SubscribeStar Saturday: Thanksgiving Weekend

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It’s been a wonderful Thanksgiving Break for yours portly, full of two of the most important things in life:  family and food.  Indeed, there’s probably been too much of the latter.  The “portly” in this blog’s title is more than just a humorous pun, after all.

This weekend is a big deal for Americans.  It’s the gateway to Christmas, and it’s the first major of holiday of what Americans broadly call “the holiday season” (or “the Christmas season,” as we Christians prefer).  There’s a flurry of social and commercial activities this time of year, but it’s also a time for slowing down.  From Thanksgiving through New Years’, the entire country feels like after lunch on a Friday at a government bureau—no one is answering the phones, because everyone’s taken off for the weekend.

In the spirit of celebrating this slower, more reflective, more generous time of year, here is a rundown of my long Thanksgiving Weekend.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Flashback Friday: Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break

I’m embracing the lazy logic of Thanksgiving Break with more throwback posts than usual this week.  After Christmas Break, this little Thanksgiving reprieve is my favorite short break of the year.  It combines family, fun, and food, with enough time to enjoy all three.

Last year when I wrote “Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break,” I was growing increasingly burned out and fatigued from my job and my various obligations.  Between work, music lessons, and various ensembles, I wasn’t getting home most nights until 9 or even 10 PM.  That clearly showed up in my argument here for giving workers the day of Thanksgiving—and at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—off from their toils.

That said, I still believe it.  What’s humorous to me, in re-reading this post after a year of lockdowns and shutdowns, is that my call for “[s]hutting down everything but essential services… would be an admirable goal for at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Thanksgiving” came to pass—with deleterious effect—for not three measly days but for months on end.  That’s certainly not what I had in mind, but I think workers have had all the breaks they can stand this past year.

Still, in normal times, having a couple of days for Christmas and a day or two for Thanksgiving isn’t going to tank the global economy.  Workers could use the break, and the reminder that all that hard work is in service to something greater:  family, faith, and God.

I love hard work—indeed, I think it’s one of the keys to happiness and purpose, particularly for men—but there’s hard work, and there’s exhausting yourself for a pittance.  Let’s reward the former with some downtime.

With that, here is “Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break“:

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TBT^4: It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle!

Another year has passed, and another Thanksgiving has rolled around.  In the tradition of this blog going back to 2017, I’m throwing back to past Thanksgiving Day posts.  I’ll alternate between italicized and non-italicized posts so readers can see the layers of commentary and annual updates.

In re-reading “TBT^2: It’s a Thanksgiving Miracle,” it’s interesting to reflect on the contrast between 2019 and 2020.  Yes, 2020 has been a rough year universally, but it’s personally been one of my better years.  The Virus really took its toll financially, especially on my private music lessons and gigging empire, but both of those are recovering as folks mellow out about The Virus and the holidays approach.  I’m back to six students now, and have been blessed with some truly God-sent bookings recently.

The Virus brought a silver lining:  it forced me to slow down.  All the shutdowns made me do what I would have been loathe to do voluntarily—give up various extracurricular activities and side gigs.  For the first time in probably seven years, I took the summer off, other than my History of Conservative Thought course and one intrepid piano student (and three days of painting for the school, because they were desperate).  I reluctantly got on some extremely mild anxiety medication, and now I love the stuff—I’m not fretting over insignificant things anymore.

I enjoyed distance learning, too, though I am glad to be back with students (most days).  It provided the opportunity to laser-focus on my teaching, without all the extra little duties and responsibilities that normally come with teaching generally and my position specifically.  I missed putting on a big Spring Concert, but I didn’t miss the stress, the lack of institutional support, and the hours and hours of unwinding and connecting XLR cables.

All in all, it’s been a very good year.  I’m up to eight generous subscribers now to my SubscribeStar page, and many of you have purchased my music on BandcampYour support came when I needed it most, and for that, I will always be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving 2020!

—TPP

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The Joy of Music

One of the greatest joys in life is music.  Regular readers will know that I love musicplaying it, writing it, singing it, arranging it, analyzing it, launching it into space, etc.  As an art form, I believe music is uniquely suited to communicating ideas and beauty across time, space, and cultures.  It can be intensely nationalistic, yet still universal.

We’re back to distance learning today after a positive case of The Virus, and since it’s the day before Thanksgiving Break—historically the biggest blow-off day of the school year—my administration decided to play it safe and declare today a distance learning day.  As such, I took the assignment derived from The Story of 100 Great Composers and ported it to my high school music classes.  Those classes will share about their composers today.

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Memorable Monday: Thanksgiving Week!

It’s back again—Thanksgiving Week!  For many of us—especially those of us in the cushy racket known as “education”—it’s scarcely a week at all, just two days of relaxed, stately learning before five straight days of loafing and turkey-filled indolence.

I’m kicking off the laziness early with a throwback post to last year’s Thanksgiving Week—a post entitled, appropriately, “Thanksgiving Week!”  It’s a post that celebrates the insanely short week—and opines for it to become scarcely a workweek at all.  I also delved into a discussion about slippery slopes—my favorite logical fallacy that often becomes true—and the necessity for a ten-year moratorium on immigration.

I’ll likely be doing more throwback posts this week as I indulge in some family time and gluttony, but I’ll keep trying to provide top-level italicized commentary for your amusement.  Also, we’re just a few days away from 700 days—that’s 100 weeks!—of consecutive posts.

In all seriousness, there is much to be thankful for this year.  Even in 2020, a number that has taken on a reputation only slightly less horrifying than the Mark of the Beast, there is much God has done for us.  A promising vaccine for The Virus—produced in what must be record time for a vaccine—is surely one such thing for which we should give thanks.

Turn to God in times of trouble, not just when things are going well.  Easy to type, hard to live.  We’d be all better off, though, if we made the effort to adopt gratitude as our default position.

Here’s “Thanksgiving Week!“:

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TBT: Giving Thanks (and a Sales Pitch)

We’re just one week from Thanksgiving.  I’m thankful to live in a State with enough commonsense and decency not to attempt to trample our right to gather with our loved ones on such an important day.  There may be a good bit of uncertainty about the future, but at least we can get together and enjoy some time together (and some turkey, of course).

In casting about for some TBT fodder this week, I came across this blatant sales pitch post from Thanksgiving Week 2019.  I haven’t pimped out my scribbled wares lately, and this season of generosity and giving seemed like a great time to urge everyone to dig deep and subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for a buck a month (or five, for that matter).

Last year at this time I had five subscribers and a piddling thirty-five posts.  As of the time of this writing, I have 144 posts on the page (which will hopefully be 145 by the time you read this TBT, as I owe subscribers for this past Saturday) and eight subscribers.  That includes fifty-three installments of Sunday Doodles, which only $5 subscribers get.  The rest are Saturday posts, with a few Five Dollar Friday posts tossed in for you big spenders.

I would love to get that subscriber count into double digits by Christmas.  If you’ve been hesitating for any reason, or said, “Oh, I need to do that when I have a minute,” make that minute now.  Grab your credit card and swipe that sucker (you actually have to type in the number) and make it happen!  Then you, too, can enjoy a bottomless back catalog of my portly musings.

With that, here is a very commercial, cash-grabby look back at “Giving Thanks (and a Sales Pitch)“:

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TBT: The Joy of Autumn

It is—to use a Southern expression—hotter than blue blazes here in South Carolina, as it always is in early September.  Lately, the extreme heat and humidity have made any outdoor activities unbearable, at least for yours portly.  The air is thick and muggy.

But there is some relief in sight.  We’ve had some rainy days here and there that have given brief—fleetingly brief!—tastes of autumn.

Autumn is, by far, my favorite season.  After the brutal oppression of summer, autumn is a welcome relief.  Autumn in South Carolina is brief, but lovely—the days are warm, the nights crisp.  The season makes it stately arrival fashionably late, usually late in October or early in November (though Halloween always manages to be hot; just once I want an Indiana Halloween!).

The cooler weather brings with it better smells:  pumpkins and spices replace the persistent smell of cut grass and sweat.  Food tastes better in autumn, too.  There’s a reason candy apples are an autumnal fair food:  that thick, sugary, caramel coating wouldn’t last in the humidity of summer.  There’s also the pies:  pecan and pumpkin, of course, but also sweet potato.

Oh, and there’s college football.  The SEC hasn’t (yet) betrayed fans like the West Coast conferences.

So, here’s hoping autumn returns sooner rather than later to South Carolina this year.  With that hope—and prayer—in mind, whip out the pumpkin spice and enjoy November 2019’s “The Joy of Autumn“:

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Lazy Sunday LXIII: Holidays

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, which means no one is reading self-indulgent posts on third-rate blogs.  While a good chunk of the country is still shut down, lots of the the sensible parts are opening up again.  People aren’t going to let The Virus ruin the official opening weekend of summer.

Since it’s a fun holiday weekend, let’s look back at some holiday-themed posts (note—instead of posting these in chronological order by publication date, I’m placing them in order based on when the calendar would appear in a calendar year):

  • Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day” – I didn’t write very much about love or romance in this post, though I was “dreaming of Tulsi Gabbard donning a MAGA hat.”  I also linked to photog’s blog post about matchmaking, which features a detailed rundown of the horrors of modern dating in the comments.
  • He is Risen!” (and “TBT: He is Risen!“) – A short post about Easter, the most important date on the Christian calendar (with Christmas a close second).  The original post details some of the sobering statistics about religion in decline, but it was heartening to see that 2/3rds of Americans in 2019 believed that Jesus rose from the dead.
  • Happy Halloween!” – Big surprise—I love Halloween.  This post details why, and includes pictures of my jaunty l’il Jack O’Lantern.
  • Thanksgiving Week!” – There sure are a lot of exclamation points in these titles.  This post isn’t about Thanksgiving, per se, but more about the nature of the school calendar that ceded the Wednesday before Thanksgiving as another day to the holiday.  I also offer up some reflections on the limits of logic, especially of following ideas to their absurd conclusions.  Practicality plays a role on putting the brakes on some ideas.
  • Christmas and its Symbols” – This post features lots of French horns, as well as a Daily Encouraging Word devotional about the symbolism of Christmas.  I go after atheists, too, which is always fun.

Enjoy barbecuing and being normal again with your friends and family this weekend!  ‘Tis the season.

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

TBT: Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break

I’m on vacation this week, burning through my precious personal days in order to spend some time in Florida with the family.  Normally, I wouldn’t feature such a recent post for TBT (I try to do posts that are at least six months old), but when going through my archives for vacation-themed posts, this was the closest fit I could find… even if it’s not Thanksgiving.

Regardless, I increasingly believe that workers need time off.  I understand the economics of time off—it’s only possible with a great degree of efficiency and wealth—so I’m not unrealistic about it.  It just seems that people should be able to take off Christmas and a few other key days.  Just as folks will “unplug” from social media for twenty-four hours, shouldn’t we be able to escape work, even for a day?

Speaking of social media, it does seem that cell phones and e-mail have made it impossible to escape work.  I have never worked a job that truly stopped at 5 PM.  That’s likely true for most Americans.  The ability to be connected constantly means that people expect you to be available constantly—there’s never truly a moment that I feel at rest.

Perhaps that’s a person problem, and my pathetic generation is particularly anxious and afraid of a ringing phone, but Lord knows I hate getting a call during my free time, limited as it is.  There’s always the fear that it’s going to be some tedious, work-related issue.  Such issues always seem to pop up right before, or even during, a break.

Oh, well.  I can’t complain—or, at least, I shouldn’t.  Work is a blessing.  But like all good things, you can have too much of it.

With that, here’s “Brack Friday Bunduru: Workers Need a Break“:

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and Christmas‘s time—an ever-expanding season that stretches into September—has finally arrived.  Today is Black Friday, the consumerist threshold that formally inaugurates the Christmas (shopping) season.

Black Friday, much like the holiday season it ushers in, has slowly stretched beyond its one-day window.  First, the expansion went into Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday.  Next came Giving Tuesday—a bit of charitable giving to close out the mad dash for savings.  Once you’ve spent all of your money in big box stores on Friday, at the dying mom and pop joint in your town, and everything else on Amazon on Monday, whatever is left goes to the United Way.

Now Black Friday even bleeds into Thanksgiving Day itself.  Doorbuster sales with lines forming up at 2 AM on Black Friday is spectacle enough; now, stores opening Thanksgiving afternoon or evening try to squeeze more revenue from zealous shoppers.

As a schoolteacher, I’m spoiled:  with the exception of two years of my life, I’ve been involved in education in some way, which means I’ve always gotten a glorious Thanksgiving holiday.  It rankles me, though, when service folks are denied even one day to relax and spend with their families (until I need to buy something at 8 PM on a Thursday, and that Thursday turns out to be Thanksgiving).

“They should get a better job, Portly.”  Okay, sure, a perk of teaching, for example, is all the crazy days off; a perk of a professional job is to vacation or flex-time.  Federal employees have to work on Black Friday, but they get every second- and third-tier holiday on the calendar as a paid vacation day, so I don’t feel much sympathy for them (plus, they work for the federal government).

But even taco jockeys and the weird, pushy old gay sales clerk at Macy’s need a day off to spend with their families (or, in the case of the weird old gay guy at Macy’s—an actual person I have in mind—his little lapdog, Snickers—that part is pure speculation on my part).  There will always be those who want to work on Thanksgiving for that sweet golden time, of course, but wouldn’t it be worth it to shut everything down for a day or two?

Yes, if you work in retail, you’re going to work Black Friday.  All the more reason—before clocking in for a twelve-plus-hour shift—to have the day of Thanksgiving completely off.  Gotta have time to sleep off that turkey and dressing, at the very least.

Christmas is another one where I often forget—cozy in my cosseted bubble of quasi-academia—that most people work the day before and/or after Christmas.  The idea of working the day after Christmas seems like a death sentence, but that’s not as bad as working on Christmas itself.  Whatever Ebeneezer Scrooge is forcing his employees to work on Christmas Day should probably be imprisoned.

The folks in Medieval Europe had the right idea—dozens of feast days to celebrate this or that minor saint or hero.  They probably went too far in the other direction, going overboard with merriment.  I’m sure there’s a happy medium.

Today, we modern Americans work our fingers to the bone.  That’s one reason we’re great, and I’m a firm believer in hard work.  All the more reason, then, to take a day or two during this time of year to slow down and relax a bit.  We hustle and bustle through the Christmas season with such rapidity and motion, we don’t take the time to savor it.

Shutting down everything but essential services—God Bless police officers and emergency medical personnel for being there on Christmas and Thanksgiving—would be an admirable goal for at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, as well as Thanksgiving.  Open your store up at 12:00 AM on Black Friday if you want, but don’t make your employees come in until right at that moment.

These are just some stream-of-consciousness thoughts I’ve had as I’m wrestling with questions about the proper balance between work and life.  But hard workers could use a little downtime with their families during the Christmas season.