Saturday, December 18, 2010

"K" is for Keeping Family Traditions

Many of us have family traditions, those special and unique customs that we have either started ourselves or that began long ago and have been handed down from generation to generation.  Whether it's a game of Uno every saturday afternoon or going on a cruise every year for a birthday or an  anniversary, these traditions are very special to us and are meant to be kept and passed on.

Many of the most sacred family traditions take place during the Christmas Season when we all get together to spend quality time with the ones we love the most.

My family has a very unique tradition that my relatives have been taking part in for many Holiday Seasons.  It means so very much to us, and I hope it continues on for many generations to come.

While I was growing up we never had a Christmas Tree.  When my friends would talk about what kind or what colours their trees would be decorated with, I couldn't wait until they asked me about mine so that I could tell them that we didn't have a tree, that we had something we thought was better, we had "Our Santa" instead.  They would be a little confused and would have to see him to understand.  But when they did, they would all love him, almost as much as we did. 

The black and white pictures above are of "Our Santa" in his early years soon after his inception.  The additional pictures of him were taken more recently, and the one below was taken last year at my little sister's house where he now resides.

I wasn't yet born when "Our Santa" was created so I asked my Mom to tell me what she remembers, and she told me that years ago in the 1940's my Great-Grandmother, who we called Nanny, became a Grandmother and wanted to do something special for her Grandchildren for Christmas, something to make the holidays jollier. She decided to make them "Our Santa".  She had an old dress form that she put my Great-Grandfather's old pants and jacket on.  These were stuffed to make the shape of the body.  The head was also stuffed and attached to the dress forms neck.  His hat was sewn and had cotton batting for trim and a pom-pom, his face was a full piece cotton mask with hair and a beard.  It has been replaced over the years, and he sometimes wears glasses.  Pieces of red fabric were hand pinned over the clothes to make the pants, cotton batting was pinned as trim and my great-grandfather's old gum boots gave him feet.  The same was done to make his arms, yet gloves were attached for hands.  Fabric was draped, pleated and pinned to make the shirt of his suit.  It was all done in pieces, pinned on by hand.  Cotton batting trims the shirt and his black belt was added around his belly which is made as fat or as slim as you want it to be by the amount of stuffing added.  At one time there was an object in his belly that when pushed would make "Our Santa" HO HO HO.  Sometimes the sound startled people, but us kids pushed it so often I think we eventually broke it.  My Great-Grandfather's old service bag was used, and has been ever since, as Santa's sack for toys.  To remember the real reason for celebrating Christmas my family had always had our Nativity Scene set up under, beside or near him.

"Our Santa" was passed down from my Great-Grandmother to my Grandmother, then down to my Mom and all of my three siblings have had their turns setting him up in their homes for Christmas.  I have had the Nativity Scene passed down to me, and as I am sitting here typing this I can see it, and I get a warm feeling inside.

Growing up with our family tradition of having "Our Santa" watch over us at Christmas and knowing he will be put up and loved for many more years makes me smile and very happy.  I want to thank my Nanny for creating him, for putting all of the love and care into a project that has given so much joy to so many of us.  And a thank you to my Nana and Mom for carrying on the tradition that I have cherished for so long.

Do you have any family Christmas traditions that you have had passed down to you, or any new Christmas traditions that you just started or want to start?  I hope you do and that those traditions make you very happy and continue to do so,  Merry Christmas!    

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"J" is for Judging Others, Too Much I Think

People judge eachother everyday, we have all done it.  We've judged and we have been judged and judgement can come in all shapes and sizes.  There have been stories in the news about children being judged and bullied by their peers so badly that they are killing themselves.  Who is to blame?

Is it the bullied child for taking things too seriously, the bullies for being so cruel, the bus driver that ignores the bad behaviour on the bus, the school officials for not penalizing the bullies, the parents of the bullies for not teaching their children how to treat others or the parents of the bullied not teaching their children how to stick up for themselves or that nothing anyone can say or do to them should matter because they are good and kind and that they are loved?

Or is blaming anyone just judging people all over again?

Who do people think they are to be judging anyone anyway, why do they think they have that right?  Don't the old sayings "take a walk in someone else's shoes" or "those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks" mean anything anymore?  Or for those of us that believe in God, why don't we follow the Golden Rule and "Treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves"?  Or like my Mom used to say "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"

There are so many more ways and places to judge people nowadays.  The social networks, forums and chat rooms run rampant with judgements.  People tearing eachothers clothes, looks, beliefs or ideas down seem almost common place in these days with so much technology.

Honestly I find it all depressing.  I think there are better things for us to do with our time and voices, more constructive things, more positive things.  So the next time you want to put someone down, think how you would feel if someone did it to you, touched on a vulnerability of yours, and stay in that unempowered moment for a few seconds and feel the weakness it provides.

There is a quote from an Unknown source that I find fitting for this topic:  "The tongue weighs practically nothing, but so few can hold it".  I urge you to be that someone that does.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"I" can't wait.......

This is going to be a different post than usual, but this topic has driven me nuts for years.

Other than a few "tweets" here and there, I have pretty much kept this to myself.  But the ugly truth is that:
"I can't stand Oprah and I can't WAIT for her to go off the air!"

I know this is probably not a really popular opinion as she has so many fans and viewers.  I may even catch some flack for writing this but don't particularly care.  If I can't speak my mind on my own blog, then where can I?  I learned that lesson from a very special person and friend of mine.  She says it like it is, and damn those that don't agree with it.  This one is for you, TL.

It's not that I don't think Oprah hasn't done any good in this world, because she has.  She built all of those house for families that lost everything in Katrina, she brought the world Dr. Phil, Dr. OZ and Nate, and is giving educations to girls in Africa who would never have had those opportunities otherwise.  It's not like I haven't given her a chance and tried to like her, because I have, I really have.  I have even tried to watch her show on a daily basis during my hospital stays.  But there are things that she does that make me want to pull my hair out, so I end up having to change the channel.

Sometimes when she asks guests questions, she cuts them off or interrupts them and they don't always look happy about it.  It's worse when after she asks the question, she herself answers it or quotes someone else's answer.  She has done that so much during one show that the show should have been all about her instead of the chosen topic for the day.

I have also found her to be hypocritical at times, such as her comments about never eating beef again, and then having a show a couple of years later about where you can find the "Best Burger".   People with food issues go on her show and delve down deep as to their reasons for their food addictions, break the cycle, do the work and lose the weight.  We know she has food issues, we know she was molested but she tells the world she has a thyroid problem.  It seems to me that is a crutch and that if she really wanted to she could break the cycle, do the work and lose the weight too.  She only wanted to have her face on her magazine because she didn't feel good about showing her whole body,  I thought that was really honest until I found out that her pictures of her face are air-brushed.  She goes on and on about being your "Authentic Self", but she doesn't stand behind it so why should her audience invest in it for themselves.

I hope in the last year that she is on the air that she can deal with her issues better and do the work, and really become her own "Authentic Self".


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"H" is for Hope!

I asked my friends on Facebook to help me with suggestions for a topic for the letter "H", and "hope" was the most chosen subject matter.

This tells me a few things: Either many people have a lot of hope and want everyone to know about it, OR things are so bad in our society today that people need some hope that their lives will get better.

Incredibly, as I sat contemplating this post and what I would write about, I saw quite a few commercials on television about this very topic, not hope exactly, but the idea that the future could be improved, a reason to give a person hope.  Health issues, Social Services, and Politics were just some of the ads I saw.

The number of ads for research and medications to help various illnesses were high.  In about two hours of watching t.v. I saw that there are many research studies going on to try to find cures for various diseases.  Having a chronic and incurable disease myself, I could only imagine how wonderful my future would be if there was a cure to make me healthy, and more able to enjoy my life by being able to do the things that I can only dream about now.  I have hope that day will soon come.  Can you imagine how much better your life would be if you could just take a pill and have your diabetes, high blood pressure or whatever ails you be under control for the day, giving you the freedom to do whatever you want?  New medications and procedures are being discovered everyday to give people the chance to do just that, and with those discoveries comes hope for a brighter future.

There were ads for Big Brothers and Sisters and other children's groups.  These programs bring joy, happiness and acceptance into a young persons life.  Their self-esteem blossoms from the friendships that they make and the new opportunities they have give them hope for a better life.  For kids from broken or single parent homes, the programs they can get involved in are priceless for their future.  Being in at risk situations sometimes, these kids don't generally have the same benefits as others, but having great programs for them to get involved in can make a huge difference in their lives.

Right now in Canada we are getting ready to exercise our right to vote on City Council and Mayoral races.  We hope that we check the right box and make the best decision about who's hands we are putting our Municipality in.  We also hope that we get the things that we need in our communities to help the citizens and get the things that were promised to us during the race.

There are many things that are going wrong in our world right now, from big problems like Global Warming, the Gulf Oil Spill and the economy to individual problems that we all have and want to be resolved.  In some cases we may be able to do some things to help ourselves out of undesirable situations, but other times these problems are just out of our hands.  When we can't do anything to help, at least we can HOPE.  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"G" is for God, What must He think?

While watching TV shows, listening to the news and reading current events on the Internet I have come across situations where people do things that just blow my mind and make me wonder what God must think.  I imagine Him up in heaven just shaking His head and wondering how the humans that He created in His image could act so unlike Him.

Some people do immoral, illegal and definitely cruel things in His name, and they really believe He told them to do these things or that he would actually be pleased with their behaviour.  There are other people that take His word, verses from The Bible, and pick out single sentences using them out of context, twisting the words around to make them fit their cause.  And there are others that remind me of young kids playing in schoolyards, because they haven't grown up or matured enough to be able to interact with others without situations escalating out of control.  These people and situations really make me angry and sad at the same time.

There was an Oprah repeat on the other day about a man named Tony Alamo.  He honestly believes that he is God's prophet and that He speaks directly to him.  He had a ministry with his wife, which seemed more like a cult, until she died.  He placed her body on a table in their home and had his parishoners pray over her for six months.  He said that God told him she would rise from the dead, be resurrected.  She didn't, but for some reason the people still followed him and "his word" anyway.  Alamo had many "spiritual" wives that he wasn't legally married to, some of them were as young as eight years old when they had their "unions".  A few of those brave young women were on the show.  They escaped from the compound, spoke out and he is now serving an over one hundred year sentence.  These women said that he told them that God spoke to him and told him who to marry and when.  The idea that some people think and believe that God speaks to them is not a new phenomenon, it has happened before and someone else will convince others that its true again.  Being a Christian this concept really bothers me, but the seriously disgusting and blasphemous thing about it is that this guy has sex with, rapes little girls and believes that God told him to do it and actually approves of his behaviour.  That's not the God I know.

Then there was the pistol-wielding preacher from Florida, Terry Jones, that wanted to declare September 11th of this year, nine years after 9/11 the "International Burn a Koran (Qur'an) Day".  Another piece of work.  When I first heard about it I thought it was some sort of a joke.  But then an image of the Pope came on the television and the news anchor said that he and other religious leaders from around the world were very disturbed by his plans and begged him to put a stop to them.  But he wouldn't be swayed.  Eventually someone got through to him and the event was cancelled.  I actually said out loud  "What is wrong with this person?" while I was watching the story.  This guy is a Preacher and wanted to burn a book that is just as sacred to Muslims as The Bible is to Christians.  These people that profess to be Christians yet turn around and behave so intolerantly aren't pleasing God.  Do people not take the idea of  "The Golden Rule" seriously anymore?

Other situations that I wonder what God would think about are the story's of people like Bethany Storro, the girl that threw acid on her own face yet blamed it on a fake African-American woman and Ashley Kirilow, the girl that faked having Cancer on Facebook and bilked caring and compassionate people out of close to $30,000.

I just find myself wondering what this world is coming to and what can be done about it.  If everyone thought and cared about other peoples feelings, beliefs and opinions as much as they think and care about their own, would be a really good start.  Don't you think?  


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"F" is for Forgetting Children in Vehicles?

I heard a story on the news recently about a family from Toronto, Ontario visiting relatives in Houston, Texas.  I was really angry at first and could barely hold myself back from blogging about the subject.  Now I am conflicted about how I feel.  I'm sure you have heard the facts, but bare with me as I repeat them and let me know where you stand.

There were seven people in an SUV, all relatives going home from the grocery store after picking up supplies.  When they arrived back in the driveway, the Canadian couples eldest son, who is autistic, had a seizure prompting the parents to give him aid.  All of the bags of groceries were removed from the vehicle, yet the couples other child, a sweet two year-old boy, in the commotion of the moment, was left in the SUV for two hours to perish in the heat. He managed to get out of his car-seat, but due to the child-proof locks he couldn't save himself.  The temperature in the car was twice as hot as outside of it.  His body temp. was over 120 degrees, sixteen degrees hotter than when the bodies organs begin to fail.  No one is being charged.  Apparently in Houston, Texas alone, there have been thirty-six cases of children dying in super heated vehicles this summer, which is up from last year.

Now this is the tricky part..... Should the parents or other care-givers of these children be held accountable and be punished? or is losing their child (which seems to be the way it goes) be punishment enough?   I don't have kids, I don't understand all the fuss and commotion in a busy parents life and don't know how hard it can be.  But I also don't understand how anyone can forget a child in a car by accident.

There is not much debate about this, in the news all that is being said is how sad the event was.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that doesn't seem to get it.  I have heard people in the Health profession advising parents to leave something important in the backseat that they will need when they exit the vehicle, like their briefcase or purse.  Then as they grab that important object, they will see their child, remember he or she is there and take them out of the car as well.  Important object? Isn't their child an important object? Isn't the fact that your kid is in the car enough of an incentive to be responsible for them?  Don't most parents watch their children in the rear-view mirror while they are driving or interact with them?

I just don't understand.  People become outraged when a dog is left in a car in the summer in the sweltering heat, they call the police, smash through the windows, and make sure the owners are charged with cruelty to animals.  In England the other day a woman picked up a cat and put her in a garbage can, and the world is going crazy with her having to have police protection in case someone decides to throw her out.  The Police and Animal Protective Services are involved in this case about a cat, and people are up in arms.  But when children are dying in the alarming numbers that they are, nothing is done.  Why aren't these parents charged with child endangerment, accidental homicide or manslaughter?

As I have stated I'm conflicted about this topic, losing a child is obviously so much worse than anything I could possibly imagine, but doesn't that mean that you would be more careful with your kid's welfare.  Maybe if someone was punished and brought to justice, the number of these incidences would lessen instead of rise.  I feel for the family, but this was a preventable death.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"E" is for Elephants

I can't remember when my fascination with Elephants began, it was that long ago.  I have always loved them, but I remember the first time I saw one up close and was lucky enough to ride one.

When I was in grade five at John McRae School in Guelph, Ontario, where I grew up, I was a Safety Patrol, or Crossing Guard  (I remember feeling so grown up then, lol).   All of us kids in the Daminato household were involved in the Patrols, and have won awards.  My older sister was a Captain, and I was a Lieutenant.  I had won a couple of  "Gold Belts".  There were some Guelph Police Officers that worked closely with us patrols back then.  They chose a group of gold belt winners every year and took them on a trip to our Nation's Capital, Ottawa.   On that trip we went to a Circus and that is where my first Elephant ride took place.  I couldn't believe the size and majesty of them, and was touched when I looked one right in the eye.  I was so happy.

As I grew up I started collecting anything with Elephants on them and went to see them whenever and wherever I could.  I watched programs and read books and magazine articles about them.  For my birthday, whenever I was hospitalized and for Christmas my friends and family always gave me Elephant stuff.  My user name for most on-line sites is Phanti because of my love for them.

That love has changed over the years.  In my early twenties I went to a circus and saw the way the handlers were treating them.  They were using sticks with sharp pokers on the end to have them move around and do their tricks.  I was so angered by their behaviour, and at the circus owners for condoning it, that from then on I never went to a circus unless it was to protest against the horrible treatment of the Elephants.  I began to be an activist for the humane care of these gentle giants.  I fostered an Elephant from an African Reserve that I named Ishtar from infancy to seven years old, they sent me pictures of him and footprints yearly so I could see how he was maturing and changing.  It was a wonderful experience.

Then I found out about "The Elephant Sanctuary" in Hohenwald, Tennessee.  It was founded in 1995 and they operate on 2,700 acres.  It is the "largest natural habitat refuge developed specifically for endangered African and Asian elephants".  It is a non-profit organization, and it costs $125,000 a year to take care of ONE elephant.  Their goal is to rescue 100 elephants in need.  Their website is incredible, it introduces you to every elephant in the family on the property, gives in-depth information about elephants, there is a gift shop and there is even an "ELECAM" where you can tune in and watch them any time day or night.  But the most important part of the site is how you can help them raise money to give their herd all that it needs to grow and stay healthy.  There are many different ways to do this, and if you are interested in learning more about these beautiful, gentle-eyed angels on earth, or helping them rescue more of them, take a look at their site.  You can find it at  They do great work there, and as a Phanti-lover, I ask you to make a pledge to these big, beautiful trunked beasts and help to rescue them from danger, and to bring them home.