Thursday, October 30, 2008

History of Halloween

Halloween is an annual celebration, but just what is it actually a celebration of? And how did this peculiar custom originate? Is it, as some claim, a kind of demon worship? Or is it just a harmless vestige of some ancient pagan ritual?

The word itself, "Halloween," actually has its origins in the Catholic Church. It comes from a contracted corruption of All Hallows Eve. November 1, "All Hollows Day" (or "All Saints Day"), is a Catholic day of observance in honor of saints. But, in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31. The holiday was called Samhain (sow-en), the Celtic New year.

One story says that, on that day, the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was believed to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.

Naturally, the still-living did not want to be possessed. So on the night of October 31, villagers would extinguish the fires in their homes, to make them cold and undesirable. They would then dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

Probably a better explanation of why the Celts extinguished their fires was not to discourage spirit possession, but so that all the Celtic tribes could relight their fires from a common source, the Druidic fire that was kept burning in the Middle of Ireland, at Usinach.

Some accounts tell of how the Celts would burn someone at the stake who was thought to have already been possessed, as sort of a lesson to the spirits. Other accounts of Celtic history debunk these stories as myth.

The Romans adopted the Celtic practices as their own. But in the first century AD, Samhain was assimilated into celebrations of some of the other Roman traditions that took place in October, such as their day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple, which might explain the origin of our modern tradition of bobbing for apples on Halloween.

The thrust of the practices also changed over time to become more ritualized. As belief in spirit possession waned, the practice of dressing up like hobgoblins, ghosts, and witches took on a more ceremonial role.

The custom of Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrants fleeing their country's potato famine. At that time, the favorite pranks in New England included tipping over outhouses and unhinging fence gates.

The custom of trick-or-treating is thought to have originated not with the Irish Celts, but with a ninth-century European custom called souling. On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes," made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could expedite a soul's passage to heaven.

The Jack-o-lantern custom probably comes from Irish folklore. As the tale is told, a man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree's trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree.

According to the folk tale, after Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

The Irish used turnips as their "Jack's lanterns" originally. But when the immigrants came to America, they found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

So, although some cults may have adopted Halloween as their favorite "holiday," the day itself did not grow out of evil practices. It grew out of the rituals of Celts celebrating a new year, and out of Medieval prayer rituals of Europeans. And today, even many churches have Halloween parties or pumpkin carving events for the kids. After all, the day itself is only as evil as one cares to make it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Can i borrow $25?

A man came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find his 5-year old son waiting for him at the door..

SON: 'Daddy, may I ask you a question?'

DAD: 'Yeah sure, what it is?' replied the man.

SON: 'Daddy, how much do you make an hour?'

DAD: 'That's none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?' the man said angrily.

SON: 'I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?'

DAD: 'If you must know, I make $50 an hour.'

SON: 'Oh,' the little boy replied, with his head down.

SON: 'Daddy, may I please borrow $25?'

The father was furious, 'If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. Think about why you are being so selfish. I don't work hard everyday for such childish frivolities.'

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.

The man sat down and started to get even angrier about the little boy's questions. How dare he ask such questions only to get some money?

After about an hour or so, the man had calmed down , and started to think:

Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $25.00 and he really didn't ask for money very often The man went to the door of the little boy's room and opened the door.

'Are you asleep, son?' He asked.

'No daddy, I'm awake,' replied the boy.

'I've been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier' said the man. 'It's been a long day and I took out my aggravation on you. Here's the $25 you asked for.'

The little boy sat straight up, smiling. 'Oh, thank you daddy!' he yelled. Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills.

The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again.

The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father.

'Why do you want more money if you already have some?' the father grumbled.

'Because I didn't have enough, but now I do,' the little boy replied.

'Daddy, I have $50 now. Can I buy an hour of your time? Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.'

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little son, and he begged for his forgiveness.

It's just a short reminder to all of you working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts. Do remember to share that $50 worth of your time with someone you love.

If we die tomorrow, the company that we are working for could easily replace us in a matter of hours. But the family & friends we leave behind will feel the loss for the rest of their lives.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Believe......

A Birth Certificate shows that we were born
A Death Certificate shows that we died
Pictures show that we lived!
Have a seat . . . Relax . . .
And read this slowly.

I Believe...
That just because two people argue,
It doesn't mean they don't love each other.
And just because they don't argue,
It doesn't mean they do love each other.

I Believe...
That we don't have to change friends if
We understand that friends change.

I Believe....
That no matter how good a friend is,
they're going to hurt you every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.

I Believe...
That true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I Believe...
That you can do something in an instant
That will give you heartache for life.

I Believe...
That you should always leave loved ones with
Loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I Believe....
That you can keep going long after you think you can't.

I Believe...
That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I Believe...
That money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I Believe....
That my best friend and I, can do anything, or nothing and have the best time.

I Believe....
That sometimes the people you expect to kick you When you're down, will be the ones to help you get back up.

I Believe...
That sometimes when I'm angry
I have the right to be angry,
But that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.

I Believe....
That maturity has more to do with
what types of experiences you've had
And what you've learned from them
and less to do with
how many birthdays you've celebrated.

I Believe....
That it isn't always enough,
to be forgiven by others.
Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I Believe...
That no matter how bad your heart is broken
the world doesn't stop for your grief.

I Believe....
That our background and circumstances
may have influenced who we are,
But, we are responsible for who we become.

I Believe...
That you shouldn't be so eager to find
Out a secret. It could change your life Forever.

I Believe....
Two people can look at the exact same
and see something totally different.

I Believe...
That your life can be changed in a matter of
Hours by people who don't even know you.

I Believe...
That even when you think you have no more to give,
A friend cries out to you -
you will find the strength to help.

I Believe...
That credentials on the wall
do not make you a decent human being.

I Believe...
That the people you care about most in life
are taken from you too soon.

I Believe...
That you should send this to
all of the people that you believe in, I just did.

'The happiest of people don't necessarily
have the best of everything;
They just make the most of everything.
Thank you God for all the wonderful people who help us throughout the journey of life..
May Angels guard you and guide you.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Our Stories: Fearless Forgiveness

According to the Department of Justice, about a third of all girls and a seventh of all boys are molested before they reach the age of 18. A third of that group is under 12. Consider that it’s thought that only 35% of abuse is ever even reported - that makes for some grim statistics.

I don’t know too many women who got through their young lives without being victim to molestation at the hands of family, acquaintance, or a stranger. I’m one of them, having been assaulted by an teenage acquaintance when I was 6.

I’d like to introduce you to Kim who writes with an incredibly powerful voice. I had contributed at her former blog, The Peace Tree. She’s just getting back into the groove on her new blog, A World of Progress. I had the honor of having her hang out with me summer before last after we met through blogging. And, my hope is to walk her down the aisle when she marries her lovely other half, M. Her enthusiasm even made me pretty giddy. I count her on my short list of life and heart friends.

When I asked to her to interview, we both knew what I wanted her to talk about without having to speak it.

Kim, you’re 47 – and a long way from where you started. Tell us a little about that start.

I was born in Dallas, Texas. My biological father split before I was one year old and I lived there with my mom and maternal grandparents, off and on through my mom’s second marriage that only lasted about a year, until I was 6 years old. My granddad was a master carpenter and my most influential role model. I followed him everywhere and my mom still says to this day I walk just like him. His giant carpenter’s tool box was my toy box and I am pretty sure that is where I got my love of all things “tools.” My mom worked all the time and my grandparents were actually more like my parents. They were wonderful, and bought me all the cap six-shooters, bows and arrows, baseball bats, cowboy boots and hats I wanted at the Five&Dime. My natural tendency to climb trees was never ridiculed and I was only forced into the dress and patent leather shoes on Easter-for about 45 minutes.

Then, a big change rocked your world – what was that?

My mom met and married the man she is still married to today when I was six years old and we moved to New Orleans. He was a career Navy man.

After five years of living in run-down apartments, I began to have a lot of problems with my schoolwork and never could quite deal with the ongoing racial problems I encountered there as well as some pretty awful things that were happening to me at the hands of my stepfather, which my mom did not know about at the time. All this contributed to my failing the seventh grade. My mom decided to send me back to live with my grandparents, who had since left the city and moved to a rural east Texas town. I believe that decision saved my life.

You see, my stepfather started sexually molesting me when I was 8 years old until I left New Orleans when I was 12.

Things fell into a happier groove when you returned to your grandparents. What was next?

Growing up in East Texas with my grandparents was wonderful. I have always been a gifted athlete and while I was lost in the shuffle of a big city school, my natural ability on the tennis court and the softball field were noticed and celebrated in my new hometown. There, I was able to enjoy a sense of worth, accomplishment and camaraderie with others that I had never known before.

My stepfather retired from the Navy in 1976 and they moved back to east Texas as well, but not to the same town I was currently living in. So, I had to change schools again in my junior year and lost my superstar athlete status. Someone else held that title at my new school already. I learned a valuable lesson there, and that was sometimes just being the better player is not enough in life. Sometimes you have to prove yourself over and over again. It took a number of years before I finally figured out that the only person I needed to prove anything to was myself.

Tell me a little about where your life has taken you career-wise.

I wanted to be a professional tennis player. Even though I got a scholarship to play in college it did not take long for me to realize even though I was good, I was never going to be good enough to play professionally. I was pretty devastated by that realization and I did not much care about what I would do with my life for a while after that.

I stayed in school (they actually had a program to become a teaching pro and run a tennis club) but I lost interest when I started to realize that there were other people like me in the world (lesbians). I kicked around doing weird jobs like putting roofs on trailer houses and working in my parents’ country store but mainly I was interested in one thing for the next few years and that was girls.

At 25, I had a very serious car accident and all the docs agreed it was nothing short of a miracle I was not killed. Discovering my own mortality gave me a new perspective. I decided to get the hell out of dodge and joined the Air Force.

Say what you will about the military, but I found a path that served me well when I became a paramedic. I left the Air Force and found myself working in a series of increasingly responsible positions in the medical field. I seemed to have a knack. For example, being a tissue harvester made for interesting first date conversation. After years of hard work in various patient care positions and making myself useful at every possible turn in those jobs, the powers on high I found myself sitting in the board room with the rest of the power players, as their equal. My part of the kingdom was Training and Development. Seemed I also had a knack for motivating people to do better for themselves.

My partner at the time worked for Enron and we were living a life quite apart from our humble beginnings of practically living on love. My company took a nose dive shortly after my rise to the top and you all know what happened at Enron. When the companies folded, we took my golden parachute and our equity and jumped to the simple life. We bought 5 acres on the top of a mountain on the border of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

You aren’t with that woman anymore. Didn’t you take some time off to reflect after you both moved and then split up?

Before the whole idea of leaving it all behind came to be my partner and I became lost in the quest to become successful, materially speaking. We started with nothing and ended up with it all: the big house, the dream car and all the trappings of success and when we decided to leave it all behind what we found on the mountaintop was that we had lost “us” somewhere along the journey. She moved out of the little cabin on the mountain within six months of our arrival.

Blessed with enough money in the bank to not have to start working immediately, I had the incredible gift of a year sabbatical to sit alone on the top of a mountain and focus only on my new goal, to find and communicate with my Soul. I studied meditation and sought in earnest to find inner peace until I actually found it. No one was going to do that for me but me. Even now I’m back among civilization, those lessons are there for me when I need them Learning to trust what I know is right for me has been an incredible discovery.

What’s your current relationship status?

After a number of relationships lasting about five years each I have finally come to a place in life where I was able to be fearlessly open and maintain some discernment in the process. The result was meeting the love of my life and finding out that a relationship can be all that I ever imagined it could be. For us, that means an engine from which we generate our best selves and explore what trust and love are all about.

She is amazing. So, you still love me for encouraging you to get over your shyness and get that second date and first kiss, right?

I owe you big time.

Tell me about that family of yours?

I am an only child of an only child. I guess that probably made me naturally inclined to be self-referenced. It took a long time before I stopped trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be and settled into my own identity. My mom was married twice before I was six and her third husband turned out to be a child molester. He started abusing me when I was 8 and it continued off and on until I finally left home and moved in with my first girlfriend at 17.

Did you tell your mother about the abuse or did she suspect? How did you deal with her reaction when you told her?

I really believed that if I told my mom about what had been happening to me my step-father would kill us and then kill himself. I saw this happen to some kids I hung out with right after my mom married him and it always stuck in my mind after the abuse started. Their dad came to pick them up and I saw them pull away in his car. They never came back. He took them to a hotel room and shot them in the head and then shot himself. Since my step-father always left it to my imagination what would happen to me if I ever told anyone that was the thing that always came to my mind.

He was a sick man and probably would rather have shot himself and us as well rather than have to face the ridicule of others for his crimes. He not a very bright guy and he has a problem with trying to be a know-it-all in defense of his ignorance. I use the present tense because my mom is still married to him to this day. I might never have told her except that he was inappropriate with a girlfriend of mine and I completely lost it. I told my mom what had been happening all those years and her response was one for the books. “So, that’s why whenever he was in a room with you you were always on the other side of it.” Yep, Mom, that was it.

What have been the biggest obstacles in life for you?

Being sexually abused as a kid had a great deal to do with a low self-esteem. That, more than anything else, was my greatest obstacle and contributed to my late arrival to my own party.

I spent a number of years searching for my own sense of identity and I feel like even though it took awhile it was worth the wait. I may even appreciate myself more now than I might have if my way to finding myself had been easier.

Where did you start seeing the breakthroughs?

I owe a great deal of thanks for the emotional healing I have achieved to the women I have loved and have loved me over the years. Even though it’s true there is a big old tomboy in me, now I know how much I totally hid behind a persona to compensate for my inability to let another person touch me in a healthy reciprocal sexual way. I wanted to be “normal” and let go sexually but my partners were asked to be satisfied without that in our relationship.

I guess it was a sort of post traumatic stress syndrome that caused me to have a severe panic attack if I felt any kind of sexual aggressiveness toward me -even when I wanted it to be welcome and it should have been.

I recently wrote a post over at my blog about 9/11. Most people might not see a correlation between sexual abuse and 9/11 but what ended up saving me and giving me the ability to participate in a healthy two-way sexual relationship was finding a way to forgiveness regarding what happened to me. I see a lot of the, “We will never forget,” and every time I see it I wonder for how many people that also means, “We will never forgive?”

Yep, that is a hard one. I get the feeling some folks can’t even go there at all. I understand that. Some things are just so terrible it can make you feel like you want to carry that hate forever. Like your hate is the only justice that it will ever meet. I felt that way about being sexually abused as a child. I carried that delicious hatred for the person who did that to me for a very, very long time. It was all I thought I had because they never suffered any official punishment. I realized over time that the hate I carried with me was now what crippled me and allowed those things to continue hurting me long after I had grown up and stood up to my abuser and exposed what he was and what he had done to an innocent child.

I think talking to other people who were hurting as a result of sexual abuse was self-help for me as well because eventually what I was saying to them sunk in to my own psyche: that forgiveness frees the victim but it does not change the fact the perpetrator will live with their crime forever nor does it condone their actions in any way. That is Universal justice and it cannot be escaped no matter how hard they try.

When you see your stepfather now, what is it like?

When people ask me this the only thing that comes to mind is I tolerate him. I love my mom and I understand why she has gone into denial about this and I suppose it is how she maintains her sanity in a place of not enough self confidence to leave him. I don’t really know how she feels about it because she lives in a state of denial about it. As for me, I don’t see her much because of him. She made a choice and I guess it is the best choice for her. I have learned to take responsibility for my own life and let her have hers in whatever manner she wishes.

Kim, what would you say to someone else in this situation who hasn’t found a way out of the darkness?

Keep living and keep loving, in whatever capacity you have in this moment and then the next. Try to be as kind to yourself as you can about the damage you carry and above all else talk about it when the opportunity presents itself. Talking to others is talking to yourself and you might find some incredible knowledge for your own use in your words. Over the past 30 years I have spoken to a number of other women who were abused and I always told them in order to be free from the abuse you have to find a way to forgive although I know it is not and easy thing to do.

When I was in the Air Force, I had a long late night conversation in the ER on night with a second lieutenant I was working with who was a few years younger than I. Her step-father had sexually abused her too. I asked her to think about how forgiving might help her move beyond it. I found a little note, folded up and stuck through the vents of my locker a couple of days later. It just said “Thanks, you were right.” I guess no one had suggested that to her before. I felt like the world was a little better place because she was going to be able to start to heal herself now.

If you’re being abused, you’re not alone - abusers use your fear to protect themselves. You can start by going here and here and calling the hotline.

If you’re an adult survivor of abuse, it’s not too late to receive help. You can start here. Or, look online for therapists who specialize in abuse recovery. Don’t have enough money? Your state and local mental health departments can offer services on a sliding scale.

Hahn at Home