the tao of jaklumen

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


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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.

Dec31_29

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


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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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15 years of love on Christmas!

Please join us once again at the Journal Jar– we got a hidden gem related to our anniversary on Christmas!

jak & Cimmy's Journal Jar

Last month, jaklumen’s maternal grandparents moved to assisted living.  While sorting through non-essential items at their house, jak’s parents found a hidden treasure.  Something forgotten, but still very meaningful:
Xmas 2013 005

Cimmorene cried when she opened the box. Then she smiled. Then she cried a little more. This china ornament bore the inscription “First Christmas Together — 1998”.

jak put the ornament somewhere special, where it could be admired, but protected: New Item to the Shadowbox

Please see 15 Years of Love for more information.

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Come on, baby, spend Christmas with me!

A lot of you may know about this already, but if any of you don’t, come see what C4C (Company For Christmas) is all about. This year, my grandparents moved to assisted living, my parents are traveling to visit my baby sister, and my in-laws don’t want to travel on slick roads, so Christmas for the j1 + j2 = s1 + s2 family will be a little more low-key. Hey Rara, I’m in like Flynn!


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From the archive: Santa’s been here!

As I was sifting through the LiveJournal archives, I found this post from December 25, 2005.  There will be more photos in four days from now, so I decided to share it today.

Since there is no way to import posts to WordPress (that I know of), I’ve simply grabbed the HTML from the post and copied it here.  Merry Christmas to all my dear readers.

The goodies… look like some have been eaten!

Oh, that’s why.
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Santa’s card:
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Stuffing the stockings:
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Image Hosted by ImageShack.us (Cimmorene was a very good gamer girl)

Tree with pressies:
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Santa himself (wow, he hasn’t looked this young since “The Story of Santa Claus“– you know, that animation special based on Frank L. Baum‘s novel? C’mon people, same folks and same style as with “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”.
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December reflections

This was inspired in part by 4 Year End Blog Post Ideas.

I’ve always been rather lackadaisical about my blog. I want it to be fun, not stressful, and paradoxically, some lingering perfectionism still holds me back from writing more. It’s a bit intimidating, the elaborate things some do with their blogs.

Mostly, though, I just want a little more feedback, without inviting controversy or extremism. Things are tough enough with the chronic pain, lingering trauma, etc.

But I will speak to what has got people around me buzzing quite a bit. The first, of course, was the Sandy Hook tragedy… I remember hearing it from people in an online game, before I really had a chance to read about it in the news. People I know have very differing opinions about the implications, and I will leave it at that. I am not that interested in religious or political arguments. What I could see was a common thread of grief and outrage over innocent children dying over something they had nothing to do with.

The other is the notion that the Mayan calendar is ending tomorrow. It is generally the last thing on my mind; ancient traditions of the winter solstice, at least in the Old World, were in anticipation of the sun returning. After reading a book called 1491, I suspect that much of the misunderstandings concerning the ancient people of the Americas exclude a similar understanding: that while one world might end, another will begin anew. So much discussion I’ve heard leaves that out.

Julie and JonathanI’d much rather think that my parents will be married for 40 years tomorrow. I’m empathetically biased, after all; 14 years ago on the 12th, I took myself a winter bride, and she took me for her husband. I know that we will endure regardless of any world-ending stuff… we already have.

Two days more from tomorrow, it will be my father’s birthday. Two days more from that, it will be Christmas. I am not concerned over the silly debates such as the “war on Christmas“. I know that other traditions, such as Yule and Saturnalia, have mingled into the tradition, or perhaps it should be better said that it was the other way around. I would rather be glad of the sentiments, good cheer, and good will. That is what is important to me.

Thanksgiving with Cimmy's side of the family

Thanksgiving with Cimmy’s side of the family

I wrote Not A One of Us Did Black Thanksgiving Friday and QotW: Dec 3-8 (for the Vox Diaspora) because I like to have celebrations be meaningful, and have deep purpose. I found out that the early Christmas rush started in the WWII years, as the government reminded those in the States to send packages early so they would arrive in time to the troops in Europe. Retailers joined in with this reminder and it has stuck ever since, but more as a push to get shoppers to spend and put their revenues “back in the black” (balance back to assets, hence the term “Black Friday“) and “out of the red” (out of debt). I don’t have a problem with retailers making profit, but I do mind when they are distracting me from my meaningful celebration.

To sum up, I will shed some tears for the passing of young, innocent children, but I will go on, and live in spite of the senselessness and tragedy. I will continue to live my life whether the world is ending or beginning. I will celebrate that which is good, mourn that which is ugly, and oppose that which is evil. I invite others to join me but I will not wail or gnash my teeth much if they do not. That is not the purpose of my life, or my celebration.

[There may be a future post summarizing more my year in review, but I think it best to stop here.]


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Funky roller coaster of life.

Yesterday had some crazy dips and valleys, but there were a few things that were pretty high-flying and awesome.

First of all, with some help from my father, we cleared out the storage unit I rented since our move in late May and early June. No more rent bills for storage. Yay! Although we now have yet more boxes to sort through, I don’t think they’ll be too much trouble and I am relieved to free up a previous reoccurring expense.

Second, I was asked to step in to narrate a church Christmas program. The woman organizing it, calling me by phone mid-day or so, said that someone had to cancel at the last minute, and she thought of me because of the quality of my voice. Wow! Of course, I said yes. My voice was something I worked a lot on growing up– mostly to hide my nervousness and fear when talking on the telephone. Although it was still short notice, I happily agreed to come to the dress rehearsal that evening. I didn’t get a chance to practice my part, but I still enjoyed helping out with the stage setup and with other technical stuff.

The program is this evening. Right now I am making some soup for lunch, before I go to my therapy session.


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Santa Unmasked.

For a proper introduction, you need to read What Do You Have To Say? – Do You Believe?

Quick excerpt for the lazy:

I patiently await the day when Cimmy and I decide to reveal the secret and I can say, “Yes, my daughter, *I* was Santa Claus.”

Cimmy and I actually talked about this before, and at some length.  Christmas Eve we decided to spring it– mostly because my daughter is pretty intellectually sharp for her age, and because 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.

I knew Cimmy wasn’t going to like it too much– 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 picture and we explained that the person dressed as Santa was me– for quite literally, it was.

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 she already knew about the Tooth Fairy.  Apparently, Cimmy decided to spill the beans already on that one.  (I’m sure she will comment with what she is telling me right now, so you all understand where she’s coming from.)

While I didn’t utter the quote, 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.  What a wonderful little girl.  She accepted it all with grace and love, and she understands 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.

[EDIT December 2nd, 2014: When I talked with her recently, she said she realized it was me, because something was different.  Clever girl.]


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Getting to Know Me for the Holidays

Stolen from northerngeek, who got it from musicchick2

Directions: Change all the answers so they apply to you. Then, send this to a whole bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person who sent it to you.  (With gated communities like VOX and LJ, this isn't too hard, really.  –jak)

1.  Wrapping paper or gift bags? I can't stand gift bags, really.  A wrapped box is much more satisfying to open.

2.  Real tree or artificial? Having lived in apartments for many years now (pretty steady since 1997, save living with friends in a house for year), our tree is a tabletop artificial.  Real smells great and looks great, but it also means changing the water with a little plant food, and many, many pine needles.

3.  When do you put up the tree? Cimmy and Princess (my daughter) put it up this morning.

4.  When do you take the tree down? Whenever we get around to doing it– I think one year it just stood for months before we bundled it up again.

5.  Do you like eggnog? Why, yes, I do.  Probably too much, because I'm sure a few pounds have come just from eggnog.

6.  Favorite gift received as a child?  I'm a proper geek– it probably would have to be the Atari 2600 back in 1980 or so… even though I realized many years later that their Pac-Man was a hella stinker of a translation, and has since been reimagined in a homebrew.

7.  Do you have a nativity scene?  No.  It would be nice, but we'd have to move some things out to make room for it.

8.  Hardest person to buy for?  Probably my father.  The poor man has his birthday two days before Christmas, and although he resigns himself to having birthday and Christmas gifts often be one and the same, when I can manage to buy for him, I think that's a cop-out and struggle to figure out which should be the birthday present, and which should be the Christmas gift.

9.  Easiest person to buy for? As long as our anniversary goes well (Dec. 12th), shopping for my wife is relatively easy.

10.  Worst Christmas gift ever received? It was probably so bad that I'm forgetting it now.  Ah, yes, the shirt my grandparents bought for me in high school or so that looked like something an old man would wear.

11.  Mail or email Christmas card?  Oh, I'm just bad about sending cards in general.  I would much prefer to give a moment of time or something; over the years, I never quite understood how my parents could receive cards from people that they had barely spoken to in years.

12.  Favorite Christmas movie?  Probably "A Christmas Story".  Peter Billingsley was so famous as "Messy Marvin" for Hershey's Chocolate Syrup commercials when I was a kid, and that movie is pretty classic too.

13.  When do you start shopping for Christmas?  Whenever I damn well feel like it.   Being poor, this Christmas, well, there were a few things we just bought for consumption right now because, well, we had some money for it, instead of hardly anything at all.

14.  Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?  I think the word is "regifting", because not all Christmas gifts are made from #1 or #2 grade plastic, aluminum, glass, or newspaper.  No, not to my knowledge.

15.  Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?  Chex Mix.  But gingerbread cookies and fruitcake are close contenders.  Yes, I like fruitcake.  Shaddap.

16.  Clear lights or colored on the tree?  Oh, c'mon… although I consider myself artistic, Christmas ornaments that accumulate and are passed down by family trump all considerations in my home most of the time.  It's usually a hodge-podge because the memories behind the ornaments are far more important than pretenses of looking very arty.  So colored and white generally get lumped together.  Oh… whoops, just realized our tree came prestrung.  So clear.

17.  Favorite Christmas song? "Feliz Navidad" by José Feliciano.  Too bad he sold out that song to Taco John's for Nachos Navidad.  Oh well.  I'm sure the man had bills to pay.

18.  Travel at Christmas or stay at home? My grandmother was annoying before she grew senile, and it's getting worse.  We are traveling to my in-laws this year.

19.  Can you name Santa's reindeer?  Let's see if I can do them justice– the original lineup: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (no, really, that's how it's spelled in German, I believe), and Blitzen.  (Donder and Blitzen mean "Thunder" and "Lightning" in German, if I understand it correctly.)  Not sure when Rudolph came along, but of course, he's a recent addition.

20.  Do you have an angel on top or a star?  Presently, it's an angel.  (btw, northerngeek, I know the joke)

21.  Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Many years ago, I heard about the tradition of opening Christmas gifts Christmas Eve in Germany (and some other places) and so a tradition of opening just one that eve and the rest on Christmas Day as is the usual American tradition started.

22.  Most annoying thing about this time of year?  Greed.  Black Friday has become a Frankenstein monster of sorts, and retailers attempting to offer an alternative have gotten out of hand.  I joke about "HallowThankamas" because that's when they start gearing up for the most part– Halloween.  Everyone is aware that they hope to snag a few peeps that early, and apparently, enough people are complying.  But they crossed a line this year: Christmas sales RIGHT on Thanksgiving Day.

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