Nothing To See Here

Fandango, This That and The Other wordsmith, tagged me for this “Tell the Story Challenge”, where, when tagged, we are supposed to 1) write something in response to the photo you are given (above), 2) pick a picture of your own (at the end of the post), and 3) tag three other bloggers to do the same. Here’s my take on the image Fandango gave me (and two other bloggers):

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Inspiration. There should be a boatload of it all around me, but I feel pretty much MEH about create anything at all today. Deadlines are the bane of my existence and this is a just one more nail in the coffin, which I suspect might be part of the problem. You have to admit that with death in the word ‘deadline”, it all seems a little morbid, no? Blech.

Stuck in this little room, surrounded by memories of who I used to be, it’s hard not to remember the one who once shared this space with me and never will again. Life got real and it left a mark. But, all this musing is not very conducive to inspiration, or if it is, to me it’s only crickets. Wait, could that be an old cookie I spy on the counter and why is it even there? Does no one ever come in to clean this place? Right. No one would be me. Awkward.

I look at the cracks in the old floor, remembering kids tiptoeing in to see what I was up to and how those interruptions were always the best part of the day. Scattered here and there are all the unfinished projects, in different stages of completion – or not, I was determined to finish. Books I never read but were on the list stare at me in accusation. Paintbrushes I forgot to clean, which are now useless for everything but stirring the paint they were meant to spin into art, ditto. Once this place ruled but all the creativity has been sucked out, leaving it merely expendable, redundant — and empty.

So I sit, watching the late afternoon light spilling onto the detritus of what used to be my busy life of partner, now an often unrecognizable solo. But this is the best light of day, these late hour glints, where dust floats in glimmering rays. They cast a benign glow on the peeling ceiling and showcase the empty tea cup that really should have been cleaned. But then, who really cares?

Deadlines be damned! I’ll sit this one out.

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Okay, peeps, my three tags go to:

Ana at The Abstract Muse

The Wittiest Widow

Deb at Widow Badass

 

Let’s what kind of story these word stars can tell about this image:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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Pick a Card

Remember that time you walked through the Hallmark section of the store and your hand automatically reached for the husband, mother or brother card? Then you caught yourself. You remember that person is no longer here and, before there’s a teary cleanup on Hallmark aisle 6, you make a quick detour from the land of schmaltzy cards.

Cleaning out my husband’s night table drawer a few months after he died, I found a Christmas, Valentine and two birthday cards – all unsigned. He had a funky habit of buying several cards for every occasion. Go figure. He gave some, saved some and some he couldn’t decide. I was just glad he wasn’t ‘that guy’ who made a blindfolded lunge for the biggest wife card from the rack, regardless of what it said. Nope, that guy’s cards were always carefully vetted, usually eerily expressing his emotions, which could span the galaxy, but always made their mark. And isn’t that what cards are SUPPOSED to do?

Years ago, romantic cards seemed to scream – nope, not for you, keep going. They’d often tick me off. In fact, I even considered creating an entire line of funky, alternative cards. Seriously, we all have at least one relationship that is MEH on a good day, so why not a card that matches? Something neutral, kind, not mean spirited but definitely not “Oh my goodness, how I love you”. Yeah, no.

Then I met my husband. One of the many best things I realized about being with him was that I could finally march into the card aisle with abandon. That’s right, I could walk right up to the lovey dovey cards, and pick one without cringing. That was no small deal, my friends. In fact, I actually looked forward to Valentine’s Day! Imagine that. I now had a reason to leave little ‘just because I love you’ notes around. And it felt more than right because I could say those three little words without choking on them.

Those who’ve experienced painful relationships, emotional and/or physical abuse, knee-capping betrayal or disappointment totally get it. They understand that just being able to be transparent in love, let alone declare it loudly, is groundbreaking. Being able to sustain it, through the grittiest, most crushing cancer moments – is a damn grateful love miracle!

I’ve seen a shift in greeting cards these days. They are more real, more edgy, less saccharine. They speak to diversity, to coping with cancer, to LGBT couples, and parenting in real life. Unfortunately, everything seems to have a price and greeting card prices today are bordering on a small mortgage. I get it. The greeting card industry is struggling to stay relevant – and solvent. Seriously though, if you need to choose between a card OR a gift, that’s just weird.

Meaning well doesn’t always mean saying it well. That’s why greeting cards are kind of like an instant “Speak for yourself, John Alden”. Hallmark moments will never change the world, but bringing a smile, assuring that you’re thought about, and being reminded that you’re loved is always a good thing.

These days, I still steer past the husband section. Bumping into lavish, loving spousal cards, when searching for one for my handsome son, can suck. It can send you to emotional places you don’t have on your itinerary that can pitch a monkey wrench in your placid errand schedule.

My widowed friends can totally relate. 

I’m relieved we’re good with holiday cards — at least for a few months. I can use a break from sidestepping cringe worthy, lovey husband cards, or those to other people we’ve lost. Okay, maybe one day I’ll get one of those moonstruck “I love you cards” again. I might even have reason to send one, and I’m pretty sure my husband would be more than okay with that. The jokester who stashed those passionate cards in the night table would say, “Just step away from the rack and move on, kiddo”.

He was such a card.

The Year That Was

2018 is in the rear view mirror —  and I’m really not sorry to see that crazy year go. You? From historic wildfires and a royal wedding to constantly growing political scandals, 2018 was a doozy. Walls and bans were touted, homegrown gun deaths showed no constraint and tropical hurricanes raged. In stark contrast, people marched worldwide in never before seen numbers and the long overdue awareness of sexual harassment continued to fuel the #MeToo movement. The rich have gotten richer while the poor get still poorer.

Yup, 2018 was a whopper – and not always in a good way.

Even in the worst of times, (and this year ranks in the top ten) we can grow, be humbled and learn. Looking back, I need to unwrap and process a few things myself before I throw the door wide open on the new one. While I’ll still write 2018 on checks for a few months, this week my oh-so beautiful Christmas tree still stubbornly stands. But, if my pharmacy’s shelves, incredulously stuffed with hearts and candy boxes, are any indication, apparently Valentines Day is around the corner.  Knowing I’ll have to make peace with the old before I can welcome in the new, here are a few tiny reflections on the year that just left the building:

• Awareness. Until the last few years, I was literally a political sleepwalker. I never watched or read political thought, and my voting behavior consisted of little more than flipping all the switches on the family party of choice. It wasn’t until my granddaughter cast her first vote 6 years ago, that I stopped short. It was a shock to realize just how blithely I had ‘opted out’ of wanting to know. My sweet girl’s interest in learning about issues that affected all of us ignited my shame at never having given that mature move a thought! In that election, I left ‘mother may I’ far behind and reading, listening, discussing have become part of my persona. MSNBC and NPR have embarrassingly become my pals and I’m as aghast as anyone else at what has become the ‘norm’ in our political theater. Ignorance is no longer an option. Vive la resistance! Continue reading

Merry . . . Everything

I really like Christmas. Who doesn’t? I’m just so relieved the war on this holiday is over! Whew. I’ve been saying “Merry Christmas” with abandon all these years, never realizing that there was a sinister, pervasive movement afoot. I sent out Christmas cards, put up my creche and topped my ‘baby Jesus birthday cake” with a candle angel. All that time, as I blithely went “over the river and through the woods”, I never realized there was a lurking, sinister plot to steal Christmas. Okay, even in the best of times, I never saw a partridge in a pear tree, but still, who would steal CHRISTMAS?

(caution: Holiday rant ahead)

If miles and miles of crazy, blinking house lights and stores decked with holly since the day after Halloween are any indication, secular Christmas needs no comeback or defending.  It gets bigger and more lucrative every year. But if the spiritual aspect of Christmas is in danger of disappearing, the answer won’t be found in any political mandate or decree. The spirit of Christmas springs from the soul of each person.

Or not.

I guess I thought ‘Happy Holidays’ was kind of shorthand for good wishes in the Christmas season. Or maybe, just maybe, merely a sign of respect to all; a greeting to those who are and are not Christians, purely in the spirit of the season. Aside from a constitutional separation of church and state, greeting people where they are, spiritual or not, just seems like the right thing to do.

The celebration of Christmas has changed over time but the change is more about how we ourselves have evolved than a result of any conspiracy. Back in the 17th century, the Puritans didn’t think celebrations of Christmas were at all cool or maybe they were a little too cool for their version of the bible. Isn’t it ironic that the only time Christmas was actually banned in America was by — Christians?

The French Revolutionist renamed Christmas ‘Dog Day’ and rebranded holiday goodies as liberty cakes. So much for Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. During the 30’s and 40’s, in a country across the pond, extreme political ideologies were integrated into religious celebrations. (Psst: Anti-semitism can’t co-exist with Christmas because the very person we celebrate was, duh – Jewish.) Russia’s October Revolution knocked out public religious displays so it was a total TKO for Santa. Castro banned Christmas altogether to keep people’s mind on the sugar harvest. Sweet. Traditional holiday celebrations became a bah humbug act of political dissent. If there was an authentic war on Christmas, it exists in those most afraid of the other, you know, like those unwelcome travelers 2000 years ago who spent the night in a stable. Continue reading

It’s About To Get Ugly.

I won’t tell. Go ahead, drag that sequined, blinking light sweater out of hiding for its annual holiday spin. What else can make you feel so happily over-dressed for success but something so tinselly tacky?  Office party or off-center homey soiree, there’s something de rigueur about donning your gaudiest apparel for the sheer fun of it.

The ugly Christmas sweater has become a tradition and traditions like this call out everyone’s most competitive, over-the-top spirit — or temporary insanity. A graphic design unicorn, who dresses more like boring Bonwit (knock-offs) than bohemian, I can probably rock a cool sweater design, but the time required would really bug everyone I know. As most artists who take hours and weeks deciding the subtle nuances of each color, by the time I’d create a suitably crazy Christmas sweater, the holidays would be over.

Already midpoint in your own holiday timeline, I’m sure if a sweater masterpiece isn’t on your current your to-do list, that ship has sailed. You could pretend you didn’t know you had to come dressed as Santa’s workshop, but then your critique of everyone else’s attire wouldn’t hold water. Then again, when you spend so much time creating something, you’d like to at least be able to re-gift it, but there are probably few takers.

When did this Christmas craziness first begin? Most would agree that the birthplace of this offbeat tradition is the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, British Columbia in 2002. Before that, garish holiday sweaters were slightly embarrassing, but through the years, Christmas sweaters, from oddly beautiful to downright weird became trendy. Later, college students, loving the irony of their parents’ 80’s fashions, upped the satire factor with vintage wearable Christmas duds. Who knew that your maiden aunt’s itchy holiday sweater, bedazzled with twinkling trees would actually become — vogue. (If you can live with the guilt that the aunt once wore that sweater proudly without a trace of irony, then wear that glitzy fashion statement with all bodaciousness.)

Combining Halloween with Holy Jingle Bells, Christmas sweaters help us let loose in our own unique holiday style. Unfortunately, that sometimes hideously glamorous apparel has become big business, as companies across the nation get their ugly on for Christmas season dollars. Some ritzy retail holiday knits are so expensive you need a commitment to lifetime annual sweater parties to justify owning one. Mass-marketed pseudo homespun treasures echo have become a lucrative ‘thing’. There’s the vest adorned with a fuzzy, stuffed reindeer head, even an entire kitschy holiday suit (yes, they really did that). Continue reading

(almost) Wordless Wednesday – Thanksgiving Edition

My version of Gratitude 2.0 includes a few more of my photos as well as a deep thankfulness for my children, grandchildren, abundant friends — and the man whose love and memories will last forever.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who’ve kindly followed my blog these past years. Feel free to add your own words of grateful wisdom!

 

ENOUGH . . . is a feast.

Gratitude changes everything.    (They were pardoned)

Be thankful for family, for friends, for memories and the way love, in many forms, changed your life.

Expect nothing; appreciate everything. Continue reading

Make America . . .

“America is back”. That was the opening line of a recent commercial, and all I could think was “Really? Where was it?”.

As far as I can tell, America hasn’t taken a trip anywhere, though it has meandered a bit. These last few years, the poor country has been pulled in so many directions, it must feel a little like Gumby. With only days left before the mid-term elections, I have to wonder if America is trying to hide until the worst is over. But then, what is the worst? We’ve certainly seen a whole lot of bad behavior, that’s for sure. If America was a kid, it would have been sent to its room for days. But then, it’s not one kid – it’s millions and where do you send them when they’ve been busy setting little fires everywhere? I’d send them to the voting booth.

America belongs to EVERYONE. Yup, sorry to break it to anyone who thinks only the anointed few get to lay claim, but that’s the truth. Of course, the original inhabitants found out the hard way when new guys (English refugees otherwise known as Pilgrims) pulled up, grabbed the land and all THEY got was a tee shirt and nifty reservations in the middle of nowhere. Didn’t they welcome the Pilgrim dudes, give them corn pudding and help them survive first winters? Sure, but who’s counting. We still make those cheery construction paper feathers to honor them on Thanksgiving, so it’s all good, right?

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

For 241 years, America’s been stepping away, and coming back. We’ve been to war, to the moon and to the polls. We’ve raised the flag, our voices, our fists, and our leaders. We’ve seen the best and the worst of times. We have been and are a great, beautiful land with fierce spirit and big hearts. We fled a monarchy, started a republic, became a democracy and today waffle between them, with some resurgent populism and nationalism thrown in. (we know how well THAT worked out!) Continue reading