Merry, Moving Memories

christmas_movieBy the time the clock strikes Christmas Eve in a few days, most of us have watched more than our fair share of holiday movies. Thanksgiving weekend alone, the annual kickoff for all things merry, aired enough sugary Christmas movies to replace the pecan pie. The year I binge-watched Hallmark Countdown to Christmas on a snowy weekend, I vowed, that from then on, to set limits on the saccharine sweet bits that populate the season like sprinkles on a sundae. There’s just so much of that stuff you can inhale before your sugar high propels you to la la land.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” A Christmas Carol

When my kids were small, we nailed all the prerequisite family holiday movies, Rudolph, Frosty to Charlie Brown Christmas. We watched them all – from animated fun to traditional Yuletide schmaltz. We cheered the Grinch’s change of heart and Rudolph’s blinking red badge of individuality. But, like anything else, an overdose of sweet can put your teeth on edge. Maybe that’s why Christmas movies come only once a year. You need time to regroup before getting your annual fix of contrived cheer.

As I grew older and kids flew the coop, shows like Santa is Coming to Town — left. Grown-up shows rang in the season but didn’t always ring my bells. My house didn’t quite measure up to the Martha Stewart-like holiday décor that draped over every available space in every Hallmark movie. All that perfection can be exhausting.  My Christmas lights would never measure up to Clark Griswold and my slowly morphing monochrome color schemed house (think coastal, remember?) would disappoint any self respecting North Pole resident.

I was beginning to like letting my not-so-inner graphic designer out,  the kid with a ‘more white space’ and Pantone color palette in mind. Still, I’d watch those Hallmark movies with a certain amount of wistfulness — and curiosity. Did you ever notice how that snow, that fell artfully on coats and hats never melted? Somehow, hairdos that were pelted with the white stuff never ended up with the wilted, wet dog look I got after snow showered me. And those dollhouse movie towns, bedecked in snow globe perfection. Doesn’t everything seem just a little too blindingly bright, a little too magical? Any resemblance to the world I live in is purely coincidental.

“Welcome, Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart and hand in hand.” How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Living in a less than picture perfect world is not a bad thing; it’s a real thing. Unlike a Hallmark holiday-wrapped movie, life isn’t perfect but it’s mostly good, even blessed, not with fairy dust but cookie crumbs, crayon marks, dog hairs and milk (or wine) spills. Still, those Christmas movies, heartfelt or cheesy, come with something for everyone, including a good shot of holiday spirit. Forget the recycled plots and inexorably happy endings. It’s the life lessons, the timeless moral fables that sucker me back in each Christmas season. Continue reading

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Deck the Tree . . . with DIY

YesI_CanMy Christmas tree is not a family affair. It used to be when kids, pets (even hamsters and fish) filled the house, but the empty nest arrived, so did the anal graphic designer mom. Even my poor husband, who once upon a time gamely offered to assist, gave up. He realized there was a light stringing game plan that didn’t include haphazard laying on of strands. I suspect, however, he became more than happy to volunteer help from the safe distance of the couch, contentedly watching Antiques Roadshow. And I’d bet real money that he counted on his finicky wife not taking him up on his offers to help.

Back in the day, when little kids reigned in my house, when gingerbread houses were built, advent calendars were opened and elves, Santas and reindeer abounded, my tree might have been described as eclectically homey. I was less concerned about matchy-matchy and more interested in making sure the dog didn’t swipe candy canes off bottom branches. When a cat replaced the dog, wire securely anchored the tree to the wall so our artistic greenery didn’t crash in the furry alpine climber’s race to the top.

The winter I awaited my last baby was a long, freezing one, complete with a blizzard that snowed us in. My girlfriend and I, two very pregnant chicks, decided to keep our already busy selves occupied with sewing and stuffing pre-patterned patchwork ornaments. At the time, they seemed like puffy masterpieces, maybe even ‘shabby chic’. Now they only qualify as shabby. The hardy few that survived all the years since my baby became a parent herself, earned their places on discreet bottom tree branches of my tree, along with two worse-for-wear drummer boys from my childhood tree. Many ornaments have retired, not so much from age discrimination but an inability to assimilate cosmetically. In other words, they are the plaid bellbottoms of ornaments.

Ornaments with aching sentiment are a completely different story. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the more they are loved, the more cherished they’ve become. My granddaughter, who will be married next year, made an oversized padded and lace ruffled heart ornament in kindergarten, complete with sewn little charms. Okay, now it has drifted toward the back of the tree, it will always be there and always treasured. A photo of each child and grand, in funky little frames, dot the branches, as well as their grandpa, who is and always will be, front and center. Next to his framed picture, hangs a proud silver knight, symbolic of my guy’s crazy collection. The first Christmas Eve without him, the string of lights beneath those ornaments began to blink. Not all the strings of lights, not even a few rows – just this one section. The following morning, the lights stared me down unblinkingly. If that wasn’t a mischievous sign from beyond, I don’t know what is. Continue reading

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 festive glittering 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 sugarplum world. And while life is never perfect, I baked cookies like a champ and decorated our tree big time (the popcorn string has a story all its own) accompanied by, yes, cheery Christmas carols. When, then, did those holiday tunes hit a sour note? Continue reading

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

 

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They 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