— Photo from Linda Hodges 
One of Santa's elves, who looks a lot like Linda Hodges, chairwoman of Helderberg Senior Services, was spotted driving the Berne Senior van to make pick-ups on Dec. 23 for another delicious lunch at the Berne Community and Senior Center. Lunch is served Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays at noon.

Happy New Year! What high hopes! What determination! What impossible expectations!

Somewhere in that emotional stew lies real life. There are so many “easy” answers to our dilemmas, but most of them are either simplistic or just plain wrong.

Yes, you can start your year over again at any point; you can start your day, or your life over. The whole point of many baptism and initiation rituals is to mark a separation point between the me-that-was and the me-that-will-be. To give us a new, clean sheet to write on.

This is noble, and wonderful, and I imagine that, for some rare people, it really does wipe out the past. What I suspect is that those ceremonies give us a point from which we can see the real possibility of change. We deliberately loosen our ties to the past, and decide to re-frame our view of it. By changing how I look at it, I can change the size and weight of my historical baggage.

Most of the time it’s a process, not an epiphany. I am not Saul on the road to Tarsus, or Buddha under the Bodhi tree. Nor am I that LSD-inspired kid in the sixties who looked at the flower, said “This is the answer!” and then ate it.

Everyday life is less clear; sometimes it’s absolutely murky. Events and attitudes from the past sneak out and bite us in the hand just as we are reaching for something new. We are, to some extent, the product of our experiences.

The problem, and the blessing, of the past is that it is the past. Every task completed or goal achieved may not be accompanied by the roar of the crowd like a high-school touchdown. But neither will every person we meet beat us down like a mentally-damaged parent. Not everyone needs to climb on the backs of their fellow beings.

Shades of gray aren’t any good as guideposts, but I get to choose what my markers will be. The impact of events or emotions does not have to be permanent.

Going forward, no one is actively trying to kill me like they were in ’Nam, or Iraq. No one is likely to carry me off the field on their shoulders, either.

I may resent the fact that I’m no longer precocious, and that I can’t blame everything on my childhood, but the future doesn’t have to be an endless film loop of my past. I can decide, on a moment-to-moment basis, how much of that baggage I want to drag around.

Do I get to jettison the whole shebang and start over with no memories and no regrets? Barring a major head injury, probably not. But I can step out into each new phase conscious of the past, but not ruled by it.

It’s still there, but it is the past. I can’t change it. I can change how I look at it, but it is over. The only direction I can go is forward, and, with a little luck and a tailwind, I can make the future different.

Happy New Year!
 

Coming up

January is National Polka Music Month, Oatmeal Month, National Hot Tea Month, National Mail Order Gardening Month, National Braille Literacy Month, and the beginning of Carnival Season.  The week of the 1st -7th is Celebration of Life Week, Diet Resolution Week, and Someday We'll Laugh About This Week.  Copyright Law Day, Ellis Island Day, Polar Bear Plunge or Swim Day, and World Day of Peace are all on the 1st.

The 2nd is Happy Mew Year for Cats Day, National Buffet Day, and National Science Fiction Day.  National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day is the 3rd, and the 4th is Dimpled Chad Day, Trivia Day, and the Earth at Perihelion.  Epiphany or Twelfth Night is the 6th. January 7th is Fruitcake Toss Day, Harlem Globetrotter's Day,  International Programmers' Day, and National Tempura Day.

If you’re running low on shrimp or veggies for tempura day, the senior shopping bus’s next trips are scheduled for Jan. 11 and 25.  Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

We also have transportation to and from lunch! Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your book club, Canasta group, or quilting circle need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the Senior Center? Come have lunch with us, and then get together with your friends! There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us!

Menu

Doors open at 11 a.m. at the Berne Senior and Community Center, and lunch is served promptly at noon.

Monday, Jan. 2, closed;

Tuesday, Jan. 3, chili con carne, spinach, corn bread, apple crisp, and milk; and

Friday, Jan. 6, griller muenster cheese on wheat bread, tomato soup, coleslaw, apple juice, brownie, and milk.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in.Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at , and put “volunteer” in the subject line. The senior and community center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail in Berne.

Overflowing generosity is evident in the hat and mitten tree decorated by Hilltown Seniors and the donations for the Rock road Food Pantry.

Another year is coming to a close. We have so much to be thankful in our group of seniors. Every month, we meet at the senior center for fellowship and good food and we plan activities and travel.

This year, we visited Washington, D.C., Lancaster, went to dinner theaters, took a train ride, and went on sightseeing tours that included wine-tasting and shopping. And we always had room for ice cream.

At the end of the year, we have 82 members. We try to schedule as best we can things to do for all ages. We had an Olympics contest, made jewelry for Mother’s Day, and made a memories book.

This year, we ended with a Christmas party held at Rock Road Chapel in Knox. I would like to thank Karen Stark for her tremendous help as a church member and senior member. I would also like to thank Alyce Gibbs, Shirley Slingerland, and Sharon Vincent (who all said, “We aren't doing this again!”) But, girls, it was so much fun!

Linda had a short Christmas program and we were entertained by the “Bell Ringers” directed by Staci Wright and Dennis and Mary White and Bill Dibble with songs.  We would also like to thank Stewart’s for the donation of make-your-own sundaes. And also, to Bonnie Conklin’s Connections class for the cute table decorations.

Members were asked to bring mittens and hats for our mitten tree. The tree was overflowing and we also filled four grocery bags; these were taken to the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School for distribution.

Also, members were asked to bring goods for the Rock Road Food Pantry. Again the response was overwhelming. ’Tis the season and I am so proud of the Hilltowns Seniors for helping others.

When eggnog’s

 generously filling

Each and every

 Christmas mug  

And siblings tour

 miles and miles

To greet you with a hug

There’s scarce else

 I’ll be wishing

Than this simple little prayer

Of peace and calm

 and blessings much

On Christmas Day this year.

Merry, merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!

Was Saint Sylvester a drunk? New Year’s is his holiday in some parts of the world, and we know almost nothing about him, except that he was elected Pope in 314 and was supposedly a good friend of the Holy Roman Emperor Constantine.

The story about Constantine leading Sylvester’s horse is reputed to be the basis for the Pope’s claim to authority over secular leaders at the time. Seems pretty thin to me, but any justification is better than none.

Alcohol does seem to figure fairly prominently in many areas. Germans eat doughnuts (yes, that is how it ought to be spelled) filled with alcoholic or plain jam, and go from house to house asking for “Speckdicken,” which are pancakes made with molasses and filled with summer sausage and bacon.

Pigs also seem to be a popular theme; do you think “high on the hog” is some sort of bad pun? New Year’s in Scotland is called “Hogmanay,” and involves visiting and gifts. The aforementioned Germans consume a marzipan pig for luck.

Other pig-celebrators come from the United States South, where the traditional New Year’s dinner is black-eyed peas, smoked pork, greens, and cornbread. The entire tortured justification is that the peas swell up, signifying prosperity; the greens represent money, and the cornbread is golden.

This sounds like a badly-written ad campaign to me, but what harm does it do? I have eaten this meal on New Year’s, and I personally am very grateful that it became tradition before some enterprising coastal dweller decided that octopus or dogfish should be the meal of the fortunate.  I wonder, should those 4 a.m. breakfasts of bacon and eggs after the bars close count as celebrations?

Among serious drinkers, New Year’s is referred to as “amateur night.”  It’s the time when all the people who don’t have any practice driving using the center stripe as a guide come out to try their lack of skill.

Maybe it would save some lives if along with First Night we held a demolition derby? All the drunks could be strapped into cars with roll bars and harnesses, and run around on a padded track.

Fireworks are very popular, at least in places where you’re not likely to get frostbite. New York and other northern cities hire professionals to go out there and freeze for our entertainment.

“Auld Lang Syne” was Guy Lombardo’s big band signature tune at midnight in the Waldorf-Astoria ballroom, and was aired on radio and then television from 1928 to 1976. (Dick Clark was the new kid on the block.)

In Mexico, you are supposed to eat a grape on each stroke of the clock at midnight, and make wishes for the year to come. My favorite tradition, also from Mexico, is writing down all the bad things and unhappy events of the previous year on a piece of paper, and then throwing the paper into a fire to reduce them, and all they symbolize, to ash. Having cleared out the old year, you are ready to start the new with a clean slate.

If you think I sound a little cynical, you’re probably right. I’ve already done all those other things (except the grapes), and no longer feel the need to try so hard to act festive.

My idea of a great New Year’s celebration is a nice dinner, a seat by the fire, and my memories of all the friends and blessings I’ve had all year. With hope and peace to everyone, I wish you the New Year of your fondest desires.

Coming up

December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month (pay attention!).  This week begins with Christmas and Christmas Pudding Day on the 25th, and the week of Kwanzaa begins on the 26th. (Kwanzaa began in 1966, as the first African-American holiday. Kwanzaa comes from Swahili  “matunda ya kwanza” which means "first fruits of the harvest").

National Thank-you Note Day is the 26th, and Howdy Doody Day is the 27th.  Endangered Species Act Dayis the 28th, and National Chocolate Day occurs on the 29th.  December 30th is Bacon Day  (see? There are those pigs again!), and we end the week and the year with Universal Hour of Peace Day, and World Peace Meditation Day on the 31st.

Remember, there is no lunch on Monday, Dec. 26, or Monday, Jan. 2.

The senior shopping bus’s next trips are scheduled for Dec. 28 and Jan. 11.  Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

Menu

Another thing to be grateful for is the Senior Lunch Program at the Berne Senior and Community Center. The doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also have games, dominoes, and cards on Mondays and Tuesdays.

— Monday, Dec. 26, no lunch;

— Tuesday, Dec. 27, meatloaf with tomato gravy, seasoned oven roast potatoes, cauliflower, wheat bread,  pound cake with strawberries and whipped topping, and milk; and

— Friday, Dec. 30, mac and cheese, stewed tomatoes, wheat bread, baked apples, and milk.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number. If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at , and put “volunteer” in the subject line.

Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The Town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

Location:

To peoples and traditions planet-wide, it is the season of light. The Winter Solstice is the time when the sun is at its farthest distance from the equator, and the days begin to grow longer again.

The Druids and ancient Anglo-Saxons celebrated Yule, from which we get the tradition of the Yule log. The Druids called it Alban Arthan. The head Druid cut sacred mistletoe from the oak tree, and fires heralded the rebirth of the sun. Yule was derived from the Norse word Iul, meaning wheel: the wheel of the zodiac, and the wheel of life.

Many other religions mark this time as well. Jews have Hanukkah, the festival of lights, in remembrance of the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 167 BCE. After its recapture by the revolutionary Maccabees, one day’s sacred lamp oil lasted for eight days.

An eight-branched candelabra, called a menorah, is lit, one candle at a time, to commemorate the miracle. Customarily, women were relieved of their usual work, and given time to relax.

One of the holiday games is spinning a top decorated with Hebrew letters, an acronym for  “a great miracle happened here.”  Guesses are made on which letter will come up, and rewards given for certain letters. Because the holiday involves oil, fried foods are traditional: in the United States, potato pancakes, and in Israel, fried jelly rolls.

At this time, the story is told of the star in the east, which guided the wise men (Magi), Gaspar,  Melchior, and Balthazar to Bethlehem. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that "according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.”

The name “Christmas” comes from the Middle English “Christes masse,” the festival mass of Christ.   Roman Emperor Constantine, one of Christianity’s most famous converts, had a vision of a cross, with the words “in hoc vince” (in this sign you will conquer). This indicated to him that a unified theology would unify people, and he worked to synchronize pagan and Christian holidays.

The first known printed document listing Jesus’ birth as Dec. 25 was in an Almanac for Christians in Rome ( 354 CE).  In the Julian calendar of the time, this date was the same as the solstice celebrated by followers of sun-god Mithras.

At this time, many Romans were still celebrating the Saturnalia, when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Capricorn. Capricorn is said to be ruled by Saturn, and symbolized a long-lost time when the world was peaceful, fruitful, and happy.

Homes were decorated with evergreens, and all business was suspended. Servants and slaves were given a feast, and, on that day, the masters waited on the servants.

There are many other celebrations of light but, personally, I believe that the most important light is the one within, that can be shared with others.  Remember: “You are the light of the world... let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds….”  Many small lights will make the whole world a better place. Brighten the corner where you are.

Coming up

December is Aids Awareness Month and Spiritual Literacy Month. The 18th to the 24th is Gluten-free Baking Week. Answer The Telephone Like Buddy The Elf Day is Dec. 18, and it is also Arabic Language Day. The 20th is International Human Solidarity Day and the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. Crossword Puzzle Day, Humbug Day, Short Girl Appreciation Day, World Peace Day, Winter Solstice, and Yule all fall on Dec. 21.  Hanukkah begins the 24th, which is also Christmas Eve and Egg Nog Day

And to replenish all those goodies eaten up this week, the senior shopping bus’s next trips are scheduled for Dec. 28 and Jan. 11.  Call CDTA at (518) 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

The bus trip to Cooperstown scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 17, has been canceled because of an expected snowstorm.

The Lunch Bunch Holiday Party is this coming Monday, Dec. 19. There will be cookies to decorate, a tree, and a guessing game with prizes!

Menu

Remember, there will be no lunch served on Monday, Dec. 26; the chefs and everyone else are getting a day off for the holidays.

Monday, Dec. 19: Rosemary Chicken, sweet baked yams, California blend, wheat bread, mango chunks, and milk;

Tuesday, Dec. 20: pork roast with gravy, seasoned oven roasted red potatoes, carrots, wheat bread, warm sliced apples with cinnamon, and milk; and

Friday, Dec. 23: Lemon garlic fish, hash browned potatoes, mashed butternut squash, pineapple orange juice, rye bread, chocolate mousse, and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also have transportation to and from lunch! Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation.

Does your book club, Canasta group, or quilting circle need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the Senior Center? Come have lunch with us, and then get together with your friends! There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to (518)  872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at (518) 861-6253, or email her at , and put “volunteer” in the subject line.

Location:

Honestly, I don’t hate holiday letters in and of themselves. What I can’t stand is their “humble bragging,” designed to make the rest of us poor mortals feel like total schleps and idiots.

I strongly suspect that this is done on purpose, with a thin veneer of apparent politeness, rather like saying, “Oh my dear, your hair looks so nice that no one would ever know it’s a wig.”

You know the letters I mean. They go something like: “We were so pleased when Mary got that scholarship to the Sorbonne; of course she was already fluent in French thanks to Mrs. Trudeau’s tutoring her when she’s not on diplomatic missions. Jack has been nominated for another Nobel, but we really feel that the committee should give someone else a chance. We’ve enrolled the baby in the Philadelphia school, and, even though she’s only 10 months, she’s already beginning to do algebra.

“We had some trouble with the Jag back in April, and there was simply nowhere to get it fixed in Fiji; I told Jack that shipping it over for just three weeks was a bad idea. We had to rent a Bentley and driver to do any sightseeing at all. I must run now, because the Senator and his dear wife, Muffy, are coming for dinner, and he is so fussy about his caviar; I have to remind the caterer not to add any chopped onion.”

In my world, it looks more like: “John is teaching Zachary how to downshift; that will make it much easier for him to take those hills now that the brakes on the truck are starting to go. We ran into Harry the other day; he was in ’Nam with John, and says that now that the shelters are more familiar with PTSD, he hardly has any trouble at all when the flashbacks hit.

“Jan will be out of Women’s Detention in time for Christmas, and has been corresponding with this lovely gentleman who sells penny stocks. They will be meeting in person for the first time when she comes home. The big dinner is a lot of work, but since Ralphie managed to get that deer (he says it’s so much easier to get one at night if you put out the right bait), there will be plenty for all. My little bout with typhoid has left me a bit dragged out, but I’m sure I’ll be better soon, and everyone so looks forward to my Ambrosia.”

I never write holiday letters. My closest friends get a phone call every couple of years. I start out by feeling guilty that I haven’t kept in touch, but then what would I talk about when I do get in contact? My last trip to SuperMart? The cat throwing up on the rug again?  My success in talking my way out of a traffic ticket by pretending to be a sweet little old lady?  (We won’t discuss which part of that could be true.)

So, to all my friends and acquaintances, I really do wish you a wonderful holiday season, and the best of everything in the new year. Just don’t expect to hear from me.

Coming up

December is Universal Human Rights Month. The coming week is Christmas Bird Count Week, and Halcyon Days on the 14th - 28th (Always seven days before and seven days after the Winter Solstice). International Mountain Day and the birthday of UNICEF are on the 11th. Gingerbread House Day is the 12th, as is Poinsettia Day.

The 14th is Monkey Day and Yoga Day. Bill of Rights Day and Cat Herders Day are the 15th. The 16th brings Barbie and Barney Backlash Day, National Chocolate-covered Anything Day, and National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. The week ends with Wright Brothers Day on the 17th.

The senior shopping bus’s next trips are scheduled for Dec. 14 and Dec. 28. Call CDTA at 437-5161 two days in advance to arrange for pickup.

The bus trip to Cooperstown is coming up on Saturday, Dec. 17, but you can still get on board if you hurry. We will see a production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Farmers Museum. The bus leaves at 10:30 a.m. Lunch will be at Mel’s 22 restaurant (buy your own), and then on to the performance at 2 p.m. Cost is $12.50 per person. Call Karen Schimmer at 872-2544 to reserve a seat.

Menu

The Lunch Bunch Holiday Party will be Monday, Dec. 19. There will be cookies to decorate, a tree, and a guessing game with prizes.

Monday, Dec. 12, sweet and sour chicken, Asian vegetables, rice, wheat bread, pineapple chunks, and milk;

Tuesday, Dec. 13, beef stroganoff, Brussels sprouts, egg noodles, wheat bread, glazed pear with vanilla ice cream, and milk; and

Friday, Dec. 16, potato crunch fish, baked sweet potatoes and apples, pineapple juice, rice pilaf, wheat bread, lemon cake, and milk.

Doors open at 11 a.m., and lunch is served promptly at noon. We also  have transportation to and from lunch. Just tell Linda Hodges when you call with your reservation

Does your book club, Mah Jongg group, or quilting circle need an easy place to meet? Why not meet at the senior center? Come have lunch with us, and then get together with your friends. There’s plenty of space, and the center is open for all of us. We already have games, dominoes, and cards after lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, so join us.

Please call Linda Hodges 24 hours in advance to 872-0940 to reserve lunch, or email her at: , or sign up when you come in. Tell us how many are coming, your name, and your telephone number.  If you’d just like to come and help out, give Mary Moller a call at 861-6253, or email her at , and put “volunteer” in the subject line.

Lunches are provided by Helderberg Senior Services, the Albany County Department of Aging, and Senior Services of Albany. The Town of Berne Community and Senior Services Center is located at 1360 Helderberg Trail (Route 443) in Berne.

 

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