Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Wednesday's Words for December 26, 2018

I sincerely hope everyone reading this had a wonderful Christmas. For those of my readers who don’t celebrate the holiday, I hope you enjoyed some peaceful and joyous family time.

And today for those who celebrate it, Happy Kwanza!

For my husband and I, and especially lately, Christmas has become a time to be with loved ones, to remember the past—and with the New Year just a week away—it’s also a time to look ahead. David and I don’t buy each other gifts any more. When we were starting out and were scraping our dollars together as we eked out our living, this was the time of year I looked forward to receiving a few things I not only wanted, but needed.

New slippers, a pair of panty hose, and before the word processor, a couple of typewriter ribbons topped my list. I loved certain fragrances—Chanel #5, ChloĆ©, and Oscar—but never expected to ever receive them. I was never so delighted as when “imitations” of these scents began to show up on the store shelves. In those days I was certain that was as close as I was going to get to the originals, and I was content with that.

When the kids were small, we poured most of our resources into getting them their gifts, because we didn’t want them ever to know how tight money was. We often ran at least a month behind in the bills in those days, because we had to give our kids a good Christmas. It was who we both were, and I doubt any amount of reasoning could have changed our minds about that in those days.

I am gratified to know that our son and daughter have both told us they never knew a Christmas, when they were kids, that wasn’t plentiful and magical.

Current day, we’re no longer generous to the point of beggaring ourselves. We bought simple gifts for the three great-grandbabies; we gave a very modest sum of money to everyone else in our immediate family (each of our children, grandchildren, and their significant others), and called it good. We’re much happier spending time with family than receiving gifts from them, and our reality reflects that.

When you ask us if we had a good Christmas, we’ll always answer yes, because for us both that is simply a matter of spending time with family. This year is the first Christmas for our youngest great-grandchild, born in May. He is the grandson of my oldest son and his wife, a little baby who is loved and adored by all.

His paternal grandmother—my daughter-in-law—is over the moon in love with him. I know for a fact she cherishes every moment she can spend with her grandson. We had supper with them on the 23rd. The look on my daughter-in-law’s face as she reached for that baby when he arrived was pure love.

That one moment, to me, is what Christmas is all about.

Thinking of my association of children and childhood with the best of Christmas, I’m not at all puzzled by that mental connection. We generally associate magic and wonder with this day of the year, if we think of them at all. That’s been reflected in popular culture all my lifetime at least, having been encapsulated by two of the most beloved holiday movies ever—It’s A Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street.

Children are the ones most susceptible to magic and wonder. They’re the fortunate ones among us, able to feel and appreciate those two elements full measure. They can believe easily in miracles and magic. And that is the second major connection, between children and Christmas.

The first is simple, and cuts to the heart of it all. Because at the very heart of this special day is the reason we celebrate it to begin with. A child was the very first gift of Christmas—a gift given to us all.

I truly hope your Christmas gave you at least a small taste—as it did me—of magic and wonder. And, of course, I hope there was love.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wednesday's Words for December 19, 2018

Last Sunday, my daughter brought her niece, our granddaughter Emma, and her two grandchildren—Abby and Archer—to our house for supper. Her grandchildren are five and four years old respectively. They’re cute kids, bright, energetic…did I ever tell all y’all that my youngest grandchild is sixteen? It’s been a while since dealing with little ones was a part of our regular routine.

We don’t see our great-grandchildren very much. That’s just the way it’s turned out. These two come perhaps every other month for supper, or for a short visit. I’ve never had the occasion to babysit them, the way I did with three of my six grandchildren. We occasionally looked after our daughter’s son, and for a time, more than a decade ago, she and her son moved in with us for several months while she went to college to become a PSW (nurse’s aid).

In the days following our son’s death, we had his two kids, Emma and Gavin, here a fair bit, too. Our Sonja had been working at a manufacturing facility that was closing down. She wanted, very much, to be a nurse.

She was able to get a student loan with some grant money, and we agreed to watch the kids when they weren’t in school and she was in class, or later, working. This began in 2006, the same year we lost Anthony. Her schooling took a couple of years, and then she began to work.

The kids considered this their second home during the latter part of their childhood. There were a few days here and there they spent with an older couple who lived in their same apartment building. But we had them here a lot of the time.

We had bedrooms upstairs for them, with beds and dressers, and they’d sleep overnight when mom worked nights. This was several years after I had stopped being a “mommy” on a daily basis, to my own kids. Most school mornings, whether they were dropped off here or slept over here, I’d make them breakfast.

It was a busy period for us, and a bit of a struggle at the time, but I never complained. We were here and could help out in a way that our son could not. By 2013, our services weren’t as necessary, but we were gratified to have been a help.

Flash forward to current times. As I said, the great-grandchildren came over for supper on Sunday. Our great-granddaughter, Abby, gives new meaning to the word precocious. Emma had brought a smoothie with her, one that was green. Yes, it had spinach in it. She offered Abby a sip, which the little girl accepted. Watching, I could see she took a very small sip. Then she looked at her older cousin and asked, “why would you even want to put that in your mouth?” As the evening progressed, this little dynamo once more gave us a little preview of how she would be as ruler of the world some day in the future and did an adept job of ordering us all how to play a game she came up with on the spot.

Lots of drama in that one, and no timidity at all—which is both good and maybe not so good. My money’s on her for being the boss of whatever endeavor she pursues in the future.

Our great-grandson Archer did his best to grab his share of the limelight from his sister, but he was too easily distracted just being a kid to make a budding world dictator. I’m betting he’ll never develop an ulcer and will always find a way to get along regardless of the circumstance.

By the time our supper guests left, only about three hours after they arrived, my beloved and I had been pleasantly entertained, and were completely exhausted. Totally, completely wiped-out-exhausted. I know I’ve mentioned before my theory that young kids and babies suck the energy right out of any adults in their vicinity. I’ve always believed it. The only problem for us “old fogies” is that lately, we don’t have all that much of a storehouse of energy to begin with.

I have a new business idea, and I’m wondering if I should try to copyright it. Here is the advertising pitch: “Suffering from insomnia? Can’t get your mind to quiet so you can sleep? Don’t take drugs, simply have a couple of very young children over for an hour or so!”

As far as I can tell, that is the very best non-invasive, non-addictive sleep aid, ever.

It certainly proved to be so last Sunday night when my beloved and I began snoring in our recliners just minutes after the kids went home.

David and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wednesday's Words for December 18, 2018

Yesterday our oldest son turned forty-six. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was forty-six. In truth, there are only eighteen years between my son and I. I do recall that at one time, likely when he was in his very early twenties and being a bit of a smart ass (a family trait), I told him it wasn’t entirely impossible that at some distant day down the road, we could end up living in the same old folk’s home.

At that point I was already using a cane to help me walk, and I shared with him a vision of a crotchety-tempered me waving that piece of wood in his direction—for emphasis, or just to underscore that the younger him should mind his Ps and Qs. In this imaginary tableau I was ninety-eight and he was eighty.

Theoretically, it could still happen.

I have a hokey little thing I do, usually, on the annual occasion of my kids’ birthdays. I call them and I sing the birthday song to them, deliberately off key and out of tune—and at the top of my lungs. I did call my son yesterday to wish him a happy birthday, and the first thing he said was not hello. It was, “please don’t sing. I’m at work and you’ll embarrass me.” I replied back that it would only be embarrassing if he put me on speaker phone. Nevertheless, I relented and instead just wished him the best on this day, part of the countdown, I informed him, to birthday number fifty.

He tried to convince me that no, no, he was counting down to forty. My son is a generally man of few words but an exceptionally quick wit. He could have inherited that trait from either my husband or myself. His dad is pretty fast with a come back, sometimes, too. Of course, I told him he could always claim forty with ten years experience, an idea he acknowledged then and there had merit.

Yes, smart-ass does run in our family, and proudly, too.

My son and his wife are going to Mexico over the Christmas break. I call it a break because my daughter-in-law is a teacher—an early childhood educator. She works for one of the school boards in the community to our north. This means she takes her vacation time when the schools do.

Since they will be gone between Christmas and New Year’s we’ll get together before the 25th for our annual Christmas-season supper. I used to host these gatherings, but the amount of work required to feed many mouths really is too much for me now.

I love cooking and I especially love feeding people. I don’t particularly love getting too old to do any of that. But I am getting older—those darn birthdays! —and I’ve decided to stop trying to pretend I can do the same amount of work I could do when I was in my thirties. I generally get things done—dishes, making the bed, various other house work tasks, and cooking. I just do it at a slower pace, and what I used to accomplish in an hour and a half now takes me at least twice as long, mostly because I need to take little breaks along the way.

I am grateful that I’ve never been one to just lay around and do nothing. I do like being busy, even if it means I’m busy doing chores. And there are only the two of us now, and not five of us, so that sort of…almost…counts for something toward less work than I used to have to do. Almost.

The thing is, aging happens to us all. We don’t know when we’re younger whether we’ll age well, or not. We don’t know if we’ll be hale and hardy, or not. You might think that being extremely health-conscious all your life means you automatically will have a graceful, and gracious September through December path to travel. But I don’t think it’s a given at all.

Like with other situation in life, the only thing you have the power to guarantee is your attitude.

I don’t generally waste much time bemoaning my difficulties. I admit them, and then move on. I do the best I can do and will continue to do so for as long as I can.

 And I will continue to cherish each new day—be it an ordinary day or a son or daughter’s birthday—for the amazing gift that it truly is.


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday's Words for December 5, 2018

Perspective is a powerful force. We all own it, and it controls not only practically everything we think and do, but our reactions to everything we experience.

Where the challenge arises is realizing that this force is a subjective one. My attitude toward something is not your attitude toward that same something—and neither my attitude nor yours is right, nor is it wrong. Perspective is not synonymous with fact. Period.

I think one of the greatest talents to call your own would be the talent to be able to separate subjective perspective from objective facts. That can be a challenge, and one that a lot of people, lately, haven’t been able to wrap their heads around.

The topic of Christmas is a good example to use in explaining how perspectives can be true even if they’re opposing, and neither right nor wrong.

The unassailable fact is that Christmas is a Christian holiday in which people of that faith celebrate the birth of Jesus.

For some people, Christmas is a magical time of year. This is especially so for children. It always warms my heart, the way so many adults go out of their way to foster this sense of wonder in the wee ones, whether those children are theirs or not. Whether it’s helping them write letters to Santa, or the great good gesture of delivering unwrapped presents to a local toy drive, it’s been my experience that for the most part, adults will take the opportunity to promote the spirit of the Christmas, especially if children are involved.

We look forward to Christmas for our children, drawing upon our own memories of Christmases past. I understand that for me, the joy of awaking that morning to discover a filled stocking and a gift under the tree inspired my desire to pass that joy on to my own kids. All my Christmases included a fat juicy orange in the toe of my stocking. What a wonderful, and wondrous treat!

There were bacon and egg breakfasts on Christmas mornings, one of the few mornings in the year when breakfast didn’t come out of a box. Oh, and there’d be a pitcher of gape juice and orange juice, and real butter, too! I don’t recall the Christmas suppers as fondly. When I was a child, the bacon, eggs, butter and juices were all of my favorite foods, and all in one meal. Along with the food, there was family and music, and laughter. We had midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve, and a general sense of contentment, peace, and well-being.

Of course, as a mom, I did my best to duplicate all of the above for my own family. I understand my perspective of Christmas being a magical, wondrous time of plenty was formed from my own experiences—and yes, flavored a bit from my own personality.

For some people, however, Christmas is a time of empty bellies and aching hearts, and sometimes that ache is nearly unbearable. For some, there never was a sense of “plenty”, or that sense was experienced for a time, and then lost. The Yuletide is a period of year when, for some, their state of want is more keenly felt thanks to the inevitable comparison to the bounty that surrounds them.

We’ve all seen that photo of a child looking into a window longingly gazing at a family celebration, or through the window of a toy store at the array of toys he or she has no hope of ever being able to call their own. Most of us hurt when we see that image, because we understand it represents a perspective shared by far too many in our society.

For some, Christmas is a time when the loss of loved ones is felt sharply. For these people, there’s a part of them that cannot fully celebrate, because the hole in their hearts is just too deep, and too black.

These two perspectives of the Christmas season are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are true, while being neither right nor wrong. As the saying goes, it is what it is.

Want and loneliness aren’t restricted to the Christmas season. But this season of giving and having and joy shines a brighter light on the need and the suffering of others. Thirty percent of all charitable donations occur in December. Whether as a reaction to the “spirit of Christmas” or the realization that one needs a bit more of a tax deduction, who can say? There’re another two perspectives that are true and neither right nor wrong.

If you can give even a little to someone in need, I hope you will feel encouraged to do so. And if you know someone who is alone, or missing a loved one, I hope you will think of them, and extend a little kindness.

Giving kindness to others is, I believe and yes, in my perspective, the reason we’re all here on this earth in the first place.