My First Visit to Santa—and the Wish He Wouldn’t Grant

When I was a little girl, well-meaning people often made the mistake of asking me, “Are you ready for Santa?”

Mom shot me a look, warning me not to offend anyone. Then, shaking my pig-tails, I simply said, “No,” leaving the people to wonder if I were an unbeliever or if I had just been bad and knew it.

The notion of Santa appeared only briefly in my childhood. Mom sometimes recalled her childhood memories of St. Nick. One Christmas Eve, she swears Rudolf led Santa’s sleigh through the fog right by her window and landed with a hoofy clatter on the roof above her second story bedroom. And then there were the cookies that magically disappeared by Christmas morning.

The jolly old guy appeared in jokes too. When they wanted me to stay in bed, my parents spoke in code on Christmas Eve. “We’re gonna go help Santa now.” But my sister Heather and I knew to interpret it as “We’re gonna stay up all night wrapping the presents we’ve been stashing in the corner of our bedroom.”

My more regular encounters with Santa came in dogma. According to the churches of my childhood, Santa diluted the true meaning of Christmas—Christ’s birth. In fact, the way they talked, Santa’s North Pole was right next door to Satan’s Hades. I remember hearing an older lady point out, “Santa is just Satan spelled with the n in the wrong place.” And that statue of Santa kneeling by the manger—pure anathema!

Santa is just Satan spelled with the n in the wrong place.”

Though others in our church sometimes went to extreme measures to make sure their children knew the truth about the Santa lie, my parents didn’t go to ridiculous lengths to debunk Santa’s imaginary existence—they never needed to. To me, Santa was just a claymation character from Rudolph or a pudgy cartoon from Frosty the Snowman. We weren’t banned from watching Santa movies, but we never sat on his knee in the Greenville Mall where his elaborate house jutted up two stories with real furniture inside. Trailing behind Mom, we stared at the line of children and parents wrapped around the house. Poor little suckers, I remember thinking.

People also argued that Santa made kids unthankful to their parents, the real benefactors of Christmas who spent their time and money on the lovely presents. The old guy’s fabled generosity planted greed and covetousness in children who grew into materialistic adults.

When I was a kid I didn’t really need Santa Claus. I got everything I wanted for Christmas—not anything I wanted, but everything on my list, and since I didn’t believe in Santa’s wish-granting magic, I knew to only ask for reasonable things that my parents could afford. As an adult now, I ask for gift cards, TV show seasons, electronics—expensive toys. Could it be that even without Santa, I’ve grown a bit greedy?

Given my anti-Santa history, when he came to town a few Christmases ago, it didn’t mean much to me. But one Saturday morning, two weeks before Thanksgiving, Laura, and I were walking through the mall early, even before the grates went up and the stores unlocked for business. After grabbing vanilla lattes from Starbucks, we walked around distracting ourselves from the MFA projects due later that week.

We’d just passed Kay’s Jewelers when we saw the sign: Pictures with Santa.

“We should get our picture taken with Santa.” Laura stopped walking and pointed at the sign. “And look—there’s no one in line. Come on.” She charged forward with me trailing behind her muttering all the things that could go wrong with two 27 year olds charging up to Santa’s throne.

A person does not walk up to Santa without a strategy.

Though always eager for an adventure, I enjoy them most after they’re thought through. But with no line of parents trying to keep their wiggly kids corralled until their turn on the fleshy, wish-granting knee, I had to stall for time to think. A person does not walk up to Santa without a strategy. “What are we gonna wish for?” I halted at the front of the line, straightening my necklace, tucking my hair behind my ears.

“I don’t know.” Laura fluffed her curls. “I’ll come up with something.” And we proceeded onto the carpet to meet the man in red.

Only when I stood before him, did I realize I was scared. Was I really violating some hidden commandment by approaching the storied wish granter, the stealer of the Christ child’s glory?

“Well, hello there.” He sounded as jolly as I imagine every Santa has sounded since the beginning of Santa time.

His belly laugh calmed my fears. This was a welcoming enough version of Santa. Instead of a red velveteen jacket, he wore a silky vest with a triangle pattern of maroon and jade. He had a real white beard, twinkly blue eyes, and a gleaming smile which he flashed when he saw us coming. “Are you going to sit on Santa’s knee?” he asked, clearly eager at the prospect.

Seeing Laura’s eyes widen in surprise, I knew that she hadn’t planned for this—so I took over. “Oh, sure why not?” Like a veteran Santa believer, I plopped down on his substantial thigh.

Laura settled lightly, not leaning her full weight on his knee. “Are we going to hurt you?”

“Oh, I hope not.” His voice came out deep and deliberate from talking to children for too
many Christmases.

We smiled cheesily, and then, while his elves printed the pictures, Santa asked, “Does Santa get a hug?”

We wrapped our arms around him for a side hug and patted his back; but he wanted more. “Aww, come on, give Santa a big hug.”

“So do we get to make a wish?”

As we squeezed him just a tad tighter, Laura looked at me behind his back, her eyes bulging. To distract us from the awkward moment, I went after the full Santa experience. “So do we get to make a wish?”

“Well, what would you like?” he asked.

“I would like inspiration and tenacity.” My wish came out sounding like a six year old
who’d had her Christmas list memorized since June. I’d watched enough Santa movies to know what came next: the benevolent, though empty, promise of my wish.

But to my surprise, he shook his head slowly and gave a drawn out, “Weeelll, I can’t give you those. Inspiration and tenacity are things already inside you. You just have to find them. Tenacity is discipline; you just have to decide to do something. Take baby steps with a positive attitude. And inspiration—well, inspiration is all around you. You just have to look for it.”

I had no Christmas movie protocol for following this response. He might as well have said, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

He might as well have said, “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”

Mistaking my silence for satisfaction, Santa turned to Laura. “And what would you like?”

“Um.” She looked at me blankly, as if calculating the deficits in her life to really make
this wish count. Like my wish, I knew she, too, would ask for some quality to empower her to finish her graduate project. Finally, she decided, “I would like motivation.”

Santa shook his head again. “Weeelll, I can’t give you that either. Now, motivation, that’s simply pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. Doing what you don’t want to do.”

What a rip off, I thought. Then, determined to get more than a psychotherapy session with Dr. Claus, I asked, “So since you can’t grant either of our wishes, could we wish for a million dollars?”

“Well, you can wish for it,” he chuckled, “but I don’t think you’re going to get it.”

“Is the economy in the North Pole as bad as it is here?”

“Well, we made a deal with the treasury department: I won’t print money if they won’t make toys.”

“That makes sense.” I gave a half grin, impressed that he was made of more than sparkles and stuffing. This St. Nick had wit.

He held up a gloved finger, preemptively covering any other ungrantables. “I also can’t bring Xbox 360s or Play Stations or iPhones.”

Before I could ask exactly what he could bring,

santa-toys.jpghe reached into a basket beside him and held out two small toys wrapped in cellophane. A rubber smiley face to remind me to be optimistic. A rubber Santa Claus to remind Laura that Santa sees when she’s sleeping and when she’s been bad or good—if that wasn’t motivation then nothing would be.

Laura’s eyes were still wide when we said goodbye, collected our pictures from the elves, and walked away. Silence accompanied us as we passed Victoria Secret, Hot Topic, Old Navy, and other stores just opening, hoping to lure us in with sales that aren’t really sales on items that we don’t really need. Kind of like Santa. We had slapped down 24 bucks for pictures with a for-hire Santa sporting glittery cheeks, and we walked away with what? Two rubber toys. We noticed later that Laura’s Santa toy didn’t even have eyes painted on his peach face.

But somehow, I felt satisfied by my first meeting with Santa. Not the Santa of my childhood doctrine who stole the true meaning of Christmas and instigated greediness, nor a Santa who promised the impossible and shoved me off his knee, but a Santa who reminded me that what I need is already inside me.

I don’t guess I could wish for anything more than that.

 

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Hot Dog! 20 Christmas Movie Lines to Use All Year Long

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

Have you ever noticed how Christmas movies stick with you throughout the year? In fact, there seems to be an appropriate Christmas movie line for just about any situation.

Check out these 20 Christmas movie lines that are good all year long!

1. Whenever you read the word fragile.

“Frag-ee-lay.”—A Christmas Story

2. When you’re in a sensitive situation.

“Nobody moves; nobody dies.”—Ernest Saves Christmas

3. When something good happens.

“Hot dog!”—It’s a Wonderful Life

Hot dog!

4. When someone asks if you know where you’re going.

“It’s a shortcut—to the shortcut.”—Holiday Inn

5. When you try to casually deflect a compliment.

“What? This old thing? Why, I only wear it when I don’t care how I look.”—It’s a Wonderful Life

6. When you read the news.

“This is a sick world we’re livin’ in. Sick people.”—Jingle All the Way

again

7. When you wake up late.

“We did it again!”—Home Alone 2

8. When you really just want someone to leave.

“Here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?”—It’s a Wonderful Life

9. When you don’t really believe someone.

“I believe ya—but my Tommy gun don’t.”—Home Alone 2

Home Alone

10. When you’ve been a borderline insomniac all your life, but someone asks how you slept last night.

“Great! I got a full 40 minutes!”—Elf

11. When you say the blessing over your fast food.

“Bless this highly nutritious, microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.”—Home Alone

12. When you’ve been around noisy people all day.

“That’s one thing I hate! All the noise, noise, noise, noise!”—How the Grinch Stole Christmas

13. When you walk into the next room after someone tells you that you’re cute.

“She said I’m cuuuute!”—Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

cute

14. When it’s cold out and you pretend that your hot chocolate is spiked.

“Man’s got to do somethin’ to keep warm.”—Miracle on 34th Street

15. When someone says, “I don’t like coconut.”

“You don’t like coconut? Hey, brainless, don’t you know where coconut comes from?”—It’s a Wonderful Life

16. When you’re a nice person, but you need to be ornery.

“Think nasty. Think nasty. Think nasty.”—Frosty the Snowman

nasty

17. When you have a hard time saying “no” to someone. 

“He always has that look! . . . It has something to do with his . . . liver.”—Holiday Inn

18.When someone asks how much it’s gonna cost them.

“Right in between ouch and boing.”—White Christmas

19. When someone tries to be witty, but ends up being convoluted.

“When I figure out what that means, I’ll come up with a crushing reply.”—White  Christmas

20. And for everything else there’s always. . .

“Oh fudge!”—A Christmas Story

Fudge

Lessons from a News Addict

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Guest Post by Laura Allnutt

Addictions often form over good things that our individual passions turn bad—alcohol, drugs, sex, food, pleasure of any kind. None of these things are innately evil in their raw state. We use alcohol as medicine, disinfectant, and an ingredient in fine cuisine. Drugs save lives, or at least help you feel better. Sex is natural. Food is both necessary and fun. I say all these things so that you know when I tell you to turn off the news, I am not saying that the news is evil. It’s both necessary and vital to stay informed regularly. The problem arises when reading the news becomes an addiction.

I am a recovering news-addict.

I am a recovering news-addict, and I never saw addiction coming. In my undergraduate years, I minored in journalism and later taught a journalism course when I became a college professor. Back then, around 2007 to 2012, I read the news weekly. Yes, weekly, and I rarely found myself uninformed. These years brought both of Barack Obama’s presidential runs, many shootings and terrorist attacks, and countless headlines and opinion pieces that kept me up to date on social issues, economics, celebrity gossip, politics, and major events.

Though I was not out of the loop, somewhere through the years, reading the news became a daily event, up to multiple times daily, to the point that I was reading more news articles than I was reading anything else—and that’s saying something, considering I’m a writer, editor, and English and writing professor.

The change, the beginning of my addiction, is easily traceable.

The change, the beginning of my addiction, is easily traceable. Just ask me when I became active on social media, and you’ll have your answer. I frequented Facebook and Twitter, and scrolling through feeds for headlines and celebrity opinions became part of my daily routine. I felt connected with the world at large, part of a collective group that is outraged at injustice, determined to stand for all that’s good. When Apple introduced the News App, headlines became even more accessible, waiting on my notifications screen 24 hours a day.

This constant accessibility of real-time news has taken its toll, a physical, mental, and even emotional toll, especially since 2016. Election seasons always leave us tired and sometimes wounded, but 2016 beat us bloody and dragged us into 2017 on a stretcher. We were so passionate, angry, grieved during the election that we drank the news frantically. Like passing by a gruesome accident, we couldn’t look away. If we were drunk on news in 2016, 2017’s news is causing us liver damage, fatigue, and possibly brain shrinkage. If we don’t seek help soon, we will be irreparably damaged.

News is necessary, and you must stay informed, but it’s time to learn how to say no when you’ve had enough. Here are 4 ways to stay sober in a news-saturated world.

  1. Schedule when you will read the news and be disciplined about it. This can be daily, weekly, or whenever suits your schedule best, but I suggest no more than twice a day for 20 minutes. The major headlines stick around a while. What you may have missed in the afternoon will still be there in the evening.
  2. Ask yourself these 3 questions after each article you read: (1) What can I do about this problem? (2) How can I determine how much of this information is true and complete? (3) How could I engage in meaningful conversation about this issue without being brash or biased?Two important parts of reading are comprehension and engagement. You may need to do some researching, soul-searching, or talking about an article after you read it. This helps you become discerning. Don’t simply assume you know it all, even if the article appears to preach “your side” of the issue. Mark Twain famously quipped, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re mis-informed.” Fake news has been around for long time. Don’t fall victim.
  1. Look for the good. Mr. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Let’s face it: the world is full of idiots, some so bad you lose your faith in everyone, even your family dog. To avoid depression and unhealthy anger, look to those who are making a difference or ask what you can do—and do it.
  2. Read a book instead. Ezra Pound said, “Literature is news that stays news.” News shows you the villains of the world and only rarely offers heroes. Literature offers you the full scope—the good, the bad, and even the ugly gray areas where we’re forced to make decisions in situations that have no easy answer. Because it’s timeless, good literature instructs, inspires, and ingrains in us a sense of ethos, of global community.

You probably have your own booklist, but in case you don’t, here are some titles I suggest, in no particular order and for no other reason than they each taught me something or delighted me with story:

  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • Anything by Frederick Douglass
  • A Man Called Ove
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo
  • The Chosen
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Rebecca
  • Oliver Twist

Become the news you wish would make the headlines.

 Recovering from news addiction may make you feel detached from the world at large. Those passions you feel over each shocking headline make you crave more fuel for your burning desire for justice and righteousness. That passion is the source and cause of your addiction. Rather than feeding your anger, channel it into something productive.

As with all addictions, fill the void with friends, family, and worthwhile pursuits. Write your own opinion piece, buy a meal for someone in need, clean out your house and donate items you don’t need (but are still in good condition) to your local mission or Goodwill. Take a friend out to coffee and listen to what’s on his or her mind. Become the news you wish would make the headlines. You’ll find that when you do, you can bear the current news better, because you’re better, and you’re helping others be better too.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

 Laura.jpgLaura Allnutt is my best friend, apartment-mate, fellow writer, and dearest inspiration. She holds an MFA in fiction from Fairfield University and has recently finished writing her first novel. She works as an online teacher and editor and enjoys being adventurous in the kitchen. Learn more about her in just about any of my posts, and read her previous guest post, “The Privilege to Be Among Them.”

What I’ve Learned from Living with a Lollygagger

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Photo by David von Diemar on UnsplashL

Laura and I are good friends—really good friends. But like any pair of humans, we have our differences. I love music, and Laura likes silence. I am hot blooded, and she is perpetually cold. I enjoy Brussels sprouts, and she gags when she eats them. So we compromise. She puts on another layer. I wear headphones. She makes small batches of Brussels sprouts for me and another vegetable for herself.

But there is one difference that really requires a lone compromise on my part.

Laura believes in the divine elasticity of time.

To put it simply, she’s what some people might call a lollygagger. Now this doesn’t mean she’s lazy—it just means she enjoys taking her time, and, by the nature of taking her time, sometimes she doesn’t realize how much time she’s taken. I’m the opposite. I watch the seconds and try to cram them with as much action as I can.

I wouldn’t change Laura for the world, but I have learned how to change my perspective about her ambling approach to living. Do you find yourself frazzled with the people in the slow lane of life? Check out these tips for living with a lollygagger.

  1. Nix the need to nag. If you grew up in a church-going family, you probably experienced your father in the idling family car, honking as your mother put the roast in the crockpot, shoes on the baby, and makeup on her face. When we were first friends, I hovered by Laura’s bathroom in the mornings, giving out two minute updates—the equivalent of horn honking. This did little more than make for a tense drive to work or church and further frazzle both of us. If you happen to be the one ready first, one or two gentle reminders will do.
  2. Make sure you’re ready. There have been times that I was so focused on clock watching and grousing at Laura that I forgot to be ready myself. Gather your stuff, turn off the lights, have the lunch packed, and even gather the lollygagger’s stuff if you can. Be ready to go, because when a lollygagger finally realizes the time, she can move pretty fast.
  3. Pitch in. Mornings seem to be particularly hard for lollygaggers. And because they are usually the contemplative sort, they are prone to get lost in their pontifications. Gently encourage them to start getting ready earlier. It might even help to set the clocks forward a bit throughout the house, to sort of trick them into a false urgency. Ask how you can help them get ready so that you can get out the door on time.
  4. Use the wait time. If you are inclined to wait in the car, perhaps keep a book on tape to listen to. Keep a book handy to read or journal to write in. Clean the frost off the car windows, water the plants, look at the news, sweep the porch, write an email. Don’t just sit around and watch the clock tick.
  5. Consider the lessons. It often occurs to me how much my lollygagger has to teach me. I’m not sure what all she does in the bathroom each morning, but Laura comes out looking 10 times better than I do. At least in my experience, my lollygagger isn’t so much slow as she is thorough. And though I usually panic about the time, I’ve learned from Laura that time really is more elastic than we give it credit for. We’re rarely as late as I think we’re going to be. In other words, I’m frequently reminded to slow down, focus on each task, and just enjoy my moments.

When You’ve Had Enough This November

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You know, I believe I’ve figured out why stores skip right from Halloween to Christmas, bypassing Thanksgiving like a freight train passing a hobo. Quite simply, short of Reddi-wip, Butterball turkeys, and Stovetop Stuffing, they have nothing to advertise.

Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Halloween, even Easter—all these holidays center around giving things to people. But stores don’t know what to do for Thanksgiving because to be thankful means to be full, in fact, overflowing with gratitude. You don’t need anything because you already have enough. And marketers just don’t know how to entice people who have enough.

How interesting that Thanksgiving—a holiday of fullness and plenty—is just one month before Christmas, a season when we have neither enough time or money but a growing list of needs and wants.

At the start of November, I love seeing people make their daily Facebook posts of what they’re thankful for—a countdown of thanks to Thanksgiving. With all our friends, family, freedom, stuff, and grace, it’s easy to post 23 days of statuses. Our Facebook posts runneth over. We’ve had enough—we are full!

But what if our thankfulness overflowed in ways other than just making a list of our blessings?

1. Give 23 people a thank you card. Does a coworker do something particularly well? Shock their socks off by handing them a thank you note. Did someone do something for you years ago that you still remember? Send a card to let them know you haven’t forgotten. Appreciate someone just because they’re in your life? Jot a note of appreciation and leave it for them to find. Let a little-known person know you appreciate what they do—the custodial staff at your office, your mailman, the cashier you frequently see at the grocery store.

2. List one of God’s awesome attributes a day and study the Scripture that corresponds to that attribute. Keep a “thanks” journal to let God know that of all your blessings, you’re most thankful for Him and not just for what He gives you, but for who He is.

3. Take a break from buying things in November and focus on what you already have. Contemplate in what ways you can embrace the people in your life, what way you can appreciate the things that you already have, and in what ways you might better devote yourself to the heavenly Father.

4. Give out of your abundance. Identify the 23 things you’re most thankful for and share that with someone else. (Note: you might not be able to take a break from buying and do this at the same time). If you particularly enjoy the warmth of your comfy fireplace, invite someone over to enjoy hot chocolate on a cold evening. Thankful for the Starbucks on your way to work? Buy a coffee for someone else in the office or pay for the order of the person behind you. Enjoy a special game or book? Surprise someone by sending it to them from Amazon. Appreciate the mercy of the driver behind you when he let you over in a busy lane? Let someone else over later that day.

5. Commit to a complaining fast. Decide that for 24 days you’re going to bite your tongue when you really want to complain. And when you’re tempted to give in, find one good thing to be thankful for in the situation instead.

6. Identify 23 things you are not thankful for. Decide why not and consider how you can choose to be thankful in, if not for, every situation (Philippians 4:11). Consider how nothing happens for nothing. We can grow through every situation and learn to trust the Father more.

Just like it’s silly to think that love and peace and joy should be confined to the Christmas season, it’s ridiculous to devote the month of November to being thankful without practicing gratitude the rest of the year. I hope that these 23 days will jumpstart gratitude habits that will last through next Thanksgiving and beyond.

Our lives are so full of good things; we should be full of thanks.

 “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7 NLT).

I’d love to hear about how you practice thankfulness in November and how it carries through the rest of the year.

 

 

 

Lessons from October

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Guest Post by Avery Foley

I can never decide which season I like best: spring or autumn.

Every spring when I breathe in the scent of apple blossoms and watch the green grass and colorful flowers pop up, I decide spring is my favorite. But the months pass, the leaves start to morph into brilliant shades of yellow, red, and orange, the air somehow smells like change, and the wildflowers put on one last display before heading to a well-deserved winter’s sleep. And, every year, I make up my mind—autumn is my favorite . . . until spring rolls around again.

But the fall season has held special significance for me the last three years.

On September 13, 2015, I said “I do” and started a new journey of love and commitment to my best friend. Just over a year later, on October 1, 2016, we welcomed an 8-pound, 10-ounce baby boy into the world. And, this year, as the leaves once again rustle and swirl across the browning grass, he celebrated his first birthday. The adage is true—time flies.

My family will tell you I’m a planner. I like to know what is happening and when it is happening. I count down the days to exciting events, even starting two or three years in advance. I had my wedding planned as an 8-year-old and had my career goals mapped out by age 12. I had a detailed 10-year plan in hand when I reached “adulthood” at the ripe old age of 18. I knew what I wanted, thought I had figured out how to get it, and was determined to accomplish it as fast as humanly possible.

But, as Anne Shirley remarked in Anne of Green Gables, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” Octobers remind us to slow down. The change of color, the cooler evenings, the pumpkin stands on the roadside remind us that another summer has come and gone, that Christmas is coming and, close on its heels, another new year. And then this year will be gone, and a new unmarked year will again be before us, ready to be filled with our joys, sorrows, accomplishments, mistakes, successes, and setbacks.

Octobers remind us to slow down.

Sometimes I get so caught up in the next thing—finally buying a house, having more money in savings, yearning for the blessing of another baby, the next step in my career or 10-year plan—that I’m discontent, almost “itchy,” with the life I have now. I think, “Oh, life will be good when I have another baby” or “life will be good when we finally own a house.” It’s not that I don’t like my life—I do. It’s that restless feeling of something else out there that I should be striving for, working toward. And somehow slowing down and resting in the blessings my Heavenly Father has already given me gets forgotten.

My dad always told me “Enjoy the journey.” I used to chafe at that, believing it was the end goal that mattered, not the story of getting to that goal. But October and a blue-eyed baby who is somehow already a toddler are teaching me not to count the days but to make the days count.

While in jail for his faith in the city of Philippa, the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. . . . I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12b, 13). Being content doesn’t come naturally, it must be learned. The secret is the strength Christ gives us to cease striving and come to him for true rest.

So this October, as the leaves fall from the trees and the stores rush to get all the Christmas décor on the shelves, telling us to hurry up, think ahead, stock up for the coming season, I want to just slow down and revel in everything my Heavenly Father has given me and enjoy the journey to wherever he takes me and my family next.

 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

18953473_1610422135658473_8753166920002761271_oAvery Foley was born and raised in Canada but now lives with her husband and son in the Cincinnati area. She loves writing and speaking about science and God’s Word and spends most of her free time either going on adventures with her two “boys” or chatting on the phone with one of her six sisters or eight brothers. She endures my edits each day and hangs on for dear life when we car pool together to work. Read more of her writing at https://answersingenesis.org/bios/avery-foley/ or follow her at Facebook.com/apologeticsavery.

 

Celebrating the Black Cats of the World

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October is Black Cat Awareness month. Calico, munchkin, Persian, Siamese, furless, gray, white, and tabby—none of these cats have their own month of awareness (that I’m aware of). So what makes black cats so special?

Black Cat Awareness month sounded silly when I first read it online—like some kind of crazy Halloween-themed PETA gimmick. But while researching black cats, I found a long history of their misunderstood association with the occult; I read how all black cats were killed during the Middle Ages; and, saddest of all, I found recent statistics that indicate a lingering prejudice against black cats.

Laura and I got in touch with our inner cat ladies.

Several years ago, before we quit teaching and long before we even considered adopting Dudley, Laura and I got in touch with our inner cat ladies and periodically went kitty “shopping.” Though these excursions ended in allergic reactions and ring worm, still we trekked from the SPCA, to Petco, to privately owned animal shelters, to adoption day at Pet Smart looking for the ideal cat: an orange one with white paws and the perfect personality.

We saw orange cats only sporadically, but our options for black cats were never lacking: everywhere ebony kitties gazed at us with green, blue, or yellow eyes. But after a while they all looked the same.

One evening at the Hotel for Cats and Dogs Animal Shelter in Pensacola, we found the perfect butterscotch cat named Sunny. He poked his white-tipped paws between the bars, teasing for attention. After charming us into opening the cage, he blinked up with yellow marble eyes and nonchalantly weaved around our legs.

As we followed him around the room, I noticed the other cages holding almost a dozen black cats—half the cats in the room. A few rubbed against the cages and reached out their paws. But many lay still, barely lifting their heads to inspect us, as if they knew we’d pass by like so many other people had before.

Fewer people pay attention to black cats.

Statistics show that black cats are less than half likely to be adopted than lighter colored cats. Maybe because the dark color doesn’t readily reveal their facial expressions or because it gives them less individual identity than a white or orange cat or because of the black cat’s association with bad luck—whatever the reason, fewer people pay attention to these kitties blending in with the shadows of the cage.

That evening, following Sunny around as if he were a celebrity, I felt guilty. So determined to find a perfect match for my closed-minded specifications, I had passed by who-knows-how-many black cats, to my shame, because they looked the same—unremarkable.

To ease my conscience, I went to each cage, stuck my hand in, rubbed their fur, let them bat at my fingers, murmured comforting things to them. Once up close I noticed each one was different. Some were fluffy, others were short-haired, some had tuxedo markings or small spots, and one had only a single white whisker.

But lying there not bothering to get up or to get our attention, somehow those kitties looked familiar.

I’ve seen those same gazes of resignation from dozens of “black cat” people throughout my life, the reserved coworkers or students in my classes, some who’ve given up on being special enough to gain anyone’s attention in the shadow of outspoken or flamboyant people.

We’re each endowed with defining qualities.

That year, determined to go out of my way to know all my students, I asked them all to write an interesting fact about themselves on their first quiz. I learned that one girl was born with an extra finger on each hand, another guy was a TV show stand-in for Colin Hanks (Tom Hanks’ son), one girl is named after the Pink Power Ranger, another unassuming girl took the Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan, and one particularly quiet guy can spin a basketball on a pencil for three hours. On and on went the little accomplishments or quirky traits marking each student as an individual with a personality all his or her own. Flipping through those cards, I felt lucky to spend time with those special people each week.

I’m glad for a month dedicated to black cat awareness, and I’m thankful for the correlating reminder that we’re each endowed with defining qualities—no matter how ordinary we appear.

Whether you’re at the animal shelter looking for a new pet or just looking at the people surrounding you every day, don’t be afraid to cross paths with the black cats and get to know them. You’d be surprised at how lucky they’ll make you feel—during Black Cat Awareness month and every other day of the year.