Saturday, November 28, 2020

Tradition & Experience

According to, "the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc. from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice." is their initial definition of tradition.

The later weeks of November through December seems to carry more tradition than any other time period in the year. With the tradition comes an extraordinary amount of emphasis placed upon everything from food, to movies/television, decorating, shopping, emotional euphoria, and the need to perpetuate the rituals.

(Lower center between parents) 
As long as I can remember my mother was a Registered Nurse. Her usual shift was overnight. In this way she could have some daytime and evenings with the family. However, she always seemed to work holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. "Other people need to have time with their families." was her answer to why she was working. The day itself lessened in significance as the weekends before or after became our time to gather. Thanksgiving was spent with my maternal grandparents. These grandparents were in the same room long enough to eat. Otherwise, they were not together. And the stuffing was always pulled from the cavity of the turkey. Plump, wet raisins dotted the glistening dressing. Nothing could be worse for someone who only ate raisins when they were leathery dry and either in cookies or wheat cereal.

Marriage brought Thanksgiving at the in-laws complete with a children's table. I always found the children's table more fun than the adult table. And it was in a separate room. My mother-in-law was so busty passing and refilling platters and bowls that her food had to be cold by the time she sat down to eat.

My dad flanked by my family

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as a pastor caused my mother's words to reverberate in my brain. It seemed that working those days became tradition. My family always came after the time honored Candlelight Worship needs of the congregation(s). It seems strange now (but not at the time) to allow the tradition of the congregation(s) to set the tradition for our family. Add to all of this the unwritten rule of being at the in-laws ASAP following services and you can picture a tradition of chaotic movement. 

With both daughters grown but Christmas Eve & Day still being part of vocational life, emphasis was been placed on Thanksgiving. In the past decade Thanksgiving has been spent in Italy, Las Vegas, Florida, Arizona, serving meals to families in a hospital, experiencing "zoo lights", eating at Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, and visiting my father. So, I ask myself while looking at this from many angles, "Is there a tradition to be found?"


I recently finished the book, "The Pursuit of Endurance" by Jennifer Pharr Davis (2018). She wrote, "Feeling stuck is no excuse for staying where you are." As I look back, as well as look around the spectrum of tradition is everywhere. A certain day, a certain menu, the regularity of knowing what come next, and the deep meaning of generational gatherings clings tightly for many. Equally I see lasagna and whiskey, queso and tacos for daily grazing, and this year, faces seen on video connections. I listen to the bemoaning of cultural norms, as well as the loss of the Black Friday frenzy. 

Southwestern treat

This year was spent quietly at home. With the generosity of another family the normative foods of Thanksgiving were delivered with "no contact." COVID quarantining provided the structural reality. No trips. No family. No gathering. Were we stuck? What does this mean during this year's emphasis upon holiday gatherings? Pandemic be damned! What about future gatherings? Each day, every experience is a part of life. The value is not in completing a huge puzzle. I believe it is in taking the piece provided and finding its beauty. Staying where I am is an option if I choose to close my eyes and wish for something different. However, I choose to embrace each day for what it provides while attempting not to judge it. I cannot stay where I am because each day provides new pathways on the journey of life. Earlier I wrote, "You can picture a tradition of chaotic movement." It is only chaotic if you attempt to impose your order on it. I choose to practice life and gratitude as my tradition even when it appears nontraditional. 

Friday, November 13, 2020


In last week's video mention was made of boundaries being fluid instead of rigid. I believe we are to live grace-filled lives not encumbered by the past, but flowing into our current setting.  In the November 9 reading from Ryan Holiday's, "The Daily Stoic", the story of a battle ship of the Athenian hero (Theseus) is being preserved in its battle ready form. Over time boards rotted and were replaced. Eventually every piece of wood on the vessel had been replaced. So the question is asked, "Is it still the ship of Theseus or is it a new ship?"

I see life as constantly changing, evolving, and fluid. Included are 3 pictures of business in Fargo ND. The first is looking at West Acres Mall from the southeast. It opened in August 1972, near the intersection of I-29 & I-94. Originally this area was crop land on the edge of town. I remember in the early 80's on a trip to Fargo, eating in the mall at the Grainery. First time ever for beer cheese soup with popcorn on the top.     

Additions, renovations, retail transitions, and consumer shopping habits have changed over the years. How long will this massive structure remain viable? Are investors wanting to place resources into an aging retail concept? Soon a 1 million square foot Amazon Fulfillment Center will open on the north edge of Fargo. It will be 50,000 square feet larger that West Acres.

The purple painted building was originally a Krispy Kreme which opened in 2002. The "hot light" drew thousands of people to this place for about 6 years before it closed. Now a custom made mattress store has a drive up window. And I believe the "hot light" is gone. I wonder why I have never seen a line outside of this store for people waiting to get a mattress? I guess sleep is more important than donuts. However, just as 

you use your smartphone for an alarm clock, there is a "hot light" app which will alert you when fresh, sugary, melt away donuts are available. 

The final structure housed the "Toys "R" Us." The open square footage must make for easy display of massive Halloween products. How many blow-up pumpkins can fit in one store? As Halloween is now the second largest commercial holiday in the United States who needs toys? Not to short the toy industry, I fondly remember the Lionel train my bothers and I

shared for a Christmas present. The black transformer box would get hot the longer the train went in its circular track. Pushing the red button created a horn sound.  Later in life I attempted to regain an interest in trains, HO scale. In this effort to recreate the past, all I achieved was spent money and time. 

Yes, I mourn the loss of people, places, events, and institutions that were a part of my life. Memories bring a smile to my face and comfort to my being. Yet memories are not reality. Memories are ephemeral constructs of the mind. Longing for the past does not help me live freely in the present. To reiterate a phrase from last week: "We need to listen to the music of the past, so we can sing in the present, and dance into the future."  Creation is continually being recreated. It is still creation, but it is not the creation of decades, weeks, or even hours ago. Everything is flowing and fluid. What enhances life is the ability to live unencumbered each day. This does not make for comfortable living. Constant adjustment and new visions consume physical and emotional energy. In other words, it is exhausting. AND, I believe it is worth the energy expended. 

This 50k ultra running event in the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico will not occur again. I got to share in my son-in-law's first ultra finish two years.

These are the 2 race directors who not only created a great event for many ultra runners, but were the pinnacle of hospitality. When you picked up your bib number you picked up placement into their family.

39 years ago in a small church in rural Faribault County, MN a person not known for impulsivity made a commitment to be my partner. What occurred in that church is recorded in the Courthouse. What has happened over the years does not define our relationship today.  

I am not a singer or a dancer. Many rotten and misaligned boards in my life have been replaced. Everything is fluid. We are the ones who place opinions and make reactions to the events of life. I continue to believe that living with the fluidity of each day. especially in the realities of human behavior and viral behavior is worth the effort.

I end with an email quote from a friend who watched last week's video, "I think that if you are not challenged in the way that you think about things that you begin to die and what you hold true becomes.....moldy."  Very well said, Mark!