Spew at Your Own Risk

Yup.  A lot has been happening in our world.  Reactions have been hot, hasty, and brimming with judgement.  We as a nation conveniently forget that there are two sides to every story.

I am a well educated Northern woman.  I attended colleges and learned the history that was presented to me.  As an adult I also recognize that the history I accepted as fact was interpreted at some point by human beings.  They set forth a record of events as they understood them.  I respect the past and try to learn from it.  Yet what I learn , the lessons I take away, may be radically different than yours.

Case in point: The Civil War.  The concept of slavery is abhorrent to any who respect humanity.  I was taught that the South wanted to keep slavery so they could keep their economic wealth.  Thanks to the bravery of the Northerners spurred on by the great Abraham Lincoln, we triumphed over evil. Was there more to that story?

Absolutely.  The South wanted the right to make their own decisions, and not have the North limit their right to self-government. In a union where all states are equal it is reasonable to rebel against an equal power imposing their will upon yours.  As a member of our union, the South had a fair gripe.  Many Southerners abolished slavery of their own accord, many plantations had white workers as well as black.  Men of all colors and persuasions died for the liberties and rights we take for granted. The South had its share of men who fought bravely to defend their point of view. Though their side eventually lost the battle, it is only just that we recognize the sacrifices and heroism on both sides, that we strive to achieve a thorough understanding of all suffered in the conflict.

Our current social and political climate does not encourage inquiry.  It feeds off fiery rhetoric and moral judgement.  Judgement without understanding, however, is not only flawed but criminally ignorant.  Egos must be pushed aside, and our ears and hearts opened.  We as a nation will never find peace amongst ourselves until we make an effort to consider things from perspectives other than our own. We need to demonstrate respect for each other and respect for individuals that hold alternate opinions.

Spewing venom or using principles of violence to support your viewpoint is unacceptable.  It tears the fabric of our social construct while accomplishing exactly nothing.

President Trump is under fire for not choosing a side to condemn during recent events in Virginia.  Instead he called on all to assess their own behavior.  “How could he?!”, the outraged cry, “He needed to condemn the right,” etc. etc. I vehemently disagree. It was a wise decision to approach the matter as the president did.

This event was a perfect storm.  What started the ruckus?  The removal of Confederate memorials.  If your ancestor had earned a memorial for past deeds, and then a new person judged that memorial inappropriate, you would most likely be upset.  It is an effort to rewrite history.  The right applied for protest permits for a peaceful demonstration.  Permits were granted, and they planned to peacefully express their viewpoint.  The right and alt-right are two different factions. The KKK and white supremacists (again, differing groups) saw this as an opportunity to foster their own agenda, which they perceive as pushback to Black Lives Matter and other Liberal protests.  Anti-Fa of course jumped right in to enforce their own position, which, although they are the ones carrying weapons, arriving masked and promoting violence, includes the idea that they are somehow an anti-fascist group.

I admit that to me, here is where things get muddy.  The word Nazi itself is a shortened form of national socialist.  The liberal groups are much closer to the socialist viewpoint than the right wing or conservative groups, but if you are white and don’t espouse a socialist viewpoint, then you are a nazi?

Labels, names, titles etc…There are so many personal grudges going on here that it is nearly impossible to separate them.  The black faction is using the race card. So are many whites in defense of the current accusation of crimes of “white privilege” . They are in a defensive position, equally unwilling to subjugate their own race to current demands of reparation etc. Feminists are adding to the melee whenever possible.  Everyone  loves to accuse the president of pretty much everything.  Extremists love to go where the controversy is.  So you do have actual white supremacists and some truly heinous personalities added to the mix.  Then you declare a crisis and choose a side to blame, the military escorting one side out of the confrontation and instructing your forces to stand down against the other side, which is  shouting F the police and threatening everyone although the original demonstrators are no longer on premise.  Add in a media circus and voila! Are we really surprised that death wriggled its way into this arena?

Who should we be pointing fingers at?  All of us.  Every single one who posts inflammatory rhetoric and shares ugly posts on Facebook, every one of us who feels our moral position innately superior to the opposition.  Lack of inquiry and reflexive spewing are ruining our country.  Name calling, witch hunting, aggravated angst and drama, the ridiculousness of our media coverage, sensationalism everywhere. Look in the mirror.  Have you added to the frenzy?

SHAME ON US.  Blacks are not superior to whites and women are not superior to men and anti-fa is not superior to the far right and you are not superior to your elected officials or police force. Nor is the converse of any of these statements true. The individual is reigning while the majority and group are suffering.  Find common ground. Common ground is our strength. Stop thinking about YOU all of the time and begin to think about US again. Think of what we achieve when we, with respect for our individual differences , work together in a positive way for the benefit of all.

We all have the power to smooth the waters.  We carry skills of communication, thoughtful discussion and respect.  We can encourage the good without feeding the evil. Deprive this fire of oxygen and be a responsible citizen that no more lives be lost due to ignorant fury.  Embrace patience, kindness and generosity of thought and deed. Teach our children and model behavior we wish them to emulate.  Consciously choose to be a force for peace.

I am not condemning your social or political ideals: I celebrate them all.  We need to talk, to share, to learn. I welcome open dialogue, and want differing opinion.  None of us own the truth- we merely see a piece of it.  If we are to live to know the whole, we must work together.  We are more than separate viewpoints: we are humanity.

 

Cross the Bridge

Men and women are very different creatures. Intimacy is not always easy.  What do we need to be close to one another in a meaningful way?  How do we get there? How do we sustain intimacy through challenges like loss, hardship and misunderstanding?  Can love endure? Sex and how we relate to one another are key.  Knowing our partners emotional and physical desires is integral to a successful relationship.

It is a familiar refrain:  My partner doesn’t understand me.  He or she is simply not meeting my needs.  She isn’t as receptive in the bedroom.  He isn’t really listening to me. We used to be so close, but now there is a distance.  How can we communicate? How do we close the gap? How can we get back to where we need to be?

For women, emotional intimacy is the ultimate connection.  We are sexual creatures, but often our feelings color our moods. When we feel loved and appreciated, relaxed and confident, we also feel more romantically inclined. Emotional connection leads us to express ourselves physically.  We talk, snuggle and laugh, opening ourselves to romantic and sexual exploration. If we are not feeling emotionally close, our physical response is often less enthusiastic.

Men’s physical response is less emotionally driven. They value sexual connection, physical needs frequently topping the happiness list.  Men are not less romantic, emotional or affectionate.  Rather they most easily find their emotional connection through the physical.  When a man feels physically fulfilled he is often also at his most emotionally connected.  Sexually satisfied men tend to romantically indulge their partners.  If a man perceives himself as sexually ignored or deprived however, he is often less likely to express himself in an emotional way.

Our perspectives and orders of expression are different: sex opening a path towards love, and loving leading us towards sexual expression. It is as if we are positioned at opposite ends of a bridge. Happiness lies in the middle. Who needs to make the first move to close the distance?

You both do.  This intimacy bridge is real. It is a basic tenet of male and female communication.  It is inconvenient, uncomfortable and often frustrating.  In enduring relationships you will face your partner at the opposite end on multiple occasions. Circumstances define the distance each time, running the gamut from being an occasional mild annoyance to a smoking relationship grenade.

Compromise is the only solution.

This does not simply mean meeting halfway.  There will be times when compromise for one partner is simply impossible.  Feelings of hurt, misunderstanding, anger or abandonment interfere.  Realities and hardship fog our logic, making it impossible to see all the way to the other side.  This is the moment to decide:  Can I temporarily push my position and needs to one side and reach out to my partner?  Can I try to close the gap, even if it means I need to cross all the way to the other side on my own?  Is my relationship worth this immediate sacrifice?  Is getting back on intimate, connected ground worth the effort I will make to understand and fulfill my partners needs before my own are met?

Is it more important to be right or to be happy? Although right and happy can co-exist, on occasion it is necessary to make a temporary choice between the two.

Sometimes the answer is a harsh one, and compromise is not an option. You are not willing to cross to your partner. If your relationship is to survive, it means that your partner must make the trek to you. This does not mean you get to pass all the blame for your lack of connection onto your partner.  You have closed a door. This is a conscious choice on your part. If you adopt an intractable stance, you must also be ready to face the consequence of your decision. You have chosen to plant yourself as an immovable object, thereby consciously passing all responsibility for your relationship to another person. There are do-or-die scenarios when this response is certainly appropriate.  Opting not to cross is your decision. Perhaps this relationship has run its course, or perhaps your partner will choose to try the distance. It is essential that you hold your ground.

Many times, however, the situation is not so dire.  Your ultimate happiness may mean more to you than the current situation. You can understand your own feelings of disappointment or anger or sadness…and yet you are willing to cede ground in an effort to get closer to mutual understanding.  This does not invalidate your feelings or position. Rather, you are trying to reach a better place where negotiations may be possible and choose to be the person to take the first step. Perhaps you choose to venture forth, in the hopes that once you have shared physical intimacy, you will have a better chance at emotional reconnection.  Or you can choose to be patient, and listen, and perhaps proffer romance in the hopes that it will lead to physical intimacy once your partner has more of their emotional needs met. Essentially you are taking time to understand your partners needs. You are attempting to close the distance, because your relationship means enough to you that the effort is worthwhile.

There is no guarantee that your efforts will pay off and that you will be able to close the gap.  Yet it is a certainty that your relationship will fail if neither partner makes the attempt.

No one is a saint.  We all have selfish moments.  Sustaining intimacy is a commitment. Sometimes it feels a lot like work, but the rewards are never simply for one partner.  If you cross the bridge, and keep communication open, the resulting closeness is of benefit to you both.

I have thirty four years invested. The joy of deep connection, the gift of a true lifetime mate, has been worth every compromise and momentary sacrifice along the way.  It is not always easy.  We have each had to cross to the other on many occasions. After all this time our priorities still fall out of sync, and our methods of communication still differ. Why? We are not the same person. We are committed to each other and the life we share. Through learning and loving we have  become better people and infinitely better partners. We are not even close to perfect, but we are perfectly happy.

 

 

lovers

National Reflection

It is time to look in the mirror and make an honest assessment.

Our face is covered in fine lines, cracks running through our visage. They are labeled racism, feminism, and terror.  We are showing life wear and tear, symptoms of stress.  We are experiencing disenchantment, a disconnect and suspicion of our neighbors.  In some cases we are actually devolving into paranoia.  It is as if darkness is hovering over our being, settling around us in a mantle of winter depression.

What we need is sunlight.  We need Spring to arrive, replete with its blossoms dotting our landscape.  We thirst for fresh air, hunger for calm and contentment. We need to take a deep breath and rediscover our strength of purpose.  We need to remember that beauty is more than skin deep.  It exists in the core of our being.  Character defines our existence. Optimal health encompasses our soul as well as individual parts of the body.

Under surface turmoil, our structure remains sound.   Yes, there are cosmetics we can apply, and exercise routines necessary to reduce the signs of aging.  In spite of the constant barrage of infomercials and health fads flung into our consciousness from every direction, however, we are still in pretty good shape.  We need to learn to recognize marketing techniques for what they are, acknowledge our imperfections and rejoice in the life that is ours.

We live in a nation that enjoys more prosperity and freedom than most on the planet.  We embrace the individual and celebrate the human in all of us. We are a nation of creators, comprised of  rich colors and dazzling backgrounds.  We experience great joy. Americans are not scrabbling amongst the ravages of a war torn land, suffering from bellies swollen with starvation.  Yet lately we have been bombarded by protests, surrounded by cries of how terrible we have it. Emotional outbursts are rampant.  This is not a perfect nation. There is suffering. There is injustice. We have needs that should and must be addressed.

Yet we must keep our perspective. Appreciate how lucky you are to enjoy the freedom to criticize.  Appreciate the diversity you have encountered, the technology you enjoy. Appreciate the bonds of friends and family, holidays you have shared.  Understand the abundance that has been and remains yours, the richness of history that brought you to this place and time.  Remember to sing, look at the sky, listen to a child. Though you are surrounded by reports of angst, whining and rage, remember to measure it against your own experience.  See the good in those around you. Laugh. Take time to focus on the abilities and activities you are lucky enough to enjoy. Love in every form.

Be grateful.  Be honest.  See truth. Focus on our gifts as well as our curses. Whether looking at a country or your own self, perfection is a myth, something to strive towards but an unreasonable expectation. There are so many parts you can find pride in. Ranting at a mirror is unproductive.  Hating ourselves for our flaws accomplishes precisely nothing. Allowing our nation to spiral downwards into endless cycles of negative repetition is a mistake.  We are working ourselves into unbalance, creating  our own disorder. Stop. Think.  Reassess. Draw in a cleansing breath. Do not allow equilibrium to shatter from a simple crisis of confidence.

Our body reflects the life we have lived so far. Negative wear and tear from bad choices has taken its toll.  Yet there are also lines from laughter, a few extra pounds from over indulgence. Our body is yet miraculous, capable of experiencing deep life. Ease up on the negativity and harsh judgement.  Stop hating yourself. Stop projecting bitterness. Take the responsibility to improve your situation. Action is admirable if it is positive and productive.

Life is an ongoing work in progress. We can strive to improve the less flattering parts of ourselves.  We can also be honest about our flaws and yet love our whole selves. Spring inevitably follows the winter. Let some light into your life. Choose to remain positive. It may not be fashionable but I am truly thankful to be American. I like what I see in the mirror. I need to be on a diet and could definitely get more exercise, but I am holding off on the plastic surgeon.

 

images-2

In a Word, Power

Social media is a big presence in our world.  Today more than ever, we need to mind the power of the word.  I am not speaking of bullying, or foul language, or hurtful rhetoric. The beast we need to be most aware of?  REPETITION.

Have you ever noticed that internet accusations spread like wildfire?  Weird and unusual facts abound. A funny meme travels faster than light.  We are curious creatures who want the inside track. Our egos are gratified if we are perceived as clever, witty and in-the-know. The problem of course is that social media does not increase intelligence.  It is a display forum, where we revel in our own status and grasp at artificial acceptance from those in our periphery.

I love Facebook and willingly participate in the dance.  Social media is fun, and can offer insights.  It is a useful tool, as are guns and knives.  Be conscious of the whirlpools of emotion and think of them as traps for the unwary. Outrage seems to be the current, highest fashion.  Why, if our friend is in high dudgeon we must support them by sharing in their anger.  The fact that they are in distress fuels our own sense of protectiveness and fury.  In their defense and your own swelling wrath, it is of the utmost necessity that you spread knowledge of the wrongdoing and invite others to your pod of anger. The pool of negativity grows ever wider.

Racism exists. So does sexism.  Social inequity is a struggle all races , classes and species have faced since the beginning of time.

I have friends who post regularly on these issues.  We have more social justice warriors busily attempting to spread knowledge and fix our ways than at any time in the past. Is it working?

No. Funny enough both people of color and those of lily white persuasion were more satisfied with the state of race relations twenty years ago than at the current time. I was astounded to read actual statistics on crime in 2016.  I expected that white on black crime was up, that rape had dramatically increased, that we are in effect going to hell in a hand-basket. Facts do not support the outrage I read.  Yes, of course there are heinous examples of abuse.   Statistically speaking however, they are rare.  They are the exception and not the rule.

Yes we need to take the exceptions seriously and work to fix our issues.  What is not helping?  The internet.

For example, we see the word “racist” a hundred times a day.  Through repetition we create an awareness.  Through outrage and anger that awareness intensifies. I am not a racist, you argue.  Oh you don’t think so, comes the response, but you are the recipient of white privilege. I am poor, you splutter in response.  Irrelevant, comes the defense. Etc, etc., etc…You have now been tagged with a label, one you perceive as unjust. Defensiveness causes the breaches between your positions to widen. Soon you can barely communicate, both sides irate at the lack of understanding.  The rift has been aggravated and widened.  Racism is now an issue on an emotional level, all involved feeling misunderstood, labeled and vulnerable.  Has this been in any way effective at reaching an understanding?  Furthermore, has this rift been fueled by fact or runaway emotion?

We have added new vocabulary to our online battles, words like patriarchy and feminazi. Words catch on and spread, gasoline to our flames.  Cuck, libtard, fascist…through repetition they capture our attention, root in our imagination and take hold of our consciousness, escaping with gleeful chuckles as we hit the share button. Is this our chosen method of influence? Are we adding to our social dialogue in a positive way?

Just look at our recent election cycle.  Catchphrases repeated over and over. Cartoons that mock…not in the traditional  editorial style expected of the fifth estate but memes and artistic mashups, the more hilarious the better.  Entertaining?  Definitely.  Sadly perhaps, often influential.  Yet only a limited number of originators have in depth understanding of that they mock, and in many ways have stripped the proceedings of any gravitas.

I am all for artistic expression but we need to remember a few things.  Facts are important. Because you have seen a post does not mean it is true.  Because a friend is outraged it does not mean they are right. Peer pressure is a genuine phenomenon as is mob mentality. Social media is simply a tool.  It is your responsibility as user to decide if what you post is of true value. Think about what you read before you react. Have you looked at facts?  Have you examined issues from both sides?  Are you furthering communication and understanding or are you simply widening a pool of outrage for entertainment’s sake? In your quest for entertainment are you actually damaging someone?  Spreading hatred or sowing mistrust? Why do you feel the urge to post at all?  Is it an emotional reflex or logical response? Are you effecting change in a positive way?

Repetition is not truth.  A word holds power; thanks to social media, more power now than at any time in the past. Choose carefully. Research your facts. Understand and think before you jump in or elect to share. Posts are communication shorthand.  Every word counts. You have influence.  Wield it wisely.

 

speech

Magic

Christmas holds a sacred magic.  It is the celebration of our Savior and a celebration of the best within ourselves and our families.  It is a dream come to life, a holy moment to treasure full of promise and heart.

Nostalgia is part of it…that feeling a child holds when dreaming.  It is hope and wonder, excitement and light.  It is seeing the sparkle of tree and star, that light blinking in the sky that could be a reindeer’s nose.  It is hugs and hot chocolate, whispers and giggles,  the reverent silence of mass followed by boisterous caroling.  I am no child. The magic I remember so vividly lives on inside a secret part of myself, given reign this day.

I remember way back, my dad carefully placing tinsel, my mom collecting greenery. Fancy clothes and fancier hors-d’oeuvres,  noisy parties and quiet times, logs crackling in our hearth. Songs, old and new drifting through the air while cinnamon, clove and pine teased my senses. Catching the first flakes of winter on my tongue, the sled propped in the corner by the tree reflecting the colored lights, merrily blinking welcome.

Opening my eyes and holding my breath while creeping out to the living area…had he come?  The pipe on the table, a crinkled napkin and mysterious bootprints on the rug . Waking my parents, sharing my joy with my brother and sister, endless laughs in footed pajamas.

There was no thought of responsibilities or work, sad times or hardship.  We simply reveled in the moment, the joy of Christmas morning.  We loved each other. It was freedom of spirit, purity of family celebration. It was all.

I loved every minute of creating holiday moments for my children. I love choosing gifts, decking the halls, adding elements of surprise… Seeing their joy deepens my own.  Time is merciless.  It keeps on moving. Life has so many moments fraught with tension.  During this season, I refuse to allow it. The boys are grown men now.  Still, the magic stays.

I bake and decorate, shop and plan and get excited for our sacred morning.  The world waits outside our picture window, and we turn away from it. We turn to our manger, praying to our Lord in gratitude.  We leave the cell phones behind.  We take our time and tease one another, sharing presents thoughtfully chosen. We have no thoughts but for each other. Time stops. We simply love.

It is magic.  The child, the woman, the maiden, mother and crone…all aspects of myself are humbled by my family’s love.  Christmas is as special to me as it was when I was four, deeper now as my understanding of the world and my love for my family has grown. I still revel in the lights, the colors, the hugs and the laughter. I know that each member of my family is my gift and that this shared time is beyond price.  It illuminates my soul.

It  is a celebration of all that is holy.  It is Christmas.  It is sacred.

 

angel

Chivalry at Risk

2016 is full of shouting and protest.  Everyone is angry, busy being righteous.  Social progress is arguably being made, but at what cost?  We are forgetting our greatest strengths, kindness chief amongst them.  In our rush to be forward thinking we are sacrificing elegant concepts of the past.

I have feminist friends who aggressively promote the ideology of sameness. Rubbish! I don’t want to be the same as a man.  I enjoy being treated like a lady.  Please, go ahead and open a door for me.  Allow me to enter a space before you.  Carry something that is heavy to ease my way. Defend me and shelter me from harm.  In return I will respect your strength and feel cherished.

Could I have opened the door myself?  Of course I could!  But where is the fun in that? Every time my mate chooses to honor me with a traditional gesture I choose to feel honored.  He is not stomping on my independence or individuality.  He is telling me that he loves me.

No one wants to be mated with an insensitive clod. We all want to see the softer side and get to the inner hearts of our men.  But any woman who tells you she is immune to masculine strength is lying to you. Watch television or pick up a book. What do our most revered male icons share?  Our protagonists throughout history have been primarily Alpha males.  Manly men should be appreciated, not mocked or beaten down for masculine impulse or expression.

I am not suggesting that we worship muscle, although a good physique can surely be appreciated.  Mental strength, solid decision making, strong moral character are all desirable traits.  Leadership abilities, construction and mechanical abilities, philosophy and poetic bents can all be part of the ideal male.  Outdoorsman or city slicker, a sense of humor and a surprising ability to dance-whatever floats your boat, underneath it all I want a man who remains essentially and unapologetically male.

Women are not the weaker sex. But we are a different sex, with different strengths.  Yes, same wages for same job is logical.  Berating someone for being a man is not.  I taught my sons to respect women, and also to respect themselves.  Their spouses are appreciative, for their men are kind individuals unafraid to give their hearts. They are truthful to their mates, unafraid to say what they feel or follow the instincts they understand to be right. They have manners. They have strength of character. They treat their ladies as they someday wish their own daughters be treated. They share traditional values, for which they face rebuke.

Shame seems to be the newest mantra.  You are not keeping up with new ways and instead embrace the old.  Shame on you.  Hang your head. I for one will not. Nor will I expect the manly men I love to apologize or will I fight them off when they offer me traditional gestures. I am not outraged by their thoughtfulness. I am honored. I want my husband to be a man, not some watered down neutral-gendered pet.  Is that offensive?  Yes, to many . That is okay. I have listened to my friends politically correct sensitive ramblings, many of which seem to put men a step below women. I find that offensive as well as breathtakingly arrogant.

I choose to cook for my family, which many say currently qualifies me as hopeless.  Could the men feed themselves?  Of course!  It is my choice to prepare food as a gesture of my affection for them.  Every relationship is a give and take situation.  The appreciation I receive for the food I prepare is ample reward. I choose the traditional for myself because it works in my relationship. Why is that wrong?

True feminism should be about choice.  Don’t want to cook?  Don’t.  Please stop ranting at my choices.  Respect my rights. Stop shaming men for traditional values. There are multitudes of women who prefer the Alpha male.  You can go ahead and scorn the muscle, or publicly pretend to. It is the weird dichotomy of our time. Fitness magazines and gyms promote physical strength while our outward speech and social expectations ask men to be apologetic for displaying might.

Ironically some of the most diehard feminists I know giggle in the dark at six foot tall built guys, laughingly wishing they could be so lucky. How un-politically correct of them.  These are the same girls who are just so offended by the objectification of women, yet stop in the mirror to see if their hemlines are high enough for a wild night at the club.   Whose notice exactly are they trying to attract? It couldn’t be a manly male, could it?

Biological urges are rooted in biology.  Men throughout history have been hunters, providers, defenders.  Now we ask them to step down, hold back, shelter the weak, embrace the soft, and in essence deny basic tenets of maleness.  You know who this hurts? All of us.

I love a knight in shining armor.  Not because I need to be rescued but because my heart thrills at the idea of being the knight’s conquest. Silly perhaps but ultimately truthful. I have the heart of a warrior and in no way see this perspective as weakness.  Instead it is completion. Queens have oft ruled kingdoms, but the idea of a manly king to match her resonates in my soul. It is not right or wrong.  Call it an appreciation of history, a nod to biology or feminine whim.  I want a man to treat me as a woman.  We are not the same and therein is where our greatness lies.

Yet we are systematically killing off chivalry. Why? It is in essence a form of kindness, a gesture of respect. To what end?   Please, stop your screeching and consider what it is that you are tossing away.

Women decry that it is difficult to find a truly nice man with whom to share their life. Women need to take part responsibility for that circumstance. Perhaps we need to show men more respect. Perhaps if men were encouraged and appreciated, taught to behave as gentlemen, and were free to be themselves without constant fear of reprimand things would be different.  Perhaps if men were expected to act as men, and women as ladies, the results would surprise us all.

chivalry

Sorting Through a Life

My kids say that once I die they are going to want to kill me.  I have a lot of stuff. They are NOT looking forward to sorting through it.  Hey I get it.  I had to clear my grandma’s, each of my parents and an uncle’s home.  It can be perplexing and tedious. It can feel like a strange unlooked for responsibility.  It can also be joyful.

Nothing is as personal as your private things.  If you are left in the position of sorting out someones belongings, you are privileged.  It is your honor to handle their memories and to decide how to preserve the meaningful while disposing of the unnecessary.  Being the sorter means you were loved and trusted , privy to the innermost circle of someone’s life.

Yes, you will be frustrated at the amount of paperwork perhaps, and face the quandary of where everything will go.  But you will also stop and cry, laugh and remember.  You will rejoice at having had this person touch your life, and sorrow at things left unsaid and the finality of the moment.  In your sentimentality you will probably hold on to more than you should.  It is always hard to let go.

I look around my bedroom and see a strange assortment of objects.  Antique clocks that were my ancestors, a collection of medieval figures, a garden gnome that made me laugh, the books that brought me joy, an angel that my mom chose for me…am I sounding like a packrat?  Perhaps a little, but I keep these things because they make me smile.  They are the happiness of being loved and sharing moments with family and friends.  Because I run a theater business I will leave behind interesting props and more scripts than anyone could need. I will leave cards and notes and photographs. I will leave flashes of my passions.

I surround myself with the things I love. I hope my sorters do the same.  They will not love or appreciate the same memories I did. That is perfectly okay.  I do not want them holding on to unnecessary junk they will never look at again but keep because they feel guilty. I shudder at the thought of a shrine.  Objects are not important, except perhaps as a representation of the time you shared together.  My sorters should feel free to throw away whatever they wish. I truly have no expectations.   I am no longer part of this world.

They are.  I wish them to keep anything that brings them joy or a laughing memory of the time we shared.  Maybe they will each only keep one thing and dispose of the rest.  As long as it is a thing that is meaningful I have managed to leave them with one last gift. Though I can no longer be physically present I have shared a moment of intimacy with them, a final “I love you.”

Unfortunately for my kids they WILL someday have to sort through my stuff.  I will try to be kind and keep organized. There will still be piles they aren’t going to know what to do with, mutters of “why on earth did she keep this” and “oh, mom”s floating around.  I also hope there will be smiles and moments of the life we shared together, and that they stop their busy lives just for a moment to feel my echo in their heart.  This is one last thing they can do for me and I ask it of them with all the love in my heart.

senhora_e_cavaleiro_medievais_bonitos_poster-rad80ee2061024b7abda3ff91392a1993_z6tts_8byvr_324

Why Gift?

Holiday gifting is an opportunity. Giving means I see you.  I recognize who you are.  I appreciate what you mean to me.  I honor you.

What?  How do you get that out of a new pair of socks?  Well, some gifts are practical, designed to fulfill a need.  You want someone you care about to escape the cold or avoid a flat tire.  You want them well fed. You want them to live in a clean environment and enjoy good health. These are matter of fact wishes that express care for a person’s well-being. Through your gift you are trying to meet a specific want, a need of the recipient that you wish to fulfill. Practical can be very thoughtful. Pragmatic gifts say I care.

Passion gifts go a step further.  They recognize the unique in the recipient.  You like to sew so I find the best materials for your latest project.  You are a gardening fanatic so I research the latest botanic breakthroughs.  You love JRR Tolkien so I find a book bag with hobbits printed on it or a calendar from Middle Earth. Passion gifts honor the recipient through your acknowledgement of the things that matter most to them.  You are saying that you want them to have the things that make them happy, that you recognize whatever their individual interests are and that you honor their individuality.

Romantic gifts directly speak to your relationship.  Perhaps a negligee or crystal wine glasses will evoke memories of private moments shared.  Jewelry often falls into this category but so do other items such as framed photographs and childhood memorabilia. Maybe you know a side of the recipient that no one else has seen and found a way to reference that through a special present. You get her a candy she loved as a teenager or find him that special aftershave.  You find a photo of the two of you from 1970 and add a special caption.You make an ornament with a shared saying on it. Romantic gifts are a personalized statement of affection. Your gift is a direct reflection of your shared bond.

Oh, but I wouldn’t want someone to misunderstand the intent of my gift.  If I frame a photo or go with the romantic, does that imply a diamond ring must be in the offing?  Of course not. BFFs often choose to shine light on the personal. Your gift reflects the bond that is, telling the recipient that your relationship matters.  These gifts speak to the heart. Love is always a gift.

But my wife needs a vacuum cleaner.  Well then, that might be the best gift you can give her.  Or she might treasure a shell you picked up off the beach while thinking of her.  Or you might have heard her say that she loves dancing and set her up with some lessons. Your husband has had his eye on that workbench for a decade.  He can never find a tie that matches his grey suit. He loves a certain craft beer.

The trick is to think about your recipient as a whole person.  What are their passions and dreams?  What times do they cherish?  What makes them smile?  Are they more practically minded or prone to flights of fancy?  Of what do they dream?  What can you do to give them a moment of happiness?

But there are so many choices…so many directions! Practical, passionate or romantic- how do I choose?

There is no wrong answer.  As long as it is meaningful, your choice will be perfect every time. The key to giving is thoughtfulness.  Understand and appreciate the person and honor them through your choice of gift.  Special doesn’t mean big, expensive or fancy.   It means making or choosing a gift with care.

Who do I need to give to? That is strictly up to you. Your list can include anyone you wish to make happy, to recognize in some way the part they play in your life. The holidays are a celebration of what we hold dearest, an opportunity to show appreciation and love to those who make our lives worth living. Enjoy your opportunity to show gratitude.  Celebrate!

christmasgift-1448527736g4k8n

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.

fall-snow

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.

grandmother