Fa-la-la-la Humbug

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I love Christmas. Tiny white lights. Magically delicious treats. The smell of fir branches and my oh so cool sentimental tree. I have a real soft spot for Yuletide giving and the yearnings for peace. I’m a regular holiday maven, except for one little glitch – Christmas carols. I know it’s heresy, kind of like not liking puppies or butterflies, but I’m just not a fan of schmaltzy holiday tunes. By the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, I’m kinda glad the last of those cheerful ditties have left the building. Does that make me a Scrooge wannabe? Nah. I just can’t get into the jingle bell groove. (And you thought I was all sweetness and light. Hah!)

When I was little, I sang about Rudolph’s blinking red nose with the best of them. My first grade holiday concert saw me chucking Styrofoam snowballs from the pockets of my angel costume, while singing Winter Wonderland. Not sure that thrilled an unsuspecting audience, who had to field those white awkward orbs. But then again, I was 6 and it’s hard to get mad at a tiny snow elf with a missing front tooth, even if she is throwing plastic snowballs at you.

Through the years I didn’t shirk my holiday singing duties but, somewhere along the way, my enthusiasm detoured on life’s winding highway. Maybe my antipathy toward carols, unconsciously sprung from many childhood holidays that were less than holly jolly. Like the perennially glittering holiday tree, few see the little crawly things that hide under the branches. When my babies arrived, Christmas took on a whole sweet, new meaning. I saw the holiday through their eyes and wanted to make theirs a wonderful holiday world. And while life is never perfect, I baked cookies like a champ and decorated our tree (the popcorn string has a story all its own) accompanied by, yes, cheery Christmas carols. When, then, did those cheerful tunes hit a sour note? Continue reading

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No. . . it’s not OKAY.

247118_2491786_updatesWorking as a fledgling dental assistant, my first job after high school, a patient thought it was okay to suddenly let a hand slide.

Working for an insurance company at 18 , a top sales exec decided (briefly!) that his lap was the proper place for dictation.

Working as an office admin, a manager thought it was okay to aggressively grab a kiss as I reached for copy paper in the supply room.

Years later, I worked for women. I worked for myself. I achieved. Yet, there were still times I knew the woman card would never be a equality get out of jail free card. Even as a partner with my husband in own ad agency, many times our clients would defer to him. My guy was a fierce defender of women who knew it was not okay for car salesmen to bargain with him when I was the one buying the car. And it was definitely not okay when my husband’s client wished the ‘little woman’ fun on a business trip  — on which I was the photographer on the shoot! So many shades of not okay.

Compared to so many more invasive, immoral, traumatic stories of harassment and assault, mine seem insignificant. Even so, for all those who have been debased, insulted or treated as less than, I stand with all for change. A staunch supporter of women’s rights, LGBT rights, Black rights – EVERYONE’s rights, my classy husband  would be more than disgusted that sexual misconduct is both still rampant – and still excused. He was a guy (duh) but he got it.

The dark ages of women’s equality seem never to have seen the light of day. Society still looks the other way – or worse, victimizes the victim. Well, you know, boys will be boys. Right. Evolved as we think we are, the thought that anything that happens to a woman is because of women, still shocks. The myth that the way we present ourselves is reason enough for men’s bad behavior just shoots the other half of the human race in the foot. Bad things don’t only happen to bad people and assaults on women aren’t invited. If you don’t get an invitation, you’re a party crasher. Period.

To those accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. Continue reading

#gratitude

blogger-image--747211023They say the secret to having it all – is knowing you already do. But it’s the knowing that sometimes escapes us.  That’s why thought Thanksgiving is a pretty good time to put on my grateful glasses. Well, naturally a quick things on the thankful list easily come to mind like caramel, my dishwasher, Amazon, pajamajeans (don’t laugh until you tried them) and Trader Joe’s. But those are just the fluffy things. It’s the times I feel my grandkids’ hugs or have a sleepover with my beautiful, bride-to-be granddaughter. It’s when I hear a friend’s sweet support or even watch the daily parade of backyard wildlife. Those are the things that get me big time.

They say that even when you have 99 problems, you probably still have 99,000 blessings. We can always be thankful, even if it’s merely for all the troubles we DON’T have. On the worst of day, I can still fill a a ream of paper with things I’m grateful for. Hey, anyone who gets constant hugs from tiny boys saying ‘I yuv you, gramma” has reasons to be thankful.

The stuff of gratitude can be pretty great. Sometimes, though, when life is really hard or really hurts, gratitude seems like a foreign word.

I’m thankful for my struggles for without them I wouldn’t have found my strengths.

My Thanksgivings have changed over the years. I no longer make the turkey; I bring the sides. My table no longer hosts a throng of kidlets; I head to their homes. Not to worry. I have dibs on Christmas and Easter and, to be honest, I much prefer tagliatelle to turkey anyway. Still, Thanksgiving is that time honored holiday when gratitude is the main course; that is if we do turkey day right. Continue reading

When you . . . aren’t you.

1If you use your mind as a memory bank, the past will repeat itself in cycles. If your mind becomes pure attention, you will know everything that is worth knowing.   Sadhguru

Cancer had first dibs on my husband’s medical worries but losing brain power was always in the back of his mind. The spectre of inheriting his family Alzheimers gene haunted him. Determined to outsmart it, crossword puzzles became an obsession. I can still envision him concentrating, glasses tipped on his nose, until sleep took over —and the puzzle book fell on his face. He was convinced if he wrote, read and puzzled enough, he would outrun the brain stealing family curse.

An embolism cancelled that worry.

But, isn’t that always the way? We’re so busy walking with heads filled with worry about what could happen, that we never see the piano— until it drops onto our heads.

Man plans – God laughs.

Still, the idea of waking up one day and not being who we are, well, it scares the heck out of me. Yet, it’s all too real for many people. We go along, blissfully unaware until our particular piano plops directly on our dependable cerebellums. Our magical brains, those parts of us that makes us who we are, have a mind of its own. (no pun intended) They makes their own pacts with the devil without our consent. That center of our being mechanizes the way we think, the way we see the world, and pretty much defines who we are. Yet, if that center becomes skewed, transformed, who are we?

I got an up close and personal glimpse just last week — and it wasn’t pretty. Continue reading

Bucket, Bucket . . . Who has the Bucket?

My-Bucket-List-870x450I live by lists. I’m not at all apologetic since actually, I’ve never been quite comfortable without one. In fact, my lists — have lists. Filing systems for the mind, mine can be found on random index cards, scraps of paper or, if I’m really conscienious, my handy phone list app. Whatever works.

I’m pretty sure, that at least once, you’ve raced into a store just to realize you left that scribbled note of ‘things to get’ at home. And even though we would never be so un-cool as to write things down before we went into the garage, none of us wants to admit just how many times we came back inside empty handed. Whether it’s years catching up or just having too much on our minds, the fact remains, lists are handy creatures.

“What’s on my to-do list today? Oh, right – everything“.

My husband no longer holds my power of Attorney. In fact, since he’s no longer on terra firma, his only power is on my heart where he still has a firm grip. Still, it felt like nails on a blackboard to remove his name from those legal papers. It kinda went in the same bag with all the ‘hard’ things I had to do since he died and this deletion was yet another painful pause. This was one of the last items on the legal to-do list to be erased, but I felt no happy about this clean slate. My list was as empty as I felt.

As days went on I began to think there should be another list. This one would not be for groceries, Christmas, or household fixits, though there’s always running lists for each. No, this list would be a total leap of faith. Continue reading

Requiem for Civility

misbehaving-child-750x500Ding Ding Ding! Survey says – America might have a civility deficit. Duh. It appears rudeness, and incivility have become as contagious as the annoying common cold  — and just as hard to cure. Aggressive language, insults, demeaning words flow like waterfalls from mouths of people from political leadership to the neighbor down the road. What could go wrong?!

We live in a hurry up world. From road rage on the morning commute to high decibel restaurant cell phone conversations, behaving badly has become a hallmark of a ‘new’ world. Self-absorbed communication and demands for instant gratification strain common courtesies to the breaking point. They say a fish rots from the head and this political climate brought a nasty stench. The rhetoric of this past election had no small part in the ever-growing, no-holds barred incivility. But, to be truthful, we all have a part in what has grown with abandon. And, as a Senator, who recently stated that we have ‘normalized’ bad behavior, said, “Enough!”.

Rudeness is the weak person’s imitation of strength. Eric Hoffer

How did we get here? Do we have heftier passions than our ancestors? I doubt it. (Does Henry the VIII or the Inquisition ring a bell?) 2,000 years before us, there was still a heck of a lot of bad behavior. Is there more political division now? Monarchy or democracy, there have always been political divides but social media and TV ‘s in-your-face communication reaches audiences of previously unimagined proportions. Fake news, alternative facts, and blatant untruths roll by without impunity and nonchalant arrogance that do little to make us proud. Continue reading

She Laughs

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Tragedy or comedy. Given a choice who wouldn’t pick the latter? But, we don’t always get to choose and when we get that big dose of suck, it can sometimes be impossible to even manage a smile. Yet, so many who have little reason to be amused, show us light every day. “Life would be tragic if it wasn’t so funny” said Stephen Hawking, a genius trapped in a wheel chair forever. Now, if he can find humor in what we would readily describe as a really dismal poker hand, we have every reason to create our own smiley face.

“ From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” Dr. Suess.

People with the best senses of humor are life’s pied pipers. They are the ones who help us recognize and cope with life’s absurdities. Humor can be just what the doctor ordered, especially when the diagnosis is something we want to mark return to sender. A good laugh recharges your batteries. A sense of humor can improve your immune system, lower stress hormones, relax muscles and lower blood pressure. (Note to self: Remember that a good joke helps the brain on days when I walk upstairs three times before I remembering what I went there for.)  Who knew humor did such a heavy lift?

“The secret source of humor itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” Mark Twain

There are many things that are funny; but these days, even when grief doesn’t make a personal call, there are many very unfunny things that fill our world, too.  In fact, a whole lot is downright scary. These are times we need a little humor, or a lot, but when we are smack in the middle of the scary, a smile is mile away.  Even when the problems of the world take a day off, the negative noise from the Beltway, can snuff out the fragile sprouts of humor. Continue reading