Yes, Virginia … I believe in Santa.

santacoke

Published on this day, 120 years ago, it’s meaning and poetry is still tremendous and beautiful.

You may have heard the expression, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” But you probably didn’t know from whence it came.

It came as an editorial in the New York Sun Newspaper September 21, 1897 in response to a letter written to The Sun by an 8-year old girl named Virginia.

Like so many children then and now, the youngster was disturbed by friends telling her there is no Santa Claus, and she was asking an authority she could trust for an answer.

Click on the link here to read the entire editorial from 1897:

Source: Yes, Virginia … – The New York Sun

Oh, how I would dread to be a parent to tell my kids there is no Santa Claus. To do so removes dreams and magic from a child’s life that they can never get back.

Most other cultures don’t know of or celebrate Santa Claus. In Mexico, for instance, children are taught that Baby Jesus brings them gifts Christmas Eve night. And still others will deny Santa Claus because they believe, to believe in Santa Claus diminishes the true meaning of Christmas, which is to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

I understand these facts. But I still believe in Santa Claus because my father told me so; and because as a 53 year old child I still feel and enjoy the magic of such a belief. To deny Santa Claus doesn’t validify Jesus; just as believing in Santa doesn’t deny Jesus. To me, its just a matter of joy and putting that joy into my life and the life of my children and hopefully, someday Grandchildren.

Father’s Just Showing Up

Originally written as a Facebook Note June 21, 2009 I republish my memories and thoughts about my father here for others to consider as they think about their own father.

 

Jerome Mathis Schuett

 

When I think of my father I think of the day he died. I think of his temper and obstinate assuredness. And I think of the fact that he was there at every important event of my life. He was there. And that is what I find most important in my thoughts.

Someone once said “90% of life is … just showing up.” I shared this quote with my son today as we ate our Father’s Day breakfast, a delicious confection of Dungeness Crab Eggs Benedict, honeydew melon, and hash browns prepared by my seventeen year old boy. Like so many things shared by father’s to their seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen year old sons and daughters he didn’t subscribe to the quotes logic and sentiment. He said, “That doesn’t make sense. What about the times when you show up and don’t do anything?”

I’m sure I disappointed him and failed to convince him with my brief uninspired retort, “Well, that would make up the other ten-percent. Wouldn’t it?” Nothing further was said; and I’m sure he didn’t give it another thought. But I hope, like so many of the things I try to impart onto my children that a time will come that the quote and its sentiment might settle in his mind and create wisdom.

Truly, I don’t know if “just showing up” is 90-percent of life, or if it’s 60%, 70% or if it’s a moving target. I tend to believe its more like 95%. All that is good or bad in your life “is” because you are or were in it; you were involved. You were participating. You showed up.

From childhood to adult hood the most seminal moment in my life came at age eleven, January 5, 1976. While returning home from my paper-route I unwisely attempted to cross a busy four lane street through heavy late afternoon traffic. I failed. A blue Cadillac whose driver never imagined a paper boy on bicycle suddenly appearing before his windshield smashed into me at full speed, some 35 miles per hour. The driver never having touched his brakes.

The event is fresh in my mind because I just relived it last Monday night. Since that cold and rainy night on NE 8th Street at Crossroads in Bellevue, Washington 33 years ago the event has invaded my mind every few years. And by invading my mind I don’t mean to say I think about or remember it. I mean to say I relive it and experience flying through the air. I feel my forehead smashing against the curb as my upside down body descends to the concrete sidewalk. My body feels the unsteady dizziness that pulled me back to the concrete after standing up once I landed. It’s not remembering. I’m there again. It’s as real as this computer on my lap.

I’m sure the meeting of my brother and his Mom this past weekend triggered this episode. His Mom was a big part of mine and my Dad‘s life in the year preceding the accident. They had split up by the time of the accident. But her surprise visit to me after my return home from the hospital was very important to me then and remains so today.

In experiencing the crash again, I see my Dad. He was there. He showed up. While lying on the sidewalk I was immediately surrounded by strangers. Someone had a blanket and covered me up. And I asked someone else to call my Dad to tell him “I would be late getting home”. In the intervening time before seeing my Dad an ambulance arrived. Paramedics examined me and cut up my brand new Swabbies (pants) I’d received for Christmas, not two weeks earlier. Though I was still a month from my twelfth birthday I didn’t cry. No tears came as I calmly thanked those who helped me, and apologized for causing everyone so much trouble. I remained perfectly lucid and emotionless as I explained to the medical technicians where my hurts and aches were that they couldn’t readily see. But when they took scissors to my first ever non-hand-me-down pants I began to weep.

The paramedic stopped cutting. “Am I hurting you?” he asked. “No”, I said, “But you’re ruining my new pants”. “You’ll get some new ones. It’ll be OK.” He didn’t know. He didn’t know they were my only ever new pants. And he didn’t know they wouldn’t be replaced. They would be sewn.

I was put on the gurney and loaded into the ambulance. Before the doors could close I heard a familiar voice. I heard my Dad. He had come. He poked his head in the ambulance door ever so briefly, saw that I was alive, said something reassuring. And then said, “I’ll see you at the hospital”.

I felt so much better. I feared that he would be mad. My Dad never handled unexpected bad news well. His typical response was to grimace and soon yell at whoever or whatever was his provocateur. In the case of my car-bike accident he may have lambasted the stranger who called him. He may have cursed every slow driver that impeded his two-mile drive from home to the scene of the crash. He may have shoved those who had curiously gathered around the ambulance as he pushed into the vehicles doorway. But he and I never talked of such things. He never made me feel bad for the accident that reconfigured my bones, and my hand specifically. All he did was make me feel better by being there.

There is no need to romanticize my father. He was flawed in so many ways. But he never missed one of my sporting competitions, or school events. He was at my wedding though he said he wouldn’t be because he didn’t believe in interracial marriage. Repeatedly time and again, he showed up. And every time he did I was glad.

And in the eight years since his death not an event or holiday has passed where I didn’t wish for his presence. This includes last weekend when I MET his other son. A son who’s life he never acknowledged or participated in. His loss.

His failure as a father to my brother and his temper and his lack of ambition, selfish nature, and lack of personal fortitude are all forgiven. They are all forgiven, because he showed up. He was there for me when my body was broken and when so many other fathers never would have been home to receive the phone call to begin with.

Your author, step-mother Terri, my Dad Jerry Schuett, and brother Jeff.

Your author, step-mother Terri, my Dad Jerry Schuett, and brother Jeff.

Perhaps you too can forgive your father his failings. If he was there he has already exceeded that which 25% of all American fathers deprive their biological offspring.

I pray my children benefit from what I impart. But I know they gain from my presence. I know tucking them in, cheering them on, and disciplining their transgressions can only help them provide their children that which those future grandkids of mine need most from their Dad and their Mom. Their presence.

Ninety-percent of life is just showing up, that may be true. But when it comes to being a father, or a Dad, it might just be the whole ball game.

Comments are welcome. Thanks for visiting.

My Dad with his first Grandchild, Arica.

Dad & Arica

My Dad with his first Granchild

 

What if Your World Ends Tomorrow?

3759: Mayan Calendar - Aztec Stone of the sun

Mayan Calendar – Aztec Stone of the sun

 

All over the world scared and misguided people are preparing for an apocalypse they believe was foretold by the Mayans over 1000 years ago. Major movies have been made based on this predicted catastrophe. Books have been written. TV shows, documentaries have spoken to the subject. The History Channel on cable is loaded with End of the World programming all week.

 

The Mayan calendar prophesy is not one I worry about or believe. If anything catastrophic or particularly unusual does happen it might signal or bring about a change in culture worldwide. But the end of the world is not in my plans for tomorrow. I’m looking forward to Christmas and to the year 2013…and 2014 and 2015 for that matter.

 

But the Mayan Calendar phenomena combined with the tragic shooting and murder of 26 wonderful people in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday got me to thinking about this question, are you ready if your world ends tomorrow? What if you died? Certainly, it’s extremely likely everyone reading this today will be here tomorrow. But none of the 26 in Newtown or anyone who knew them could have fathomed that last Friday December 14, 2012 would be their last day on earth. It’s certainly cliche` but true; nobody knows when their time will come.

 

I’m not trying to be dark or morbid. Death is part of life and we all will leave this place someday. In most cases you’ll have some idea the end is near. But for far too many the end comes suddenly, and unexpectedly.

 

Do you have a Will? Do you have funeral plans? What happens to your body once you’re done using it? Who decides?

 

Are you square with God if you believe in God? What about those you leave behind? Do they know you love them? Do you tell them enough and demonstrate it enough for them to be certain once you are no longer able to tell and show?

 

In my adulthood I’ve lost two people close to me and been affected by their deaths both emotionally and tangibly. My Grandmother on my Mom’s side, and my father both died in 2001. One had a Will, the other didn’t. They both left behind a mess, one worse than the other.

Jerome Mathis Schuett

 

 

My Dad died poor, with very few assets. So were he to have had a Will there wouldn’t have been much to dispense. But absent that little document the passing on of his possessions fell to his wife, who was not my Mom. She chose to allow my older brother the pick of seemingly anything he wanted. I was left with what he and she didn’t want. This in spite of the fact that I was closer and more involved with my Dad’s life the last 10-20 years of his life than was my far-away brother. You can imagine my frustration with my stepmother’s decisions. Worst of all was how she handled my father’s most materially valuable possession. He had a 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertible of which he was the original owner. He kept it in pretty good condition. It was the car I drove when learning how to drive. I wanted it. She didn’t. She offered to sell it to me for a price twice what its sales value was. I happily passed on the offer, but asked her to give me the right to match any offer she received in her efforts to sell it. She agreed but then traded it straight-up for a used Volvo and never told me of it until afterward. Again, you can imagine how I felt about that.

 

Grandma Zella and Aunt Sharon

My Grandmother had a Will and left a modest estate of cash and antique furniture. But she used her Will to punish a daughter who for reasons I can’t fathom fell out of her favor. She also used the Will to attempt to control from the grave the life of her other daughter. And she put in charge of the estate a grandson who she’d not had significant contact with for 20 years simply because she, again, wanted to punish others close to her and because she was not a trusting person. Further details aren’t necessary except to say that estate exists today, more than 11 years after her death, and it’s still causing problems, issues, with those she left behind. It’s really sad. I watch it from a mostly disinterested distance and shake my head wondering if the old woman had it as part of her intention to cause so much strife within her surviving family.

 

Are you ready if your world ends tomorrow? Would you want your surviving friends and family members to speak or write about you as I just have about my Grandmother?

 

Planning for when you aren’t here is not fun, and its difficult. But take it from someone who knows, its important for those you leave behind. Just thought you’d like to know.

 

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome

Our Leaders Ought to Sell Christmas Trees

A Christmas Tree at Home

When I was young I learned the basics of economics and selling from dealing Christmas trees. My Dad was a cheap son-of-a-gun and had no desire to give my older brother and I money for buying his Christmas present, or anything else for that matter. He wanted us to earn it. So in addition to the work we did for his business of renting motor homes, during two holiday seasons when my brother and I were both in High School my dad set us up with our own Christmas tree lot.

At the corner of Main Street and 148th, next to the now defunct Shell gas station I learned about the basics of supply and demand and how cash availability would drive up the prices the buyer paid for the trees. The same principles apply to all forms of capitalistic enterprise, in particular health care and a college education. I often wish our nations leaders had run their own Christmas tree lots in their youth so that they could learn what 16-year-old me found very basic.

Winnebago Adventurer photographed in USA.

Winnebago Adventurer photographed in USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Dad rented Winnebago Motor Homes for a living. At any one time in my youth he owned anywhere from six to eleven RV’s. Skier’s in the Winter and campers in the Summer paid for my modest upbringing. My Dad kept the vehicles parked next to the gas station near our home. Since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas was kinda slow for his business and since he already had the lot in which to display the trees he came up with the brilliant idea of selling Christmas trees to earn himself a few bucks and help his teen-aged sons pocket some easy money, while staying busy and out of trouble.

Anyone who has run a retail business knows the process. My Dad would pay wholesale prices for the trees from a grower, and pay to have them delivered to the Bellevue location. Using 2-by-4’s, nails, and a hammer my brother and I set up easy to construct stands in which to lean the trees. One of the larger Winnebago’s was parked beside the designated space in the Kmart parking lot beside the aforementioned gas station. There my brother and I would report after school, eat our snacks, do our homework, and watch whatever tv we could pick up with rabbit ears on a small black-and-white tv we had. We were set up for business.

We were cozy and warm inside the motor home until a family pulled up outside and got out of their cars to peruse our selection of trees. Each tree had a colored ribbon tied to it so, though our customers didn’t know, we would know how much we paid for it. My memory is foggy from over thirty years passing but my best guess is that the smaller yellow ribbons meant my Dad paid $5 for the tree, Red- $10, Blue- $15. My Dad told us he would take $10 for every tree we sold. But anything above the whole price-plus-$10 was ours to keep. Strictly cash transactions. There were no debit cards back then, or mobile electronic credit card processing. Put simply, my brother and I could charge customers any price we felt we could get away with.

Needless to say the same tree could go for $40 to one family or $100 to another. We learned to pay attention to what size and kind of vehicle a family drove as they climbed out to see the trees. A nicer car or a truck meant these people would pay more. My brother and I practically fought our way to be first out the door when a family with young kids walked onto the lot. It was those little tikes who happily screeched at their Daddy , “Oooo Daddy that’s the perfect tree can we get that one. Can we PUHLEEEEZZZ get THAT one?”, who unknowingly drove up the price of the tree. My brother was ruthless. He had no problem telling the haggard Dad that one of the $15 trees was $125. I could seldom muster the nerve to ask for $80. And if anyone hesitated on paying what we were asking, we simply offered to give them a “special” deal, and lowered the price $20 “because you look like such a nice family”. Once again, big brother remained much more rigid in his pricing than did I. He would only lower his price when the family had left the lot and was packing into their car. Selling the trees was easy. In fact, there was no “selling” involved. The only question was how much they’d pay. And if they had the money, and we could see that, they always paid extra.

An article in today’s Seattle Times Newspaper reported the fact that 1-in-2 college graduates faced unemployment when getting out of school this year. It raised in my mind the question, just how worth it is a college education anymore. The average cost of a four-year degree at a public university is now about $35-thousand; for a private university it’s almost $120-thousand. And NOBODY gets a bachelor’s degree in four years anymore. The cost of a college education has climbed 600-percent since 1980. To determine the reason for the massive increase in college costs one need look no further than our Federal Governments constantly supplying universities with an unending, unquestioning source of revenue. Our spend-happy Washington DCers have increased funding for  higher education assistance 141% since 1991. It’s like all the colleges are Christmas tree lots and our Government Representatives are parents with screaming kids who don’t know how to say, “NO”.

Health care has been similarly effected. Who truly pays health care bills? Most are paid by our Federal Government piggy bank. The rest is picked up by large, rich insurance companies or equally large and powerful corporations. Doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms and other health care providers are standing in the lot holding up the big tree with the blue ribbon on it smiling broadly. This tree will sell, and their will be a large profit. The only question is, “how large?”.

The hardest sale my brother and I ever had to make was the guy who tromped into our tree lot with no wife and no kids and interested in nothing more than getting the tree and going on with his day. Usually this guy had a station wagon, that was probably missing a hub-cap. When confronting us he’d ask “How much?” and no matter what we said, it was too much. He’d offer less and we’d happily accept.

Were the giant feeding troughs of government funds removed from the college revenue and health care equation these behemoths would be forced to deal with that one guy (or gal) who ultimately will pay the bill for the services provided. The one guy buying the Christmas tree isn’t swayed by emotional pleas that “we’ve got to have it”. And the tree seller can see the guy doesn’t have much money to begin with. So he’ll offer it for less and accept far less. He would have to, or he wouldn’t sell the tree and he’d eat the $15.

Obamacare, promising health care coverage for all Americans, was  passed two years ago. It’s laws not completely going into effect until 2114. And still, we’ve seen the cost of health care continuing to climb. The President has made a lot of news this Spring berating colleges about increased tuition costs. But colleges continue to raise fees. THIS Christmas tree salesman knows why. It’s basic.

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My Ideal Birthday!

Part of this year's twenty. Geez, I'm getting old.

Being this author’s birthday…I thought I’d let my mind wander just a bit. What would be happening on my dream birthday? Where would I be? Who would I be with? What would I be drinking?

Let me start by saying having a Valentine Birthday is really cool. I get blessed with the ability to get gifts for my loved ones while receiving cards, gifts and well wishes too. So in fulfilling my dream birthday I’ll start by keeping it right where it is currently. My oldest daughter has a really great birthday too, Halloween. I mean…someone is having a party on YOUR birthday every single year no matter where you are or what you’re doing. That would be cool. And my youngest has a Christmas birthday. That’s pretty top scale too. It basically means you get to see your closest loved ones on your birthday in a celebratory mood every birthday. I like that. But as good as those birthday’s are, I think I’ll stick with what I already have and what I already know. Like I said, its pretty cool.

Waking up on my dream birthday my beautiful wife would surprise me with word that she didn’t have to work today and neither did I. And while I grudgingly insist that I have things to do, she would firmly remind me that I’m my own boss and if I want to take the day off it’s OK. So I think about it, briefly, and decide she’s right. I don’t take off too many days. So…why not. Done. No work today.

As I quietly enjoy my morning Sports page with a large (I won’t say “Venti“) mocha latte, I read about my beloved Mariners and their upcoming season. Good news! We’re going to be much improved this year. Good thing, I think to myself, since the past couple years have sucked.

Checking my email is an exercise in controlling my healthy ego as it is swamped with kindly birthday wishes from ALL the people I care most about. Someone sends me a funny video. I LOL.  The Facebook profile pics are all smiling at me giving me a warmth everyone should feel as often as possible. It really is a great feeling and a wonderful blessing. Facebook can be bad in so many ways, but in this way it’s very good. Because I know I’m not the only one to have his heart swell because lots of folks clicked on the FB birthday reminders.

My birthday would have to include my kids. A day without my kids has its benefits, but in the best of circumstances I’m still left with a hole in my day if my kids aren’t there to say, “Love you Daddy“.

Ideally my day would include three delicious homemade meals. Restaurant food is fine. But the best tasting food comes from home…at least in my house it always has. I didn’t get to my current size by accident. HA!

Most importantly my best of birthday’s would include laughter. A single day without a hearty laugh is like a day without food or drink or warmth. It can’t happen. That’s why it’s an absolute must on my birthday. Laugh with me as someone jokingly calls me old. Enjoy the literal truth when someone calls me “Big guy” and probably has my girth in mind more than my height. My phone calls during the day would be wrapped in smiles, like plastic wrap on a piece of chocolate cake. Humor would be abundant.

I suppose a few more things might color my birthday with brightness. But if I close my day enjoying the sun setting out my family room windows, a cold cocktail in hand, and the aroma of a favorite meal wafting in the air…that would be a great birthday. With all that I just mentioned THAT would be an ideal birthday. I don’t need much.

So…what do you know. I’ve had the ideal birthday. My life is so great.

I believe life’s shame comes from a never-ending desire for more. Can we all find happiness in that which surrounds us everyday, for if we can, isn’t that enough? Isn’t it us who have drawn each and every aspect of our lives to us? Aren’t the people there because we wanted them to be? I needn’t be satisfied. Because I will continue to strive for the brass ring, for more relaxing, for more security for my family, and more time standing in a river with a fishing pole in my hands. But in the mean time that which surrounds me is so much more than I ever felt worthy of having I can’t help but be happy, and thankful to the ever-loving God who grants me the opportunities to bring these things and these people into my sphere.   

Thanks for visiting. Comments are welcome.

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