Day of the Dead —In Celebration of the Ones We Have Loved

The Day of the Dead is a celebration of life. It’s a day for families and friends to gather together and honor those who have shared the path of life and who have gone on before them. For some, it’s a chance to reminisce and tell stories, sometimes with a sense of humor and sometimes with a tear for someone special.

This holiday, celebrated on November 1st is observed the most in Latin and Central American countries, but is also experienced in parts of the United States and Europe as well. It is lovingly celebrated in Mexico where scholars trace its origins back to Aztec festivals. Similar to its Catholic counterpart “All Souls’ Day,” it gives the living another chance to share their love for those who have passed on. In Mexico, private altars are built so that prayers can be said for the good of the deceased. Favorite foods and beverages are also shared and gifts of marigolds and sugar skulls are left at the graveside. Sugar skullsmay be given to members of the family or offered to the dead out of respect. This gesture is an effort to share sweetness and the light of life.

In some communities, parades and dancing and colorful costumes are part of the celebration. Candles burn brightly and skull-shaped masks are worn.  Cemeteries are full of well-wishers and people praying for those in eternal rest. In other communities, a tradition, much like Halloween, finds children dressed in costumes seeking gifts of money or candies as they knock on people’s doors. The children are welcomed as part of the opportunity to celebrate life.

However the community opts to celebrate the Day of the Dead, it is intended as a loving and living tribute to those who are still missed and still loved and certainly remembered throughout the communities of the world.  In that regard, the Day of the Dead is a truly beautiful holiday!



Gratitude Comes In a Million Ways!

It’s been said that if we truly counted our blessings, we may never again have to think about our sorrows.  Counting blessings is like stacking up reasons to be grateful.  If we planted a flower, for instance, for every time we were conscious about our sense of gratitude, many of us would have an incredible garden to behold.  Some of us though, may look around and wonder why nothing ever seems to bloom.

Charles Dickens reminded us to “reflect upon our present blessings, of which everyone has many, not on our past misfortunes, of which everyone has some.”  Getting your gratitude garden to grow may be as simple as that, reflecting on your present blessings.  If you offer thanks for your family, your health, your work, your faith, or some other area of your life, you may find more seeds of joy than you expected.  You may have a million reasons to be thankful.

Has anyone done something nice for you in the past few days?  Have you shared your talents and your ideas with another?  Have you had a chance to shop for something new, walk peacefully along the road, undisturbed and quiet?  Have you been able to take a class, go to a movie, worship as you please?  If so, then today, you have delightful reasons to be grateful.

As we come to Gratitude Day, let’s open our hearts to all that we have and hold  closely those things that strengthen our lives and make the ride worthwhile.  When we think about it, we may discover we have an abundance of reasons to declare our joy right out loud.

If your list begins to run dry, remember all the people who are grateful today because they know You!  No doubt, they are offering thanks for wonderful you at this very moment!



It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month

Over eighty United States congressmen and women; Nobel Prize winners; Pulitzer Prize winners; Oscar winners; Tony award winners; not to mention countless key military figures and frontiersmen.  These are just a handful of the achievements made by a multitude of Hispanic-Americans over the past two centuries.  But it wasn’t until 1968 that President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a week in September as National Hispanic Heritage Week, which later broadened into National Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988.

Every 15th of September through the 15th of October, Hispanic-Americans are recognized for their leadership and pivotal roles in shaping our society.  From the days of our country’s fight for freedom during the Revolutionary War to modern day mavericks who revolutionized the world of entertainment, Latinos have oftentimes been at the forefront of many breakthroughs:

  • General Bernardo de Gálvez, who aided General George Washington during the Revolutionary War with a supply of arms, money, and other essentials.
  • Post-Civil War, irrigation techniques, which were deemed necessary in America’s Western territories, were learned from Mexicans.
  • Since the Revolutionary War, Hispanics have carried a proud tradition of serving in each war theUnited States has participated in, with thirty-eight Hispanics being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor throughout that time.
  • The archetype of the cowboy—or vaqueros—from the Old West derived from Hispanic culture.
  •  César Chávez founded the United Farm Workers Union, which gave harvest workers the means to negotiate labor contracts with growers of produce.
  • Famous Latino sports figures include: Roberto Clemente (baseball) , Lee Trevino(golf), Esteban Bellan (first Hispanic major league baseball player), and Nancy Lopez (golf).
  • In the world of entertainment, Cuban band leader and producer Desi Arnaz (I Love Lucy) pioneered the “three camera” technique for filming a TV sit-com that became the industry’s standard.
  • Rita Moreno, the first Hispanic (and second ever) to win an Oscar (West Side Story), a Grammy, a Tony, and an Emmy (for guest hosting The Muppet Show).

And the list goes on…. As clearly evident, Hispanic-Americans have not only helped lay the foundation for our country, but have played active architects in every facet of its design, both practically and recreationally.  Through ingenuity, innovation, and an unyielding strive for independence, Hispanic-Americans have been the bellwethers and keystone figures in our past and present who will undoubtedly serve as beacons to our nation’s future.



Patriot Day 9/11

“On … Patriot Day, we remember and honor those who perished in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. We will not forget the events of that terrible morning nor will we forget how Americans responded in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in the skies over Pennsylvania — with heroism and selflessness; with compassion and courage; and with prayer and hope.”

~ Excerpt from a proclamation by President George W. Bush, 2002

On this day that many Americans refer to as 9/11 or September 11th, the flag of the United States of America should be displayed at half-mast on the homes and in the hearts of Americans. Nearly 3,000 people died in the surprise attacks and the economic impact was immense. The attacks have greatly increased attention to national security in the United States.

Patriot Day is a day to take a moment to thank the brave men and women of that fateful day, and of our everyday lives. It’s a special time to stop and say “thank you” to the police officers, fire fighters, EMT’s and military personnel who guard our communities and our nation. It’s a time to remember that the term “hero” applies to these everyday individuals, more so than to comic book characters, sports stars and entertainers.

It is also a day to display and salute our American flag, which represents the fabric of our country and our national character. The 13 alternating red and white horizontal stripes and 50 stars on the blue square are a symbol of our unity and our perseverance. On Patriot Day, we fly it at half mast to honor our country and those lost on this terrible day. Americans are strong. Americans are free. Americans have always come together for one another in times of great distress. President George W. Bush said it best, continuing the excerpt from above:

“Americans also have fought back against terror by choosing to overcome evil with good. By loving their neighbors as they would like to be loved, countless citizens have answered the call to help others. They have contributed to relief efforts, improved homeland security in their communities, and volunteered their time to aid those in need. This spirit of service continues to grow as thousands have joined the newly established USA Freedom Corps, committing themselves to changing America one heart at a time through the momentum of millions of acts of decency and kindness.”

Let us remember those we lost. Let us be diligent in keeping each other safe. Let us hold our families a little closer, and our friends a little bit more dear. And let us move forward into the future as a stronger, kinder and more aware nation.

Please take a moment now to remember those we lost that day, and God bless America.



Holiday: Happy Hug Day!

It’s HUG DAY!  Yes!  That’s right!  It’s the best day of the year because you can walk up to anyone, almost anyone, and give them an adorable embrace for no reason at all and then move on…with a smile on your face.  If you look back, they’ll have a smile on their face too.  You know they will because we all need a lot more hugs in our lives.

One statistic says that we need at least twelve hugs a day to simply stay reasonably balanced.  Twelve hugs!!  Okay, most of us are operating under a severe hug deficit.  Perhaps you could include dog or cat hugs, but when possible, go for actual people hugs.  After all, it’s Hug Day!!

You may remember a delightful piece that Shel Silverstein wrote in his book, Where the Sidewalk Ends, called Hug O’ War.  It’s a great little poem about how hugs are much better than tugs, because with giggles and grins, everyone wins.

It’s an inspired thought and one to pick up on today as you go about your business.  Carry a sign if you have to, “No tugs, just hugs.”  Who knows you might actually start a hug swarm, a hug mob where people are suddenly dancing in the street.  They may come up to perfect strangers and hug them as though they mean it.  In this temporary insanity, they may see all people as worthy of something as valuable and as friendly as a hug.  We may even have to call the hug police.  They’ll be out looking for those who try to skip out on Hug Day.

Fortunately, they won’t have to arrest you.  You’re a great hugger!  In fact, you’re one of the best huggers around and so it will be natural for you to get out there and do your part to celebrate the day.  Remember, No tugs, just hugs!   Oh, don’t you feel better already?

Happy Hug Day!



Holiday: Books Are Like Chocolate! Happy Book Lovers Day!

You may be able to remember your first time.  You waited with great anticipation, wondering just how it would feel when you first entered the room.  You thought about what it would be like, how you would contain your excitement as you let your fingers run over the spines of your favorite characters?  You might not have known the authors by name yet, but you knew that your relationship had already begun, you were hooked and this was going to be a lifelong passion.  Books were in your life to stay!

The first library or bookstore visit was an occasion.  It was something to celebrate.  You knew you were going to have to make choices, big choices.  It was something like choosing the best chocolate from the box and not knowing exactly what would be inside.  Would you get one that was kind of nutty and fun?  Would you get one that was beautiful on the outside, but rather lackluster on the inside?  Oh, no matter!  You were there and the adventure was simply unrivaled.

Sure, you’ve calmed down now.  You’re not quite as carried away with the chance to add a new book to your shelf and yet, something lingers, some sense of awe at what the bookstore beholds.  By now, you’ve read the kind of romantic fiction that melts away like chocolate drops on a summer day.  You’ve read nonfiction that gave you pause, a lot to ponder, something you simply had to digest.  Yes, it’s still a candy box moment.  Whether you can wander through the specialty books wrapped in gold foil or embossed with intrigue, or whether you look for the simpler sustainable styles, this is your world.

The book lovers, and you know who you are, never quite get over the thrill of winding their way through the stacks, wondering just which one will be the most exquisite, which one will be chocolate decadence.  No matter!  You know it’s there and with your experience and diligence, you’ll soon be quietly slipping between the covers with a little mocha blend close at hand.  Enjoy!  You deserve it!



Holiday: Happy Friendship Day!

The Lens of Friends

The word “friend” is probably laden with as many nuances of meaning as the word “love.”  After all, we have a wide variety of people in our lives that we might by some definition call friends, and we have a host of people to whom we attach some semblance of love.

Some people are friends by virtue of proximity, meaning you see them at exercise class every week or you see them sitting in the same pew at church on Sunday’s, you exchange a few pleasantries, learn each other’s names, and are in some measure, friends.

Some people are the lifelong buddies of days gone by.  They know everything about you, or at least who you once were. Sometimes they remember things you had long ago forgotten, and actually wish they would forget too, when their old information about you no longer fits who you are today.  Still, these are the people who are gold, the ones carved with lasting memories, the ones who remain in your heart forever and no time or distance can break the bond.

Then, there are the current friends, the “real” friends, the ones who lift your spirits when life turns upside down, or who catch you off center and make you laugh in spite of yourself.  These are the inner circle friends, the ones who have permission to enter the sacred spaces of your heart and who safely and lovingly remind you of all that is good.  These are the friends as Albert Schweitzer once said who are near when a light goes out.  He said, “Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being.  Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light.”

No matter what lens you use to see the friends who surround you, they are all important.  They all remind you that every experience in life is more beautiful when it is shared with a friend, with someone we love.   Give a warm shout to your friends today and thank them for being such a wonderful part of your life.

Happy Friendship Day!