Happy 100th Birthday to 1923

6Howdy boys and girls, here’s the annual New Year’s salute to what was doing 100 years ago. After some high level cyphering, it turns out 1923 is the year that turns 100 in 2023. A decade here, a decade there, and pretty soon it adds up to some real time. Grab a cup of your favorite caffeinated beverage, put on your thinking cap, and hop into Mr. Peabody’s Way Back Machine to relive the thrills of 1923.

On 1 January 1923, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was established under the old Soviet calendar. The USSR died on 26 December 1991 at the age of 68 due to sclerosis. It was replaced by Russia which may suffer the same fate this time due to chronic corruption. January 13 saw Hitler stir up a riot of 5,000 storm troopers to protest everything. This would not be the last the world saw of Hitler. Over in Italy, Mussolini formed the Fascists Voluntary Militia on February 1. The ferment of World War 2 was starting to bubble.

On February 16, British archeologist Howard Carter opened the burial chamber of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. King Tut had been peacefully dead for about 3,000 years until Howie woke him up. Like most people rudely awakened from sleep, King Tut was cranky at being disturbed. You would not like King Tut when he was angry, and he was plenty angry. Nine people who were involved in disturbing Tut died mysterious deaths. Some good things did result. Steve Martin became famous for doing the King Tut Strut on "Saturday Night Live." Who can ever forget the immortal lyrics: “Born in Arizona/ Moved to Babylonia/ Dancin’ by the Nile/ Ladies love his style/ Rockin’ for a mile/ He ate a crocodile/ King Tut.”

Boris Karloff’s career soared after playing Imhotep the mummy in the 1932 movie "The Mummy." Multiple mummy movies have stalked the silver screen since then. The actor Billy Mumy owes his name and success to King Tut. Mr. Mumy appeared in "Lost in Space" and the "Twilight Zone" episode in which he plays an evil child with psychic powers. His most dramatic role was in the short musical film "Fish Heads" which stars singing fish heads. Go look "Fish Heads" up on Mr. Google. You’ll be glad you did.

On February 22 the first successful chinchilla farm was founded in California. People of a certain vintage may remember when chinchilla coats were the rage.
On the entertainment front, the hit song “Yes, We have no Bananas” appeared on March 23. On June 6, Albert Anastasia was sentenced to two years in prison. Al was not someone to let time in the slammer get him down. Al went on to be one of the founding fathers of the American Mafia, the Boss of Murder Inc, and head of the Gambino Crime Family. Sadly, Al later died of lead poisoning in October 1957 while sitting in a barber chair in New York City.

Harry Houdini astounded New Yorkers on June 12 when he escaped from a strait jacket while hanging upside down forty feet above the ground. Why anyone would want to hang upside down in a strait jacket remains one of the many mysteries surrounding Houdini’s life. The comic strip "Moon Mullins" debuted on 19 June and ran until 1991 lasting almost as long as the USSR.

On July 13, paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews found the first fossilized dinosaur eggs while digging in Mongolia. It is unclear if the eggs were poached, sunny side up or scrambled.
Warren G. Harding, the 29th President, died mysteriously in a hotel room in San Francisco on August 3 making Cal Coolidge the 30th President. Silent Cal didn’t say much, but is remembered for saying “The business of America is business” whatever that means.

On September 5, a boxing miracle occurred when two fly weight boxers, Gene LaRue and Kid Pancho knocked each other out simultaneously. That was an athletic feat unlikely to be repeated. In September, Lou Gehrig playing for the NY Yankees got his first hit. He went on to get a total of 2,721 hits,493 home runs with a life time batting average of .340. Pretty darned impressive.
In Germany, the Mark continued its downward spiral, reaching a conversion rate of 4 billion Marks to a dollar on 11 October. The Disney Brothers founded their studio on 16 October. Disney thinks kids grow up too fast, but capitalizes on it by charging full adult admission at its theme parks for any kid over the age of 9.

On 16 October John Harwood patented the first self-winding watch for people too lazy to wind their watch. This ultimately ruined the old saying about learning something dumb: “I did not know whether to go blind or wind my watch.”

On November 8, Adolph Hitler surfaced like pond scum with the Beer Hall Putsch in another failed attempt to take over the German government.

So, there you have it. Our old pal 1923 turns 100 this year. He doesn’t look a day over 75. Must be the curse of King Tut is finally wearing off. Happy New Year to us each and every one.

The road ahead for 2023

5I love this time of year!

It can be festive, joyous, sometimes quiet and peaceful, and a moment when many of us step back from our routine lives and concentrate on family and friends. I also enjoy the annual look back over the year that was — “best of” lists, memories of the notables who left us, retrospectives that make us say “aha!,” and personal tours of what happened to us and ours over the past 12 months.

It is also a time when we look ahead to the year to come, wondering what it will bring us individually and collectively. We Americans are fortunate in so many ways and outliers in others. One outlier status that impacts our nation negatively, that destroys families and communities, and divides us as a people is our gun problem.

As we move into 2023, Americans have more guns than human beings, the only nation on God’s green earth with that status. The Swiss-based Small Arms Survey reports that there are 120 guns for every 100 Americans. Statista reports that North Carolina ranks 8th in the United States for the number of registered firearms, and no one knows, of course, how many illegal weapons are in North Carolina or the United States.

Equally, if not more alarming, is the fact that guns are now the number 1 cause of death for our children, infants to age 19, more than accidents, illnesses and congenital issues. Canada is a distant second, whose gun death rate for the same age group is nine times lower than ours. The Kaiser Foundation recently reported that the U.S. accounts for 97% of gun-related child deaths, and that no other wealthy nation has guns in the top four causes of child deaths. It is certainly fair to say that accidents happen. It is also fair to say the more guns we have, the more gun accidents we will have.

Mass shootings and deaths in schools, malls and other public places grab headlines at home and internationally — other nations wonder with horror what is happening in the United States — but most American shootings do not make news.

The majority are actually suicides made impulsively easy by gun availability. Others are homicides, also impulsively easy because of gun availability. Still others are tragic accidents, like the death of a toddler in nearby Benson earlier this year. The boy found a loaded gun in his father’s truck and shot himself.
The random nature of many of these deaths came close to home recently when someone near and dear to me stood in his kitchen in a quiet neighborhood about six o’clock one afternoon when a bullet apparently fired from a nearby apartment complex blasted through his living room wall and shattered onto his floor. Police were called. Evidence was taken. We all knew, though, that there is virtually no chance the shooter will ever be identified, much less prosecuted for his/her careless endangerment.

Unlike most other nations, our Constitution expressly protects gun ownership, and many law abiding and responsible Americans, including my own sons, are hunters and enjoy shooting sports. But it is also true federal and state gun laws are lax, and state gun laws are a hodgepodge. My sincere hope for our nation in the coming year is that our elected leaders will thoughtfully consider, without hysteria, more thorough background checks, “red flag” laws for people who are dangers to themselves and/or others, and restrictions on assault weapons designed for mass killings.

Wishing us all a happy, healthy and safe 2023.

Decorative holiday symbols add to seasonal celebrations

19bDecorating homes and other spaces is a major component of the holiday season for many. Holiday decorations often reflect celebrants’ religious beliefs, and the following are some traditional holiday decor symbols for people of various faiths.

Christmas tree, Christian or secular Christmas symbol
Few things evoke thoughts of Christmas time quite like a towering evergreen parked front and center in a home’s picture window. Christmas trees are believed to date back to sixteenth century Germany. The custom ultimately arrived in America when the country welcomed an influx of German immigrants. It is widely believed that various non-Christian cultures may have used evergreen plants indoors in celebration of the winter solstice, which suggests Christmas trees may pre-date Christian symbolism.

Menorah, Jewish Chanukah symbol
Menorahs are seven-armed candelabras used in Jewish religious worship. To mark the Chanukah celebration, a special nine-armed hanukkiah is displayed for eight days and nights. A candle is lit each day to commemorate the miracle of oil lasting in the rededicated Temple after the Maccabees’ successful uprising against the Syrian Greeks. The menorah typically is placed in a highly visible spot, such as the front window of a home or in a high-traffic living space.

Advent wreath, Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran, among others, Christian symbol
The Advent wreath is used by various Christian denominations and draws attention to the weeks preceding Christmas. A new candle is lit on the wreath each Sunday at mass to prepare the faithful to receive the Lord Jesus.

Kinara and Mishumaa Saba, Kwanzaa cultural symbol
The Kinara (candle holder) and the Mishumaa Samba (the seven candles) are symbolic of Kwanzaa. The candles and holder represent the Seven Principles, or the minimum set of values by which African people are urged to live.

Baby New Year, Secular symbol
Baby New Year is a popular promotional symbol used to commemorate the dawn of a new year. The baby represents rebirth and may be traced back to the ancient Greeks or Egyptians. Historians say the Greeks believed that their god of wine, Dionysus, was reborn on New Year’s Day as the spirit of fertility. While people may not decorate with Baby New Year figurines, they do participate in “First Baby” competitions, which celebrate those infants born in the opening moments of a new year.

Nativity scene, Christian Christmas symbol
It’s customary for nativity scenes to be included in Christmas decor schemes. The nativity depicts the birth of Christ and typically includes a manger, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, various animals, an angel, and the three visiting Magi. The infant Jesus also is included, though some people prefer to wait until after the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve to place Jesus in the manger. Live nativity scenes also are commonplace around Christmas. Saint Francis of Assisi is credited with creating the first live nativity scene in 1223.

Celebrating holidays away from home

13bA popular Christmas song attests “there’s no place like home for the holidays.” For many people, a truer statement couldn’t be uttered. But sometimes life gets in the way of an old-fashioned holiday spent at home.
There are a number of reasons why individuals may not be able to spend the holidays at home. Active military service people may not be able to leave their posts to travel home. Some students studying abroad or even far away domestically may find that getting back to their homes can be time- and cost-prohibitive. Some people may not be home for the holidays because work obligations keep them out of town, or because they have planned vacations to serve as nontraditional holiday celebrations.

Being away from some familiar sights and sounds of the holidays doesn’t mean celebrations should be any less special. Here are tips for celebrating away from home.

Find people in similar situations. Chances are you will not be the only person away from home, particularly if you are a student or someone on a business venture. Connect with others who are away from their families and do something together for the holidays.

Partake of local traditional activities. You may be used to baking sugar cookies for the holidays, but in a foreign country, the locals may make another type of dessert. Figure out how the locals celebrate the holidays and then take part in any way you can.

Volunteer your time. If you will be away or alone for the holidays, volunteer your time to help the less fortunate. Deliver meals to those who are not able to leave home, like seniors, or volunteer at a soup kitchen. Visit a children’s hospital and deliver small gifts.

Engage in virtual fun. Connect with people at home through the power of digital technology. Video conferencing services connect people who can’t be together in person. Utilize these apps and services to remote into a holiday dinner or when loved ones open gifts.

Cook up your favorites. Evoke traditional holiday celebrations by cooking the foods you would normally enjoy at home. Those tastes and smells can transport you back to grandma's kitchen or dad's living room.

Stay off of social media. Being away from home during the holidays can be challenging, and that challenge can be even greater if you see photo after photo on social media of people you know spending time with their friends and loved ones. Tune out of your social feeds for a few days.

Invite others to you. Maybe you don’t have the means of getting home, but you can bring those at home to you. Find out if anyone can plan a road trip, train ride or flight to where you are and then enjoy the holidays together.

Being away from home during the holidays may not be ideal. However, there are plenty of ways to maintain your holiday spirit when celebrating in unfamiliar surroundings.

Family additions remind us of God’s unconditional love

19aAs the 95-pound ball of energy rushed past me — nearly knocking me over as I let him back in after his morning patrol — I almost forgot there was a time we’d have been joined by a leash for the entirety of this ritual.

Dog people understand; there’s something to be learned in every day we spend with our four-legged friends. In the time he’s been in our family, I’ve learned a lot about life, love and healing from Champ.
The longer I walk this earth, the more aware I’ve become that people give up too soon, too often. We prefer reward without the contest, promotion without effort, and accolades without genuine accomplishment.

Someone gave up too soon on this big bundle of loyalty that shadows me wherever I go in the house. Perhaps they failed to be there when he brought the ball back, or to patiently correct him when he got the sandwich that was sitting pretty much at eye level on the counter.

Or maybe whoever dropped him off as an unmanageable pet had simply lost interest when he sprouted those long legs and began testing them to see how fast he could get from one place to the next. I don’t know.
What I do know is that rescuing Champ from a no-kill shelter is what all three of us needed. We had just lost his predecessor to old age and our son to an act of senseless violence when Champ came into our home to remind me that relationships worth having are worth exponentially more than the effort we apply to growing them. Among other things, this crazy dog has taught me a lot about how God must see us — His unruly-but-worth-the-effort children.

When we applied to adopt him, we were grilled by the shelter staff who implied we might be too old for a dog of Champ’s stature. They suggested he might require too much attention, discipline or strength to make it with us. After the second or third doggy welfare call, I assured them he wasn’t our dog — he was a member of the family.

I believe our relationship with God is a lot like all of this. We come to Him with all our quirks and habits, and He takes us in knowing we have greater potential than we’re given credit for.

As we learn that what He wants to do is love us, and nothing we do can make Him love us less, we begin to calm and grow into the relationship to the point the thing that gives us the most joy and greatest sense of comfort and belonging is to simply sit at God’s feet and adore Him.

God makes Himself known in so many ways. From each breath we breathe to the stunning sunsets that take it away, the wonder of God and His creation should never fail to stun us.
Merry Christmas … hope has come!

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