Holocaust Remembrance Day

Why Holocaust Remembrance Day Matters

Holocaust Remembrance Day begins at sundown. It’s a day to remember and reflect upon the fact that 6 million Jews were persecuted, tortured, and killed some 70 years ago.

Most of us will go through our day totally unaware that it is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Most of us won’t notice the footnote on our calendar. Even if we do, most of us won’t take the time to care. Because, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t really affect us, does it? We’re not Jewish. Heck, some of us don’t even have Jewish friends or neighbors. Sure, anti-Semitism is a horrible thing, but it’s something that affects people in Europe or the Middle East. Not here at home. And yes, the Holocaust is just about the worst atrocity ever committed in human history but… it was more than 70 years ago. And there are committees and clubs and museums set up to commemorate these occasions, so let them do the remembering, and let us get on with our lives. “Never forget.” Okay, we won’t, but right now we have laundry to do and TV to watch so… could we please move on?

That’s the attitude of many people on these types of days – these so-called “holidays” or “specialty” days. Even worse, on a day such as this, we don’t get the day off and there are no special sales at the mall and it’s not really an adequate excuse to fire up the grill so… what’s the point in acknowledging it? Plus, it’s not nearly as fun as National Pi Day (which, in all honesty, seems to get more attention on Twitter than this day does) and it’s kind of depressing so… just leave us alone about it.

Well, I would, except… I can’t.

I can’t forget.

I can’t forget the amount of college students in my freshman history course who legitimately didn’t know what the Holocaust was.

I can’t forget the gaggle of athletes at the student union, arguing over who started World War II, finally settling on the idea that it was, in fact, the Jews.

I can’t forget my boss’s comment while haggling on the price of a product that he would have to “Jew him down” – in reference to getting the manufacturer to drop his prices.

I can’t forget the comment from Middle Schoolers about how another teacher had a “Jew Nose”, and the subsequent horror by that same teacher that she might look like a Jew.

And I can’t forget standing in the Hall of Remembrance at The Holocaust Memorial Museum as a teenager, overwhelmed and brought to tears by what 6 million Jews had endured.

I’m appalled even as I type this. I don’t know when or how this type of bigotry became socially acceptable. Most people don’t realize what they’re saying or suggesting. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, some form of anti-Semitism is perfectly and socially acceptable. Why?

We become enraged when black men are targeted by white cops. We’re appalled when a gay couple can’t purchase a cake for their wedding. We’re disgusted when Muslim women are harassed for wearing hijabs in public. But Jews? Instances of anti-Semitism rarely make the news and when they do, it’s widely ignored by the public. Instances of anti-Semitism are simple misunderstandings at best, nuisances on the nightly news at worst. Why is this perception okay?

It’s not, and that’s why this day matters. It’s necessary to reflect upon the attitudes and complacency that allowed the Holocaust to occur in the first place. It’s necessary to remember what happened to those 6 million Jews and to teach our children about what happened, so we can ensure that nothing like this never happens again – in the Jewish community or any other community. Never forget. That’s why this day matters.

“Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children, and to your children’s children.” — Deuteronomy 4:9

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Celebrate Good Times… C’mon!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, Peeps!

You know what that means, don’t you?

For a limited time, you too can be Irish!

WHA?

I KNOW!

It’s okay, that was my reaction too. It’s a special day for all of us.

To be honest, I’m not even sure I’m Irish. My grandmother was apparently “Scots-Irish” and would INSIST we all wear green on March 17th. She’d also send cute cards and little trinkets with sayings like “Luck o’ the Irish” and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish!” and “Irish Eyes are Smiling.” And then, when she died, my very Swedish grandfather took up the tradition. But then he died, and everyone started digging through our family history, and oh, the shock and horror to discover we might not be Irish after all.

WHA? Shut the front door!

I know. It was a devastating blow to the entire family…

Okay, not really. Except maybe my cousin Joe, who became hell-bent on insisting WE WERE NEVER IRISH – JUST SCOTTISH. SO EVERYONE STOP CELEBRATING ST. PATRICK’S DAY NOW AND FOREVER BECAUSE IT DOESN’T EVEN APPLY TO US.

He actually gets upset when family members wear green on March 17th. He’s very bothered about the whole “Irish” thing. In his mind, being Scottish is far superior to being Irish, and so we should spurn our “supposed” Irish heritage and be awesomely Scottish instead.

It’s… weird.

ANYhoodles… regardless, I am not only wearing green today, but I’m also…

Yeah. Nevermind. That’s pretty much all my celebration consists of. I suppose I could get some Guiness but I think we all know that’s not going to happen.

Fascinating tidbit: The holiday is more than an excuse for Americans to get rowdy and sloppy drunk. Here’s the biography of the actual man and why we celebrate this day. Plus, it’s a pretty big deal across the pond (obviously) so it’s kind of cool that the holiday has actual meaning behind it rather than merely an excuse to run some PSAs for designated drivers. (C’mon, America. Really?)

So… my point… and I do have one is…

Oh, screw it. There’s no point. Just… Happy St. Patrick’s Day, ya’ll!

(What? They TOTALLY play bagpipes in Ireland. Look it up.)

Gif Sources: http://makeawishtakeachancedreamadream.tumblr.com/post/29362584363/still-cant-get-over-gmak-being-reunited-all, fyeah-wizard-of-oz.tumblr.com, www.dose.ca

So… about this whole “Lent” thing…

So, show of hands… how many of you are doing the whole “Lent” thing?

I’m sorry. Let me rephrase that. How many of you are observing Lent? (Not “Lent”, not “thing”, and you can’t really “do” Lent … although if you’re observing it I suppose you are “doing” it, in a round about way. I’m sorry. I’m not Catholic. I don’t really know how these things work or are phrased, and I pretty much just make things up as I go along, so you’ll have to forgive me… or not… maybe you gave up forgiveness for Lent, who knows? Although, I’m fairly certain that would kind of negate the whole idea behind Lent so… forgive me anyway?)

I’m sorry… what were we talking about? My stream of consciousness occasionally diverges into yellow woods from time to time…

Okay. Yes. Lent.

Let me tell you something about Lent: I know absolutely zip, zero, zilch about it. Seriously. Unless you grow up Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian (Which, by the way, are those two interchangeable? Are they like, one in the same?) Lutheran, Presbyterian or Methodist, you don’t even get a basic crash course in Lent. I always thought it was something “those people” did. (And when I say “those people” I mean people talked about them in hushed, solemn tones knowing they were sinners destined to burn in hell for all of eternity. Did I mention the church I grew up in was slightly crazy? Did I mention some Evangelical/Petacostal/Charismatic churches are not entirely accepting of other denominations? Because… all of the above.) Anyway, so I basically grew up knowing nothing about Lent, and figuring it was some crazy custom the crazy-traditional churches had cooked up for the heck of it.

So, it wasn’t until I had started working at a Catholic school that I was first exposed to the wonders of the Lenten season.

But what exactly is Lent? Well according to Catholic.org

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

And then Ash Wednesday is followed by Palm Sunday which is followed by Holy week which is followed by Holy Thursday which is followed by Good Friday and then everything is all wrapped up on Easter Sunday. Whew! Did you get all that? If not, read it again, because I’m not repeating myself.

ANYWAY, other than some quick mention about the beginning of the Lenten season, a short observation of Palm Sunday and Good Friday, and then a big to-do on Easter Sunday… the whole Lenten season wasn’t really emphasized in the church I grew up in. So, when I was teaching at a Catholic School it was really fascinating for me to be a part of this huge celebration. (Which is totally weird because you would think being adherents of the same religion we would share the same celebrations and customs, but apparently not.) I loved everything about the Lenten season. Mainly because it really got me thinking about the Easter season and what it’s all about. The tradition, the pomp and circumstance, and the celebration of the Lenten season was refreshing, exciting and inspiring. And throughout all of it, all I could think was, “Why don’t ALL churches do this?! This is fan-freaking-TASTIC!” (Apparently, I am a very enthusiastic Christian…) It was completely new to me and I thought it was great.

Fast forward a couple of years when I am no longer working at a Catholic school and my attendance at church has been few and far between (Not because I don’t love Jesus… but because getting out of bed that early on a SUNDAY in the midst of this much snow and cold is probably not going to happen. Yeah… no.) and I actually MISS the observation of Lent. I know! Who knew?!

For me, the Lenten season was important because it took the focus off yourself and put it on concerns of deeper significance. It was a time for reflection and re-evaluation; a time for taking stock of our lives and figuring out what’s really important; a time for being less selfish and being more self-less. Rather than going to church and hearing some warm-fuzzy, feel-good sermon about “Jesus loves you”, it forced you to stop, think and re-assess your life. So, even though I’m not traditionally a Lenten observer, this year I really would really like to be.

The thing is… I’m not exactly sure how it works. Do I give up something for Lent? (Short answer: Yes.) How long do I give it up for? (Short answer: 40 Days.) Does it have to be food or beverage related (Short answer: Not necessarily) because… I really love my food and beverage. (Really, Annie? Way to go on the whole “self-less” thing…) Since Lent officially started yesterday, I should really get cracking on this. Also, I need to find something to “give up”… something that will help me to reflect and re-evaluate… not something frivolous and silly, like I’m making a personal challenge or bet with myself. And lastly, the more I research about Lent, the more I find that many Protestant churches are strictly opposed to it, as they view it as a “means of salvation”, which is not what Lent-observing churches profess to believe at all…

Anyway… thoughts on the whole season of Lent? Are you giving anything up? If so, what? Are you opposed to the observation of Lent? If so, why? Seriously, I’d love to hear some thoughts on the matter. I find it all endlessly fascinating.


Some excellent information regarding Lent:

The 100th Day of School Conspiracy

I don’t want to point any fingers, but I’m fairly certain that the “100th Day of School” celebration is really just an artfully disguised torture device for teachers cooked up by publishing companies to sell additional materials.

I mean… who really benefits from celebrating the 100th Day of School?

Teachers? Oh, heck no. As if teachers don’t have enough on their plates, now they have to come up with different ways teach, promote, celebrate and acknowledge the number 100? Pretty sure they’d be perfectly happy going without this celebration that comes right on the heels of Valentine’s Day in the dead of winter.

Students don’t benefit from it. I mean, sure… it’s sort of fun, but kids don’t know if it’s the 100th or 500th day of school… and they really don’t care. As long as they don’t miss Show & Tell and snack time, it’s all good.

I’m sure school administrators don’t give a flying fig about the 100th Day of School… as long as they reach the 100th Day of School… because if not, heads will roll and people will be fired and school will end in August. Good luck with that, Boston.

So, clearly, the publishing companies put their heads together in an effort to make even more money off schools and teachers and thought, “Hey! Let’s just make up a day for them to celebrate…” much like Hallmark did with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Those sneaky bastards. Making everyone’s life a little more difficult one pointless school celebration at a time.

I’m not saying it’s not fun and enjoyable and an excellent excuse to make extra art projects and wear funny hats and eat special snacks, but…

Really?

When I find out people are incapable of staying up until midnight to ring in the new year…

I really want to punch them in the face.

Like… really, really hard.

Unless you have multiple children under the age of 5 who require you to be up at 4:30 in the morning, or you work the graveyard shift, there is seriously no excuse for your lame assery.

Seriously? Midnight? How hard is midnight? Do you live in a nursing home and go to bed at 7:00 pm? No? THEN SUCK IT UP AND RING IN THE NEW YEAR.

Good grief… Has no one heard of coffee?

Why Christmas Matters

My Christmas was equal parts horrible and awesome. Thankfully, the horrible parts preceded the awesome parts, so it was okay.

However, this Christmas season got me thinking more about why we celebrate the holiday and why it’s so important. I mean, sure, we all know that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, and we try to convince ourselves that the reason we exchange gifts is because Jesus is the greatest gift given to the world so… I suppose that make sense in some sort of bizarre, overly-rationalized kind of way…. and we go to church and try to be filled with love and good cheer and charity in between stuffing our faces and getting greedy over the fact that Aunt Susan totally forgot about us this year, and we invite friends and family over and talk about how thankful we are for this and that and the other thing and clearly all of this is about the little baby Jesus.

Except that it’s not. You know it. I know it. Jesus knows it. Our Christmas traditions really have very little to do with him. Sure, we put up manger scenes in an effort to pretend like we know or even care, but we don’t actually think about it or reflect on it because we’re too busy making food, cleaning the house, and wrapping presents.

I’m as guilty of it as the next person. Every year I’m determined to remember why this holiday is so important but… everything about it just rings hollow. We’ve all heard the “baby born in a manger” story so many times that it feels more like a dried-up fairy tale than a source of hope and encouragement. Christmas has become a holiday full of platitudes and empty messages void of meaning. I finally realized that this Christmas, and so my initial thought was, “Seriously? Christmas? What’s the point anymore?”

And then it occurred to me.

Christmas has nothing to do with a virgin birth, or a baby born in a manger, or wise men following a star, or the coming of a messiah. Those are just scenes from a story. Christmas is about so much more than that.

At its core, the message behind Christmas is this: That an all-knowing, all powerful deity would humble himself to such a degree so as to experience the suffering and hardships of the human condition in order to better serve, heal, love, deliver, minister to and save his creation.

Of all the world’s religions, what other God has done such a thing? What God would do such a thing? What kind of love, compassion and mercy would a God have to have in order to do such a thing? How massive and all-encompassing is His love that He would do such a thing for us – His lowly, insignificant, flawed creation?

That’s… Huge.

And that’s what Christmas is all about – not a baby in a manger or good will and glad tidings. It’s about a God with so much love that He humbled Himself for us in order to save us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.    –John 3:16

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

A certain stress-induced insanity, many of us continue to fondly refer to as Christmas.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Every. Dang. Year. And every year, once the dust has settled and the credit card bills start rolling in, and we’re left licking our wounds, we vow to never do it again. But, of course, it never sticks. And somewhere, around mid-December, the stress begins to build and the list of “Have Tos” gets ever-longer, and before we know it, it’s December 23rd and we’ve either worked ourselves into such a frenzy that we’re at risk of developing an ulcer, contracting the flu, or experiencing a massive coronary, OR we’re just so dang tired and cranky that the thought of actually enjoying the holidays seems a distant memory or a mere twinkle in our eye back in November.

It’s craziness, people. And it’s not worth it. Putting our health, our happiness, and our peace at risk for what? A couple days of celebration which never turns out as picture-perfect as we had planned on anyway? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we learn to simplify? Why can’t we just let it go? Who cares if the packages aren’t wrapped and the tree isn’t fully decked out and the food isn’t ready? That’s not what Christmas is about. It’s about a wonderful gift being given to us… a gift of hope and love and life. And we totally miss the point and go on our greedy little binges trying to be perfect, making ourselves miserable in the end. And for what? You know, as long as you have people around you that you love, and a safe, warm place to sleep, and some food to fill your belly… let’s call it a win and cut all this other crap out. It’s just not worth it.

Who’s with me?