Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Addiction and Recovery: Holiday Tools

Saturday, December 21st, 2019

By Bob Gaydos  

“No, “is an acceptable answer at holiday parties.

“No, thank you“ is an acceptable answer at holiday parties.

OK, I know you’re busy because it’s the holidays and you don’t have time to sit and read about healthy behavior when there are presents to be bought, menus to be prepared and parties to  attend. So I’ll try to be brief and to the point.

This is a treacherous time of year for people in early recovery from addiction. People who have found their way to recovery, be it via a 12-step program or otherwise, have been given suggestions on how to survive the season of temptation without relapse. If they use these tools, with practice, they can even enjoy the season.

It’s the rest of you I’m mainly talking to here. You hosts, family members, well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and do the right thing, but aren’t sure what that is. And yes, to those who don’t get the concept of addiction at all, but can still avoid harming a relationship by following a few basic suggestions. So, some coping tools for the non-addicted, if you will:

  • “No thank you” is a complete sentence and perfectly acceptable answer. It should not require any further explanation. “One drink won’t hurt you” is a dangerously ill-informed reply. The same goes for, “A few butter cookies won’t hurt. C’mon, it’s Christmas.” Or, “Get the dress, Put it on your credit card. You’ll feel better.” Not really.
  • By the way, “No thank you” is an acceptable answer even for people not in recovery. Not everyone who turns down a second helping of stuffing or a piece of pumpkin pie is a member of Overeaters Anonymous. Not everyone who prefers a ginger ale rather than a beer is a member of AA. Not everyone who won’t go into hock for an expensive New Year’s Eve party is a compulsive debtor. But some of them may be.
  •  If you’re hosting a party to which people in recovery have been invited, have some non-alcoholic beverages available. Not just water. Don’t make a big deal about having them, just let your guests know they are available. The same goes for food. Have some appetizing low-calorie dishes and healthful desserts on hand. Don’t point out that they’re there because so-and-so is watching his weight. Just serve them. You’ll be surprised how many guests enjoy them and comment on what a good host you are.
  • If you’re honestly concerned about how the person in recovery is doing, approach him or her privately. He or she might not feel comfortable discussing it in front of other guests. If you’re just curious, keep it to yourself.

Honoring a guest’s wishes is a sign of respect. Anticipating them in advance is even better. Encouraging someone to eat, drink or spend money when they don’t want to is, at the very least, not gracious. Pressuring someone to partake of something when you know he or she is trying hard to avoid it is a good way to lose a friend. Addictions are not trivial matters. “No, thank you,” is a perfectly good answer. Members of AA, OA and DA will be especially appreciative if you remember that.


For recovering addicts, the tools should be familiar, but always bear repeating:

  •  Bring a recovery friend to a party.
  •  Have phone numbers and your own transportation available if you want to leave an uncomfortable situation.
  •  If you’re uncomfortable about attending a party because of who will be there, be it family or friends who are not supportive, don’t go. Politely decline. 
  •  Keep track of your drink. If you’re not sure, get a new one.
  •  Deal in cash; forget about credit cards.
  •  Don’t feel obliged to try every dish on the table. 
  • And, again, “No, thank you,” is a complete sentence. Don’t worry about hurting your host’s feelings at the expense of your recovery. There’s always next year.


For more information:

Debtors Anonymous:; 781-453-2743.

Alcoholics Anonymous:

Overeaters Anonymous:



Pundit or No, Trump’s Got to Go

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

By Bob Gaydos

Not even marginal.

Not even marginal.

A colleague of mine who gets paid to write his opinions for others to read recently referred to himself as a “pundit.”

    “Hmmm,” I said to myself with a touch of surprise, “guess that makes me a pundit, too.”

    This colleague, you see, took over my opinion-writing job when I retired, but I still fill in for him when he feels like taking a break from punditing. It’s in the blood.

    The problem I have with using the word, “pundit,” and why I never regarded myself as one is that it always suggested to me a certain level of expertise in some subject area rather than an ability to deliver opinions on a variety of subjects and sound fairly rational and moderately intelligent (most of the time) while doing so.

     Also, today the word seems to imply so much more than what is delivered. Once upon a time there was William Buckley. I disagreed with him often, but I’d still call him a pundit. More recently, George Will and Charles Krauthammer from that side of the aisle. But today Steve Doocy is a pundit? And Brian Kilmeade? Lou (start a war with China) Dobbs? Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham?

     Yes, they are all from the Fox pundit stable, but if they qualify as pundits, well …

    I went to Wikipedia: “A pundit is a person who offers to mass media his or her opinion or commentary on a particular subject area (most typically political analysis, the social sciences, technology or sport) on which he or she is knowledgeable (or can at least appear to be knowledgeable), or considered a scholar in said area.”

    The phrase “or can at least appear to be knowledgeable” leaped off the screen. Aha! Thank you, Wiki, for clarifying the issue. Talking heads who deliver unsupported opinions with conviction — a TV invention — now are regarded as pundits. In that case, move over looney tunes Anne Coulter and Tucker Carlson. I’ve been at this punditry business longer than you two and I know racists when I hear them.

    So, punditly speaking, I find myself depressed and mystified that polls continue to report that 80 percent of Republicans approve of the job Donald Trump is doing as president. Of course, these pollsters are considered pundits, too, and they told us, with all their expertise, that Hillary Clinton would beat Trump in 2016. There’s that “at least appear to be knowledgeable” part again. Many of those polled Republicans, of course, are being fed “expert” analysis from those Fox pundits.

    Unfortunately, so is Trump.

    And so what has government by failed businessman/congenital liar/amoral Russian asset guided by phony Fox pundits gotten us?

— A “president” sitting alone in the White House on Christmas Eve, having shut down the federal government in spite because Congress didn’t give him the $5 billion box of Legos he wanted to build a wall he proudly promised his buddies Mexico would pay for. Instead, government workers went without pay for the holiday, whether they worked or not. Members of Congress did get paid, even though they clearly weren’t doing their job. A pundit might say this looked particularly bad for Republicans since they control all three branches of government and still couldn’t keep it open for Christmas. Happy New Year?

— A ‘’president” whose most recent chief of staff quit or was fired and who can’t find anyone qualified who is willing to take the job. Mick Mulvaney, of course, who is glad to have any and every job in the administration, even temporarily (budget director, Consumer Protection head), said he’d be glad to do it because he has no problem swallowing his pride and being ridiculed daily as long as he can continue to deprive needy Americans of government assistance.

— A “president” who, in addition to having an “acting” chief of staff, has an “acting” secretary of defense, an “acting” attorney general, no secretary of the interior, an “acting” EPA administrator, no United Nations ambassador (but one of those former Fox News blonde talking heads being prepped for the job), no ambassadors to Bolivia, Brazil, Chad, Chile, Cuba, Egypt, Estonia, Jordan, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Singapore, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey and Venezuela, and dozens of other vacancies in key positions throughout government.

— A “president” who has antagonized all U.S. allies and cozied up to murderous tyrants.

— A “president” who tells a 7-year-old girl on Christmas Eve that believing in Santa Claus is “marginal,” while he still insists that global warming is a myth.

 — A “president” who is under investigation in every area of his life and who no longer takes credit for the performance of the plummeting stock market.

  — A “president” who presides over a political party without the  courage or moral fiber to stand up to his utter incompetence and corruption.

    There’s more, but let me return to that pundit thing, if I may. The word comes from the Hindi “pandit.” It, in turn, was derived from the Sanskrit “pandita,” which means “a learned man or scholar.”

    That’s where I came in. I’m still uncomfortable with the word, but I will state my view with conviction: I believe Donald Trump has exposed the dark, ugly, fearful nature of much of American society, which has been hiding in the shadows for years. He has shown the Republican Party to be full of cowards and sycophants, and greedy ones at that. He may well be the death of the GOP as we have known it. Finally, he has revealed the hypocrisy of the evangelicals.

    A pundit might say these are important lessons for any society to learn in order to survive and evolve. A good thing. I get it. Perhaps I should be thankful. But evolution can be a slow process and those polls of approval for Trump by Republicans do not inspire patience. It isn’t easy being a pundit.


Praying in Public

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

There’s a new religious war being waged upstate. This one concerns prayer at town board meetings.

I used to think that the people who brought the inevitable court actions to outlaw public prayer or ban the display of Christmas trees on public property had too much time on their hands.

What was the big deal? I thought. Christmas is a happy holiday that’s close to the hearts of the majority of Americans. And if we want to get technical, we should remember that aside from its religious importance, Christmas also happens to be a national holiday. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is. Anyway, trees are one thing, but I admit I had second thoughts about the appearance of crèches on public lawns, but managed to get over them.

It made no sense to me that the argument was about a Scotch pine trimmed with colored balls and an angel. Would placing this tree on public property bring down the republic? Not when you remember that witnesses in court use a bible to swear they will be truthful, that the House and Senate open their sessions with prayers, that it’s a Bible our presidents touch as they’re sworn into office.

I’ve been at the receiving end of unrequested religion. In my grade school, we were forced to listen to Christmas carols. I survived. But somewhere in the last several decades I changed my mind and believe absolutely that religion belongs in houses of worship and in the human heart, not in places owned by the public and certainly not in schools filled with young minds but possessing no power to object.

In the Fifties, I attended P. S. 33 in Bellerose, a heavily Christian neighborhood in Eastern Queens. Every year during the 10 days leading up to Christmas, the glee club would parade slowly through the corridors singing carols, ranging from the innocuous, such as “Jingle Bells” to the significant, such as “O Come All Ye Faithful.”

As the singers came, we were herded into the halls to listen. We were allowed to sing along, which I did. I liked the music although I was confused about this business about “born is the king of Israel.”

No one at P.S. 33 ever tried to convert me, no one ever questioned my religion, and no one ever suggested I be barred from the class Christmas party. Similarly, of course, no teacher ever wished me a happy Hanukkah, and if any of the mothers of the Jewish kids ever offered to make potato pancakes and tell the story of Hanukkah, I didn’t know about it.

I still like Christmas carols and the old spirit of the holiday, but there’s no question that years ago in Bellerose, I attended a school that put the First Amendment on its ear by officially establishing a religion. It was a terrible thing to do to a class of kids, but I didn’t get it then.

In the newest case, the governing board of the Town of Greece, N.Y., near Rochester, started in 1999 to open its meetings with a prayer. The town has answered critics with the argument that you don’t have to be a Christian to lead the prayer. In fact, The Times reported, anyone, even an atheist, could say the opening prayer. Where you’re going to find an atheist to lead a prayer is beyond me.

But I think the very use of official time, to accommodate a prayer is, in fact, what the founders had in mind when they cautioned: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

I think the prayer and its defense are not quite as benign as the Town of Greece would have us believe. “Establishment” of an official religion doesn’t have to be done with a gun to your head. It can be an arm of local government informing you that what’s needed for the Town Board to do its business is a word or two from God. And it can be an invitation to wait outside in the lobby if you’re offended by an officially sanctioned prayer service.

No question that what they did in Greece was to establish and exclude in one fell swoop. Two townswomen challenged the Town Board prayers, and were upheld by a federal appellate court, which found that few prayers in Greece were led by anyone but Christians, and that, as reported by The Times, “roughly two-thirds contained references to ‘Jesus Christ,’ ‘Jesus,’ ‘your son,’ or ‘the holy spirit.’”

The case is now headed to the Supreme Court where, on the day of the arguments, the court’s marshal will intone: “God save the United States and this honorable court.”

American-Made Christmas

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce
Americans, already cash-strapped from a sagging economy, are shelling out more than $22.9 million this holiday season to buy toys for lucky little girls and boys. This $22.9 million would make a sweet bail-out for U.S. toy manufacturers if we actually had any. Unfortunately, most of that money is already on its way to China where almost all toys are made that are commercially available in big box stores.

Chinese produced toys are far cheaper than American made, but are they worth it? More than 60 percent of the recalls issued this year and 79 percent of toys recalled last year by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission were from China. But those products were just a tiny drop in the flood of 17 million shipments of everything from Chinese organic produce to medicines and housewares.

The flood of consumer goods from China has nearly tripled since 1997, and the number of recalls has grown proportionately. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is deluged by this flood. The FDA has only 1,317 field investigators for 320 ports of entry. The agency inspects just 0.7 percent of all imports, half of what it did a decade ago. David Acheson, an assistant commissioner for food protection at the FDA, points out that it would be impossible to test all Chinese imports. “It’s got to be based on risk,” says Acheson.

And risky it is. Just think of the 100 Panamanians who lost their lives using cough syrup made in China with diethylene glycol (mislabeled as glycerin). Or the people who were injured from ingesting tainted seafood, slipping on faulty swimming pool ladders, or in auto accidents caused by shoddy Chinese-made tires. Even worse are the homes lost to fires caused by faulty electrical wiring in Chinese-made lighting, extension cords and heaters. China has even reintroduced lead poisoning to American children through paint and metal on cheap toys.

“After discovering that a toy I purchased for my grandson was recalled in May,” says Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., “I asked myself the same question parents across the country are asking today: Who is in charge?” Durbin was disturbed to learn that one employee at the CPSC is responsible for testing toys and ensuring toy safety throughout the country. Durbin is sponsoring legislation to expand the CPSC.

FDA inspectors report tainted food imports from China are being rejected with increasing frequency because “they are filthy, are contaminated with pesticides and tainted with carcinogens, bacteria and banned drugs.”

Last summer, China quietly surpassed the United States as the world’s top polluter. China has no real environmental safeguards in place to protect drinking water from contaminants, no labor laws to keep children out of sweatshops, no legal ethics to keep entrepreneurs from producing dangerous products. In addition, our communities suffer financially when we buy imports over locally made goods. When we opt for a cheaper import, our dollars flow out of our community and fund a system that degrades people and the planet. Our small businesses suffer, manufacturing jobs leave, and we find ourselves with boarded-up storefronts in our downtowns. This economic exodus further devalues our currency and increases the demand for “cheap.”

A recent economic study conducted in Austin, Texas found that if each household in Travis County redirected just $100 of planned holiday spending from chain stores (carrying cheap imports) to locally owned merchants, the economic impact would reach approximately $10 million. Imagine what $10 million could do for your community.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week

Friday, December 9th, 2011

December in Virginia

By Carrie Jacobson
Some things I’ve been thinking about:

It’s interesting how much difference snow makes in the feeling of Christmas. You can have all the lights in the world, but without snow, it just doesn’t feel quite like the holiday.


When did Dec. 5 become a time for “last-minute shopping?” (I heard several ads on that day reaching out to last-minute shoppers).


When did the day after Halloween become the day it is OK to start decorating and talking about Christmas? I remember being appalled at ads that came out before Thanksgiving.


I heard someone on TV say that it was a nice idea to bring a gift card as a hostess present. I beg to differ. Why not just hand the hostess a $10 bill?


On the other hand, the kids all want gift cards. I’m happy to comply, in a way, but I have realized, in my compliance, that for me, part of the whole thing really is the shopping. The looking, the seeking, the thrill of finding something that might be perfect, and then that funny thing you do when you imagine the person receiving the gift, and see his or her expression, and then you know whether to buy it or put it back. At least, I do that.


I wanted a guest soap for the bathroom, and went into Bathworks in our downtrodden local mall, and asked the woman in there for soap.

“Oh,” she said, “we have lots of soap,” and she gestured at shelf after shelf after shelf of liquid soap.

“No,” I said. “Bar soap.”

“What’s that?” she said.

I kid you not.


P.S. If you have not already finished your last-minute shopping, why not consider buying a piece of art from a local artist? The Wallkill River School Gallery has a lovely show on right now with local art, and of course, you can always reach people like me through the internet. Email me at if you want to find out more about the painting at the top of this post. Or check out my website –, or my own blog, The Accidental Artist.

Finding Holiday Joy

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

By Shawn Dell Joyce

Holiday joy can be a fleeting thing this time of year, as many people feel more like Scrooge, than Tiny Tim. Behind the advertising blitz that bombards us with consumerist images of smiling, well-dressed people giving cheerfully-wrapped packages is the dark truth of depression. The United States tops the list in depression out of 14 countries in a recent World Health Organization poll.

Much holiday malaise can be traced to a sagging economy, and holiday expectations. A parent’s group,  the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, wrote letters to 24 leading toy companies and retailers to express concern about ads aimed at kids. These parents expressed dismay that they can’t afford the pricey toys that toymakers are heavily advertising to our children, and children feel diminished when they don’t get pricey toys.

It is hard to believe that we are descended from settlers’ children, who rejoiced at receiving a penny and a stick of candy as their main holiday gifts. In the 1800’s, our kin earned $1,500 per year, and would have had one nice set of clothes for church, and one shabby set for daily life. We worked twice as hard for a simple diet because we had to grow most of what we ate ourselves. Over the course of 200 years, we have grown an average of 4 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, our houses have more than doubled in square footage, and we no longer find joy in a penny and a stick of candy.

We need to reclaim our holidays as times of family togetherness and joy, no matter what shape the economy is in. Even if you don’t celebrate the Christian holiday, or the Jewish Hannukah, or African Kwanzaa, you can still celebrate a “Secular Sabbath,” in the words of NY Times food columnist, Mark Bittman. A secular Sabbath is a break from email, cell phones, television, and all the other distractions of modern living that keep us alienated from each other.

“You need not be elderly to remember when we had no choice but to reduce activity on Sundays; stores and offices — even restaurants — were closed, there were certainly no electronics, and we were largely occupied by ourselves or our families,” writes Bittman.

Here are some ways to get more joy from the holiday season:

  • Find joy in the mundane moments. Notice the details of the season, new fallen snow, laughing children, glittering icicles and the sparkle of a lit tree.
  • Avoid comparing your decorated house with your neighbors’ or your co-workers’ holiday plans with your own and so forth. Instead of comparing, which is almost always unfavorable, be genuinely glad for your fellows, delight in their joy, and you in turn will feel greater satisfaction.
  • Be satisfied. Don’t look for satisfaction in material things because you won’t find it there. Satisfaction is a spiritual concept, and cannot be bought or given.
  • Find the true meaning of the holiday. A gift of time to the local soup kitchen or “Toys for Tots” program will  deliver a greater feeling of joy than spending more money at the mall. Look for ways to do generous acts anonymously this season. Rekindle a sense of faith in humanity as a gift to your community.
  • Cherish family time. Spend more time sharing joyful experiences like caroling, baking, Christmas plays or making gifts together instead of shopping.
  • Put gratitude in your attitude. Start your holidays off with a gratitude list noting all the wonderful tangible and intangible blessings you have in your life. Counting your blessings will keep you focused more on what you do have.
  • Say “Thanks” by calling or writing a thank you note right away after a gift or good deed. This prolongs your joy, and shares it with the giver.
  • Keep the spirit of the holidays in your heart all year. Remember to give often and generously. Make volunteerism part of your daily routine. Research indicates that both the giver and the receiver of a good deed get an endorphin boost from the act.