National Poinsettia Day and has been an official day since the mid-1980’s.

The date was picked in honor of the man whom the plant is named for, Joel Roberts Poinsett who died onDecember 12, 1851(1779-1851). AU.S.statesman born inCharleston,South Carolina, he was secretary of war under President Van Buren but is remembered most as the diplomat whom the poinsettia plant is named for.

He became a legislator and then a member of Congress and eventually became aU.S.minister toMexicofrom 1825- 1829. His interest as an amateur botanist led him to bring the plant fromMexicothat was renamed for him. He discovered a shrub with brilliantly colored red leaves growing by the side of the road inTaxco,Mexico, in December 1828 and sent cuttings home to his plantation inGreenville,South Carolina.

Can you guess how many poinsettias are sold in a year? Would you believe that last year more than 65 million were sold nationwide? Poinsettias accounted for one-third of sales of all flowering potted plants. So how did the poinsettia become the official flower of Christmas?

The legend of the poinsettia comes fromMexico. It tells of a girl named Maria and her little brother Pablo. They were very poor but always looked forward to the Christmas festival. Each year a large manger scene was set up in the village church, and the days before Christmas were filled with parades and parties. The two children loved Christmas but were always saddened because they had no money to buy presents. They especially wished that they could give something to the church for the Baby Jesus. But they had nothing.

One Christmas Eve, Maria and Pablo set out for church to attend the service. On their way they picked some weeds growing along the roadside and decided to take them as their gift to the Baby Jesus in the manger scene. Of course they were teased by other children when they arrived with their gift, but they said nothing for they knew they had given what they could. Maria and Pablo began placing the green plants around the manger and miraculously, the green top leaves turned into bright red petals, and soon the manger was surrounded by beautiful star-like flowers.

Christmas would not be Christmas without the traditional poinsettia flowers somewhere in the house or by the fireplace. At one time it was thought that this vibrant plant was poisonous, toxic and dangerous. It turned out to be a myth and not true.

The origin of this misinformation apparently dates back to 1919 when the death of an army officer’s two-year-old child was wrongly attributed to the ingestion of Poinsettia leaves. Since then, the myth of the poisonous Poinsettia has continued to spread. You can read the full story on http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/poinsettia.asp  .

If you live in a cold area, make sure your newly-purchased poinsettia is protected from store to home and wrapped so. Poinsettias should be kept out of drafts, placed in a warm place and the soil kept evenly moist. After the colorful flowers (bracts) fall off, set the plant in a cool room and let the soil stay nearly dry until the spring. Then move to a sunny spot, water well and watch for new growth. Repot in new soil and cut back to 6 inches from the pot rim.

Poinsettias can grow in a sunny interior or in a protected area outdoors. Pinch to encourage new branches so you will have more blooms. To assure holiday blooms, keep the plant in absolute darkness from sundown to sunup 10 weeks beginning in October.

Ref: Encycopedia of House Plants; http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/flowers.htm  ; http://www.annieshomepage.com  ; Ref: http://www.landsteward.org

El Milagro de la primera flor de Nochebuena

© Marie Coppola,  Revised December 2012

90 % of Worries are Self-induced & Stressful


Worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due.” ~ William R. Inge   

 

 

I used to be one of the worst worry-warts.  There’s always something you can find to worry about – whether it’s going to rain tomorrow and you hate to drive in the rain, or it’s 3:00 am. and the new driver in the house is not home yet.

Once I had a mini spirit-breaker over a job change.  It wasn’t the work that I wanted to do or studied for in school; I was transferred to another department that I had no interest in.  I worried about everything connected to this job for 9 or 10 hours a day.  What if I quit?  What if I didn’t succeed in something I had no passion for?  What if I made a lot of mistakes?  What if I get fired?  What if . . . ?

What are the odds of worrisome thoughts actually coming true?  Statistics tell us that the probability of things we worry about that won’t ever happen:  a whopping 45%; reliving regrettable events that happened in the past: 25%; unnecessary worrying about health: 10%; and nagging, miscellaneous worries: 10%.

So around 90 percent of worries are pure self-induced stressful, unnecessary time-consumers. The remaining 10%, are actual issues that may have merit to give thought to or concern about . .

  “Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.” ~Author Unknown

During a more-than-usually stressful peak in my hell-on-earth job, I asked a supporter for advice on what to do.  She asked me back, “Is it a life or death situation?” And although it felt like it was, it truly wasn’t.  No.  Then she asked, “Will this be as important 6 months from now?” And again, I said, no, it probably would not.   And she replied with the cliché, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and everything is small stuff. ” This advice was helpful to me in dealing with the day to day problems.  But when, at times, the stress increased, I asked another Support Person to help me – a Heavenly One.  In prayer.  I asked God to take this cup from me if it were His will.

Prayers are sometimes answered through other persons or events (this happens a lot to me; I believe there are no coincidences). That next Sunday, the pastor’s sermon caught my attention. He suggested that when stress is overwhelming you, go to a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.  Close your eyes and visualize all the stress factors in your life that you are dealing with.  Lumped together, they are overwhelming.  They would be to anyone. But — God tells us:    “Fret not yourself…..” (Psalm 37:1)

Take them, these ‘stress-thorns in your side’ — one at a time, and mentally picture giving each one individually to God. Visualize the problem ‘thorn’ and extend each one to God, literally with outstretched hands, asking Him to take it from you and to handle it from now on. Visualize God taking the worry from you.  And don’t take it back.  He wants to help you.  As you give each worry to Him, remember to thank Him for relieving you of this burden.  Consider it a ‘done deal’.  Take a deep breath and relax.  It’s not your problem anymore to worry about.  It’s in His Hands. And you will be amazed how God will give you peace. Our Ultimate Father in Heaven promises us this:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:31-34)

P.S.  God did take the cup from me – and replaced it with the best job I ever had.

© Marie Coppola, Revised March 2015

 

Kids Who Never Eat

With all the obesity going on in theUnited States, it is difficult to believe that there are children between the ages of 2 and 10 who “never  want to eat.”

That’s what the grandparents will tell you. The parents will tell you that they are fussy eaters.  And the kids themselves will say things like ~ “it looks funny,” or “it tastes funny in my mouth,” or “my mother doesn’t make it like that.”  Or  “I’m not hungry right now.”  They may not be hungry anywhere from  12 to 20 hours later or even 1 to 2 days.

If the parents of the never-hungry child ever leave this problem child  in your care, they’ll tell you, “don’t force him to eat.”   Enjoy him and “don’t worry, he’ll eat when he is hungry.”   Or “I brought a bag filled with what he WILL eat.”   The small brown paper bag invariably contains: peanut butter crackers, small boxes of assorted cereals, puddings, applesauce, macaroni and cheese for those REALLY hungry days [but only one cup is ever eaten].  Plus popcorn, and candy – for treats when he does eat.  What!  He eats?  When?  S(he) is so skinny.

Having raised a child who weighed 40 pounds for three years of her life and who never “felt hungry right now,” I should have been prepared for the grandchild who was never hungry and didn’t eat whenever we did or eat what was prepared for each meal.

My daughter, my little Dumpling, subsisted all those years mainly on dairy products ~ milk, eggs, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, toast, macaroni and cheese and an occasional hot dog.  She subsisted, but she was so skinny, with all her ribs showing, that I’m sure my neighbors and family thought I was starving her to death.   She would only binge on Twinkies, which her grandmother always brought along when she visited and Dumpling would shove the entire Twinkie in her mouth to my mother-in-law’s “Oh, she’s starving!”  Yeah, right.

Our pediatrician always insisted that she was healthy and his own daughter was 40 pounds for 3 years and not to worry about it.  Yeah, right.  Tell my mother-in-law that.

Being blessed in my life with everything except a child who didn’t eat, I guess it was only natural my two grandchildren did not eat or get hungry either.   Because we’re Italian, this is especially a bad thing for grandmothers and a minor disgrace.  Italian kids should be chubby and well-nourished with that round, pasta filled-out looking face smeared constantly with spaghetti sauce.  It doesn’t matter that they have a weight problem when they get older–that’s OK–  kids should eat; mangia, mangia, eat more, look healthy and fill out those pants.  Have some more. Good boy.

You can’t fight this ‘not eating’ thing–it will only make you crazy.   If they don’t want to eat–they simply won’t eat.   So there are some things you should be aware of if you happen to care for skinny, rib-showing children who have no interest in food whatsoever:

  •  You can try to be nonchalant and just serve them a dish of whatever you made for the meal.  After it is untouched or even breathed on, and the meal is over, you can excuse the child.   He ‘has’ to get hungry eventually, you think.   Well, he will — at 11:30 pm, he’ll ask if he can have some pancakes or waffles.   Sometimes, he will wake you up to tell you this.  Ordinarily, you would never give in to this–but he may pass out from starvation before midnight and what would you tell his parents?  He’s unconscious because I didn’t make him what he wanted to eat?  He might come to and say, “Mommy, Nonna wouldn’t feed me.”  So you make 6 pancakes and he eats all of them, smothered in butter and syrup. You will get a certain relief to see him stuffing his face, but don’t get too excited over this–he probably won’t eat again until 8:00 pm the next night.  Or the night after that.  Maybe.
  • You could try the “you won’t get dessert until you finish your dinner.”  This rarely works–they want the dessert, but they don’t want the food.  They won’t eat the food until late that night when you’ll make anything they want to give them nourishment.  And they will remember the promised dessert from two meals ago and ask for it–when it’s no longer an option or is long gone.
  • Your well-meaning friends will tell you that you are wrong ~ you should “force them to eat,” and it’s a battle of wills.  Of course these same friends wring their hands when their own visiting grandchildren do not eat.
  • If a non-eating child’s plate suddenly is empty and the food is gone – don’t be jubilant. Look under the table or in his pockets.  It’s there.
  • Don’t presume if a child eats a hot dog one day, that he will eat it the next day or even in your lifetime.
  • Observe carefully how the child’s mother prepares and serves the food.  If she makes only scrambled eggs, the child will not have an interest in poached or over-medium eggs.  It has to look just like the mother’s.  Don’t make eggs with bacon or ham — he will  look it over more intently than an FAA inspection.  If mommy gives him ‘green eggs and ham,’ make sure you have food dye in the house.

Hang in there.  Dumpling survived her stick body and has matured into a well-nourished adult who diets now to keep her weight down – she eats everything.

The grandchild is still thin, but he started to really get into food about a year ago and is interested in football and knows he needs to chow down more to make the team.

Me?  I was never a ‘never eat’ child.  We were a family of 7 and if you didn’t nail the food when it was available, it was wait till the next meal.   And we ALL cleaned our plates–nothing was left on them whether we liked the food or not.   And we were all chubby pasta-faced kids whose faces were smeared with spaghetti sauce.

© Marie Coppola Revised March 2015

 

Catholics Revere Mary, the Mother of Jesus

December 8th is observed in the Catholic church as the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.  The church teaches that this observance should not be confused with Christ’s Virgin Birth.  It is the belief of the faithful that because of the fall of Adam and Eve, that each of us comes into the world born with original sin. The church teaches that this is true for all of us, except Mary, who from the grace and privilege of God is exempt from original sin and came into the world preserved and exemplified from any stain of sin.   She was conceived and born without original sin.

That is the meaning of the “Immaculate Conception” — it is in observance of Mary’s birth – that she was free from original sin at birth or conception.   The determination of this special grace was because God had selected her to become the mother of His sinless Son.  Although this was believed within the Church for many centuries, it was formally declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854.

The names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anna, appear in the “Gospel of James”, a book dating from the 2nd Century AD, not part of the authentic canon of Scripture.  According to this account, Joachim and Anna were also beyond the years of child-bearing, but prayed and fasted that God would grant their desire for a child.

Mary was a young girl, probably only about 12 or 13 years old when the angel Gabriel came to her.  She had recently become engaged to a carpenter named Joseph.  Mary was an ordinary Jewish girl, looking forward to marriage. Suddenly her life would forever be changed when she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.

Her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away.  But as he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us).’ Ref: Woman of Faith & Family

The Holy Family, consisting of Jesus, his Mother, and his foster father, Joseph, was one of perfect unity and harmony; a model for all Christian homes.  Mary is the model of Christian and Muslim women as she surrendered her will to God when the Angel announced to her that she would become a mother.  Scripture tells us that Mary said:  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.”   She acknowledged it would be done, according to God’s Will.

Scripture does not reveal a great deal about Mary.  It does tell us about her journey and birth of her son, and her presence at his death. She was also with Jesus at his first miracle, the Wedding Cana, and at her request, Jesus turned water into wine.  It was common to drink wine at weddings inGalilee. At some point during the wedding reception they ran out of wine.

Mary was a guest accompanied by her son, Jesus, and told him this.  She encouraged Jesus to begin to show his power as the Son of God.  Although Jesus knew that it would be much later in his ministry before he would do his greatest work of salvation on the cross, yet, he chose to do his first miracle at this wedding. {John 1:1-11}.

It is for this reason, that Catholics pray to Mary for intercession through asking her, son, Jesus, to grant them special favors and intents.  Many pray to Mary to ask God for peace and intentions through the prayers of the rosary which are prayers to Mary to intercede for them.

Many people may be surprised that Muslims honor Mary, too ~ the mother of Jesus.  In the Quran, no woman is given more attention than Mary.  Mary receives the most attention of any woman mentioned in the Quran and of the Quran’s 114 chapters, she is among the eight people who have a chapter named after them.

Muslims also believe in the Virgin birth of Jesus and Mary plays a very significant role in Islam. She is an example and a sign for all people as she is in the Catholic religion.  In the Quran, Mary’s story begins while she is still in her mother’s womb. The mother of Mary, said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate into Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things.” (Quran 3:35).

© Marie Coppola,  Revised December 2017

Do our pets go to Heaven?

 

According to a National Pet Owners Survey, 69 million households own a pet in the U.S. – 63 percent of ALL households. This breaks down to approximately 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles. The positive aspects of being a pet owner are too numerous to list here; the biggest negative is that that their life span is shorter than humans. We feel the empty void when they leave us.

Have you ever wondered what happens when a pet dies; and if he or she go to Heaven like humans do? Why did God make animals? In Genesis 2:19-20, we read: “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to the cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field…” Chronologically, God created the animals before He created Adam… God’s first task to Adam was to name each of the animals. God saw them as individuals and important enough to have them named accordingly.

What does the Bible tell us about God’s relationship with animals? In Genesis : 9: 13-17: “(12) “And God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations.” In God’s Love for His animals, they are mentioned in many places throughout the Bible: In Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” God looks after and tends His animals as He tends His children.

Psalm 136:25 tells us …”Who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.”  “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” Luke 12:6.   ‘And I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse…” Revelations19:11 The Old Testament makes comparisons between the eventual destiny of humans and animals. Ecclesiastes 3:19 declares, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal.” And in Job 12:7-10: “You have only to ask the cattle, for them to instruct you, and the birds of the sky, for them to inform you. The creeping things of earth will give you lessons, and the fish of the sea provide you an explanation: there is not one such creature but will know that the hand of God has arranged things like this! In His hand is the soul of every living thing and the breath of every human being! These Bible verses, our communication with God, show that animals will not be forgotten; I believe they will be there with us in Heaven. The last book of the Bible – Revelation 5:13 tells us “And EVERY creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and ALL that are in them, heard I saying, “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the lamb forever and ever.”And the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, for the (Heaven on) earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:6-9

I haven’t read any Scripture that tells us that our particular Fluffy or Fido will be reunited with us, but since we all think our pets are extraordinary, it’s a ‘given’ that we will love and bond with any animals that may be there. What do you think? © Marie Coppola, Revised July  2017

One Last Christmas

Ron Quinlan, a writer and member of our church, wrote this poignant article on what is important at Christmas time.  

 

WHAT IF THIS WAS YOUR LAST CHRISTMAS?  

Last December I heard a song once that I couldn’t forget, One Last Christmas by Matthew West. The title really makes one think. What if you knew you only had one last Christmas? What would you do?

What if this Christmas was your last Christmas to come back to the Church?

What if this was your last opportunity to tell people you loved them?

What if it was your last Christmas to spend with your Mom or Dad, the last one with your siblings, spouse or children?

What if this Christmas was your last opportunity to go to Mass with your parents?

What if this Christmas was your last opportunity to tell people how much God loves them?

What if this Christmas was your last opportunity for reconciliation with one of your children, parents or siblings?

How would this Christmas be different? What would be your priorities? Who would you see or call? What would you do? What would you say?

So often at holidays we waste time fretting about unimportant things, high prices, long lines, a perfect house, the perfect meal, decorations, the electric bill, traffic.

We spend so much time preparing for Christmas Day that we’re exhausted. Rather than being the best we can be, the loving people we want to be, we are negative. We complain and sometimes criticize. That dress is horrible, what did you do to your hair, you really don’t need a second helping, you’re already too fat. Why did you buy that? The color is all wrong.

Often at Christmas our concern is directed to what we did or didn’t receive. We pay more attention to the gifts than we do to the giver and the love behind the gift.

We spend our day playing with the latest gizmo or watching sports.

Do we really want someone’s last memory of us to be our complaining, negativity or criticism?

Do we want to let this Christmas pass without trying one last time to model Christ’s love, to share God’s love with our family and friends?

Wouldn’t we prefer to leave behind memories of the way we loved others rather than our own anger, negativity or self-centeredness?

How can we be sure this isn’t our last Christmas or the last Christmas with our parents and loved ones? We can’t be sure who will be here next year. I was fortunate to be with my Mom at her last Christmas but I didn’t have a clue at the time.

We need to live this Christmas as if it is our last. We can’t count on next Christmas to return to the Church or to tell our loved ones how much we love them. We can’t put off to next year to tell our children and grandchildren how much God loves them, how much Jesus yearns for them to come back to Him. Now is the time God has given us. This Christmas is the time we have to do the things that are most important.

WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR……………………..?