2018 HAS ARRIVED

Welcome 2018 – A New Year, a new beginning!

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May the year bring blessings and peace to this troubled world!

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THE END OF ANOTHER YEAR

The year 2017 comes to an end. On this last day of a pretty eventful year I am amazed once more at how much nonsense the world can take and still survive. I am not sure what will happen in 2018, but it will be interesting to see what new madness it will bring. If it weren’t for all the tragic events, it could be amusing. I pray that God continues to protect and love us and overlook our insanity.

 

ESTA NOCHE ES NOCHE BUENA

The Spanish Christmas carol “Arbolito” brings memories of warm clear nights of Christmas Eve in Cuba. The excitement of the feast to be consumed, the gathering of family and friends and a feeling that all was well in the world. No anticipation of gifts since those would not come until January 6. The thought of Jesus being born filled my heart with joy. 

Santa Claus came into my life at age 13, my first Christmas in the U.S. I had heard of the jolly old fellow but we did not incorporate that tradition into our Christmases. As long as we don’t lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas, I think there is room for the whimsical celebrations.


MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

ADVENT IS THE SEASON TO PREPARE

Preparing for the celebration, shopping for gifts, stressing to make sure everything is ready should not take precedence over our spiritual preparation. Getting ready to celebrate our savior’s birth should be our priority and we must never forget our guest of honor.

One of my favorite Advent rituals is the Advent wreath.

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This year we were able to see an exhibit of Nativities from around the world at the Franciscan Monastery.

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I was surprised to see one from Cuba.

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We are blessed to live so close to The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. It is a wonderful place at this time of the year. We attended the Blessing of the Bambinelli and had the Baby Jesus from my 46 year old Nativity blessed.

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Pictures from the Shrine as they get ready for Christmas:

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ET TU MISTLETOE?

Is the Mistletoe politically incorrect now? The legend which sparked a kiss under the mistletoe is based in the purest of loves – that of a mother for a child. It is the legend of Goddess Frigga and her son Balder.

Frigga was the Goddess of Love and her son, Balder, was the God of the Summer Sun. Once, Balder dreamt of his death. He was obviously worried and told his mother about the strange dream. Frigga was worried not only for the life of her son but also for the life on Earth because she knew that without Balder, all life on Earth would come to an end. Thus, she did her utmost to avoid such a mishap by going everywhere and appealing to every being in air, water, fire and earth, to promise her that they would never harm her son. She was promised the safety of her son by every animal and plant under and above the Earth.

However, Loki, the God of Evil, who was an enemy of Balder and always had evil designs in his mind, was aware that there was one plant that Frigga had overlooked. It grew on apple and oak trees and was known as Mistletoe. Thus, Loki made an arrow and placed a sprig of this plant at its tip. He then beguiled Hoder, the blind brother of Balder and the God of Winter, and made him shoot this arrow at Balder. Balder immediately died and everybody was worried as the Earth turned cold and life became dreary. For the next three days, every creature tried to bring Balder back to life but he was revived only by Frigga and with the help of mistletoe. Her tears on the plant became pearly white berries and she blessed it such that anyone who stands under the mistletoe would never be harmed and would be entitled to a kiss as a token of love.

Mistletoe as a Christmas symbol

Mistletoe is an aerial parasite that has no roots of its own. It lives off the tree to which it attaches itself and, without that tree, it would die. Mistletoe is a Christmas symbol of our love which derives from and exists only because God loves us. God, Who is Love, created us in love and caused us to be able to love. Christians are humbled before these words of St. John the Evangelist: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). Just as mistletoe may not acknowledge the tree which sustains it, so people may not acknowledge that the love of God sustains them. But if mistletoe were taken from the tree and any person removed from God’s love, both would die.

Let’s not sully this tradition with the madness of today’s society.

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I took a little trip to my hometown

Well, not exactly my hometown, but certainly my adoptive hometown. My native hometown is in Cuba – the City of Matanzas. I would never go back while the regime that completely disrupted my life is in power. It was hard enough to see pictures of the destruction of what once was a lovely beauty shop. My mother took great care of that shop and of her customers. Also, pictures of rooms of the house I lived in and still haunts my dreams were barely recognizable.

But it was a most pleasant trip to my adoptive hometown – Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My dear cousin Alcira invited me and I am most grateful. I had not gone back in 37 years. She lives in a suburb outside Milwaukee and I did not get a chance to see the places I remember most, but the welcoming feeling of Wisconsin is undeniable. Even though we have not always been near each other, Alcira and I have been very close throughout our lives and things have worked in such a way that we have had occasion to help each other in some way at different times.

Her husband jokingly told my sister that we got up at 7 a.m. and started talking and did not stop till bedtime. Actually, it’s not far from the truth. We shared memories of days in Cuba, Miami and Milwaukee. We also brought each other up to date on events from the distant past and some more recent. I got to spend time with Gloria and Doug (her daughter and son in law) and meet their sons Eli and Zach and had the privilege to watch Zach’s soccer team win the last game of the season.

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I saw my niece Rebeca at a half way meeting point between Chicago and Milwaukee. Gloria drove us from Milwaukee to a dog park where Rebeca’s Lola and her Gili and Simon ran to their hearts content in a beautiful though chilly setting. After the invigorating outing, the humans proceeded to enjoy a lovely lunch in a quaint restaurant overlooking Lake Michigan.

I got to enjoy the company and hospitality of dear friends I had not seen in years. It was amazing to see the addition of two generations. Alcira’s cakes are legendary and her cooking is out of this world. She prepared some delicious meals for me including my favorite – tamal en cazuela.

At this time of year where we count our blessings and express our gratitude for all the good things in our lives, those ten days in Wisconsin are high up on my list. Alcira and Publio – thanks for the memories!!!

A MEMORY FOR FATHER’S DAY

A few months before I left Cuba my mother gave me a gold chain with a gold St. Joseph medal. It had been given to my father by his sister Emilia (Mimí). She had prayed to St. Joseph for my father when he was seriously ill. I never questioned what prompted my mother to give it to me. My father was still alive. I don’t know whose idea it was. I was just happy to wear it.

The day I left Cuba that precious gift was confiscated by the Castro’s authorities at the airport. I was heartbroken to see it taken away. That was also the last time I saw my father.

St. Joseph was the foster father of Jesus. How amazing he had to be to be chosen to care for God’s beloved son. My father was very wonderful and I am glad my aunt asked St. Joseph’s protection for him. At the precise time of my father’s death Mimí was praying to St. Joseph for him. St. Joseph is the Patron Saint of a Happy Death so I pray he was there to lead my father’s soul to Heaven.

On this Father’s Day I ask St. Joseph’s loving guidance for all fathers and a special blessing for my own father.

HERE WE GO AGAIN…..

Well, my birthday is here once again. I can’t say that turning 68 horrifies me. Actually, in my mind, I have been 68 for a whole year. Every birthday I start thinking about how old I am going to be on my next birthday and somehow forget my present age. I have done this all my life. This year I want to keep in mind that I am 68 and won’t even let the next number enter my mind.

Aging is a funny thing. Although the image I see in the mirror is puzzling at times and makes me wonder how in the world I got here, I still feel better about myself than I did when I was twenty. I certainly still have lots of hang ups and don’t really appreciate the wrinkles, sagging skin, the freckles morphing into age spots and the thinning hair that seems to be migrating to my chin. However, I am getting closer to accepting the looks that God gave me. But I must say that if I had known I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself.

From now on I am adopting this verse from a song from the musical Gigi:

The Fountain of Youth is dull as paint
Methuselah is my patron saint
I‘ve never been so comfortable before
Oh, I’m so glad that I’m not young anymore