Which Santa comes to your house?

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One day in the future, when people (Ok, maybe just my own kids…) look back on things I have written, they will see that I somehow – and unintentionally – ended up with an annual Christmas rant.  It’s not like I plan these things; it’s really just too easy with the material I’m given to work with.

This morning I stumbled upon a post on social media that involved a parent seeking a professional gift wrapper she could pay to wrap the Santa gifts and write out the tags for her kids because they knew what her own wrapping style looked like.  Yes, I read it twice.

Pause… Breathe … Regroup.

(If you really suck at gift wrapping, go ahead and pay others to do it if you must.  Or if you have a need for all your gifts to look like Martha Stewart wrapped them, you are entitled to that.  I’m addressing the idea of having to go this route because of a situation created that could have been avoided altogether.)

Now I’m not going to tell anyone how to do their Santa thing in their own family because that’s everyone’s own business.  (I do have some opinions about how some of what you might choose to do affects other children, but that’s in another post already…)

If you enjoy running around like a headless chicken for the month of December embellishing with ever increasing fervor the commercialized and over active Santa Claus of 2016 – in between trying to find new and exciting ways for your shelf elf to appear on each of twenty-four busy mornings and hoping the comparisons done by children will rate your efforts worthy – then you just go for it and have fun!

However, when people share their complaints about stress during the holiday season, and then talk about things like having to buy special paper just for Santa gifts – or in the above case, actually paying someone else to wrap and write on tags – I have to ask what the heck you are thinking getting yourselves into this mess.

I think that once you have to start farming out your Santa duties because you can’t fake out your own kids anymore, you’ve dug your hole too deep and maybe it’s just time to just fess up already.  You should have just started with unwrapped Santa gifts the first year.  See how easy that would have been?

But now you’re paper committed; it starts with having to buy special paper every year and hiding it strategically, hoping the kids don’t see it, because if they do, you’ll have to take it back to the store and exchange it for new stuff (true story from a retail clerk).  Then they start to recognize your wrapping style.  What a bummer! No chance at all that these uber observant probably borderline genius kids you’re trying to fool just might have heard something in the air about Santa not being real?

(I don’t believe my adult children – after 28 and 30 years – would be able to pick my own wrapping out of a pile unless they knew which paper I used, but perhaps they missed out on that gene.)

It’s too late for many.  But for what it’s worth – from my life experience and subsequent observations – here’s my advice for new parents contemplating the variety of options:

KEEP IT SIMPLE FROM THE START.  Seriously.  Your kids will still have lots of fun and you won’t get migraines.  They don’t need a lot of extra balderdash to make Christmas special. They will come to appreciate what YOU make it, and what society says won’t matter if YOU don’t care.

Tell your kids about the REAL SANTA, not the fake one.  It’s so much easier to deal with over time and it teaches your kids to share and to give.  The real Santa lived hundreds of years ago – St. Nicholas – and he did deliver presents to kids, and everything we do now under the name of fake Santa actually started with him, but it’s gone far beyond a kind and loving gesture.  It’s turned into a commercial cash grab and parents are jumping down the rabbit hole every time something new comes along.  Why embellish?  Why build on lie after lie until you can no longer find enough ways to keep it going any longer?  Why not just tell the truth up front and have fun with it and let everyone enjoy sharing in the spirit of Santa?

Kids like suspense and anticipation. You decide what they’ll be waiting for at Christmas.

Will it be some guy in a red suit who delivers big expensive gifts to some kids and no gifts at all to others?  The guy who actually visits some homes in person but never visits others, or who phones certain children to chat while others never hear from him?  The guy who after many decades now needs to depend on stuffed elves to keep track of kids and entertain them for a month before he comes himself?  The guy who painstakingly wraps gifts for certain kids in special paper they’ve apparently never seen anywhere else while simply tossing the gifts of other kids under the tree as if he had no time left to decorate those?  This 21st century Santa is no longer the wonderful character of old fashioned movies.  He’s probably in therapy trying to keep up with the parents of today.

Will it be the guy you have to explain about every year because the rules keep changing, society is constantly upping the ante, and nobody wants to feel left out of the excitement that is supposed to be about making kids happy rather than competitive and greedy?

Or will you have your kids wait for the special surprises that will be left for them by loving family members who are carrying on the tradition started by a real person of playing Santa to make others feel happy and loved?  No lies to cover up, no extravagant commercial trends to keep up with, just the spirit of Santa Clause that lives on in truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Passage of Time

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Does anyone else ever find themselves thinking, in a philosophical sense, “how did I get to be this old?”  Of course, I expect that everyone ponders this question and I do realize that I’m not as old as some who will be reading this, but that’s not the point.

I was daydreaming today while out for my walk (which isn’t a great idea when there’s a skiff of snow on the sidewalk, but I managed not to slip while lost in my thoughts …) and thinking about my aging body, mobility etc. and I wondered how it is that I’m over fifty.

What is “fifty” anyway? Or fifty-one?  What does it mean?

I remember when I was a child looking towards the turn of the century, thinking about how far away it was and that I’d be a whole thirty-five years old by then (I think I was probably about ten at the time).  It was so far away.  But it came and went and is now almost seventeen years behind us.

I also remember thinking that if my parents remained in good health, based on their ages when they had me I would probably be over forty when I had to face losing one or both of them and that by then I would be a fully grown, experienced and wise adult who could handle that loss (of course as a child you know that you would be lost without your parents, but being over forty is beyond imagination).  I’ve since learned that you are never “old enough” to lose a parent.

I have children who are older now than I was when I got married; older than I was when I had them.

But sometimes in my mind, I am still young; I’m still the child, the newlywed, the young mother until I look around me and realize that everything has changed.

It makes me think of all we learn about our souls being immortal while our bodies age and deteriorate and I wonder if that’s why this happens in my mind sometimes, as my thoughts move through my life’s experiences frame by frame.  Maybe it is precisely that eternal, spiritual, intangible part of me that sometimes sees it all as if it were one big event outside of the constraints of time.

I am just me, I’ve always been me, and I’m not sure that there is a fifty-one-year-old me or a “me” of any other age anywhere along the way.  Is that why it’s sometimes difficult to grasp the passing of time?  Because it’s really only the body that is aging while the spirit is free to exist in any moment of time that has already passed by merely remembering?

The mind is a tricky thing, storing every moment in a pile of moments that often seem to blend together in a way that makes it seem as though any one of them could be right now.  Memories come back with flooding emotions and suddenly I can be right there in that place, feeling whatever I felt at that time, but experiencing it right now in the present.

Changes in our bodies mark time.  Calendars mark time. Seasons mark time.

But sometimes I think our innermost selves exist outside of time in a realm we cannot possibly understand, even though we are sometimes allowed to see just enough to be left wondering …

What is fifty anyway?  Or fifty-one?

 

Accept Your Limitations

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Readers will already know that I agree with Dr. Laura nine times out of ten.  But even if you don’t, there are some things that I believe are universally helpful, and something she talked about recently inspired me to share.

The original line she referred to was from a Dirty Harry movie in which Clint Eastwood said. “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

She talked about how we all have borders, so to speak, the edges that at the same time outline the area between things we really aren’t good at and things we excel at and show us our limits.

She gave the example of some people being built for effective sports competitions while others might train and work hard yet never be as good as another who is naturally gifted in that area.  She talked about accepting our limitations and not comparing ourselves to others, which leads to unhappiness and a lack of fulfillment.

I’ve heard these things before, but sometimes when one person puts it in a slightly different way, it’s more effective.  I liked the way she presented the idea of looking at our limitations as a way of determining how to get the most out of our lives in order to be happy.  Here’s a synopsis:

There are things we’re really good at

We should do them as well as we can and enjoy the fact that we’re good at them, without always wishing we were better or as good as another at doing them.

There are things we’re only so-so at doing

We should do them as well as we can without always wishing we were as good at them as we are at doing the things we’re really good at doing.

There are things we just suck at doing BUT …

If we enjoy the process or the activity, we should still do those things and enjoy the parts we can enjoy rather than never doing them just because we can’t be really good at doing them, or as good as someone else is at doing them.

I think most of us tend to avoid doing things we aren’t good at and focus on doing things we do well but spend our time wishing we were even better at doing them.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive for improvement along the way because that’s part of the journey and the enjoyment, as long as it still allows us the ENJOYMENT.  But if that constant striving somehow prevents us from actually enjoying where we are and what we’re doing, it’s an obstacle to our happiness, not a tool for our betterment.

This made me think of my own real life examples, how I spend my time, and how I see my limitations in my own mind.  The following activities aren’t the only things that could fit within my borders, but this is just a blog post, not a novel…

So, without trying to sound boastful, I’ll start with what  I’m good at, free motion quilting.

My quilting hobby has sort of taken on a life of its own.  I started out knowing nothing about it, found myself enjoying it, did what I could with what I knew, and then wanted more.  I ventured into different areas to see what I liked, tried some techniques and styles that I loved and some that I didn’t enjoy at all, and have found my niche in a vast world of quilting ideas.  I’ve learned many new things along the way from fabulous quilters and teachers and I admit that at first, I had trouble looking at my work without comparing it to theirs.  I wanted to be able to do what they do, the way they do it. Others would compliment me on what I was doing, but I was focussed on mistakes and imperfections, always wishing I could do something more.

Then I discovered that even though I admired various stitching patterns and could practice them and get them pretty much the way I wanted them to look, I didn’t necessarily enjoy doing them.  I found that others were turning out a little differently than the ideas I was trying to imitate but still looked lovely.  I think this is when I started to realize that we each have our own style of stitching and even if we’re trying something that we’ve seen someone else do, no matter how well we do it, it will still turn out differently because it will have our unique touch.  Quilting is very much about how our brain learns, interprets and executes our stitching.  Our hands are tools.

I’ve also discovered that working within my own abilities and limitations (aging eyes, shoulders/back/neck strain, table size etc.) is where I am now and whatever I can develop within that area is great, and there is always room for improvement within that limited area, but if I were to spend time dreaming of being able to do something that is outside those limitations it would stop me from enjoying what I do.  I could bemoan the fact that even what I am doing now causes me pain in various parts of my body and wish that I had learned at a younger age so that I could have perhaps done different things or be even better at it with more years of practice behind me, but why bother?  I’m enjoying it now, as it is 🙂

I’m not interested in becoming a famous quilter, or a designer or even a competitor.  I just love to quilt and some people buy my quilts and that’s great!  Yes, others who are well known and competing get higher prices for their quilts, but they are also in a place where I don’t think I would be comfortable, and a lot of time is spent traveling, teaching, writing books etc.  I just want to quilt 🙂

I’m not going to buy a bigger house to have a dedicated room for a long arm quilting machine that would allow me to make bigger quilts and not have to sandwich them on the floor (the biggest advantage I can see).  Yes, it would open up new possibilities perhaps, but my physical limitations would still come into play because I couldn’t stand all day at the machine (currently I use a sit down long arm) and there would be a large learning curve going from manipulating the fabric under the needle to manipulating the machine itself  along a track all over the stationary quilt, and while I’m sure with time I would learn, that is time I would have to take away from actually DOING what I now enjoy doing: quilting!  AND I have no need to make huge quilts; I’m happy making lap quilts/throws that accent homes and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time because I get bored quickly and am eager to move on to the next project.  So working within my limitations allows me to do what I love doing, using what I have available to me, whether it’s equipment or physical mobility.

I’m only so-so at photography.

I like the idea of taking great photos and I’ve often wished I could master a technical camera; I have a pretty decent one and I’ve taken a course to find out about all of the settings and features I could put to good use (didn’t complete it).  But I discovered that I really didn’t enjoy all the ins and outs of technical photography and am actually more interested in the photo editing side; I like working on the computer and I would like to learn more about photoshop so that when I take a basic picture I can have fun messing around with it.  But again, this is a so-so area for me.  Learning a program like photoshop takes time and perseverance and I’d rather be quilting.  But I still play with it once in a while when I want to make a poster or design a logo or a picture collage or make something look cool for my website.  I’m not intending to become a photoshop guru.  I don’t aspire to have a photography business.  And I’ve found that my new iPhone camera is pretty cool all on its own and there are classes even for that one so I can stay in an area of basic picture taking that satisfies my own curiosity and needs.  it doesn’t upset me at all that I’m not mastering the fancy camera sitting on my shelf; I can do a few neat things with it when I want to and that’s good enough.

I suck at sports.

I’ve never been athletic.  I remember being signed up for softball as a child because my dad took my brother to registration night and I was along for the ride.  My brother wanted to play ball and I think I must have asked to play because I was caught up in the moment.  I have vivid memories of being in the field and having the ball rolling on the ground towards me and trying to use the method the coach showed us for stopping a grounder.  I sucked at throwing the ball, so I hated it when the ball came to me and I was then responsible for getting it to the right person to complete a play.

My family golfed, and I eventually tried golfing because they were doing it all summer and when they weren’t golfing, they were talking about golfing, so I figured that if I wanted to be part of it I would have to go.  I hated it.  And I’m pretty sure they felt the same way about having me along because I hated being hot and having the sun on me, I hated the endless walking (in my case, back and forth across the fairway, in and out of the trees), the bugs, being lousy at hitting the ball, and I complained…a lot.  It has been suggested that I think of it as a nice walk in nature that happens to involve hitting a ball along the way.  I prefer to think of it as enduring torture because I get lunch at the end.  Over the years I’ve tried here and there and I still suck and I hate it (although I did go once with a friend and hit some good shots, but the enjoyment was the friend time, not the golfing!). I might get a bit better at it if I really worked hard, but I don’t care.

However, as Dr. Laura suggests, we still shouldn’t completely avoid things we aren’t good at if there is some enjoyment in it for us.  We just need to focus on the part we like and allow ourselves to have that without being upset that we suck.  So I’m perfectly willing to meet people at the nineteenth hole for a yummy lunch and a visit!  I will play a game of soccer with a fun group of people just for fun, and I wouldn’t even mind playing baseball with no pressure because having fun with people you enjoy being around is a good thing.  I will never be an Olympian and I’m OK with that.

I also agree with what Dr. Laura said about a lot of this understanding coming with age and life experience.  But she also hopes that younger people might listen and learn so that they can get there sooner than many of us did.  I hope so too 🙂

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(If you want to see an inspiring example of what happens when people embrace their limitations and work within them, check out this video on youtube that I came across just this morning.)

 

 

All You Need Is Love (?)

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I want to know what the hell is up with the human condition and why on earth life itself has to basically be a tragedy with some comedy thrown in here and there just to make us keep hoping for more?

No holds barred on this one.  I’m sick and tired and it isn’t anyone’s fault.  And I KNOW I’m not alone in this.

I recognize that not everyone grew up in a safe, happy home with two parents who paid the bills, taught and modelled values and integrity, protected, nurtured, advised, sacrificed, and LOVED their kids.  But I did.  And my kids did.  And many people I know also did.

So how is it that we could have all that love and encouragement and security and STILL NOT LOVE OURSELVES?

The sheer number of books, articles, psychological and therapeutic efforts available today to help us LEARN TO LOVE OURSELVES makes it painfully clear that we’re all messed up.

Well, at least those of us who are actually willing to see the truth.  I’m sure there are some “I have all my shit together and I always will” people walking around out there, and if denial works for them, great.  I don’t believe them.

It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with money or success or fame or having the “perfect job” (like that even exists!), or having a great family.  Many people have some or all of these things and they still don’t know how to love themselves.  Does Oprah even love herself enough yet?  (and I’m not joking when I say that)

I can envision a bunch of very aged seniors right now, sitting and discussing this blog post and rolling their eyes (well, not really, because they probably aren’t online).

This is not to generalize; I just happen to know that many of the older generation balk at talk of such things because they were taught to just suck it up and work hard and do what you have to do and then when it’s over, it’s over.  They might say they never had time to worry about their emotions or whether or not they were happy or fulfilled in life because they were too busy living it.  And maybe they were.  Maybe the depression and the wars and all the concern that those world events caused did give them enough to deal with and the emotional things were buried and left alone.

However, at the risk of being bombarded with criticism over what I have and have not experienced and what I could possibly know or not know at my young-to-them age of fifty-one years, I would like to suggest that just as many things in our society develop and change, so do our lifestyles, our stress levels, our expectations, and our understanding of things that weren’t topics of discussion even fifty years ago.

Most of us don’t seem to have a problem loving others and wanting to help them love themselves.  Perhaps the compassion we feel for others is somehow related to the love we wish we had for ourselves.  We give them advice and post pretty little pictures on Facebook with words about how great we all really are inside and that the most important thing is to love ourselves.

And for a few minutes here and there we can digest those words and they inspire us to do little things for ourselves, to “treat” ourselves and make ourselves feel better.  But it doesn’t last because it isn’t real.  WHY ISN’T IT REAL?

We’re all broken.  But why and how?  Were our hearts ever really as they should be? Did we love ourselves EVER and then somehow we lost it?  If so, that’s not true love anyway.

Bible readers or not, we would likely all agree that:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

OK, so wait just a minute here! Sounds great when we’re talking about loving others, doesn’t it?  Makes sense.  But let’s see how this fits with loving ourselves:

  1. Patient and kind:  Nope.  I’m trying to learn to be more patient with and kind to myself and it’s coming more with age, but seriously?  Fifty years of not patient or kind?
  2. No envy, boasting or pride: Hmmm.  I guess the envy and boasting parts are more about how we treat others – although if we’re envious of others or “boasting” about their accomplishments and comparing ourselves to them, that’s certainly not loving. And pride?  Yup, got that pride.  It shows up when I think I can handle things on my own and forget that I need other people and that needing them DOESN’T make me weak, or stupid or helpless.  It makes me human.
  3. No dishonouring or self-seeking: (throat clear here) how about that negative self-talk? I talk about being stupid or call myself an idiot when I make a mistake, brushing it off as a joke – but is it really a joke?  Not a funny one.  How about the infamous “I always mess that up” or “why can’t I ever do it right?”.  That’s dishonour all over the place.  Then there’s the confusing one “self-seeking”.  We can see how it applies to our treatment of others, but why is it harmful when we do it to ourselves?  Because in the moments that we have that attitude, it isn’t usually to help ourselves, it’s usually leading to some form of self-gratification that is just going to make us feel worse in the end: eating too much of something we want, drinking too much, shopping too much, whatever.  And often we’re doing it because we feel crappy about ourselves or just in general and we want to fill a hole.
  4. Keeps no record of wrongs: YEAH, RIGHT!  I think I can leave this one right here.  WE are our own worst critics, every day, all the time, and our most accurate memories are of our faults and mistakes which we can list ad nauseam.
  5. No rejoicing in evil, rejoice in truth: again, calling ourselves down when we do something wrong and making sure we never forget that we were bad isn’t helping.  But to rejoice in the truth about ourselves, we have to face it and accept it and sometimes it isn’t pretty.
  6. Protect, trust, hope, persevere: Sometimes the thing we most need to protect ourselves from IS ourselves, our self-deprecation, our constant interior reminders of every time we failed to live up to our own or someone else’s expectations.  Trust ourselves? The person we are most critical of and about whose judgment we have the most doubts? And then hope we’re on the right track? OK. That’s gonna take some perseverance …

I know this bible passage has always seemed to be about how we treat others, and ultimately how we love God.  But we have to be able to apply it to ourselves as well or it doesn’t count, in my opinion.

Quite frankly, I’m not looking for more reinforcement or lists of reasons that I SHOULD love myself; I want to know why I don’t.  Why most of us don’t.  I’m looking for answers that aren’t there.  They aren’t anywhere.

In my experience, our lives can be filled with love, filled with good people who love us and tell us often and give us reasons for why they love us, and we still don’t get it.  It doesn’t sink in.  And then we get to therapy where we learn tools to deal with our issues so we can cope going forward and that’s very helpful but I do have to wonder sometimes if even the therapists really love themselves or if they’re just very good at helping others?  Of course, they can still do their jobs and be very effective – if we all waited until we were perfectly good at things we would never help anyone! – and I’ve personally benefitted from counselling more than once over the past few years, but it’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

We crave appreciation from others, to feel needed, to know that we are loved.  Yet, to this day, just as was the case all through my childhood, I am uncomfortable receiving praise, even when I know I’ve done a good job.  If I don’t get it, it hurts somehow.  But when it comes, I don’t know what to do with it.  I usually end up minimizing it somehow because, really, am I worth it?  Others are, but me?

Life is definitely worth living because somehow the good parts are enough to keep us moving towards the next one.  We know it’s going to come, it always does.

Sometimes I just tire of what feels like a board game, where sometimes I get to roll the dice and choose the next move, but most of the time someone else is rolling the dice and throwing me in a direction I don’t want to go, skipping all the cool spaces I hoped to land on and landing me in jail without the get out free card.  And by the time I do get past the current obstacle, the cost of going around again will have doubled or tripled from last time and I’ll be treading water just hoping to keep my head up until I pass GO again.

There’s a risk in me putting this out there: when I write personal things about myself that anyone can read, I make myself vulnerable to their judgments of who and what I am, whether they find me completely off my rocker or someone they can relate to.

At this point in my life, with the experiences I have had, I just don’t care anymore.  I don’t care if someone sees my inside self and tears it apart.  They can do no more damage than has already been done there, by life, by loss, by me.

I honestly believe there are many, many others out there who feel this same way so this is for all of us.  If one of the “I’ve got all my shit together” people stumbles upon this post, please be “loving” and refrain from offering your T.E.D. talk version of a life plan.  I’ve probably watched it already.

Walking for a Cause

 

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For the past couple of years both my son and daughter have participated in a run to raise money for neuroscience – mental health and brain injury research – at the University of Alberta, in honor of their dad.  I had tossed around the idea of joining the 5K walk event this year, but I wasn’t sure I could do it, with my achy feet, bunions, blisters, fallen arches … you get the picture!

I’m not a runner, nor do I ever aspire to be, but I have been walking regularly for a few months now and it has become a really good habit.  Sure, there are days I wake up and think it would be nice to skip out and just stay in my pajamas with a cup of coffee, but I am quickly reminded of the way I feel while I’m walking and once I get home, so I get up and go and I’m never sorry I did.

The only event I’ve ever done that involved a lot of physical energy was a walkathon in my youth.  I think it was about 21 miles, but I’m not positive anymore and I haven’t actually thought about it for so long, until just now!  I don’t remember which fundraiser it was but I do remember being exhausted, hot and thirsty.

I recently returned from a trip with my daughter to Disneyland, where she ran a half marathon.  She had prepared for this event for over a year, and I believe it was everything she hoped it would be.  I was part of the chEAR squad (yes, it’s really a thing!) so I got to sit in a special place near the finish line and watch all the action – and they really do provide a lot of action!  It was so entertaining, and my daughter said there were things all along the route to entertain them and make it all fun.

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When we got home from Disneyland I was inspired to do something, so I decided to jump in and register for the N.E.R.D. run event with my kids and another family who has been affected by brain injury, and I will be walking on Saturday.  As long as it isn’t too hot (my daily walks are at sunrise!) I know I’ll be OK and even though it’s not that long, and even though I’m not running, it will be an accomplishment for me, and I have my kids to thank for that inspiration.

I started walking because I wanted to be mobile and hold onto my mobility as long as I can moving forward.  But now I’m experiencing the other benefits as well and I’m hoping that even once it snows I’ll be able to get out there with some cleats and hopefully I won’t fall flat on my butt.

In the meantime, it’s never too late to take a leap, so I’m walking the 5K Saturday for brain injury and mental health.  I’m going to get a bib, an actual medal, and a cool t-shirt.

I’m walking for my husband.  And I’m walking for me.

That Special Someone

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I was thinking recently about how, when I was a teenager and growing into an adult, I would observe couples together at social events or in our house when my parents had company.  I would think how nice it was that at the end of the evening, each couple got to go home together, that they would have each other to share stories of the day with, to cuddle up close at bedtime, that they each had someone special who was their own.  And I looked forward to having that experience when it was my turn.

When I got to live life as part of a married couple, those evenings were as I imagined they would be: the comfort, the companionship, the sharing of stories of the day.

Now, I have moments when I recall certain memories that only he and I shared, certain things that only the two of us experienced together.  Those live now only in my own mind.  I can talk about them, but no one actually shares them.  He was THERE.  No one can actually remember with me now, or fill in the blanks as my own memory fades. It’s a simple thing that we don’t really appreciate fully until it’s gone … like many simple little things.

And now, like others I’ve spoken to who find themselves in similar situations, I don’t really fit into groups of couples anymore, and they’re everywhere!  Couples who were friends are still friends, of course, but socially it’s difficult for me to join in on occasions where couples are the norm.  It just hurts to be there.  A lot.

I observe the random loving glances, the shared smiles or laughs, the small physical encounters as they brush past each other.  And it’s still beautiful to see – I will always appreciate it – but I’m not a teenager anymore, imagining what it will be like to have it one day.  I know what it’s like. I know what I’m missing.

That special someone. The one who could finish my sentences, the one who knew me inside and out, better than anyone else in the world and sometimes better than I knew myself.  The one who was the other half of me.

No matter how true my brain knows it is, there are sometimes moments when I cannot grasp how he can actually be gone and how I can be here.  Alone. Still breathing.

 

 

Money Business

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I like to imagine just for fun what I would do with a huge lottery prize.  I remember being a teenager when the 6/49 first went to a large amount – $11 million – which was a shock to many.  My dad, being the practical planner, got us talking about how we would handle winning that much money all at once and pointed out some very important factors to consider.  It was fun to dream about it, but also a good learning experience because since then I’ve always had a plan.  Sometimes the plan is updated or tweaked, but there is always a plan.  I’ve heard of too many people winning large sums of money and having their lives ruined because of it and based on my personality, my upbringing, and my general perspective on money, I think having a good solid plan in mind will save me from falling off the cliff should the occasion ever arise that I find myself holding a winning ticket.

I rarely buy tickets, because I figure that if God wants me to be rich, he only needs one ticket, right?  It’s not like he’s sitting up there thinking, “I’d really like Ann to win the lottery this week but she just isn’t paying attention.” No, he’s God, so if he really really wants to give it to me, he will use one of the rare occasions on which I actually take a chance.

Last week the Lotto Max went to $60 million and I bought a ticket.  Nobody won the big prize so it’s now carried over for this coming Friday.  While driving with my daughter on the weekend we had one of our fun “what would be do if we won?” conversations.  It helps with the plan.  And basically, what I discover time and again is that I don’t have a list of things I want.  I have a list of things I want to do.  For other people.  As anonymously as possible.

And then we moved into another part of the discussion, which is what prompted this post:

THERE ARE EXPECTATIONS WHEN YOU HAVE MONEY.

Now first off, I do believe that those who are blessed with wealth are meant to share with others to make the world better and that having money is not just about being rich and doing whatever you want.  We live in communities; we help each other and sharing is as good for the giver as it is for the receiver.

BUT …

There seems to be a lot of fuss the past while (and maybe it isn’t just the recent past, but I’ve only been seeing it regularly in the past while) whenever a person of wealth donates money to a particular cause, gives freely to certain people, or uses their money to do something beautiful that enhances a community.  Some people jump all over them with questions about why they didn’t instead do this, or that, or give the money to this group, or that group, etc. etc. etc. with no thought for the fact that this rich person is probably doing lots of things no one knows about and people should mind their own business.

IT REALLY BUGS ME.

I remember when a lady walked into Toys R Us in Edmonton at Christmas time and paid off every layaway account, anonymously, as a gesture of good will.  The criticisms came immediately in the media: why wouldn’t she instead help homeless people …

I remember a story about a man who bought a historical mansion to fix it up and bring it back to life and instead of people appreciating the effort and the restoration of beauty which is often lost on this generation, they jumped on him for using his money there instead of giving it to charity…

When our country started accepting refugees and a Church group got together to raise money to help support some of them as a project of their own, they were criticized because money was being given to outsiders and not to veterans, or other local charities …

I’ve heard local gossip when others have won money but public gifts haven’t been seen or heard about …

It’s obvious that in our society, with all its social media and quick reactions to everything, NO MATTER WHAT GOOD YOU TRY TO DO, SOMEONE WILL SAY YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING ELSE, and they’ll assume you aren’t already doing it.

The conversation with my daughter was filled with great ideas of personally lifting up other people by sharing our money in unique and private ways.  It made me feel great just thinking about it, never mind how I would feel if I could actually do it.  But it wouldn’t be good enough.  Once the word got out that we had won there would be expectations and, because we would prefer to help people anonymously, others wouldn’t know what we were doing and we would be criticized for not donating to this or that community effort – even though people would have no idea whether or not we did it.  Sixty million is a lot of money and unless our picture showed up in the paper presenting a big fake cardboard cheque to some group leader, many people would assume we gave nothing.  And that’s pretty sad.

*This is no judgment on anyone whose picture does appear in the paper presenting money, because there is a time and a place for that, and often businesses need to have this publicity for reasons other than mere recognition.  Those who want to do it should be free to do it.  But the fact that a picture doesn’t appear is no indication of a lack of action.

As a side note, when our family was hit with the tragedy of my husband’s accident, donations came to us from so many people, most of whom we are not aware.  There is no way for me to know who or how many people put money into the trust account that was set up for us to help with our immediate and ongoing expenses incurred while trying to cope with the shock.  Many donations came directly to me; many more were directed through the account with no names.  I still walk down the street and have no idea if the person I am walking past was someone who helped me.  And I don’t need to know because in my mind the community helped me.  Yes, there were other causes.  Yes, there were others who were worse off than I was.  And yes, I believe that the people who generously gave to our family, also gave to others because they are GENEROUS.  I don’t need to know when, where, or how they give.  It’s not my business.

Why can’t people just look at an act of generosity and be thankful that it happened?  Why can’t they assume that if a person cares that much they are most likely doing other good things too?  Everyone has their “pet” cause (and no, just for the record, I’m not donating a bunch of money to PETA). We’re all different and different things speak to our hearts.  We have life experiences and insights and compassion and we’re each led in different directions by these things.  Where and how this leads us to share our money is our own business and no one else’s.

Our conversation left us satisfied with our own ideas and plans should we ever hold a winning ticket, and at the same time wondering if the best thing to do would be to move away to a place where we are not known, a place where we could share our money as we please, in private, without anyone expecting anything or asking questions.

I still think my dad’s plan was a good one: go claim the prize, deposit the cheque in a branch of your bank where no one knows you, get on a plane and go somewhere for a while to think and plan so that when you get home, you’re ready.  In this day and age, you can’t stop people from knowing you won but you CAN keep them guessing!