the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero


To those who tell the Santa story: We Are All Santa

As seen at the Good Men Project, but with some extra edits for the tao of jaklumen

Is there a Santa Claus? Is Santa real?

I have read differing opinions, not just from parents, but individuals in other family roles, or people just caring for children. They seemed to be torn between rational practicality of adulthood and the seemingly magical faith of childhood: that either they were lying to children, or they were destroying time-honored tradition.

First of all, I think we need to give children more credit. A lot more credit. I speak from my memories as a child, my memories as a parent, and as a man who put on the red suit twice to portray the mythical figure himself.

It’s quite possible to do both.

Children are clever. I remember figuring things out as a child, and I’ve noticed many children, including my own, are very quick to observe. I could remember my parents being incredibly exasperated that the oldest of my three younger sisters and I would repeatedly try to sneak around and figure out what was going on, whether they were filling stockings, or whether a friend of the family was portraying Santa at home or at church.

But I got an idea that Santa was a role in school, being taught the “Secret Santa” tradition one year. I learned that the gift exchange was a way to bond as a friend to a classmate. Sure, we all had to come up with devious schemes to avoid blowing the surprise. But I don’t think any of us saw it as silly superstition or unacceptable deception.

Long before my wife and I decided to answer our children’s questions as honestly and appropriately as we could, I remember my sister telling me that she’d asked my maternal grandmother about Santa, and that Grandma had revealed everything. It wasn’t too long after that that my parents decided to recruit me, at least, to the tradition. I think they saw it as convenient to feed a young hungry teenager (who was delivering a paper route) some of the treats that my two younger sisters left for Santa. It was incredibly meaningful, however. I secretly kept a card they had left for many, many years. To this day, I am not certain they know I still have the card.

As I was wrapping up my post-secondary schooling, I took employment working as a mall Santa. People of all ages, boys and girls, and grown women, sat on my lap and told me about their wishes (in English and Spanish) for Christmas. They came from all sorts of different backgrounds, but their participation in the tradition seemed honest and sincere. The second time I worked the gig, an older gentleman who had worked previously told me about his experience. I told him that I took the role very seriously. I’d done character work (as a company mascot) before, but this was much more personal.


This was at a friend’s house– we were technically homeless at the time.

I had applied sending a picture of my infant daughter sleeping on my chest. The employer decided to take a few more pictures of me with my wife, and with my daughter, to send to corporate. At this time, my daughter was only about a year or two old, an age that I saw can be very difficult for children. I’d seen far too many times that parents would try to force the situation to get a Christmas photo, and I became very staunchly opposed to that. We quickly found that my daughter was quite comfortable sitting with me. For quite a few years, I was the only Santa she had sat with or would sit for.

As I said before, children are quick to observe. I joke to other adults that I’m not the parent who brags about their children’s accomplishments; I’m the parent who hangs his head and laments that his children are too smart for their own good. Julie and I discovered that we were going to need to give more of the story to our daughter pretty fast. She wanted to know, and she wasn’t going to accept friends or family pretending to be Santa anymore. One Christmas Eve, she just wouldn’t go to sleep without seeing Santa (i.e. meet him)– neither my father-in-law nor a recorded message was going to provide a solution. While we had discussed whether or not to deploy the myth before we had children, she decided we’d practice the tradition, and I of course, accepted. But I could see that it wasn’t going to last too much longer. So we dug out the photo and we explained that the person dressed as Santa was me– so, quite literally, Santa was her father.

This is the picture in question.  Smarty-pants here later figured out too much about the Santa myth, so we used it to reveal the reality of it all.

This is the picture in question. Smarty-pants here later figured out too much about the Santa myth, so we used it to reveal the reality of it all.

It was then that I learned Julie had revealed to her that she was the Tooth Fairy, so this revelation dovetailed quite closely with that one. Julie believes quite firmly that when children ask a question, they deserve an answer that is honest and appropriate to their understanding.

I couldn’t help but feel all fuzzy inside when I explained to her that for a time, I was the only Santa she’d sit for. She accepted it all with grace and love, and she quickly agreed to join us in practicing the tradition for her little brother, as well as a promise not to spoil the magic for others. She doesn’t need magic, though– I was so pleased to let her know that Santa is another expression of our love for her. When I talked with her recently, she said she realized it was me, because something was different. Clever girl.

So again, Santa for our family is not really that much different from the gift exchanges someone would participate in at school, work, or church. And when I think I’ve met more men that have donned the red suit as I have, and talked to them about their experience, I say with conviction that none of them believe they are teaching children a superstition or a lie. And for one, his daughter knows exactly what her father does, and is quick to remind me not to spoil the surprise for younger children in our church congregation.

We are all Santa. Some of us have taken that more closely than others, but we know the meaning is the same.

Do you celebrate a tradition of gift giving this season?  (Hint: it doesn’t have to be Santa-related, or specifically tied to Nikolaos of Myra.)  Please let me know in the comments.  Links to blog posts are welcome!

If you haven’t already, please also read Is Santa Real?, my wife Cimmorene’s response to this article, at The Dragon’s Lair


I Survived the Second Part of Hallowthankamas

Yes, my timing is rather late.  It’s taken probably this long to recover.

Also, I see that my sentiments about Madison Avenue and the advertising blitzkrieg aren’t unique:

but “Hallowthanksmas”, no matter how many people repeat it, just doesn’t roll off the tongue.  Go ahead, say it.  There’s just too much of a stop between “thanks” and “mas”, right?  But “thank-a-mas”… well, you can rap or sing it.

But aside from the pressure to “BUY BUY BUY”, I’ll admit that a holiday dinner on my side of the family is pretty consistent.  My senile maternal grandmother takes up the first two:

  1. Talks incessantly about how fat Cimmorene and I have gotten
  2. Fights my parents for the right to clean up the dishes, and won’t be content to sit down

and then the third generation (my children, nieces, nephews) usually bangs on the spinet piano and make a thorough mess of the toys that are set aside for them.

Normally, we would go to the in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner, but the doctors found cancer in my father-in-law again, and this time, in a part of his body they hadn’t removed yet.  So my dear mother-in-law was beside herself, and told all her children to “go make their own traditions.”

I didn’t accept that for a while, because I thought maybe we wouldn’t have a place to go (and I wasn’t ready to cook a big holiday dinner again, although we hosted the in-laws last year).

This was great fun but I just wasn't ready to struggle over a turkey again this year.

This was great fun but I just wasn’t ready to struggle over a turkey again this year.

At almost the last minute, my father said we could come to their place.  He said they’d split days to reduce chaos.  We would come on Thursday while my sister hosted her in-laws at their place, as they were unable to do a dinner themselves.  Then she would come on Friday.  This was a good thing; three children with autism and a preteen all in one medium-sized house had been a recipe for cacophony.  Plus, I had been giving my sister the silent treatment a LOT of space; she gets mean when she’s overwhelmed and our relationship has just been seriously strained for a number of years.  Cutting the noise and disruption was partly for my grandparents; although my grandfather is about as deaf as a post, neither he nor my grandmother can stand too much raucousness from a handful of children.  He’s 91 and she hit 90 a few days ago (on the 3rd), if I remember right.

Cimmy took it on herself to boob-block my grandmother a few years back.  She sits with her and coaxes her to chat, so she’ll eventually forget about cleaning up and getting in the way of those actually getting it done.  She takes all of my grandmother’s dementia and Alzheimer’s-riddled behavior in great stride as she’d seen this in her own grandmothers, and although she privately wept at the thought of revisiting it all, she usually recounted all of Grandma’s behaviors as things she recognized and understood.  She decided to ignore the critical things Grandma recited like a broken record, and tried to help me as I have not yet been ready to do the same.

It’s like talking to a yo-yo; she brings up the same damned things in conversation over and over.

She also recognizes Parkinson’s symptoms, which helps her a little bit to deal with my mother.

But my mother is more like “float like a moth, sting like a wasp”.

But this year Cimmy outdid herself to ingratiate herself to my grandparents, taking time to apply lotion to her hands, and also giving Grandpa a back rub.  Surprisingly, he was pretty quiet this year, and didn’t dish out much criticism as he would in years past.  I was actually surprised that he answered the door when we arrived and seemed glad to see us.

It does help that Grandpa took a real shine to Boy.  He seems ecstatic to have a great-grandson that’s so wildly active (and I think he secretly hopes Boy will be sporty), although I wish he’d share that enthusiasm for my nephew (eldest son of the sister I mentioned previously; I have another nephew by way of my youngest sister, now).

The last day of November, last Sunday, Mom called me to say that my grandparents had left for home and were quite vocal in saying what a good time they had, and that they were glad to see us.

Well, doesn’t that beat all.  They’re old and crotchety enough not to acknowledge how irritated I was at times.

I’ll have some posts down the line, dear readers, about how the lovely Athena Moberg and Bobbi Parish have been teaching survivors how to deal with the holidays.  So, round 2 of Happy Hallowthankamas is done… now it’s on to Christmas.

May the Powers That Be have mercy on me.


Happy Mother’s Day, through Good, Bad & The Ugly

Mother’s Day can be a mixed bag for me.

My whole blogging experience started out with trying to sort out the anger I had with my mother, trying to heal a lot of inner wounds and self-loathing from past emotional rape and other traumatic experiences.  It didn’t help much that HER mother was also part of the dysfunctionally tangled web that was much of my childhood.

I had to set some of that aside when my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

That said, I must give credit where credit is due.  I was born and bred to be domestic.  My mother (and my grandmother) taught me a lot of skills as such that have served me very, very well.   I suppose this was easier to impart as I was the only male child.  I know it sparks a small amount of envy at times: I’ve said that I like certain chores very much (vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, etc.) and some women (who have usually bemoaned their own husband’s lack of enthusiasm) will jokingly ask me to come do those chores for them.  Cimmorene is usually quick to snap back with something to the effect of: “You can’t have him, he’s mine!”

Things got better when I married Cimmorene.  I’ll put it this way: I am not wont to tell mother-in-law jokes.  My mother-in-law still has a few idiosyncrasies that drive me crazy, but generally, I get along much better with my mother-in-law than I do my own mother.

And then there’s my other grandmother- my father’s mother.  I was devastated when she died, shortly before Princess was born.  She seemed to be the only woman for a long time that truly understood me.  (Needless to say, she was the first family member I introduced Cimmorene to.)  She died after a battle with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

This is something that my maternal grandmother is dealing with now.  I’m still not sure if my mother is ready to deal with the full implications of that.  She is with her, my grandfather, and my father now for Mother’s Day weekend.  She called me back a hour or so ago to ask me if there were any cookbooks I wanted– part of their trip was to meet with an estate Realtor to get the house and some of the furnishings sold.

Now, my writing skills tell me it’s very awkward to end here. But then a gut part of me says that should sum up my feelings perfectly well.

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The Journal Jar Celebrates Valentines Day

Even if you don’t like Valentine’s Day (broken hearts for the lose!) please join us on the Journal Jar for some cheer today. TGIF, right?

Comments closed at the tao of jaklumen as per usual, so you’ll be inclined to visit us 😉

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jak & Cimmy's Journal Jar

This is what our family is doing for Valentine’s Day. Enjoy and please share with your friends.

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A leap ahead – Zero to Hero Days 9-12

Day 9 assignment: Follow five more blogs and/or topics.

Day 10 assignment: add and customize two widgets.

Day 11 assignment: leave comments on at least three blogs that you’ve never commented on before.

Day 12 assignment: write a post that builds on one of the comments you left yesterday. Don’t forget to link to the other blog!

Now normally, I wouldn’t try to blow through four challenges like this.  I’ve got a ways to go to catch up, actually; the challenge is currently on Day 21.

But I had to reiterate just how much Come for Company (C4C) is blowin’ up my blog, as well as continually prompting me to do stuff that easily aces all of these challenges.

You remember this one, right?  I heard it's coming back for Valentine's Day

You remember this one, right? I heard it’s coming back for Valentine’s Day

It started with rarasaur’s Come on, baby, spend Christmas with me!  At the time, C4C was known as “Come For Christmas”.

Now, let me briefly point out that Rara is a blogging powerhouse and does a lot of promotional posts– this is by no means her first.  I found that even partly following her whirlwind, I discovered a LOT of new blogs.  (Yes, I haven’t completely followed EVERY blog she promoted, or I’d be drowning in blogs by now.)

As I noted on my reblog of her post, this was good timing as neither my parents nor my in-laws would be with us at Christmas.  Both Cimmy and I decided to volunteer, which meant we were added as Contributors to that blog.  (If Zero to Hero makes mention of contributing to a blog… there you go.)

RuleofStupid gave instructions on how to set up a widget with the badge he designed for the site.  You can’t see it now, because I have it set to Inactive.  And even though he expanded his idea to cover other holidays as well as Christmas, no, I won’t count this widget twice.

The next holiday was New Year’s, so, I wrote C4C For New Year’s? It’s On Like Donkey Kong!

The bloggers I have met (or got to know better) by way of C4C:

and yes, I have left comments on EACH and EVERY single one of those blogs.  Some more than one.  Some I am slowly catching up to.  Yes, I am following all of them.

So that’s Day 9 and Day 11 challenges down.

Calamity Rae asked for a Follow Blog widget specifically.  I’d never really thought that following by e-mail would be necessary, except, well, I think it was when she just had a self-hosted blog at the time.

Then I decided it’d be more efficient to combine that widget with the widget I made for Zero to Hero Day 2: What’s this blog about, anyways? Or rather, I decided to take the text of that widget I made for the Day 2 Challenge and put it into the Follow Blog widget.

That’s not counting other widgets that I already added to this blog when I started, like the Flickr one.  Or the image widget I had when speaker7 mentioned Wordle.  And that’s not counting the widgets I marked inactive as they didn’t fit with the new theme I picked for Starting the transformation (Zero to Hero Day 5).

That’s Day 10 challenge down several times over.

I’m not sure if I left a post on The Matticus Kingdom before, but when I read The Return of the Official Matticus Kingdom Tug-of-War, I just KNEW I had to get involved and declare my support for Marvel Comics.

I mean, c’mon… I have an ENTIRE category posts regarding The Silver Surfer and how the story of his journey from Norrin Radd to Herald of Galactus and his meeting with the Fantastic Four follows the Hero’s Journey TWICE OVER.  (And I haven’t even gotten to the Infinity Gauntlet series that crossed over all Marvel comics, let alone that featured Surfer very prominently!)  I have blogged about The Silver Surfer consistently, from LiveJournal, to VOX, to WordPress.

I will probably write more posts, and link to Cimmorene’s posts for Team Marvel…

So that’s Day 12 Challenge down, at least in part.

But I’m sure I’ve done the Day 12 challenge several times– one of the finer points in blogging etiquette that I learned from liliales when I was at VOX– if I make a comment that gets too long on another blog, it’s usually best to make a post on my own blog about it (and link back).  While I’ve met a few bloggers that are okay with long comments, I have read a few posts that I figured it would be good to write my own post in response.  And then there are a few posts that inspired me to dig down into my archive (both of VOX, and of WordPress, which is all here).  And I’ve done a LOT of that lately, actually.

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Window to the Future (Zero to Hero Day 6)

Day 6 Assignment: publish a post that includes a new-to-you element.

After promoting a stopmotion animation by my daughter, I didn’t have anything else I normally would have posted today, so I decided to try the Weekly Photo Challenge for this week:

This week, in a post created specifically for this challenge, share a photo with a window.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Three shots from three of the last four holidays. (A-ha, you didn’t think New Year’s couldn’t have window dressing? Cimmorene thought otherwise!) Each a window to a different home. Three different photographers (jaklumen, Cimmorene, and Princess).

Bonus video from Cimmorene:

and finally, some poetry, something ENTIRELY new to any of my blogs:

I love you, my dear, every time I go
You have a way to let me know
No matter how upset I may be
I know when I return, I can always see
That signal waiting home for me
Welcoming me home with light so low
That sign so warm, that candle in the window.


C4C For New Year’s? It’s On Like Donkey Kong!


Normally, I’d take my children to our local First Night activities:

Always a great way to grind out the energy and boredom from my children.

S&S Photo Booth 2013 (sample, cropped)

We really had a blast last year

But the organizers got ambitious this year.  Too ambitious.  They thought it would be better to move the event, once again, from the local community college, to the convention center.

All of the noise, chaos, and confusion, under one roof.

Then they decided to let Ticketmaster handle the tickets.

$16.60 a pop?  For adults AND kids?  Oh HELL no!

$16.60 a pop? For adults AND kids? Oh HELL no!

Oh, how I wish I could just pop over to a local vendor and buy a button. That was the way it used to be done. And prices were more like $10 for adults, $5 for kids, 5 and under, free.

Oh well.  If the procedure had happened, instead of my guts protesting, I’d still be at home.  But I was hoping, ’til I saw “Ticketmaster” and “$16.60.”

So, I’m going to mount up and head back to C4C, which has been redubbed “Come for Company”, because we’re going to spread some Prosperous New Year to WordPress friends so they can have a Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, not a Lame-o Sucktastic New Year’s Eve.

Thundercats, HO!

Thundercats, HO!

15 years of love

jak and Cimmy are celebrating their 15th anniversary today.  Comments are closed! Please come visit one of the blogs Cimmy helps me run, that we started as a Group on the old VOX platform.

Please also take some time to visit her Cimmy’s Stories and Dragon’s Lair blogs, too.

jak & Cimmy's Journal Jar

jak and Cimmy have been married fifteen years.


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Thanksgiving 2013

jak & Cimmy's Thanksgiving tableWe 3 Pies of Thanksgiving ArePretty sure that's an apple piePecan piePumpkin pieWhat remains of the turkey so far

This was our first year hosting Thanksgiving, and it was a smashing success! jak cooked, and Cimmy baked.

Come join us at Flickr for more details.

Via Flickr:
Photos and artwork for our November celebration of Thanksgiving. In the United States, a Day of Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.


A Hero’s (Inner) Journey: Boy, Autism, and Thanksgiving

Remember A Hero’s (Inner) Journey: Atonement with the Son?  That’s Boy there in the pictures, with me.

His autism and behavior disorders are still difficult to deal with at times, probably a bit more the latter elements.  This is aside from him bringing head lice home, as most any young children do.  Last Monday we took him back to his pediatrician, and Tuesday we started him on medication treatment.

This wasn’t without a LOT of careful consideration.  I’ve had my own hellish journey with psych meds, and when Princess started hers, I was careful and somewhat reluctant about it.  (She had a med break that was going to last a month, but she decided to resume after two weeks, after some trouble at school.)  With Boy, though, we had multiple people begging for something– his schoolteacher and his Primary (Sunday School) teacher, for one.  Even the specialist doc that did his formal evaluation for autism recommended he be treated, so we had all the paperwork as such sent in.

But what hurts me most right now is my sister-in-law refuses to come to Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow because of him.  She tried to backtrack– my MIL said her reason yesterday was “too many people”.  Now, she is a little reclusive, and won’t live on her own, but I can smell bullshit a mile away.  She can’t handle Boy.

I guess I’d feel differently if she was in her own place, but she’s not.  At the funeral, she said she was still at home because Cimmy’s parents are “getting old”.


EDIT Nov. 28th: I talked to my FIL and I think in retrospect, I was rather harsh.  Cimmy suspects her little sister is agoraphobic, and it seems to have gotten worse in recent years.  Bill himself said he empathized as he has some difficulties in large crowds– like the state fair, and he’s submitted photography for many years.

I hope it’s understand that I am concerned, and that I enjoy her company.  When I’m not upset, I usually try to keep a “hands-off” approach, and I think that’s why we’ve generally enjoyed a rather warm relationship– that I try not to be pushy, and I hold back a lot more than Cimmy usually does.  I miss my sister-in-law and wished she could have been here– especially as the dinner was great.  (You’ll see photographic proof in a bit!)