White

Only October but the flakes are falling. It is not as quiet outside as true winter.  Cars are still speeding along, hurrying to their errands.  The pine branches are softly drooping, white jackets a reminder of the coming season.

Many are grumbling while adjusting their collars.  “We have to put up with this nonsense already?”  “And so it begins.”  “If this crap is any indication, we are in for a bumpy ride this winter.”  I understand.  I sympathize. I choose to experience it differently.

What a wonderful reminder of how short the seasons are.  It is chilly but brings thoughts of cozy days, warm time among family and friends, a steaming mug of cocoa, the crackle of a fireplace and the woolen mittens your grandmother knit for you.

Winter has not yet arrived.  This is but a moment to feel, a chance to break from the ordinary in our routine.  Christmas will be here before we know it. The smell of peppermint and ginger cookies replace our thoughts of mummies and pumpkin spice- if only for a moment.

The snow is pure, a light coating of white drifting to cover us in a curtain of peace.  Politics have escalated as we go into election season. We squabble and fret over the state of our nation.  Snow reminds us of larger things, of God and Mother Nature whose plans do not always coincide with our own.

This storm is beyond our control, and we hate that about it.  Yet it is a reminder that much in our lives relies on greater forces and circumstances outside of our own design.  When we encounter such bumps in the road we can complain or we can appreciate them.

I am grateful. Life is unpredictable.  If it were always sunny and seventy degrees we would take the weather for granted.  Instead, today we have been given a sneak preview.

Winter will arrive replete with its own challenges and excitement, gifts that will keep our days entertaining and our quests memorable. Today it is still fall, with orange leaves and red branches colorfully poking through the white. How lucky I am to live in New England, full of mystery and adventure.

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Nana’s

I remember the smell of turkey on Thanksgiving as I walked in the door, the warm hug and loving exclamation of my name, the obvious happiness whenever she would see me.  Hers was not a fancy place, but warm and welcoming.

Nana spent time.  She played Candyland and Scrabble, took me to amusement parks and for long walks.  She read to me, and cared about my day.  She talked with me instead of at me and made me laugh whenever she could.  I miss her.

Married to an abusive alcoholic Nana had known loss, heartbreak and suffering.  Her face was lined, wrinkled in testament to her struggles, yet her eyes still twinkled merrily. She had raised four children to adulthood, men and women with strong moral compasses who improved the world they lived in. Her children were always her greatest source of joy. She never let struggle harden her heart.

Nana was open and loving, supportive and kind. She was an original. With oodles of curiosity and a willingness to experience new things she often surprised us with her sense of adventure. Whether taking me on a roller coaster or boating across a lake, hunting for Easter eggs or watching Batman she lived in the moment.  She was present and sharing that moment with you as if it were a gift. She had boundless spirit.  I never doubted that she loved me.

At Nana’s I always felt special.  I was not her only grandchild but recognized that the bond we shared was unique to the two of us, and I am certain that each of her grandchildren felt the same.  She listened and laughed, challenged and comforted.  Her home was my second home where I was always welcome.

I will be Nana soon.  I am excited and hopeful.  We do not fully understand the impact our extended family has on us when we are young.  Yes we know we love our grandparents, aunts and uncles but we do not yet know how cherished the memories of our times together will be.  I had a good set of parents, but the impact of my extended family  was enormous.  I had so many role models, each of them with special wisdom and experiences to gift me.  I was shaped through their lives and love.  They are part of the woman I am.  I will forever be enormously grateful for the time we shared.

My grandchildren will know the unconditional love of Nana. I look forward to sharing time and building memories. I hope to be part of our family legacy, by sharing the warmth, kindness and wisdom I was lucky enough to grow with. It is an honor and privilege to try.  I understand what a difference it can make.

I spent every Thanksgiving with my Nana. Now I am simply thankful to have known her.

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Bubble Wrap Childrearing

Should we protect our kids from all harm? If we do, we are not doing them any favors. A child can try to shelter a baby bird in hand, but if they squeeze too hard they will kill it. The motivation is pure- that of protection, but the result is the opposite.

I am a mom.  My sons are my heart.  Of course I want to shield them and pave an easy road. Our instincts can be counterproductive to producing happy, well-adjusted and independent adults.

Nobody likes a bully.  Confrontations with aggressive folk are painful. When someone makes our kindergartener feel bad, we wish we could stomp the offender senseless. We do what we can, complaining to adults, scheduling conferences, keeping our child as far away from the tyrant as possible.  These are not necessarily wrong actions but they are not the most important response.

Talk with your child.  Sympathize and explain that these are situations we all encounter, no matter how old we are.  Explore why the situation happened and suggest some coping strategies.  Think it through together.  What do you think the bully was trying to accomplish?  How could you react next time?  What effect does this incident have on your child’s feelings toward and relationship with the offender?  Share your own experiences. Support and love, listen and strengthen.  Keep the incident in perspective.   This can be an important opportunity for learning.

Our anger while certainly justified can aggravate an already uncomfortable situation. More helpful is the confidence we can instill by believing our child has the strength and capability to handle the situations they encounter.  “Sticks and stones may break your bones” is an outdated adage. Words certainly do hurt.  Yet the message behind the old verse of not giving someone’s words too much importance is still relevant.  By not adding our own fuel to the fire, by acknowledging a situation to be irritating rather than life-threatening, we diffuse much of the impact. You are sending a message that the incident does not need to rock a child’s inner confidence.  The actions of the bully only reflect on the aggressors nature.

As your children grow, learn to trust them.  Trust that the lessons you have imparted fell into fertile soil .  If they do not have an opportunity to exercise their moral compasses then they have little opportunity to develop their own code of ethics.  Will they make mistakes and exercise poor judgement?  Sometimes.  Those too are learning opportunities. This is how we learn to accept responsibility for our failures, and how to improve in our decision making.  If you lock your child in their room throughout all of high school do not be surprised when they lack appropriate skills to successfully cope with the challenges of college.

Our children need to fail.   They need to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are. Yes, love them with all of your being.  Never ever pretend to yourself or to your child that either of you is perfect.  We all have strengths and talents and we all have weaknesses. Being able to honestly assess which are which is a tremendous source of inner strength.

I am not suggesting that total freedom is the answer.  Parental limits are an important part of your child’s security.  If your children exceed those boundaries punishment is perfectly acceptable.  Yet try to resist the impulse to jump in and automatically fix a problem they have created.  If your child did not do homework, they should fail the class and attend summer school.  Make it clear that they are responsible for that choice and the consequences that follow. Don’t call the school, begging and bartering on their behalf. Make your child understand where their own power lies and how their choices will impact their life.

Your child may not like vacuuming or doing dishes, but not everything in life is fun. He wants expensive electronic equipment, but the cost of such items are prohibitive.  It is not only okay but realistic for your child to understand these concepts.  He needs to value work, sacrifice and limitation.  By making things too easy you are giving him an unrealistic view of adult life, a life which may no longer include the shelter of a living parent.  Our kids cannot become independent productive citizens if not allowed to grow through experiencing personal hardship.

Again, talk with your children.  Do not speak at them or lecture nonstop.  Help them to express their struggles aloud.  It is a gift to be able to share our doubts and fears.  Listen, as free of judgement as you are able, encouraging your kids to reason through their circumstance, reaching their own logical conclusion.  Help them learn how to think.  Help them apply their reason to emotional circumstances. Do not tell your child how to feel. Give advice when asked for but allow them to interpret their own positions.  They might not agree with you, and that is okay.  Try to understand their perspective and keep your conversation meaningful. Do not lie or fall back into standard platitudes. Be real. Honest and open conversation is the single most effective tool in the parental toolbox. Discussion will not resolve every issue. It will open paths of understanding. Keeping open dialogue is essential.

Your kids will get themselves into trouble. They will encounter obstacles. We wish we could wrap them in bubble wrap that all the sharp edges of life could be blunted. It is tough to watch our offspring flounder or struggle. It can be painful. Stay the course. Support where you can but allow the struggle.  Love them unconditionally. Believe in their strength. Have faith they are capable of finding their way.  Give them the opportunity to cope. Rejoice in their accomplishments, genuine progress they make through their own struggles and perseverance.

It is not easy to raise a confident adult.  Allowing our birds the freedom to fly is an integral part of the process. Throw that bubble wrap into the trash. You and your child are tougher than you think.

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Warning

A teen I greatly respect sent a warning today about Halloween costumes.  He urged his friends to be careful in their choice of holiday dress, lest their selection offend someone.

Sadly, I fear many will have to be naked- Wait, no, that too will offend someone.

Look, I understand that we should be sensitive to the feelings of others.  Causing deliberate harm is always wrong.  My question is this:  why must we be offended?  When did we forget how to laugh at ourselves?

I am of Irish descent and my husband is Colombian.  We often jokingly refer to our offspring as Irish Coffee.  I cannot tell you how often I have heard jokes about drunken Irishmen or Colombian drug dealers.  They did not make me curl into a corner and die of embarrassment.  They were funny.

Why do we take everything so personally these days?  Humor is based in the outrageous. Costuming is playing dress-up, a form of pretend.  Sure, we can make a statement through how we dress, but on Halloween most are dressing for fun.  Yes, someone might mock the current political agenda but so what?  Laughing is sometimes more effective therapy than crying.  It helps us keep perspective.

Outrage is currently fashionable.  Breathing can offend someone.  To stop breathing however would not be in your best interest.

Know who you are and what you believe in.  As long as you know yourself you are not threatened by the expressions of others.  They are allowed to think as they like. Their viewpoint is opposed to yours. So? It doesn’t mean that you need to explode in a cloud of angst.  There have always been jerks in the community.  Choose not to associate with those you find hurtful. Accept difference and move on.

Choose not to be offended.  Welcome a moment of humor.  As humans there are so many qualities and situations that we can make light of.  Costumes, if taken in the spirit of fun intended by Halloween, are nothing to get our knickers in a twist over.  It is not as if someone has entered your workplace with a picket sign – these are people dancing, at a party, and collecting candy.  If they are enjoying a moment of revelry, let them!

“I would simply never wear such a thing.  The message they are sending is inappropriate.”  Could be.  The good news?  You never have to wear that or send that message, so how is their choice directly impacting you?  You disagree with their choice?  Walk away.

It is highly unlikely that someone chose their dress with you specifically in mind.  “Ooh, wonder what I could wear that would really get Karen’s goat?  Aha!  I know how to offend her.”  Few are truly that diabolical.  Understand that this moment, their choice, is not intended to be about you.  It is an opportunity for someone else to dress as they wish in that moment, a free pass to enjoy creative expression.  The rest of the year is restricted by social boundary. On this night it is acceptable to stroll outside of the expected.

As a kid I loved Halloween because it let me be someone else for a few hours.  Oh, that freedom, excitedly exploring a different way of dress, inhabiting a character, showing off a different side of yourself.  It was such fun!

No one is perfect. Perhaps you are overweight, have buck teeth or did poorly in school. Perhaps your ancestry is different from most of your friends.  Your religion might be unique or you hate macaroni and cheese.  You loathe birthdays.  There is always some quality we undervalue in ourselves, something we wish we could change, a vulnerability. We all have weaknesses. Some of yours may be exploited through another’s choice of dress.

Don’t take it to heart. Choose to accept it in the spirit of fun. Share a laugh. An understanding of who we are and a solid sense of humor are among our greatest strengths.  Halloween is not about judging.  It is a holiday.  Dress up, be free and celebrate!

Jumping Judgement

You cannot deny it:  This election cycle has turned many ordinarily well spoken folk into ravening beasts foaming at the mouth when confronted with opposition.

I just witnessed a super nice, somewhat reserved person post her political view online for the very first time. Shockingly, at least to me, one of her social media”friends” immediately, aggressively condemned her.  There was no discussion.  There were no questions.  She was simply told that because of her views, which had been politely phrased, she was obviously ignorant. Point blank. Ignorant. This “friend” scolded on, stating that it was hoped the girl would “start to think…” The commenter topped it off by condescendingly adding that she was “sorry” she needed to unfriend her, but there simply was no choice. Really?

If she had promised to unfriend me, I would have cheered without hesitation. No loss there.

“Sorry?”  I doubt it. The aggressor was way too high on her horse looking down her nose to suffer regret. Who is she fooling? And what puts her in the position to pass judgement at all?  “Start to think?!” How dare the commenter decide this girl is less informed because she came to a different conclusion.Talk about logical fallacy. It is the commenter here who needs to stop and reassess. Her post was arrogant and thoughtless, callous and unnecessary. She rendered unequivocal judgement based on her perceived superior thought process. She hurt someone and did it deliberately over a simple difference of opinion. Being summarily dismissive is no act of friendship.

Of course there is a choice. She could have accepted that someone felt differently about an issue. Since when has thinking for oneself become a criminal act?  So you disagree.  That is perfectly okay.  Agree to disagree. You can (and probably should) have friends with a variety of opinions. Do you choose your friendships based on a single trait? Must they only share your point of view to be deemed acceptable? I would hope not. How boring.

The responder could have chosen whether it was worth examining or exploring differences. It is not required that anyone comment on a post. Perhaps she could have scrolled by without stopping to offer insult. She could have responded thoughtfully, mindful of her friend’s feelings. She could have responded honestly from a position of friendship. This is known as civil discourse. It is a form of social manners. It is an exercise we expect of our offspring by the time they are of kindergarten age.

For some reason adults have forgotten how to play nice.  We are too busy being offended, aggrieved and oh so right all the time about everything.  We no longer  behave as if we understand the most basic elements of friendship, most notably that of respect.

Judging others does not make you more intelligent.  It simply demonstrates that you are closed minded and unwilling to listen when others disagree with you. It certainly does not confer superiority in any way. Express yourself all you want, but at least attempt to be civil with those who are giving you the courtesy of hearing or reading your views.  Ranting is unproductive. Slurs and vindictiveness are simply ugly.  Clear and measured reasoning carries weight. Choose to communicate with style and dignity.

We used to talk politics around the dinner table every Thanksgiving.  It was a fun exercise, as I had an uncle who simply loved playing The Devil’s Advocate.  He would stake an outrageous position and argue it to the best of his ability.  He would get everyone going and then laugh and laugh.  It was fun and educational.  We all loved and respected one another.  We knew it was good to examine issues from all perspectives and it was your right to decide how you felt.  We respected each other and trusted that we would think our own matters through to the best of our ability.  We disagreed often, and that was okay.  If anything our disagreements added a healthy dose of spice to our relationships, not to mention a heavy dose of humor.  They strengthened our affection.

We had all types in our extended family: curmudgeons, liberals, feminists, gay, conservatives, substance abusers, traditionalists, revolutionaries…and we loved them all for their individuality.  Each person broadened our family understanding of the world around us.  We learned to look at any set of circumstances from several unique perspectives.

I wish that colorful bunch was still here today to argue about the 2016 presidential race.  I can just imagine how fun the disagreements would be! There are so many avenues currently open to conversation that I cannot imagine how adventurous and colorful our journey would have been. I do know at the end of the day, regardless of where we individually stood on matters, we would still have loved and respected one another with humor, depth and understanding.  Of course my older relatives never had the chance to debate politics on a social media platform.  Just as well I guess.  The internet might have imploded. My uncle would have loved every minute of it.

 

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Facebook Foibles

Social media is a trip.  I could not have imagined as a child the universe that awaited, communication so easily accessible.  It is truly a wonder-arguably the eight wonder of the world.  I love my FB time but confess it as a guilty pleasure.

It is not always inspiring.  There is gossip and filth crabbing virus-like from person to person, more than can be believed.  The personal nature of revelations are often shocking. Acquaintances own up to thoughts, spilling opinions I never would have guessed at. Our boundaries have obviously been rewritten since Grandma advised my generation to air our dirty laundry in private.

Stories rage like wildfire, and few do research or check facts before forwarding the latest tidbit. A meme can make us laugh aloud or feel instant outrage.  We are compelled to add our two cents to the conversation, even if it is someone we haven’t  seen in person in forever.  After all, they posted it so they are seeking our feedback.  The reflex is almost that of when the telephone rings. You hear the call and must answer.

There is a phenomenon newly known as virtue signaling, when someone posts something like “I gave money to the homeless today.”  We love the feedback, thrilling to see that someone approves of what a good person we are.  The more likes a post receives make us feel valued.  “I got nearly a hundred likes on my post- Man, I am smart and popular.(insert smiling emoji here).”

Or of course, the opposite happens and no one comments. (crying face, poop pile, crying face). We are then relegated to the depths of the lonely and under-appreciated.  Facebook is ego gratification at its finest. You did notice how beautiful my granddaughter is, didn’t you?  It provides the comforting feeling of connection, that someone else cares about what matters in our lives.

It is a fantasy world into which we drop our fears and dreams, begging the universe for validation of ourselves.  It is undeniably fun.  It is also deceptively addictive .  It encourages us to become more self-absorbed. We are narcissists briefly touching one another for our own gratification.

Facebook is not evil.  Like anything else in this life, it is simply what we make of it.

I love being able to reach out quickly and effectively to the people I care about.  I love the posts that make me laugh.  I play two games through the site that are fun and keep me occupied.  I have met people from foreign countries who share my interests, indulging in conversations that I never dreamed I would. I have shared photos and organized happenings.  It is a useful tool. I appreciate what it can do.

It is interesting to me that my children, now mid -twenties, are recognizing the shallower aspects of social media. Some have even become bored with it, deleting their walls. They are independently choosing to limit their online time in favor of face to face interaction. They choose not to get drawn into drama but add commentary when they feel it appropriate.  They are aware of the pitfalls and give me hope for our future.

My sons’ egos are not dependent on social approval but rest within their own knowledge of themselves.  They have learned balance.  I wish I could say that I gave them that gift but frankly they have always been more media savvy than I could ever aspire to.  They reached this place of reason on their own.  It is fortunate they see true, for their children will enter a world reliant on technology in a much more complex way.  I hope they enjoy it.  I hope it serves their needs.  And I hope they always retain their human magic, deftly interacting in the good old fashioned method: face to human face.

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The Art of Gift Giving

The holidays are fast approaching.  For some, producing presents signifies an exciting challenge, a delightful spree.  Others dissolve into cold sweat, horrified by the pressure. What makes a good gift? 

Simple: something you have thoughtfully chosen to gift with your recipient foremost in mind.

Giving is less about the giver than the receiver.  We all want to be loved, noticed and appreciated.  It is not about money.  There are myriad ways to show affection that have nothing to do with your budget.  Through giving you are sending a message: you are important to me.  I value our relationship and am celebrating by sharing this with you.

What are the finest qualities in your friend?  Do you appreciate the music you share, a sense of humor that never fails, a willingness to listen?  Is your recipient a nature lover, a thinker, shy or bold?  Are they a sportsman, builder, artist or performer?  What do they do in their spare time?  Of what do they dream?

Avoid the trap of  “Wow, I think this is awesome, so I am sure they will like it too”. Remember this is not about you.  It is about appreciating and showing affection to the receiver.  The better you know your receiver, the easier the process becomes.

Pay attention.  Not the night before the holiday, but over a period of time when you really look at, think about, watch and observe the people in your life.  Have you been listening to those around you?  Be mindful of their points of view and the things that matter to them. Are they super sociable or quiet natured ?  Is there any part of their life that you can make easier?

Think outside the box.  What would surprise them?  What have you noticed about them that surprises you?  How can you recognize their unique qualities?  Do the enjoy travel?

Gift certificates for experiences are readily available.  Arrange for an experience you share or provide an escape from their daily routine. Dining, hot tubs, rafting, the circus…Find tickets to a venue for a performance they would enjoy.  Send them somewhere they have never been.

Write a poem for  them or assemble photos that are meaningful.  Make an ornament.  Bake a family recipe or pass one along.  Craft the unique.  You don’t need to be Picasso.  As long as your gift carries meaning it will be appreciated. Find something that you know will make them laugh.  Choose a book that you know will capture their interest. If your gift shows how much you value the recipient, if it carries heart, it is a no-fail proposition.  You have successfully conquered the challenge of the perfect present.

Giving is an art form but there is no mystery to it.  Express your appreciation of the person in your life.  Choose thoughtfully. Gift respect for the relationship you share.  How will you know you have chosen well?  When you are excited to give, because you know the receiver will be happy as a result of your choice.  It is worth the effort.  Mindful giving puts joy and meaning into the holiday. It will turn your shopping chore into a heartfelt celebration.

 

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Leaves

New England foliage is amazing in October.  The golden and orange tones intertwined with vibrant reds and greens present so beautifully against a sparkling  blue sky.  It is fall.

I am in the autumn of my life.  Granted it is still early fall for me, but my time on this planet is evolving.  I enjoyed my spring years, lively and awkward.  My summer was full of love and laughter, peppered with the adventures of raising a family.  I have had some challenges as we all do and celebrated so many joys.

It is hard to recognize the passing of happy years, but fear of aging is a waste of time. Especially when there is always something new and wonderful to appreciate in each particular place and moment you occupy in your life.

Autumn brings a profound appreciation of the things we take for granted in our youth. There is a hint of a chill in the air and we know winter is ahead, which somehow makes us appreciate our campfires all the more.  I listen so much more carefully to the happiness in children’s voices.  I let more of my cares drift away on the breeze, allowing them to flutter away as I recognize how unimportant they are in the larger scheme of things.  I savor the hugs and kisses, the smiles and conversations.  I feel art and music. I let my imagination move freely, words and connections simpler yet more meaningful.

Because I have faced loss I hold what I now have dear. I see the past with new and wiser eyes.  I use my time more thoughtfully, turning my attention to those things that matter most.  Nature calls to my senses. I often stop simply to breathe the fresh air and give thanks that I am here.  Sunlight on the water and dew on the grass lift my mood.

I have always been family centered. The frantic schedules, crazy balancing and teen angst have quieted.  Children are now adults, fully immersed in the unpredictability and excitement of life on the cusp of summer. I listen and comfort, enjoy and advise from a calm corner. I give whatever I can to smooth their roads. I revel in the solid feel of my husbands body curled against me in the quiet hours of the morning.  A cup of coffee, a hearty laugh, clean soft sheets and colorful small details create my nest of comfort. My family is home.

The vital green of life, rosy warmth of family gatherings, oranges of surprise and yellow sunshiny anticipation of grandchildren weave into a beautiful tapestry. The tree of life is an age old symbol and it is apt.

I have lived through seasons turn. Autumn’s colorful grace carries the meaning and appreciation that youth lacked.  I am at peace, wholeheartedly grateful for the golden years.

 

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Money Offenses

I admit it.  I am peeved.  A young man half my age just snickered at my home heating system.  “Wow”, he commented, “Why would you keep this old thing running when a new one only runs five or six?”  I coolly inquired, “Five or six?”  He answered,”Yeah, five or six, seven grand tops and you can get rid of this clunker.  Who would be silly enough to pop seven hundred dollars into repairs?  Waste of money when a new one is so cheap.”

I would be that silly.  I simply don’t have the cash for a new one.  When I tell him I am interested in prolonging the life of my existing system, he stares at me blank-faced for a moment, then utters a drawn out, disparaging “O-o-o-h. O-kay.”

A student yesterday lamented that she felt bad because she may not be able to attend a twelve hundred dollar Caribbean cruise during spring break that is an optional journey offered by the music department at our high school. “Oh, you’re going too?” her peer squealed in excitement. “It is gonna be so much fun!”  “No” muttered the blushing student in a quiet voice, “I don’t think I will be able to make it.” Her squealing friend paused, caught on and attempted to minimize the damage.  “No big deal.  There will be other trips later on.”

And there will be, but perhaps not for everyone.  My kids were never able to go on one, and you know what?  They are thriving happy adults. I am not going to freeze this winter and I have it a lot better than many of my acquaintances. I am solidly middle class and my situation is far from unusual.  There are those far above me and those way below my monetary status. The heating boy does not own his own home, have children to support or occupy any meaningful position from which to comment on my financial choices or situation.

Until you have driven a clunker or worn hand-me-downs or cut coupons, you probably have little understanding of what financial judgement feels like.  An inherent assumption exists that there is a basic level of economic wellbeing that everyone enjoys.  People need to be more aware that personal circumstances vary.  The squealer meant no harm and the oil technician was simply thoughtless when he spoke. Neither understood the audience they were addressing. They were each reveling in their own thoughts, without looking outward to see or care about their neighbor.

Take a moment to really see before you speak.   When you do speak, express yourself with care to the person you are addressing. Many of your neighbors struggle to put food on their tables.  People work long hours to support and nurture their families.  We face losses of those we love and watch our families grow.  We endure illness and share celebrations of life achievements. We are human and share our joys and sorrows.  Does a diminished savings account define a person?  Should shame follow admission of poverty?  Does a fatter wallet make a better person?  Of course not.  Yet those who feel looked down upon by those of superior financial status feel lessened.   Are you making someone else feel like less?

People can be grossly insensitive.  The trick is to not let it ruin your day.  Remind yourself that the offenders have no real understanding of your life and are speaking out of turn. You also have no appreciation of their background.  Though financially comfortable their lives may be lacking in many other ways. Perhaps they never learned how to look thoughtfully outside of themselves.

These offenses are hardest on kids.  Children are honest. They can make devastating remarks without even realizing that another student is feeling belittled.  “You have never been to Disney?  Oh, my parents take us every two years.  You have to go!”  Kids have little to no understanding of economic differences.  Parents need to educate their children early on.  Take the time to explain values, and where money matters fall in the hierarchy of life.

We all like having things and doing things.  Money is important as having it ensures comfort and a certain freedom to move fluidly within society. Yet there is a lot that money cannot do. Money cannot replace a solid system of ethical values or substitute family or friendship or education.  Money is superfluous when it comes to emotional connection or appreciating nature. Money is a practical object. It is not key to becoming the person you wish to be.  Having easy access to wealth is not a solution to life problems. Funny enough when things do come easily they are often less valued than those we earn.

The heater boy offended me.  I was mad for a minute or two.  I was certainly not jealous.  I am proud that I have worked to get my family to the place we occupy and wouldn’t change my beloved crew with all its foibles and circumstances for the world. My best memories and experiences have nothing to do with my wallet. I am glad my kids and I are thoughtful. We do our best to value others. We often laugh at our challenges, recognizing that financial woes are better issues to face than many others.  I am grateful for all we do have. In spite of a bum oil tank we are remarkably fortunate. As to whether I will have this heating company make another service call, I will simply reserve my judgement.

 

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Health Interrupted

There are so many ways health issues impact daily life.  There are rabid monsters like cancer, injuries, bouts of viruses, and minor struggles with the common cold.  As each onslaught attacks our well-being we are presented with challenges:  how to educate ourselves on our ailments, cope with symptoms and alter our routines to accommodate illness.  Do we require assistance from others? A new diet?  Will this situation recur? Whom should we include in our planning?  Will this affect our income?  And perhaps the most important question: what is our attitude towards the situation?

Everyone hates to be sick.  Losing control over our wellbeing is scary.  It is our body going rogue, choosing our circumstances for us.  We cannot always choose the status of our health, but we are not powerless. We decide how to respond.  We are in charge of our coping mechanisms.

Feeling sorry for ourselves is natural.  We feel terrible.  Needing support or sympathy is perfectly acceptable.  Nobody likes a whiner but a bit of self-indulgence is justified.  It is okay to have a good cry or lean on a partner for a bit.  Go ahead, feel sorry for yourself, but only for a short time.  The pity party needs to end, so your strength and attention can turn towards the positive process of recovery.  If full recovery is not an option, then do what you can to focus on living the best quality life you are able.

Rail at the Fates if you must.  Be angry at the hand you were dealt.  Once you have acknowledged the injustice of it all, face your situation and make the best of it. Take the support you need but be as independent as possible. You are sick.  We are all in the process of slowly dying but you are certainly not dead yet. Exercising the strength you do have restores your sense of control.

Be realistic.  Accepting your circumstance is not conceding defeat.  It is your starting point from which you will launch your battle, one positive step at a time.

Be grateful.  Focus on small achievements and the gifts in your life which bring you joy. Push yourself to take steps forward but be smart enough to claim time to rest when necessary. Take pride in how you conduct yourself through this difficult time.  Be proud of the smart decisions you are making.  Challenge yourself to be a role model for others facing similar situations. Illness can make you a warrior.

Maintain a sense of humor and try to keep your perspective.  It is natural to want to turn your focus inward, especially if you are in pain.  Sometimes however, it is by focusing on others around us that we are able to keep our own hurts manageable. Be thoughtful and deliberate. Spend time in activities that soothe your soul.  Pray, meditate, listen to music and enjoy nature.  Throw open the curtains and let the sun shine into your room.

Understand that we all face health challenges.  You are not alone.  Others share your struggle- now, in the past and in the future.  Represent yourself in a way you can take pride in.  You are lucky to have this moment at all.  Appreciate it. Face your circumstance. Decide for yourself how you will cope. You will experience this time whether you are miserable or joyful. Even if you are suffering it is still your time and your opportunity. Own it. Savor this moment. Take honest, active control of your health. Decline the whine.  You are a warrior.

positivity