Monthly Archives: December 2010

“Season’s Greetings?”

A common theme I’ve seen over the last few years is an increasingly intense dislike of the term “Happy Holidays.”  Too many people seem to believe this phrase was put out there to strip Christmas of its religious meaning.  Some politicians have set a standard by trying to act more secular outwardly, and this gives people the false impression that they are trying to disrespect Christ and Christians.  Some even accused Obama of calling them “Holiday trees” and banning any religious content from them whatsoever (that is not true.)  Some schools have opted to show more equality by removing Christmas-themed programs and replacing them with “Winter Festivals” and “Winter concerts.”  It seems that the biggest beef, though, comes when businesses choose to go the “safe” and secular route and wish everyone a happy holiday.  Christians accuse atheists (primarily) of causing this “problem,”  saying that atheists get “offended” by the term Merry Christmas and have now caused businesses to “take the Christ out of Christmas.”  This is not about you, it is about recognizing that our country has become a place of religious diversity, whether you like it or not.  If people want to publicly wish you “happy holidays,” they are acknowledging that you are part of a greater whole, this season isn’t all about you, but they are still including you in it.  They are also doing the same for the rest of us that celebrate at this time of year, a courtesy that we deserve as well.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking.

“But this is OUR holiday!  It’s called CHRISTmas!”

Actually, it’s not really your holiday- or at least, it wasn’t.  And it wasn’t called Christmas, because it existed long before Christianity was born.  Even the date was already taken by Roman holidays.  Holidays taking place at this time of year include(d) Roman holidays such as Saturnalia, the purported Dies Natalia Solis Invicti (“Birthday of the unconquerable sun”) and Roman New Year; Scandinavian Yule; Germanic mid-winter festivals; and pagan solstice celebrations.  Some say that when the date of Christmas was chosen by Pope Julius I, as there is no date of Christ’s birth listed in the Bible, it was partly because of this season of festivals.  (Others believe that Christ was conceived in the spring, around the equinox, which puts his birth nine months later.)  Other holidays that take place at the end of December are Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and more recently, Festivus (for the rest of us! ;))

Even the traditions that are solidly planted in Christmas today were mostly taken from other religions.  Bringing a tree into the home and decorating it with ornaments and trimmings is a pagan tradition.  Yule logs were Germanic.  Hanging greenery (wreaths, garland, etc,) giving gifts, lights and the general merry “spirit” and a focus on charity are all present in pre-Christian Roman winter-holiday traditions.  In fact, very few Christmas traditions at all have anything to do with Jesus.  And that’s okay.

Today, even Christmas is observed by many non-Christian people, some from other religions.  “Your” holiday has become so much more than “Christ’s Mass” and instead of being offended, be amazed.  The messages of hope, joy, and love that are spread during this time of year are so powerful and wonderful and believe it or not, often have nothing to do with Christ.  People from all faiths can share in the spirit and cheer, the traditions and the festivities, adopting them for their own as mid-era Christians adopted them and they can choose to call it Christmas, or not.

No one is wishing any harm to you by wishing you “Happy Holidays.”  They are including you- and you should be grateful that they thought to do so- how many people speak to you with a cheerful smile and heartfelt greeting in the other eleven months of the year?  They are including me, too, which doesn’t happen often.  So let’s not focus on the “War on Christmas” but instead LOOK AROUND YOU and revel in the magical wonder that all over the world, people with your religion, another religion, even NO religion are celebrating in a very uncommon display of unity.  The “reason for the season” is a deeply personal thing; for me, an atheist since childhood, inspiration is a fleeting glimpse at what could be.  If you could see what I see- people from so many faiths and walks of life celebrating together in spite of the general disharmony in the world, you might be inspired too.  So let’s not get offended, angry and upset if someone wants to respect both of us because the way I see it, peace and brotherhood is what it’s all about.   Happy Holidays.


And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow
Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, `til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

-Dr. Seuss



Filed under Holidays, Personal, Philosophy

A Heart Dog Christmas

Written a few years ago, the sentiment is always there this time of year.  I hope you enjoy.


A Heart Dog Christmas

by Crystal Collins

While writing out my holiday shopping list, I lower my hand to stroke a set of soft, velvety ears.  My fingers have memorized the placement of every hair and caressing them seems like an automatic gesture.  I love every inch of his beautiful body and gentle soul, but with an involuntary frown I ask myself if I have given him the life he deserves.  Am I fulfilling my promise every day to show him unconditional love?  Does he feel secure in my dedication to him and know that he will never again have a day where he must go without the things he needs?  Am I the right one for him or does he dream of a family he once knew?  Does he truly believe he is here to stay?  I find myself at a loss for these answers and feeling unsure about his destiny.  There were a hundred forks in the road that brought him here and any change in his path would have taken him elsewhere.  Trying to imagine my life today without him is painful and difficult.

He turns his head to look at me and in his soft brown eyes I see all the wonderful times we have shared, and a glimpse of future memories we are meant to make together.  All my fears of letting him down melt away as he leans into my leg and closes his eyes.  I look beyond his swaying tail to the window.  Outside the snow is falling and the temperatures are low, but each night he keeps me warm by resting against me with a tender appreciation for my love and presence.  Whether we are resting or working or playing together, I feel his companionship as though we are connected from heart to heart.

I bend to kiss the top of his silky head and as his tail wags faster I tell him, “Santa can keep his sack of goodies this year.  Every day is Christmas here.”  He turns his eyes once more to mine and I can almost hear him say “I was just thinking the same thing.”

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Filed under Pets, Prose/poetry

Looking back: 2010 Part 1

It feels like this year has flown by.  In December of 2009 I was just discovering geocaching; was more active than I’ve ever been;had three foster dogs, six foster guinea pigs, two foster bunnies, and a foster cat… My, how things have changed.

Shortly after the new year, I sprained my ankle geocaching. This would come back to bite me later but I did TRY to stay off it for a while…

On a positive note, the year also started off with one of our fastest adoptions ever as Brodie the shih tzu/yorkie mix came into the rescue and barely made his two week evaluation period before he was in his new home.  Brodie was a senior that I picked up from Fairmont West Virginia on a parent-visiting trip; my dad even came with me to pick up the dog!   We also had two beagle adoptions as Buck and Bear found their forever homes.  These two pound puppies had arrived on Thanksgiving Day in 2009.  They were not both supposed to be fostered here but when the other foster home fell through we’d ended up with two beagles, in addition to Bunny.  Our border collie/german shepherd mix girl Bunny had arrived in February from a seriously neglectful hoarding/shelter situation.  She had gone three years with minimal contact with humans and we were unsure if she’d ever find an adoptive home.  As for the beagles, Buck was an easy adoption and in early January went into the white picket fence, 2.5 kids stereotypical modern family home but Bear was a fearful dog and had undergone a lot of conditioning to help him overcome some of his issues.  Two weeks after Buck’s adoption, though, Bear found a place to lay his head.  Though things were rocky as his new home had to learn how to communicate with him, he’s now a much beloved member of his family.

In February, things really started to move.  The backdrop for it all was the heaviest snowstorm we’d had since ’92, leaving a few feet of snow on the ground.  After one year in rescue, we discovered Bunny’s forever home and were spending as much time as we could having doggy playdates and helping Bunny acclimate to her future family.  We had two extra dogs here as well, my in-laws’ two English setters, and we were working on rescuing not just one, but three dogs.  On Facebook I had seen a photo of a white faced little chow mix dog, attached to a note from a Catahoula rescuer stating that a displaced woman’s three dogs needed a place to go.  They had a potential home for the male catahoula, rescue for an aussie mix female but no commitment for the 15 year old dog.  Something about her face just made me want to help her, and so I stepped up to take her.  That weekend we also took in a senior lab/hound mix dog that had been used to hunt coyotes for 8 to 10 years and was dumped at a rural midwestern pound.  He had never been given a name.  The shelter called him Buddy, and his photo and story was being passed all around the internet, but we were the only group willing to take him in.  He was fostered at my best friend’s house, where Brodie had stayed before him.  He and Callie were vetted the same day, our two seniors, and Buddy received a clean bill of health.  Callie, however, was diagnosed with kidney failure, but it left me all the more determined to do what I could for her.  After several vet visits and days of nonstop research we developed a plan of attack, and that’s how I became the owner of a chow mix!  I couldn’t stand the thought of sending her somewhere that wouldn’t give her every chance for a good life, like she had with us.  When we made it official in the beginning of March, it meant the end of my dog fostering indefinitely, and I was broken hearted but it enabled me to focus on her.  The stay on fostering was a gift in disguise as it enabled me to take a much needed step backward so I could focus on our long term foster guinea pigs- a pair of which were adopted at the end of February!  That same weekend, Bunny went to her new family for a sleepover- and never came back.  My yearling foster dog that came to me with no experience,  now in a new home where she settled in as if she had always lived there.

March came in quietly.  With our newest family member settling in, our in-laws’ dogs back home and all our other fosters adopted, things were going well.  Our feet of snow slowly disappeared, bringing in spring, and I was geocaching again.   Callie’s veterinary care was under control and life was good.  Then… I fell.  My ankle hadn’t had a chance to heal properly and went out as I was walking down the steps from the front porch.  It crumpled beneath me and I could barely crawl back in the house.  I was sure it was broken and Ross was at a gun show (where, incidentally, he bought my first handheld GPS for geocaching, which I had to stop doing.)  It would be months this time before I could walk comfortably again, let alone hike with the dogs.  I went to the hospital, sure I had broken something, but it was just a bad sprain.  I was still able to go to adoption events at Petco, with crutches, and did my best around home to stay busy.  One of my oldest guinea pigs became ill and before I could get her to the vet, she passed away.  To make matters worse, Callie spent that weekend at the vet’s office with an IV to flush her system and we began giving her subq fluids daily.   It was a very stressful way to end the month.

April came and went without any losses or injuries, but L’orange had become very ill and we feared she wouldn’t make it.  She pulled through after many worrisome nights and lots of tears but the vet was waiting for test results that could be condemning.  Our long term bunny foster Thumper was adopted, as was Buddy the senior lab mix, and we continued to take our guinea pigs and foster cat Tally to adoption events in the hopes that we would find them a home.    We watched in horror when an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded on April 20th, causing the most tragic oil spill in history.  It lasted for three months, spilling over 60k barrels of oil into the Gulf each day.  As late as November, parts of the gulf were re-closed, and the ecosystem in the gulf has been altered forever.   My heart was breaking…

May can be summed up in three words: geocaching, geocaching, geocaching!  I was recovered enough to start with level walks and by the end of the month, I was doing short hikes.  I even took my mom geocaching for Mother’s Day.  Fast forwarding, June was much the same, but brought with it a new (used) truck and more vet visits with L’orange, who was diagnosed with FIP (fortunately, that diagnosis appears to have been wrong because she’s still with us six months later! )  While this carried on and the fear of losing my little heart-cat was eating away at me, Ross and I made the decision after to adopt our foster cat, Tally.  He has special needs emotionally that prevented us from finding a suitable home for two years.  He seems very happy here although it took over a year for him to even be comfortable within our home, so we promised that we will not uproot him again!

Loss, near loss, and new family members all accentuated the first half of the year.  Stay tuned for more, if you’re crazy enough to enjoy this kind of thing.  Click the thumbnail below for a slideshow of photos that accompany this post.

For the second half of the year, click here.

2010 part 1


Filed under Geocaching, Personal, Pets, Rescue

Blessed are the piecemakers

There are angels walking among us, surely.  I knew it was coming, but that makes it no less a wonderful and astonishing gesture.  Today I returned from a slightly disappointing dentist appointment to find a rather large box on my front porch.

I had the discipline to finish my post-grocery-shopping chores (really quickly!) before slicing the tape and lifting the flaps, which I did delicately, with my breath held, savoring the moment.  Since becoming an adult, rarely have I felt such anticipation when opening a gift.  A quilting enthusiast and compassionate animal lover saw my recent posts on Facebook showing my newfound interest in sewing goodies for my guinea pigs.  She was planning on cleaning out her quilting room and offered to send me the stuff she no longer needed.  When I accepted the offer (gratefully!) I had no idea how much would arrive.  Cloth of all shapes and sizes- certainly large enough to make lots of guinea pig things- filled the box, with patterns and colors as varied as my moods. :)  There were some other goodies like cotton batting, shears, measuring tape and pins, a magnetic pin box and a really cute quilted bag.

Inside the big box was another box, and inside that was even more fabric and also this:

A Janome travel quilting sewing machine!  This thing is small but heavy and has lots of stitches.  Even though I recently got a new one thanks to a Black Friday sale that works great, I think this guy’s going to be my new buddy for sure!  I’ll be reading the manual and getting acquainted soon enough. :)  I’m even thinking about learning how to quilt, because taking a bunch of mismatched, secondhand but beautiful pieces and putting them together is symbolically something I can relate to.

Needless to say, I feel so absolutely blessed, gifted, humbled and cared for.  The thoughtfulness packed by a relative stranger into this box that crossed the country to get to me is something I’ll never forget and has made this day, this season, and my life that much brighter.  To my piece-maker not-so-secret Santa, thank you.

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What does YouTube and the gravitational collapse caused when a star can no longer resist the force of its own gravity have in common?

Black holes…

The event horizon for the YouTubian black hole lies in the “Suggestions” section, formerly known as “Related Videos,” which I contend should be called “We’ve got you now, sucka!”  Once your eyes gaze upon the Suggestions roster, the gravitational field starts to draw you in.  Once you click, you’ve gone beyond the event horizon and are headed into the black hole.

Forget your plans for the evening, your family, your responsibilities and probably your bed time.  Inside this cyber field there is only you, “Suggestions,” and what seems like an infinite number of videos- many of which you really don’t want to see and some you can’t turn away from.  My husband is the big culprit in our household, which an informal study suggests might be the case with most men.  The only time I ever beat him to bed is when he is watching “one more video, I just have to see this…” Still, I’m also guilty of falling prey to the Youtube timesuck (spacetimesuck?)  With Facebook, it’s inevitable.  Scrolling down the wall, reading posts, and suddenly there’s a video recommended by a friend.  Click it, play, hmm, wonder what else there is to see?  Click and there’s the site and there it is- Suggestions.  I can’t help it, I just want to see… just one click…

An hour or two later, I come out of the vortex to a group of dogs with slightly concerned looks on their faces, probably wondering if I’m lost forever; worse, will they ever eat again?


Five Random Things I’ve found on YouTube that I love:

  1. Sungha Jung- I first saw Sungha, a now 14 year old boy from South Korea, about three years ago.  I was amazed and impressed by his videos and still subscribe to his channel so I can see his work today.  Sungha is a fingerstyle guitarist.  This video is still one of my favorites:
  2. The Hillywood Show– A pair of young sisters with lots of talent do parodies of famous movies, most popular is their Twilight series parody, set to music.  They’re very, very good.  My favorite is their Poker Face/Dark Knight video:
  3. kikopup– Emily is a dog trainer in California that has dedicated the last few years to putting out educational videos to help teach POSITIVE training methods for dog tricks and behaviors.   Here’s a video that explains clicker training:
  4. Toby Turner– I don’t know why I like him, really, but I do.  He has songs and skits and I guess that’s all it takes to make me happy.  He has a song about his mom’s dog called “Falcor the Urinator” which is cute, and lots of other things that make me laugh, but I discovered him through this skit years ago:
  5. dascottjr’s literal videos– hilarious music videos that have been re-written to describe what’s going on in the vide.  This started a trend but the originals are still my favorite:

Other things that have caused me to waste a lot of time are:

Is it a good idea to microwave this?

A capella college groups (like this (language!) or this)

Plastic Musik

Rhett and Link

Talking Animals

And lastly, “Bone Thugs separation.”  This started as a joke during my husband’s YT Surfing sessions because it seemed he kept coming back to this video.  Now, it’s a game.  When he’s listening to a video that seems as far away from Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony as you could possibly get, I challenge him to get back to this video in as few steps as possible.  It keeps him busy for a while.

What has sucked you into the YouTube black hole?

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