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Category Archives: Holiday

Parent category for holiday posts.

Cleanse

I don’t think there’s any doubt that our country is facing a far-reaching marginalization of religion in general, and Christianity specifically. It is happening everywhere, at every level. The movement to purge Christianity from all aspects of public life is in full swing, led by men and women who have perverted the establishment clause. They have deceived a nation that doesn’t know any better, a nation that doesn’t even understand the rights granted them in the constitution, who would rather rely on quickly digestible sound bytes that “sound right” than actually be bothered to find out the truth for themselves. Wouldn’t want to miss JWOWW’s new show to educate ourselves now, would we?

Under the guise of “progress” or “progressive thought” these people have convinced others that the so-called “separation of church and state” (that phrase appears nowhere in the constitution or the Bill of Rights) means that religion should be utterly banished from every corner of the earth and relegated to quiet time in the privacy of your own home or church. That no one should ever have to actually see or hear about anyone practicing their faith, ever, because it may offend them.

Of course, they ignore the fact that a Creator is invoked several times in the very same constitution. They also ignore the numerous historical writings that establish most of the founding fathers as theists, if not Christians. And they ignore the specific verbiage of the establishment clause itself (and its companion, the free exercise clause), reducing it to a catch phrase that other brainwashed masses can latch on to and mindlessly repeat. I’m referring to the part which says, congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

Wait…I don’t see anything about abolishing religion. I don’t see any reference to atheists having the right to sue anyone and anything that offends their apparently delicate sensibilities. What I see is protection for those who wish to follow a religion. I see the government being told not to establish a national church (and later, through the 14th Amendment, this would also apply to the State governments, as well as Federal).

The establishment clause was meant to protect religion from the government, not to protect the public from ever being exposed to religion or, heaven forbid, being offended by it. And even though people today have unparalleled access to virtually the entire sum total of human knowledge right at their fingertips, they’d rather take the words of angry atheist liberals spewing hate-filled venom, than to lift a finger and educate themselves properly.

As a result of these efforts, Christianity has been viciously attacked and marginalized, while many who follow it are content to do nothing. Or perhaps the correct phrase is, they are incapable of doing anything. That’s because, like their more secular counterparts, they are content with a minimal education about the subject matter, just enough to get them by but not enough to actually take their time and attention away from other matters. This tendency seems rampant in these last few generations.

But in times of crisis, sleeping giants sometimes awaken, and some of these folks are starting to do just that. Some of them are tired of being bullied and pushed around by angry atheists with an axe to grind against God, who beat everyone over the head with the word “reason” like they came up with it. (Mind you, their “reason” is typically a dash of science intermixed with an abundance of repressed anger at “religion” and God.)

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver. I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. (Isa 48:10). In-context, this verse is discussing the refinement of Israel as a nation. But looking at where we are right now, I think we have little choice but to see this present darkness as a similar opportunity to be cleansed and refined. It’s time to let go of our complacency and realize that there’s a lot at stake here.

Christians in America have never been challenged like this before. We’ve spent the past two hundred years enjoying a free ride. We’ve never had to really get into why we believe what we believe. We were the defacto “religious experience” of the past two centuries. Thus, it’s truly frightening, the number of people who really don’t know the why of their faith. This year, I spoke to a number of Catholics regarding their tradition of getting marked on Ash Wednesday. Not one of them could give a reason why this is observed. When you don’t understand why, then the actions themselves become a meaningless, disassociated ritual. The response to why do you get marked on Ash Wednesday should not be, because I’m Catholic. This sort of thing makes assaulting Christianity incredibly easy.

So do trite platitudes and bumper sticker theology. Those small, digestible tidbits I was talking about earlier aren’t just the exclusive domain of the atheists or progressives. We’ve got plenty of our own. Clichés like “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.” That’s a bastardization of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which is part of a larger passage discussing, specifically, temptation. “There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” I could spend a lot of time writing on that, but click here for a truly excellent article.

It’s time to stop helping those who want to shove us behind closed doors because they find our beliefs offensive. There’s not a law on the books that guarantees anyone’s right to never be offended by anything. I’m just as offended by their flagrant disregard for others’ beliefs and opinions, but I’m not trying to sue them into silence or take down their insipid billboards or prevent them from having their atheist rallies. In fact, I’m fine if someone wants to follow atheism. But when they try to push their religion (let’s not pretend it isn’t) on the rest of the world, that I have an issue with. And so should they, since one of their core issues with Christianity is that we “force it” on others. Live and let live only applies to this group if you agree with what they believe.

We are being threatened by those who would blindly (and gladly) march an entire nation – an entire world – into utter darkness. These people aren’t targeting Islam or Buddism or Scientology. They pay lip service to disliking “religion” but their focus is Christianity. God. That’s the reality we face. That’s the fire coming for us. We can either allow it to refine us, sharpen us, strengthen us, or we can burn in it.

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Shaking Off the Negative

“The best way of removing negativity is to laugh and be joyous.”

– David Icke

I chose the above quote for my first blog of the year (indeed, the first blog on this site in two years) because it perfectly expresses two particular sentiments: first, the most obvious meaning of the quote, to embrace joy and let go of negativity. The second is more in my choice of author. David Icke is partly known for espousing government conspiracy theories, the majority of which I don’t personally agree with. Yet here we are, finding common ground when it matters.

I spent most of 2013 in something of a hazy, angry rage. The rage was often silent, but ubiquitous. I was frustrated about a great many things, and for much of the year, I believed those things to be external. Every time I turned around, there was a new report or article talking about how religious liberty was being threatened, how Obamacare was ruining the health care of hard working Americans, how the liberal culture was slowly seeping into how the nation is governed such that it is practically unrecognizeable anymore.

These things upset me because I care about our country. I care about the freedoms we enjoy. I am vehemently oppossed to a nanny state, to spreading the wealth, to limiting individual rights. The notion of big government makes me absolutely nauseous. Our nation is being run by a man who has never had a day of real work in his life, who was educated by the hippies and idealists of the previous generation, people who embrace ideas and philosophies that sound great on paper, but that fail miserably when implemented in reality. The incessant “I had no idea” rhetoric, the disdain with which he and his administration treats the founding principles of this nation (ideals that enabled him to get elected in the first place)…I’ve had my fill and then some.

The problem is not that these things upset me. The problem is what I do with my anger and frustration over them. For the past year, I’ve just raged on endlessly about it, complained about, pointed out the million reasons why it’s all going to fail. I stand by all of those arguments. They’re valid. I see it. A lot of other people see it. But – I let that anger just fester and change me, until I couldn’t see any good in anything. And that is where I went wrong.

Now, I admit, another source behind the “rage” was a personal issue or two that I’ve been dealing with. Questioning my faith, that sort of thing. I think most people face that kind of existential crisis. When it’s over, you’re either more certain than ever, or you have an epiphany that changes your worldview completely. In my case, it was the former. I’ve changed the way I think about some things. Or more accurately, my understanding of things has evolved, and said thought process changes came about organically because of that evolution.

We’ve got a lot of crazy things coming up in 2014. Creative projects will at long last reach fruition. Others will begin, and even on the homefront, things are set to change and evolve. It’s an exciting time. Thankfully, the holidays somehow managed to lift my spirit, to make me remember that life isn’t just all about the negative, even when it seems like that is all that surrounds us. I see signs of my fellow countrymen waking up, in light of a number of victories for Christian employers who don’t have to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans, and in the reinstatement of the Robertson patriarch in Duck Dynasty (and prior to that, Cracker Barrel’s putting the Duck Dynasty products back on the shelves). I’m pleased to see more conservative Americans making some noise.

As I always do, I hope to post more frequently here and establish a more consistent routine for my writing, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m sitting on some cool ideas for screenplays and stories that I wouldn’t mind getting out there and selling. And of course, projects dear to me, such as Shepard, will be coming to fruition this year. Very excited about getting that out there!

But be warned: no topic is too big or small, to politically correct or risque. Read future entries at your own risk. And if I happen to offend you: stop what you’re doing, head down to Target, and buy a sense of humor.

 

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Reflections: 2012 Edition

I hadn’t planned on doing a year-end blog this year. But as I sit here at my desk on New Year’s Eve, it’s hard not to reflect on things. 2012 seems to fit the mold of the ancient Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” So, I figured I’ll go ahead and do a brief retrospective.

The Maley kids continue their tendency of growing up way too fast. 2012 saw my oldest two finish up at elementary school and being their sojourn in middle school. My youngest three are now in third grade (the twins) and second grade (Alyssa). The boys enjoyed another season of baseball this year, while Alyssa became a cheerleader (though I’m pretty sure she was one from birth, and merely formalized it this year with a uniform).

I finally decided to get off my arse and back behind a camera, as my web series, “Shepard,” finally began to take shape. Auditions began in May and continued into June. In this, I was blessed with tremendous good fortune. The cast is stellar, better than I could have hoped for. We began filming in late July and continued on through August and September. Filming on the first season will complete in the spring and we will hopefully be able to release the season shortly thereafter.

This year wasn’t without loss, either. We bade farewell to “Grandma” Barber and her sister, Betty. Isabelle Barber was a strong and forceful presence, who was never afraid to let you know what she thought. I’ll never forget the early days of my relationship with Kim, how she was constantly sizing me up to see if I was good enough for her granddaughter. She was less than impressed at first, I think. Even so, she and her husband invited us to various functions with their church, and took us to Tionesta for the Indian festival. I’ve got a lot of fond memories of her, and she and Aunt Betty are both very missed.

2012 was also a year where I struggled with some things. A lot of times, these struggles went unnoticed by the world at large (and I’m sure Mrs. Grimm wishes they could have gone unnoticed by her, too). I won’t bother with the details here as they are of a personal nature, but I’d like to think I’ve made some progress and growth as a human being this year. I’ve let go of a lot of selfish inclinations, and in doing so I have come to realize how truly self-centered our culture is.

As I’ve struggled to become a better person, I’ve also accepted the fact that the world in which we live has changed dramatically for the worse, and will continue to do so. I’m not talking about the tragic, horrid shootings in Newtown, CT or Aurora, CO. Those are heinous and evil acts, but such things have been with us forever.

I’m referring to the fact that our nation has decided to turn its back on long-standing values in favor of systems and ideals that have never, and will never, work. We are marching boldly and foolishly towards our own demise, gladly begging the government to take care of us, feed us, and cloth us, because it’s easier than doing it ourselves. We no long value hard work, commitment, or anything that doesn’t give us something tangible and immediate as a reward. I shudder to think of the kind of world my kids are going to live in when they’re adults. We’re trying to demonstrate the value of hard work, of not getting a free ride, of taking personal responsibility for your own actions, treating others with respect even when you don’t feel like they deserve it. By the time they’ve grown into adults, those concepts may well be utterly alien to this entire country. The world may not have ended in 2012, but this country is on the right path.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” This is happening, right now. Some want to call it “progress” but it is not. It’s a culture of entitlement, arrogance, and failing morality. It’s “what I can I get” and “I deserve it” – with none of the work, effort, or courtesy and decency to other human beings. These are ideals that our nation is embracing, and it will eventually do just what Mr. Lincoln foretold.

But, this is a year-end retrospective, not a political sermon. As pessimistic as I am about the direction of our country under its current leadership and its woefully naïve, self-absorbed, uneducated citizenship, I do feel a degree of personal optimism. I feel as though I’ve made some decent progress with all the hats I wear: dad, husband, writer/director, Christian, and human being. I’ve grown in each of these areas, and more, and have become truly grateful for what I have.

2013 holds a lot of things in store. The Maley clan heads to Florida in March for a greatly anticipated visit to every kid’s paradise, Disney World. We’ve been trying to go for years now, and are finally able to make it a reality. My current contract ends in July, leaving me with new and exciting opportunities to explore. Shepard’s first season will completely wrap, and season two will be filmed, along with a short I’ve been working on.

And of course, I’ll also be memorizing a new series of kid-ages: 12, 11, 9, 9, and 8.

It’s hard to say what else may in store. And while I don’t look at New Year’s with the same blind, naïve optimism I’ve had in years past, I am grateful for the opportunity to try and make things better next year in whatever ways I can, for myself and for others.

I wish everyone a happy and safe celebration tonight, and a great start to 2013!

 

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To the Grave

Well, here we are.

Doomsday week. images

Is everyone ready for Friday? Evidence to the contrary, this is the date most crazy people whackadoos nutjobs people of questionable little no certain intelligence have earmarked for the end of the world, as foretold by the Mayans.

It grieves me a little, that so many accept so much on so little evidence. It grieves me further when those many, can’t even be bothered to get their own facts straight.

For the sake of argument, here’s a crash course in the Mayan calendar system. It’s way more complicated than the calendar we follow. Think of it more like an odometer than a calendar. Unlike our simplistic date system (MM/DD/YYYY), the Mayans had a whole string of numbers that represented things like baktuns, katuns, and plain, simple tuns. An example Mayan date looks like this: 12.19.19.3.11 (for the record, that’s March 7, 2012).

If you follow those numbers through to their natural progression, guess what happens on December 21? The odometer rolls over. The date on Friday will look like this: 13.0.0.0.0. That’s it, folks. In layman’s terms, what people are so afraid of is the Mayan version of Y2K. Fortunately, no computers run on the Mayan long-count calendar, so there will be no technological meltdowns, like we experienced on Y2K.

Oh, wait…

My morning reading today was replete with articles about people indulging in luxury bunkers, contemplating suicide, even contemplating killing their family to “spare” them the end of the world.

On a normal day, we might look at these people like they’re nuts.

But three days after a roomful of little kids is shot to death by a very sick individual fucking psycho, I think the mental state of these people warrants a closer look.

My wife and I have five kids. We know there’s not a parent on the planet that doesn’t want to reach out and hold onto the parents of Newtown, CT. My heart has broken a hundred times for each precious little child lost, and for the six brave adults who tried to protect them. It has also broken every time some idiot politician wants to talk about gun control. Of course something needs done about this. But other things need done first. Like grieving. Burying those who perished.

There’s something wrong with people. Something very wrong. And we, as a culture, as a society, as a race of people, have ignored it for too long. The root cause of this destructive, evil, senseless behavior is not going to be handled by taking away weapons or buying bunkers. It won’t be achieved through fear-induced mass suicide. The problem is depravity of spirit. People value other people too little, and value themselves (and their “stuff”) too much.

You have only to walk out your front door to witness firsthand the atrocities that humans commit against other humans. How many people in cars tailgate you until you move, then speed by and flip you the bird? What possible reason could they have for being in such a hurry? They don’t need a reason. That they’re in a hurry is sufficient, and damn the poor fool who gets in front of them.

How many battles have you waged to find a parking space in the mall, especially at this time of year? Hell, how many times have you been walking towards the door to Target, and suddenly people rush past you, so they can get there first?

Our culture is incredibly self-centered. Community doesn’t matter anymore. People don’t matter. All that matters is the list of things we need to cram into our busy day. All that matters is meeting our own needs. And if you get in our way, screw you. Because we are entitled to be happy and to have the things we want for ourselves.

Yet for all the cool stuff we have, I’ve never seen a more miserable, unhappy, depressed group of people than those out there, right now. Depression. Anxiety. Mental health issues. These things are rampant – rampant! Take stock: how many people do you personally know who take some kind of anti-anxiety medication, or anti-depressant? Who knows the difference between Zoloft and Ativan? Who has taken one or the other?

We have created a world that is morally ambiguous, bereft of any higher meaning or calling than our own self-interest. Where we place such importance on meaningless work and the meaningless acquisition of meaningless stuff, thereby creating a value system that is – you guessed it – meaningless. We open the door for people to feel stress, anxiety, and depression when life doesn’t work out like they think it should, because it is impressed upon us that we are entitled to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

And these days, it’s worse. These days, we love to flaunt our wealth and happiness all over the internet, don’t we? And those who haven’t achieved what they feel they should have, those who don’t have what they think they deserve, get even more depressed looking at photos of their friends, colleagues, and former classmates on beaches and in exotic locations. We paint a picture of ourselves that makes it look like we have it all – even when we don’t. And many of us get depressed over seeing the “success” of others. Gee, I wish I could go to Hawaii. I wish I had a house that nice. Why can’t I take trips to Florida every year? Those folks fail to realize that pictures are a moment in time, and having stuff or going places doesn’t mean someone is happy. Smiles are easy to fake.

I’m not trying to assault those with depression or anxiety. In fact, I’m one of those who suffer. My anxiety is health-related, not stemming from Facebook envy. I wish my friends every success and honestly, I hope at least half of them are actually as happy as they make themselves out to be. Personally, I’m comfortable with where I am. Don’t need to flaunt. But I have major anxiety problems, mostly health-related, that have ironically led to actual health problems. I’m not ashamed of the anxiety, but I am frustrated with the world that has allowed such things to take root. I empathize with those who suffer, because I’ve spent many years suffering. To a degree, I still do.

Which is why I feel I’m uniquely qualified to point out that, hey, these things are real. As real as cancer, as real as heart disease, as real as influenza. Which means they are also treatable, when they’re identified. Therein lies the rub, though. Most people are content to explain away strange behavior in loved ones. Most people wait too long to seek treatment, or to intervene and recommend treatment for someone they know is having problems. “Oh, it’s just stress.” Well when “just stress” is left unchecked, it can push people into developing real health problems. Or push people into taking a weapon and taking a life (including their own). But we are content to ignore it, until it’s too late. Which shows that we have not yet reached the point where it is socially acceptable to have a mental illness.

Folks, there are people out there in this country, maybe in your town, who are thinking about ending their lives, and the lives of their families, THIS WEEK! This. Week. Because they are afraid. And they are depressed. They have no hope. And there are others out there who are contemplating taking a gun into a crowded place and opening up on people (already there have been 2 incidents since the awful tragedy in Newtown, CT. One was an averted crisis, the other took place at a shopping mall [no deaths, thankfully]).

This isn’t about weapons. It’s about a broken world. A broken race of people whose priorities are so skewed and distorted, that the idea of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a luxury bunker to assuage their own paralyzing fear, is more important to them than the suffering of an entire community whose children were just brutally slaughtered. In the midst of a very real, heartbreaking tragedy, in the midst of death and pain, people are still thinking about themselves. About killing themselves, or others, to avoid some imaginary apocalypse, popularized by self-absorbed, fear-mongering idiots and spread like wildfire by a culture over-exposed to information without context and obsessed with only looking out for themselves.

The human race is sick. If you are a believer, you know what that sickness is. You know it has a name. If you’re not, then perhaps it shall suffice to simply say, that it is sick. People do not value other people. They only value themselves, their own happiness, their own gain, their own safety. Community, unity, brotherhood are failing, replaced with “I’m entitled. It’s my right.” For those who disagree or stand in the way of what I believe and what I want, there is no compromise. There is only hatred – cries of heretic and traitor and idiot and how dare you! If your beliefs don’t align with mine, you’re a moron unworthy of life, and I hope you die. I’ve seen comments like this. Heard them. It’s disgusting. Self-focus in the extreme, often disguised as being “progressive.”

This is hard for me to write. I’m a product of this culture, too. I’m self-centered. I hate crowds. I tend to think people are idiots unless they prove otherwise. But you know what? That’s not a healthy attitude. It’s the predominant one, but that doesn’t make it healthy. It’s arrogant, pretentious, and judgmental, and it says a lot more about me than it does about the people who feel its wrath.

We once thought it was better and nobler to take the high ground, to be kind to others just for the sake of it. How much more noble is it now, that so many take the easy road? Anyone can hate. There’s nothing special there. But it does take something special to show kindness when you are shown none. To show mercy when none is granted you. To show love to those deemed unlovable. Because even that fucking psycho very disturbed person once sat in a Kindergarten class room, and came home to his mommy and daddy to tell them about his day. Would gun control laws have stopped him, as an adult? No. But maybe understanding what was wrong with him could have.

We are a sick nation, and right now we’re a grieving nation. These little ones deserved better than to be cut down at the very beginning of their lives. Those six adults demonstrated that more noble ideals do still exist out there, laying down their very lives for their beloved students. And our brothers and sisters on this rock deserve better than to be scared out of their wits by a fictional apocalypse. We’re all humans, for crying out loud. We’re all people. Fellow travelers toward the grave, as Dickens so eloquently wrote. We have to watch out for each other.

Just days away from the end of the world, and you know what? Things are looking pretty dark. Maybe it really is time for the end. After all, what is an ending, but a new beginning? And what better time than Christmas, a season that for many denotes the birth of new life?

Even the contemporary Mayans (yes, they still exist, and they’re laughing at the doomsayers) look to this Friday as a day of renewal. The start of a new cycle, and the end of the old. It’s an important time, yes. But not because it’s the end of all things. Rather, because it’s a new beginning for all things.

So, yes. Perhaps it’s time for the world to end. Perhaps it’s time for the people of this rock to start thinking differently. Because this sickness is killing us. This self-centered, ego-centric, “don’t care about anyone but me” attitude is going to destroy this country and this world eventually.

So, let the world as it is end. And let us have a new beginning, where people matter to each other. Where we watch out for each other out of respect, and can coexist as people with different ideologies and faiths. Reach out to those who are hurting. Remember the parents of Newtown, whose Christmas morning will be the hardest they’ll ever face. Remember those who face this weekend with fear. They don’t need our ridicule for being stupid, they need our support to heal and understand. Start recognizing that mental illness is real illness, and that those people need help – BEFORE it comes to shooting up a roomful of children, or teenagers, or a campus of college students, or themselves.

There will always be evil. And preventing every tragedy is impossible. But in the world we’ve created for ourselves now, without a moral compass, without absolutes, is a world in which evil can thrive more fully. Remove that, and you remove much of its power. And the only way to do that is to realize that the thousands of faceless people you see every day are just like you – they have their own lives, stories, and struggles. They are not worthy of your scorn or irritation. Their lives are more valuable than your Christmas list and your to-do list and your fancy new car with leather seats and a built-in MP3 player with GPS. Even though you’ve never met them. Even though they may not have even existed to you five minutes ago. Even though they may disagree with you on religion, politics, or any number of other things, their lives are still precious. Even if they don’t hold the same courtesy towards you.

Perhaps this is a tall order. Perhaps the dream is too big. But it is Christmas, and I’m just a big kid at heart. And kids dream big at Christmas. (Trust me, I know, I’ve got 5 of them dreaming bigger dreams than we’ll ever be able to afford!) Besides, when we aim high – even too high – the mark we do hit is much greater than when we lower our standards. So, let the end of the world (as we know it) commence. And if, all evidence to the contrary, the apocalypse does come on Friday, at least we’ve all got a front-row seat to the end of it all. That’s one hell of a Christmas gift.

Merry Christmas to those who observe it, happy holidays to those who don’t! Here’s a little parting gift to my more conservative-leaning friends. Enjoy!

Mayan_Cartoon3

 

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Every New Beginning…

From the ashes of the old, the new is born.  So it is with this yearly cycle we celebrate every December 31st.

2011 was definitely a year of personal change, introspection, and growth.

I’ve heard it said that a man truly becomes a man when he loses his father.  I never believed that, until I lost mine in February.  My dad’s unexpected passing has had a profound impact on every aspect of my life, and it’s been a tremendous struggle to move beyond it.  When I was a child, I lost my step-dad Bill.  In my late 20’s, I learned my biological father, whom I had never met, died in a motorcycle accident.  Dan Maley was the only man I knew as “dad’ from childhood to adult.  He was a kind, generous, and giving soul, and his life has truly inspired mine.  “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” he used to say.  It’s something I have tried to take to heart.

We also lost our beloved pet, Tigger, just two weeks prior to my father’s passing.  This Christmas, the absence of his little doggy stocking alongside ours cut a pang of sadness through the holiday cheer.  And, as my oldest son Justin observed, “It doesn’t feel like Christmas without” his grandmother, “Pap” Lenny.  Lenny passed away just before Thanksgiving this year.  In the face of such losses, one would think the Christmas spirit in our home would be dampened.  And perhaps it was, early on.  Yet we celebrated what was probably our most joyful and satisfying Christmas in years.

One of my final creative projects for the year was a video compilation of images that honored those we have lost, not just this year, but in years past.  My step-dad, grandparents, and many others were there; as were Kim’s lost family members.  I felt compelled to do this, not so much as a Christmas gift (though it did become that), but to finally lay these things to rest.  My entire life I’ve been careful to remember the people I’ve lost, to the degree that maybe it became detrimental to really healing from it.  I tend to love deeply and without reserve, so when I lose someone, the loss cuts deeply.  This collage is my farewell to those I love, and to my childhood in general.

I’ll always be a kid at heart.  I’ll always love video games, and always love to go to movies and pig out on overpriced candy and popcorn.  But this year, I grew a lot. Emotionally.  Spiritually.  And physically, though I wish that weren’t the case. (Can we say Weight Watchers in 2012? Yes we can.)  My priorities have shifted.  My thoughts and opinions on a great many things have changed, matured.  I have left 2011 a very different person than I entered it.  I feel those changes were for the better, but that remains to be seen.

I generally don’t make “New Year’s Resolutions” per se.  But I do resolve to do a few things differently this year.  First: lose weight.  The oldest and most easily abandoned of resolutions, I’ve come to realize that I have no time left to waste.  For 33 years now, I’ve allowed my life and my own self-perception to bend to the whims of my weight and appearance.  I’m sick of it.  Someone once said, “Change will not happen until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing.”  I’ve reached that point.  I know I’m better than this.  I just need to act on it.

Second: Writing.  Folks, it’s time to get serious.  Because I haven’t been, let’s face it.  Who else lets a virtual series linger in oblivion for four years because he just doesn’t feel like doing anything with it?  Who else starts a dozen projects and finishes none of them?  I love the act of writing, but due to how challenging this year has been, I’ve not dedicated myself to it properly.  I’ve skated through my classes (earning high marks, but not really absorbing much).  To quote one of my favorite films, it’s “time to nut up or shut up.”

Third: finances!  Another one that’s easily forgettable.  We’ve got a great plan in place that we’ll acting upon within weeks.  I’m excited to start it.  We’ve been blessed with an increased cash flow, but it’s still tight with 5 kids.  Yet we will make it work, and we’ll make it work better than before.

Basically, these three things can be summed up in one: I’m going to take control of my life.  Time’s wasting.  33 isn’t old by a long shot, but it’s definitely not 25 or 21.  I don’t want to be 35, 45, 55, wondering what happened to these next few decades, why things turned out so poorly, why I have so many health and weight problems.  The time to act is here and now, and I’m excited about it.

Of course, it’s easy to get excited.  Staying excited is the true test of character, and that particular story has yet to be written.

Welcome, 2012.  I greet you with open eyes and arms, ready to make the most of each opportunity.